I suppose that its the natural order of things, that the older one gets, the more depleted the inner circle becomes. As Flaubert once remarked “A friend who dies, is something of you that dies”
Still it sucks.
In the case of Greg Escalante, it really fucking sucks. And whilst I can sadly never claim to have been ‘tight’ in the chumminess league, for the short breadth of time that I did know him, I got the sense of someone who was genuinely altruistic, someone who was as cool as a latter day beau Brummel, but didn’t brandish any of the icy heirs and graces, one might expect within the art scene.
A few of the short stories of immediate reminiscence I have then.
Though we’d been introduced once in passing many years ago, like a lot of aspiring artists I’d hoped to get on his radar, but for whatever reason, nothing had really stuck. Hopes dashed then, and just as I’d all but called ‘time gentleman please’ on any future aspiration in that regard, fuck me if the man himself didn’t wander into La Bodega gallery one day, and spying my art through the window, make a beeline for my studio.
Looking around at the art lining the walls, with that rare kind of awe you can only hope to imagine a doting parent might exact, he stopped short to see me sitting gobsmacked in the corner, before extending a hand with the humble and self-effacing introduction -‘Hi, I’m Greg, and I’d love to put you in my next show’.
Later, after he’d left to go next door to the Mexican restaurant ISalud, he returned to rave about the tacos, and show me a video he’d taken on a recent trip to Galway, because he remembered I’d said I was homesick.
In the weeks that followed he sent me a video message, turning the pages of the promotional spread in Juxtapoz for the show, Dark realism/dark surrealism. I was thrilled and honored, and in the background, he made a whistling sound like a firework ascending. Which is kind of apt when one thinks about it, because he certainly put a rocket through the post Rothko/Pollock dribble that dominated the white box, until low brow shone a beacon like a neon diner on a midnight highway.
And now he’s left the diner, before pudding some will say, but still he paid the bill and even left a generous tip.
He’s on the road to the next destination.
His fedora and his many other hats will be sorely missed. I certainly doff my cap to him.
Yes-yes, it’s been over a month I know.
So where have I been?
Hitting the books and burning them. Misfiring in every direction. Having an existential crisis every five minutes.
The usual then.
Maybe its the albatross of turning fifty, the inevitable dulling of the flame, time waiting in the wing, impending nuclear war, this humidity, or maybe I just suck-I don’t fucking know-but for two months, scrawl as frantically as I might, page after page-nothing jibed for the new series.
So it’s true to say something felt amiss in Paradiso-like discovering an angry wasp nest in the garden. No really, I’m not being metaphorical when I say that. It hangs beneath the awning outside the bedroom window, growing bloated and more angry like a festering boil daily. It’s mere presence a blight in my peripheral minds eye, to the point that every few hours I relieve myself from what I am doing to check it’s progress.
It’s been like the buzzing in my head, an insectoid creepy crawl beneath the skin. Every corpuscle telling me to its time stir up the hornets nest, regardless if I get stung.
Also, did I mention this fucking humidity?
Abandon all hope then. Or at least the last two months.
Time to shed moleskine, sharpen pencils, start afresh.
If only because one should be naked and unadorned when being reborn in Eden.
So what you are seeing is the first seeding, a gollum emerging from the mud-or at least the burnt umber.
Now if we could just do something about this humidity.
Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.”
Wrath Oil on Canvas 36″ x 48″
And so a bloodied harbinger, one of John of Patmos’s magic mushroom induced four. Like a butchers castoff wrenched from the pit of Hades, gallops the crimson steed stripped of its artifices. Give it up then for deaths own points man, here to cleave empires into ferocious war and division. Hooray! Here he is, sporting the latest fall fashions- jodhpurs and jackboots, along with a swordfish head resembling a Klansman’s hood or a papal Mitre: a false crown for hell’s Borgia general: the preferred head dress of demagogues and blood thirsty zealots. There’s enough in the capes fountain to quench them I believe. And if there’s any doubt as to which festering dark stable unleashed our Mr (D)Ed, then a blind, rabid diamondback coils from the animated corpses cold dead fist – Gadsen’s relic co-opted as every risible little bumper sticker-now waving into view like Satan’s own spewing cock.
If after all of that, you missed the carrion call of our horseback messenger, the lightning bolt clutched aloft also trebles as a Sig rune, cross and spear of destiny. Talk about the unholy trinity of Swiss army knives eh? No prizes for guessing what fireworks awaits at the finish line, but I’d wear sunblock if I were you.
Yes, I realize I’m posting this on Independence day, but look-I began this one on 12,21,12- the Aztec dooms date-so this piece was forged for these end times. So here we are, July 4th baring down upon this once great nation like funerary pallbearer-one more last supper culminating in a glittering firecracker of whizz bang and char grilled offal. How depressingly apt, eh? Two plus millennia that includes a historical cannon of almost mythological prowess-names like Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy echoing through the grand halls of history, all diminished by the wet, shrill, reverberating fart of a coiffed, bloviating, bowel, tweeting in an ill fitting suit. An ignoble and all too fitting end I suppose, if only because the American dream has become a nightmare.
If we’re all still here come November, it’ll be on view at Copro’s upcoming Underworld group show.
“O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind! What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries! And the privacy of it all! A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries.”
― Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
“George and the Dragon-a bicameral battle” oil on canvas 16″ x 20″
I alluded in my last post that there was something of an ode to the current plight of my dear old Blighty. The bitter rancor that has been the seismic divide post austerity Brexit. That’s there of course, the mythic ‘saint’ George fighting the scourge of some um-diagnosed disease on the provision the bedeviled populace convert to Christendom. Dragon or savior, hell or heaven, do or die. Take your pick, socialism or fascism, infidel or jingoist, sinner or slave. You get my drift.
Also there of course, is the pretty explicit nod to those internal battles-those primal beasts summoned from self loathing cauldrons, shrieking destruction back at us from reflected, churning waters. Our Janus head peering from a cracked, darkened mirror.
Moreover I feel, it acknowledges the undefinable, fuzzy area between the states of consciousness and what Julian Jaynes coined as the bicameral mind. It’s the legacy of metaphysical transformation through the artist’s experience, or at least my own. That razors edge labyrinth we walk, traversing domains of the known and the unseen. Automatons to our visual and hallucinatory impulses, and yet mindful of the physical world that constrains us.
It’ll be on show for the forthcoming Heavy Metal, 40th anniversary group show, from July 15th at Copro Gallery.
It’s just a detail of a work still in progress, but regular followers can probably already guess the punchline to this one. I suppose it could be read as a partial homage to the upheaval back in old Blighty, for what I am provisionally titling ‘the eternal bicamerel battle of George and the Dragon’. It’s going to be one of the pieces for the Heavy Metal show next month at any rate. I say one, as there could be another, depending on available wall space, but I’m having fun with it.
It flies in the face of the fact that the heat is utterly unrelenting right now, despite a particularly long and damp winter. It’s like the dragons breath on my neck, and the makeshift garage/studio is becoming uninhabitable, except for the occasional lizard that slinks in. Dried spider carcasses hang from gloopy webs, and the brushes slip between my perspiring fingers. The mountains pall seem undimmed and deer graze in the long shadows cast by the trees in our yard regardless. It would be like a wide eyed spectacle from some fantasy were it not for the literal scorched earth intruding over the airwaves, like a mosquito’s swarm.
Copronasan GalleryBergamot Arts Complex, 2525 Michigan Ave T5, Santa Monica, CA 90404
July 15th 2017
As an artistic rites of passage, there was no better for me and my generation. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Heavy Metal was the adult version of 2000ad, and I used to covet every opportunity to leaf through a well thumbed copy whenever I could from my classmates. At the time, I was never able to own one myself you see, firstly because it was as rare as hens teeth a to bag a copy in Liverpool, and secondly because my Mam wouldn’t have approved if I had.
If only she’d known what my old man kept in the attic.
Of course I made up for it years later-Moebius, Bilal,Vallejo all those legends.
So it goes without saying I’m beyond honored to be part of this exhibit-the fortieth anniversary at Copro, July 15th no less, alongside some modern day legends.
Back in the saddle on this one then. Pushing my charge to the finish line while I manifest the next series. If memory serves, I began this one at a live painting event at the Ruby Room in San Diego, on what was purportedly a Mayan predictor to the end times-12/21/12. Of course, it turned out to be the usual load of apocalyptic bollocks, but given the current state of world events, one wonders whether the countdown to midnight was merely set in motion on that date.
Each day feels like a dark revelation in new levels of madness now, a hangman’s breakfast for a world ever on the precipice of some fresh horror, all delivered by a bloviating buffoon tweeting diatribes of inanity and petty gripes, like an indignant, salivating ape lobbing feces. And whilst my beloved England comes to grips with another night of deadly attacks by radicalized zealots, the true modern day terrorism it seems is on the collective psyche.
For one of the envisioned pieces, I’ve been researching Jonestown and Heavens Gate, and though I’ve grazed the draw of cultism before of course with the Man/son series, it’s been unnerving not to draw parallels with the ease by which the masses can be so easily subjugated here. As if the contemporary pied pipers are political and pastoral pontificates, enchanting with arias of disenchantment, hypnotizing the dogmatically obstinate. In these dark days, it’s hard not to feel like all is lost, like the experimental petri dish marked mankind has mutated into some monstrous pathogen.
Which reminds me, I watched my friend Chet Zar’s wonderful documentary “I like to paint monsters” the other day, and he said something in it which really struck a chord, and to paraphrase, it was that dark art makes sense of a dark world that doesn’t. It’s a moving and hugely inspiring film if you haven’t seen it (please do), but it reminded me that the artists role is more important than ever, and that I’ll keep doing my part to fathom the unraveling shitstorm, in the event that we make it for future generations to disseminate.