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.
There are moments when I feel like I’m more of an anthropologist than a dauber. I have to remind myself that the genesis of any new series always kicks off like this though, relentlessly poring through acres of text digging for clues, trying to line up all the executioners. It’s exciting and frustrating by equal measure.
And what a rabid band of cut-throat miscreants, rapscallions and sea dogs I’m conjuring to inhabit my Eden, beginning with no less than genocidal pioneer-Christopher Columbus. He makes Manson look like a Scooby Doo villain. If only hadn’t been for those damn kids.
It’s a lot to unpack, and at times I feel like I’m eating breakfast between Dan Brown and Alex Jones.
Should I order waffles or fruit loops?
No, I haven’t shuffled off this mortal coil. Not yet. A moral one perhaps, and rather fittingly for these end of days, it’s more of a spiral than a coil, but I digress.
If I’m honest, hitting the half-century mark has felt like a need to hit some sort of reset button. David Van Gough version 5.0. Software updates to include curmudgeonly scowling at the car radio, dodgy knees and a complete shutdown by 11:30pm. “Forget that I’m fifty cos you just got paid.”
So in between the manna of commission duties, I’ve been brewing. Stewing. Boiling. Scrawling. And for all the buzzing in my head, it feels like I’m preparing a soup made of flies. Next on the menu, Paradiso’s Fall. If Purgatorium was the entree of a three-course meal, this one is the main. It’ll taste strangely delicious, trust me.
Of course, it’s meant retreating again, closing up shop at La Bodega, dispensing with the three-hour daily commute and wandering no further than the canvases in my little-converted studio/garage down the hill. Not a soul other than the ones that haunt my visions. No sound, other than the whispering pines, the cackle of crows, and the usual voices in my head.
In these dark days of endless noise and looming annihilation, it’s as close to Eden as one can hope to get.
If I’m honest. I never thought I’d make it to my half century. I imagined the long shadow cast by the reaper over much of my life, would have caught up with me by now.
Twenty years ago, I might have invited it to.
Ah, the nihilism and self-destruction of callow youth eh?
Still, I made it regardless, far happier, blessed and fortunate than any other dauber from the back jiggers of Liverpool might have reason to hope for.
Hindsight has also provided me the knowledge that as much as times change, some things remain the same. For myself, it’s been that unrelenting need to make art.
Which is why I thought it might be quite nice to put together a little video retrospective of work from the 70’s to present day. Also notable I suppose, is that for the very first time (and possibly the last) it includes a little musical accompaniment composed and performed by myself throughout.
Looking back over the body of my work these last few weeks, it’s been interesting to note that regardless of any evolution in style or technique, there’s been a common thread through my work that has remained constant: those same niggling questions of mortality, and it could be a coping mechanism for the ‘comprehensible darkness’ as Jung called it, or simply because I am ‘still a kid at heart’ as my wife-Lani says, but I can’t deny the almost neurotic obsession that has been there from childhood scrawl to sprawling canvas.
I imagine it will be that way until the darkness swallows me.
“His paintings are complex, for where there is kitsch and playfulness, there is also discomfort and violence, together gesturing towards an inevitable end for the bodies and cultural eras they depict.”
Hayley Evans-Illusion Magazine
Whilst I am sequestered on commission duties, here is a superbly eloquent article about yours truly. Thank you Hayley and Illusion mag. The title alone “Rot and Transformation” could be a career manifesto:
“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” ― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
6.5″ x 8″-Mixed Media on Ingres paper
Its just a sketch tossed off in a couple of hours, the culmination of feeling like one’s head has been encased in concrete for six months.
Except to say, it encapsulates entirely the tumult of these politically divisive times, where falsehoods are legitimized as alternative facts, where lies are filtered through a monocle of partisan bias, where reality has no cachet because everything does.
And now for something completely different.
Commissioned as part of an Astral themed 78 Tarot project, this one was something of a fun diversion, combining all the sci-fi elements that would have utterly enamored my ten-year-old self. It’s something of an homage I suppose to all those 2000ad Future shock covers I would pour over for hours, in the hopes of one day becoming one of their retinue of Art droids.
That never happened of course, and I’m much happier digging the dark furrow I currently do, but as 2000ad turns 40 and I hit my half century next month, it’s worth acknowledging the influences that informed me.
I’ve knocked together a cover of how it might have looked for shits and giggles. One can imagine a Tharg future shock that might accompany it. Something perhaps about ET’s sending space monkeys back in time to populate humanity.
Below is the obligatory bumf to go with the Tarot booklet
“Humanities aspiration has been one that has forever fixed it’seyes heavenward. If the stars were ciphers to map our destiny, then the looming edifices throughout history seem constructed as a means to reach them. Perhaps it is man’s desire to be closer to the source, Godlike in his eternal spiritual quest to elevate himself from mere mortality. And yet, like the fall of empires past that litter history, man’s arrogance and indignance seem’s always beset by self-destruction and the primal need to reconstruct the natural order.
And so Gods of old are supplanted by interstellar Gods, the desire to fill the void of fallen doctrines (as in the dead hollow tree) with the hope that we are not alone in the universe, that something larger than ourselves stands forever on the periphery, pulling strings. And yet our limited knowledge and ineptitude leave us stumbling around like simians in space, our search for enlightenment, stunted by fear of the unknown, ever ready to crack the skull of a different race with a nearby stone, because our need to feel superior in the microcosm will always usurp any progress, and lesson that could be learned. And as with the ouroboros, we are lost in the cosmic cycle of death, symbolized by the crystal skull.
The Tower then, is a parable of facade, an ephemeral artifact manufactured by the conceit of ego, built on the sands of eternal folly, that could come crashing down in an instant of catastrophic epiphany.”
So on the day millions of women from around the world took to the streets against the new dark ages and muddy California Skys cascaded a tumult in accord, a little corner of Bergamont station was marking these times of dark herald, with Chet Zars Conjoined 7.
I could tell you of phantoms and hellions from every corner of the underworld, of mystical dervish shadows from Hades bubbling craters, but it would be better if you saw it for yourself. After all, Darkness should be the visual anecdote of storytellers, not the reality manifested in halls of power.
Thank you to Gary and Chet, my fellow artists and everyone who braved traffic and downpour , the show is on display through February 11th.
“The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.” ― George Orwell, 1984
9″x 14″-ink on paper
I say this with full knowledge that I could pull a fistful from a grab bag of ominous portent since Inauguration day, but one of the most distressing things in the wake of Trumpocalypse is the continued willingness of his supporters to be completely blinkered by their cultish loyalty. Even in the face, it seems, in what are glaring, verifiable truths.
I’ve seen this on the other side also-and I get it, there’s comfort to be had in the consensus of delusion that no matter how much your party lies, it will never tell porkies as big as the opposition.
Except to say that within the space of a few days when both his strategist and press secretary have owned up to deploying a mind-boggling multiverse of ‘alternative truths’, even when challenged on the veracity of crowd size and voting fraud, one need not pole jump to reach for the dark specter of Orwellian doublethink or 2+2=5.
Indeed, I read today that the book that was meant to be a parable of dystopian fiction, is currently a best seller. Old George would be stoked were it not the reason for the season.
I mean fuck me, dip into any page and you could pull out a passage that could be a manifesto to the times we live in. I found at least a dozen in the first few minutes of prefacing this page.
Which is why I knocked together this little drawing ‘The blind patriot will eat himself’, portraying as it does the self-cannibalism and mental gymnastics that the nationalist will go to in service of the body national.
My continued plunder through old Adam Curtis documentaries particularly feels like watching a play by play.
“And because the constitution of a mans Body, is in continuall mutation; it is impossible that all the same things should alwayes cause in him the same Appetites, and aversions; much lesse can all men consent, in the Desire of almost any one and the same Object.
Or the great metaphysical war between Hitler and Van Gogh, two historical figures parallel in the singularity of their ambitions, both failed artists within their lifetime, yet so divided in that failures resolution. Be it Ego or Id, creator or destructor, the paradox of dualism is manifest.
I realise I’m putting Descartes before the horse here.
I suppose they represent Post-contemporary paragons of the underdog, framing the entire 20th century and beyond. certainly when thinking of Van Gogh as the Godfather of Modern Art, there is the notion that there is some nobility in failure, when the truth so often comes at a cost whether the destruction that manifests is internal or as in Hitler’s case external. I have to say, a lot of my thinking was informed by reading Artaud’s “Van Gogh: The man suicided by society” Particularly the haunting lines:
“Nobody ever wrote or painted, sculpted, modeled, built, invented, for another reason than to exit from hell. Each paint brush touch/strike (coup de pinceau) on the canvas is worst than an event.”
And yet Adolf had the presence of twisted mind to obliterated that “self-event” by creating Hell on Earth.
Lennon (the fuhrer’s antithesis) said it best when he confessed: “part of me suspects I am a loser, the other part God almighty.”
As I said previously here, it’s taken the best part of five years to bring it to some realisation but given that I completed it a week before the inauguration, the theme is eerily resonant-conjoined twins of diametrically opposed worldview, battling as Babylon falls like a sandcastle, whilst the architect King Nimrod (also an allusion to that other Nimrod totem of destruction) self-combusts in his zealous appetite to reorder the universe.
Having just watched Adam Curtis’s Hypernormalisation and read a recent interview where he perhaps wrongly charges the art world with some of the responsibility for the post-truth, Brexit / Trump outcome, it behooves me to wonder how we as artists can best characterize what we do, given the events and influences that inform us.
The painting will be on show alongside other artists works for Chet Zars Conjoined 7 show at Copro Gallery from January 21st.
In which a selection of dark, underworld beasts, demonic progeny, and feral fiends shall assemble before a hypnotized throng. No I’m not talking about the inauguration, but Chet Zar’s annual Conjoined show at Copro gallery in L.A of which I shall be honorably participating.
The show opens on the 21’st January, and since at the time of writing, I am still putting the final touches to my largest piece to date, I better get my skates on.
Bergamot Arts Complex,
2525 Michigan Ave T5,
Santa Monica, CA 90404