Well that is it. All I can do. For now. It is far from perfect and far from what I wanted. But I have been working it to death and today I am calling it a day. Well. until I can think of something else to do to it.
Above are four images of Battle for Chichester Cross from original thumbnail sketch to three stages through the painting to completion. It was devised as a deeply personal picture as cathartic way of dealing with the four and a half years I lived in Chichester in East Sussex, England. I said on my first ever blog that I might write a bit about my time in Chichester and with the completion of this painting, I feel it is appropriate now to talk about this part of my life.
Final Painting with Details
My main mission since I have been in Hastings is to get my painting career back on track and to make my life as simple as I can. I knew that I would have to start all over again and that I would have to make a lot of work over months, perhaps years, to reach standards and the resonance I desired for my work. So, I have been patiently drawing around my environment, and mostly going back to basics with my painting, which, for the most part, has so far been quite pedestrian and conservative. But, the very fact, I could do it, and do it every day, was what has become the most important thing to me.
Because I could not do it Chichester. My job and the kind of environment that existed in the town made it extraordinarily hard for me to make any meaningful work. However, all through my time in Chichester, lurking away in the recesses of my thoughts were visual ideas which were mainly spiteful, full of bitterness and at times violent, towards the good people of this very small market Cathedral city.
The place engenders it.
I came to Chichester in 1999, with no preconceptions as I had never heard of it before. It looked lovely on my visit to interview and on the surface, the people seemed friendly and pleasant. Of course I had been living in Aberdeen for the previous 7 years, where I had become accustomed to constant sardonic wit, banter and put downs from friends and foes alike.
I wont bore you with the internal politics of my job in Chichester, but needless to say, as head of fine art, very little of my life was my own and everyday I was constantly fretting about whether this would be the day I would be ‘found out’ for being totally useless at the job. I think the only thing that saved me from this was that everyone else was so grateful that someone else was doing the job and not them.
But it is the town itself, which ate away at my soul. A very wealthy town, with a north, a south, an east and a west street which all met at the monument at Chichester Cross. And a whopping big Cathedral.
During the day it was inhabited by wealthy, elderly upper middle classes pottering about, shopping and taking tea in the numerous little coffee shops. At night it was inhabited by lairy men and women trying to squeeze out a normal night out in the local pubs. Somewhere in-between these groups were, huddled way, an absurdly earnest bunch of arty, hippy christian types who do not know how to laugh at themselves.
And never the twain should meet.
The rich elderly spent most of their time (when they weren’t scootering about in their luxury mobility buggies) campaigning against anything that changed Chichester. The were against a new wing for the local art gallery, against the setting up of the city’s first night club, against housing association houses being built, against a free music festival, against wheelie bins, recycling bins, cycle paths, etc, etc.
The lairy men and women of the night had not much interest in anything and were neither for or against most things.
But, the worst, the worst of all, were the earnest hippy arty folk. The very folk that I should have been mingling with and finding peers and friends. I would go to parties, go to dinners (at least in my first months) and try to engage. Was it me, but why could I not stop these great desires to be unpleasant and confrontational with them? Empty social consciousness, dull political correctness, bland feminism, pseudo conceptualists – few with real passion and energy.
And I saw all this living in a flat on the edge of Chichester Cross. I became reclusive and numb outside my work environment. I eventually had to get out I as I shudder to think where I was heading.
So, that is where the bones of the idea for the painting comes from. A pseudo apocalyptic battle between the various factions of Chichester. Who cares? I really had to make the painting to ease the pain of not painting in Chichester for the four and a half years I lived there.
It is a wholly flawed painting, overworked and under planned. But, it needed to be painted by me.