Love & other Artefacts - part 1 - First Love

"It is not of course that anyone will ever be able to explain the creative impulse, and it is unlikely that anyone would ever want to do so; but the link can be made, and usefully made, between creative living and living itself, and the reasons can be studied why it is that creative living can be lost and why the individual’s feeling that life is real or meaningful can disappear". Winnicott - from Playing and Reality

mixed media relief study on paper -The Unknown Painter

2019 is the year I broke up with B. And it was the fallout from this singularly traumatic event and the circumstances that had led up to it, that forced me to question and re-evaluate everything about myself and the life I inhabited.

In trying to recover, I realised that I had to find my way back to my first love; art and the ability that I'd neglected for far too long. Only the creative act could offer me any hope of getting out of the emotional black hole I was in. Although I refer to the past tense, I should point out that working through the pain of this loss is still very much a work in progress and I don't really know where all this is taking me. I just know I have to do it.

Creating the work of art is always an act of faith. Something essential is at stake for the artist and must be worked through or overcome. My work is not intended as catharsis; I don't care about that. In the quest for some kind of meaning, only redemption matters.

Thankfully, 2019 was also the Year of Rembrandt, marking the 350th anniversary of his death. So shortly after the break up I took myself off to Amsterdam. Standing in the grand church of the Rijks Museum surrounded by the Old Master's work, there was something empowering about feeling so broken. I felt a closeness and affinity with the inner space of his paintings. If you know about his life and work, you will understand the great humanity in what he depicted. As John Berger said, "When he painted freely those he loved or imagined or felt close to, he tried to enter their corporeal space as it existed at that precise moment." And he did this to find a way out of the darkness.

oil on board cloud study

“No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modelled, built or invented except literally to get out of hell”. Antonin Artaud

In coming back to my first love; in the act of making the work, I am always aware of the fundamentally ontological nature of the process and of the sense of being attuned to history both in terms of the history of art and my own personal story and practice. One is driven by the power and conviction of the artistic act through drawing/painting to transform experience, make it better, transcend it and to ultimately 'challenge disappearance'. I believe the power of art is its essential truth to show us this.

oil on canvas board study - The Unknown Painter

It was just a tiny thing, but of unique beauty. It was a moment, a place, a look, you and me; all lost - forever.


It was to be our last trip together - Nothing could have compounded more the sense of sadness I felt than being with her in that beautiful old city for tragic lovers. I was alone with her distance, always tormented, never able to reach her. Wherever we went; always the same cold indifference separating us, pushing us further apart. I didn't know what was left between us; my instinct was to hang onto something, but what connected us now was misunderstanding and hurt.

We weren't Romeo and Juliet. This was a different kind of tragedy. I knew I had become insignificant to her. My emotions were useless; I felt that I had no right to feel anything. She was closed to me. Whatever she was feeling or thinking; she was working it all out in her head and keeping it to herself.

And so we wandered around joyless and lost to each other, knowing we didn't belong here. We were the wrong people in the wrong city. We weren't lovers or even good friends. Nothing worked. Nothing made sense. What had come between us could not easily be explained.

There is nothing new to say about love. 'Falling' in love or infatuation is always regressive. What we seek is nostalgia for a lost past - the making of love involves a constant remaking of the past. But this is an unconscious act, so we believe we seek the new, but the new is really a different version of what turns out to be an old familiar. What does it mean if I follow my heart?

"Hell has degrees. So does love" - Jean Genet

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