“ The Shattered Veneer” painted and writings 1985).
The thin veneer of a pane of glass can portray both symbolically as well as physically the very delicate and fragile framework of civilization and human values. Smashing a window or even the ritual champagne glass can be a shocking and violent act. The notorious “Kristallnacht’ or “Night of the Broken Glass’” carried out by the Nazi Party in Germany against the Jews is a violent example of these phenomena. My painting, “The Shattered Veneer’ has an emotionally powerful effect with or without knowledge of its history or inception but I wish to bring the image into context and a sharper focus. So I will relate its background. Some years ago I took a group of art students over to Morocco to instruct them in painting watercolors from village life. The students stayed in a hotel in the village whilst my wife, baby daughter and myself camped by a river on the outskirts. On our third night we were violently awoken by large rocks crashing through our camper’s windows and within the space of time it took me to respond, dark shapes were smashing out what remained of the windows with clubs. I tried to prevent them getting in, only to receive a club fully in the face and then backing away as two perpetrators demanded our money and valuables which we handed over. Frightened for our safety, I tried to keep a running dialogue going until they left and faded into the surrounding pitch blackness. We immediately started up the camper and headed back to town where luckily we found a 24 hour Red Cross clinic where I received attention for my injuries. Soon after we returned to Spain with the trauma of this event staying with us for a very long time and as with all traumas one endlessly replays the scenes and speculates on what one could have done to prevent or meet this sort of situation. One also ponders on the causes and for me as an artist the visual image of smashed glass metamorphosed in this work. This form of expression resolved many mixed emotions and though I can’t say that I’m at all fond of the thugs that assaulted us, I nevertheless have been able to put the event and them into perspective – two young men such as these who had nothing, no education, no jobs, few prospects, trapped in a society ruled by an archaic monarchy and static religion, were obviously aware of the wide gulf between their daily lives and all the opulence of the West. This disparity is what made us targets of the assault – the stereotyped rich tourist. My painting alludes to a conflict within the Arab world itself, a stark blind violence manifesting itself amidst the beauty of graceful architecture, a rich cultural heritage and a once tolerant religion with high moral standards. However now this culture has fallen out of step with the contemporary world and beneath the once rich and traditional surface exists a feeling of frustration and impotence that resents the West- their former colonial rulers and their legacy of arbitrary borders, repressive puppet despots, excessive arms deals and oil gluttony, all resulting in today’s fanatic violence and hatred. Since painting “The Shattered Veneer” more than 25 years ago, the world’s leaders have done little or nothing to correct this imbalance and my painting has proved to be unfortunately prophetic with ‘glass’ shattering on a global scale. “Injustice breeds disorder.”
THE PRECIPICE (1985)
The birth of this oil painting came about 25 years ago though it seems like yesterday or even tomorrow or surely current? Prior to the date of its conception a host of events seemed to me to be off course for a viable future for our world that was becoming madder and madder and completely at odds with life's basic principles and bound to culminate in some sort of world disaster in multiple ways. This should have seemed obvious to any aware individuals. Yet even at the time of painting the work I felt disturbed or conscious of my paintings implications for humanity, a humanity that seemed on the brink of collective suicide. The history of the Lemmings came to mind and my thinking was, if humanity failed to use the powers of reason that life has endowed him with, then nature would step in to redress the planets balance? That’s the point where man is at this time: they call it now the 'Tipping Point' or put in another way simply that man has crawled out on a limb too far, the limb is breaking and along with his vast technological powers he can now actually destroy the world. 'That’s Now'! Yet people are so wrapped up in their daily struggles that they miss the larger picture and carry on business as usual with the syndromes of thought and actions; spoon-fed by politicians, Religious Institutions and mass education that are not adequate to meet the problems of the now. It has all moved along too rapidly and outgrown old solutions. The painting ‘The Precipice’ says it all and reaches past words, yet I think there is a center within my fellow humans that knows all this but fears to face that knowledge and keeps too busy and too snowed under by lies and half truths which creates a feeling of impotence. I think art can reach that ‘sane’ center within man. The arts deal with beauty and truth, (even very heavy truths) which can empower and inspire the soul to meet and come into harmony with the animus mundi. Hence this presentation of my painting ‘The Precipice’!
THE BEST DECK CHAIR ON THE TITANIC
First contemplate the image (free from any outside considerations), which is the only door to the actual content of the painting. Go beyond the obvious associations that most people have concerning the historical "Titanic", the Hollywood Titanic or the judgements the tragic sinking of the Titanic bring to mind ranging from hubris, decadence, vanity, the anger at the flaunting of wealth at the time of its maiden voyage, when economics were in dire straits both in the United States and the rest of the world. In my painting I sought to express the tension between the obvious symbolism and the metaphysical content or the spiritual state man finds himself in right now. As the title implies, ‘ The Best Deck Chair on The Titanic' symbolizes the breakdown of values based on life principles and even though the ship- world is sinking under this mass ’Hog in the Trough' behavior and the soulless materialism of this age, people still fail to confront the reality. The work was painted about 30 years ago and it was obvious even then that man was destroying his civilization and his planet, with on-going destruction ‘now’ spiraling out of control. So the combination of insane greed and overwhelming population growth, paralleled by technological rapid advancement has led to this cul de sac. The arts have the power to reveal man to himself but are generally ignored and are met with apathy, yet this is mans most powerful source of vision which throughout history has concretized mans dreams and ideals as witnessed by every great peak in man's erratic history such as the 5th Century Greeks, the Gothic period and the Renaissance. This image has a concentration or sum total of that direction of consciousness needed to create a new age. First class or steerage, we are all on that Titanic voyage ; all seven billion of us!