My days and now my nights are frequently punctuated by searing shots of pain, that leave me stranded on the spot. Like a wounded animal, all I can manage is to collapse to the ground, roll onto my back and heave my right leg to my chest. Dignity all but gone. I hope this is not a life sentence, it is debilitating. But the x ray shows a crushed nerve and a sloping spine and I know no way to straighten it. Fortunately, for the most part I am fine.
I was reminded the other night, as I lay there on the studio floor, leg pulled to my chest as I tried to unfurl the gripping sharpness down my right leg, of an earlier time. Over 30 years ago, I was in a similar prone position. Two nights ago, I was trying something different. Using the work to express the story in a physical way. A form of sculpture but a painting that can be four paintings or one. I was working on a four panel piece, I called it "She Breaks Apart". I sensed a glimmer of enthusiasm and experimentation in how I was feeling about my work, that lit me up and fuelled me again. It was a sensation that I had missed and I was so happy to feel it again. And then I had the strangest sensation. As if unbeknownst to me, these past thirty years I had been traveling through time in a spiral and on that night, like a trajectory of a planet, an orbit seen for the first time, I was aligned in space if not in time. I was in a familiar place. I felt that sense of possibility, of what being a painter inspired in me, even as I'd laid on my back then, crippled with pain. In Adelaide, in a cold, blue room in a share house with cruel men. So, it was the strangest sensation, lying here in my beautiful studio, older, wiser, just as alone, surrounded by paintings that I didn't know then, that I would go on to make. As if I could peer through time and in recognising that I had arrived at the same place, and the most telling thing that struck me then, was that I could make different choices.
Begging For Food, Charcoal on Paper. 1987
She Breaks Apart. 4 panels. Oil on timber. Work in Progress
I've still got much to do with these panels. At the moment it's just a concept. But, when I found a work that I had made, Begging for Food in 1987 I had used small squares of paper, each work individually drawn with charcoal and then placed together to create a work in its own right. I thought of it as a metaphor. We are all these moments, each action abstract yet complete in and of itself, that when looked from afar, with some kind of perspective, makes up a recognisable form. That we say, is my life as I have lived it.
The Grass is Always Greener, oil on canvas, 92 x 76cm. 2021
Our imagination and desire for something new or better can be unsettling. Even when the offer of a sweet treat is there for the taking, we might not see it. Instead he looks towards the horizon. Hobbled to pursue his vision because of the imagined barriers.