A strange autobiography in the making


By Friday 28 February I had successfully completed 6 screen prints that were self-portraits. Prior to this I had made a number of other screen-prints that featured, in turn, Celia, a student of fashion and Meng, a fellow student on the MA course. However, in the latter stages of the overall process I had conversed at length with the artist-in-residence at UCA; we had a spirited, feisty and good-humoured exchanged. As a result of that conversation, I decided that it would be unwise to exhibit any of the portraits of either Celia or of Meng in the forthcoming UCA show. The reasons are fairly obvious – they hinge on questions of ‘appropriateness’ and ‘the male gaze’ – and I certainly do not want to get involved in any acrimonious debates. (It’s a shame because it had been very enjoyable making their screen-print portrayals. But our culture is now obliged to do its utmost to resist the objectification of women; So, it seems that my work has effectively gone up the spout!)

In consequence I have had to develop something more substantial in relation to my ‘self-portrait’ screen-prints. So, in the last few days, I have been constructing a rather strange autobiography: it consists less of a sequential narrative but more of identifying particularly significant episodes in my life. It actually begins sometime before I was born. (I was born in the aftermath of Hiroshima and I experienced the angst of the post-nuclear age.) The autobiography is designed to link an early photograph of me (aged just a few months old) to the one upon which the screen prints are based. I have also selected a few images that have had an impact on me – and the photograph above shows one of them; it is something typical of the counter-culture in which I first participated during the mid-1960s. I still love the mood of that special time. (And then it all came to an end – an end marked in 1969 by The Rolling Stones’ album ‘Let it bleed’.)

But I am facing a very difficult problem: I haven’t really the time to create a form of presentation for my work that is commensurate with a decent Fine Art show. I have assembled lots of text and images and it may still be possible to find a way of showing the ensemble to good effect. However, I may have to jettison the screen-prints and paint one more decent painting. But time is short … very short … and I hate rushing things or taking short cuts …

Footnote: The photograph shows Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar.

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