THE LONG & SHORT STORY OF HUMANITY
Why this sketch above became this painting below
Above: Dippy Eggs with Fingers, with brothers upside-down and sideways (2005-9, oil on canvas, 235 x 187cm)
Below: Details of D.E.W.F.
Painting a Story
The trilogy of self-help books I am currently writing are basically a description of all of the psychological investigations, thoughts, research, experiments and curiosities about the human race I thought of; all housed in the 8 Large Display paintings I painted from 2005-09 – in particular “Dippy Eggs with Fingers” which was a personal odyssey, return to childhood and broad wondering what humanity is all about?
D.E.W.F. (Dippy Eggs with Fingers) is admittedly a silly title, but life is about having fun.
The painting was an attempt to think-through, categorise, examine and conclude upon every single human thought process and consequences a person may encounter in their lifetime. The books I’m writing aim to be a psychological chronology covering and encompassing every emotional scenario humanity and life can throw at us. DEWF is a visual description of exactly the same idea: it is deliberately baroque and cram-packed with a brain-full of ideas. I wished to transcend conceptual art and do something really good, full of thought and unique ideas that all people would respect: a truthful exploration into my own mind and the mind of the whole world.
The painting begun with a millimetre perfect life-sized naked version of me sitting on a toilet, returning back to Freud’s ID using alpha brain waves. The crudity and oddness of this concept aimed to return the viewer to King Lear whom returns to nature:
“Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer
with thy uncovered body the extremity of the skies.
Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou
ow’st the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep
no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha? Here’s three on’s
us are sophisticated; thou art the thing itself.
Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor,
Bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings:
Come, unbutton here.”
(Act III, Scene vi)
I started by drawing my left foot and the painting expanded from there. There are 11 self-portraits in the work: most people, if given lots of time, can see about 7-10, but so far no-one the eleventh version. You win one of my paintings if you can email me the correct answer to where all 11 portraits of me are?
There are literally thousands of ideas in DEWF – I wrote and sketched about 450 x A4 pages worth as I progressed and about half of the painting uses visual metaphors from all of Shakespeare’s works. Despite the chaotic and seemingly hotchpotch look, all of the images have references and give evidence of what the idea is about: i.e. everything can be worked out by a stranger (there are some words in there to help the more complex ideas out). And simply because I’ve got better things to do and the work for me is long complete, I do not wish to go-over and describe every last idea again. Some things are best left as they used to be. Paintings are paintings and people are actually alive!
However, some basic overall indicators will give you a rough idea what’s going on. Mostly, the left middle section of the painting represents Good and the right middle section Evil: two age-old forces. And the top right represents God and a waterfall of comedy in all its forms; the top left nature, the universe, death and memories; the bottom right Evolution, sea and illness; and on the bottom left cycles of human behaviour and a chess board, egg box and large mug playing out predictable life sequences.
“Dippy Eggs with Fingers” primarily paints a story of emotions.
In the middle right we see a representation of Shakespeare’s Iago (the raven with jackdaws pecking at a golden locust) and his laboratory, with Macbethian underlay and Othello symbols of neurosis. To counter this, in the middle left section we have Hamlet’s house (the cardboard box), Jacques’ return to and cycle of nature above that - with the toaster and eggs on plate sequence alongside Cleopatra’s power and Rosalind’s knowledge. The plastic gun on the bottom left symbolises the futility of war amongst other sympathetic/parasympathetic set psychological pieces; the toilet on the bottom right, base life and cave painting ideas; icons of power, hope and voyage in the middle with the melon, light, iron and ice. The beginning page of my comic about walking through life with a sense of humour is in there too.
There is a comedic running theme of eggs throughout the work as well, inspired by Laurel and Hardy.
Many different time zones exist and on one level DEWF can be seen as just a morning breakfast routine with casual thoughts. Some of it is profound and some bits silly. Can you make-out the temporal platforms ladder or spot where I have signed it?
The hope was that everyone could learn something about themselves and others.
Below are seven other large works about human life I painted around the same time: