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Updated: Mar 5

The winter of 2023 will go down in my personal history as the shittest

winter ever. Bedridden through sickness for my birthday (Oct 7th),

Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, the whole period was riddled with

illness preventing me from working, exercising or socialising. It was

bloody miserable. One particular bout of illness started off with an

incredibly intense two days of sleeping and constant pain. No eating, I

was just about capable of hobbling frailly to the bathroom. Other than

that, I couldn’t physically stay awake for more than five minutes and

the moments I was awake I was squinting through a thick fog of madness

and pain. Any source of light caused my migraine to flare up and send

pulses of agony through my head and eyes. For the first day and a half

I had a recurring dream which went round on a loop every minute or so.

Dream: I was in my bed and there was a cuboid running vertically from

top to bottom and another smaller one perpendicular to it. The shapes

created a sense of claustrophobic discomfort and were imbued with

significance. Their tension in space meant that I had to work out how

to move them to make them fit harmoniously. As I was doing it, within

the dream I would have the realisation that I had had this dream

already. The dream would end and after a short break would start over.

Each time it started it felt like a new one but by the end it was clear

that it was the same dream (perhaps with some minor variation). I was

stuck in this loop for a day and a half and even after waking up to go

to the bathroom, on going back to sleep the dream restarted. Something

terrible and serious was going on. Not only was my mind on the fritz, I

was so physically weak that when the bedclothes got caught on a corner

of the bed, I was unable to pull them away to cover myself back up so I

just lay there cold and helpless. There were moments when I was lying

face down in the pillow with all my life force sucked out of me when it

occurred to me that I might be dying. I was on 2% battery. Sam Smith, the

darling of the British art scene, dies of exhaustion. Finally, after three days, the recurring dreams had stopped but I couldn’t think properly. My brain was unable to explore and develop sequences of ideas. My thoughts had

become very short and simple. Brain. No. Working. What was weird is

that I knew that it hadn’t always been this way but I couldn’t quite

recall what it had been like. It was extremely concerning to feel as

though my cognitive capacity (something of great value to me), had

potentially been lost or destroyed. When I eventually did regain my

sanity, my physical health was still lacking. I just had no energy to

do anything and felt an intense downward pull on my whole body the

entire time. This went on for over a month after the initial

psychedelic death trip.

From October to January I must have lost about 6-8 weeks of work to

illness. A substantial chunk of my life and time I had intended on

using to paint had been taken from me. I felt anxious, frustrated and

angry. When I was eventually able to work again, all that pent-up

frustration came roaring out of me... Hence ‘Bleurg!’. The image remains

quite a mystery to me as it contains weeks of emotion condensed into

one image, so any attempt to understand it here is incomplete.

Nevertheless... The beast expresses something of the horror and

destructive spirit I was experiencing and intuitively represents

something negative. Paradoxically I think there are positive elements

to it: Its dynamism brings life to the scene and something comical

about its tongue and open mouth. To me, it is the beast which is

shouting ‘Bleurg!’. The three figures (horse, beast & man) are

intertwined in a tangle which might also read as though the bull is

bursting through the horse. The horse in previous works, in approximate

terms, tends to represent the nature of working (a painting has an

independent nature but also can acquiesce to allowing the artist to

ride it). The man, in contrast to the horse, is the version of me that

faces outwards into the world. Where the animals might represent the

‘id’ (the primary instincts and impulses), the man probably represents

the civilised part of me (the superego). So... the beast is bursting

through the horse (chaos disrupting my intentions to work) and the man

is responding to it. It is not clear whether he has been shocked and

thrown from his horse by the interruption of the beast or whether he is

twisting to swing a weapon (concealed by his body) to attack the bull.

Interpreted as a positive, the image may well depict the destruction of

my own artistic tendencies and limitations, albeit with the

apprehension and surprise of the part of me that wants to hold onto

order and the familiar. This interpretation sits well when considered

alongside ‘Wonderful Graffiti’; the two works united by carefree

slashes and arcing cuts across the page which portray a purpose and an

aggression and a new direction in terms of a foray away from figuration

into the abstract. With the benefit of writing this a month after

executing the painting, it seems that this work heralds an evolution in

my work as I march brazenly into new artistic territory. Aside from the

painting’s narrative on my personal creative evolution, there may also

be the pragmatic realisation that darkness and light are co-dependent

and the dynamic between the two being life and meaning-giving. Perhaps

being swaddled up in my bedclothes was an unpleasant but constructive

cocooning stage preceding the explosion into a new phase of life and

work... ’Bleurg!’

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