INVERSE PAINTINGS


Painting in inverse colours disrupts our habitual perception of the world.

My painting has been founded on the celebration of diverse urban culture. Before Brexit I felt no need to articulate this. It was there to be seen. It is still there to be seen. And I will continue to make such paintings.

But since Brexit, the atmosphere has turned ugly. A thing is not seen until it is made visible. Painting in inverse colours begins as a rejection of political lies by exposing what it looks like to assert that something is the opposite of what it is.

The implications of inverse colour go far beyond the specific political situation in Britain today. It is a new path I am only just beginning to explore.


Birling Gap. 24 June 2016. Oil on board. 100 x 122cm.


This was the first painting I did in inverse colours - the opposite of what we see with our eyes. I made it the day immediately after the Brexit vote. It was a way of channeling the intense anxieties and fears I felt about the forces unleashed by the vote.

The painting is a view of Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters cliffs on the South coast of England. At its centre is a Union Jack flag, torn, also with its colours inverted.

The painting links elements of my family's history with critical moments of national crisis in a place that has a strong symbolic resonance with English identity - the Seven Sisters, those iconic white cliffs. My father lived here as a child with his mother and sister during the Battle of Britain and through the subsequent bombing, barred from going down to a beach cut off by defensive barbed wire. When the farm next door got a direct hit from a doodlebug, my granny evacuated with the children to the North. Members of the family are still in the area. The end terraced house in the painting used to belong to artist friends and an artist lived next door too. I used to go and stay until, one by one, the terraced houses have had to be demolished, as the crumbling cliffs of England are relentlessly eaten away by the sea.


The Port at Dover (after Kokoschka). Oil on canvas. 76.5 x 128cm.


This picture is based upon a painting of the port of Dover by Oskar Kokoschka - but with the colours inverted. In the 1920s Oscar Kokoschka travelled widely in Europe and North Africa. He visited Britain and made a series of paintings here, including this one of Dover. He was fascinated by British culture. In the 1930s with economic depression and the rise of facism, travel was less possible. In 1938, he finally had to flee from where he had settled in Prague, narrowly escaping the Nazi invasion. It was Britain that gave him refuge. During the war that followed, he donated money from sales of his work to help starving and orphaned children on both sides of the conflict.

My inverse version of Kokoschka's painting was completed during the autumn 2019 as parliament battled to prevent a No Deal Brexit. It was, at a basic level, another attempt to express my fear and forebodings, by making visible the national reversal of the European values that Kokoschka held dear. Dover is not only symbolic for its white cliffs, it is also one of the places in the country where the effects of Brexit on movement of goods,services and people between the UK and Europe will be most clearly seen and obvious, and especially so if there is no deal, a danger that has not altogether gone away.