I wanted to do a series of paintings about London’s old cinemas facades. But I couldn’t get them of my back it was, sign this, sign that; go here, go there, and you do your three hours a day job search, arrive on time for your signing, or else.
“Oh, but I’m an artist”.
“Are you really?
And I’m the Duke of Wellington”.
I did one painting. It took me over a year. I kept running out of paint and brushes and I didn’t have the time or the money to get them. I had to get work. The only work available was washing dishes.
So I did this one painting of Hackney Empire.
It feels like I painted it wearing a ball and chain.
We don’t seem to talk anymore
We don’t seem to meet every day
We never make plans for a trip
It hurts in every way
Since this change in our friendship
I wonder where I belong
Since this lull in relations
Since my hurt went wrong
You’re more preoccupied than ever
I never know who you are
You told me all your history
You really are a star
Since you told me all your worries
You seem not to belong
And all your pain and suffering
Has made my hurt go wrong
If you wonder where this is going
You see I wonder too
It always seems to be snowing
Will the sun ever come shining through?
I’m trying to be your best friend
But I’m not so very strong
I can’t say the things that I’m thinking
Since my hurt went wrong
I met Big Al at the Kingdom Hall. He asked me to do a painting of himself and his dog. Wow I thought, this is fantastic. Al was aa awesme retired docker and I felt privelledged. This was a study in oil pastel and in some ways was better than the 5 foot panting I did for him. He kept pressing me to finish his painting and so I couldn’t put much into it. Hused to drive an old yellow Ford Cortina I think it was. It was not a family car, it was a workers car, one that took him to work every day, a tin can on wheels. Yet it had grown around him like asecond skin and he drove it like he was born in it. Then one day he turned up at my door and said he wanred to take me out somewhere. I had undignosed pernicious aneamia and felt terrible, but there was no refusing Big Al. And where did he take me, the Imperial War Museum! The thing that stood out most among the war machines was an evil bust of Adolph Hitler. Well it was awesome. And now let me get back to bed Al. He was a married man and he was protective of his wife about whom I knew nothing. He liked his painting and put it up on his wall.
He died a few years ago. And the docks where he worked? They were gone, or they were in transition, they were halfway between one world and the next. God bless you, Big Al.
In this painting, the adults are moving about like heavy metal rock stars kicking up mayhem on a stage only instead of carrying guitars they are carrying children. This from from a photo in a newspaper of the bombing of a mental hospital during the Lebanese war.
I grew up on a housing estate near Bloxwich. Not far away from the estate was a disused coal mine with a railway, and a huge slag heap where I used to go exploring, hoping not to get caught by any caretaker. I did a sketch, and I tried to turn it into something to impress the tutors at Walsall School of Art in Goodall street. It did not get any further than sketchbook work
John Briscoe came from a large mining family and they lived in Cannock. Three of his brothers usually referred to as Ted, Bet and Tone are in this painting. They were sadly born mentally backward as I was always told. They lived in a row of houses I believe was built by the mine owners for their workers. They were old and negleted houses, dark and dusty. Johns father died of cancer, I saw him lieing on his bed in the small living room, I saw him in there, one side of his body was turning blue. John was overcome by grief but could not face it and he got a group of us from Art school to go to Paris with him hoping to forget his troubles, his father died around this time but John was stoical about it. This is not the end of the Briscoe tragedy. His mother died of breast cancer and his three brothers, Ted Bet and Tone had no one to care for them. Once at the bus station in Walsall I saw one of the brothers walking by in the night, angry looking and alone.
John was a brilliant artist. He was the talk of Walsall art school, flambouyant and full of life. His art work was creative and effortlessly brilliant. He could turn his gift for creativity from sculpture to pottery at ease. But he had an accident on e day and stabbed himeself in the eye, and lost his sight in that eye. This fault of all his tradgedy I firmly place on the neglect of the coal mining owners in Cannock who didn’t seem to do anything to help this poor, poor family. There were two other children one Tom Briscoe who got married, and the oldest who I only heard about by heresay.