Bob Marley is a thrilling subject - a lissom big cat of a man . . . He embodies the spiritual, flowering lyrically through the physical in a restless explosive but graceful dance. I couldn't resist him, his beauty, his passion, his religious and moral integrity.
Here was a chance to paint the ardent intensity of his message, in a vibrant mix of colour, movement, gesture and high octane emotional expression. The cruciform composition of the painting - almost a Christlike crucifixion image - embraces a wide spreading format. Is it merely stage lighting, or is it an unearthly fire that flares behind him, around him, out of him?
This was a painting that, in the heat of working on it, excited me to a rare state of ecstasy - an unforgettable creation.
Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
Having started this new group of Pop icons with Bob Marley, my second painting portrays Amy Winehouse singing her iconic song, Back to Black. In this new group I am drawn to a totally different musical experience from the classical musicians I have previously been engaged with. Here I am gripped by a primarily theatrical experience, heightened by mood enhancing coloured lighting and the projection of the performer’s personality woven into song.
With Amy, I am drawn to her life of underlying tragedy, her dark sense of soul, yet this strange and fascinating singer, with the black voice of Jazz in her white waif’s body, projects a bunch of contradictions. In this performance of Back to Black, she moves powerfully through the remembered emotions of love, loss and rejection, while occasionally, momentarily flashing the very opposite with a look and a wink at her boyfriend in the audience. The diamond engagement ring flashes on her finger as she struts and waggles her tiny hips, half child, half woman. Her sexual appeal compounds the contradictions. It is not graceful and svelte, but defiant and gawky. Everything about her is over the top.There is a sense of unapologetic parody, that has, paradoxically, its own absolutely original and magnetic sexual appeal.
I have had a wonderful time making this painting. Raw emotion, enhanced by the theatrical coloured lighting, floods the singer’s face and body. It tells the story, not just of the broken love affair she sings of, but, seen now historically, seems to forecast the jagged line of her colourful but ultimately grim, short and tragic future.
Red Shift - David Bowie
Such beauty of human form . . . ! such ravishing colour . . . ! The blazing fiery red light floods half his face, the other half shines, luminous, in the palest of red’s opposite colour green. His one eye, lit dark and large, highlights its huge pupil, the lovely nose and the movement of the sensual mouth . . . ! As a painter I am ravished by the androgynous beauty of this singer in the performance of his song. The red light heightens the other-world-beyond of David Bowie’s imagined space exploration. Yet, at the same time, we are not allowed to forget that this is only play and dressing up; this is theatre.
Performing the famous Space Oddity - I portray Bowie, caught at that early moment in his career, inhabiting one of his most iconic roles. But, again, as with my portrait ofAmy Winehouse, the historic knowledge of the arc of this colourful and endlessly inventive artist’s life, his creative achievements, morphing from one personality to the next, and his ultimately untimely, sad (and possibly preventable) death inevitably informs my portrait. I am painting David Bowie, not just as he was at the moment of this performance, but, in a strange way, I feel I am portraying the whole life of this considerable, ever inventive artist.
Wuthering Heights - Kate Bush
I heard the voice of Kate Bush before I actually saw her. I was arrested by its eerie banshee sound. Then, when I saw her, I was struck by the way her voice so beautifully matched her lithe willowy body and her sinuous yet ghostly dancing. In this strange, original song she truly evokes the wildness of the Yorkshire moors. This song, so evocative of the eeire Victorian novel that inspires it, sets the tone and style of so much of her career that follows it.