I had my palm read on a whim in New York, 2015. Drunk, alone and keen for some semblance of psychic experience, I opened my hand to a Spanish fortune-teller in a Manhattan basement flat. She told me I needed to do more drawing. I cried instantly and thanked her. Pulling out a twenty to pay the ten-dollar fee, she smiled, “I’m sorry I don’t have change”. “Keep it”, I choked. Seeing this as a good omen, I took my clairvoyant’s advice. To me, she was saying drawing is freedom – and you can go anywhere when you’re free.
Thanks to her, I’ve started making trips back to my teenage bedroom. Last time I was there I noticed my posters – frayed and dog-eared, with yellowing sellotape flapping from the corners like peeling bandages. There’s Kurt looming over at me on the wall, all sad and pretend-sinister and look at Pamela Anderson’s hair – flowing golden locks of American-plastic-wholesomeness.
Like Narcissus, we are enraptured by our own reflection and like Narcissus, we are oblivious to the serpent who seduces our fragile bodies. A bed is being made – worms are ready to molest real life behind our closed eyes. The dizzy intoxication of youth is a beautiful hedonism – and now, we have begun to realise that we might just be able to preserve it. Doctor Narcissus inject us, suspend this abstraction called ageing.
I envy the image hit of the advertising billboard. Look at one next time – the good ones are instantaneous and abrupt, like mainlining dopamine direct into an abandoned brain. There is nothing impartial or oblique, it is a command – a dominion over your free will. Recently, I’ve returned to wanting to see images that can offer a salacious fix – and yet, the addict in me wants more still. I need my experience of an image to deliberately flower outwards, I want to see a multitude of potential meanings; activated and mobilised. I am not interested in rigid plasticity – that can carry only itself. For instance, when I paint a cherubic youth, I want to be free enough with my associations to arrive at Putin – have you seen his nose? – it’s so, so beautiful. When I stick a syringe into the bottom corner of a painting I’m not only thinking about Aubrey De Grey and eternal youth – I’m also thinking about St Sebastian choosing to shoot smack. Whenever this happens, I’m free from our everyday-humdrum-plastic-reality.