The human skulls that I paint call upon fragments of the past. A history of life and death, humour and tragedy, truth and lies. My paintings are of the living dead and of the dead living, as though the soul continues to exist as a shadow that takes root elsewhere. This life and death duo continues to fascinate me, as if from a magical and ancient past they create hidden storms that rend and possess the unconsciousness.
I construct classical portraits and figural compositions that openly reference a Stygian, sardonic lineage from Bosch to Ensor. Unearthing the ancient tradition of Memento Mori (translation, Remember your mortality) and Dutch 16th century Vanitas art, my puppets perform on an intense stage where there is no confession, but grim warnings. They at times convey a strong sense of humour which is parallel to the skull itself that looks as though it smiles in death. Or as beasts in nature that bare their teeth in anger their smile appears passive but behind it lurks the deadly truth.
My wicked take on a woman’s lot is never far. I revel in the intricate textures of fraying lace and embroidery as the tradition carried through by my grandmother’s family is bridal dressing making. The patterns of fabric are parallel to the skeleton and like a mirrored reflection steeped in candlelight the black surface exposes the viewers own image caught in time. The devil, the skull, the potions, the afterlife: solitary and poised, gussied up and show casing as portraits of the infamous, historical self possessed traitors. Some in their elaborate costumes for ceremonial scenes of marriage, political meetings, religious occasions. Such imagined illumination brings in Rembrandtesque tones of siennas, umbers, golds and notes of dry white for a shard of desiccated bone or a glint of tooth enamel. But the skull burns brilliantly with red like the palette of social and spoiled decadence.