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.
The Hit List compromises of 90 miniature paintings measuring 19 x 22 cm, 40 painted in 2012 and another 50 in 2013. The skull portraits depict the infamous of the decorated men and women throughout history who have epitomised humans as a race of unruly and instinctive barbaric, corrupt, demonic and hideous beings with greed and possession as an instinctive nature. Those who have abused the human rights of millions of innocent lives with their murderous and torturous schemes are to be remembered as monsters with their obscenities decorated for all to make judgement.
The one tireless model for my cadaverous oil paintings is the human skull – the braincase, the cranium, the “brainpan”. I paint skulls with an insistent repetition: solitary and poised, gussied up and show casing ‘The Hit List’ as portraits of the infamous, historical self possessed traitors. Some in their elaborate costumes for ceremonial scenes of marriage, political meetings, religious occasions.
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 evil stage where there is no confession, only killing and hatred for humanity. But in amongst the grim warning, ‘The Hit List’ conveys 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 code encase each circular border and like a mirrored reflection steeped in candlelight, links to witchcraft and sorcerous rituals are exposed. The devil, the skull, the potions, the afterlife. 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 Hit List burns brilliantly with red as the palette of social and spoiled decadence.