Thinker on the prow 1983
oil on canvas cm. 197x 230
private collection, Amsterdam.
In 1983 I came back to London obsessed with the image of city as ship. Already from the 3 years I had spent in Bulawayo, (a city-ship if ever there was one, sailing the highveld surrounded by skies and under attack from ZANU PF), but then concretised in the experience of descending the Congo from Kisangani on the(then) Zaire Riverboat actually a floating city, constructed anew by the travellers themselves for each 10-13 day journey, over a grouping of massive flat steel pontoon-rafts chained around the central, motorised unit... actually an old colonial riverboat with cabins for the hoi polloi. With 2 storey bamboo brothel-discos, barbers, markets, fashion shops, gambling in the engine room, crucified monkeys singeing over the bonfires on the front of the pontoons... enough, it was vivid.
Back in London, a studio found, I spent much time in the British Library going deeper into the illustrated editions of Sebastian Brandt's "Narrenschiff" ... the Ship of Fools... mediaeval second best seller after the bible, inspiration for Bosch and many others.
The image was central to my exhibitions at the Commonwealth Institute and Bolton Museum and Art Gallery and I took it or it took me to Milan the following year. It never really left me completely, but in the spring of 2008, first time with a working studio in London since 1984, it came back strong. For a painter, between the museums and the river, London is a city of ships, or ship images. Then, painting past from the 80's, past from Hull docks as a kid, the evolving and I admit, anthropomorphising, icon..... and the daily street life around house and studio.... just won out over the possibly promotional pragmatics of more of the same of where I'd seemed to be going over the previous 8 or so years. Or rather... well, swings and roundabouts. See elsewhere.
Fast-walking man with baggage of ships 2008 oil on folded aluminium cm. 125x150