It is both an opportunity and a challenge to exhibit work in Oxmarket in Chichester because of the variety of responses and reactions that turn-up the controversy factor.The Frida Kahlo painting seems to have divided the controversy levels most of all. She was a contentious individual and Artist , why shouldn't I stoke-up the fire of debate?
Frida was a Communist and feminist Painter who has transcended her husbands' mural legacy and invited us to experience the joy of life fully lived despite the her personal terrible suffering and agony of a life held together by steel plates, nuts and bolts that prevented any more damage done to her back and neck after a traffic accident. In spite of many operations the 1930s medical knowledge couldn't help her, and after a long battle of self-will she died of her injuries.
So she painted though her pain and breathed new life into the medium of Painting and the Artistic ouevre of Modernism by her Mexican fusions of cultural history and modern life. So why have I painted her when she was a Communist who entertained Trotsky and others hell bent on global havoc? Because I don't believe that everything is and has to be 'political'. Separate ideology from her work and I am astounded by her inventive and unstoppable spirit, a bullish but open soul and a woman who trail blazed for all humanity.Forget her political extremism, forget her loyalty to the ego of Diego Rivera(her famous muralist Communist husband) and breathe-in the woman who stayed true to her self even though it meant offending dispositions less disposed to nakedness and her depictions of blood-smeared agony.
Some of her paintings are more than shocking but offer a true testament to her struggle - not the class or nationalistic struggles or the legal and political struggle for women globally, but her personal struggle which she shares with unflinching honesty. And yet her struggle was as celebratory as any ones.
I have learnt not to trust politics and political people (Why? Because I'm a Politics graduate too), but Frida Kahlo demonstrates that you have to trust your instincts rather than rely on political bias. Let's just remember she didn't rate her significance as an Artist, and that was as much to do with male Artists devaluing her work and seeing her as one of Diego's hangers-on, as it was to her artistic modesty. However, if you like 'Art does tabloid surrounded by the sharks of politics' then she never burnt-out and lost her values, whether you or I agree with them or not! Not even our own Tracey Emin was able to do what Frida did, and not burn-out and exit the stage of radicalism to become the doyen of the British Art scene. Only Frida met head-on political temptation whilst only Frida burned as brightly and for so long without abandoning her principles. But don't register this as a political statement, it is about her personal qualities of steadfastness and character.
So my Painting examines the universality of war paint and body armour whilst trying to reflect the metal plates that skewered Frida with hopefully enough reference to her spontaneity to do her justice. I'm sure she would have been more cavalier and controversial with the figure than I've been. I can imagine Frida saying something that (amidst the swearwords) that I wasn't radical enough for her tastes. Indeed it is only right that Frida would have wanted the last word: I think she would have liked the image because she could make it far more radical and because in its present state, Frida would have laughed at the test of prudatiousness (she would have loved that new word not to be found in the dictionary) to reveal layers of over-refinement or false ettiquitte when life is raging without any honour or dignity except the ones that have true human values of decency and charity. I'm sure she would have asked me to make more reference to her bi-sexual identity, but I think she'd have been revelling at the expense of the pleasant conservative folk of Sussex being uncomfortable with this Painting, 'Take no prisoners ! That's your job!' I think she'd say. So, I'd like her to review the Painting hyperthetically.
She'd probably would have demanded that I share a bottle of Tequila with her to find out whether I was a fraud or not. When I'd be floundering under the table she'd be in full voice shouting at me to not listen to 'fat bald men and old has been grannies' ! I'd have to tell her that I was one of those 'fat bald men' and that I knew many contemporaries who weren't 'old has been grannies'. She'd probably say that I hadn't had enough drink to 'knock some sense into me'! 'Anymore booze and I'd be unconscious',and she'd say that I was somnamblistically unaware of what it is to be free and that our uniqueness is already hanging from a thread without us noticing it!!
Waking-up with a hang-over from hell the next morning, I'd find when looking in the mirror my face painted in Acrylic paint with the inscription that would say: "You don't look, sound fat and bald anymore".
I think she'd like the idea of the human finger-print being the most and the best of human contact with Art. Welcome to fallibility and modernism drawing breath from the 21st century via the tracing paper of the 20th century. I think she'd interrupt me and say 'Hey! Shut it! Let the Painting do the rest and move on to something new!'
She's almost camp cabaret burlesque in Berlin early in the1930s, ok.. ok I'll shut-up ....