Alongside presenting current works I would like on occasion to take a look back at older archived pieces, and I hope you will indulge me in this.
Such is the case with the painting I’m showing here entitled ‘Thrills’, completed some five years ago.
‘Thrills’ is a clown, and clowns are a re-occurring motif in my work over the years, in common many other artists such as Picasso and Chagall for example. The works shown here are fine examples of both of those artist’s clown portraits, Mark Chagall’s (to the left) being a painting, whilst Pablo Picasso was using a lithographic process. Coincidentally the pieces are from about the same period, although they both returned to the same subject many times throughout their long careers.
Why artists are drawn so often to clown imagery is difficult to say, but certainly an element of Coulrophobia (clown phobia) could be at play here. Many times my own works are met with a shudder, so I know this is a common fear, and possibly amongst creatives a heightened visual awareness magnifies a propensity to such fears…
Fortunately, for my own part I don’t really have a fear of clowns, pierrots, harlequins etc. but I am strangely fascinated by them, and have often dreamed of them.
The fellow depicted my ‘Thrills’ painting I first came across as an illustration in a book titled ‘1000 Clowns… More or Less..’ by H. Thomas Steele, and published by Tachen, and a fine book it is too (unless of course one is actually Couraphobic, in which case its a bit of a no-no, to be honest)
There are many wonderful depictions of clowns and clowning in the book, but one that particularly appealed to me was in the form of a decal used for The Coney Island Amusement Park. My interpretation of the 1950’s original ‘clean’ graphic design is quite different in its execution, but from the off I was very taken with the idea of using the clowns ‘teeth’ to show his name. Splendid.
What is odd though is that since I first completed the work I can’t count the amount of people, that when viewing it have said, ‘’Oh, that’s the Marmite clown…’’.
By ‘Marmite’, they are of course referring to the dark-brown, yeast based spread, much favoured throughout the Empire on ones toast at breakfast, or used as a restorative given to the sickly to return them to robust health in just a jiffy.
Anyway, it’s a strange situation that so many have said the same thing on first viewing the painting as, to my knowledge, neither Unilever Inc, nor the original inventors of said product (Sir Thomas Marmite?… The Honorable Hamish MacMarmite?.. who knows) ever used a clown image as a promotional device… It’s weird that.
What I will say though is that, as you may know, there is a common saying in this part of the world, along the lines of…
‘’This, that that or the other is.. like Marmite!’’… Meaning that something is polarising in peoples opinions of it.
If something is considered to be ‘Marmite’ it will be resolutely either loved or hated, and people are sure in their positions in that respect.
Well, that has certainly been true of poor old ‘Thrills’. Ever since the final brushstroke was laid down, folk have been most forthcoming in their divided opinions of it, and quite vocal in their views they have been too. It has to be said that many take an instant, and unshakable dislike to it.
I have often speculated dear reader, that should the piece ever fall under the steely gaze of the beleaguered art critic, that is a both yeast intolerant and a coulrapobic, then I am truly fucked.
Ho-hum, best not to worry I suppose… better divided opinions than none at all.
ps. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’m definitely in the ‘lovin’ the Marmite’ camp by the way… yum yum….