Lately I’ve been reviewing past themes in my work, looking for ways to tie things together visually and conceptually. This has happened to some extent so far in the Brown Paper Drawings, and in individual works at various times. I am looking for an overall theme, similar to the Family Photos, that pulls in a variety of subjects via the elements they have in common.and generates a body of work over an extended period.
It seems I already know broadly what it is, but it’s like having a shoe box full of somewhat random items that form a collection just by being put together. I need to explore this collection more in visual terms before giving it a name. The Ancestors, a group of paintings and drawings from some years ago, will be part of it.
The Ancestors arrived through a variety of influences. I was doing some work based on pictures of mummified people; a visit to an exhibition of Aztec sculpture also fed into it; as did a very curious photograph of a protest group of marching men – who were all naked but for their shoes and all wearing identical full-head masks. It also linked to the family photos in that these pictures showed previous generations of my family, most of whom I hadn’t known personally. Some study of death rituals in other cultures also featured, and this gave the idea for the following painting, Family Dance, referring to the Malagasy custom of literally dancing with the dead, the wrapped bones of their relatives.
These paintings are relatively small and done in soft Sennelier oil pastel.