I was blessed in many ways. Dad was a commercial artist and an astoundingly good one too. He taught me much. Mum could paint and draw having gone to art school in the 1930's where she met dad. They both encouraged me. This was just as well. The educational system helped me not one jot. My earliest memories are of the world my dad inhabited of technical drawings and paraphernalia from the commercial aviation world that he inhabited. This sense of beauty regarding engineering products; just the general pursuit of excellence, has been a basic inspiration in my life.
Despite my drawings and paintings regularly being admired and put on the walls at school I had to sit the wretched 11plus exam, which was a test of how dull and boring a child, was. My disinterest in dull arithmetic processes like "long division", which make a mockery of the wonderful world of mathematics, ensured my total failure. I don't, in retrospect, regret not going to any of the local grammars. What I would have now liked would be a comprehensive that took art seriously. The stuff of dreams. Schools then, and now, reflect the bigotry of the adult world. They are penal systems in disguise that enforce concepts of intelligence that are essentially "bourgeoise". Liberation from all this nonsense via the comprehensive system resulted in cries of "social engineering" from entrenched factions. Roll on social engineering!
The "secondary modern" I went to dropped art after the 1st year.
But my head took body blows from other directions. Upheaval in my Dad's life and a general awkward disposition on my part had strange effects. By thirteen I was becoming a chronic dreamer with strange compulsions concerning "dirt" in the world about me. These feelings of "filth" that wanted to devour me were an overwhelming sense of pollution and control associated with those middle-class values that prevailed in the environment of suburban London I grew up in. Forget all you have heard about "mental illness". There is no such thing. Just life, that we navigate with greater or lesser degree's of success.
By the time I was fifteen the world was such a strange, poisonous place that I could not inhabit it.
I never used to talk about these things much but now I am over fifty I can see that my story does not make sense without it. Looking back over the material presented here the parallel between my mental state and the paintings is startling. This is of course true of anybody but is of note in this case because of the extremes involved. My decent into "psychosis" as an adolescent was accompanied by a termination of my passion for drawing. My fight out of it has an artistic effect in parallel. This battle is chronicled here. The one does not make sense without the other. The early abstract effects I do not have photographs of. Some drawings were sent by Dad to Horton Hospital at Epsom, Surrey and I have not been able to trace them.
My journey through this hell over the next thirty years is not to be detailed here. I am not the least bit proud of having been "mad". In reality it meant a collosal destruction of my own life and of the lives of the people around me. I class being a mental patient as a total personal failure. I am however proud of having come through it and of puttting it behind me. Most don't. I was somewhat functional after five years but have never really lost contact with the knock on effect of this thing called "psychosis". I briefly went to art college but was sectioned under the mental health act for 28 days.
Click on the images below for a more detailed explanation:
Guy at Ealing School of Art 1969.
I subsequently made some considerable effort to get to a good art school. I made a big impression at Camberwell in 1978 but, possibly due to my already being twenty seven years old at the time and only having four 'O' levels (the course required six), failed to get a place. I did get a place at the University of Strathclyde in 1989 however (after doing lots of OU stuff to qualify) where I obtained a 3rd class honours degree in mechanical engineering. This has never been of any use to me. I had envisaged doing high tech architecture or industrial design but doors never opened. I paint full time now. I was thinking of doing an MA course but have decided it would not improve me as a painter and cost me a packet. I've had all the formal education I ever want and almost all of it has been a waste of my time.