Who we are cannot be apprehended by the eye alone, whether human, a camera, or a mirror. Sometimes the hand of the artist can show us someone who, with a shock, we recognise as ourselves, but which has not been revealed so rawly, nakedly, beautifully before. We all have a dozen faces, not all of them entirely human, which seem to shift into one another as the moments go by, even though we may not be consciously changing our expression. We all experience joy and suffering, and many of us occupy visionary, psychologically, or socially, extreme and lonely ground for much or most of our waking and dreaming lives.
We can’t talk about this to anyone, (especially not to so-called ‘experts’ such as counsellors, psychiatrists or psychologists who would destroy us in their efforts to ‘cure’ us of our ‘illness’ of being fully aware and alive), but we can read and write novels, poetry, compose music, dance and sing, act, paint pictures.
The kind of portrait I want to paint if I could would usurp the canvas, wreck it as if a ruined building had fallen on it, or I had messed around with the narrator of “Hunger”, one of “The Brothers Karamazov” or Prince Mishkin’s nemesis Rogozhin in “The Idiot”, somehow trying to wrestle some plausible image of them onto the support.
If ever I can walk around the rim of a volcano that has apparently lain extinct or dormant for thousands of years with the expectation that this is the very day scientists predict it to erupt again I’ll do so in the hope that some of the lava would scorch my canvas, burn holes in it. This journey only allows me the kind of calm in my life normally found in the eye of a storm. And calm there must at times be, for no artist, even one whose passion makes him a force of nature, can cut off an ear every day.
How about you? What would you do? If you were lying in the gutter dying, one loaded brush or can of spray paint in your hand, watching your own blood spill out onto the road; if you had one last chance to paint the piece that let the world know who you are and just what you think of this little life, what would you paint, what marks would you make: more of the same, or something new – the kind of art that can save your soul?
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A selection of photographs from the exhibition. Click an image to enlarge.
Anne de Souza and Oyster Press present Brian Fogarty’s first major solo exhibition: Soul in Search of a Canvas. Seventy paintings, plus drawings and prints covering the full range of Brian Fogarty’s work since he began his painting career in earnest 10 years ago are being exhibited at 28 Cork Street at the end of June.
The works are directly informed by personal exposure to violence and darkness, including from his childhood, and while researching his novel, Red over Blue, during the two years he lived and taught English in Sudan.
Brian Fogarty is fascinated by human flesh, the basic substance of life, and in many of his portraits and naked portraits his aggressive and tender handling of the often heavy, Cremnitz white-based mixed pigments produces a certain organic quality suggestive of body tissue, veins and arteries just as if he is seeking to explore beneath his subject’s skin to expose their very essence. He is obsessed with the belief that, through painting them, he can somehow reincarnate people he has lost, (or, indeed, has an overwhelming desire to meet for the first time).
As Brian Fogarty explained to the performance artist and filmmaker Lucy Chang, while discussing his approach to painting his portrait of the actress Scarlett Johansson, “Rational observation alone cannot take me to the deeper, visionary truth I seek which, whilst of the material, lies beyond it.”
Brian Fogarty was born in Hackney in the East End of London.
He has, on several occasions throughout his life, “closed his eyes and stuck a pin in a map of England” and then upped and left alone to go and live in some strange town where he knew not a soul.
He found that being in a place where nobody knew him made it easier for him to try out different personas who battled within him to emerge as dominant in the hope that he’d find out who he really was.
He also enjoyed the sense of heightened potential that living in a town, village, or city he had never even visited before gave him the feeling that he might meet someone extraordinary and that anything could happen.
At present Brian Fogarty lives an hour’s train journey from London, in Brighton, East Sussex where he has his tiny studio by the sea. He is a member of the Sussex County Arts Club who awarded him the David Rose Prize for Painting for the most outstanding entry at the 2005 Brighton Arts Festival for his powerful semi-naked portrait of a woman, That Blue Dress.
He is a member also of the Brighton Poetry Society which meets at the Victory pub, The Lanes, Brighton, on the last Monday evening of every month where he enjoys reading his poems and extracts from his novels at their open mic sessions.
He also reads at The Red Roaster Coffee House, St James’s Street, Brighton, at the Pighog poetry events on the last Thursday of every month. 24 June-29 June, The Gallery in Cork Street, 28 Cork Street, London, W1S 3NG.
Contact before and after the dates of the exhibition:
Oyster Press, PO Box 395, Brighton BN50 9GJ, 07919 947684, firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/brianpfogarty, www.brianfogarty.com.