No Title from the Extreme Sports Series
Oil on Canvas
234 x 226cm
The paintings in this short series were completed or not (final piece still on wall in his studio) in the months leading up to Steven’s death, hence the fact that they remain untitled except for the overarching series name of Extreme Sports, which was what Steven had called them when describing the ideas to me.
It seems such a simple idea but at the same time so left field and such an insight into the workings of his mind, to take innocuous pastimes and by a shift in positioning, or an addition, completely turn the world upside down.
Here the two activities of gardening, a safe and homely pastime and archery, more dangerous it’s true but in a very disciplined way, combine to bring real threat. The little girls in their greenhouse remain blissfully unaware of the looming danger from the archer aiming for his target placed directly behind them. There is no certainty of the outcome one way or the other, but it has the frisson of danger which give rise to the series title.
Their protection lies in the figure emerging from the chimney seemingly harmless, but look again to see what he is reaching for above his head, a wooden puppet figure of Pinocchio – is he throwing it to save it from the smoke emerging from the chimney, with its implication of fire, or trying to grab hold, to draw it downwards to destruction, so the viewer decides is it to protect or destroy?
Similarly, the woodsman continues to cut the trees around them down . . . to fashion more Pinocchios? or to decimate the treehouses? an acknowledgment of the circular nature of our world and the recklessness of such easy unthinking destruction.
The background, top left, is, as ever a mix of Scottish and Italian buildings but the hills are those he painted most frequently being the ones he would see daily from our woodland home. The figure of the archer on the right is dressed in his tartan trews and motorcycle boots, although he never owned a motorcycle and is a direct representation of Steven (a thank you here to Beca Lipscombe and Mairi MacKenzie for making me look with fresh eyes at the textiles and design elements in his paintings) and like Steven himself is dressed with two belts, both accurate depictions of his own, which he wore daily which now adorn the family ‘memory box’.