The decorator always gets paid least
Whilst staring at the vacant space where some kind of office unit once stood, a tea bag was flicked and landed not so far from the mid-room-based-bin-bag puddle ≈ By it’s flimsy handle the decorator swung an unused 10L tub of trade matt vinyl dangerously towards the wall and clumsily maneuvered into a viewing position, knees almost touching the sacred patch. Pulling out the bloated scabby Billabong wallet ∆ that was wedged in a back pocket, the decorator eased a discomfort before immediately running a hand over the gnarled surface; the years old plaster and faded cutting-in read like a luxuriously cheap glossy catalogue. The surface held all manner of annotations, 73 cm from here, call John g, and recorded a thousand scratches ∏ and marks and ridges, which aroused within the decorator a memory of the others who had similarly rubbed their rough sausage fingers ( ) along each vein and join. It made the decorator think beyond decorating, beyond old dustsheets and early grey headed starts, beyond stupid routines, and even beyond one’s self. It threw the decorator through a lifetime of events; all of the strange birthday parties, and all the people at those parties, and the strange conversations with all those people. Then coming in to work the next day and feeling like a holy fool. Seeing the wall in all forms and guises, feeling how a tasty gloss crust responded directly to the looping ∫ sub-cortical structures, where pink render plugs and interlocks each part of the experience and works like a patch ∞ of condensation, moving in and out of the surface. Moving in and out ◊ of the decorator, playing a part within a cannibalistic process wherein every surface experienced, past, present or future, is immediately connected to one another and only becoming truly visible when passing within view of every prepared wall he’d stroked ~
≈ wet trade
when something dry is mixed with something wet
∆ billabong wallet
a chunky yet exotic spicy blimp, swilling and churning dual sphere of production and consumption, where all that enters is incessantly gnawed, singed and regurgitated by a deadly inside zip. The wallet-cave is the stomach and the podgy fingertips that enter it are its antimony. When, very rarely, I can make a pleasing mark with a larger full brush, employing every bristle to correspondingly dump at it’s core and scratch at it’s edges, I stand up and stop painting and watch patiently for a few seconds how this shape shifting, thought-forming body snatcher passes through the studio.
∏ (doing a) Sredni Vashtar
the first traces of the long toothed Hutch Lord are commonly recognized from it’s savage grip around the edge of a painting (or wall, or slither of time), before fixing onto it, sinking it’s thin fangs at the edges of this plane. It’s sticky claws leave a fluctuating perimeter, creating a border that simultaneously works to form a space behind, or a realm in which the painting levitates. Sreddy V, invented deity, restless, feral idol of all bad habits. Created by you no less, twisted from objects made from boredom, from damage, from self-damage and internal mutterings. The kinds of actions and behaviours that belong to the margins of your day where you pick and scratch, wait and stare - to let your attentions be removed from the matter at hand.
( ) stomach carpet
Every spot, stain, blob, blot, freckle and blotch has it’s own shadow fuzz somewhere in the surface. It is the residue of mundane actions; a floating underlay seeped in fizz that follows every recorded movement of the brush and creates a phantom pair.
∫ The Electric Dragon of Venus
When I see a grim man pissing and spitting concurrently into a urinal, and when I see the long stretch of spit appears to be connected to his lips and the basin at the very same moment, a carved line arises in my mind which arcs between two points and completes itself when returning to the beginning. His lips are at the beginning of the sequence, yet pressed against the bleachy porcelain Hexfoil, stinky and warm never ending somnambulist line that existed far before the surface it is sprayed onto.
∞ cheese rub
All painting owe it’s origins to a manky kitchen worktop. Stubbornly wiped with a dry dirty tea towel, wiping the areas that can only be seen, smearing bits of cheese and grease into the surface and dulling the glossy top. Zombie-wipes, that skirt the luminous plastic bottles of chilli sauce and piled pizza and ribs leaflets. A marbled grate for the soul, paradoxical dream net where only the condensations of dairy appreciation and self-service appear to you. An ever so slightly denser blotch of paint that has dried long enough to form a skin and is then softly brushed with perhaps an arm sleeve, breaking the surface and dragging the still wet interior out of the original perimeter to create a kind of ghost belly.
◊ the wanderer
A small silhouette makes its way up a hill in the end of the day’s light and closes in on a small copse on top of a hill. The eggy drifter is set to enter the unknown space ahead, an emergent space, which maintains the hallucinations, patterns and images that unlock the biological happenings and evolutionary knowledge that the artistic journey encapsulates. The solitary character represents all of the ambiguity of the creative process, the last human connected to the beginnings of consciousness.
~ baby wipe rinse
Soggy languid baby wipes float around the world, seeking an oil to keep them useful. They cannot hear much or see very far but drift and hug any sleek surface close to the floor. The dirty gloss of the hall way skirting, the dirty glass beside the bed-head. Half-drank and clouded by soggy dust and etched fingerprints, scanning for objects from the background that lie for days unnoticed.
(I wrote this text to accompany the exhibition The decorator always gets paid least at Ivan Gallery, Bucharest, in February 2020)
Teeth where fingernails should be
After finally tugging free the grease-stained pillow, he viciously grabbed, snatched and snapped at the remaining and equally fizzy baby wipes that were wedged into the top of the drainpipe. What the fuck was going on here? No complaint of leaks had been made in this part of the building, but he had felt compelled to investigate this almost hidden swamp-like gulley on the edge of the studio complex. Studio 21 was situated in the rear yard, and the blocked gutter only served this studio. In his frustration or just in anger, studio member 4 wanted to lay eyes on the probable culprit, or at least simply spy how the studio beneath looked. With tiny pebbles and tiny bones sticking into his palms, he slowly leaned onto the brittle yellowed corrugated plastic and peered down. This certainly was a squalid space. It was like looking down at the forgotten dirty glass beside your bed, half-drank, and clouded by soggy dust and etched fingerprints after a heavy night out months ago.
Studio member 4 scanned the greasy space for evidence connected to the blockage. But the dirty little grotto was still; its atmosphere looked and felt warm, and heavy, and ever so slightly expanding. The type of atmosphere that you would find in the concealed unisex toilet on the third floor of Islington central library. Recently visited, with that ‘just struggled’ closeness to the air. A toilet that you hang your arse three inches above and pray for the backs of your legs not to touch the warm seat and the paper shavings from the previous user’s strenuous crack rubbing. Underfoot, it would seem that a dirty peach carpet sat like topsoil, and was cluttered with fuzzy plates, crinkled cobalt bags and the odd seeping eggy samosa print on brown paper, half permeated and feeding this glowing crust. Mangled plastic garden chairs had toppled over and been wedged into corners, where piles of empty beer cans and velvety take-away boxes had help make the margins of this space rounded.
It is not a real studio. It is a lean-to, filled in with plasterboard. A kind of monstrous, unidentifiable cursed patch in the building. Part stomach, part Neolithic dream-cave, a place to store all of your bad habits. To screen the scratching, the wiping, the eggy farts, and the sweating. Its walls seem to hold no work, yet the walls themselves seem to be pebble dashed in a dense beige scum, made up from your archetypal painty sludge, pencil sharpening’s, bent staples and shredded toffee crisp wrappers. This lining is bruised and punctured due to its continual purpose to pass an Endless Pill, a token metallic nugget, tarnished and anarchic, that drops out as a singed pebble-idea. Its shell softly scratched and squeezed, gnashed, sucked and gnawed, eroded by a ceaseless cycle of teeth and intestines. Then scrubbed of its colours. Scrubbed by you, scrubbed by your parents, by your parent’s parents, by their parents. By the first ones who decided not to hunt but instead stay behind. Whose hairy little claws woke us up with their spots and spirals, and which scrabbled about in the darkness where from consciousness arguably crawled. This was indeed the lair of a restless franken-artist, feral and savage, and part of an unconscious, destructive and self-taught population which inhabit this sun-roofed Hutch-temple. The type of maker who leaves nothing out of the pot, pushing, slipping and sliding, everything and anything onto the heat. The type of painting that always goes badly. The type of studio where there’s always something burning. A mindless stubborn painting that walks round on all 4 stumps, with no hands and no feet, calling itself the sum of wrong things and carrying the slimy ideas that come with the kind of decisions that don’t see anything finished.
As he sprang upright, studio member 4 suddenly felt the corrugated plastic creaking and cracking beneath his hands. The floor had started to fidget; something was definitely in there. Piles of mess slipped and relocated, and a slowly moving set of limbs began to rise out of the debris, painfully stumbling to their feet. Revealing itself head first, the ears were chewed and its nose had whole parts sliced off. It was a ruinous creature, a box of dead parts which seemed slightly unbalanced and hosted that type of unstable frame that appears to have been rendered with the wiff of pubescent flab. In amazement, Studio member 4 watched as the creature awkwardly drifted towards the end wall of the studio, clumsily pushed down his threadbare Adidas Cooltech ¾ length trousers with one hand, squashed his genitalia up to a battered 1.5 l Evian bottle, and rapidly filled it up with the darkest colour piss you will ever see. When this almighty wee had finished, he proceeded to pull up his trousers (which had by now slipped to his ankles), screwed the lid back on the bottle, and on tip toes attempted to balance this little present on top of a very unreliable drooping mdf shelf, just above of his head. It was now apparent that this end of the studio was strewn with similar examples, it had become a vast depository of bloated and hissing glassy shapes, all filled with a similar, if not deeper, greenish yellow piss.
Studio member 4 had seen enough but he was too nervous to move in case the change of light would give away his unwholesome investigations. Exhausted, split and tired, the scale veneered humanoid turned 180 degrees, pushed his back to the chewy wall, and slid down into a cluttered terrain of cushioning bottles. It paused for a moment, its scaly wrists resting on top of its knees. The creature had one hell of a hangover, it was a real brutal thing. Irritated by the daylight and seeking relief, the creature lay his sweaty palms on its scaly face for refreshment and yawned a horrifying yawn. There certainly seemed now only one detail from today’s meeting that stood out more than anything else. Studio member 4 peered hard, and could see that where the creature’s fingernails should have been, there were shockingly teeth growing from the ends of his fingers. And subsequently, where the creature’s teeth once where, there was a series of dirty and splitting fingernails. The mooncalf kept on starring directly below the stunned man. Docile, yet with racing mind. Surrounded by a blind, spasmodic, studio boredom. Maintaining the clouded hung-over mutterings of a looping older type of brain. The grate in front of our sleep, our dark reptilian retreat. Waiting for something to change. Waiting for the brain to seep, slip and wiggle into a shimmering mercury night-time abyss.
We are scratching, scratching, we are scratching around the keyhole, it leaves a residue, and your hands smell of it now.
(I wrote this text to accompany the exhibition Teeth where fingernails should be at Ivan Gallery, Bucharest, in April 2017)
A painting on all fours ~ tbc
(I wrote this text to accompany the exhibition Demolition Derby at Fold, London, in March 2015)
Paul the train driver ~ tbc
(I wrote this text to accompany the exhibition Re-read by ASSEMBLY at Trinity Bouy Wharf, London, in February 2011)
The golden pyramid
Remembering the piss in bottles and how much of it there was, it began to worry me whether he was going to make it happen this year. Never mind this bank holiday. Jonny liked to threaten us with a lot of things because he knew that, although we were close friends, we were waiting for it to come our way. Like everyone else. I can’t remember if he was ever like a normal person. I can’t remember ever seeing him as anything else accept hunched over and floating a hundred miles an hour down to Londis for his blue plastic bag of nigadee knee and Pogady smack.
It was eight years ago since the council had made him advisor of the woodland ceremonies, Jonny was 20 years old at the time. He commanded strange odds as a good outsider bet and this brought him much attention when he attended meetings at the civic centre. Everybody knew he wanted to take Hillingdon further than it had previously been placed in government leagues.
His talents were brought to the attention of others when on his 18th birthday party his dad came home to find everyone standing outside and his son inside with all the doors locked. We tried to explain to his dad that the radiators in his house had been lined with skin during the party and were screaming Polish at Jonny. Three weeks later he had somehow taken control of all seven adult video shops in the borough, a clamping firm and constructed a huge pebble-dashed pair of sunglasses on top of Ruislip library. He was never the same with us again. He acknowledged that he knew us but we would no longer be friends.
Our borough had never had a HomeBrew, even though we were one of the greenest areas in London. For some reason they had a long history in the East and South, like Woodford and Croydon. A HomeBrew could create lottery wins and direct 3 times the usual traffic out of Heathrow in a day. Their problems came from the High streets and shopping centres. The solutions though, were always found in green spaces, like woods or the greenbelt. A HomeBrew was regularly bored by everyday life and known for being easily agitated. For this reason the council would offer jobs to Jonny to relieve frustration and help local economy. Jonny was never content with the businesses role in the community and would always make changes by the time he had left.
Deputy manager of Past Times, Chimes shopping centre, Uxbridge ~ No natural light entered the centre for three months and customers used pizza leaflets as currency for this duration in the shop.
Reduction manager, HomeBase, South Ruislip ~ The largest psychic fair in Europe quickly grew out from the car park of the industrial estate after Jonny gave his first reading in the gardening section.
Royal Mail post man, Northwood Depot ~ he collected the post but did not deliver it. Instead he read every letter and spent his time attaching a contact lense to each persons door who was supposed to enter a gym.
Best Boy, TransEuro Removals, Park Royal ~ the company switched its dealings in home removals to limb and organ transport working mainly out of Mount Vernon hospital. These ‘packages’ were never tracked and their whereabouts resolved.
Door to door salesman for Sky TV ~ After greeting those who opened the door, he would ask for all the chairs in the house to be brought outside up on the pavement. When they had been placed, all perfectly lined up and connecting to the neighbours ones, he would ask anyone with no mortgage to walk on top of them, along the entire street.
Director of phone sales, Ladbrokes ~ margins at the betting firm increased in the region of 1000%. With these profits they bought exclusive rights to the A40 where it enters Hillingdon and installed 27 sets of traffic lights.
Estate Agent, Gibbs Gillespie Hayes ~ On arrival to each house for the viewing, a small dog would appear out of his hair, climb down and lead the potential buyers to a cupboard or wardrobe. Inside, it was reported there would always be a view into the back of a transit van full of Christmas wrapping paper and boxes of frozen chicken nuggets.
Cashier in Midland Bank, Uxbridge ~ The Whitby Road branch made several large donations to Garage clubs and organisations working in the area. Some of which would use the bank to hold a residency night for locals.
On the telephones, Pizza Hut delivery in Ruislip Manor ~ Trained several hundred people to talk Russian and teach part time in portable libraries in Ruislip Manor and Eastcote.
Labourer for Amanda’s brother’s gardening company ~ he dug up several limbs all belonging to Levi’s experiments from last year. These were catoulogued and formed an exhibition now permanently on display at Uxbridge Central Library.
Bob the builder’s sidekick ~ Jonny’s hand grew 8ft in width and formed a huge clock shaped scar in the center of it which allowed him to move several houses out of the line of gated alleysways in South Ruislip.
Market researcher at GlaxoSmith-Kline ~ After his partnership with Big Head Little Face had been disolved, GSK looked to him to use his image to project on there new headquaters.
Washer upper at Pizza Piazza, Ruislip high street ~ the restaurant became known for acting as a walk in service for west Africans struggerling with mental health problems.
Assistant for Ickenham wedding videos ~ Jonny would impersonate in the office each client they conducted business with weeks before he’d even met them. At weddings he would ask to see their childen, if they had any, and turn each one of them into either a red balloon or a paper plate. After three weeks he returned the children to their original state and paid each family £3000 if they promised to makes sure they sent them to a C of E school.
The piss was kept in a garage, which was split into a workshop and a bedroom where he slept. Most of the piss was kept in the roof. When I was last there I stayed for a while and heard the containers creaking and hissing above. Jonny talked to me like I was a visitor rather than I friend. I asked him, ‘how are you going to do it this time‘. He reluctantly told me. At the beginning of April we would have to dig out the stream that runs alongside the play area and the woods (opposite the WatersEdge pub) down by the Lido. We would widen it and dig down several metres, all the way from the burnt tree, to the public toilets. There, we would dam the piss with the freshly cemented hatch that lead to the back of the toilets, and a wooden door Jonny had on a workbench behind him. A mirrored board acting as a ceiling would be placed on top of the dammed area with him in it, and on his sign we should open the cement hatch, allowing the piss to fill the public toilets and pore out of its high windows. Jonny looked at me and said, ‘it probably won’t work this year. I really hated him some times.
(I wrote this text to accompany the exhibition How Could Everybody Be So Wrong at creativeandorcultural, London, in March 2011)
Bunker Bar Christening
Places where actions may occur. Actions most associated with human rituals, the dog I was stroking had blue hairs and stunk of Lynx Africa. A belt around its body held a hand sized Tupperware box on his belly. It sat really quietly nestling close, strange for me as I have no experience with being friends with a dog. After a few minutes of keeping the wheels within the track of the two vehicles, we eventually caught up with them. The Spacecruiser and limousine were abandoned, doors open and lights on. Inside the white stretch a plastic tablecloth had been laid out on a small makeshift surface. On it was a hardcore album with the title Pipes of Jerico and a credit card. Someone had been sealing the interior with PVA. Actually there was glitter on the floor. As I couldn’t drive, the man that drove me here steered the limousine back towards Uxbridge. I sat in the front with him and pretended as usual I was a passenger who could drive.
It was just as people started arriving at an unfinished extension for a children’s party. It lay on the floor in front of me. It reminded me of lots of things, big head little face who lives at Northwick Park, South Ruislip Wickes car park DVD man, the Feltham Nazi and weirdly, shoe boxes covered in shiny wrapping paper. The pebble dashing on this house wasn’t so new any more but had aged so undisturbed that it was shaped like it still was. I suppose it feels like this as I saw it being put on. When something’s put on a house it is forever so five years in is youthful. I’m glad we are here and not some hired place.
It always feels like everybody has to leave for work in a few moments on a Sunday. One by one, we should be setting off in the dark, up past the gypsy donkeys and onto Heathrow. I’m supposed to feel relieved I don’t have to face that crazy 5’o’clock darkness but now the hole I lived with becomes really obvious. Anyway I had seen Uxbridge that early today and that was enough. It’s gone now, I can see past the balloons.
A big black hand held club shaped device. When I opened the little door in the handle last week, struggling a little bit against the take away menus, it lead straight into the living room. Looking on the monitor screen rested on the black laminate computer desk it suddenly seemed like yesterday that Thailand and the gym were essential components to many peoples lives. Things have calmed down now in Ruislip. The chain of command has begun. The tracks of limousines are heading to different towns now. With legs and arms and bums hanging out of the windows and Levi following and colouring in their number plate with gold pen.
(I wrote this text to accompany the exhibition Bunker Bar Christening at creativeandorcultural, London, in November 2010)