I love your heads and figures and your mindboggling wonderful drawing.  


Way beyond the brilliance of your craft skills, which are truly wondrous, and their brilliance as portraits, there is something about them, there are things about your heads and figures, things, in a way I can’t articulate, that make them more than brilliantly executed portraiture. In part, it may be because of, the anonymity. The ‘not known-ness’, the ‘un-knowableness’ of the subjects, beyond ‘first impressions’ based upon ‘appearance’.  I know you name the person, each is  actual, real, but they are otherwise and to the rest of us, anonymous:  like all of us. We are all  fleeting. In part they are more than portraiture because each has the potential to be considered ‘symbolic’, ‘typical’ not simply individually ‘particular’. Representative. Of? Conjecture. Sociologists and archaeologists can have a field day. I’m not one of them! I think  each is more than wondrous craft and more than brilliant portraiture, largely and mainly  because of each subject’s place in the continuum of your vision, which is conceptual, I suppose. And the genetic make-up of each painting was formed in you at a tender age. It is because of the continuum of your eye, what you chose to see and how;  and of your brush. Because each is part of a bigger work, all your work: a life’s work – a body of work. And, that continuity  gives it, the body of work and each individual picture, a “thump”. None seems to me to be a ‘one off’. Though each succeeds beautifully, on its own.


Your work is  a chosen micro collection of people of our time – your time. Yours is not the ‘inherited cast’: the kings, princes, swordsmen, landowners, the great and the good. (Usually the baddest of the bad, in fact, made it to being ‘the great and the good’, but the ‘shits and the worst’ wouldn’t suit, I expect, as a name for a room at the NPG.) Nor have you inherited an inclination to the nouveaux rich, the silk and chiffon, nor the overt the hintellecchulls, the business leaders, the celebs etc. Your cast is your cast: it doesn’t come from anywhere, any tradition, as I can see. I am not derogating, but generally appearance causes society to derogate, if appearance ‘appears to deviate’, if it isn’t mainstream.  Yours is sometimes a direct engagement with; sometimes a forensic examination of; more often an oblique angle on a continuing ‘in England living’ sub-culture, a continuingly renewing culture of new young-ness, and edge-ness – in a dress sense, a personal style sense, stating, perhaps “not absorbed”; or not yet. Of course wherein these appearances there may be poets, surgeons, soldiers and toffs.  Butthat’s for us to guess, if we choose to, and that one cannot judge from their visual  appearance to the world  – which they chose carefully – visually. And which attracted you: visually.


And that flesh and blood and face and eyes and mind and life and costume was then on a day.  Never mind ‘alla prima’ nonsense: these are carefully made objects, quite rightly, but they are nevertheless millisecond snapshots, less than the beat of a heart. The snapshot millisecond moment; re-made in paint to preserve it; and its presence;  is then.  From now on “was then”.  After which that person went home, slept, got up and then aged and will die or has died. In time they will all have been and gone and be dust. Each of those paintings – each object, physical thing, and the image on it, the human that is the image; how that human covered up, chose to cover up,  the nakedness  (which is all humanity boils down to, “nakedness, covered”,  forever and ever, Amen.); how you painted it, made it, handmade it; is as real now as - ‘as then was real, then’ -  and always will be. Each re-presents, exists as being, is, forever, authentic – authentic –real. Like a cave painting, marvelled at for being “done then, by the hand, from the eyes, of a person, living then”. You are authentic. You work is authentic. That is huge.  That makes it ‘reality’. Never mind reality as an ability to create an illusion “ooooo! the birds tried to eat the grape!”. That’s a facile and empty ‘reality pit’ – and let’s face it, a lot of painters fall into it.  It is as though you have painted a series of moments from “1976 to 2015” and counting. The reality of that is incontestable. It cannot be done again, ever. And so, it is precious.


Mind you, it wouldn’t matter a feck if you were a crap painter, but you are far from it, you are a master painter.


Any way, you could do with a retrospective at Tate Britain or The NPG as far as I am concerned.