As a white heterosexual male, I ruminate continuously on my privileged identity in one of the wealthiest nations of the now decommissioned British Empire. I’m glad to be who I am, but I have misgivings about the general history of how I got here. I understand much about wealth and status from gilt-framed images of wealth and status, yet I’m not very clear about how I fit into the scheme of things.
I love the European tradition of fine painting and this is my dubious homage to the tradition. In these paintings I’m sampling the pageant of Western art and history indiscriminately, enjoying the imagery while questioning the rationalist and moral precepts underlying their original purposes. Thus, the paintings in “Heritage” are playful constructs full of anachronisms and incongruities to reflect my ambivalence. As the creator of these images, I feel like a sly jester tiptoeing daintily about the margins of unpleasant histories, having fun even as I indirectly point out some of the iniquities.
The paintings are all executed in a traditionally illusionistic style with occasional nods to modernist abstraction. They are deliberately eccentric, complex, visually rich, technically ambitious and full of historical references. Many of the paintings draw attention to skin color, carefully depicting only Caucasian features if not skin tones. I also make peripheral references to colonialism through images of exotic food. It is through these strategies that I seek to address my discomfort surrounding the depiction of race and colonial history.
I am living in a time and nation of great diversity. I can only fairly represent my own privileged European heritage, and I am uncertain about doing even that. What am I allowed to depict and from whom must I seek permission? These paintings are about that fraught investigation.