This is the painting that I didn’t enter in the Mervyn Peake Awards.
I painted it for the theme “Control”, but eventually decided that it was overcomplex, and that it potentially meant more – too much, perhaps.
A friend suggested dance as a way of depicting control, and it was a splendid idea. I toyed with the idea of ballroom dancing but decided to go with a solo figure; the ribbons were there in my mind from that point. They were one of the things the dancer was in control of: her body, her ribbons, and maybe – just maybe – her destiny.
The floaty dress (a type of clothing that is rarely worn by me, but that does look wonderfully romantic – I hope more in the Walter Scott mode rather than Mills and Boon) and the sinuous ribbons were both representative of the fluidity of movement that is stolen by Parkinson’s.
The narrow space was a conscious recognition of the confines that Parkinson’s places upon its sufferers. It’s easy to feel trapped in a malfunctioning body, one that no longer follows instructions correctly. There are also echoes of the way in which narrow spaces can cause “freezing”.
I didn’t know, to start with, if this space was inside or out – was it an alleyway in a town? (At one stage, there were going to be café tables.) Was it a hallway in a hotel? But then I settled upon the chequerboard flooring, and that turned it into a corridor of some sort.
And at the end of the corridor? If I were to have painted the allegory according to the current state of affairs. the corridor would have had no end in sight (unless it should be a flight of stairs leading down). But I am evidently more optimistic in paint than I am in words, and so there is light at the end of my dancer’s corridor.
The walls were featureles for a while. Their blankness was that of an unmoving face – a Parkinson’s poker face. But it looked wrong, so I added a window and a door. The door became curved at the top. It started to look a little bit gothic (technically, a Gothic arch is pointed, but I was thinking more in terms of atmosphere than architecture).
And that, for me, was the ultimate reason for rejecting it as a potential entry in the Mervyn Peake Awards: it was starting to look as if it was set in Gormenghast (my incomplete reading of the trilogy – some twenty years ago, now – left me with the impression of a miles of dark, gothic corridors, underground and overground, littered with inscrutable doors and windows). And it really did seem too much to submit an image redolent of Meryn Peake’s best known work to the awards that bear his name.