20 Years, part 1; Buenos Aires, 1996



             
              1996 -  'Please wait for me (while I become someone else)', oil on board
I had returned from the UK, in 1993, after some years at art school, and found a studio in Stanley. I wasn't expecting or wanting too much to happen. For me it was more about just painting, fixing things, trying things, being back in the islands with a young family. In the same months, on the lookout for a contemporary artist, North American born Ed Shaw took in the usual sights of the Falklands - the usual penguins and rusting war memorabilia as he asked were there any young painters about. Ed was told there were just two 'artists' and both painted birds. Ed, as well as being a travelling art critic and collector - and a resident of Buenos Aires, asked was there someone else, younger he said - and more contemporary. Ed's sources said they were afraid he would be disappointed, he later wrote; what I practiced fell into the category of 'stains and spots' they told him. A phone call later (I was asked would I meet someone who 'lived in Argentina' I was told, as it came with a health warning, apparently) Ed came to my house, I gave him tea in a mug with the face of the Queen - I still remember (it was a complete accident, the mug part), and a phone number left to get in touch should I want to exhibit one day in Buenos Aires. Well, who the hell wouldn't, I figured, were it not for the war and all that went with saying yes to such an invitation. That was in the days too of fax machines. Remember those? It was kinda exciting, to get a fax from Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires catalogue of 96 show
December 1996 and Newspaper reaction; art alongside graves,
and the impossibility of doing things outside of the usual 'us and them'.     
There were the usual reasons, as to why I wasn't helped, and the opposition to my travelling, as I finally travelled, in 1996. There'd been a few trips by others, in the post war years, but it was mostly economy related - the preserving of fish stocks etc. Someone going on the other hand with images so obviously taken from the 1982 conflict, when I had been thirteen years old, was something different. My father as well was considered a war hero, on the British side. That was another reason for people to hate me going. What would he think, they said? Really they didn't care later what he thought, as he gave me his support. If he had not, then I may not have gone. It was that simple.

My thoughts, from the 1996 catalogue; obvious from the beginning.
'The Fight'  122 x 175 oil on canvas
For the next few years, I kept up the exhibiting, and travelling back to Buenos Aires. The works changed but mostly the reactions to it did not. For most, I was the painter from the islands, and 'the shadows of the war' ever present. Pablo Baler, a scholar about to head off to Berkeley to teach, saw something different as had Ed Shaw. 'He is in reality an heroic artist like those so characteristic of the 19th century. He dedicates his life to a passion that distances him from his community, from the world around him', Shaw had declared. Pablo Baler talked about Rilke, and loneliness.

In 2000 I had finally broken the mold completely, it seemed; I had fallen in love with a young painter, from Buenos Aires, Maria Abriani, soon to be mother to two of my three sons. We returned to the Falklands, to spend summers at Goose Green, and - following events which made it difficult to consider staying in Stanley, following problems with having the first son born in the islands, we left for Puerto Madryn, in Patagonia, before heading to Australia, trying to put distance between the same issue as when I had started travelling; the boundaries between the Falklands and Argentina - and any sort of 'normal' relationship, were there for a reason. For me, I didn't see the boundaries other than as something that needed climbing over. Both my parents' stories were in many ways hard to live with - and, at the same time I saw lessons there, to learn from. I was very proud of my father, just as I saw my mother's life enriched by her short time with her partner following my parent's separation before the war. What came later was probably the inevitability - and inability, to try and make something out of that personal history, and, most importantly the right reason to try and leave all of that behind.

My father, following the battle for
Mount Longdon, June 1982

Typical works from my early years of painting:

The Green Field, 1996
Waiting for the Boats (detail) '98
 
untitled, 1995
Shed , 1998

My mother and her Argentine partner  in Stanley, summer
1981, some few months before the Argentine Invasion.
  

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