George Torode


At first

There was an angry wizard that I had to go and see. Although it had been a long fated visit, I hadn’t yet allowed myself to make it. For years I had procrastinated until quite suddenly, after a lucid moment, I found myself approaching the flat where I knew the holy man lived. It was on a tree lined street in the area where I had grown up but could no longer afford. The day was icy and cold and the aroma of perfume and good living cut sharply through the air.

I was too late of course. The divine daemon had lost all interest. Nevertheless I persevered with my interpretation of events. The wizard gestured impatiently for me to sit and I continued to explain but my words had become heavy and they dropped onto the patterned carpet where they burst forming small piles of fine powder. He sat idly watching the dust pile up around me as I stumbled on awkwardly through my monologue. Raising his head slightly he stared into my soul with a pantomime intensity over his thick rimmed glasses. His vision was near perfect: his glasses empty of glass.

I blurted more passionately. Some of my words landed closer to the shaded apparition. One gently brushing his collar where it popped like a bubble spilling dust down his wizardry wears. He turned away speaking so softly that I could only distinguish an occasional word and then there was nothing as his gaze settled onto some distant place. Somewhere he was reliving a moment from long ago: a moment of insignificance yet its significance was palpable. I knew then that he could never leave – embracing catatonia like a sleepy child embraces their mother.

Things must be explained elsewhere now.

My concerns about writing any kind of words to accompany the image are numerous and may explain the work better then any explanation I can muster. Years ago I started to observe people’s behaviour in galleries. It’s a sad truth that most people spent most time reading the text rather than looking at the work that accompanies it. The “art stats” (year of completion, medium, supposed meaning etc) hold a greater fascination with the general public than the painstaking hours laboured by the artist. Should I really get involved in a game of art top trumps?

Additionally I have difficulty explaining my work as often I strive to extrapolate ideas from my unconscious mind. Inspiration can be conjured by a kind of deep sea drift-netting of the unconscious through frenzied sketching. My life is regularly punctuated by a scribbling binge from which my images occasionally arise. I hear your cynical cries: how could he not produce something half decent with so many sketches to choose from – its the thousand monkey theorem? Well possibly, but this theorem was actually put to the test in 2003 at the University of Plymouth where (and I quote wikipedia) “Not only did the monkeys produce nothing but five pages consisting largely of the letter S, the lead male began by bashing the keyboard with a stone, and the other monkeys continued by urinating and defecating on it”. Furthermore, I find the unconscious mind an emotionally honest beast. It recognises precisely your fears and loves and places them into a tunnel of vision as if to say, “You believe this could cause your demise: Know your weakness and survive”. The phenomenon of pareidolia intrigues me as I see is as the same instinct of self-preservation – our brains over-actively identifying potential predators within the benign further promoting my mantra “know your weakness and survive”. Unconscious motives aside, I’m more drawn the unconscious mind presents a parallel packaging of reality: the surreality of dreaming is unquestionable. To rationalise this process through explanation is of course achievable but seems like a sad departure from that moment of initial unconscious creation that it bothers me. Yet art is so often pain, so I crawl onwards.

My paintings are meticulously rendered over long periods using techniques such as painting, stencilling, masking, branding, sanding – whatever is working at the time. I gravitate to the grand narratives : birth, death, denial, sex, aspiration, industry and compassion are all subject matters explored through my work using a strong graphic aesthetic and geometric preoccupation.  The use circular canvases refer to my understanding that the eye, like the camera lens, receives light in a circular form to a single point.  Our eyes receive this information twice stretching the two circular readings of light along the horizon line giving our vision greater span and depth of field.  The camera lens doesn’t stretch two readings of light but its single reading of light would appear to be circular when it hasn’t been cropped to an angular format by the frame of the digital sensor or film. I feel that the circular canvas is more natural as it implies lack of cropping.  The circle is therefore a representation of everything.

My early photograph interest was documentary, particularly Henri Cartier Bresson, who’s seamless surrealist reportage work taught me a fundamental truth: that it’s the artist or creator who defines the boundaries of discipline and not the critic. The ability to cross boundaries and genres is what I am drawn to and striving to emulate. Early attempts included allowing unstaged elements into staged photographs (or vice versa). This work has highlighted the bond between what is real and what is not and I discovered this relationship to be a multifaceted and continually transitional. The concept involves pushing the images towards the edge of documentary photography somehow attaches itself to marginalised locations and subjects: places and people that exist near physical and social barriers – an uncelebrated space often overlooked or ignored. Similar concepts apply to my use of the mask in my Urban Ills series where the mask seems to creates cracks through which the entire images flows.  It also reunites me with my fascination with pareidolia and explores to what degree self-preservation plays a role in this occurrence.

Later, as I began to develop my painting, I became troubled by the distinction between painting and photography.  I’m not so interested about why this separation exists, preferring again to problematise the division through my art work by passing from one side to the other.  I have executed this by using stencilled photographs in my paintings and paint back drops for my photographs. Similarly,  I use objects that I have previously used as stencils in my paintings as the photographic subject matter.  Also, I photograph some of my painted works and produce them as print runs. These techniques are just some of the cracks in the wall I’m chipping away at.