My work from this period shows an interest in the romantic tradition of classical painting and pays homage to it. Sometimes with the use of pastoral backgrounds, sometimes borrowing compositions from past art and reinterpreting it. I personalised the works in various ways. Using my friends as models in contemporary clothing etc ‘William it was Really Nothing’ reinterprets ‘The Dead Toreador’ originally by Velasquez and then borrowed by Manet and the ‘Death of Chatterton’ by Henry Wallis. It felt like the death of painting at the time and I felt isolated in my interest. In this scenario I place the figure in an attic bedsit reminiscent of the Kitchen Sink. A cloudy grey skied Coronation Street type view appears in the window harking back to my Northern background and the ‘macabre appeal of the North’. The irises are a reference to the Smiths. I was listening to My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths and the Stone Roses during this period.
‘Acedia’ makes use of Gainsborough landscapes and a pose from Velasquez deals with the theme of the dignity or indignity of labour. I was doing various menial jobs to make ends meet so that it would allow me to paint. The Bacchae borrows from the happenchance style poses of Watteaus figures. The setting is Kensington Gardens. I was discovering London at this time. ‘Cemetry Gates’ owes a lot to the Victorian tradition of girls in Graveyards I think I visited Highgate Cemetery for reference and thematically and compositionally it is similar to Arthur Hughes heartbreaking ‘Home from Sea’ 1862.
‘Pauliana’ is a direct fusing of two older paintings in a surreal manner. The title Pauliana is taken from a novel by one of the Bronte sisters. This distortion of older works developed into my Lilliputian paintings. Small 1×1 ft canvases where I took older portraits/paintings of grand/lofty subjects and made them look like something else. Maybe something from Swift ‘s Lilliput. As if viewing the world through a distorting souvenir snow globe. I was appropriating the past for my own purposes and I still do. This became part of the thinking for the Straubenzees portrait more recently with its depictions of ‘appropriated paintings’ on the wall.
When I look at these paintings now as a collection I see them as a time of experimentation and almost the painterly equivalent of doodling but I really like them for this quality. I had kitsch postcards scattered around and I think they have also influenced some of the paintings too. I used to paint small informal portraits of my friends that dropped by at a 7 x 5″ size. I still do this now. I like the size’ – Furr 2015 #furrwhitechapel