I have not being painting since I took my studio apart a few months back, in April I think, and for the most part it has been the best decision I have ever made. I feel unburdened. I never realised how fixated I had become on painting as a studio pursuit and how the studio was not suiting my life not to mention how much I beat myself up when I wasn’t painting. But, more on that in a later post.

This morning I was sitting in the sun in the front room of my house with the door open and the sun streaming through the windows.I am feeling despondent at the moment it is true. It’s a bank holiday weekend and everyone has someone except me and I have nothing ahead of me except another long empty day, and my aimless gaze halted at a painting I did back in 2008. It’s an odd painting.

Cafe De Jaren is a large airy cafe in Amsterdam patronised by many English speakers and a good place to go for newspapers and desserts. I lived in Amsterdam once and it has a firm grip on my heart or maybe I left a part of me there. When I go back it still feels like home.

The painting was done after I re-visited there alone. At first glance a cafe scene but then you see the strawberry coulis looks like blood, the berries and meringue a gooey mess of innards. The cutlery is a hunting knife not a pastry fork. The pants the eater is wearing are combat pants. The book of course now is so popular it is an overly obvious pointer. The menu could be a list of possibilities or a record of past mistakes. The chair, the striped shirt are barring the viewer from reaching the girl hunched in a dark corner, the zig zagging of the tiles perhaps mapping uncertain path to a shadowy destination.

I have done other similar work(Het Boelhoed shown here was done with a dead friend in mind. Is that dish a coffin?I never realised until now.) but It strikes me that I put so many messages into Cafe de Jaren that I was trying to control the viewers reaction to some degree, that I suppose is the difference between über figurative and abstract work and all the degrees of those in between. Control.


I won’t go into the details of any events that led me to paint it, I will leave you to make of it what you will. Everyone has a different take on things which I suppose is as it should be. Often someone elses view can be an eye opener for me. For instance a physiotherapist friend of mine was appalled at the girl in the corners bad posture, a perfectly valid reaction and one that continues to delight me maybe because it shows the eternal independence of the viewer and, paradoxically, the impossibility of controlling that outside myself no matter how hard I try. In other words I cannot control this, I am not responsible, I can let go.

I was looking at a friends work recently. She says she plans nothing. I plan to the nth degree. As I perused some of her work it struck me how nice it could be to sit down and work without a plan to not know at all what is going to happen. And possibly how scary that would be for me. I have done that with my writing. It would be nice to do that with painting some time.

People often speak of artists being Right Brained and accountants and the like being Left Brained but I fear it is not so clear-cut. For me I think my Right Brain and Left Brain have been locked in a a mortal struggle for years. Right Brain fought fiercely to make creativity the centre of my life and won in a general way while Left Brain got to organise the details:ensured the painting was figurative, attached to the real world. Left Brain also got to organise shows, design catalogues and invitations and indulge in carping at ‘me’ for not being disciplined.

Of course in latter times my painting, though still attached to the figurative, was moving away from that a little and it does make me wonder if when I gave up painting it indicated that I had reached some sort of stand-off or stalemate between the Left and the Right sides of my brain. Or maybe they both just got tired. Or maybe Left Brain dug her heels in at the edge of some perceived cliff, in fear.


Of course I don’t think either side should win or that any of my work is less valid for having Left Brain involved. Look at Mark Rothko(who I love). His paintings to the uninitiated seem like fuzzy blobs and then you see his notes on colours, methods, the variety of mediums he used. Like maths. Left Brain.

My reasons for giving up the studio  still stand, its a decision I am glad I made. My work was trapped in the studio. Since giving it up I have gravitated more to drawing and cartoons and I feel my creativity rather than being repressed is in the process of being given a new lease of life. But, more on that another time.

I started to write a short post about one painting and instead this is what happened. I like when this happens. Maybe it is my two brains working in concert. Thank you Brains.

After all that I will say I like this painting, Cafe de Jaren, I like it a lot. It is after all, me.


2 Replies to “CAFE DE JAREN”

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