One of the over-riding memories of my childhood was reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac (Viking 1957). I first read On The Road when I was 14, and was transfixed by this wild journey that celebrated travel, the road trip, the journey, outsiders; bums, jazz musicians, nature, poverty, the randomness of the experience, the quest for some spiritual finality, of understanding, of drugs and booze, of adventure. It appealed to my own personal quest and search for the meaning of life, and of trying to understand how to make sense and connect to the world. It can be read in a myriad of ways; a privileged white, educated, middle-class boys-own adventure sleeping, drinking and thumbing their way round America, with Jack`s mom always available to wire money to help him out; an existential search for the meaning of life in post-war America; as a debauched drugged non-stop party; at once a search; a search of inner and outer space, an almost religious, spiritual quest, not only for the meaning of life through Kerouac`s eyes, but also through the beat-bum-hipster-blood brother Neal Cassady. All in a thunderous masculine prose style that sped through and over the American dream towards Nirvana. Kerouac suddenly came to be seen as a very reluctant spokesman for the Beat Generation.
In an exchange during a TV interview just after On The Road was published ;
Interviewer: The beat generation has been described as a seeking generation. What are you looking for?
Kerouac: God. I want God to show me His face.
The memory of reading Kerouac’s On The Road and that quest for meaning came to me again when contemplating these four artworks. Religious imagery features heavily in Boscombe-based artist Mark Lloyd’s new work. Lloyd co-opts the Hindu practice of Antiyesti, using pigment made from the ash of burnt artwork, as well as oil, acrylic, spray paint, marker, enamel and resin in this new series of twelve large artworks-in-progress entitled ‘Eternal Singularity’. A metaphor for some kind of ‘rebirth?’
There are four conceptual images, or themes, within i, ii, iii and vi in this series; he has taken depictions from Renaissance artworks of Christ, images of digital brains/circuit boards from science fiction movies, quantum physics/mechanics equations relating to creation/creator/consciousness and neon circles (a theme that has recurred in his previous paintings).
My interpretation of these four paintings today are, in a sense, a negotiation of traditional icons of Christ, of dominant masculinity, strength, power and control juxtaposed with twenty-first century ‘intelligence’ and ‘artificial-intelligence’ from the sci-fi equations and motherboard-brain.
I read this, when combined with the neon sphere, which I interpret as a female phallus, as postulating a turning point, a sweeping-away, or re-mapping of the God(father) iconography in the artworks. I felt hints of a psychedelic new-ageism, especially within the paintings of iii and vi, which I found a sentimental turn-off.
All four paintings offer up to me a flaccid, impotent vision of Christ, further leading me to conclude that the neon circles, a feminist aura is a victorious one in each painting, which opens up the (long overdue) possibilities for huge change in the world.
Trust me, I’m a
Move Over Papa, Momma’s Got A Brand New Bag
Hee-zeus is dead
laid out on an ice cold slab,
adrift in a real-time black hole;
an impotent equation
of HIStorical creation.
Way past it’s sell-by date;
a flaccid God
and of secondary importance
to a full-lobe motherboard-brain,
(we program therefore we are)
subservient to a neon circle;
a feminist/sister phallus,
glowing sexual potency;
flushed with revolutionary possibility.
a quantum vortex;
at long last
break from tradition:
So move over papa,
momma’s got a brand new bag.
More on Mark Lloyd here