My piece in The Big Issue, 24 April 2013
I should not be writing in this magazine. I should be painting. I should be painting and complaining that I’m the greatest but no one else has grasped that fact yet.
I should be reading reviews of my fellow painters and inwardly begrudging their successes. I should always be moaning about much younger artists who have only a fraction of my talent but are selling to big, stiff fools with loads of money.
But I am not. I am not the painter that God, Marx or whoever invented the modern world deemed I should be – but because I got lost and into crime again, I fell out of art and landed on my arse.
How many of us still nurse from our earlier years a kind of feeling that football, basketball, ballroom dancing, flower-arranging, etc, was going to be our lifelong obsession, if it weren’t for some bad fortune?
It was painting for me. Painting was going to lift me onto a plain and there I was going to live a life of international competitions, Sotheby’s grand auctions and first nights at West End galleries. Museums were going to be lining up to purchase my work. And Italian film stars and directors were going to follow me around and keep me supplied in admirers.
For a mate of mine it was going to be chess. I met him inside and he wiped the floor with everyone, from wardens to gardeners, from inmates to the governor.
Alas, when I met him on the great outside he had lost the plot and was reduced to getting money from cigarette machines, and then outdoing parking meters. Even that preoccupation involved no more thinking than swinging a sledgehammer at them. And all his careful execution of surprise moves on the chess board lost to an earlier time.
I still draw and still exhibit but the hours needed to do the full thing have gone. I have been drawn into always trying to solve the eternal problem of poverty. Campaigning for justice and bugger the paintbrush.
But, for a short moment, from the 6th of May at Theatre Technis in London’s Camden Town, until Saturday the 11th, I will be reliving the importance of palettes and paint. In Naked Bird, I shall be telling the truth about the need to tell the truth, something that took me a long time to come to; and the role of art in my redemption.
I shall also be cracking jokes about serious things, and trying to be serious about jokey things. I shall be united with Phil Ryan who was the first person I took on when Gordon Roddick asked me to start a street paper. He shall be asking me excoriating questions from the audience and from his own list. And then in the second half, I shall be drawing a model, while the interrogation carries on.
It could be a complete and utter cock-up. It could be not. Whatever, it will be fun and enjoyable, and hopefully a memorable affair.
The performance, produced by Nic Careem and the Blue Sky Network, starts at 7.30 and it’ll be over by 9pm. But don’t come if you are offended by nudity, or rants about poverty, mixed in with humour.
But if you do turn up, come with a little sketchbook and join us drawing. If you have problem booking, email me at email@example.com.
My share of the door goes to The Big Issue. But that only works if hordes of people turn up. Next week, I shall be back to my normal attacks on ignorance. In the meanwhile, plan your night in Camden Town.
Naked Bird is at the Theatro Technis, 26 Crowndale Road, London NW1 1TT, from May 6-11. Contact: 0207 387 6617 firstname.lastname@example.org