Every Artist needs his teddy bear
The superb Grayson Perry exhibition at London’s British Museum (reviewed on my blog last week) proved an indubitable fact of life: Every Artist needs his teddy bear. Perry was unabashed in making his teddy, Alan Measles, the pivotal focus of his playful, yet sophisticatedly philosophical exhibition, feeding off the time in childhood when every young person’s mind is alive with the kind of imaginative creativity that most of us in our adult life can only dream of. It is only as children, unaware of the true gravity which attaches itself to most issues arising in everyday life, that we are free to run wild in the lush pastures of our imaginings, without responsibility, or worries upon our shoulders. To an extent, every creative Artist continues this spirit of childlike creativity throughout the duration of his career. However very few make their contemporary artwork in retrospective homage to the initial creations of their past. Grayson Perry does this with style, as well as sociological insight. But perhaps more importantly, he is not scared to emphasise the continuing importance of his teddy bear in his life and art at an age when he himself has young children, no doubt with their own cherished bears.
I loved Grayson Perry’s exhibition because it embodied much of my attitude to life. I trained as a lawyer, and outwardly, I try, at least, to exude an public face of professionalism. But at home, and therefore as an artist, I indulge utterly and without compromise in the introspective world of my imagination, my desires and my aspirations. Home life for me is all about cosiness, and the loving security of my relationship. And as welcome accessories to that relationship, two very cherished teddies are held dear. Meet Bilbao: a cute knitted puppy, given to me by my partner when I was in hospital, and Fluffy, living up to his namesake – a chirpy little bear with ever enquiring eyes and a sweet inquisitive nature. These two little creatures follow my partner and I when we go on holiday, and they are always close by when I paint. It is no surprise therefore that they have featured in my artwork, and in my photography, and it is in homage to the public outing of Grayson Perry’s teddy bear, that I write this post, showcasing the role of my teddies in my work.
The first painting to feature one of my teddies is this one, which focuses on my time as a Pupil Barrister in London. For the non-British lawyers amongst you, this is a year specific to the Bar profession, when a young lawyer spends a year in a Barristers chambers undertaking intense training in the run up to full qualification. It is a tiring, arduous and, at times, traumatic year. The pupil is constantly assessed, always on the move, and tirelessly trying to impress his superiors. This painting embodies the pressures, depression and anxiety I felt that year. Pink legal ribbon ties me to the slave-ball emblem of the career. My body has become a marble bust as I have sought to metamorphose into the lawyer expected of the Establishment, while turning my back on myself. The profession has taken centre-stage in my life, while in the bottom left hand corner, my Partner, represented by Fluffy, has been sidelined, although the ribbon around his neck represents the extent to which my Partner too has become enslaved to the repercussions of this hectic career.
The next painting to feature a teddy is my work Separatism, based on the fractious political history and continuing stresses persisting in the partly autonomous regions of Catalonia in North-East Spain, and the Basque Country in the North of the country. The work, which formed part of my España Volver collection (2009) focuses on various features of the regions as well as the conflicts which have erupted in the past including the bombings instituted at the hands of terrorist separatist organisation, ETA. The rich diversity of the culture in these regions spins into a central vortex, while all around it, images from the two regions are fragmented like a jigsaw puzzle, except where the pieces are held together demonstrating signs of peace and unity in the regions. The image focuses on the architectural and gastronomic strengths of the regions, as well as famous sights such as La Concha in San Sebastián (Donostia) and Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Meanwhile a spiralling red ribbon curls through the centre of the painting representing political red tape which, over the years, has hindered and complicated political progress. My teddy Bilbao is a small detail of the painting, wandering into the work in the bottom section. He floats in a safety ring in the seas of the rich coastline common to both Spanish reasons, and close to the marine symbolism which represents the maritime history which both regions also hold dear. His inclusion in the painting does not carry any special significance, but as he is named after the Basque Country’s great city of Bilbao, he thought it appropriate that he make an appearance.
Finally, there is last year’s Christmas painting, Santa Norm, in which, appropriately, Fluffy makes an appearance in Santa’s sack of toys for all the girls and boys. Luckily, Fluffy already has a very loving home to go to.
I leave you with a selection of photographs of Fluffy and Bilbao taken on travels and at home. Enjoy being childish in life. Because we grow up fast and life is too short to take it seriously. Until next time…
© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
- Grayson Perry: Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman (normsonline.wordpress.com)
- The Sunday Supplement: ¡Guerra! The Spanish Civil War (normsonline.wordpress.com)