Collection Baker & McKenzie, Amsterdam

Shaped painting with door by Paul Critchley, closed
Shaped painting with door by Paul Critchley, open
Shaped painting with door by Paul Critchley, detail

The Waiting Is Over

oil on canvas on hardboard

diptych, 180 x 133 cm

I have always admired the mediaeval paintings because of their story telling power and in particular the altar paintings with movable panels. These paintings not only beckon the viewer to look but also to participate more fully in their stories. A single image tells a story on one level but the alter paintings reveal much more and give greater depth and richness turning the story into an epic. Opening the panels is rather like turning the pages of The Good Book. Nowadays we are swamped with words and images, with information in general, but in the dark ages the sense of awe and wonder which the alter paintings must have had on the people as they entered the House of God must have been a monumental and spiritual experience - it still is for some. Imagine what it must have been like to walk into the cathedral in Gent 500 years ago and be confronted with van Eijk’s painting of the Adoration of the Golden Lamb or to be a patient in the monastery hospital in Colmar and see the chilling Crucifix by Grünewald. Despite the constant TV images of death and disaster around the world this painting is still horrifying. These mediaeval artists, conjuring up and provoking sensations, were the Hollywood story telling Spielbergs of their day.     

Sometimes the best stories are the simplest ones but told with a touch of flair and imagination. Stories can be direct and amusing, subtle and subdued, bright and cheerful whilst others are anxious and disturbing. The best story tellers are those who delight and inspire, who inform and provoke the viewer to participate and reflect. In my paintings I’m trying to tell stories of everyday events and to make them as interesting to you as they were to me - not the epic parting of the waves - but more the admiration of the silent rainbow as the sun comes out after a storm worthy of any heavenly damnation. Stories telling of the passing of time, of day turning to night. A story showing that in the corner of a room a seemingly banal and innocent wall can become menacing and threatening, a hidden door to a hidden life. How many Anna Franks have been forced into hiding over the centuries? How often do we hear that a supposedly respectable person turns out to be quite the opposite, have you ever closed the door on a neighbour who passes on their way downstairs? Ever hidden behind a door which separates you from the outside world and all those nasty tall stories, ever wanted to live in your own world and listen to other tall stories which tell the truth - at least in a way you want to hear it?