Caution : Red Line
Diptych, oil on canvas on hardboard
175 x 50 cm closed, 175 x 100 cm open
The first time I went to Russia was in 1998, the last time in August 2021: I have been there six times. I painted this picture, Предупреждение!: Красная Линия in 2000 after visiting Moscow. The world around us is colourful, so in the painting the outside is colourful but the inside is black and white. I did this because I wanted to create an atmosphere of unease, to emphasize the feeling of being in a completely different environment/society.
I left England in 1985 and in doing so I left my mother tongue behind. I did not leave for a two-week holiday, but to live and paint in new circumstances. For the past 38 years I have lived among people who speak different languages, which makes verbal communication more complicated. However, music and painting do not need words to be understood. Words, like these, are adjectives that explain, give reasons and directions for the imagination. For example, that red line marks the point where the other world begins. That red line is the boundary between private spaces, between your own and someone else's. That private space is your personal territory and if someone gets too close you back off or push them away. When you meet someone for the first time, there is always a period of 'testing the waters': You make polite conversation to get to know the new person and at the same time that person is trying to get to know you. It is a personal policy that we all make. When you are the stranger in a community, the new and unknown, you have to learn to react, to behave and adapt, to respect the private space of the person in front of you. This is usually a natural ability, but there are cultural differences between societies, some are very formal, others very liberal. But one should not get too close, one should not cross the red line or the other person might back off.
Telephones are communication tools, we use them every day, but they are impersonal. In the painting they represent people: one phone is extended, the other is retreating to the other room.