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growing up as a gay artist, section 28, and painting

The power of the totemic object cannot be denied. This is the mug my grandfather, Jimmy, used to drink from and I take it everywhere with me as my outdoors watercolour water mug. I don’t know when I started using it, but I don’t remember not using it. I don’t have a lot of memories of the past. I was somewhere between 7 and 12 when he died, I don’t quite remember - I have a few snapshot-images in my head of the time we spent together, and some described things that I’ve imagined but never seen. I think as a little gay child growing up, the thing that we’ve all come to call the ‘closet’ causes a tremendous lingering trauma that eats up everything else from that time. I remember we went to church a lot, and I remember the Beano, and my friend Chinny was a powerful figure for me, because he was loud and funny. I have nothing to compare it too - what is a normal amount to remember? I truly believe art is one of the tools we have to begin to reverse that trauma - to restore memories. I’m making some autobiographical pieces at the moment and I’m concentrating on remembering the past, I’m focusing very hard and very specifically, and bringing back totemic images I find and putting them into new pieces of work. I’ve come to accept I’m in a transitional period of time, and it’s very peaceful to acknowledge that to myself. I’ve not performed my music on stage for a little while now and I really miss it and at first I was sad about it but now I know I’ll be doing it again when this period of transition has transitioned. We’re about to be evicted from the house we’ve lived in for 16 years, so I don’t know where we’ll be living in 6 months from now, but I think that might be the beginning of the next period. Meanwhile I’ve got the 1980s (and some of the 1990s) to mentally dredge for new songs and paintings, and some ambitious papier-mache sculptures to make.

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