Why Clowns? I really don’t know.
As a child I remember seeing clowns. There were travelling circus in the UK and, when the circus came to town, my parents would take me to see the show. Although, being young, my memories of the whole experience I’d best describe as, vague!
When I finished art college I chased a career in comedy.
With two fellow like-minded, ex-students, Mac and Fitz, I wrote and choreographed a contemporary, comedy-sketch show. The three of us were the on-stage performers and we toured the hour-longshow the length and breadth of the UK. We were the precursors of ‘alternative comedy’ and, as time would tell, a bit ahead of our time!
There was a good deal of visual humour in our routines which echoed back to the ‘slapstick’ of music hall, vaudeville and, I guess, circus clowns. There was a Scottish comedian, Denny Willis, whose act I remember as an inspiration.
My clowns are all imagined. Their faces, costume and makeup all created solely to make their ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ appearance ‘under the bigtop’ in this painting. They were born out of strands of research and reference and sketched out in pencil before they madeit, in full colour, onto the canvas.
One thing I didn‘t expect to encounter when I was painting the faces was that I had to actually complete their portraits before I could apply their makeup.
Art imitating life!
In contemporary culture, since the 1980’s and Stephen King’s ‘It,’ clowns are portrayed as macabre and horrific grotesques. The fine art of ‘Clowning’ has evaporated into the ‘custard-pie-in-the-face mists of time.’
Do I like clowns? I really don’t know! There’s an inherent melancholy beneath the makeup and red noses which, hopefully, I’ve captured in this work.
And, as we all know when it comes to the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd, life’s a bloody circus, send in the clowns!
Acrylic on Canvas
101.5 cms width x 76.5 cms depth
Finalist, Moreton Bay Art Prize 2021