On the blog today, a guest post from the former Turner Prize nominee whose childhood in a post-war housing estate in Coventry has been the subject matter for his work for almost two decades. Here, the British painter tells us what it was like growing up with Lowry’s work - and what he shares with this ‘solitary pilgrim’
I grew up with reproductions of Lowry’s paintings. Together with the telly, they framed our living room life. His pictures were not the world I knew. I’m not too sure it was the world my dad knew - even though he was brought up in the north west during and after the war. Like the films of the ‘kitchen sink’ sixties, these images of working class life parked themselves in my eighties adolescence; not as documentation but as visionary mythology. Lowry soaked up the world and squeezed it out in the shape of his own imagination. Like Brueghel, he is nearly always looking down at the world. As in Pasolini, the great unwashed take their place in the great drama and the great tragedy of the everyday. And as with Chaucer, Bunyan, Dante and Beckett it is through humour and a curious warmth that we return again to accompany this solitary pilgrim.
I’m often asked the question: why there are no people in my own paintings? I’m never consistent with my answer, but perhaps it betrays my sober alienation or my simple misanthropy. Lowry’s populated landscape looks so different, doesn’t it? Or does it? He always seems so far away from what he paints and certainly from whom he paints. Collect the rent, make a doodle or two and f*** off back home to the studio. A touch of the voyeur, the stalker, the peeper. I’m reminded of the title of Brian Masters’ book on the serial killer Denis Nilsen, Killing for Company. And I think about him painting for company. I’m looking forward to seeing if Lowry escapes from himself and his Pam Ayres image in this exhibition. I doubt it. I’ve just noticed the title and amused myself in thinking that really he painted the end of Modern Life. He speaks to us today because we go on living and dying within its smouldering ruins.