I very much regret that I never accepted the several offers of paintings Phil Clairmont made to me over the time I knew him. Because, although I've written a book about him and probably looked at more of his works than just about anyone still alive, I don't have one to hang on the wall. C'est la vie - only my silly younger self to blame. All I had to do was say yes, please but some inverted sense of pride prevented me. However, when my sons gave me a small black picture frame for Father's Day, and, coincidentally, going through some old folders, I found a photo I took about ten years ago of a Clairmont self portrait, something clicked: sure enough, photo fits frame perfectly and looks gorgeous sitting up there on the bookshelf at eye level so I see it each time I leave the room. The image above doesn't do the picture justice, it's too bright, too washed out, although I do like that mad flare of light from the right eye. My photo's much better. The blues are more lustrous, the whites starker, the reds bloodier. At the time I took it the painting was hanging on a wall in pre-fab office at a rendering plant in the Waikato in NZ's North Island; the stench was suffocatingly bad and yet the painting, which is to me about the self as the site of atrocity, seemed to fit the strange ambience. I don't know who ever looked at it though. I understand it's now back in the mansion of its owner in Auckland. Although of unknown provenance, I'm fairly sure it's one of the last, if not the very last, of the many self portraits Phil made. Though I would of course rather have a real one, if I did it would probably not be as haunted and haunting as this one, even in reproduction, is. I'll settle for it.

No comments: