|Steel Cot, 2008, Oil on canvas, 168 x 137.5 cm © Ken Currie, courtesy Flowers Gallery|
FLOWERS GALLERY , CORK STREET
What is there to see in this picture? The impact is immediate: a cot and a mattress, set against a floor and walls like thunderous black clouds.
But cots should be where babies sleep safely, snug and cosy; probably wooden or wicker, prettily painted in pastels, warmly upholstered, sweet smelling. Some are called cradles, with all the association of being held in loving arms
But this cot is the type into which no one goes of their own volition. Steel bars belong to prisons or perimeters and will brook no argument: they are designed to pen you in or to keep you out. It's where the very young and the very old are placed.
But here is the paradox: cots or cribs or cradles are often wondrous places. Think of the Christmas story, of Christmas carols, of the Christmas crib here each year in London's Trafalgar Square beneath a huge tree donated by the good people of Norway. Alternatively think of the fairy tales where nasty things happen. Babies are snatched up and grisly changelings put in their place. Poor Sleeping Beauty must have been lying in a cot in all innocence when the wicked fairy godmother, with no invitation to the christening in her pocket, got a terrible revenge for her exclusion. Later, when Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on a spinning wheel she had to wait a hundred years before a handsome prince happened to pass by and woke her with a kiss.
And what about the lullaby sung to children for centuries:
- Hush-a-by baby
- On the tree top,
- When the wind blows
- The cradle will rock.
- When the bough breaks,
- The cradle will fall,
- And down will fall baby
- Cradle and all...
'Ken Currie is one of the outstanding figurative painters of his generation'.
So begins the introduction to an exhibition of his paintings at
the Scottish National Portrait Gallery,
which runs until September 22nd.