Saturday, January 17, 2009

Meeting a hermit

Back in the early eighties, when I was variously unemployed (an unemployed labourer, railway trackman, kitchen porter, painter) I met a man called Reg. He was an artist. He lived in Somerby, Rutland and refused electricity or gas, preferring instead to light his house with Gales honey jars filled with paraffin with a wick poked through the lid.

He was a mystic and a hippy, which in eighties East Midlands bitter bleakosity was unwelcomed by most (remember that the Vale of Catmose is in the lee of Lincolnshire, flat panned reclaimed fens where the wind is directly funnelled from the Urals).

He was a fellow of the Royal Academy, and once drank an oak tree off a high shelf with Craig Martin.

His paintings were abstract, and fairly fucked philosophically by his insistence on parallels with eastern mysticism and overdosing on cough medicine. Had he referenced Lacan, structuralism and maybe the decentred self he could have been successful. As he claimed his inspiration came from Kundalini, Gurdjieff and kif, he was deeply unfashionable.

But still he had a kind of scrawny integrity. He was a mountaineer, a painter and spliffster; a Barnsley ugly man with a feeling for colour, but no taste for the wank of art criticism.

I think he had a daughter, who lived in an inaccessible valley in Wales; inaccessible to him at least, as they were estranged.

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