Suffer little children for art

Updated: Mar 16, 2019



When I begin another artwork I initially spend days researching, mapping and merging all the influences that will bring the piece together into a coherent (to me anyway) theme. Alice, my latest work follows my theme of adolescents wearing the clothes of artists and heroes that influenced me. She wears Alice’s dress, as illustrated by Tenniel, and David Bowie’s 1974 yellow jacket and stance.

To find the different types of clothes Alice has been illustrated as wearing, I searched my bookcases for a book my dad gave me in 1974 called The Illustrators of Alice. Alice in Wonderland was having a bit of a revival back then and the book included modern illustrations. As I flipped through the book I started thinking about the editor and complier of the illustrations, Graham Ovenden. Graham Ovenden, I thought, what is it about him. Then I remembered, and in the context of Alice in Wonderland, it gave me a bit of a jolt. After his arrest and prosecution for possessing child pornographic images his work was destroyed. There are a couple of his illustrations in my book and yes they are dodgy. As a child I was approached at a Puffin Book Club event, and groomed later long distance, by the children’s author William Mayne, arrested and imprisoned later for child abuse. I had a lucky escape and I wrote the poem The Puffin man about him.

The puffin man (on being groomed by a children’s book author in 1968 at a Puffin Club jamboree)

The puffin man squats at the bottom of the cliff.

He stinks of death, his siren song.

He pimps words for souls and fishy fish.

He’ll have you kippered on his little dish.

Little webbed feet,

little webbed hands,

signing the language of the gulled.

Perched on his little rocks,

Sending words in seashells, smelling of fishy smells fish.

Selling words in seaweed books,

sending seaward, floating driftwood, snared nets to get you.

The presents he sends are polluted,

the words he says are lies,

his words are written in quicksand,

he wants to see you die.

The puffin man, eater of eggs

and procurer of the maiden’s purse.

The eater of the embryo, rock dweller, porn seller,

little girl smeller.

Little webbed feet,

little webbed hands,

signing the language of the molester,

oppressor.

Puffed up little puffin

Violator.

So beneath the surface of my artwork is my real or imaginary self rallying against these men who put themselves in the orbit of naïve literary children and their parents and the patriarchal institutions that allowed them to flourish.


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