Oil on Canvas, 34 x 34 ins. 1991.
The numerals 20 9 49 in the painting and title refer to Bryan Charnley’s date of birth: 20th September 1949. This is a truly frightening and powerful image of the artist’s suffering compared to which Munch’s classic image of mental anguish looks tame. The scream here is amplified by imagery that makes no concession to painterly technique nor offers any comfort. The central figure, eyes gouged out bandaged and bleeding attempts to keep control of his or her life clutching onto a steering wheel but is crashing head first into a black cross. The cross bars the only way out of the cage into which the victim’s tormentors peer in with sadistic glee. The artist draws on the iconography of the Star of David, used by their persecutors to identify the Jews, with their history as scapegoats and victims. This desperate and utterly uncompromising painting was completed in the final months of the artist’s life