Tree of Life
Oil on canvas, 44 x 44 ins. 1989
A big painting for a big subject. The Tree of Life here is a subversion of the traditional Tree of Life in Christian mythology which has the tree as standing at the centre of the Garden a pure form untouched by original sin. Here the tree stands between instruments of torture and puts bloody roots into the the ground. Progressing upwards the trunk is marked by a pair of disembodied bird claws which seem to be echoed in the shape of two hands, fingers reaching up to touch a mouth, tears falling from the broken bark above. The tree now assumes a more recognisable form with spindly branches that lead to the back of eight bisected heads surrounding the tree. We can see into the heads where the sky is portrayed in different moods, a metaphor for the different life experiences that is the human condition. Bryan Charnley would quote a fragment from Blake’s Auguries of Innocence
“Every Night and every Morn/Some to Misery are Born./Every Morn and every Night/Some are Born to sweet delight./Some are Born to sweet delight,/Some are Born to Endless Night. This locus seems to be inherent in the painting.