Oil on Canvas, 20 x 24 ins (51 x 61 cms) 1988
The title provides a way in towards decoding this painting. “The Birth of Lust” seems to describe adolescent sexual awakening which like so many of Bryan Charnley’s experiences was not without its travails. This is hinted by the mouth of the horizontal green head at the base of the painting. Dripping blood and lined with sharp teeth the image suggests a voracious and destructive appetite. Yet the head could also be taken as the archetypal Green Man, a pagan deity connected to the natural world and the natural order of things. He is part of the landscape and indeed is the landscape. But then the central image contradicts this. A male figure, fat and hunched, stands with his back to us. He is being embraced by a naked woman who is simultaneously a snake. This is a masterful reference to the Fall, Eve and the Snake are conflated in a single image. All this takes place in an idyllic landscape although the grey clouds look heavy with rain.