Queen Spanking Pawn
Oil on Canvas 32 x 30 ins. (76 x 80 cm.) 1989
The picture seems like a stage where different lives are played out. In the foreground the black queen is punishing a white pawn watched by a knight. The white rook is unable to offer any place of refuge. This can be read as a helpless child abused by a cruel, all powerful adult. Within her own domain The queen makes the rules and enforces them. In this painting Bryan Charnley is referring to childhood experiences but also his later adult experience of being divorced from the routines of the adult world. This is portrayed in the background. Two figures walk by, one is certainly heading for the office, briefcase in hand. Below them car bound commuters make their daily journey oblivious of the drama being played out in front of them. The change of scale is reversed by the huge birds in the background that seem to exist in opposition to the routine imposed by work and conformity. The picture conveys an intolerant, rule bound regime that will not tolerate any deviations from their orthodoxies.