Evening Echo was selected for DRAW 11, the Society’s 90th Annual Open Exhibition in 2011. With another remarkable charcoal drawing Bernard won the Stabilo International Award for a Work in Monochrome at DRAW 12 the following year. In this story Bernard describes the concept behind Evening Echo, and, courtesy of his YouTube video set to music (see link below) takes us for a walk through his work of art.
“This drawing originated in a musing of a possible synthesis of two early works: Introversion (1979) and Self-Portrait (1980), both oil on canvas.
It became something with which to address the idea of the echo of the evening of a life, a self-portrait of sorts, and an estimation of one’s very last dream as metaphor.
The sword-impaled mask is loosely based on Manet’s Dead Toreador. Floating above this is a misty oval shape which, viewed obliquely from the right, reveals my smiling boy-self (seen also in the video below). This is a reference to Holbein’s painting Ambassadors, in which a stretched skull, symbolising mortality, is positioned front and lower centre. My drawing is also a reply to Vermeer’s Artist in His Studio, with its enviable air of permanence, contrasted with the sense of the fugitive in my own studio.
Among the many other forms in the drawing is the sandwich board, a number of which float in the margins left and right. The same form is in the very centre of the drawing, half of it inclining towards the viewer to suggest that the viewer may be inhabiting the other half.
In the main frame a screen appears to show an image — perhaps mirrored, perhaps not? — that invites the viewers to come up with their own associations: an empty suit is situated between two tables, a water jug on one table is decorated with the heads of Jesus and James Joyce, and a circular window behind the suit shows, among other things, my parents (now deceased) dancing. On the other side of the suit is a Persian bowl from the Victoria & Albert Museum.
It was necessary for me to create this piece. Ideas and feelings needed to be possessed, ordered and channeled into a transformational encounter with a blank page. With each correction and change of design came both insights and risks. Next to emerge will be a pastel version to sort out colour relationships, and after that, if time is kind, a painting.
I set the videos of my art to music. For Evening Echo I chose Mindwarp by the virtuoso percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie & Ivor Dvorkin. Its sense of “otherness” works well with the idea of perceptual insecurity. For my other art videos I like a bit of Zen in the air and am drawn to the piano playing of Chitose Okashiro.
I was born in 1959, grew up in Ireland, and have lived and worked mainly in London, Melbourne and Cardiff. I have worked at many jobs, and did some teaching along the way, which I enjoy. Artistry is in my background. A maternal uncle is a former restorer of ornamental plasterwork, and my father was originally a tailor. In fact, the first working title for Evening Echo was The Late Tailor’s Dummy!”
Editor’s note: Click on the video link below to see Evening Echo set to music. For more of Bernard Fleming’s fine art videos please visit his YouTube channel by clicking here