Why chairs…?

by angelamfindlay

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Thoughts can fly (2012), 100 x 100cm. Mixed media and oil on canvas

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Re-dressing absence, Stroud Cemetery (2009) Collaboration with Shirley Margerison

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Him undressed (2013) 60 x 60cm. Mixed media and oil on canvas

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Untitled – 3 (2010) Installation in vault. Armchair with cigarette packets

I have just returned from a trip to the Cinque Terre in Italy. People always ask if I take my paints, assuming painting is something I love to do all the time. Actually painting is hard work and painting a painting invariably involves being confronted with oneself. So I like having breaks from that. But I can never get away from being inspired. From looking at something and having ideas about what I could do with it. I can’t imagine ever being able to switch off the desire to create out of the raw material I gather.

And so in Italy, I found myself not simply losing myself in the blues of the sea and sky, or even in the Prosecco “Spritz” cocktails, but instead pursuing what seems to have become a slight obsession with chairs. Chairs by windows, empty chairs – we’ll have to wait for the latest paintings to be painted. But now I can see that chairs have captured my imagination for several years.

I instantly loved Joseph Kosuth’s 1965 conceptual piece One and Three Chairs when I first came across it; such profound questions within as humble an everyday object as the common chair. I also remember how when visiting prisoners in their cells in Cologne Prison, the absence of a chair would leave me nowhere else to sit other than on their beds. But I have now recognised that behind my personal interest in chairs hover two stories that instilled themselves as living images in my childhood imagination. The first was the part of my mother’s war time account when she told us that after fleeing their home just outside Berlin in 1945, the Red Army came and slashed open the silk seats of their chairs in search or jewellery or money.

The second was of her father returning from the war, a broken man who sat in the same chair on the veranda and smoked himself into his grave.

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