62 DIGITAL SKETCHES ON THE THEME OF SPORTS CYCLING
My starting point was noticing how sporting cyclists’ outfits and extreme physiques somewhat resembled those of superheroes. I had dealt with superheroes in the preceding series, VIGILANTES, interested in underlying political themes, anchoring myth in ideology. I wondered if, conversely, actual champions like sports cyclists, might hold a mythic dimension, one I could accent with suggestive settings. Many of road racing’s rituals, climbing mountain peaks, chaotic sprints and gruelling time-trials arouse hysterical responses from roadside crowds; vaguely recall obscure religious or medieval customs. The role of dedicated champions moving through a vast landscape, unmistakably recalls a pilgrimage or quest. These set me looking to more loaded situations.
At the same time I was wary of focussing on iconographic conundrums again. Recent series for the figure had tended to fall into something like genre skirmishes, but sacrificed some of the ambiguity and abstraction I also sought. There’s such a thing as too much content. I also felt I was falling into habits with Photoshop and needed to try other things. I ended up retracing my steps all the way back to the late 80s, revisiting my roots in collage. The difference now of course, is that greater expertise with Photoshop allows me to select and manipulate fragments with far greater flexibility. The effort makes the series particularly rewarding for me. The title ‘RE: CYCLING’ alludes in part to this revision and reconstrual, a key plank to my approach.
More notes at the bottom of the page.
I began the series in early October, still in local lockdown and stymied by lack of painting supplies. A new digital series was a way of keeping busy, waiting for lockdown to eventually lift and return to painting. This reshuffling has been particularly frustrating throughout the year. Because of the more expansive brief for the digital series, I did not expect to publish anything this year. As I probed for greater disparity or fragmentation, I ran into all the old issues from my pre-digital days, concerning range of source imagery, latitude of interpretation. These are still very challenging. However I only needed a little of this for present purposes and Photoshop could simulate that in ways I had hitherto not fully appreciated. Once assimilated, the series advanced briskly and I find it now completed. It might seem a retreat to cruder means, but they broaden ends here. I am still working through the implications.
Cycling has previously been used in CITYICITY (2000 – 2012) DECLINE and ENCRYPTION and although I have not owned or much ridden a bicycle since 1976, the theme reflects a longstanding enthusiasm for televised coverage of road races as well as the sport’s growing sophistication and popularity.