Pardon Me When The Kingdom Comes, (oil pastel on canvas board) ©2016 Alfred Eaker
“The more horrifying the world becomes, the more art becomes abstract.” (Paul Klee)
The works here represent a pivotal time in my life (1980) when I discovered both the music of David Bowie (Scary Monsters And Super Creeps) and Pierre Boulez (Fold Upon Fold) in 1980. Both were aesthetic channels out of what then was a kind of hell. They both represented the outsider, rising up to so-ciety. Through their approach to art and the status quo, each spoke a cool, brutal language that, at 16, powerfully resonated.
Paint easel 1981-2016
Of course, it’s more complex than that and, oddly enough, both died in January 2106-in the pulse of winter. When news of Boulez’ death came, I was literally working on a canvas, from a series of drawings I thought I had lost, but had recently discovered in one of many boxes I was getting round to unpack ( a year after the move). The drawings were first made at concerts I attended of Boulez conducting avant-garde music (including his own) in Chicago. His death was expected. He was 90 and had vanished from the music scene two years before. Only a week prior, I had lamented to my wife that Boulez was fading.
This excerpt from author Keith Banner’s blog 2 +2=5 gracefully expresses what the loss of David Bowie means: “Bowie was a weirdo that somehow found a way to make weirdness majestic, worth putting up with. Of course it’s January when David Bowie dies. Cold silvery light, frosted-hard glass, that sense of loss locking into place: roads, tree-branches, ditches, power-lines. He was silvery like that somehow, frosty; you didn’t know him, you just experienced his atmosphere. That’s exactly how I remember him. Just enough cold to make you shiver, just enough strangeness to make you feel scared, just enough glamor to make you understand, just enough video to freak you out. Once somebody like him goes, you get what he means, and it’s startling. You’ve depended on his strangeness to get you through. I have. Truly. Depended on David Bowie’s oddness and fearlessness and creepiness, his shapeshiftingness, his ability to disappear and reappear. It gave me hope. Gives me hope still. He pursued a swarm of off-kilter notions that turned into a kingdom.”
Bowie’s music is going to be covered for quite some time, but for this site, we will cover his second career as a celluloid actor. Apart from The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976),The Hunger (1983), and Labyrinth (1986), his films have not received the same kind of publicity and exposure as his music. Indeed, Bowie rarely spoke of his film acting, and repeatedly turned down roles that others competed for (he once rejected the role of a James Bond villain, saying with shrewd sarcasm, “I don’t want to get paid watching my double fall off a cliff for five months”). Although Bowie possibly considered his body of film work to be a dabbling in the medium, his screen persona was (to borrow that overused, suave cliche) chameleon-like. In sharp contrast to the cement tradition of everyone from Bing Crosby to Madonna, Bowie did not rest on his musical laurels or rely on his celebrity status to forge a zombie-like cinema rendition of his pre-existing persona. Indeed, Bowie is probably the pop music icon who has been most successful in establishing himself as a legitimate actor. His stage personality, as a reflection of his life, was restlessly birthed from a highly refined sense of the absurd and a razor-sharp perception of artistic trends. When he immersed himself in the medium of film, he did so with concentration and humble thoughtfulness.