'It expresses a yearning for a bygone age (which some of us remember), echoing a landscape.'
Ploughman (Dig my Earth), 2005, by Dr Colin Self (b.1941), 30in by 22in, Private Collection.
Viscount Windsor says:
Coming from good agrarian stock, I love this elegiac mixed-media picture. It expresses a yearning for a bygone age (which some of us remember), echoing a landscape – once painted by the likes of Constable and Gainsborough – before agriculture became fully mechanised and when man had a much closer relationship with the soil. The title, taken from a Bob Dylan song, All along the watchtower, may have a sense of foreboding, surely referencing the Jimi Hendrix version, with the first chord representing the ploughshare hitting a stone, incendiary and coruscating. As it still is, 50 years on.
Viscount Windsor is chairman of the Art Advisory Group for the National Museum of Wales. He will be giving the John Cornforth Lecture at Christie’s on March 19, 2018 about his home, Oakly Park
John McEwen comments on Ploughman (Dig my Earth):
Of his multifarious art – painting, sculpture and, above all, collage, as here – Colin Self says: ‘I look at the world but live in my own locale.’ Fidelity to his native Norfolk strengthens autobiography and idiosyncracy. ‘IMPORTANT!!! My grandmother used to say: “My grandfather was AN ANARCHIST!” I LOVED THIS!’ he writes.
Dr Self was the eldest of nine children, raised outside Norwich ‘surrounded by forests – so important to me, a nature boy’. His father was a signwriter, decorator and pub pianist. His paternal grandfather and three maternal great-uncles were killed in the First World War. ‘I drew from 2 years old. ART was my first language. To quote my great teacher/mentor Michael Andrews: “It’s the way I think best”.’ He was eight when he was ‘blown away by the Norwich School painters – Cotman, Crome, etc.’. He also received a bird book from his father and copied the illustrations.
At meritocratic boarding school Wymondham College, he prospered, not meeting snobbery until the Slade. He was placed in the ‘worst three students’ category – a visiting David Hockney (followed by Peter Blake) thought otherwise. Through them, he met the young dealer John Kasmin. Later came the Robert Fraser Gallery; today, he’s with The Mayor Gallery.
His father’s ability to play any request; the Baroque composer Orlando Gibbons’s musical incorporation of street vendors’ cries; Pepys’s diary of intimacy and historic events: all formed his idea of collage. This elegiac example incorporates an image on a Norwich Market cauliflower box, paint-tin lid and corrugated cardboard.
‘I Think We Should All Just Be Friends: Colin Self and Jim Moir (aka comedian Vic Reeves)’ is at the Fairhurst Gallery, Norwich, Norfolk from March 1 to 31
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