Chris Sutcliff

Artist Man I am

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12th Oct 2017

Marijuana – A break up letter

My Dearest Mary Jane.

As I write these words to you I cannot help but feel sorrowful, I really never thought this day would come, but you must understand that what I am about to do takes strength, and I feel the presence of that strength grow with each passing moment.

You have no doubt noticed that I have been seeing you less and less over these past months, dropping slowly out of our old routine of daily contact, stretching to weekly contact, and now longer. This has been difficult for me, and some days I miss everything about you, from the way you smell to the way you make me feel. It is that latter point though that has driven me to this decision. I hope I can explain it to you. You have remained the same, but I’m afraid I have changed.

I remember what we were both like when we first met some twenty odd years ago, how right we were for each other, how immediately and unconditionally we fell in love. I first heard about you from all my old heroes, writers and artists whom I idolised, and from my contemporaries who were all enjoying a fleeting romance with you. Everybody told the same story, that you would open my eyes, that you would change the way I thought, that you would turn me on to so much about life and art, movies and music. Everything they said was true. When I fell for you, I fell hard. You were my everything then. I regret nothing.

Over time you continued to enhance so many parts of my life. I met fantastic people and I went to amazing places with you as the driving force. One by one however, those other people started to fade away, and I didn’t understand at the time why they would turn their backs on you, not like I do now.

Life wasn’t always good for me, I know you know that. Whilst I appreciate you being there for me during my darker days, it is here that our relationship began to sour. I leaned on you more and more as a way to get through my struggles, I turned you from a lover to a crutch. I never should have done that, and I know you’ll leap to my defence and say it isn’t true but please, I’ve thought about this for years, and it is true, all of it is true. I slowly manipulated you from being the support of my creativity to the fuel of my self destruction. I must own that. My life will never be OK if I don’t learn to withstand the pain of it myself, I cannot hide behind you anymore, your protection was my addiction. Like I said before, you never changed, I did.

I have grown so very much older now and I look upon your ever youthful face and can finally see that we want different things out of life, you are ready to find your next lover, but you cannot do that until I let you go. Mary Jane, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you have ever done for me, my life would be a paler thing without you. You have taught me so much and given so selflessly, I will always remember you with love and I will speak highly of you to anyone who will listen, my friend, my flame, my teacher, my rock, my light. I support your every ongoing endeavour, particularly your foray into the medical world. You are going to help so many people, and you will be in safer hands. So go to them now, for this particular man must accept that you no longer serve him at all, and with that he must be free of you, and free you in the process.

I try not to be a fool, I know the world, I know how messy the end of a relationship can be. I will still see you around, at parties, at the houses of my friends. I know there will still be the occasional flirt, maybe the odd stolen kiss. I get it. Things just happen sometimes, but that will fade, and the distance between us must be allowed to grow. I have to remind you that this break up is borne of strength, not weakness. So I will not relent or go back on this promise, you and I are done.

I will admire you from afar. I only hope that what I go on to become will earn your admiration in return. Please think of me fondly if you ever think of me at all, I no longer have space in my life for hate.

Chris. x

by Chris
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28th Sep 2017

Camera Practice 3 – Derelicts.

Burnley has been undergoing a fairly rigorous regeneration period of late, owing to many things but most notably the success of the football club and the opening of a rail link to Manchester, making it a proper satellite town that people can finally find on a map, or at least want to. Where there used to be derelict properties like this on almost every street, now they are being repurposed and recycled as flats, coffee bars and trendy offices for start up businesses. Whilst I obviously welcome this new lease of life, I’ve always had a fondness for buildings in this state; broken, empty and etched with the ravages of time and neglect. They are much more interesting, characterful and real than whatever they ultimately get turned into. I will miss them when they are all gone.

It is still exciting taking pictures of them though. It’s amazing how shifty and threatening people seem to be when you’re in a run down part of town with a camera. Especially when that town is Burnley. The facades have all been polished, sure, but in the cracks and the shadows the residents remain unchanged. I’ve learned to take pictures quite quickly, and then bugger off.

by Chris
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25th Sep 2017

Depression.

I always feel like I should be able to fix it somehow, if I can just trace everything backwards to my childhood and find the source of it, find the thing that is broken. I wish the problem was mechanical, a logical process of cause and effect, culminating in a resolution. It is not being comforted each time I cried. It is the first time I learned about death. It is my parents marriage falling apart. It is the cruelty of school. It is a chemical imbalance in my brain. It is an inability to connect. It is all of those things and more, or possibly none of them, either way it doesn’t matter.

In my teens I understood that not everyone saw and felt the world the same way I did; maybe all teens feel that, maybe that’s what being a teen is. My coping strategy then was comedy, and while it solved nothing it at least kept the gloom at bay. I’d get laughs out of my friends for validation reasons, I’d laugh at myself for sanity reasons. It didn’t always work, but it kept people around and I wasn’t a burden; nobody had to tolerate my affliction. My friend Dominic calls this part of me the ‘Court Jester’, and he gently reminds me when I fall back into that role.

By my late teens I was cutting myself. It was a form of transference, as though the surface level pain in my arms was easier to bear than the pain inside, with the added bonus of seeing it heal, something which the deeper pain never seemed inclined to do. That was short lived. A man called Mark, an ex lag who had once held up a petrol station with a shotgun, held a knife to my throat and told me that if I ever wanted to cut myself again that he would do it for me, and that I wouldn’t enjoy that one bit. I stopped immediately.

As I got older it grew with me, in sophistication and severity. It is not getting out of bed. It is not going out with friends. It is substance abuse. It is not eating properly. It is deliberately sabotaging relationships. It is fear of failure, and then ensuring it occurs. It is feeling too much, and feeling nothing at all. I blamed everything from my girlfriends, to my job, to my parents, to my education, to the political state of the world, and sometimes I remembered to blame myself. It didn’t matter. It persisted whether I attended to it or not. It does not relent. I actually wonder if I would feel abandoned without it now. It has become part of who I am.

These days when it comes I recognise it sooner, stress about it less, and accept it for what it is. Like a shapeless fog it moves slowly but stealthily so you’re always too late to get out of its way and it doesn’t fully leave for a few weeks after you’ve tackled it, but at least it leaves. Knowing it can be tackled is your weapon, remember that, especially when you feel too weak to use your tools:- Eat healthy food, take plenty of exercise, talk to your mates, do something creative, and ease off of any substance that takes your mind off things. You need your mind ON this thing, that’s the key. The slope is slippery and you will slide, but the slope is also long, so you might not slide off. Upon this slope we build our lives.

I believe you can make a friend of that black dog, but it is not your pet. It is wild. It is a hunter. You are either part of the pack or you are prey. As I write this tonight, on the very blog that has formed part of my creative life raft, I am definitely running with the pack, and all is well under the moon.

But I will take my turn as the hunted again some day. And we will see which of us has the greater resolve.

by Chris
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24th Sep 2017

Camera practice 2 – Barriers.

There is a security fence around my block of flats, more specifically it encircles some waste ground opposite my flat where another building was going to be until their money ran out. There is nothing there but scrubland, and traces of concrete foundations and waste water pipes. I couldn’t tell you what the razor wire is protecting, or whom it is protecting against. I don’t know if the additional security deters thieves from accessing my estate, or if it makes us look more attractive to them.

Whatever it is for, it is secure.

The Leeds to Liverpool canal also wraps around half my estate, snaking south out of the town and then heading west towards Blackburn, which always makes me feel sorry for it. It is very much like a moat. My second line of defence. Another barrier. The photo is the reflection of the motorway overpass on the canal surface. I nearly fell in whilst taking it.

Keep smiling.

by Chris
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18th Sep 2017

Camera Practice 1

My first decent practice attempts with my new camera, starring some people I don’t know in a pub, my mates beard, and a road I like to stand in the middle of so that cars don’t have to try too hard to hit me.

They were shot from the hip, and are part of my continued efforts to not rely on the auto settings of the camera, I’m trying to do it all properly like. I did take some colour shots, but they looked like they could have been done with any old camera, so black and white is my preference by a country mile. And speaking of country miles, I didn’t really get anything interesting from the landscape shots, so it would seem I also prefer people and interiors. By which I mean the pub. I prefer the pub.

Uploaded straight from my iPhone as a jpeg, because I don’t have photoshop. So the quality will just have to be whatever.

Enjoy?

by Chris
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14th Sep 2017

Return to sender.

It has been five years since I posted anything to this site. I barely recognise myself in any of it anymore. It isn’t the homecoming I thought it would be.

It’s amazing how much has changed in that time, and also how much has stayed the same; both of which are painful. I no longer paint. I am 40 years old now. I still work in an office job. I still smoke. I am still single. This stasis has eroded the best of me, and I have, in fact, begun to fade.

As for turning my back on painting, that was hard. I just lost the time, space and inclination, I couldn’t even force it. Creativity came in fits and spurts, I wrote some stories and poems, but I struggled to keep it up. Denying myself the chance to create anything had the same effect as denying myself oxygen; I got ill, and depression is no joke. There had to be a way to get it back, to be interested in the world again, to add something to it. So I bought a camera, and I guess we’ll just see if that works out.

There is a journey that I have been planning for what seems like forever, it started as a wish, but I am now staring down the barrel of the reality of it all and I just might be a little bit afraid. I have no choice but to embark upon it, I have already waited too long and there is nothing left to learn here, but change is scary nonetheless. The journey is a physical one, it will take me across the planet to distant lands, to new experiences, maybe even some adventure. The journey is also an emotional one, for I must be honest with myself and accept that I have become a wreck, an automaton who has distanced himself from the pain of feelings; a state I must go to war against lest it become permanent. The journey is also a spiritual one, not in the usual vein of people who use terms like that, I don’t need religion or a guru, this is about becoming a version of myself that I am at peace with.

Three years ago I paid off all my debts. Since then I have saved up enough money to pack up my life and go travelling for a year. I nearly lost my mind doing it, office work is a form of mental torture, but I persevered and I’m getting out of the rut.

Something is coming. I have no idea what, but it will be here for you to read about. The words begin to form, the need to write them grows and it is time once more to document all this shit, in the vague hope that I have something left to say. This will be the genuine story of a genuine life. A man who has found himself at the halfway mark of his existence, and wants the final half to have value. So he quits his life and goes looking for something else.

I’ll keep you informed. It will be nice to have a friend along for the way.

 

by Chris
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2nd Sep 2012

Bailaora

Acrylics, House Paint, Spray Paint, Watercolours and Inks on canvas.

60 x 36 inches.

2012

by Chris
Posted in Paint | 3 Comments »
10th Aug 2010

Someone Else’s Son.

Acrylic

16 x 11 inches

2010

Inspired by a range of German Expressionist images and completed as quickly as possible in an ongoing attempt to make my paintings more immediate, expressive, gestural and fluid. There is a tedium that comes with the rendering of static detail that has started to set my teeth on edge and has lead to regular bouts of boredom when painting over long periods of time. This sketch took just under 2 hours and was a joy to do.

My Grandma once asked me why I never painted “Happy” paintings.

So I knee-capped her.

by Chris
Posted in Paint | 5 Comments »
14th Jul 2010

One Hundred Days Of Freedom.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Nelson Mandela

“What I like doing best is Nothing. It’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, “What are you going to do?” and you say “Oh, Nothing,” and then you go and do it. Doing Nothing means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear,

and not bothering.”

Winnie The Pooh

During this blog, there will be two opportunities for you to take your iron and ironing board out into the street and set fire to them. The first opportunity is now. Go. I’ll explain why in a moment.

Know that I am a lazy man. When I say ‘lazy’ I mean that I have an aversion to non-beneficial work, I have no requirement to be doing things to justify my existence. And I watch people. I watch BUSY people dutifully cram their every waking moment with a thousand menial tasks while I enjoy doing nothing in particular and I wonder which of us is right. From where I am sitting, it looks as though busy people are just poor souls that lack the imagination to stop being so bloody busy. (By the way, if this already sounds like you then answer me this, who the hell gave you ALL that shit to do? Take a break man, look out the window, notice the world hasn’t stopped turning just because you enjoyed life for a minute instead of toiling yourself into dust). A lot of the tasks that busy people do seem to be entirely devoid of purpose. Work for work’s sake. Chief among all pointless distractions is the time-eating absurdity that is ironing ones clothing.

The average person spends 55 minutes per week doing the ironing. That’s 47.6 hours per year. If you live as long as 65 and start ironing in your teens you’ll clock up around 100 days of ironing in your life. Your one life. Your only shot at existence on the only planet you’ll ever know.

Ever stop to think why you’re doing it? Because you want to appear smart? OK, that’s a reasonable answer; I’ll come back to that later. Luckily I am lazy and have plenty of time to ponder things like this so that you don’t have to. Here’s what I think:-

You could argue that ironing is one of the myriad human activities that mark a ‘civilised’ society, by which I mean it’s something we collectively perpetuate and so collectively support its value – This is important for several reasons.

  1. It means you already know that if no one else was doing it then you wouldn’t bother to do it either.
  2. ‘Civilised’ societies have the capacity to help the less fortunate but choose not to. Which means they are selfish. A difficult trait to find any merit in whatsoever. This makes me uneasy about being ‘civilised’ and hesitant about copying the actions of that society.
  3. ‘Backward’ or ‘uncivilised’ societies tend to place value on things like Family, Friendship, Love and the Land – never appearances, for appearances are paper thin. If a person is a bit of a dick then it won’t take long for people to figure that out and no amount of ironed clothes will save them. You cannot polish a turd.

We seem to be in danger of deluding ourselves that looking ones best is the same as being ones best. It isn’t. This is an unhealthy symptom of narcissism that dampens the spirit of altruism and I despise it. Your need for an image is your ego’s need for a physicality – remember that next time you’re in Top-Shop.

Let’s look at the two biggest appropriators of a world in which clothes magically take on more significance when they are hot and flat, the first of which is the Military. The Military are especially important here because they use ironing as a tool to destroy any unwanted defiance in their recruits. It is administered as a punishment and a way of maintaining control, of quashing the spirit of the individual. Paradoxically it is then used to create a sense of smart-new-self, of acceptance into the pack, which is then richly rewarded instilling pride and feelings of achievement, serving the purpose of making a soldier accept punishment with pride as he can no longer distinguish between the two – all things which make me nauseous and should put ironing in a sinister light. My Father is ex-Navy and learnt to iron with them. When he does the ironing at home he includes socks and tea-towels. I’ll run that one by you again in case you read it quickly without taking it in – A man in his 60’s who is intelligent and witty and has had some very important jobs, irons socks and tea towels. No matter how creased, socks immediately become foot shaped when you wear them, then you hide them in a shoe. Also what has your world come to when you feel it necessary to impress people with the appearance of your tea towels? This point alone should show you that indoctrinated ironing is a lunacy that extends beyond obsessive compulsive disorder, and that at least half of your washing pile has no right to be ironed.

The second of the two principle perpetrators is the world of corporate business; and it is here where we again strike at the very root of why you iron clothes in the first place – the perception of appearances. For at least one thousand years, clothes ironed flat have been a way of improving ones appearance so as to separate ones self from the dishevelled masses of the not-so-ironed. It was developed by the Chinese, a race whose class hierarchy is so demented that people die to uphold it, and for whom making a cup of tea involves a three hour ceremony – making them the most efficient time wasters in the world. So, pressed clothes are a means to simulate class and status and the corporate world has embraced and expanded this idea to include professionalism. A pressed suit gives the “effect” of the “representation” of reliability and business acumen.

Is it me or does that become obviously bollocks when it’s written down like that?

I have met some of the most immaculately dressed tossers in the world and I learnt very quickly not to judge by appearances. Even kids know this. I am regularly astonished to see people actually get impressed by a well ironed shirt and therefore taken in by the bullshit that hides behind it.

Here is a meeting of two potential business partners:-

Suit One: “I see you have taken the time to iron your shirt.”

Suit Two: “I see you have done the same.”

Suit One: “When I discovered that you had bankrupted four companies and had stolen from all your previous business partners I was worried there may be some issues concerning trust, but then I saw your professional ironed shirt and I see now that I was wrong to let facts get in the way of my faculty for decision making, when all I needed was blind faith in a flat material.”

Suit Two: “Quite.”

Suit One: “Let’s touch cocks.”

Little Red Riding Hood: “Why Grandma, what a crease-free nightie you have on.”

Wolf: “All the better to deceive you with, my dear.”

Outside of the Military and the image crazed corporations are the ordinary folk in the street. Remember when you said you ironed so you could look smart? Well let’s question that a little bit further now. Are you really so bothered about what other people think of your appearance that you want to squander hours of your precious life pandering to their (totally unquantifiable) opinions? Do you actually walk down the street thinking everyone is admiring your flat clothes? Well, they aren’t. If anything they just think you’re the person who was in front of them in the queue at Greggs and they don’t give a shit whether you’ve ironed or not. If you stop viewing life as a hollow fashion parade then you’ll stop endlessly trying to appeal to judges who AREN’T THERE. You wear clothes so you don’t die of exposure. End. You cannot be marginalised by them. The only thing your clothes should say about you is that you’re at the mercy of weather conditions and when you are stuck for something to piss away your hard earned cash on you don’t mind paying for a fashion designer to scrawl something on your t-shirt. Unless you buy your t-shirts from large high street shops like Burtons – whose T-shirt rack was hand picked by a blind donkey and is so crammed with clashing designs they are basically saying to you “We haven’t got a fucking clue what’s cool anymore, just buy something and hope for the best”.

When I see people in their homes unthinkingly ironing a mountain of clothes (including undergarments that never even get seen) on summer days I weep for them. I weep for their children who see this behaviour, assume it to be the norm and ready themselves for the day they’ll inherit the same ball and chain. I weep for the iron manufacturers whose very existence unwittingly binds us into a voluntary enslavement and anxiety that we can never be as well presented as we should be. When people say to me “I spent nearly two hours ironing yesterday” I feel like saying “Wow, you sure know how to squeeze the most out of your weekend, I wasted two hours yesterday doing drugs and fucking hookers in the endless sunshine, what an idiot, if only I’d had the foresight to get on top of making my clothes hot and flat instead”.

If I was king of the world I’d ban ironing immediately, I’d eradicate it from the history books. We’d live in a place where all clothes were creased simply because they were made from creasy material and it meant nothing more than that. Business men would have to rely on strength of character in order to gauge someone’s strength of character. The Military would have to come up with different means of psychological bullying (no problem there) and rely on their integrity in order to portray the pretence of their integrity. People in the street would have to get to know you in order to judge you. My father would be free. Most important of all, I’d give you your 100 days back in order to spend time with your loved ones. Or just doing nothing with me.

Always be wary about devoting your time to things you haven’t fully thought through. Was I talking about more than just housework here? You bet your ass I was.

If you were one of the people who didn’t set fire to their iron at the start of this blog, this is the second opportunity to do it.

Unless you ENJOY ironing, in which case knock yourselves out you weirdos.

by Chris
Posted in Words | 10 Comments »
16th Jun 2010

Fasen All Gates.

I suffer from a rare neurological disorder that prevents me from understanding how far distances are and how long it will take to walk them. It’s not a debilitating illness or even a proper disability, I can work and live quite normally with it, just don’t ever come on an afternoon stroll with me. Ever.

When I tell you it is probably just another 2 miles to the pub, it isn’t, it is 7 miles. When I tell you it will take us half an hour to get there, it won’t, it will take an hour and a half and when we get to the pub we won’t be friends anymore. It happens to me all the time. But I’m not lying you understand? It’s a neurological disorder. I believe it’s called “Getafuckingmapandawatch Disorder”; or I.D.I.O.T. as my mates refer to it.

Anyway, yesterday I succumbed to the effects of this malady in a most painful fashion. Yesterday was my birthday and I decided to tackle the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk all by myself. It is 23.5 miles long(ish) and takes in Pen-Y-Ghent (2,227 ft), Whernside (2,415 ft) and Ingleborough (2,372 ft). I thought it would be a memorable and challenging way to celebrate another year of life and something I could look back on fondly.

I was wrong on all counts.

Simply staring at the words “Twenty three and a half miles” gives you no indication at all as to how far that is. It is really, really, really far. It is unbelievably far multiplied by ten. Luckily, plenty of training will lessen the impact a walk of that magnitude will have on your body. Unluckily, I did absolutely no training whatsoever.

I didn’t even do any stretches.

Nobody has yet invented the words that correctly convey how stupid this is.

So, today I am typing this in a seated position because I cannot walk. It is hard to think about what to type because of the intense sunburn on my scalp, the stuffiness of the man-flu I have contracted and the endless shivering that marks a good honest bout of sunstroke. My lower back seems to have been replaced by a wet sponge and no longer supports anything above it. My hips are still burning, the muscles in my legs are so tight that going up and down stairs actually makes me wail and my feet are twisted broken replicas of their former selves. I seem to remember they used to have skin on them.

It was a fantastic day though…

I thought that when writing this I was going to wax lyrical about man and his landscape, or every step on the walk versus every step in life, or spending the anniversary of your birth doing something that proves you’re alive or something equally twee and uninteresting/obvious; and I probably have a bit but there was a much nicer way to sum things up which came in the form of an accidental discovery of a misspelled sign in a field on my trek.

It reminded me of the way everyone passes from one phase in life to the next, and the fact that when one is over and done with it should be correctly sealed shut so that you are free to move on from it, taking your experiences with you but letting go of your attachments.

Or something like that. You’ll work it out.

I finished the walk in 8 hours. If anybody wants to do it again with me I reckon we can do it in 3 hours. The pub’s just over the next hill…

by Chris
Posted in Words | 7 Comments »