‘I’m very much grounded but also listening to the angelic worlds. My eyes are half turned to the world but also turned to the angel – with a listening look.’
Greg Tricker was born in London in 1951 and now lives in rural Gloucestershire. He says many of the figures portrayed in his mystically searching painting (and sculpture) series reflect archetypal aspects of himself. Pure self-portraits, however, are rare in his oeuvre.
In his dazzlingly dark 2011 self-portrait – in his beret, French peasant-like attire and almost medieval craftsmanlike demeanour – he says ‘I’m very much grounded but also listening to the angelic worlds. My eyes are half turned to the world but also turned to the angel – with a listening look.’
There is a sinuous dynamic flow to the composition, running from the slight, sorrowful yet succouring angel at top right (rather resembling a Cecil Collins Holy Fool figure) – through the emphatic-eyed inscape of the artist’s broad beatific face – down to the three paint-brushes (held aloft like a candelabrum of tongues of flame or a biblical Tree of Life) and the easel at bottom left. Tricker says the picture is not about him in a self-regarding Freudian sense. Rather it can be described as a way of exploring his own artistic nature as a kind of conduit between cosmic worlds of wisdom and compassion and earthy (though highly subtle) expressiveness.
Before embarking on a series of paintings, Tricker enjoys walking in landscapes of his historical subjects – say, St Francis’s Assisi or St Bride’s Iona – ‘I come to appreciate this lovely silence and get absorbed in the sacred spirit of a place.’ This self-portrait’s imagined landscape is imbued with his love of both a rudimentary shed structure (for him, a sacred space reminiscent of blue-tinged houses in Chagall’s shtetl paintings) and a simple chapel form (close to that in archaic Ethiopian icons). The picture also evokes the invigoratingly numinous atmosphere of the seashore.
An earlier oil self-portrait, c.1995, depicts the bohemian-looking artist (with long tousled hair) seated in a capacious van Goghian wicker chair (the setting is his studio at the alternative progressive community he then lived in at Chew Stoke, a village near Bath) in a relaxed, thoughtful pose. His left bejeaned leg folds over the right one, long, slender fingers of his right hand extend to gently cradle his right cheek. We see one of the pair of sturdy workmanlike boots he wears in all seasons; ‘they ground me’. He is in a listening, musing pose, attuned to the winged angel figure behind. ‘This embracing angel gives out intimations, like sounds I heard on my visit to Assisi emanating from rustling grasses and rushes.’
Tricker, who early on was inspired by van Gogh and trained as a monumental mason, has produced a number of themed books and exhibitions devoted to subjects such as Francis of Assisi, Anne Frank, Kaspar Hauser and Bernadette of Lourdes. His touring exhibition (2011 to 2013) of stained glass, paintings, wood and stone carvings – on the lives of Saints – found awe-inspiringly apt settings in the cathedrals at Gloucester (the show was opened by Sister Wendy Beckett), Westminster, Salisbury and Rheims.