or to find balance.” Meet David Bowie’s rebellious alter-egos achieving fame with more make-up more fashion and more glamour-puss than wuss. From drag-rocker to operatic genius. McAlpine Miller calls it, “‘Code Switching’. Like switching between languages in conversations; adapting dialects, accents and/or mannerisms based on your audience. Now more than ever we seem to wear different ‘hats’ when we are with different groups; work, social, friends, family, all having a slightly different version of ‘you’ for all of them.” We see Ziggy Stardust rise and fall in high-heels just as Amy Winehouse “died a hundred times” back to black the colour of mourning. Whilst in the background, McAlpine Miller’s signature cartoons - some infinitesimally small as an abstract shaped kaleidoscopic pattern - meet Wonder Woman and Super Girl looking drawn like a tarot card outline of a goat’s skull, the Devil’s sacrificial symbol of death. So Winehouse is Millais’s Pre-Raphaelite ‘Ophelia’, offered as a saint and martyr, but sexier. Without doubt, as religious Renaissance portraits served up donor’s mortality, the Dutch Golden Age ‘memento mori’ cries ‘you’ll die’ and Mae West says, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough!”. So it’s faith holding George Michael, Freddie Mercury and Jim Morrison together to model Christ’s white loin cloth. Staging the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross, the central symbol of Christianity, doesn’t make for a
Christian painting, no. But as we each have our cross to bear, each picture puffs a Rite of Passage towards the afterlife. Death is a part of life. Like Hirst’s miraculous ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’. Preserved in formaldehyde this 14-foot tiger shark is 23 tons of heavyweight dead weight. Whatever way you want to look at it, [this] art is a gift from god. The Lord, or whatever Deity you believe in - or not, foretells of death and rebirth thereafter restoring body and spirit for all eternity. McAlpine Miller believes, “John Lennon, the greatest of talents, will without doubt ‘live forever’. Music needs to touch the soul and bleed the heart. His did. Equally, as John Lennon and in his relationship inspired by Yoko Ono.” Fellow Beatles band member, the spiritual George Harrison, hands it up to ‘My Sweet Lord’, praising the great Hindu god Krishna under a halo symbolising his saintly side. As McAlpine Miller has “Elvis Presley [very appropriately] under the spotlight. Hailed as The King of Rock and Roll, the eternal light shines on Elvis”. Some are members of the ‘27 Club’ (popular musicians who died aged 27) including Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison and a smokin’ Jimi Hendrix through Purple Haze “’scuse me while I kiss the sky”. Alas, they all kiss the sky now from a world of highly addictive amphetamines, prescription drugs and hard alcohol that lead to [their] untimely
early deaths. “Significant of our hopes and dreams only to find that not all come to fruition,” says McAlpine Miller, “more relatable than ever. And instantly wowing.” Several faces are painted not once but twice in the same picture. Each legend celebrated over and over as two portraits, side-by-side, living together as one artwork; traditionally a diptych. A pair. Double the meaning double the fun. Respectively twins as unique as Esau and Jacob, Romulus and Remus, Apollo and Artemis. Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Sacred love on the one side and profane love on the other - significantly philosophical and psychological it’s the ‘psychologist’ in McAlpine Miller, “suggesting different characters behind the paintings.” The ‘good-cop bad-cop’, Jekyll and Hyde, Abbott and Costello ‘other side’. It’s about the complex relationship we have with ourselves; me, myself and I. As McAlpine Miller says, “It’s been said, that to be a genius, there must also exist ‘A Personality Defect’. Whether this is entirely true is a question for debate. It can be revealed however that some talents do have certain personality traits which, in some cases, have led to untimely deaths. I want to explore all possibilities without conclusion. After all, asking the question can only produce half the answer.” Which is why McAlpine Miller’s double-portraits are so efficacious.
remind me of Andy Warhol’s blotted-line prints. Warhol printed them to create an image that’s repeated in reverse, the right-hand side a mirror image reflection of the left-hand side. As in McAlpine Miller’s double-portrait where each dearly departed soul looks protected by the shadow of their ‘other self’ - their neighbour, as the second commandment says, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. McAlpine Miller says, “The idea that we have someone watching over us is a constant theme within these works. Almost suggestive of a guardian angel. Symbolised as the one watching over the vulnerable side of the main character.” Making you look twice, the portrait multiplied by two, equals a stereophonic Holy Ghost. As powerful as Popeye with his spinach keeping you ‘strong to the finich’, and Superman flying high keeping you safe past safety lines and safety pins to ‘Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’. Little things in the bigger picture of life inspire McAlpine Miller; 1950s American comic book cult heroes; the vintage and the retro; bonbon-colours so brilliantly luminous each looks like a Dan Flavin neon. I’ve said McAlpine Miller is tomorrow’s Old Master-in-Waiting creating a ‘newness’ to portraiture in his 4D signature style I call ‘SuperNatural Realism’. Making ‘Split Personalities’ more than pictures they are biographies in paint.
Certain McAlpine Miller double-portraits
© Estelle Lovatt FRSA
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