This is the portrait of Alice, painted rapidly with oil bars on a canvas measuring 2ft x 3ft.
For me, this is the most important piece of work I've produced and I love it like a mother loves her ugly child. I call Alice the painting zero because every other piece of work I've created since has been inspired by Alice.
I met Alice on a late winter evening back in 2007 while walking along the bank of river Eden in the city of Carlisle. She must have been in her early 20s. Her face shimmered with an angelic beauty but her eyes radiated a darkening despondence. I caught only a glimpse of her before she disappeared into the darkness.
Alice never existed.
The iconic designer Bruce Mau wrote in his manifesto, “strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world". In 2007 I was an impressionable young designer who took his advice to heart and put myself through a sleep deprivation experiment to discover how far I can push my mind.
The effects of sleep deprivation began as minor visual distortions which rapidly turned into a full blown hallucinatory experience. While I rode high on this visual joyride, I began to realize the frailty of reality and how it only took a tiny nudge to fall apart. I saw Alice on the 5th day of the experiment. I rushed back to my tiny dorm room to draw her and fell asleep. I woke up around 24 hours later, back to reality. Alice stared back at me, reminding me of my short lived trip to insanity.
Since that day, every painting I've created opposes our cocoon of accepted reality.