The COVID-19 Chronicles.


COVID-19 has been quite the challenge for most of us. The idea of sacrificing the illusion of freedom in order to secure survival has been difficult for many in the Western hemisphere to accept for more than a few months at a time. Our forefathers have accepted such in times of war, but we have difficulties accepting that we are “at war” with The Virus — and that it is a result of “our own doing/undoing”. Here, I have chronicled some of my own perceptions, feelings and experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 challenge:   

“Corona: In the Eye of the Storm (We Can’t Breathe)”, oil on canvas, 61 x 61 cm.

 

Painting: Oil on Canvas. This caricature is a humorous piece, made as a reaction to artists’ and writers’ predators and “home-boys” — CRITICS, both professional, and those self-made experts who always seem to “know best” regarding what good art and literature are, and how they should be made (known signature styles by famous dead artists and writers, repeated and copied — over and over again). “My ‘style’? I react vehemently to being conveniently labelled as ‘this, or that’; just as I rebel against the so-called ‘rules of painting’, or ‘rules of writing’ … or ‘political correctness’ etc. Actually, it is the audacity of these concepts that annoys me. The need for others to classify me, my art, my writing … or anything, is surely an indication of their own egotism, insecurities, limitations and weaknesses. The closest relevant generic style classifications might be perhaps ‘abstract’, ‘colour field’, ‘geometric’, ‘abstract expressionist’, ‘minimalist’ etc. But I always find my own ‘mix’ … with limitless variations. My art and writing are meant to be different and new; and pleasing, challenging and annoying — at the same time. But in the end it is all about The Mask.” — Adam Donaldson Powell

 

«Eternal Sleep — Mors Vincit Omnia», oil on canvas, 80 x 60 cm., 2021.

  “Eternal Sleep — Mors Vincit Omnia”, 80 x 60 cm., oil on canvas, 2021.

One of the largest challenges for an artist is possibly that of deciding / daring to envision and portray oneself as dead. While Death itself is a fascinating theme for many artists, the psychological and superstitious reasons for not painting oneself as deceased keeps many artists in lockdown as regards trespassing and overcoming this mental and emotional hurdle. On ne peut pas vivre sa vie en ayant peur de la mort. Mais soyez assuré que la mort l’emporte sur tout, y compris la peur. You cannot live your life being afraid of death. But rest assured that death wins out over everything, including fear.  

“Choosing a COVID-19 Vaccine — The Three Prisoner Problem”, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm., 2021.

Choosing a COVID-19 Vaccine — the Three Prisoners Problem”, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm., 2021.

From 1957 to 1980, Martin Gardner had a monthly column in Scientific American magazine where presented mathematical games. One of these games was the Three Prisoners Problem. Here is the problem explained in Wikipedia:

“Three prisoners, A, B, and C, are in separate cells and sentenced to death. The governor has selected one of them at random to be pardoned. The warden knows which one is pardoned, but is not allowed to tell. Prisoner A begs the warden to let him know the identity of one of the two who are going to be executed.

“If B is to be pardoned, give me C’s name. If C is to be pardoned, give me B’s name. And if I’m to be pardoned, secretly flip a coin to decide whether to name B or C.

“The warden tells A that B is to be executed. Prisoner A is pleased because he believes that his probability of surviving has gone up from 1/3 to 1/2, as it is now between him and C. Prisoner A secretly tells C the news, who reasons that A’s chance of being pardoned is unchanged at 1/3, but he is pleased because his own chance has gone up to 2/3. Which prisoner is correct?”

In this 24th self-portrait I create a new problem and dilemma: given the known and unknown information regarding COVID-19 vaccines today, which vaccine do we choose in order to better survive the pandemic?

Here the images resemble cut-outs that are cocooned within a violent and haphazard mass of white noise. The questions are many, and the possible consequences are yet unknown. Should I take a vaccine, or not? And if so, which vaccine is the right one (and the safest) for me? The whiteness promises hope and security, but the internalized drama is almost overwhelming. The seemingly unfinished background of the painting is by no means uniform. The sharp edges from the palette knife reveal both urgency and random underlying patches of darkness, both of which threaten to challenge the assurance of science. The message is clear: “Time is short. Humanity is at a crossroad. Choose your fate, and live or die with the consequences.” 

 

“Flying”, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm., 2021.


COMMENTARY: 

This raw, figurative painting is a significant update (if not a re-interpretation) of the original surrealistic exercise in “Flying Pope” by Ban’ya Natsuishi. The painting pictures myself in a self-portrait, looking up toward a skeptical and pouting Pope Francis who is flying high overhead — in the heavy fog-ladened and snowy Winter sky — while gazing nervously down at The Plague/COVID-19 Reaper, who is partially-concealed in shadows … lurking, and ready. The painting exhibits social distancing, as all three protagonists are deep within their own thoughts and concerns, but well aware of one another. One can wonder why the Pope has no one in his hot air balloon. But his job is perhaps not to save lives or souls, but rather to communicate the Love and Blessings of God Almighty to us … regardless of our individual fates. The ice-crystallized and sometimes violent brushstrokes of the white Expressionistic background voice a hurried sense of panic and trauma, but yet with a sense of being trapped in a padded cell, or in a vacuum — with a sense of helplessness not unlike that of experiencing a train wreck in slow motion. The effect is a disassociation between the figures, and from the Viewer to the protagonists. The figures capture the eye, but the only one who looks back at the Viewer is The Plague Reaper, whose blackened eye sockets are a real danger for the careless, and for the overly curious. The blank expanses in between the figures make the painting feel at once both unfinished and yet complete; it is an unfinished symphony — that can never be final. While the heavy abstract fog may perhaps impair our visibility immediately, we do not need to use our eyes to know that The Last Word is but an oxymoron; or thought expressed all too quickly. And that the apprehensive silence of the white expanse tells us much more Truth than the protagonists ever will. One thing is certain, the freezing cold ice crystals thickening the air and the three protagonists huddling within their own individual consciousness give little immediate sense of hope or solace.

 

Painting: Oil on Canvas. « Shadow » – 影, 65 x 90 cm., oil on canvas, is a black-grey-white over-sized portrait-study aiming at depicting deep thinking. The semi-realistic style aims for simplicity and shadow play, with a minimum of detail and light. The focal point of the exaggerated eye serves as a portal into the Inner Self. The darkness provides a sense of intimacy, privacy, secrecy and protection. There is solace in the shadow.

 

“La enfermedad necesita soledad …
y demasiada soledad genera enfermedad.”

— Adam Donaldson Powell
 

 

Painting: “Don’t Ask!”, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm., 2020.

 

Painting: Oil on Canvas. “X, Y and Z Generations … in Troubled Times”, is a series of three self-portraits, challenging the ways I see myself vs. the ways I wish others to see/experience me. Today’s challenges are many, and the successive generations barely have time for needed self-reflection in the face of the daily, fast-changing technological, climate and other challenges. In this painting I invite the viewer to face himself/herself in this world where faces and Art are often just another image. I personally experience this painting as scary and uncomfortable. What I mean by saying that the painting is “scary” is that it confirms the dilemma that I face in today’s crazy World — an “unfinished symphony” that is essentially never to be totally understood. There were never to be any figures totally painted because the pictures represent people/humanity/me in development and unraveling. The pic of me all dressed up in a fur coat is the “show guy” presenting himself to The World … (x-generation). The y-generation me with the green face is the creative and thinking me — absorbed in my own thoughts and ideas, but battling against those imposed upon me by living in The World. And the z-generation is me blocking out and hiding from The World, the mental bombardments of images, coined phrases, propaganda, advertisements, and the glaring and oppressive heatwaves and sunlight etc. That image is in the largest state of disintegration, the skin coloring depicting a body that is almost lifeless and the head partially covered by a veil of mourning. Of course, all of the images are (as is the Internet, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, mainstream media and alternative media) manipulations — leaving out ears (i.e. really hearing and listening) and other details in order “to guide” the viewer into focusing upon the sunglasses, clothing and accessories (headlines) instead of seeing the person (content) inside … and we are consequently in a continuous struggle for self-marketing and esteem vs. incompletion and dissatisfaction with systems of ethics and values that both constrain and embrace us. The painting is “The Scream” that was never really expressed outwardly. And the minimalistic pastel-colored background is the general environment of denial — “everything is normal” — that acts as a sedative, more than inspiration. NB. See Urban Dictionary for definitions of Generations X, Y and Z.

   

Painting: “The Scream” / “Isbad”, 60 x 80 cm., oil on canvas, 2020.

 

“Coffin Portrait / Lockdown — Summer fun”, oil on canvas, 55 x 46 cm., 2020, the second title is perhaps self-explanatory. But it doubles as a Coffin Portrait (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffin_portrait). This painting is a continuation of my self-portrait series, in which I explore different ways of seeing and presenting myself — with various styles and painting techniques.

 

“Masquerade: COVID-19”, oil on canvas, 46 x 55 cm., 2020, is self-explanatory at first glance. However, here I have left certain features slightly unfinished: the naked eyes, the disintegrating painted frame etc.; this to suggest vulnerability and a sense of incompletion. COVID-19 presents the unanswerable questions of how effective we really are at masking fear of the unknown, and which “me” peers out from behind the superficial protective covering. This painting is a continuation of my self-portrait series, in which I explore different ways of seeing and presenting myself — with various styles and painting techniques.

 

A Portrait of the Artist as a Psycho, oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm., 2021.


“A Portrait of the Artist as a Psycho”, oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm., 2021 is a new self-portrait — no. 22 in the series.

This self-portrait explores many questions, including the suggestion that a degree of psychosis can be a defining element in creative genius, as well as containing hints of visual processing abnormalities, visual stimulation, perceptual aberrations and hallucinations, color preferences and phobias, and moreover the difficulties in identifying a «psycho»; who most often looks “normal”, and whom many interact with — some even on a daily basis. With the preponderance of mental illness, a worldwide change of Consciousness, and increasing tolerance for being “different” than the norm, being «a little psycho» is becoming the «new normal». More and more persons are owning up to their extrasensory perceptions (ESP), clairvoyance, encounters with extraterrestrials, speaking in tongues, hearing voices from Spirit Guides, automatic writing, painting and composing. Some artists (such as myself) get ideas and “coaching” from guides (both known, and not). It is not always easy to sign some of my own paintings because sometimes they (works of Art) literally paint themselves due to the energies that join in the process. It is perhaps understandable that some psychotic persons refer to themselves as “We”, rather than in the first person (I). 

What colors are persons with varying degrees of psychosis attracted to, and repelled by? Can one identify a psychotic artist through his/her visual art? If we feel drawn to art created by artists with a degree of psychosis does that mean that we (the Viewer) also have such leanings? 

Here I use my own image (a self-portrait) because I see myself as a mirror and a filter — through which I process my environment and my interactions with it. Every painting that I create is a part of my own image, and my own mirror/filter. As a co-creator of my World and all its realities and psychoses, I am condemned to own those creations.

Thus, it is not mere support of persons with degrees of mental illness that prompts me to say: “Je suis psychopathe”. 

 

Roll of the dice: The dilemma of losing our sense of touch, 60 x 50 cm., oil on canvas, 2020. COVID-19 can affect our senses, notably the sense of taste and the sense of smell. But avoiding the virus also entails restrictions upon another important sense: that of touch. Scientific study indicates that affectionate touches can affect the nervous system’s rest and digest mode, thus reducing the release of stress hormones while bolstering the immune system, and stimulating brainwaves that are linked with relaxation. This self-portrait (my sixteenth) is a commentary on the dilemma of avoiding touch, an activity which we sorely need in order to boost our life quality, our sense of well-being and our ability to maintain a strong immune system. We take chances with a mental roll of the dice: “Does this person have COVID-19, or not? I need to give and receive handshakes and hugs. But do I dare do so … or not?!!”

 

”COVID-19 — fini les bises à la pelle !”, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 cm., 2020, is a self-portrait of myself hesitating to kiss my own death skull, and is surrounded by a ring of blue roses. The blue roses symbolize the unattainable; here, an unfulfilled love-moment that is even too complicated to be described in words because our natural habit of performing the delicious bises à la pelle is abruptly stopped by the cold mental forewarning that “some doors should never be opened”. There is nothing to say, save perhaps “Oh, I almost forgot.” This is, indeed, a challenging conceptual and technical study and essay. The image of a person kissing a death skull is an age-old meme (if not a cliché). Here the twist is to play on the concept of The Picture of Dorian Gray, whereby the death skull is the mirrored image of my true Self — i.e. that part of me that always remains constant, regardless of the « accoutrements » of fashion, disposition, or aging. In the Age of COVID-19 a simple kiss on the cheek can become the shovel that digs our own grave… Indeed we must all face our own Death, with eyes open or shut. And yet Death finds meaning only against the background of Life, though measured in mere years or breaths. Just as Light has no significance without shadow or Darkness, we cannot live Life fully being afraid of Death. “On ne peut pas vivre en ayant peur de mourir … “

 

“La mort rappelle une vie passée”, 60 x 80 cm., huile sur toile, 2020. Voici un nouvel autoportrait, qui est surprenant, puissant et bizarre. Il présente la mort — symbolisée par un crâne. Ètonnamment, le crâne ouvre sa fermeture éclair pour révéler sa dernière incarnation … c’est “moi”, bien sûr.

 

«Secundo fluctus» (Second Wave), 60 x 50 cm., oil on canvas, 2020. The theme of this self-portrait is the impossible dream that is never finally achieved — no matter how much success we or others may think we have achieved, the dissatisfaction is always there. That has been the plight of most artists throughout human history; and it is no less today — for artists, and for non-artists. The tremendous Saturn-influence enveloping us at this time insists upon the renewal of our dreams, our motives, our ways of seeing, acting, living … imposing a heavy reality check upon us all. It is not all negative from an overall perspective, but it takes a higher degree of ingenuity, creativity, and persistence in order to create the much-needed and long-overdue New Consciousness. This dark expressionist self-portrait entitled “Second Wave”, provides a subjective inside-looking-out acknowledgment of the present experience. The intention is to document the thick muddy gelé of fear + careful hopefulness that we are all enduring in this Winter of darkness. The observant viewer will note that the face is itself a mask, as is the masking Darkness.

 

Toxique / Toxic
“Toxique / Toxic”, 40×40 cm., oil on canvas, is an abstract painting which uses colourfield and geometric styles to induce feelings of the “disgusting” which is beautiful. Here “the disgusting” is created by color combinations and the dizziness of the geometric images seemingly twirling about in atmospheric bile. The painting gives a sense of elegance in its overall balance and technical precision, while at the same time requiring quiet acceptance of discomfort.

 

“The many faces of depression”, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm.

 

A Wrist-cutter's Glow, oil on canvas, 50x50 cm., Adam Donaldson Powell.
A Wrist-cutter’s Glow, oil on canvas, 50×50 cm., Adam Donaldson Powell.

 

Winds of Hell, 65 x 90 cm., oil on canvas.

«Winds of Hell», 65 x 90 cm., oil on canvas. “Les vents de l’Enfer”, 65 x 90 cm., Huile sur toile; basé sur les six faces par lesquelles nous percevons la mort — La mort en tant qu’ennemi, La mort en tant qu’étranger, La mort en tant qu’ami, La mort en tant que mère, La mort en tant que voleur et La mort en tant qu’amant. 💀💀💀💀💀💀 Writing about Death is not foreign to me, but I have only approached the theme once before in my paintings. Thus, I have made a new painting about Death (which for we who survive others becomes a personal Hell for a time). And regardless of how we see Death, the Hell of loss is still there gnawing away at us … underneath the masks we put on to shield ourselves and others in our grief. 💀💀💀💀💀💀

 

Here is my first painting about Death:

Soul evacuation, oil on canvas, 100x150x8 cm.

Soul evacuation, oil on canvas, 100x150x8 cm.

 

THE HOPE (The Vaccine).


This is the final painting in my COVID-19 painting series chronicle. While all «endings» of pandemics are qualified — due to the ever-present possibility of re-occurrence or new viruses/new mutations, the survival and future of Humanity is dependent upon science, technology, perserverance … and, of course, abstractions such as Hope. Hope is a universal conceptual archetype — not necessarily directly connected to any known entity or individual … and it is therefore represented here as a visual abstraction in the intellectual and sense-oriented «feel good» category — expansive, yet ordered; spiritual, yet not confined to religion; and inspirational, yet mysterious. 

Hope, oil on canvas/mixed media, 50×50 cm.

 

 
PsychedelicAdam

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