Here comes the queer

1602cQueerPortraitI

1602c Queer Portrait (2016) oil on paper 28 x 17.2cm [without margin]

I’ve been sorting through paintings I made earlier this year. In January I bought my first oil paints and for six months painted only in black and white. During that phase I mostly experimented with mixing and brush work, but occasionally figurative content would erupt like a repressed libidinal force. For example, 1602c Queer Portrait (above).

I was planning to improvise on remembered visual tropes from golden era Hollywood actresses’ head shots.1 I finished up with this surreal agglomeration of objects and anatomy, combining male and female gender signifiers. Initially I cringed. I didn’t like the idea of viewers thinking that this image somehow revealed my desires, or my own identity, or that I thought this a worthy subject for a painting. I think my reaction was a throw-back to internalised transphobia and self-loathing from growing up gay and queer and confused. It’s the kind of self-censoring that Rory O’Neill described brilliantly here, in his drag persona Panti Bliss.

From my teens to my twenties I was fascinated with exaggeratedly glamorous representations of cis women, but felt uncomfortable and uninterested in drag acts, transvestitism, or anything involving a male gendered body combined with female signifiers. The only cross-dressing act I enjoyed was Barry Humphries’ Dame Edna, which I loved, perhaps because he was known to be heterosexual and I felt comfortable that the gender disruption was contained within the conventions of character comedy. When I was eighteen I saw David Hoyle performing as The Divine David, and that opened all sorts of doors to self-awareness, for which I am eternally grateful.

I also drew hundreds of images of glamorised females, which I now believe was an outlet for feelings related to transgenderism, although those feelings didn’t extend to a desire to cross-dress or modify my own body. Creating images of these women functioned as a way of vicariously being these women, although I wasn’t conscious of that motivation until later, so in a sense this relates to what I’ve written before about automatism, subconscious referencing and unintentional figurative content. I still believe that when I paint a certain type of female imagery, it’s an outlet for some kind of repressed transgenderism.

1603jQueerPortraitII

1603j Queer Portrait II (2016) oil on paper 28.6 x 21cm [without margin]

1603j Queer Portrait II was another painting which began as a picture of an imagined cis woman, but finished looking more like a man in drag, possibly due to the proportions of the face and the exaggerated wig-like hairstyle. Once again, my initial reaction was to dismiss and repress it, as a “failed” image of female glamour, as opposed to a positive image of a queer or transgendered figure.

1603dSelfPortraitFemale

1603d Self-Portrait, Female (2016) oil on paper 26.5 x 18cm

Finally, there is this painting, in which I consciously tried to broach the relationship between my painting and my gender identity. It is a first step towards shaking off my internalised transphobia and freely exploring this subject in and through my painting.

I’m also interested in the way that “expression” has been such a contentious concept in art theory over the last century or two. The etymology of the word express, to “push out”, seems relevant in relation to the way artistic “expression” has allowed me to “push out” otherwise repressed aspects of my own psychology, from childhood to the present day.

I need to do more research on this subject, and on gender generally. I’ll be coming back to this for sure.


  1. Later I found George Hurrell’s 1942 photo of Veronica Lake, but I wasn’t consciously thinking of that when I made my painting. I think the real subconscious reference for my painting was David Fincher’s 1991 music video for Madonna’s Vogue – a source I’m very familiar with. 
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13 thoughts on “Here comes the queer

  1. Sam, opening up suits you. I hope it is a cathartic process for you, for it is certainly a privilege to be included in.

    The internalised transphobia you haver described and addressed is the story of many of us. Your paintings aside, the telling of the evolution in your understanding has been a bit of a mirror here. Fuck, the little telltale indicators, shared I think broadly in the gay community.

    All sweetly and honestly addressed and then masterfully transcended in your self portrait, female. Sam Paine, I might just be stating or restating your obvious points, not adding to your conversation at all. But it has been of great use to me to work through your point. I am glad you intend to revisit this. As the honest gay man that you are and as the contemporary thoughtful artist that you are.

    Phil

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      • haha, how I got that I don’t know. U better tell me your real name. I’ve got in mind a very handsome artist by that name. Now Ill probably know two artists who fit that bill, hahaha. So an x rated photo too please.

        But I’m for real on your opening up. it won’t work if you don’t show a bit of honest vulnerability and that you are. And taking us through your exploration of oil painting has lots of parallels. I’m easily bored, and so would probs fade off reading you, if you weren’t challenging yourself. It does]t have to be dramatic or surprising stuff. Just evolutionary.

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      • Liam, of course I have the advantage on name – only. Thanks for your grace under my bumptious aussie pressure. i’ve actually messaged you back and forth a bit on TIM. Maybe it was there that I saw the daub daub moniker. I hope you don’t mind chatting to me. I’m fairly well acquainted with your professional progress and have always loved your honesty and freshness and fully entertaining approach to that life. I’m an old perverted positive poof from payback. Add in a breathtaking history of chemsex, and well, that’s a segue (probably not at all) into your art. For me, it is nice and surprising to get such deep satisfaction out of your laying it bare with your art here. And although I am an old cocksucker from way back, this is a legit comment.

        Calling you Sam Paine is a huge and parallel joke. He is a lovely gay painter from here, whom Ive not met either, but who puts himself out there to be examined. He is a spunk, and I have engaged with him a bit too. I know you are a spunk Liam, so I am giggling stupidly here, reading my earlier message to you. I know a few guys who have, over the years been taken up by you and your own T.I.M. Good friends, a couple of them, and it is nice for me to be able to verify, in a totally surprising sector of your life, the general impression of you as a man of value.

        Shit, that all sounds over hype. But it’s me. Now, I haven’t even read all the daub daubs – I jumped to the last one just this morning. So plenty of enjoyment coming with quite a few unopened. I’m having trouble finishing off here, because I[m loving talking to you. I’m jealous as fuck of you honesty, That’s it in the main. I’ve seen it in your community writing a bit, not that I keep up with that with any intent. And I was gobsmacked and touched when you reached out, having become poz so recently. I had the perhaps not surprising view that you would be a tired old tart, poz for ever and cool cool cool. So, your humanity, shared, was a big winner too. How interesting that daub daub is someone so wonderful.

        I’m an old cunt from Sydney. Late starter. Was married, kids, knew, repressed myself, hung in til late 40s, jumped over the edge, caught up in about 30 seconds flat, awed at the community, awed at the quality of pleasure demanded by the best gay practitioners, so glad I have got to understand difference, ostracism, stigma, common purpose, refined artistic response, raw honesty. Now I”m 60 and making as much mileage as I can from being a filthy daddy. And pursuing philosophic and artistic endeavour. That’s you! Delicious that you are a hot cunt whom I would also pursue if I could.

        But here’s a big hug and a sloppy tongue kiss, because, just because hehehehe

        Phil

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      • Wow, I’m not even going to try answering that in full, but thank you for a really wonderful message. I’ll repay it with plenty more painting and musing, and I hope you enjoy it. Good to have you commenting here Phil. 🙂

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      • Liam, it’s your “painting and musing” I’m here for. That is how you initially communicated so that I was compelled to write to you. Be sure I am doing my best to get on your wavelength here. Not sure i will always catch on, hence possible future questions.

        What is lovely is that you write with good humanist cultural language. Your’e probably a brainy cunt, but showing here is a good philosophical grounding in art and meaning – do I recall you went to St Martin’s? My wife, whom I still love and see, (in a totally brotherly way) studied at the Ruskin and I loved and love sharing her mind on her drawing and painting. I’m a lawyer of sorts, though my background is music. But my compulsive attachment to the striving and yearning and abstraction in visual art makes me the groupie I am here with you.

        I’ve just come back from Europe and OD’d on art everywhere. A highlight was the Christo event on Lake Iseo and the Architecture Bienniale in Venice. And so much in London I can’t even begin. Love the Tate Modern extension . The lowlights you don’t want to know on this forum but they measured up too. Gotta recommend Mister BnB. I nearly got sidetracked from my serious intent. Liam, I am fully aware that “cheeky” is a kind word for my effrontery here. You’ll let your works and observations put me in my place. Unsurprisingly, I’ll keep this up.

        Phil

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