122 x 69cm
122 x 69cm
The Dysfunctions I
48" x 27", acrylic, 2001
The Dysfunctions II
48" x 27", acrylic, 2001
Childhood memories. They can be sad or they can be sweet. They can be feared or they can inspire. This painting is based on a childhood memory that I decided to embellish "just a tad". You might be wondering what godforsaken event this painting is based on, but before you get into a tizzy, do not forget that painting is an art form in which one can climb out of reality ever so often.

When I was a kid, we had next door neighbors, a man and wife, who would fight all the time. Since the houses on the street were built side by side, touching each other, you could tell if your neighbors were fighting. On certain nights, the voices would reach a level that was impossible to ignore. That was the signal for my brother and I to get a couple of drinking glasses. We would carefully place the glasses on the wall and listen to the argument next door. I had these irrational thoughts that one day, they would find out that we were listening in on them. I guess it was the guilt kicking in.

There was a certain routine with this couple. At the end of most arguments, the woman would yell, "NO!", followed by a loud crash. I could just picture the chain of events in my mind. She starts nagging him for being drunk; a long argument unfolds; at the end of the argument, he picks up some breakable object; she pleads with him to put it down; he winds up; she yells, "NO!"; he ends up throwing the object, smashing it into pieces. It was always the same scenario. The fighting, the scream, the crash. The fighting, the scream, the crash. The fighting, the scream, the crash. I think you get the picture. When we heard a scream, we knew that a crash would follow. They would never deviate from this routine. It must have cost them a fortune in dishes. The eavesdropping did not last too long after that. I guess my brother and I got tired of it. It was like listening to the same soap opera over and over again. We realized that we had better things to do with our time. I was saddened to hear that she later died of cancer. But again life is full of sad stories.

Of course the painting puts an absurd twist to it. Here, a woman is getting revenge for whatever mental and/or physical abuse he has inflicted on her. She puts a sword through his head taking with him an innocent rat between the floors and that nosy neighbor downstairs. Do not feel sorry for these people in the painting. He probably deserved it anyway and the guy downstairs should have minded his own damn business. The only one I feel sorry for is the rat. It did not deserve this. It was not hurting or judging anyone, it was just being a rat. Poor rat.

I deliberately asked Nadine to be cold faced when posing. I did not want to go too "Rockwellian" with this. I wanted to convey a sense of indifference and callousness on her part, as if she had been rendered like this through years of abuse.
Steeve and Nadine have always wanted to be in one of my paintings. Of course I had this painting stirring inside me for years, but it is another thing to ask a couple of friends to take part in such a violent painting. I thought they would be turned off, especially Steeve, playing this ungrateful part, but instead they were rather excited. I have never seen two people have so much fun posing for such a dark painting. I was wondering how far I should go with the blood. I did not want to go over the top and turn it into a distraction so I painted a rather conservative squirt coming out of his head. It has a surreal Sam Peckinpah feel to it.
The rat was not in the original plans. I came up with this later. When and why, I do not know. Maybe the fact that we did have rats travelling through the walls when I was a kid had something to do with it. I did not want to paint a typical rat: despicable and ugly. Instead I gave it a hamster like appearance making it more adorable and hence more sympathetic.
Here I am, your's truly. I asked my brother to play the nosy neighbor at first but he suggested I play the role myself. Why not. When do you ever get a chance to have a sword pierce your head and not suffer the consequences. People kept asking me what I was painting while I was doing this one. Because I like to keep a painting secret before unveiling it publicly, I would tell them to imagine this: Quentin Tarantino meets Norman Rockwell. It sounds just right. For the record, I finished these paintings years before the "Kill Bill" films came out. How weird is that?