Friday, March 30, 2012


So a friend died, he was a young man in his thirties. He died in a single roomed hovel he and his mother called home. He died of tuberculosis. Getting the medicine was too complicated although it was supposed to be free. 

His old mother used to smoke, this was unusual in the muslim women of Xinjiang. Too poor to afford cigarettes she'd smoke roll-ups. Roll-ups were a part of an elaborate ritual I remember my brother conducting back in the 80's when we were students. Ironic that this elderly woman had no notion of such rituals but used to use a pair of tweezers to hold the very end in order to smoke the last dregs, the butt end would disappear into her toothless mouth. 

The last time I saw her was at her son's funeral, he was placed in a cold hard Xinjiang grave though the grief of his mother was warm and tender. In the words of an old Hebrew lament:

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Is there any sorrow like my sorrow?

She died a few months later.  

This one is for sale:

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Feeling a little philosophical this week......

Life is a wounding experience, I think this is universally the case. We protect our children from possible sources of injury both physical and emotional but are impotent to prevent the inevitable hurts that life inflicts. 

There are different responses we have to all this, the most human is usually to seek out someone or something to blame (assuming there isn't already an obvious perpetrator). Justice is often the cry of our hearts at such times.

The most striking people I have met in my life are those who are somehow free and deep enough to absorb the pain and yet continue loving. Whilst seeing the need for justice, whilst feeling pain, they also seem to be unbound by the negative cycle of hurt upon hurt.

This one is for sale if you're interested:
watercolour on 300 gm paper

Friday, March 16, 2012


Sleep sleep old Sun, thou canst not have repast 
As yet, the wound thou took’st on friday last; 
Sleep then, and rest; The world may bearer thy stay, 
A better Sun rose before thee to day, 
Who, not content to’englighten all that dwell 
On the earths face, as thou, enlightned hell, 
And made the darker fires languish in that vale, 
As, at thy presence here, our fires grow pale. 
Whose body having walk’d on earth, and now 
Hasting to Heaven, would, that he might allow 
Himself unto all stations, and fill all, 
For these three days become a mineral; 
He was all gold when he lay down, but rose 
All tincture, and doth not alone dispose 
Leaden and iron wills to good, but is 
Of power to make even sinful flesh like his. 
Had one of those, whose credulous piety 
Thought, that a Soul one might discern and see 
Go from a body,’at this sepulcher been, 
And, issuing from the sheet, this body seen, 
He would have justly thought this body a soul, 
If not of any man, yet of the whole. 
Desunt cætera 

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Angry Mountains

Mountains are moody one could almost say fickle. In the high Pamirs a year's seasons could pass in an afternoon. This scene was of a small Tajik village perched 14,000ft up beneath a mountain which rose a futher 8-9,000ft. The place was cold at night, the air was thin and the villagers rosey faced as all mountain dwellers seem to be, something to do with oxygen and altitude.

I miss these scenes, rainy Istanbul (yes it's still raining here) is a challenge, still mustn't complain.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Anarchy in Beyoğlu

This one has been a while in the coming. The forces of nature and feral youth eat away at an old Ottoman water fountain in the city of Istanbul. The ornate Arabic script in the marble is a wonderful contrast to the gleeful graffitti of some left-leaning iconoclast.

We often talk of economic development here, usually in reference to the break-neck speed of Turkey's recent economic growth. In my experience of living in 'developing' countries, the 'West' remains the model of economic development despite it all looking a little dishevelled at the moment what with deficits, bankruptcy and defaults all round. 

However, one can sense a smug sympathy toward Europe emanating from those here for whom economic collapse was a terrifying reality here just over a decade ago. One can also sense a feeling that after many years of being refused entrance to the EU maybe Turkey neither needs or wants membership, many talk of a neo-Ottomanism that looks to the Middle East now. 

All the same, neither the ornate decorative Arabic style, or brash offensive Punk icons will be the future of this culture. We'll wait and see.

At the moment I'm adopting a very realist approach to my subjects, not sure how long this will last...

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