In October last year I decided to paint a portrait of Richard Demarco. It’s been a hugely enjoyable challenge to create this portrait, not simply because I’ve known Richard Demarco since 1999 and found his work an inspiration, but also because I took time to consider what I wanted to portray.
A straightforward portrait or reasonable likeness could have been completed in a few days, but the challenge for me was how to encapsulate the wealth of ideas, experiences and artistic references; everything from the concept of the Road to Meikle Seggie and the artists Richard has collaborated with over the decades, most notably Beuys, Abramovic, Kantor and Neagu, but more importantly a belief that the role of the artist is to witness and communicate truth, that art might open dialogue and therefore has potential to heal the trauma of war.
The backdrop of the portrait is a wood panel painted with blackboard paint, the portrait itself is painted free-hand with gesso, on Richard’s left is a rough copy of Beuy’s drawing of a stag, its antlers reach up to the pencil drawing of three telegraph poles representing the road to Meikle Seggie.
While making this portrait, I was considering Richard Demarco’s role in creating artistic dialogue between war-torn countries, and the fact that both he and Beuys sought a creative approach that crossed boundaries and promoted healing in post-war Europe. I hope this portrait expresses renewal of faith and love in dark times and the unfailing determination Richard brings to his work.
The responses of Richard Demarco and Terry Newman (Deputy Director of the Demarco Trust) today were very rewarding. Richard very kindly remarked it was the best portrait of himself he’d seen! I tend to think the portrait by artist David Mach is the most impressive, but I think Richard was responding to the ideas I attempted to express with this portrait. It’s now a permanent part of the Demarco Archives, viewable at Summerhall in Edinburgh.