(900mm x 200mm – enamels on particle board)

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The Wood – please click on image to enlarge

I painted this when I was 16. I am 63 now. This was one of a series of paintings I did from about age 16 to 17, at a time of great duress. With hindsight, I feel I might have been clinically depressed at the time. I had left school after 1968 and entered the work force. At the outset, I did not fair well. I was such a nervous youth, bungling and uncoordinated. I should have stayed at school where I used to do well (finally I returned to school and University age 45, but that is another story). As a result of my nervous incompetence, I was a magnet for bullying. I was bullied at work (The Commonwealth Bank of Australia). I was the postal clerk, and always felt that I was a square peg in a round hole. Even without the bullying.

So at home I did my paintings late into the night, to alleviate my inner pain. I would be up until maybe 2am many nights.  Painting, and sucking in a nightly dose of paint fumes and turpentine. It was even worse in the winter when I had to have the window closed.

Then I would have to get up for work at the bank next day.  In a total state of fatigue. So it was a vicious circle. My incompetence was magnified even more by insomnia and lack of sleep. It was a case of daily verbal abuse from the manager, and others who picked up his vile vibes. He made me feel worthless. His name was Mr Withers. I used to wish he would just wither away and die. And leave me alone. Thank god for my obsession with art. My escape. My comfort.

The original of this painting was thrown out after the 2013 Bundaberg flood, as it copped the water. Glad I still had the will to hose it off, and take this rough photo, before it went onto the massive pile of flood rubbish and my muddied furniture in the street.  Looking at the painting again now, I think I can see why I painted it. Well, no need for anyone to be a Freud to work it out. It was a scene of where I wanted to be. My escape. An enchanted wood, and probably a flashback to my childhood England, my birth place. An enchanted, sombre woodland – But with glimmers of hopeful light coming through the canopy. My glints of comfort, when all around seemed dark and foreboding.

Footnote: The term “Workplace Bullying” is only new. I didn’t even realise I was being bullied at the time. The concept did not exist then (in Australia at least). I just thought it was the norm, for a job; for work. I had done well at school. But I had no idea of how ‘work’ in a job situation should be. I thought that the constant inner pain was how it was supposed to be. A part of the job. It started me on a very bad footing, for decades to come.


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