Tuesday 30 August 2011

On John Lennon

John Lennon is one of my heroes. He died in the year I was born, which in some ways was lucky because you should never meet your heroes. It was not lucky for him. But like another one of my heroes, Ayrton Senna, you just can't imagine him getting old, deteriorating.

Some people can acquire heroic status by simply dying young. John Lennon does not occupy such a position, although he was sickeningly young when he was taken away. John Lennon is my hero because of what he did and, moreover, the way he did it.

Paul McCartney - Sir Paul McCartney - is a quite brilliant man, a creative force like few other people in the history of the human race. In the centuries to come people will look back at our generations, aghast at the shoddy treatment and lack of respect he has often received. But he's too perfect to be a hero. John Lennon was the sound of a man tearing himself apart.

I am, in my own very small way, also a creative person. Everything I hear, see and learn of John Lennon rings true with the way I experience the creative process. A simmering, sometimes boiling, dismissive hatred of your own work, coupled with a contrasting need to get it out of you regardless and generous praise of stuff you see around you. I particularly admire the way Lennon was able to turn these fits of self-destruction into something so compelling.

Indeed, many people are not Beatles fans, thinking they're so clean cut and neat. That's not what I hear with Lennon. I hear desperation, sneering, mockery - both of the self and of others - love and hate, wit and wisdom, ignorance and fear.

I sometimes wonder if maybe some people who know me the best might see some of the turbulence which characterises my own person lurking behind the nice, cutesy fa├žade my artwork presents. Maybe it's not there at all. It's difficult to know. The things you create develop something of a life of their own and will be what they are, you can't force them to be angsty or angry or bilious.

John Lennon did what he did and it's credit to the size of his gift that it can still be so elusive after over 30 years of being picked apart. The fact that I have little doubt that many people who read this will disagree with me only adds extra layers to his appeal. I think he is one of the most significant artists who has ever lived.

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