Edward Povey has traditionally founded his subject matter deeply in his life experience, virtually interrogating himself through reams of writing, all done to ensure that his paintings contained a much sought integrity. As a child he was regularly accused of lying by his father, and on occasion his father’s accusations were well founded, as the boy covertly hatched plans to avoid punishment or blame. It was probably this past that led him to become scrupulously honest as a painter, always dreading that a nugget of falsity might lurk somewhere in his art. Similarly he researched and learned techniques, and studied style and symbolism, concept and composition, scouring his ideas and methods for more congruent ways to provide a transparent lens of process, through which his viewers might receive his work.
"These paintings began from a seed which was my friendship with Mehrangis Mahboubian. Moments in the 1970s that were emotionally arousing, both sweet, bloated with cherishing and deeply sad at the same time. My first wife and I had acquired this Persian lodger: a short and beaming, pretty young woman whose brother was imprisoned in Iran. As a result she could never sleep, never sleep knowing that he was in a prison cell. I sat through long nights serenading her, and within months the news came that her brother had been shot by a firing squad.
In 1999 the lovely young woman died tragically herself, and like anyone will, I blamed myself for not doing more to save her. Those mixed feelings led to my painting Serenading The Lodger - which was all kindness and tenderness really, and provided me with a doorway to the feelings of that time beside her bed and singing through the endless nights.

Serenading the Lodger • Edward Povey • 1999
Oil on canvas • 20 X 18 inches / 50.8 X 45.72 cm

This painting never entirely let me go, and its doorway stood ajar until recently when I found myself going back to that bedroom in my mind, but now I feel I'm unfolding the humanity of the situation that had affected me so much in the 70s. In the National Gallery of Art in London I stumbled upon Raphael’s Ansidei Madonna (1505). He had used a way of painting flesh that provided a vulnerability, giving me a tumbling feeling in my chest when I see those hands and delicate features looking so exposed, as if they would easily bleed. Raphael forms the body exquisitely in greens somewhat like Vermeer, only to add a ‘blood glaze’ to bring the warmth and transparency of the nose, ears and fingers, and a ghost of internal blood around the joints of the body. Perfect, not to duplicate the appearance of my Persian Lodger, but to show her extreme tenderness.
I have done something else that seems at odds with Raphael’s Early Renaissance flesh: intentionally, I have tipped up the table top so that we see it via two vantage points quite impossibly, like Cezanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire paintings, which attempted to see around corners and suggest the reality of the form, rather than merely offering at a two-dimensional depiction of it. I slam the table and crockery up against the picture plane, and the man’s jacket does a similar thing by being one unaltering block of plain chocolate brown on the surface of the painting, establishing the color that we take for the darkest black in the world of the painting. In the same way the lute is often skewed, allowing us two angles from which to see it.
Do you see that these tricks are Modernist gambits, emphasizing the design of paintings? They make it flat and strongly arranged in blocks of clear tonal value, but then I deliberately set all this strength against the tender religious flesh painting, and fabric and paper from the Dutch Golden Age still lifes, as well as the realistic-looking (but entirely made-up) lute. I’m in love with this blatant paradox because I believe it speaks volumes.
Just like on those enchanting and beautiful nights with Mehrangis - because her company was always kind, always appreciative. But all that sweetness was haunted by the image of a brother in prison, and over time it would be driven deep into my heart by both their deaths, making a ripping contradiction. All the softly defenseless skin and creased fabric, in a Cubist mixed perspective design. Beautiful paintings I think, with a tension."
Edward Povey - 2018

Bibliography section article Bibliography Section Catalog Bibliography Section Web Link PDF icon small Sold Dot