War, Motors and Art – getting close to danger

Me and a Warrior, Basra, Iraq, 2006
Me and a Warrior, Basra, Iraq, 2006

When I gave up my work as a international relations person who worked in conflict zones to become a full time artist, many people were baffled.  They knew I liked life on the edge, and had a passion for danger, and a yearning to make peace from the most difficult situations.  Art appeared a passive, low-risk option, that would surely not challenge me enough. The former me has lost my hearing in a Baghdad car bomb, had a gun pointed at me in Kabul (British soldier), and sipped coca-cola with Tamil Tigers in rebel held Sri Lanka – how was art ever going to be enough?

It wasn’t at first.

A deface portrait of Gadaffi appropriated by Caroline Jaine
Defaced portrait of Gaddafi

In my first year as a full time artist I decided to visit Karachi in Pakistan to make a film about it.  I asked journalist friends in Libya to brig back a remnant of Gaddafi.  I made art about conspiracy and made some dangerous allegations.  I understand now I was lancing the cyst – getting creative expression out of my world of perceived dangerous moments.  But I was never really allowing the art to come from me.  I got close to it, back in 2010, I considered making sculptures of cars, but my mum had only just lost her life in a car accident, it was too raw.

A few years on and at last I am beginning to work creatively on things that are a personal passion of mine, rather than a former profession.  Since I was a five year old taken to a stock car meeting I have loved the roar of an engine and the excitement of wheel to wheel racing.  Perhaps it was in fact this adrenaline rush in my youth, and the visits to Santa Pod drag track in my teenage years, that lead me to want to witness danger in war zones as an adult.  Perhaps I am just an adrenaline junky who likes big noises and near death craziness to make me feel alive.  But I think it is more than that.

"Snatch" painted in 2015
“Snatch” painted in 2015

Just as I worked for peace in war zones, I like to witness miraculous escapes in motor sports. I don’t watch motorsports to witness death, I watch it to observe extreme survival.  And although I shed a tear for Jules Bianchi and the story of the Dunlop brothers, I still understand the more serious threats to global stability.

It is inevitable then, that my art has to be about power, danger and survival.  In recent months I have painted Transit vans, classic motorbikes, Aston Martins and rally cars (amongst others), but is it edgy enough for me? Now that I have a 9-5 painting job for another artist, my art is no longer driven by the need to earn money from my work.  I enter a new chapter of painting pictures about more challenging motoring themes, I ask you to stay with me on the journey. It will be fast and furious, I promise.

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