My brush with Magritte.

I started this as 2022 got going. Chloe, my daughter, had given me the biography, Magritte: A Life by Alex Danchev.

I was already familiar with this genius and ever since an art school trip to see a retrospective at the Hayward in 1969. I was too much in love with the splashy painters (you know the sort of thing: Rauschenberg and general modern pop stuff) to be seduced by his style, but I couldn't ignore the paintings, the stillness, the confidence, the understatement.

This was absolutely right way to execute these surreal fantasies. I was too young to appreciate anything so subtle. But, of course, I realised a lot later that you can't achieve anything if you produce an idea that disguises itself with lots of arty marks. This was careful, undramatic painting, revealing these disturbing images as clearly and precisely as possible.

I wanted to do a tribute. The more I thought about the coincidences that began to reveal themselves (Beatle Paul, Apple, August 1967) then I felt I ought to give it a go. I didn't know at the time that Sotheby's were auctioning an Empire Of Light painting, to which mine makes reference.


August 1967. I’m a working as a waiter at a hotel and I haven’t heard the Sergeant Pepper track A Day In The Life, but coming from the radio of a Triumph TR3 comes this ecstatic tune, the bit that rises like a chaotic wave to reveal the “woke up, got out of bed…” interlude.
Unmistakably Beatle Paul and unmistakably the song I was waiting for.

A snapshot of memory that expanded the more time I gave it to develop: the car had a metal plate on the dash which said it raced at Le Mans in 1958.
The gate of Westfield Park with its legend, ‘Qui Si Sana’ (‘Here One Heals’) and the stag which sits on top of what we thought was a coffin.

Magritte died on the Fifteenth of August. His style is reflected in the mad but tight topiary behind the walls contrasting with the splashy technique outside.

Beatle Paul was a Magritte fan and I think was inspired to name Apple Records after one of his trademark symbols.

A few confetti hearts are rising from the car and are sticking like ivy to the walls of this old Victorian Spa.

He’s had one last Gauloise, and steps through the gate under a waxing gibbous moon.

Going home to his Empire of Light.

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