Me, Vlad and Brenda is a triptych by Alan Dedman, in acrylic paint on canvas.
“I used monochrome images, based on photo reference, to create three ‘spin portraits‘ as a way of looking at myself, in relation to two of the most famous and powerful people in the World”.

When Tracy Emin spoke about her ‘last ever painting’, she said she used to go to her studio thinking she had to ‘make something beautiful / nice etc’. When I go to my studio, I don’t always expect to make something nice or beautiful or make anything at all. Making Art is a process of self-discovery. I do it to break new ground, as a sort of intellectual adventure. This requires regular effort and practice, like playing a musical instrument or developing skills for sport. I continue with Art is because it’s entertaining, a good way to defeat nihilism.

Spin painting contraption

Michael, co-proprietor of Studio 1.1 in London, once remarked my enquiry into Damien Hirst’s spin painting fad was waning. However, I will be the judge of that. It took some time to aquaint myself with automated ‘action painting’, which has a limited range of expression.

In response to Olwyn Bowey’s advice that I should:- ‘only ever paint and draw what I like and am interested in’, I’ve refined the cocktail of Heath-Robinson style engineering, colour, figuration, motion and human interest into a triptych of spin portraits.

Me (Alan Dedman)

Titled Me, Vlad and Brenda, I made three, square, monochrome paintings of Myself, Princess Elizabeth and Vladimir Putin when each of us were teenagers, based on photo reference.

By choosing images of ourselves at an early point in life, I focus on nascent potential in each face; contrasted with the here and now. Putin already appears insolent, intractable and is similar to Macaulay Culkin from ‘Home Alone’. Brenda, dressed as a Sea Ranger in 1944 (18 yrs of age), beams at the camera with a smug look, that says ‘I’ve got squillions in my bank account !! Off with their heads !!

Brenda (HM Queen Elizabeth II)

The photo of myself, taken in the 1970s, reveals things going on at the time. I’d just asserted myself against the biggest bully in the school. Still uninterested in maths; beginning to lark about and have some fun. I see a face more connected with my mother’s side of the family. By juxtaposing an unknown schoolboy alongside powerful heads of state in the making, I am enquiring as to the nature of my own character against the set of history.

Me, on the turntable

I never know exactly what to expect when I do this sort of painting. If I did, there would be no point. Experiment is key to the process and resonates with what David Hockney says about artists, they are often good at cookery because of a willingness to play around with materials and outcomes.

Spin Spin Putin

I mask out areas of a spin painting, so I can peel back paint to get at the image, obliterated by the process. In this instance I used liquid latex to do the masking. I placed pools of bright acrylic colour on each portrait and used gentle, low speed centrifugal force to disperse the paint in an uncontrolled way. It takes a lot of organisation to reach this point.

Brenda under the latex

I sat with Me, Vlad and Brenda and waited to see if I wanted to further play with the paint. I decided not, because the result was sufficiently unnerving, creative and visually exciting. The three portraits are almost comical, in the pillory, with colours chucked at them.

Vlad (Vladimir Putin)

Colour in Me, Vlad and Brenda works because of the achromatic background. Once the paint had dried, some areas were slightly transparent, allowing faces beneath to emerge. This wasn’t planned, more of a happy accident. My incisors, rodent like, have changed into canine fangs. Spin Lizzie gleams seductively, from under her Sea Rangers hat, through an artful splash of Magenta. Vlad is assaulted by the colours of the Ukrainian flag, no visual pun intended. The Union Jack dances unintentionally across each canvas. Patches of black and white create an unruly chequer board effect, unifying the three pieces.

Me, Vlad and Brenda

Me, Vlad and Brenda is a strong assertion of energy and creativity in contemporary British painting. I’ve used it to reflect on who I have been and what I’m becoming. Though these ‘portraits’ are hard to discern, they are a bit of playful fun. Developed through an academic approach to Art based on Classical procedure, they have social purpose, positing one strength against another, asking us to consider the unknown with the extraordinary.

‘Me, Vlad and Brenda’ is a triptych consisting of three 30″ square paintings in acrylic paint on canvas. It is for sale, you can find the price and order form on the sales page here.

Spin painting contraption developed by Alan Dedman, Shez and Clivey.
Electrical engineering by Clivey.