My First Big Circumcision Painting by Alan Dedman

Creating purpose and meaning in painting can be problematic. My first big circumcision painting has all sorts of possible meanings – process is more important to me than product, so I will relate how this painting came about before suggesting it’s potential meaning.

my first big circumcision painting colour pic by alan dedman
My first big circumcision painting

My current studio is large by comparison to it’s predecessors. Whenever I start in a new gaff, I always do some still-life painting. I made some small works – tight Realism, not healthy. I decided to do something more ambitious and celebratory, setting up an 8 x 4ft canvas. Then spent several weeks thinking about it.

David Cockney by Alan Dedman pic thereof
David Cockney by Alan Dedman

David Cockney was born in front of this canvas – within the sound of Bow bells! I started work on the big knob-chop painting without knowing what I was doing. A concept often cited by Ian Cavens, a young man from Edinburgh who did print-making at the RCA following studies at Winchester School of Art. Meditating in front of the canvas, I arranged my paints in a semi-circle, donned a blind-fold and started work. I wanted to know what it is like without visual feedback. The result? a bit crazy, a bit messy.

Early stages of a painting by alan dedman
Early stages

After casting my blind-fold aside the painting gained momentum. For inspiration I used three tiny studies and a collection of black and white paintings done at Fentiman Road in 1983. When I showed these to our teenage son he said ‘They look like they were done by a psychopath’. Which pleased me, even more so when he said he thought they were made recently.

paintings done at Fentiman road in 1983 by alan dedman
‘by a psychopath’

I did these paintings, sometimes, after spending a day drawing at the Royal Academy Schools. Ten hours of scratching a sheet of cartridge paper in response to a naked maiden and her contumely – resulted in a build-up of psychosomatic tension (best relieved by copious amounts of alcohol or rampant sexual activity or both) OR by going beserk with a loaded paint-brush in a leaky flat in South London.

This violent gestural rant (which is what ‘My first big circumcision painting’ really is) – expresses not a scream, but the well nuanced snarls of a beast with distemper. I was circumcised  whilst I was a toddler. My mother neglected me, I had an ‘accident’ and was isolated in hospital for three weeks. They say ‘being cut’ has all sorts of knock-on psychological consequences including suppressed anger. Male circumcision (MGM) is as much a political issue as FGM, though in today’s lop-sided, increasingly misandrist World – this is refuted by the ‘Woke’ wankers (see ‘First cut is the deepest’ in Peter Lloyd’s book ‘Stand by Your Manhood’) I have scores to settle and painting is one way of doing this.

Pic of a blank canvas by alan dedman
I had to think about it first …..

Angry brush work is almost as prosaic as trashing your opponent in a martial arts competition or a street fight – and less risky. I like using the human penis as a symbol of male defiance. Look around you – cocks are everywhere. Silently proclaiming their right to be in this World. The artists who draw them? don’t seek fame or fortune. Graffiti is graffiti – that’s all it is. In this work I deliberately painted some willys, just for the hell of it. The one at the top left had a spray of blood red paint going on, making me realise the anger felt about circumcision is what this painting is about – amongst other things. It’s also a liberation, freeing myself from the stupid conformities of Realism, figuration and the need for pleasantry. I like the colour, it is balanced and joyous.  

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1 Comment


    Oh Dedman I love this… Cockney is incredibly funny. Amazing piece of performance art in my eyes. X

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