Saturday, 26 September 2009

Ray Lowry Untitled (Under The Volcano)

Associated principally with punk through his weekly cartoons for the New Musical Express and artwork for the Clash, Ray Lowry (1944- 2008) was drawn increasingly to his literary namesake and fellow North Westerner. Like the alluring and tragic figures of his heroes, rock'n'rollers Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, Ray found a kindred spirit in Malcolm Lowry. And just before he died, he created a series of colourful, expressive paintings on paper inspired by Under the Volcano.

Freer than anything else Ray completed, these final paintings are almost abstract. Though little is known about them, episodes from the book are discernible: the Mexican Indian dying by the roadside, the Consul's alcoholic bliss, his encounter with fascists accusing him of being a spy ('spider'), and the final indignity as a dead dog is thrown after his corpse into the ravine.

The single large painting entitled Under the Volcano, is more enigmatic, suggesting a baked landscape and parched vegetation. But despite the painting's title, it is not Mexico that is its subject, but Iraq, and the time is the present, as toy soldiers play out a war in a part of the world that, as Mesopotamia, was considered the 'cradle of civilization' - a reminder of one of the book's underlying themes, that of man's folly, with the world heading towards war.
Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat Liverpool: Under The Volcano; An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957

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