I have recently painted two portraits onto the faces of timepieces, both are passport style rectangular depictions below 12 o’clock.
One is of Charles Hovarth-Allan who went missing in 1989, he is painted onto an 80s electric clock whose minute hand perpetually quivers in the same position. The other is a miniature of Nick Kelly who died in 2011, his ashes were mixed with the paint and used to portray his likeness on a Soviet mechanical watch which needs to be wound daily.
The first is for a charity called Missing People the second is for a designer called Rachel Freire who is Nick’s niece. In the process of making both of those pieces I was prompted to think about loss and time from two very different angles.
I have an understanding of loss which centres mainly on the death of my twin brother. When he died I was told repeatedly that time heals. It’s an inaccurate cliche but makes about as much sense as a sound bite can.
Charles Hovarth-Allen went missing in Kelowna, Canada in 1989. While painting his likeness onto the face of a broken clock I thought about the difference between someone close to you dying and someone close to you going missing. I’m assuming that time doesn’t heal in the case of the latter, the passing of time erodes hope. Since Charles’ disappearance his mother Denise has returned to the same location to replay the specific time that he was known to be alive. It’s hard for time to heal if it’s been suspended.
It is for this reason I chose to paint Charles on a broken clock, particularly as a clock is something that is hung on a wall and therefore attached to a particular location.
In the case of Nick Kelly, Rachel had given me his ashes to mix into the paint. Ashes serve as physical proof of his death and of his existence. And she keeps his memory alive in the daily ritual of winding the watch and keeping the movement ticking as she carries a little bit of him around with her.