John Bellany was a maverick, a complex and extraordinary character for whom Life and Art were inextricably bound. I cannot start to describe how moving I find his paintings and his life-story. As a writer, I can only offer my poetic reaction to the portrait of his father, before which I have spent many hours contemplating the intensity of this expression of deep humanity.
This poem takes the form of the Lord's Prayer, and weaves it into a eulogy, not only for the artist's father, but also for all fathers, indeed, all parents. And, for that matter, all humanity, since we are all recipients of Art's legacy. In the case of John Bellany, we are truly gifted.
meditating upon John Bellany’s portrait of his father at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art
My Father, who is now in Heaven,
how we hallowed your name.
Your kingdom was the seas, but you
drifted into dry dock. Earthed, your
cigarette incense lifted up like prayer.
Our Mother baked our daily bread
while you dredged manna
from the unforgiving oceans, fed
five thousand hungry mouths, then
trespassed upon those depths
no more. Weren’t you ever tempted
to return? Your uxorious duty led
You to ink a blue tattoo; anchor your
devotion in a permanent inscription,
while you sat, marooned – Regal, yet
stripped of your omnipotent rigging –
to glory in a love that isn’t puffed up:
reflecting what you were, and all that He
instructed us to do; who sits at your right
hand on high and fished for all humanity.