San Bozo (2021)
Here is my completed portrait of Boris Johnson, aka Bozo. Inspired by “Charles Borromeo intercedes during the plague; painted by Jacob Jordaens (1655). During the Covid 19 pandemic, Boris looks to the sky in hope (Jesus has abandoned him) and casts dice in the air. Butterflies emerge. He sits atop a nest of words connected to the Plague of San Carlo, Milan (1576), whilst making comparisons to the Covid-19 pandemic. The words are painted as scrawling from the back of public toilet doors. Throughout the pandemic, Boris’ policies have been widely criticised as if decisions were made at the throw of a dice.
The average Butterfly has a life span of less than two weeks. During the pandemic, we all celebrated the beauty of life, but at times it appeared that government policy accelerated the brevity of it.
Crux Pectoralis: Bozo wears his pectoral cross underneath his cappa magna (great cape). He keeps his true faith hidden from view. Only popes, archbishops, bishops and cardinals are allowed to wear theirs in plain sight anyway.
During Boris’ leadership campaign and subsequent election, he used rhetoric in which he appeared to crave his ‘Churchill’ moment, the opportunity to have books written about him. Brexit appeared to be that opportunity. He got the double whammy of Brexit and Covid and strode headfirst into both, fostering the ‘spirit of Dunkirk’ (whatever that means). For his self-acclaimed saint status, I have provided him with a halo. Will his actions be written about for decades to come? Well done, San Bozo, you got your book deal. I’m also a sucker for Renaissance allegorical metaphors.
In absolute contrast here’s a historical tale to warm your cockles:
Towards the end of the Renaissance Charles Borromeo (San Carlo) was created cardinal by his uncle Pope Pius IV and later, in 1564, became Archbishop of Milan. It was during this time that plague engulfed much of Lombardy, killing at least 30,000 people (sound familiar?) As many of the city leaders fled, Borromeo returned to the city on horseback and chose to remain and help. With his quick and selfless actions, he initiated the first recorded lockdown and, in doing so saved thousands of lives and the further spread. Famine spread through the city and Carlo used his own personal finances to feed the 70,000 hungry, plunging himself into debt. Borromeo introduced outdoor worship and visited the sick in their homes “He fears nothing,” said a Capuchin who knew him. “It is useless trying to frighten him.” Borromeo was credited with the strict reformation of Catholicism in Milan opened the first Sunday Schools, and is credited with the introduction of the confessional box to limit sexual deviance from priests upon their clergy. It also encouraged the Milanese to ‘grass’ on their neighbours’ unholy behaviours. He is largely accredited for the founding of seminaries for the education of priests. San Carlo has his own feast day on November 4th.
I wonder if history will remember our own San Bozo with such vigour.
Adam Hayley aka.AD13:. (b1984 Stockport UK) graduated from the University of Salford in 2008 with First Class Honours. He attended Edge Hill University to obtain his PGCE and is currently the Head of Art at Cheadle Hulme School, Stockport. In 2008 he won the Mooch Artist of the Year Prize judged by Peter Saville and Wayne Hemingway, subsequently being commissioned to paint Wayne’s portrait. After an interview on the XFM breakfast show in 2009, Adam was commissioned to paint the portrait of Mancunian legend Clint Boon (Inspiral Carpets), with Clint commenting, “this guy’s
work is genius!”. In 2022 he was shortlisted for the ‘People’s Choice Award’ at the Stockport Open competition with his painting of Boris Johnson on a pan entitled ‘The Great Panhandler Claps for Carers’. Visitors were encouraged to clap for carers whilst simultaneously hitting Boris in the face with a wooden spoon.
Adam’s work explores the context surrounding Britishness, stereotypes and how we identify with our British identity (or his perceived lack of it). Through humour, his current and predominant focus is upon politics and documenting ‘The State of It’. This body of work aims to document the key political moments of the 2020s as we navigate the subsequent carnage and tumult of post-pandemic Britain. The evolution of international politics, the threat to western democracy, and the loosening of state regulation against the roaring backdrop of social media and mainstream commentary.
In a highly polarised and populist governed world, his work aims to seek both sides of the story and find the common ground in the argument. Sometimes it simply aims to call out the bad stuff. Adam believes that the future hinges on finding balance and carefully negotiated compromise. Will our politicians let this happen?
The next decade promises to be a truly defining period in this century, and through this work, he hopes to document a small perspective of it. Failing that, it’ll gather dust in his attic.