A couple of years ago a girlfriend said to me over a Pint, “You know what I’d like you to write about next?”
“No.” I sipped my beer, wiped the froth from my lips.
“God,” she announced.
God is a painting by Julian Hooper that I recently fell in love with. I like art made from words, I like alphabet friezes, I dig art that talks back, even when it is just David Shrigley, pulling my chain again with another one of his hipster doodles. Shrigley makes stationery for art gallery pilgrims to annotate. But God is more important than that. It is a black and white painting like a large—inverse—scrabble tile for the capital letter G. The background is black, the G forms the profile of an unlikely face, the little o and the little d, are God’s eyes. God has a moustache, perhaps. God has a lot of panache. Hooper’s God is a little bit funny, and God knows we—I—need a laugh.
I’m into all of Julian Hooper’s typography of images. His paintings often appear designer and chic in their black and white outfits, his letters and numbers morph into faces, symbols, signs, and then morph back. The titles too! Absent-Minded Professor, Self-referencing Alphabet, Precocious Alphabet—I swoon. The alphabet is a wonderful elastic format and teaching tool and I do adore the way Hooper takes it to task, bending letters like iron. He pulls out new compositions like rabbits’ from a magician’s black hat. Confounding!
But God is my favourite. What does God look like? Hooper reminds me, I have no idea. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God.” I wanted to talk about this painting today on Kim Hill. (It is in the picture gallery.) I was really discussing art in churches, but Hooper’s God was the Joker card up my sleeve. I ran out of time and didn’t get to play it. Instead, Kim and I talked about it off air. God looks befuddled, Kim said and we laughed. She noticed the moustache, not me.
When I think about God, I think about my mother who believed in HIM. Will you pray for me, I’d ask Mum, when she was still alive, because I don’t believe in God, but it never hurts to get back up from one who does. Especially if it’s your Mum. After Mum died, I cleared out her last bedroom. Sorted through all her boxes, her clothes and bric-a-brac, a lovely little stone church that I sent packing to the op shop with a pair of ceramic ballet shoes that allegedly my Mum loved—why, she never did ballet?—and I found a tiny sliver of a book with a broken spine, called, My God by Mel Calman. My God is funny and sweet—Calman was a Jewish cartoonist, and the book is, “a look at the day-to-day difficulties of being God.” What a managerial role, right? On the cover, God is sitting on a cloud reading the bible. Inside the pages, God worries he has left a volcano on somewhere, and quibbles with the devil. “Being omnipotent isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” God muses.
Mum was my hotline to God and in that little book, I hear her voice, her humour. I see it when I look at Hooper’s painting God too. The face of mirth, divine. My mother, my god!