Alex Flett; Findochty (Finechty), the late 1970ís
After leaving the Slade in 1974, I hung around in both London and in France, doing what the painter Roger Hilton described as ďjust living.Ē I returned to Findochty in 1976 and set up studio, first in the local primary school, where I was given a spare room, and later in a shed at the back of my parentís house. What struck me was that although Findochty has similarities to Port Seton, the home town of the artist John Bellany, I never saw, nor could I see Findochty in those paranoid terms which cut through Bellanyís work -the obsession with religion and fish. I never saw it like that as a child, and neither did I see it like that when I returned. In fact I realised that the Bellany vision had clouded and warped the idea I had about my own home town. His obsession with fish and religiosity just didnít figure in what became my own reinterpretation of my roots, possibly because my father had actually taught so many of the Scottish fisherman navigation. Without his education, they couldnít have found their way from the boat to the pub, far less across the North Sea to the fishing grounds. Having a father who was a Master Mariner and ailed throughout the world before he started teaching, gave me a sense that Findochty was a part of a broader and exciting world, and not narrow and pedantic as Bellany has painted so much of his Port Seton background. I even persuaded a local Fishing Skipper, John Campbell who was a former student of my fatherís to take me to sea for a week to find out a little about what such a life was like, but interesting though that trip was, it changed nothing. The Bellany concept, with its reliance on stereotyping, misses the point. However, despite this, I have defended Bellany in writings because it is better to have his work available, than not to have it.
Below left: Collage 1975. One of the few works made during the period 74-75. Below Right: Findochty No 2, oil on canvas 3ft x 5ft originaly painted in 1976, and reworked after slight damage in the 1980ís
Below: Findochty No1, oil on canvas 3ft x 5ft, 1976
Left: Landscape, oil pastel on paper. 1978.
For part of this period, I thought that I might become a teacher. However I soon found, despite spending time at the then Birmingham Polytechnic and Leicester Polytechnic that such a career was not for me. When I was at Winchester, there seemed to be an idea that I would turn into a Bellany clone, having a similar background to him. They got that wrong! And because I never wanted to ever be in the position of assuming I could read what a student, or anyone else displaying talent in art for that matter, was going to be or do. I did not wish to bend people to be what I expected them to be. Even now, at the age of 60 as I write this, I have no idea what I want to be as an artist, so why should I dump my ego onto others who are learning? Art for me is a continuous set of explorations, not a finality nailed to the floor. It was during this period that I began realising that I had to send myself back to school. Not back to art school, but back to the school of me. If I was going to get anywhere in my explorations, then I was going to have to do it for myself, and by myself. I was, like in a poem by Robert Frost, going to have to carve out a road less taken.