Ying's Chinese Drive-Thru

Ying's Chinese Drive-Thru, Oil on Canvas, 52" x 40" (132 x 101cm) private collection

This is a painting from 2003.

Not long after I painted it, I loaned it to architect friends to hang in their stunning, modern, "green" home in South Park. It was the first thing you saw when you walked through the front door into the soaring main room. It stylistically matched its surroundings and sometimes showed up in articles when their house was photographed for magazines. They loved it.

My friends went separate ways, the house they designed and built was sold, and the painting came home with me at last.

Sometimes seeing older works can be a shock on the order of "oh, yes...that." 

In this case, what I saw in those first moments standing in front of my painting again was an idea realized after years of sniffing after something, nose to the ground, with the commitment that necessarily comes of working on a big scale. 

I knew its DNA. Yet it felt like another version of me had painted it, one that said, Well, Hensley, if you're going to fail, fail big. 

I recognized the splashy execution of that time, a kind of controlled recklessness that was a hard-won prize of the previous five years - so different from the precision of my recent Squarescape collages, the descendants of this piece. 

This painting had things to tell me about my progression in the studio, about those small city collages I had been making and how I arrived at them.

I wanted to live with it for a while.

I moved studios and homes, and a couple of months ago, an art consultant came by to pick up some pieces for a show. I had pulled out Ying's Chinese Drive-Thru as an example of larger work, and on her way out she remarked on it and said she'd like to show it. And so it had its first airing in a gallery, six years after being painted.

When it came home after the brief show, it happened to be standing there in my studio again when a student of mine came round for a lesson.

The picture now hangs in her home.

I think a painting has two lives. The first is its conception, birth and growth in the studio, entirely privately with its maker, an intimate collaboration between idea and execution.

Its second life begins when it is seen by eyes other than the artist's. 

The painting itself doesn't change. But I think it changes in meaning over the years, depending on who's looking at it, how they evolve and what they bring to it.

I'm happy when one of my pieces finds a welcoming home where it can interact with the life around it. It perpetuates the idea of the work and adds to its life, at least as much as it adds to the lives of its owners.