The exhibition highlight next year will almost certainly be the Dulwich Picture Gallery's show dedicated to Jusepe de Ribera. For decades I have been drawn to the works of Ribera, Caravaggio and Valentin de Boulogne and elements of Ribera's directness made me question my own approach to making work.
When it comes to raw power Ribera is on a par with Caravaggio. It's easy to recoil from much of Ribera's imagery but amongst the violence there are real touches of humanity. Empathy is often present in Ribera's portrayals of suffering. While some of his executioners display psychopathic zeal, others show signs of possible remorse in the midst of their grisly task.
Then there is the authority and brilliance of his painting to marvel at. Derived from deep observation (the creases in the compressed ageing flesh of Saint Bartholomew's left thigh) and variance of touch. The structure that sits behind the painting of Ribera's 'The Lamentation over the Dead Christ' in the National Gallery is outstanding both in its understanding of form and how it introduces weight to Christ's lifeless body.
At a time when we are constantly reminded of the violence and atrocities of our own time these works couldn't be more poignant.
Through the kindness of dealer Clovis Whitfield I once carried a large unframed Ribera into the light where we could view it properly and have not forgotten the charge I got from handling the painting and being able to inspect its surface so closely. Shortly after, I caught the train back to Cornwall, and the residue of that charge lasted the journey.