In When I Was Borp, the narrator tells us that, on finding fools in his orchard, he drove them out. This may be truth or it may be fiction – he is not an entirely reliable narrator – but either way it is a clear reference to Expulsion Of The Fools From The Orchard, a mag, a maj, oh, a magnificent and majestic oil painting by the noted oil painter Dot Oilpain RA.
Those initials after her name are often thought to indicate, mistakenly, that Dot Oilpain is a member of the Royal Academy. In fact they stand for Rara Avis. The artist considers herself to be a rare bird, and likes to wear a cardboard beak and a suit of feathers when working.
Just as, in her case, the letters RA are misinterpreted, so too her magnificent and majestic oil painting. Expulsion Of The Fools From The Orchard depicts two fools being expelled from an orchard, one male and one female. They are both naked, and the female fool is holding a piece of fruit from which a chunk has been bitten. Understandably, the subject matter is thought to be Biblical. But this is not the case, as Dot Oilpain explained in an interview with Misinterpreted Oil Paintings Weekly magazine.
It is true that I have mined the Bible for inspiration in the past. There are, for instance, my oil paintings of the Gadarene swine, the hairy man and the smooth man, everyone drinking the waters of their own cistern, and the horse saying “ha ha” among the trumpets in the Book of Job. But Expulsion Of The Fools From The Orchard has absolutely nothing to do with Adam and Eve being driven out of the Garden of Eden.
The idea for the painting came from a conversation I had at a swish sophisticated cocktail party. I was not there by invitation – I stumbled into it under the misapprehension that it was a gathering of ornithologists, among whom I hoped to garner some tips for finessing my cardboard beak and suit of feathers, which I always wear when painting. By the time I realised that nobody in the room knew the first thing about birds, I had already drunk several cocktails and I felt a bit woozy. Worried that I might topple over, I leaned against a mantelpiece to steady myself. Also leaning against the mantelpiece, insouciantly, was a fellow who was clearly not an ornithologist but who nevertheless had the air of a jackdaw, or a budgerigar. We struck up a conversation, initially regarding mantelpieces, insouciance, cocktail parties, jackdaws, budgerigars, and the comparative merits of Kathy Kirby and Petula Clark.
Then this chap told me about his orchard, and how it had been overrun by fools fooling about in it. “Are you saying Petula Clark is a fool?” I shouted, in outrage, for if there is one thing I cannot bear it is to hear a word said against Petula Clark. My interlocutor hastened to assure me that we had moved on to a completely separate conversational topic and that he, too, held Petula Clark in the highest regard, higher, perhaps, than any other twentieth-century songstress, with the possible exception of Cathy Berberian.
I spluttered and spat some of my cocktail into the fireplace. “Pshaw!” I yelled, “Cathy Berberian couldn’t sing her way out of a paper bag, compared to the sainted and glorious Petula Clark!” In retrospect I am not sure this assertion stands up to scrutiny, but then nor do most assertions made at cocktail parties after a certain point.
After several minutes of back and forth, and further cocktails, it eventually dawned on me that the orchard full of fools was indeed a completely separate conversational topic and that my umbrage had been misplaced. This in turn led to a creative spark setting off fireworks in my head as I envisaged a magnificent and majestic oil painting entitled Misplaced Umbrage. I was ready to bid farewell to the non-ornithologist and to rush away to my chalet peinture, don my cardboard beak and suit of feathers, and set to work.
But he grabbed my arm and, with a wild look in his eyes, began gabbling about how he had driven the fools from his orchard, caring not a jot that they were naked and that one of them had just started snacking on a piece of fruit. So compelling was his tale that I could not help but listen, rapt, as rapt as I would listen to a Petula Clark platter spinning at 45rpm on my record player. And as I listened, the lineaments of a huge oil painting took form in my mind’s eye. Thus was born Expulsion Of The Fools From The Orchard. I began to paint it that very night. It took months to complete. I do not wish to boast, but I think it is the finest oil painting of fools being expelled from an orchard that I have ever painted, in oil paint, while wearing a cardboard beak and a suit of feathers, the better to inhabit my desired persona of a rara avis, Popsy.
[Popsy is the given name of the editrix of Misinterpreted Oil Paintings Weekly, who conducted the interview.]
Expulsion Of The Fools From The Orchard by Dot Oilpain RA is currently on show at the Staatsgalerie, Pointy Town, as part of the exhibition “Cack-Handed Daubs Of Oil Paint Slathered On Vast Sheets Of Corrugated Cardboard”. Entry is free, on production of a handful of birdseed.