everything written by Zola; some ofit’s a bit melodramatic, but I like the idea of seeing

the epic view of the real world the city as an industrial monster. I find his approach to his

subject matter almost physical —— all blood and guts. I really admire his unflinching

approach to reality.‘ Some ofthe themes are the same: the

Q destructive force ofthe city, for example, ' and the power of the crowd. But now Currie

has horned in on individuals in the crowd, and the exhibition includes a gallery of doom-laden head studies Head ofa Misanthrope, Head ofa Nihilist, Head ofa Stoic evocative of Goya’s darkly satirical Caprichos, but also influenced by Francis Bacon. Currie’s canvases no longer shout political points at the viewer; now everything is ambiguous, good guys might be bad, everyone is fallible. ‘The crowd as a many-headed monster has been one of the most important themes in my work over the last two years,” says Currie. ‘In the mural paintings the crowds were united, with a common aim, working together as a force for progress, whereas in the recent work this is a crowd of individuals, with their own problems and views of the world, and, rather than a sense of unity, there’s a sense of things fragmented. This whole century, I

think, has been about crowds.’

Like the crowds in Eastern Europe, Currie has toppled his ideals off their pedestals. ‘Most ofour life is so squalid and so inadequate that we need to have this kind of figure-head to look up to,’ he says, ‘but it’s the responsibility of any thinking person to ask questions, not just to absorb and accept knowledge. Once we have an atmosphere of scepticism and questioning, then the truth really will emerge and we may move


Koo Currie, photographed In Moscow, 1989

Tho Sceptics, from Fourth Triptych,1989-1991

forward, we won’t have any illusions any more, we won’t delude ourselves any more.’ IfCurrie is a man of incredible passion and enthusiasm, on paper his world-view seems unremittingly bleak (he credits his tutor, Alexander Moffat, at the Glasgow School of Art with guiding him away from ‘the most mindless kind of nihilism’), but if you think of him as a version of Dickens at his grimmest, and imagine his paintings illustratingA Tale of Two Cities, then his intentions become clearer. Currie does not want to lead his audience into an ' emotionally bleak cul-de-sac. He hopes to l engage the viewer, describe the scene. but ; leave the conclusions up to the individual. ‘I don’t want to turn into one ofthese cranky l characters who hate everything. a misanthrope. Despite everything that‘s happened to socialism over the last few years, I still believe that it is a valid thing to argue for human equality and social justice, there are still ideals which are worth ' pursuing. But the politics are no longer at the forefront for me. I know now where to draw the line between politics and art.

Ken Currie 's new works are at Talbot Rice l Gallery, Edinburgh, Sa123 Nov—2] Dec. ‘J

The List 22 November— 5 December 19919