St Genet
Chris Wilson

A reworking of St Genet (2008), one of Chris Wilson’s signature paintings. In this version the tattoos of the figure have been removed in postproduction and then reapplied via silkscreen in a slightly raised and glossy Midnight Blue.

St Genet, 2013
Edition of 100
Digital pigment print on Somerset Satin Enhanced 255gsm with Midnight Blue silkscreen overprint & glaze.
Printed by K2 Screen, London.
29.7 × 42 cm (16.5 × 11.7 in)
Signed, numbered and dated by the artist


‘Bring me the head of Jean Genet!’. Bellowed Jean Paul the former resistance fighter. ‘Bring that faggot thief convict poet extraordinaire to my table. And I shall show you the living embodiment of my philosophy. I shall show you true essence born from a brutal experience. I shall show you the rose that blooms in the penitentiary yard. I shall show you a man breed on his knees in the public pissoirs of Barcelona. Cut and shone by loving rapes in the cages of our orphanages. Exfoliated and exuded by abandonment and degradation. A pearl shat out from the asshole of society. Yes yes bring him now alle alle. And I shall show you. A man!’ Jean Genet sat across the table from Jean Paul and lit a fat yellow Boyard then he rubbed his hand across the top of his short white convict hair, leaned forward and said ‘Pay me, yea? Pay me in unmarked bills in a brown paper bag, no cheques no bank accounts no promissory notes nothing but fucking dirty old money yea?’. ‘Of course’ said Jean Paul. ‘Good’ said Mr Genet. ‘Now what the fuck do you want?’

… as soon as I stood back and looked at what I had just been up to I think I must have smiled because I had finally nailed one. It is definitely me, or the me that I was at the moment I painted it, or the me that I thought I had been back in the United Penitentiary States of America, kind of mixed up with the gods in Olympus and Michelangelo’s David and Caravaggio’s lethal little angels from the streets of Naples. He is a noble creature, he is an Icon, he is able to say a genuine ‘fuck you’ and suffer the consequences, he is also a clown and, I suppose, to be pitied somehow. Or then again, maybe not, which brings me to his title, St Genet, patron saint and mother superior of runaways, prostitutes, thieves and petty pimps, St Genet, a petty tragedy who, for some at least, is somehow elevated through his ability to create a symbolic cosmology using the palette of shit, cum and broken fingers that is at his disposal. Or perhaps he is just another theoretical ruse drummed up by disgruntled intellectual academists, who conduct their fantasy revolutions from bar stools in the members only arts clubs, buying rounds at the tax payers expense as they conjure up new distortions of the human experience to justify their dwindling positions, but that’s another story… In the mean time, hip hip hooray. Long live the revolution! And oh yes, everything’s for sale.

Chris Wilson