[Slowhand] I was selling paintings to the Who and Clapton
An English Boy
peter_dennis_blandford_townshend at hotmail.com
Mon Feb 13 12:42:33 EST 2006
Artist who inspired classic album uses his work to heal 17-year rift with
his old friend
Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday February 12, 2006
It measures eight foot by four and to the untrained eye looks like a chaotic
multi-coloured swirl, yet this painting represents a peace offering to
arguably the world's grumpiest singer-songwriters: Van Morrison.
The artist, Cecil McCartney, whose work in the late Sixties inspired
Morrison's seminal album Astral Weeks hopes his abstract painting will help
end a 17-year dispute with the Irish singer.
Morrison fell out with McCartney in 1989 following a row over whether Myra
Hindley, the Moors murderer, could be forgiven for her sins. During a heated
debate inside the Crawfordsburn Inn in Co Down, McCartney cast doubt on the
sincerity of her conversion. This prompted Morrison, a committed born-again
Christian who believes in the 'cleansing power of the blood', to throw his
keys at his friend and storm out. The two men have not spoken since.
Now nearly two decades later, McCartney thinks they should make up. 'My
message to Van is that he should let bygones be bygones,' McCartney said as
he touched up the painting he first started in the late Sixties. 'All I was
trying to do during that discussion was make it clear that asking for
forgiveness doesn't erase a terrible crime. Sometimes pleading forgiveness
is a cop out.
'Van liked this painting when I first started it so if he makes up with me
he can have it ... look on it as an olive branch.'
Surrounded in his garden on the Co Down Coast by his paintings, McCartney is
reaching out to Morrison as he plans a retrospective of 40 years of work.
Throughout his career McCartney has sold paintings to a host of stars
including Eric Clapton, Roger Daltrey, Robin Williams and Bono. However, he
is offering his large abstract titled Astral Nano Seconds to Morrison for
free. 'In the Sixties and early Seventies I was selling paintings to the Who
and Clapton but Van never bought one. But this is for nothing if we can be
The painter is so concerned about being targeted by art thieves that he
requests that his address and hometown is not mentioned. Now in his late
sixties, McCartney feels that, despite security concerns, it is time to open
up his four-decade old collection.
'I am aiming for a retrospective at the Ulster Museum in a few years time
after it's refurbished. In the meantime if there are any galleries in London
or Dublin that want to show this work, some of which has never been on
display, I would be happy with that.'
The artist, who lived in Hollywood (California not Co Down) and became a
friend to Steve McQueen and the Who's drummer Keith Moon, tried to privately
reconcile with Morrison once before.
'It was during President Clinton's visit to Belfast a year after the
ceasefire. I came to the concert in December 1995 dressed as 'Uncle Sam' for
a song. Van was at the concert that night too but when someone backstage
asked him if he would speak to me he simply said no.'
Despite the row, McCartney's home is full of evidence that Morrison remains
a central character in his life. CDs of Morrison's albums can be found on
the living room floor, there are photographs of the two men in more
harmonious times and when he picks up his guitar and plays, it is a song
dedicated to his former friend.
'The fall-out broke my heart because I was like his big brother. When we met
I was 24 and he was only 18. I can remember we used to chase girls in my
'All I can say to him is "here's to another 20 albums in the future". It's
about time we talked things through although it's entirely up to him to make
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