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The Peeler

The Return of the Peeler

acrylic on board with orange peel
30.3 x 23 cm each panel

Notes on this work

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The Peeler II
acrylic on board with orange peel
30.3 x 23 cm

The Peeler I
acrylic on board with orange peel
30 x 25 cm each

The Peeler
clementine peel on plaster
15 x 13 x 20 cm

The Peeler (The castration diary of Clementine Seville a.k.a. The Peckham Peeler. 1991-1992.)

The story of the Peeler began as an office joke. At the end of 1990 in the season of satsumas and tangerines and in the thick of publicity for The Silence of the Lambs, when serial killers actual and fictitious were much in the news, I found I had skinned a small orange in such a way that the peel lay in one piece and in the unmistakable shape of a phallus. Having flattened it overnight (like a Victorian maiden pressing flowers) I placed it in the morning on my secretary’s desk with a cryptic note

The Peeler is coming: so beware
He’s after girls with long red hair.

Although after a few variations along these lugubrious lines, the gag ran somewhat out of steam, the image lingered. The Peeler changed sex and was no longer the maniac with the ominous visiting card. A little scenario formed itself concerned a woman serial killer who leaves this (so to speak) organic sign with the (literally) dismembered body of each of her victims, to represent the part she had removed.

Rhymes came into my head of the sort a witty murderess might scrawl (in lipstick of course: I don’t go to the cinema for nothing) on a wall or mirror at the scene of the crime. The Peeler became a sort of perky Joan the Ripper.

I pinned up some of these two dimensional dildos on my greenish studio wall. The colours sang. I had some panels made up which I painted with different greens and tried out ways of combining paint, peel and rhyme, ending up with two different formats, one very plain and dumb, and the other (the version you see here) more manically circumstantial featuring times and dates and runic devices. I never decided which I preferred so eventually made a series of each.

As her adventures mounted up and her cockney chirpiness emerged she acquired a local habitation and a name. Her stalking ground was circumscribed by 20 sites and her name suddenly came to me in a greengrocer’s shop in that area; Clementine Seville, the Peckham Peeler. Perhaps she represents the antithesis in my small web of characters to the culturally memorious Madeleine Rosebud or is a Ms Hyde to the Miss Jekyll of the much –quested- for Irma, operatic heroine and the Beatrice of Bill Toge.

Apart from dark allusions in the work of Sickert and Toulouse Lautrec, the serial killer has more often been found in popular art. Painting has all too rarely got a toe in the door of black comedy. Analogous to Graham Greene’s ‘entertainments’, this (as well as being a self-evidently feminist work) dallies, I hope fruitfully, with its subject matter and genre.

Works & Texts 1992

Two variations of The Peeler appeared in Works and Texts (1992). The present format has prevailed and I have reworked many of the twelve smaller ones to complete (or continue, for Clementine Seville may strike again) the series. There have been some revisions and the dates are now more current, leading to some speculation as to what the Peckham Peeler was up to between 1992 and 1996.