'Ambiguity' is a word that critics often use when attempting to fathom the works of Fleydon. For those not as clever as critics like me this is often seen as a startling statement. 'How can this be so? Fleydon's flags are clarion calls of clarity, as obvious and loud as a street barker selling his wares. How can this be ambiguous?' At first glance this may appear the case, but consider this - the lowly street barker may indeed have a clear voice but what of the ambiguity, the double-entendre, the allusion and, especially in the visual field, the illusion? Exhortation to simpering girls to 'Come and see my cocoanuts!' and winking asides to middle-aged women to check out his 'prime slab of beef' are hardly literal requests!
So it is with Fleydon. When faced with the blank command to Make Every Shot Count, a wise man will pause, take stock, step back a pace or two ... and consider their response.
Fine words butter no parsnips, my saintly Nan once advised me, adding as an afterthought that I should also remember that the devil is in the detail and to always read the fine print. Wise sentiments that have stood me in good stead over the years.
On an objective viewing my suspicions were aroused almost immediately. Where is the crest, the team strip and other obvious visual Wimbledon insignia so prevalant in Fleydon's work? And then there's the man himself, elderly with a full set of whiskers, his eyes wide open and in his hands a weapon - quite possibly a Winchester Repeating Rifle, although the detailing is a little obscure. What are we to make of him? I confess I found myself more and more perplexed the closer I looked. What was it that Fleydon was telling me here?
Time, I felt, to go back to basics and to examine the obvious.
We seem to have a simple message here: Shots at goal are a good thing, but only when they are decent efforts. Blazing over the bar is a waste. Careful shooting is the order of the day then. So far so good and Fleydon chooses to illustrate this dictum with a picture of a cowboy, in the hope that wayward forwards can make the link. Simple and straightforward - no room for ambiguity here. And yet, and yet... something did not add up...
The figure has a grimy yellow neckerchief, it is true, and a sweat-stained blue shirt. But the eyes are wide with fear, the clammy hands locked on to his weapon with a rigidity of sheer terror, not with the usual relaxed insouciance of a Wimbledon player ordering his pint at the bar. He is old, bewhiskerd, befuddled - he's not even aiming his weapon and for all his hardware he looks, well, impotent? The signs were all wrong, I felt a sickness at the bottom of my stomach and my mind was literally spinning as we stood before the canvas. Surely that man couldn't be a Don? What on earth was going on in Fleydon's mind? What was he telling us?
And then it hit me. Just as Colonel Kurtz was struck by his revelation in the jungles of Vietnam, then I too saw everything with a clarity and precision. It was so neat, so obvious and so right. The clue was in the motto Bushwhacked by the Womble Army. Well it was already clear that the old man wasn't a Womble and describing him as an 'army' was laughable and besides bushwhacking is a young man's sport (or certainly was in my Prep School). It was then that the crystal sliver of comprehension pierced my brain. He wasn't the 'whacker, he was the 'whacked!
Everything fell into place - the bewhiskered old man was symbolic of a senior yet decrepit adversary fallen on hard times, as an archetypal 'cowboy' he represented shoddy performances and lack of quality, his yellow and blue were actually the colours of Torquay United, not the Dons, and the fear in his eyes was induced by the sight of lean, hungry and young Wimbledon players laying siege to his goal. He has mentally 'circled his waggons' and has the air of one who knows his time has come. Make Every Shot Count was the instruction to our players aiming to finish him off not advice to a man with flaccid and damp cartridges. Again it reminded me of Kurtz, the symbolic cow ripe for slaughter and scrifice.
Ambiguity? I'll give you ambiguity....this was masterful misdirection that really forces an intellectual gyration from the viewer. Quite brilliant!
Fleydon, however seemed un-moved by my analysis.
"Yes, well, maybe... there might be something in it I suppose. Artistically I was happy with my work but a fat lot of good it does if the opposition refuse to take the message on board. My obvious mistake was to depict the 1879 Winchester, not an earlier model. The 'Gun that Won the West' looks as though it did the job for the South-West as well. And as for my close
friend Roscoe with his cowboy name and his 'love of the club'? Ha! Less The Man with No-Name and more Bang, Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down. I always prefered Shane anyway."