Sunday, 9 August 2009

These Boots

Another season, another flag... The opening of the new season began, as always at Kingsmeadow, with the traditional 'Parade of the Venerable Flags' held at sunrise as the watery orb crept over the Kingston Road End. Last years mascots each held a flag folded in the approved style that were then ceremonially 'offered' and 'declined' by three of the stands before finally being 'accepted' by the Chief Steward at the Tempest End. Each flag was then hung in its approved place according to seniority. A sprinkling of blessed Malt-based Chip Condiment from the Tea Hut, a few seconds of silent contemplation followed by three rousing cheers and the new season was officially under way.

Another tradition was also being scrupulously observed - the unveiling of the new flag for the first home game of the season. As usual, at the first hint of a Fleydon-related 'happening', Art & Artists Review were on the spot and eager to talk to the legend himself.

'These Boots' is a work in the traditional Fleydon style and is sure to delight those who find his more challenging works, such as 'Victory' or 'Whites of their Eyes' just a step to far. Fleydon himself though saw the work as less than comforting.

"It's disquieting, subversive and slightly sinister. Yes, at first glance it seems almost familiar, a bucolic image of a time long-passed. The clarity of colour and line are based on the Disney colouring techniques that we are all so familiar with and it seems to hark back to a time of childhood innocence and park games. The symbolic representation of daisies sprinkled amongst the grass for example - it's all so good natured and reassuring is it not?"

Fleydon's referencing of Disney cartoons carries more than just a visual similarity as further contemplation of the work brings on feelings of unease and disquiet, not unlike that bought on by the Wicked Queen in Snow White or the ominous presence of the hunters in Bambi. Then you realise that the focus of the image is not the ball or the players - what we can see of them - but their boots. And what boots they are. No hint of the Fancy-Dan efforts crafted for John Main and Danny Kedwell, it's not even clear that they are designed for football at all.

"Boots are a very strong image with many psychological associations- working boots, the stamp of the military boot, the dominatrix, the jackboot, Kipling's poem 'Boots', being 'too big for your boots' and most significantly 'hauling oneself up by the boot-straps'. What we have here are a group of modern players - witness the current strip - harking back to a mental toughness personified by the boots of their illustrious predecessors, the Old Centrals and the Crazy Gang. Boots symbolise power. The Roman Emperor Caligula, for example, was so named because as a small boy he was dressed in miniature military uniforms. Caligula is actually Latin for 'little boots'. What we need at Kingsmeadow are a team of mental Caligula's, ruthless, strong determined and focused - although disemboweling your sister and promoting your horse to positions of authority may be taking it a bit far for most of our current squad."

The Imperial Roman links are further reinforced with the depiction of Caeser's two-headed eagle. For the first time ever on a Fleydon work the badge and its white backround are missing. This Fleydon informs me, is a symbolic 'freeing' of the bird. "It's national can spread its wings and fly. The world is its oyster..."

The other noticible element is the quotation from Nancy Sinatra's 1966 (symbolic in itself?) hit These Boots Are Made For Walking. Walking, not football? So the choice of the lyric isn't intended as a physical threat then more a mental one? "Exactly. When it comes to the game we want to make sure the lads have their psychological studs on. To paraphrase Nancy Sinatra - the season's started so 'Come on Boots - Start Walking!"