Risen Arthur John Dooley (17 January 1929 – 7 January 1994) Worker and sculptor
He coughed his way downstairs, tousled thinning hair, his heavy overcoat took the place of a dressing gown over his pyjamas. His wake up fag hung from his lip as he turned on the gas. His fumbling hands expertly struck a match, the hisss of rushing gas blew into a flame. The dancing orange and blue brought immediate warmth and light.
The kitchen in Slater St was cold and wet, the houses here were old and creaky. Once young and beautiful their time had come and gone, it would come again in a new age of investment and equity, but for now it aged, with dignity and damp.
Mantuna tea spooned into the pot, flames were his life and work, and he coaxed the lively orange spurts into life in the grate, scrunched newspapers and broken fruit crates provided the start, with virgin coals among the wood and paper, the urgency of the flames would draw out the energy from the coal turning its edges red before tiny shoots of green flame released the power at its core.
He could leave that now, to get on with itself, the kettle was boiling, he used no whistle, it was too startling in the morning, his low level of wakefulness was enough for now. The day would get on with itself too and his awareness would grow. Now, he needed to make the tea and set the fire, once these two tasks were completed he would have a ciggie and sit in his chair. Then he would let the day come to him. In they would march, the tasks and responsibilities, the things he knew he needed to be done, and the things to be done that needed him.
It was work, took application and skill, he was working with weight and heat, in the workshop his hands and brain mainly worked well together, sometimes his hands knew before his brain where it wanted to go, and at other times his hands struggled to find the shape his brain saw easily. The struggle was part of the job, it wasn’t just in artistry or ideas, the thing itself had to be destroyed and resurrected. The metal came in torn and bent, rusty and used, it’s only future beyond the life he could give it was crushed and melted to begin again. But Arthur coaxed one more use from it, instead of anonymity it would achieve fame and glory, it would be admired and respected, from useless waste, to a higher form.
Arthur brought out what was already there, he didn’t create the material, like the Christ he resurrected what was there, breathed new life, it took a bit of moulding and polishing, but he didn’t change the nature of the metal. Instead he showed the heights that could be achieved, made us wonder, what imagination and care could do with such raw material. What had been neglected and left to rot, was given life and meaning.
The resurrection contained both life and death, it was the victory over death, and yet death stalked it, could be seen within it, was still a part of it. They were tied together one could not exist without the other, but life was victorious, we could see it in the arms outstretched, in the eyes straining to see, the body reaching forward to leave death behind. It wasn’t a smooth and easy movement, we can also see that, we can see the scars left by the battle, the joins where repairs were necessary, the parts that had to be polished. This was labour, Arthur worked hard to create this. His sweat, his energy, part of his life was given up that this might be formed.
But here it is, The Christ Resurrected- You know it is the people? Right? Not white or black for Arthur the material was the same. When Arthur created this figure, it was human. Human in the living, breathing sense. This figure was a victory for humanity, against the illnesses of childhood, against polio and rickets. Victory against the teachers who told us we were stupid, who caned and beat us. Victory against the bosses who demanded we arrive at 6am, or work through the night, while our families were in their beds, and made us breathe in their shite, and take their factory smell home. Victory against the people who sent us to war, who took other people’s land and called it their own. The resurrection was all of this and more, it wasn’t just a rejection of all of that, it was the potential of what could be. A welder from the Dingle, Liverpool, who left school at 14, worked as a janitor, and factory hand, who’s dad was a docker, a park keeper who hated chasing the kids out. A sculptor who showed us the dignity in what was once abused and wasted. A worker who showed us what workers can be, are, when they are not abused and wasted.
Arthur drank his tea, and rose to start the day.
Leave a Reply