1990-1993 (some continuation in 1997 and 2004)
These works were painted when Bittleston was quite young and soon after he nearly died in Italy.
As the story goes, Bittleston was swept out to sea during a storm, and after exhaustive rescue efforts failed,
he was given up for dead.
Some time after the storm, he was found alive, washed up on the beach.
Bittleston explains being dragged out past rock barriers in the town of Forio, fighting for his life beyond the point of exhaustion against a tide that took him further and further out, tossed and pounded by surging breakers, sucked down into the dark by icy currents that would not allow him to get to the surface for long enough to air, never believing he was afraid of death until this experience struck him with the terrifying realization, to the worst imaginable state of despair and bargaining for his life, to realizing and accepting that he was too weak and too far out to sea to survive, trying to give up fighting for his life but unable, and losing consciousness in the water. Then a feeling of calm, and darkness, like he was waking from sleep, he came to consciousness a few meters up the beach, his body covered with urchin spines from the sea floor. Immediately after he became conscious he was found and taken to hospital, where he was treated before returning to England. He cannot explain how he survived.
this experience had a dramatic effect on Bittleston.
It formed the bases for his devoting his life to making art.
It also influenced his subject matter, which is evident in the "Numinous" paintings, that give substance to mythical, mystical and inexplicable forces with imagery from religious art he was exposed to while living in Italy.
Bittleston's first exhibition was of these paintings at the Richard Sumner Gallery in Palo Alto California,
followed shortly after by an exhibition at his friend Roy Borrone's cafe in Menlo Park.
Both were sold out shows, the future looked bright for young Bittleston.
Google map of where he drowned (on Isola d'Ischia in Forio) http://goo.gl/maps/O07pk
Richard Sumner Gallery (now a picture framing shop) rsgallerypa.com
Cafe Borrone (still exhibiting local artists) cafeborrone.com