I saw a show in London the other day “The Pitman Painters” the show was great; rather poignant. It looked at the questions, what is art all about? What is art for? Is there good art? And just what is bad art or proper art? And does art really matter at all? We saw the show in context of a day going round the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. When you look at pictures in a gallery the view of art you have is very personal to you. Your view of the art might be informed by your knowledge of the art history, or knowledge of the technical execution of the art, or simply whether you like it or not on a subject or aesthetic level, but your interaction with that art is also very personal to you.
I have questions of my own. How is art judged? How and why does art fail? And how does the artist separate themselves from their art, is a criticism of the art a criticism of the artist? And how personally should the artist take that? And indeed the other side of that coin, how seriously should an artist take any praise heaped on a piece of work?
I am certainly not qualified to answer any of these questions, but I would love to hear from anyone who has any opinions on the subject.
Not a ramble about the 16th-century Chancellor of England Sir Thomas More. As I was cleaning out the ashes from my wood burning stove this morning I got to thinking about the various emotions that stir with the different seasons of the year. There are pros and cons to each season and I do try to balance my likes and dislikes with all of them. We’re in the midst of winter as I type this, I hate the cold with a passion, I am never more miserable than when I have cold feet! Scraping ice off the car, sitting on cold leather seats, icy pavements and shovelling snow… yet on the other side of the coin, I love being wrapped up warm in my sheepskin pilot jacket, sitting by my wood burner with a mug of hot chocolate, looking at snow through the window and the fact that the snow makes my garden look as tidy as all the rest, for once! I love the bleakness of winter.
There are many more things I love about winter, a kind of glad to be home feeling, I love to get warm in a cold bedroom, comfort food, pies, mashed potato…
After winter, spring. There is something magical seeing the world coming to life after winter. I am a keen bonsai grower and there is always the doubt in the back of your mind as to whether your trees will survive the winter so seeing the buds is always great. I can’t think of any down sides to spring, there is a thank goodness the winter is over and the coming of longer days to look forward to.
Summer, well, on the whole I love summer, with the exception of not being so fond of it being generally too warm, but other than that summer is a good season. There is the added bonus of surrepticiously perving at ladies in thin summer dresses, which can only be surpassed by pool perving, though sadly I don’t get the chance for that often but it is well worth doing when you get the chance!
Autumn, maybe it is the artist in me, but, well, it is the colours that make autumn such a lovely season. There is also the feeling of the year coming to an end as autumn turns back to winter. On the face of it a year coming to an end sounds a bad thing but I find it rather refreshing for a number of reasons. There is the feeling of the harvest of art and writing gathered in for a year, the wheel turning full circle, there is a little regret for all the things not done, but there is the promise of the virginal blank page of the New Year….. and what artist can resist making the first mark on that new blank page?
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Samuel Johnson
London has a real mix of emotions for me; it has the very best and the very worst of experiences for me. On one hand it has a unique history, and sights and a culture unlike any other city. Christmas in London, like a lot of world capitals, is a magical place, a kaleidoscope of accents and faces, examples of the world’s population within yards of you. I have been to London a few times this year and have immersed myself in my capital’s culture, seeing exhibitions, museums and shows. Some of my highlights, the show “Warhorse” and the Degas exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art.
I love to see a show, live performance or otherwise, for the theatre there is something magical about it, the willing suspension of disbelief and the communal experiences. As the lights go down I always think of a quote from Laurence Olivier, “The theatre is a magical darkened room where people come together…. to cough.”
There is a down side to London, well, it’s not fair to single out London; it is my problem in any crowded space. I hate to be jostled and the London Underground seems to bring out the worst in my phobia. On the upside of that though, summer is worse, when you can add hot and sweaty to the mix!
On my recent expedition to the capital, some friends and I visited a Christmas market, really very atmospheric, flakes of snow in the air and the smell of mulled wine, really very nice….. despite the jostling! A big thing for me, in shops and public places, is why do people feel the need to be right in my shoes? Don’t get me started on Christmas shopping …… I feel sure a psychologist will write and tell me the error of my ways! But it is indeed most annoying.
Anyway, back to my London jaunts, a recent Christmas trip took us to Soho which is always good for seeing life in all it’s glorious shades! Aside from the colourful locals, two other highlights were a visit to the vodka bar and a glorious meal at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, fine food and great company made for a wonderful day out. That particular evening was crowned off with a trip to a port bar. Not the most sober evening I have ever spent, but a great time none-the-less!
Also this year, I had a trip to the Imperial War Museum, a place I have not visited since my teens. It was interesting to revisit the museum with adult eyes. There were a number of new exhibitions including a rather sobering holocaust exhibition. There was a very moving Victoria Cross exhibition, our highest military medal, many awarded posthumously. It was captivating and I was told that I had spent an hour and a half looking round this relatively small room. Each exhibit had a short biography and an account of the reasons why the recipient earned the award. It is difficult to single out any one, but I was delighted to see two from the action at “Rorke’s Drift” the commander of the action John Rouse Merriott Chard. Just over 150 British and colonial troops successfully defended the garrison against an intense assault by 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders along with a number of other decorations and honours. That is to take nothing away from the other exhibits as it was a great way to spend a morning.
So in conclusion considering the noise, the jostling and general mêlée that is a capital city, back to the thought “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” well…….. I’m not quite tired of it just yet!
Sorry, I have not written over the festive period, it is always a tricky one for me; it is that big deadline…. “We need this for Christmas!” So there tends to be a degree of pressure in the studio and suffice to say it was a normal Christmas in the studio!
2011 was an interesting year, full of contrasts, with good and not so good aspects. A couple of exhibitions were really not good and a couple of exhibitions were really great. I had a year of painting pictures of aircraft for an on-going exhibition in Coventry. I completed some erotic art work that I am rather proud of. I also brought my tally of book covers to 74. There will be a big cheer and a pop of bubbly when I hit the 100, which hopefully I will do later this year.
I don’t like to crow too much about forthcoming events. With that too there is a divergence of thought. For publicity you should shout from the roof tops, but there is a big part of me that worries that if I say anything I will put the mockers on it! A good example of this is an exhibition in London at the end of the month. I have had two pictures shortlisted. Now do I yell from the roof tops? But what if neither go into the final exhibition? I hear my marketing gurus shouting “Tell the world! Getting shortlisted is pretty good!” They may well be right. And yet…… I would feel a fool if I did and no pictures are selected.
I have the feeling this will be a good year for art…. Watch this space.