So I’m casting around last evening for entertainment and chance upon theYouTube video of Andrew Graham-Dixon sashaying about Sotheby’s pimping their sale (a few days back)…actually rather more interesting and informative than might be imagined. And this morning I briefly looked up the results. A goodly proportion of the lots went and most within their estimates. However a Banksy nearly doubled its upper estimate figure going for £2,235,000. This triptych of altered pre-existing paintings of seascapes references the on-going tragedy of migrants endeavouring to cross the Med. Setting aside my profound antipathy for mega wealthy individuals (both vendors & purchasers) salving consciences in this way, the means employed – riffing on the altered readymade pioneered by Duchamp over a century ago – seem a bit tired and hackneyed. Nonetheless to the credit of those concerned all proceeds will go towards building a new acute stroke unit and purchasing children’s rehabilitation equipment for BASR hospital in Bethlehem. Better that than redistribution from billionaires (Oligarchs etc.) to mere millionaires (Gerhard, Tracey, Damien, Jeff etc.) …
But what took my eye particularly was the attachment of a Pest Control Certificate of Authenticity to the work. Why one wonders? My hunch is that these three rather manky canvases were picked up in a local bazaar and might be subject to dry rot or other assorted mange…and if you’ve just podded out over £2 mil you probably don’t want to see it fall apart that quickly (though long time Banksy watchers might hazard the guess that’s precisely what he intends!).
It got me to thinking about my Paintings Standing Up (most recent example seen above), after all were one ever to sell then given the dubious sources of their materials perhaps they too should have such a certificate. But who issues such things…Rentokill perhaps!
It’s the series that keeps on giving…but I am bringing it to an end. It was always going to be tough figuring it out. But the fact of fitting 45 into each box (and only being four such) suggests 180 is it. The pile of potential pieces keeps going so now some thought will have to go into what to do with the seventy or more pieces that will be ‘remaindered’!
The sun has made a welcome return and…ta da! I’ve filled Box Three of my Wonky Geometry series. I’m happy about this on two counts – as not only does it mean only one to go (admittedly an arbitrary self-imposed diktat) but also it’s been (with five other items) on my annual targets for work production for the year. Perhaps lockdown will see me complete all five this year (rather than has habitually been the case several being rolled over to the following year). Then again maybe at some point we may be allowed out again!
I first came across Billy Jenkins as part of Burlesque, a band playing support to the Kursaal Flyers.They were the most anarchic and surprising rock act I’d ever seen, and Billy was the focus of the most bizarre aspects of a fairly weird outfit!Sadly neither of their albums could properly capture the live act.But some years later I came across his early jazz recordings, the first I purchased wasUncommerciality vol. 1and I became an occasional follower though being both busy and out of London observed live performances were very few.No matter…Billy’s work has always been brilliant, full of character and joy, sometimes more ‘difficult’ for some but never dull or unforgettable.I’ve been catching up with the more recent stuff over the past few days including those episodes of The Billy Jenkins Listening Club I hadn’t got round to.These ‘snapcasts’ are excellent giving both a flavour of the man and the music.I also went online to pick up his most recent outing Ghost Music by BUYING IT.I say this loudly as I’m firmly of the view that artists should be properly paid for their work!I don’t know Billy personally of course but I’m pretty sure he’d like (or maybe it was his doing) that when I put the downloads into iTunes his album came up as ‘Unknown Genre’.Magnificent!I’m thinking my artwork (if it ever sees the light of day again, postviral) should be tagged with the same epithet!
“He always maintained that you’ve got to be able to play straight to really play wonky”
Have you noticed something with all the commentators and interviewees on the telly during this awful ‘lockdown’? It struck me a few days back that nearly all these middle class people (and generally all those featured ‘at home’ are so) have virtually no original art on their walls. In fact most seem to have some spectacularly awful stuff hanging in their homes. It reminded me of something a Scandinavian gallerist said to me forty or so years back that whilst his clients in Sweden would spend a lot on a painting and little on the sofa in front of it, the British, he opined, went the other way (mind I guess Ikea was mostly operating at home back then?!) and so he was glad to be over there and not here and suggested I joined him if I wanted success as a painter…
And in turn I recall a British artist (I think it might have been Scully or Hodgkin) once saying that we were a literary nation not a visual one…and hence the remark about the Bard. No matter…keep yer eyes peeled on the walls behind whichever ‘expert’ or interviewer pops up on screen – you’ll see what I mean!
Like quite a few other painters I know this ‘self isolation’ is just studio time by other means but I’m also glad that (for those of us hereabouts) the weather has been kind in these first few days (see above). But I’m also very aware of the massive debt we owe to all those keeping the world going and to those much less fortunate in their accommodation arrangements (or worse still without any). Making work keeps one sane methinks – and I am so grateful to be able to do it.
I imagine that for the ‘strivers’ this is around the time that New Year resolutions start to get irksome. They would for me if I were the sort to pose myself tough ambitions of that kind. As it is I’m simply resolved to get some things ‘resolved’ this year. So no new projects, no purchases of fresh timber, new canvas or paints and – especially – no new ‘ideas’! Of course what I call ‘ideas’ is a rather grand term for what are just notions that mostly go out the window I start working on them.
So instead I’ve made an inventory of all the various half baked things on the go at the moment. I say inventory but really I’ve just had a mooch about the studio and dragged out everything that’s sitting there. And set about deciding what might be potentially be ‘resolved’, whether that’s a bit of ‘tickling up’, more radical surgery or being put out of its misery. It includes the growing mountain of paper works, offcuts of full sheets, each boxed up at various sizes, of which the biggest is the Wonky Geometry series at 27 x 27 cm. This constitutes 112 pieces to date, the last six of which are shown above, the result of a few days of ‘resolution’.
‘schedule’ – don’t make me laugh…it’s hardly that. Nonetheless I dug out this series (still another 100 or so in the work pile) a few days back and chose a few I felt were nearing a kind of conclusion if not a proper resolution. And now I’ve done four more to take it to a hundred – a sort of milestone I guess – and all well ahead of the festive season so hence the ‘schedule’ notion albeit only in my head.
When a plane goes down, mercifully rarely, the first thing that happens is a search for the Black Box. Hopefully it tells investigators what happened, and how. So this group of little sketches, doodles, scribbles, or whatever is part of the record of the larger, more carefully considered and constructed works. The Black Box sits somewhere between the Wonky Geometry series and three even smaller boxes of even more provisional pieces.
I enjoy these a lot. First it helps avoid waste – I can’t abide waste – by using papers from projects that failed and using up paint that would otherwise be discarded (not into the watercourse though!). Alongside that it’s an activity that can carry on alongside the reflection, the mulling over, of what to do next on the more substantive works. No time now for idle hands. And finally there’s the freedom to play around – to not be too serious.
As yet I’ve no idea how many will be made, as with the Wonky Geo‘s these come off a large pile of sheets cut to the size in a rotation as my fancy takes me and are numbered on what I consider completion.