Monday, 9 May 2011



Pastoral, Petrol, Pixels. Drawing and graphite on paste on paper. 102 x 153 cms.


Sunday, 19 September 2010


I've just watched a video posted by a b-uncut (link) friend.  I wouldn't have made it through all 3 mins:33 secs. had I not been virtually invited by the maker. 

The virtual connection was probably the most telling part of my watching experience for how else would the artist have found me as a viewer, and without the virtual how might I have seen this video at all? 

There is in fact nothing I wanted to say about the work which left me cold, failed to absorb me and told me nothing of the past, present or future that I didn't already know.  The work isn't awful, it has merits, it is a good try and I like that. 
To be gratuitously acerbic and while I have my kicking boots on: it is entirely predictable in the shaky emotive camera work, the imagery is neither revealing nor is there a surprise; the gimmickry is amateurish and the soundtrack tacked on top could equally well be wired into the ears whilst wandering around the Taj Mahal or riding on a bus.  Perhaps I'm revealing too much in mentioning that the piece is entitled 'Trip'.  Notwithstanding all, I 'liked' it. 
I wonder though whether I'm giving the artist, the work, or me the viewer, a fair crack by seeing it in this fashion? 
I'm tempted to answer my own question with a 'yes' because it is a video short made for YouTube, so on YouTube or similar is how to see it. 
Lack of criticism is the problem. 
I could have pasted my thoughts into the comment box where you find smiley emoticons and not-all else, but, why bother going to all the trouble just to slate a piece of work in the way I have?  Have any of us got the time to respond? 
Everything has its own terms, and there is the argument to consider that the work with an online presence stands or falls by those parameters alone.  A vid on YouTube dies or thrives on views.  Merit is defined and criticism encapsulated by view figures.  Why work harder, why buck that system? 
Is this then the quality of criticism we must rely on for poems, prose-pieces, paintings, music and for all work put up on the web? 

" Everyone says, I love it, great job, all those wonderful things a person wants to hear.  That's bullshit.  It can't all be good (so I must trust the judgement of those who expect more. " 
. . .  complains Mr Botched Resolution (link), and he's right. 
'Good work', a 'like', a smiley emoticon is all you get criticism-wise online, and it is easy to like a poem, image, prose piece or clip.  The painting online does not impinge on your space, the poem doesn't collect dust or boring beetles or get damp, music and videos get dropped into the software and are only missed or even remembered in random selection or when the system fails. 
For a painter, viewing paintings online is the hardest.  I suspect I like a lot on the screen that would grieve me if I were to see the work live.  By the same token I must miss as much and when you can't trust your judgement in this way, almost any criticism seems out of place. 
You have to sit through the movie, to read the whole book, to pay attention to that song . . .  to plough to the poem's end before the investment in time gives one the ability, gives the liberty to criticize. 
Online, if I don't like one thing - gone it is in a click and here comes the next.  Why stop to examine? 
The critical flaw in online criticism is that there is no middle ground, no hesitance, no lingering or gathering appreciation.  If there's the slightest uncertainty we click past and say nothing.  We get nothing back either, or nothing between 'its great' and a mad blast of obscenities. 
Occasionally I get advertising - now that's an odd one. 
'How exciting!' I think.  'I have a response' but not a comment on my work, instead: an invitation to view someone else's or to buy a something else completely. 

Sunday, 12 September 2010

My Place on the Isle


To be reminded that This Place (The British Isle-s) is an island always takes me by surprise.

My Father is a seaman and we lived by the sea. As a child, the sea seemed no boundary at all. Life flowed and trafficked, nothing stopped at the tide-line.

Insularity is not only geographical. Culturally we do the same things differently, but money is the great insulator, isolator and island-maker that maps my shore, that makes Me insular. Where is the boundary to my ‘neck of the woods’? Is it the rich street (or poor street) down the road-second-on-the-right, or that crisis stricken war torn living hell in the news? Well both and I know it is more. I’ve seen the wash of refugees banked up and halted along edges.

Coming from here for good and bad, my place here is unassailable and what then do I have to say of my faith or my identity? Do I have a contribution to make to this theme, and for a long time I thought that the answer was ‘no’.

I hail from a mono-culture defined as: melange in flux as it always has been, a place of dreams.

This summer (2010) Caliban’s lines from The Tempest were featured by Transport for London as a ‘Poem on the Underground’:

"Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,

Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,

That, if I then had waked after long sleep,

Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open, and show riches

Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,

I cried to dream again."

- William Shakespeare (The Tempest)

. . . and fancy WS putting my petty thoughts so well . . . But who is the monstrous, freckled Caliban talking to: a beleaguered inhabitant or bemused native, a ship-wreck survivor, or an invader? Himself the son of an exile, he’s talking to the jester, the butler and the invisible Sprite: and to us.

I had no more doubts - I knew I had something to paint.

A place of dreams . . . of abstractions, and abstract marks are the most precise for the artist if the least for the viewer, yet like music they are capable of transcending language.

I asked my long-time friend and studio collaborator Rima Farah if she and I might work together on these pieces and although we did not, her ever generous and incisive thoughts are present in the works.

Fearless noise and the babble of words are the substance of these paintings.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Will I Still Love You When I'm Fifty Six?

(Steve Waugh, Philip King; who they?  Part 2.)

We are very keen on re-fighting the past, and as a parlour game or in front of the screen this is most diverting. 
If you were there, 'Cool as' and let's hear your tale.  What we can't do is re-write the past.  If we weren't there, we weren't and that's that. 
Anniversaries always get me wrong footed for they are celebrations of the past.  What really is the point of that?  So: 20 is optimistic; last year was . . . ; 50, it's a metric half way; that happened then-ago; 55 - retirement.  And-well-what? 
It is my 55th birthday on Thursday (:-) but I don't like looking back and I hate feeling forced to.  (:-[ 
While waiting for my notional retiring day, I think of those who left the making-art business. 
Of one, who found tying fishing flies more lucrative, less stressful and much easier than sculpture (he was good too); of all the artist teachers seeing less and less of their studios, seeing less and less of their students as departmental headships fell to their seniority.  I remember the Painter who knocked on my studio door one morning and said he'd had enough and was going to do something else, so 'goodbye'; the 80s property developer artists, and the entrepreneurs of the Thatcher classes who may now be glad to be reaching 55, to retire and take the 'hobby' element out of their art. 
Of another several who found the going so hard and found they had no second string.  They ended up homeless, sleeping in studio corridors, on others' couches and finally the streets before social services swept up the pieces.  Some died of it, some killed themselves. 
It is true, as all truisms are, 'don't even think of a life in the arts if you can do something else'.  The trouble is, if you can make a life in the arts you cannot, by definition, do 'anything else'. 
'I'm an artist, Man,' a disgruntled colleague opined in The Approach the other evening, 'I know what it's like to be fucked over.'  And, I know what he means but you can't dwell on it; we, as he well knows, have to move forward. 
Let us move brothers and sisters, 'Drink up let's get another.'  55 not out.  Next. 
I am very, very uncertain about this post. 
55-years-old and I'm so tempted to lie.  It is so virtually easy . . . to lie.  Not to tell it straight on my 'profiles'. 
If I'm to keep myself 'honest', I'm going to have to re-tick a box or two in the 'age range' sections. 
But no!  How weird. 

13 - 17
18 - 24
25 - 34
35 - 55
56 - 65
65 +

I see I have another year in the 35 - 55 bracket. 
Some one who's 55 has been here before me.  What a relief.  Hell delayed and this time next year I'm going to be young again.  A young 56 - 65, but will I dare admit it? 
I dread the spam that tick-click 'SAVE' submission admission will trigger. 


On my birthday I'm going to the Alan Cristea gallery to look at Howard Hodgkin's big prints (I can't believe I'm doing that), then I'm off to Zone 3 to the 'artWorksOpen 2009' opening to see a couple of mine including, 'My Love of Em Cartoons'.

So I've got to go (well you have to) although I probably don't want to see most of the other work on show and I know what mine look like.  There might be a train strike (with luck). 
I would invite Em but 'poor woman', PV, E17 - Z3 and maybe no tubes.  Nah. 
Then, I'm going to get drunk and retire

Friday, 19 December 2008

11 drawings of Jessica Alba from the www

www dot girls on a beach / DREN  x pt.

What is this squiggle? wwwdo . . . ?
What are these? Are they drawings?
Why ask? It's voyeuristic soft porn, drawn by a typical mid-life crisis,
pre-menopausal, lechy old man.
Dirty sod.

What's it about?
It's about grubby men who can't get it up, gawping and salivating at a young girl.
Sexist Pigs.

Yeah. I heard that, and I used to hear, 'Don't bother with the web, there's nothing up but porn.' I repeated and believed it and the belief made me slow to look . . . well, the web may have been new but there's nothing new in porn and truly, there is plenty of it on the web. Check any fact, set any search engine any search you care to and by screen 10 or sooner, porn will postulate an option.
We're up there too, on the web or nowhere and I had to hit a steep learning curve late and in a hurry. None of us are off the grid or escape the net. It doesn't matter if Olejack 'x', or Mrs stuck-in-last-century 'y' can't text and doesn't want to, or that they don't know what a browser is; on the web they are like us. We're all on it; our records, our money and taxes, movements, housing, voting and medicals. Wino Stumblebum 'z' is logged online by the cops every time they see him on the street.
It's those that aren't seen, it's those who starve and die who aren't up there. Their numbers are guessed, some of their faces can be found online but the web doesn't know who they are so we'll never know, and we most definitely don't want to be like them.
To be at all, we have to be a feature fact in the virtual world.
This web is ubiquitous. If ever it was nerdy it has made nerds of us all.
The use we make of the web, the reliance we have on it elevates us out of nerdery, but makes us party to 'nerdism'. We are obsessed with our virtual man-made environment. It has become essential and inconceivable that our lives can carry on without it. So what is a 'nerd' if not us?
Computer games are nerdy. We have designed everything in the mini-environment of 'GTA'; sooner rather than later the player gets to the edge of the map and the limit of the system. A player is surprised and delighted, sometime scared and manipulated, but it's all in the compass of 'us'.
Global and cosmic is different. If we believe in God, God must have been everywhere before we and us aren't in control while in the virtual, like God we make and play. Flickeringly real on our screens, there is nothing factual and reliable about virtual for where do the images come from? Us of course.
Are search engine postulations any different, are they any more 'real', or 'factual'? Facts we know to be facts are confirmed to be facts, and that gives us confidence in the factuality of all the information we call up.
Something is said to be so, 'and that's a fact'. We know no differently and understand less, so what is said to be so will do and becomes 'fact'.
Is that photograph really of that person or has it been idealised and virtualised? Does that person actually exist?
Facts have never been very reliable, we get them wrong, use the wrong one and fail to understand them; and from the web we have more facts at our fingertips than we've ever had before, many more than we ever thought we needed.
'Mom. How do you spell 'annunciation'?'
Once she replied, 'Look it up in the dictionary.'
Now Mother answers, 'Google it.'
Are these facts any more reliable than were those lodged in the human memory and isn't memory the best guardian of liberty? What is it with facts: . . . what that is, when that thing happened, how many of them are there, who did it, how this is done and how long does it take to, what it looks like - top, bottom, side, its profiles, dimensions, weight and specs . . . what is it with facts now we don't need to know them anymore? Why memorise anything when any fact you need is a mouseclick away? How are facts checked for factuality? How have they ever been? Once, the 'sage knew stuff'. The rest of us had to labour in ignorance, make an appointment with a teacher or go on pilgrimage to a source, now we key prod our fingers and see random facts slewed in pretty colours, with pictures, clips and sound.
We need skills, but memorising facts is not a skill we need anymore.
Generations of school kids learnt multiplication tables and the knowledge is still useful, but when students were allowed to take calculators into maths examinations for the first time, the furore can hardly be described. It took some time for the realisation to dawn that knowing when to multiply is more useful than knowing what 9 times 7 actually is. Interpretation of facts to a conclusion is what we do. With so many facts at our beck and call, faced by such plethora, our tenacity to retain focus and concentrate on our question in hand has made filtration into the key skill.
I was astonished by computer games and loved them. I saw the web and internet coming and thought them no more than passing techs in vogue. I heard, and can still hear myself saying, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, the web, bloody clever, but it'll never be clever enough. It's geeky, a waste of time, and there's nothing on it but porn. Nerdy and safe. Bury yourself in that and you'll be safe with your nerdy mates, secured with your private lingo and mystery that excludes the rest of us, me for instance - parents - and really clever people at school and work you can't compete with. Yes, you'll be safe enough, thrive in there and be a star in that small private virtual world you've not invented.' Wagging my finger, on and on I droned, 'Really very clever people have invented it for you, and now equally clever ones are intent on exploiting you for gain.' I saw the point of the games, the games are great, but the web though great of itself was nothing to do with me or with my world. I don't believe I'm a Luddite but it took a while to see that my life, complete before the web, was no longer complete without it. The web wasn't 'Games Workshop', 'Dungeons and Dragons', conkers, or Lego. It didn't turn out to be like the academic circle of Wittgenstein experts or a sporting elite, neither of which many (of us) can join.

I started with NERDISM.
No, this started as I zero in on my menopausal years. I wanted to look at pretty girls and this brought me to Jessica Alba. I found her because she's a 'girl on a beach' and searching for that will find her there. Most searches on any topic find her sooner or later. I'd seen 'Dark Angel' so I knew who she was although I didn't know then that she ranked so high on Search Engine hit lists. I didn't know that she is deemed one of the most beautiful women on the planet, and I agree: she is beautiful. Alba is no actor Dame, not a Streep, Dench or Binoche, but she's well advised and like Arnie did, she chooses her roles with care, and does what she can very well looking gorgeous in the doing. Naturally I wanted to see her naked and naturally, I thought the web would provide. Jessica has been determined in this regard. Sorry Girl, sorry girls, but I've tried pretty hard and can find not a bare breast of Ms Alba anywhere. Sorry boys, and I was sorry too. What I found was porn, tagged Jessica A, skin plucked, implanted and photoshopped with Alba's head grafted on. Some of it is grotesque, some funny, some done with care and skill, but pornography isn't designed to be looked at for that long . . .

I'm trying to construe the process that brought me to the drawing.
I'm trying to face down the criticism that I'm a dirty old man leching over a pretty girl . . . it's a factor and I don't know what else a man of my age should be looking at that's half as interesting - women are the most beautiful sight in the world to me.

wwwdotgirlsonabeach came from the web, fast flickering images for men to flicker past.

Fake or real, virtually real; who knows, who cares if 'real' at all?

We do care that facts are real.

I'm struggling with the fear that nothing on the web is real.

11 drawings of Jessica Alba inspired by the www.

The web's not bad and wwwdotgirlsonabeach are pixillations in pencil - graphic nerdism in graphite.


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