Hello my lovely readers
I'm delighted to be writing a blog today which is entirely devoid of newly dead people! Nope, this is a quick note to let you know what the current state of play in my studio is. For those who don't know already* (from the Work in Progress images I've been posting up), I have decided to stop painting ducks!
After all the duck shows had finished, I found, to my surprise, that I was gagging to return to my abstract forms of expression. This has been the main focus in my work for the last few weeks and that is where I shall stay, for the time being.
For those who love my abstract work, I know you'll be breathing a sigh of relief, and Lord knows some of you found the experience of me painting ducks quite disturbing - some of you were even quite rude about it! (oh boy do I love it when people respond passionately about my work).
For the duck lovers, I'm still taking commissions and there may be the odd duck that needs to be painted, but that form of expression is really finished now. It was a supremely enjoyable experience though and I loved every minute of it. The whole process of using paint in that way again, the delight of sitting by lakes and rivers watching, sketching and photograping them, and even getting to know the ducks a little bit, was an experience I'll always remember with a big fat smile - gosh, I'm almost talking myself back into it!
In terms of the concept behind this new phase, that pebble thrown into the lake is being addressed once more. The ideas are still at the sketching phase, so haven't yet evolved into the start of a body of work, but that time is fast approaching. They are beginning to gain momentum, look more resolved and taking on a life of their own, which is the tell tale sign that they are nearly ready to hatch from the confines of their A2 shells.
I am SO looking forward to that point and working on canvas again and I really hope you'll like the new developments.
Thanks for reading :-)
* Please note that when I add images or write a new Blog or change anything at all about the site, I always put a note of it on the home page under `Updates'.
This is no surprise to anyone, we all feared it would happen, but still what a shock now that it has. There was always that last glimmer of hope that she would pull herself back, and rise like a phoenix having overcome it all, she was after all, a fighter. Last year, I even came across a foul website taking odds as to how long she would live for, so certain was the world that she wouldn't survive this struggle.
The coverage of her descent into that vile drug addiction 2 years ago was some of the most revolting and degrading journalism the world has known. I have been thinking and hoping lately, that with the fiasco of Hackgate, tabloids will have to be more accountable for their methods and have a higher level of responsibility, and hoping that this ultimately will lead to a new era of higher quality tabloid. Let's wait and see, I may be being hopelessly naiive.
She was unique and a very bright light for the short time she was here, but her light went out long before yesterday. I read today that "fame wasn't her thing" and that she was actually a very ordinary girl deep down. I think the most extraordinary people in the world must feel ordinary inside, just like everyone else, but what actually makes them so unusual is their version of ordinariness is anything but.
I suspect had she lived, there never would have been a follow up to match the intensity of the Back to Black album, but the cost of producing that level of music from such depth of pain has been too dear.
I was so sad to hear about Lucian dying last night. The artworld has lost 3 of its most important and inspirational modern artists in as many months. Louise Borgeouis in May, Cy Twombly in June and now the greatest portrait artist of them all (since Holbein) - Lucian Freud.
Modern art has lost all of its greats this year.
For me there are 2 stages to the experience of a great inspirational artist passing. At first there is the profound sadness that there will never be any new work from them again, and then in turn that emotion changes into a real sense of having lost the person. The greatest artists, in any field, express their vision so coherently, we end up feeling that we know them - that is the mark of greatness.
A sad year.
Last night on Sky Arts, there was possibly the most interesting duo of back to back programmes. The first being a talk at the Hay festival this year, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Simon Russell Beale, on whether Shakespeare was an active Christian or not. The second, was an exposure into the mind of one of my favourite artists of all time - Francis Bacon, who was vehemently Atheist.
I've been a big fan of FB since my teens, ever since I found out that his `screaming pope' painting, (Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X), was inspired by by that famous flash shot of the gasping old woman with broken glasses in Battleship Potemkin.
Bacon's paintings are so intense and uncompromising as to twist perception and beliefs about our place in the universe and force us to re-evaluate them. We still end up back where we started, but ever so slightly altered. Maybe a little more jaded. I've always been fearful that I might succumb to that black hole of jadedness when I look at his work, never to return back to my confused but comfortably searching spiritual state. I think that's why his paintings are so fascinating - they force you to consider a pointless and futile existence, and its very scarey territory, one which we all compelled to contemplate at some point.
The programme with the Archbish was a revelation. When asked whether Shakespeare was a Christian, he answered “The extent to which I want to call him a Christian is not an attempt to kidnap him for the tribal trophy wall, (oh I so like that bit!) but because everybody at that time was some sort of Christian, and there are things in his plays you can’t understand without understanding the notions of forgiveness and free grace". “He wrestled with human questions and ends up saying there is a great deal more to this than some might think. That mysteriousness is part of what the plays are about. That seems impossible without something of the sacred.”
I find it profoundly interesting that you can have two of the greatest creatives the world has known - explaining their view of the human condition, but one apparently needing the `sacred' in order to express his genius, and the other acknowledging that its complete absence is his inspiration for expression.
This is something I shall be pondering for many months with, I imagine, a lot of to-ing and fro-ing from side to side.
I shall leave you with this final rather charming response from the ABofC:
Upon being asked which Shakespearean character he found most compelling, The Arch Bish chose Macbeth, but quickly added “that’s not to say I identify with him, because you don’t really want a serial killer as the Archbishop of Canterbury” .
I think he's pretty cool really......
Shaza - BBC4 Syrian School, Rap Refugees
BBC4 aired the second of this fascinating series last night. The programme's main thread was the plight of two young Palestinian schoolgirls Shaza and Rahaf. They live in Yamouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in a suburb of Damascas, and home to many second and third generation refugees. The two girls' aim is to bring radical rap music to the classroom.
How refreshing and brave of the BBC to show such an interesting and informative programme. It made me realise how intensely uninformed we are about this displaced community. The fact that Palestinians are refugees is well known, but the value of the programme lay in the insight it was able to give as to the reality of that condition.
An interesting aspect of it was, that it showed the tension between the desire of young Palestinian girls to express their consciousness in their own way, rather than having it defined by host country officialdom. This seems to raise similar issues that are comparable to the wider issues raised by the Arab Spring, in that young people are seeking to assert a new identity in the face of old, outmoded or obsolete patterns of thought. The programme also raised the question as to the timesecales on which two associated strands of struggle can be achieved. The first is the realisation of political aspirations, but within this is the struggle of the youth to have their own voice heard. How long this will take remains to be seen.
This programme struck me so much as an artist, as this sense of exile and longing for return has informed so much of my own work. My father was a refugee, and this dramatic aspect of his life informed almost every part of mine. The nails, keys and mundane objects which I use in my work and which speak so clearly about abandonment and displacement, tell the same story the world over.
This morning, whilst sipping on my coffee and rifling through the news - I discovered 2 delicious and entirely unrelated things. The first; Pope Benedict XVI has sent his first tweet today! It was a blessing and a link to a new website from the Vatican, which is actually informative and not at all cringey - www.news.va/en
The second, previously unseen images of Tower Bridge being built - which are so exquistely beautiful, it almost made me weep. The building of one of the biggest icons of London makes me as a Londoner respond like a proud mother.
Rather surprisingly to myself, I found the tweeting Pope quite touching. The man who is a conduit for God can now tweet about what he's had for dinner and what's on his IPOD. I suspect that this will mean that every last Catholic in the world will now sign up to Twitter, eagerly awaiting holy utterances from the Vat. I'm rather keen myself to see what comes - wouldn't it be great if he said things like `feeling rather hot and sweaty today, need a shower BAD!'
The big question is, who is he going to follow? The uber cool HH Dalai Lama has been tweeting his beautiful head off since February last year and follows no one, and that fits. But what about Old Popey? Should he only follow his mates in the Vatican with the odd Bish? Wouldn't it be more in keeping with the ethics of Christianity to follow everyone who follows him? What a dilema. I'm guessing he won't follow anyone though as it's just too scarey to make the choice about who to pick. Here's a thought, wouldn't it be the biggest single act of compassion and empathy, for all races and religeons, in the entire history of Christianity, if he followed everyone who followed him? It would make him the most popular Pope that has ever been - certainly amongst the masses and would do wonders for its image.
HH The Dalai Lama tweeted 24 hours ago one line to rule them all. "Love, compassion and concern for others are the real source of happiness". Now that man knows how to build bridges, I suspect the Pope has realised it too.
Hello all - well, I have succumbed. You will notice that there is now a `Tweet' button, with counter, on the top left of each page of my artwork, and I'm rather disproptionately excited about it!
It's fascinating how fast information travels around the world now with one click of a tweet button. Yesterday, whilst Cameron was giving his speech about Murdoch in the House of Commons yesterday, Ed Miliband was tweeting it to his followers. What a strange and interesting world we're living in. It's not that far removed from writing messages on paper, making it into an aeroplane and darting it across the classroom to your mate while your teacher's back is turned!
Unfortunately, the way Twitter works though, is that if I Tweet any of my pages, the counter doesn't move a single jot. It has to be done by the public. SO, if any of you lovely blog readers fancy tweeting one of my pages so it doesn't show such a lonely old zero, I would be very grateful indeed ;-) It does look a little tumbleweedy at this present time.....
Cy Twombly has died, aged 83.
He was one of my beloved heroes, famous for his fresh, beautiful and free scribbly style on enormous canvases. He gave other artists permission to express themselves without caring for the constraints of aesthetics. Larry Gagosian said: "The art world has lost a true genius and a completely original talent, we will not soon see a talent of such amazing scope and intensity". Hi influence on my own work has been profound.
Art critics had trouble placing him in the upper echelons of 20th Century Abstract High Art world, and he suffered because of it. They couldn't get to grips with his graffiti style of painting and scribbled words, and seemingly irreverent denial of aesthetic structure. He became a massive influence on all contemporary and abstract artists and has been copied, but never bettered. By the end of his life, his work was selling for $15.2 million at Christies in New York, and the critics decided he did deserve a place at the top afterall, but artists throughout the world knew he lived there all along.
Goodbye Cy - you've left the artworld a more liberated place.
Ok jazz peeps, if you haven't heard of Avishai Cohen you absolutely must reverse that lonesome condition as soon as possible. He is one of the most exciting and influential musicians on the jazz scene at the moment and I was blown away by him at the Samois festival this time. Alongside him was the supernaturally gifted pianist Omry Mor, and GORGEOUS drumming by Amir Bresler. All three created the sort of group interaction and improvisation that doesn't seem possible without decades of experience performing together, but from what I understand they have only been playing together for a short while.
Here's some clips......
Performing Seven Seashttp://culturebox.france3.fr/live_ce_soir_ou_jamais/33457/avishai-cohen-en-live-avec-seven-seas#/live_ce_soir_ou_jamais/
This is a beautiful rendition of the track Dreaming. Unfortunately there is an annoying advert and woman speaking Swedish for a minute beforehand, but it is REALLY worth the wait.http://culturebox.france3.fr/live_ce_soir_ou_jamais/33457/avishai-cohen-en-live-avec-seven-seas#/live_ce_soir_ou_jamais/33457/avishai-cohen-en-live-avec-seven-seas
For a spectacular live drum solo by Amir Bresler - http://youtu.be/9E-xDlzfL1I
The music is sensitive, urban, experimental, beautiful, traditional, all those things and above all - pure class.
I've heard they're playing at Ronnie Scotts in the Autumn, but shh, don't tell anyone!
Ok my lovelies, off to the studio.......