Friday, June 18, 2021

IMPRESSIONISTIC

Stopping for afternoon lunch at a Turkish café I sit down inside and order coffee with poached eggs on sourdough toast. While I wait I look around and, as usual, impressions flit through my head like butterflies. Across the room, sitting at a shelf-table against a wall decorated with black pipes which end up as lamps, a man is sitting, concentrating on a very small laptop. He is wearing a perfect light blue linen suit, striped blue socks and white trainers. His perfectly cut grey hair harmonises perfectly with the blue suit. I can only see part of his profile, perfectly smooth and lightly tanned. When he suddenly turns his head to look thoughtfully at the traffic passing by outside, I’m amazed that his nose is too long. I had expected it to be the perfect size for his face. He wear earphones and is deeply involved in whatever he’s hearing and seeing on the screen. I am very curious to know what it is and can just about make out rectangles of text in various colours, dominated by a narrow yellow column. My guess is that it relates to advertising or architecture or some other profession beginning with A.

When my coffee is brought it’s lukewarm but I drink it anyway. The two eggs on toast are perfectly poached but also lukewarm. I eat them too. The Turkish manager (masked) comes over and asks respectfully, as if I am a VIP, if everything is allright. I smile and say yes, but everything is cold, the coffee, the eggs. The manager’s eyes seem distressed. He asks if I will accept another coffee on the house? I don’t really want more coffee but I say yes. When the new cup of coffee arrives it’s very hot. The man in the light blue suit is now talking into his device but, damn, with all the traffic noise I can’t hear what he’s saying.

I finish my lunch, put my mask back on, go home and write this down.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

SHANI RHYS JAMES EXHIBITION

Shani Rhys James' latest exhibition Hunan-Ynysu: Self-Island opened on Wednesday this week at the Connaught Brown Gallery at 2 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4HD. I was there.

If you could enter - literally, physically enter - a space made of thick, gleaming oil colours passionately coaxed with brush and palette knife into recognisable forms and feelings, then you would experience something of the effect Shani’s paintings have on a viewer, at least this viewer. I deeply identify with her work precisely because of its bold, unapologetic self-exposure: all cards on the table, yes, but hidden within a veil, a mask of paint. That we were wearing Covid-necessary masks, limiting verbal communication, made the experience all the more metaphoric and relevant. Shani’s explosive flowers are darkness-dispelling incantations but it is the unsentimental, fully admitted darkness and sadness of the human figures which attracts and envelops me.

As a lifelong and long-lived artist I can’t claim objectivity about other artists’ work, past or present. Some intangible personal rhythm or note in the work of an individual artist or period of art has to resonate with me. Shani’s work, which I saw for the first time at this gallery two years ago, most definitely has the Aha! effect and it’s a great bonus that we have become friends as well.

If you are in London don’t miss this stunning exhibition. There’s an excellent, beautifully illustrated catalogue available from the gallery.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

ARTICLE PUBLISHED

One of the hats Richard Price wears is Head of Contemporary British Collections at the British Library. Under other hats, or in other words, he is also poet, short story writer, novelist, lyricist for the musical project The Loss Adjustors and editor/publisher of the little magazine Painted, spoken. In my FB post on January 26th this year I linked to an online issue which included all images from the paperback edition of my artist’s book My Life Unfolds.

Richard asked me to write a follow-up article for the next print edition of Painted,spoken and Number 34 is now out. I invite you join me in admiration of this idiosyncratic, quiet and uniquely different publication in which I am chuffed (delighted, thrilled) to see the article My Life will eventually be in your hands. Because I’m vain and always hungry for immediate feedback I’ve scanned the whole article below. Erm...just noticed that the scan isn't quite readable unless you have laser-sharp vision. Never mind, you can have a free copy of the magazine and there's other good stuff in it besides me. What more do you want?

You can receive a copy of the magazine Painted, spoken for free. Just send a stamped A5 SAE to:

Painted, spoken, 23 Magnus Heights, Hampden Road, Hornsey, London N8 0EL

Sunday, May 16, 2021

SELF BUBBLE

Sometimes, often, I feel guilty for posting stuff about me me me when the world outside this little selfiebubble is bursting at the seams with every possible and impossible kind of suffering. But then I say to myself, hey, your guilt is as useless as your opinion on the suffering. Neither of them is going to make the slightest bit of difference to the misery happening right now, or yesterday, or tomorrow everywhere on this planet. If you were one of those who choose to dedicate their lives to alleviating or finding solutions to at least one form of suffering then you might have something useful to say about it. But you’re not and you don’t.

So, more stuff about me. Out today in the culture Sunday supplement of ABC Color, a Paraguayan newspaper, is this article by Amalia Ruiz Dias:

And Richard Price sent me the latest issue (No.34) of his Painted, spoken printed magazine which includes my article: My life will eventually be in your hands.

I’ll post about this next.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

THE ATTRACTIONS OF UNCERTAINTY

I’ve been busy painting. Painting is torture. Art is torture. Of course I don’t mean painting in general or art in general. I can only speak for myself, someone who from the cradle - well, twelve thirteen years old - chose to devote herself to the making of art as a way of life.

Someone like this has to be a born masochist. Who but a masochist chooses the principle of uncertainty as a career? Not only chooses but remains faithfully addicted to it forever? Never mind the difficulties of uncertainty in purely practical terms, look at the psychological ramifications of never knowing where or who you are and what you’re doing? And actually preferring to remain in that tight-rope position rather than seated in a comfortable, secure armchair, office or yacht? Yes, innumerable famous art-makers can be found seated in comfortable armchairs, studios, yachts etc. Are they also masochists? I have no idea.

Let’s just look at the attraction to uncertainty. For me, it’s the combination of four factors: receptivity, excitment, control, doubt. Those four states are whirling around bouncing against each other like quantum particles in…what? A glass of champagne?

By art torture I didn’t mean the angsty romantically furrowed brow of the supposed genius. I meant ordinary common torture. I’ll post a photo of the current painting when I’ve finished it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

DEAFENING SILENCE CONCERNING PALESTINE

I haven't seen anything in the mainstream media about this. As far as I know no major newspaper or tv news channel has said a word about it. How is it possible that they are ALL turning a blind eye?? Why isn't anybody asking whether there is now unanimous media censorship of any mention of Palestine? There's no elephant in the room? The room doesn't exist?

Below is a partial quote from CADFA newsletter:

Solidarity with the people of Jerusalem Terrible news during hot Ramadan of demonstrations of Israelis shouting ‘death to Arabs,’ of house takeovers of Palestinian homes and invasions of the Al Aqsa mosque, of further restrictions on people entering Jerusalem and difficulties for people in getting the military ‘permissions’ - young Palestinians demonstrating evening after evening, hundreds of arrests, demonstrations outside Jerusalem (in Abu Dis and other areas of the West Bank as well as Gaza, where Israel is now dropping bombs) – Jerusalem is boiling. Here in Britain we are not being told properly about this. We do hear about Israel’s success in vaccination (leaving out the Palestinians who are their responsibility as under their military occupation) but our leaders do not want us to talk about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, and Boris Johnson is distancing himself and the UK from the International Criminal Court which is going to investigate. We need constantly to raise the matter of human rights for Palestinians and to combat the deep racism and colonial thinking that has allowed this terrible situation to develop.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

AIDED EARS

Coming out of SpecSavers yesterday afternoon wearing my new NHS hearing aids, the paper bag which holds the case and batteries for the ear thingies bumps against my coat as I walk. The sound the crinkled paper makes is Maria Callas struck by lightning on the top of Mount Athos. People pass by talking to each other or to their phones and morsels of their words hit my ears like hailstones. I sit down at a table outside a café...you can do that now.. and chewing a soft slice of lemon cake is like jackboots tramping down an old wooden staircase. Never mind what the coffee sounds like as I swallow it.

Back home typing this, the keyboard keys are Fred Astaire tap dancing on a steel drum without rhythm or music. I talk to myself and it’s like a dentist living inside the patient's mouth.

Partial hearing loss began several years ago and I've had hearing aids before but never followed audiologists' advice to wear them daily so the brain can gradually get used to the sudden blah blah etcetera. Since I could hear fairly well I didn’t need to put up with the stuffed-ears-feeling of wearing them all the time. But now, well, you know, time passes and reality is reality. I’ve got these brand new, free, technically much improved hearing aids and I will obey advice and wear them daily. Let the sounds do whatever sounds want to do. After two weeks I can go back and have adjustments made if necessary.

At the table next to mine outside the café, a woman sat very still, her back to me, no food or drink before her. On a leash strapped to her hand was a curly yellow-white dog, its tail wagging non-stop in unbridled happiness. So happy and alert to everything around that it was contagious. Talk about mindfulness! This mutt was in the Now, absolutely totally. I asked the silent masked woman if I could take a photo of her happy dog. She said yes. The dog jumped on her lap, sitting to attention, exuding happiness.

I felt happy like the dog and walked around for a while taking photos. Camden Town today was almost back to normal.

Friday, April 16, 2021

READY FOR CLOSE-UP?

Collected my prescription close-up glasses yesterday. Here they are. The frame is a shiny sort of cobalt blue but the photo doesn't show it. I couldn't find any frames that were....what was that word?...sprankzy? I didn't like any of them and don't like this one much. I can read with them but if I look in any direction other than reading distance everything is blurred and dizzy. Are reading glasses always like this? Going back to SpecSavers tomorrow to complain and collect my NHS hearing aids. I can't get used to this "elderly" category. Nobody asked my permission to put me in it.

Monday, April 12, 2021

THE DUKE IN PARAGUAY

Yesterday my recent (almost a year already!) online Paraguayan friend, journalist José Luis De Tone posted on his Facebook page a photo of Philip, Duke of Edinburgh with eminent entourage, taken on 9th March 1962 during the Duke's four-day visit to Paraguay.

I don't remember a thing about this event though I was in Asunción then and an old news item I've just read describes the streets bedecked with UK-Paraguay flags. What I do remember clearly is that I completed my mural for the Hotel Guarani just before this time and when I saw the photo, I recognised the Hotel's distinctive structure in the background. José Luis then told me that Prince Philip (and entourage) did indeed spend four days at the Hotel Guarani. Therefore he would inevitably have walked past my mural which was on a terrace above a circular staircase overlooking the swimming pool.

That's my only connection to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,RIP. But I like to imagine that he was standing in front of my mural when he pronounced one of his famous gaffes (in this case totally accurate) looking directly into the eyes of President/Dictator Stroessner: "It's a pleasure to be in a country that isn't ruled by its people."

Thursday, April 08, 2021

OCCASIONAL EXPLOSIONS

Is it possible to have a genuinely close, honest relationship with another human being, whether family, friend, spouse, lover or colleague without occasionally exploding? By exploding I mean saying things - possibly in a loud voice or perhaps in a tight-lipped sarcastic voice, depending on your personality and upbringing - things which are harsh, hurtful, maybe true, maybe false, things which you will regret saying?

I don't think it's possible nor desirable. We are, after all, beings constructed out of zillions of unimaginably small particles dancing on something tinier than the head of a pin, bumping into each other unpredictably. So it's understandable that when in close proximity with another human, emotionally and perhaps physically, there will be friction and explosions too, now and then. More now than then.

After explosions, apologies help to cool overheated air and soothe bruised feelings but do they guarantee an explosion-free future? No. Because some humans (not all) keep an internal dossier of past explosions, with notes of what he said/she said and this dossier gets heavier as time goes by, never losing its power to spark more and more destructive explosions.

My remedy? Allow yourself and anyone you really truly care about to explode whenever necessary. Say what you want to say, let them say what they want to say. If tears are shed let them flow. Then laugh, and burn the dossier if you've been keeping one. It's vital to burn the dossier. To be free of the dossier.