Friday, October 31, 2008


On Monday a wonderful event at which I arrived late and so only caught glimpses on video and still camera. I don't know the name of the story teller at the start but he held his young audience enthralled and their rapt faces were a wonder to behold. The man drawing inside the big frame in the movie is illustrator David Roberts, one of many who alternated during the day to fill the space in their characteristic style and sign their books for hugely appreciative small readers (Bruce Ingman and Joel Stewart are seen in the still photos). The kids were busy drawing too, stretched out on the floor or perched on steps, and the whole building was buzzing with creativity and enthusiasm.

How lucky these kids are to have access to so much live inspiration and stimulation early in life. What with the proliferation of computer games, gadgets and gimmicks, listening to a real live person telling a story and watching a real live artist making lines come to life before your eyes is a thrill too often forgotten.

My movie clip can be seen at Blaugustine and on

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I went to see the Francis Bacon retrospective at Tate Britain. It is a comprehensive, impressive, almost awesome exhibition. But I can never 100% agree with the general opinion that Bacon is among the greatest painters of our time and right up there in the pantheon of all-time Masters.

Part of me says: yes, he does have that masterish assurance, universality, je ne sais quoi. While another inner voice snorts: yeah, but what about the Disney in him? What about that push-pull-the-flesh tricksy formula that he applies over and over again? Sometimes it really works and the way his brush manipulates oils is magnificently bravado. But at other times, isn't it just like the effects you can achieve in Photoshop? I know he never used a computer but the pictorial language Bacon devised is not unlike a software programme calculated by geeks to imitate what they assume to be the artistic process.

My doubts about Bacon's work can be summed up in Cole Porter's lyrics: " Is it the good turtle soup or merely the mock?" I think he worked really hard to produce the turtle soup but the poseur in him, the interior decorator, was never entirely overcome. The Disney factor is there, if you look long enough: those semi-circles that appear around the eyes in all the faces, the curvy-curly contours of bodies, the cartoonification. Snow White stripped, stretched, inflated, carefully messed up and laid out on an operating table.

The monographs and critiques about Bacon always stress his subject matter - the tragedy, cruelty, carnality of all those screaming, writhing, grappling, copulating, vomiting, shitting figures. Their existential hopelessness. Everybody knows about Bacon's chaotic lifestyle and we've seen photos of his chaotic studio so it all fits the concept of the decadent, tragic artist.

But I'm not convinced by this interpretation. Listening to him and watching his face on video when being interviewed I saw something else: it's not existential angst that inspired him: it's pictures.

He made pictures about pictures and he found a system for avoiding what would have been the banal copying of those photos and paintings which stimulated him - a combination of abstract expressionism's wilfully random paint-gestures and a carefully designed Picasso-esque distortion of the form. Add to that a plain, strong-coloured background and a box-like enclosure and you've brought home a Bacon.

My view is only my view and I wanted to have some fun with it so I took liberties in Photoshop for a while. Here are the results.

Francis baconised by Natalie (using Liquify and other Photoshoppery)

Master Duck and Master Bacon. Watch those curves!

Far fetched? Not if you imagine the stages between Snow White becoming the creature on the table.


Monday, October 13, 2008


I was intrigued by an article in last Monday's Guardian (the G2 section) titled: Is it possible to live for a year without lying?
Not only does the experiment undertaken by Cathal Morrow appeal to my philosophical bent but his unorthodox way of going about it speaks to my deep-rooted DIY tendency. Unable to find a publisher for the book he is writing on his attempt to break the lie barrier, he put a synopsis of it on a social networking site, seeking backers who would finance him for a year's writing in return for half the profits of the book. It worked: a private equity company agreed. This makes me smile. I love to see rule-breaking schemes succeed and I certainly hope Cathal succeeds, both in truth-telling and selling his book. You can read a sample chapter here.
Inevitably, it makes you think about the lies you tell, why you tell them, and whether it would be morally preferable not to tell any lies at all, even little white ones. What do you think?
The really big bad liars tend to be people in high places, politicians for instance, and lying seems to go with those jobs the way uniforms go with being in the forces. But most people lie out of kindness, or out of cowardice, and often out of convenience. And then there's self-deception. Do we even know what the truth is in the conversations we have with ourselves inside our own heads?

Sunday, October 05, 2008


New month and I feel like giving this blog a new look, complete overhaul. If only it didn't take so much time.

I also feel like focusing more on painting and sliding away from the total dominance of the computer. It does dominate, you know.

I can't walk into this back room without being commanded by the slim snazzy white-bordered blue-screened gadget-filled creature on my desk to sit down and give it my undivided attention. If it could stamp its foot it would and if it could bark or miaow or emit shrill baby-like wailing it would.

Have we become slaves to our machines? I love the internet and the blogosphere and I love my computer with its seductive charm and all the toys it offers me. But sometimes I want to smash its smooth face and declare my independence. After all, I existed before it came into my life and have no reason to believe I would not exist were it to disappear from my life. Well, that's a bit radical. I don't really want it to disappear, no. Just take a back seat, be passive and obedient, don't try to rise above its station and don't speak unless spoken to.