Digital Collage: Trophy Girls

Trophy Girls 
Collaborative Digital Collage
 Jane Pearrett and Robin Tomens 

Digital Collage

Bang Bang!
Collaborative Digital Collage
 Jane Pearrett and Robin Tomens

Sunday outing to Camden Arts Centre...

I'm sitting in the cafe of the Camden Arts Centre having just partaken of a chocolate cake and a cappuccino. It's nice in here, a refuge from the windy weather outside. Robin is out the back having a smoke as he is still a snout-cast whilst I'm sitting here, in the warm, reminiscing. Whenever I come here I'm always reminded of the fact that I use to model here a long time ago, before the building was modernised. Nothing glamorous about the modelling though; I was an artists' model. It's not easy job, even though you're not really doing anything. You have to be working with an understanding teacher; one who is not going to make you hold a difficult pose for too long, if that's what happens it can be really torturous. That's what finally made me decide to stop doing it. Still, another life another place!

So, the reason why I'm here today is because we came to see the last day of an exhibition curated by Ben Rivers. He had four of his own films showing but it was the work he had chosen, work that resonated with him, that we enjoyed the most. This curated collection, Edgelands, included two pieces that stood out for us; one being La ville pétrifiée, an exquisite painting by Max Ernst, which was difficult to photograph. I got the image below off the internet. It's not bad, but like our photograph is does not pick up the nuanced colour and texture of the moon or the richness of the pinky reds in the frottage section. I have never seen this painting 'in the flesh' and for me it was totally captivating. So unique, so mysterious and other-worldly. The moon, unusually placed dead-centre, totally dominates and is like an eye looking back at you. It was worth coming here just to see this painting alone.

Max Ernst
La ville pétrifiée 

The second work that we were captivated by was called Undiscovered Country Or How I Found Myself Hiding In The Backwater 2015, by Jeremy Butler. This work, on first glance, would be easy to dismiss as a mess. However, on closer inspection we found we were looking at a scaled-down junk yard, complete with: corrugated hut and graffiti, mini black bin liners and loads of rubbish scatted over an area one could describe as a dumping ground... all miniaturized. It was so intriguing, so textural, so clever and paradoxically quite beautiful because the colours were quite autumnal and rusty. This piece, about a metre square, was then hung on the gallery wall. I felt there were many close links with the Ernst piece, such as the mysterious quality of the landscape. Both works held our attention for quite some time.

Jeremy Butler
Sections of Undiscovered Country 2015

I could see why Ben Rivers had chosen these two in particular, although there were additional relevant pieces in the room. His film work reveals his interest in environments that are different, extreme, alienating and unique; how people mould into these environments and the behaviours that are spawned from these relationships. He describes this as an interest in the borders and margins of society. We got a bit sleepy in the darkened rooms especially when the films and sounds were a bit hypnotic and then we had to go back to the cafe to wake ourselves up and ingest more caffeine.

Musings about selling art...

I enjoy making art and that takes priority over my art sales. I make art because I like to play, to produce something that never existed before; a new entity. I do it because it enriches my life and looking at other peoples' art takes me into another realm, into their world, be it past or present. In art there are riches to be had and not necessarily just the monetary kind.

I hope I never have to make art purely from the perspective of making money, because to me it shows, but then I've looked at a lot of art and feel I can tell when it's made to seduce a buyer, which always cheapens it. Maybe some buyers don't care about that though, maybe they like the commercial element or aren't even aware that it's there.

It can be tempting, though, to 'sell out' or become more commercial because one wants to get things moving - make some money. We all know what sells: rather conservative pretty pictures of animals, nice landscapes, boats on the water etc. Or if the work is abstract the default setting seems to be Abstract Expressionism and it took ages for that to usurp Impressionism. These two are linked by their use of colour, movement and visible brush strokes; they're generally quite pretty and decorative, hence their popularity. Abstract Expressionism is also popular with artists because it is easier to execute, there's a lot of it about on the internet. It always makes me laugh to see the prolific production of some of these artists. They have no problem producing a piece every day of the week...good luck to them though, don't get me wrong!

People do buy 'edgier' art but they are more likely to buy it if it's worth money or is by a known artist. I watched some programme a while back about the Summer Show at the Royal Academy and they were interviewing a celebrity about what they had bought. Sadly, they had spent most of their money on two small Tracey Emin pieces instead of choosing good work by the copious amount of unknown artists represented and that's mainly because of the investment. These kind of people do not care about the art at all really, just the money and the kudos of owning a piece by a prestigious and famous artist...

(Goes off to look for a relevant joke, couldn't find one but this one is quality)

Good joke that one by Iain. Thinking about it, I would feel happier about making more commercial work if it was specifically design orientated, but 'pure art' is sort of sacred to me. I don't know why I think that. Could it be that I still consider it one of the most important of human endeavours? Yes, especially these days, which seem rather bland, culturally speaking.

Hans Jean Arp quote

We do not wish to copy nature. We do not want to reproduce, we want to produce... directly and without meditation. 
-Hans Jean Arp

Two Exhibitions: Jon Rafman and John Hoyland

I'm not going to say much about these two exhibitions, well at least I'm not setting out to but I never know when I start writing what may develop. So, the first experience was the Jon Rafman exhibition; and experience is the right word here as his work really encourages interaction. I find this kind of thing very difficult to write about, probably because I'm unfamiliar with many of the references, these being: video games, internet memes and virtual landscapes. However, this didn't stop me enjoying the show very much. The key for me is spending time with the pieces, just relaxing and watching the videos a few times to get into the 'zone'.

The essential pieces in this exhibition comprise of a video trilogy exploring the deep internet; a collage of images exploring desire, consumerism, escapism and memory within the subculture of on-line communities. These are all very powerful works, sometimes hypnotic and sometimes violently exciting. I particularly liked Erysichthon (Temple Ruins) and Sticky Drama. Videos are experienced within their own environments, one called Betamale invites you to climb into a container filled with balls; we didn't go in but watched others from the mezzanine, which was quite amusing.

We were there on the opening day of this exhibition and there were a lot of people, consequently we missed some of the pieces due to queues. We will be going back for the Sculpture Garden (Hedge Maze) and various smaller pieces which are like cupboard units. On entering through a door you can watch the videos in a sort of Tardis/cupboard...I made the classic mistake of opening one up while someone was in it saying "Oh I am sorry" and quickly exiting the area.

Zablbdowicz collection  This exhibition is free to get in and is on until 20 December 2015.

Exhibition number two was in the newly opened Newport Street Gallery. This was the opening exhibition for Damien Hirst's new gallery, set up to show his own collection. The space is very nice; two floors coated in ultra-white, clean paint and impressive stairways connecting the two spaces. All the paintings on show were by John Hoyland and covered the period between 1964 - 1982. If you go to this show looking for meaning you won't find much, or maybe you look for references to the world around you in a painting but that will be missing too. What these works are about is pure painting and pure colour. They are very experimental works. You will experience the artist searching for different ways to apply paint, for example, very thin washes against thick slabs of colour with hard but not precise edges. They go from being quite tidy and neat to explosive and messy; from jewel-like reds blues and greens to works that are fleshy and pink and reminded us of exploding cakes. Being predominately decorative, I thought the work was good but not deep; to me they are all about the surface. Still, I enjoyed going to a new gallery space and viewing work that I haven't seen before. Also it was enjoyable to mooch around Vauxhall, where we encountered alpacas in a nearby City farm and sweet potato chips in a pub that were very good.

These two exhibitions are polar opposites and cannot be compared but for me the Jon Rafman was more fun whilst the John Hoyland felt sedate and laid-back.

Plenty of time left for this as it is on until 3.4.2016

Alice Anderson: Memory Movement Memory Objects

So, for my sins, this week I had to go to hospital for an Endoscopy. That's the one where they stick a camera down your throat, go on a tour of your innards and then take a few snaps like they're on some sort of weird holiday. I chose not to be sedated, which meant copious amounts of mental preparation in order to remain calm.

Anyway,  I arrived at UCH Hospital in Euston with half an hour to spare so I popped into the Wellcome building a couple of doors down to kill some time and found myself in another world entirely. Inside was a free exhibition by Alice Anderson called Memory Movement Memory Objects. As I entered I found myself in a very dark environment so it took a moment for my eyes to adjust but standing out against this black void was the shape of a car entirely wrapped in copper wire, reflecting the available light beautifully. 

On exploring further I found myself in another room filled with many objects on walls and plinths all wrapped up, shining away like jewels inside a cave. I can remember a record deck and some empty toothpaste tubes that had been given the 'treatment'.

In another room there were sculptures made up of combinations of objects. I particularly liked these, perhaps because the composite objects had morphed into a new entity, becoming generally larger and more sculptural than the single pieces.

This led into the room with an installation of giant proportions. Immediately I was reminded of my own intestines; it seemed kind of symbolic of my forthcoming situation but it was a very soothing experience being in the room.

There were some other groupings: one of small geometric shapes and another of a large circle of vertical but flat rectangular shapes reminding me of Stonehenge.

There was was a surprisingly large collection of work. Big items like a canoe and a wheelbarrow were in the last room. It's all about committing moments to memory and rediscovering things you thought you knew but for me it was just a really nice place to be before being kind of tortured. 

So if you find yourself near Euston and you want to get away from it all for a bit, take yourself into another world of darkness and quiet where gleaming morphed objects sit quietly waiting for you to gaze on them. Alternatively, if you really fancy a bit of wrapping you can join in and wrap up one of the donated objects.

This exhibition is on until 18 October and is free to get in.

September Holiday in Nice with a bit of Art in the mix...

Well, I've been away on my hols, that's why I've been a bit on the quiet side. It wasn't a quiet holiday though, in fact it was very busy and I'm quite glad to be back so that I can have a rest. 

What a great city Nice is, it's big, challenging, totally beautiful and it's by the sea! I wouldn't mind living there in another life but it's très chaud, that's the only trouble. I think I would have to live in Northern France, let's say Dinard (which is also gorgeous) and have a place in Nice too that I could enjoy from September onwards...yes that would be very NICE...geddit!  

Who was it that said "Nice is not nice"? I've looked this up and cannot find the answer but anyway I disagree; it's got so much going for it. A city right on the Côte d’Azur is pretty impressive but it has many other plus points. Forgive me if you're already a fan but I shall list just a few here: elegant architecture, top shopping, very modern tramway, cheap as chips to get around, lovely food, attractive people who are very fond of dogs (especially tiny ones) and access to virtually the whole of the South of France by the train which runs along the coast and of course the ART, of which there is a lot, both in and near to Nice. There's so much to see and do we should of had two weeks instead of one but now I've got an excuse to visit again.

The last time we were in France we stayed in Antibes and went to Nice for the day where we visited The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. This time we stayed right in the city and decided to visit once more but unfortunately it wasn't free to get in as they now!  It was still good to see the permanent works such as the Pop Art section, the Yves Klein, Niki de Saint Phalle and Tinguely. We also enjoyed a substantial temporary exhibition by Keith Sonnier, who makes sculpture with neon light. He's known as a Postminimalist who also works in performance and video art. Thankfully we were able to take photographs (that's forbidden at the Matisse and Naive Art Museums). Here's a record of our visits, which were often rather rushed due to our busy itinerary.

Keith Sonnier

Along the coast near the border of Italy is Menton, a lovely town with a hilltop village that's very pretty and popular but we didn't go for the village, we were there to swim and visit both Jean Cocteau Museums, a little old one and a gigantic and architecturally impressive new one. Jean Cocteau was an artist, poet, film maker, playwright, designer and writer. He could turn his hand to anything but seemed to infuse poetry into all the disciplines he worked in. I particularly enjoyed his free and easy drawings which are totally uninhibited. The sectioned-off area was amusing, being dedicated to some of his rather graphic drawings of the sexual act, mostly depicting men with totally exaggerated genitals. If you haven't seen these you will get an idea if you look on Google images but be careful if you do it at work! There was an age restriction on the entrance to this section which seemed all the more funny written in French...I can't really explain why. We could take photos in this museum - hurrah!

This exhibition inspired us to watch Cocteau's film Beauty and the Beast, which was really lovely. I felt very sad for the poor beast...

...but I think the beast is gorgeous even with a furry face and fangs.

At the Jean Cocteau Museum

We also visited the Museum of Naive Art which was a bit out of the way for us but worth the effort. I preferred the older pieces much more than the recent work on display. I must say I felt that the presence of the guards a little annoying. They don't let you take photographs and were a bit too conspicuous for my liking. We managed one though (see below)...take that fascists!

I was captivated by this Louis Pons assemblage
Jouet pour adulte 1961

Also there was the Matisse Museum. I felt I should have enjoyed this more but big queues to get in followed by strictness regarding not taking photographs and noticing guards following people around was distracting. We saw one guard make a woman wipe all her photos. C'est ridicule et stupide! I mean, what do they think people are doing with them? Personally, I would just be writing about and inadvertently promoting them if it was me. Why do they do this? A friend recently said that it was so that they could make more money in their shops selling posters and the like, which could be true. Still, I find this constant stalking a little annoying as it makes the experience feel restrictive...shame! I can't say that there was much there that really made an impact on me anyway. It seemed a bit dull and missing some of the vibrancy I was expecting. It was a lovely day out though so I'm not really complaining.

Matisse Museum

We had some lunch in the garden grounds where they have routes dedicated to Jazz musicians.

Here's a sneaky photo of a little Matisse torso which we liked...


 ...and here's Henri's paint box, I wonder if the paints would still work?

 Taking a rest on a whale's's all a bit exhausting!

Cap Ferrat September 2015

Jean Cocteau Quote

The reward of art is not fame or success but intoxication: that is why so many bad artists are unable to give it up.
- Jean Cocteau

Collage: I Dreamt You Danced With Me

Jane Pearrett 2015
I Dreamt You Danced With Me
A3 Paper Collage
Vintage text, gouache and graphite

Amedee Ozenfant quote

Art is the demonstration that the ordinary is extraordinary. 
Amedee Ozenfant

Joseph Cornell: Royal Academy

When I was a child, one Christmas I was given a gift which had quite a magical effect on me. It was a brightly coloured, small round box, designed to look like a drum. On opening the lid there was a tiny mouse inside with little gems for eyes and real fur. I think this object was a brooch. The memory has always stayed with me; the delight of the little box and the magical effect of what was inside it. This was the feeling I was reminded of on my recent visit to the exhibition called Wanderlust at the Royal Academy.

Joseph Cornell was someone who obviously didn't throw much away. He kept mementos and collected found objects, squirrelling them away in files. From a young age he entertained his severely disabled younger brother with objects he had made from this burgeoning collection and often presented them to him in boxes such as this one below which glitters and jiggles and is lined with mirrors.

Untitled (Beehive, Thimble Forest)1948

It's a shame that as we grow older we tend to move away from this rather childlike fascination with the minuscule and start 'thinking big'. We are so often sold the idea that biggest is best. Just think how big cars have got (even the Mini is overweight) and furniture too, in fact a lot of material stuff...including art, yes, art's got huge. Yet the bigger something gets the more it seems to lose some of its magic; we have to stand back to take it all in, which means distancing ourselves. In doing this we lose something that as humans we really like to do which is to use our eyes to peer into things and search for something that lies within.

This peering and searching is part of the lasting appeal of Cornell's work. Looking into these often small pieces creates an intimacy which I felt was lessened in some of his larger work. I perceived a slightly voyeuristic and obsessive element in his work too, especially when he reveals his fixation with certain women. However, I found these factors supplied a much needed dark element in these otherwise magical and innocent artworks.

Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall), 1945-46

This exhibition is on until 27 September. 

Joseph Cornell: Worlds In A Box by Mark Stokes

Here's an unusual documentary from 1991 directed by Mark Stokes. It's about the American artist Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) who had rather an extraordinary life. He lived with his mother in Utopia Parkway, Queens. There, in the basement, he developed a skill for making magical and surreal shadow boxes with which he would entertain his disabled brother. The film features Susan Sontag, Tony Curtis and the experimental film maker Stan Brakhage.

Just imagine living in a place called Utopia Parkway; that in itself I find somewhat curious. Americans sure know how to name places!

We watched this after going to the exhibition of Cornell's work at the Royal Academy last weekend, which was wonderful.  

De La Warr Pavilion: Towards an alternative history of graphic design: Suck, POP, bRIAN, Assembling

Now then, this exhibition was really energising as you can see below by the photos! Where am I? At the De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill. What's it about? It's one room lined with disassembled material from four lo-fi magazines from the 60s and 70s and put together by Fraser Muggeridge. It's a sort of alternative graphic design history, collated from various sources of highly experimental but less formally trained groups and individuals.

This room could be viewed as a whole piece or you can look more closely at the art and writing which I did for quite a while...before I started leaping around. And why did it have this effect on me? Well, it energised me I suppose. It's so rare to see this kind of material these days, as Muggeridge says: "In today's world, it's relatively straightforward to do something that looks kind of good, clean and nice. InDesign is so sophisticated it almost does it all for you." I agree with what he says and I believe this cleanliness is affecting more than just graphic design.

On three sides the wall is lined with quirky and amusing concrete poetry, text, typoems and rough and ready graphic visuals which are humorous and playful. You can get the idea from the picture below. There are also four table top displays showing various collected material.

Out of the four magazines featured I was delighted to find out that one called bRIAN and another called The Hardy Annual were produced in the same college I did my Foundation course: Watford School of Art. The German printer, artist and publisher Hansjörg Mayer once taught there, encouraging his students to push the limits of what could be possible with printing and embracing the notion chance. Using the offset printing plates as covers, bRIAN was a publication which Mayer produced with his students whilst teaching at Watford in the 1960s and can see an example of the Hardy Annual below...I only wish I'd been at that college earlier!

This unusual but rewarding exhibition is on until 4 October 2015 if you want to check it out. 

Bexhill and the De La Warr Pavilion is a really good day out where you can combine art with the seaside but unlike Margate (see my post) it is quiet and low-key. I love the pavilion, it is such a stunningly beautiful building and perfectly suited to showing art. It's really pleasant sitting out and having lunch on the terrace especially on a sunny day; it's a bit pricey but the exhibitions are free.

In addition, there was an exhibition of Bridget Riley's curve paintings too (1961 -2004). In contrast I found her paintings cold and impersonal and this feeling was enhanced by the room being overly air-conditioned. Op Art is not one of my favourite styles anyway but her works do produce some extreme optical effects to such an extent that I started to feel a bit queazy. This one was very busy indeed and made me go quite cross-eyed.

Crest 1964

Ad Reinhardt

Only a bad artist thinks he has a good idea. A good artist does not need anything.
-Ad Reinhardt

New Work: Biomorphic Composition

Biomorphic Composition
Cork, oil, ink, graphite and styrene mirror on canvas
Jane Pearrett 2015

Grayson Perry at the Turner Contemporary...and a nice day out in Margate

Perry Pot Part

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, I do like to be beside the sea! ................A couple of weeks ago now on a Friday evening Robin said, "I really fancy going somewhere tomorrow for the day, it's going to be hot". So we thought of Margate. A few things helped us decide this: the relatively new Turner Contemporary, the newly opened Dreamland and the fast train which now goes from St Pancras (which is handily close to where we live) plus remembering that it has a very big sandy beach.

The train takes you right to the seafront so you're straight in there, strolling along saying things like "I can't believe how hot it is" and "the beach is huge" and "smell that briny smell". Then passing the newly refurbished Dreamland and the amazing old amusement arcade faç's a feast for the eyes!

After a refreshing cuppa we took a walk along the harbour then back to the beach where I was sent in to test the temperature of the water: the verdict? "It's coolish but tolerable," I said. Anyway, there were loads of people in the sea so that made it more reassuring. So, after a bit of delicate manoeuvring of towels we had changed on the beach into our bathing gear and in we went to the murky Margate waters. What a joy...I've swam abroad many times but there's nothing like the achievement of getting a swim in our own waters especially if it's NOT torturous. We weren't even cold when we came out because it was so hot on the beach...amazing!

All that swimming brought on a good appetite so we were ready for brunch which we had at the Turner Contemporary cafe, sitting on the outdoor terrace where you get a great view of the bay. Afterwards, a quick exploration of the retro clothes shops and then off to Dreamland. It was a shame that some of the big rides weren't working (especially the Scenic Railway) so we decided to save this adventure for when we visit again but we did buy some tokens to play on the vintage amusements. Firstly, on the classic old juke box, we selected Summertime Blues by Eddie Cochran, followed by a go on an Elton John themed Pinball Machine, then the Sharpshooter and Speedway plus various types of bar football...oh and the unique experience of the Laughing brilliant! I want to go back when it is fully operational and I definitely want to ride the 'Counter Culture Caterpillar' just because I like the sound of it.

Later we went back to the Turner Contemporary for a proper look. It's free to get in and lovely and cool if you're there on a hot day. There's a sound installation by the Mexican artist Carlos Amorales in the Sunley gallery with a superb North Sea view as a backdrop. You can have a bash on the cymbals at various times throughout the day if you feel so inclined.

We Will See How Everything Reverberates 2012

We didn't know what was going to be on at the gallery so we were pleased to see there was a Grayson Perry show called Provincial Punk. It was great to see such a big collection of his pots, which are very captivating. We got quite dizzy going around so many and you DO have to go all the way around them to observe the detail and jokes. They are covered in text and embedded with photography revealing Perry's personal take on social history which is both comical and dark. The pots themselves are nothing to write home about but this is all right as they are, quite literally, vessels to transport his ideas. I felt the same with the huge tapestries. Personally they do little for me aesthetically but Perry uses them in a somewhat traditional way, which is to tell a tale or record modern day life. This is something that he (being so good at communication) does extremely well; you experience him working this storytelling and commentary through various different mediums in this substantial show.

Sadly we couldn't give as much attention to the show as we would have liked as time was getting on and the lure to go back outside for more sun, sea and cream teas was too great. Overall, it's the clash of culture that makes Margate great. It's still very rough around the edges though, make no mistake. I felt a need to get away from there as the evening wore on, seeing how packed the drinking places were getting I could sense a rowdy and chaotic vibe. Luckily we had arrived early so we left early and that suited us just fine.

I really hope we get some more hot days this summer as I want to go back again for another dip into the treasures of Margate.

Photograph by John Hinde


Agnes Martin

I went to the Agnes Martin exhibition on Sunday at Tate Modern, which was really enjoyable. I thought her work was serene and beautiful. I may write about my experience at a later date, but anyway here's one of her quotes that appeals to me because of its positive slant.

The adventurous state of mind is a high house... The joy of adventure is unaccountable. This is the attractiveness of artwork. It is adventurous, strenuous and joyful. 
-Agnes Martin

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol...

My last post about Jeff Koons contained a quote by Andy Warhol which reminded me of this book which I read a couple of years ago. This morning I fished it out and it's entertaining me again but this time I'm just dipping in here and there. Andy's autobiography is quirky, funny and spot on regarding the themes of love, sex, food, beauty, fame, work, money, success and art.


Thoughts on Jeff Koons after visit to Gagosian Exhibition: Sprayed

What a strange man/artist Jeff Koons is...or is his strangeness completely cultivated? What does it take to be a really famous and successful artist in today's global art market? Is it enough to just quietly get on with your work? No, not if you want to be an international player. If you want that you have to be very good at business and understand how to market yourself or get somebody else to do that for you. Andy Warhol once said: “Business art is the step that comes after art. I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist. Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. During the hippie era people put down the idea of business. They’d say “money is bad” and “working is bad”. But making money is art, and working is art - and good business is the best art.”

Well, I think Andy was brilliant but what did he spawn? There's no doubt that Jeff's one very smart cookie, he's a producer of 'smART', that's my name for it. He's an arch manipulator, a pied piper that lures many into his hyper-art world. A brilliant business man and smooth operator. But was Andy right? Is business the best art? I think not, but Warhol was the best there's ever been at combining the two because the art part still seemed to have some sort of integrity.             

I'm reminded of Grayson Perry's Reith Lecture, Democracy Has Bad Taste. Has Jeff created works which are deliberately in 'bad taste' to shock and attract attention; to draw in a greater catchment of people? If people no longer have good taste then bad taste is the only way to go, long as it's made really well it can be sold as some sort of exclusive art object.

One can't help but be taken with Koons though; when confronted with his work, you do get drawn in. Firstly trying work out how the thing's been made and what exactly is going on. Followed by a realisation that all is not what it seems. Then total disbelief at the nerve of it... followed by a bit of a laugh at the absurdity of it all. 

Seal, Walrus (Chairs) 2003-9

On our recent visit to the current exhibition at the Gagosian called Sprayed we experienced precisely this effect. One of his pieces being stacks of white chairs with what appears to be blown-up inflatables incorporated into them. Made out of metal these inflatables are crying out to be touched, to be checked with your fingers; but you can't touch so you have to rely on your eyes to notice that all is not what it seems; but we were fascinated...we were caught in the Koons web.

Coincidentally we recently watched the BBC's Diary Of A Seducer, on Koons. Here we saw him growing up via snippets of film from the 50s and 60s. We discovered his Father passed on to him a passion for objects. We find out who he admired: Duchamp, Picabia and Dali. His admiration for these three is very evident: in Duchamp with his Readymades, Dali with his cultivated persona and interest in metamorphosis and Picabia, I suspect, for his wit.  We see him developing his taste whilst working with Chicago-based Ed Paschke (whose work I much prefer). It would seem it is through Paschke that he develops a penchant for the underbelly of American culture via the media, but of course Paschke's forerunner would have been Warhol and so I believe Andy is the starting point in terms of approach, in more ways than one. 

Ed Paschke
La Chanteuse (Oil on linen) 1981

Most artists are pretty normal people but normal is not what attracts attention. Koons understands this and like Dali and Warhol has created a persona that is harder for people to read, therefore he himself becomes the point of interest for the viewer. A work can get away with being second rate when people buy into the character of the artist; that is when it no longer matters about the art. To buy a Koons would be to buy part of the man or the brand. 

I wasn't surprised to be informed by the fact that our very own Damian Hirst is a fan of Koons and owns one of his pieces which resides in his studio where he (like Koons) employs skilled workers to make up his art. He is our British version of  Koons but in persona they are different: Koons is slick, business-like, a little unsavoury and softly spoken; like a church minister up to no good. Hirst is a wholesome cheeky-chappie, a sort of working class down to earth-ish type. Oh, and similarly both men have had the magic wand of Saachi cast over them.

Koons seems also to be selling some sort of American Dream gone awry. Below is one of the giants of the American celebrity/media culture, one that created his very own fantasy world and there have been a few, especially from the music business: Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton for example have made the dream into a bizarre larger-than-life reality. Koons seems endlessly fascinated by this idea and seems to be becoming one of these characters himself...Koonsworld has got to be done! 

Michael Jackson and Bubbles 1988

The exhibition at the Gagosian is free to get in and although I haven't mentioned any of the other works on show it is an enjoyable exhibition. I do like themed shows and this one called 'Sprayed' does what is says on the tin... also the last two works pictured here are not in the show.

Ed Paschke Documentary

I just enjoyed this old documentary on Ed Paschke and thought I would include it here as I'm writing a piece on Jeff Koons at the moment and the two men are linked. Jeff worked for Paschke in Chicago when he was developing as a younger artist and makes a brief appearance in this film.  

As yet Untitled...

Cork is a great material, it has such warmth and texture. I've used it here to draw around parts of my body...It's not supposed to be precise but rather to suggest body parts. I have added more to this piece since taking the picture and I'm tempted to get more cork and do a couple of other works involving different body shapes.

Oil, cork and mirror on canvas

Tadeusz Kantor: Representation Loses More and More Its Charm (1955)

From theories and documents of CONTEMPORARY ART a sourcebook of artists' writings. Edited by Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz

loses more and more its charm.
To create painting is
in itself
a living organism,
moving like
a hive.
Space which retracts violently
condenses forms
to dimensions of molecules
to the limit of the "impossible."
In this dreadful movement
the speed of making decisions
and of interventions,
the spontaneity of the behavior
constantly grazes
Danger connected with phenomena
inhabited in the lowest regions
of human activity
refusing all rational classification.
It is art that will rediscover the reason for being
and its rank.
It is risk that is the origin of this
great adventure,
of this game which situates itself
always at the limit of the risk
and whose outcome - despite rules -
remains forever unforseeable.
...Painting becomes a demonstration of life,
a depository of diverse activities.
I am fascinated by this play of chance
with matter,
this battle without victories or defeats
this spectacle, in which I do not at all play the principal character,
and which holds me bound in a passionate expectation
of the unknown epilogue.

Excerpt from "Carnet des notes" (1955), in Tadeusz Kantor Metamorphoses (Paris: Galerie de France, 1982)

Ben Uri Gallery: No Set Rules

From Art Therapy Without Borders

They use art in therapy don't they? If you're having problems with your body or the stuff in your head you can put it all on a piece of paper. My doctors' surgery is full of it and some of it is pretty good too.

A while back on a Sunday we headed off to the Ben Uri gallery in St John's Wood to see an exhibition called No Set Rules but both of us were not in the best of moods. So after a bit of walking and talking we got on our bikes and cycled to the gallery, stopped off at a pub and played with our new toy (which is a tablet), and had a bitter shandy and a packet of crisps.

After this we went to the gallery, which is small and intimate and looked at some great work. Took some pictures with our new device and discussed art with the chap who let us in...probably for too long. Got back on the bikes and cycled to St John's Wood High Street and had coffee and cakes at Carluccio's whilst sitting in the late afternoon sun and then cycled home very content and happy and in a much better frame of mind.

My point is that art is therapeutic but in more ways than one. It is a transporter of ideas; someone else's ideas, so when you're caught up in your own thoughts just looking at art is a great release because it takes you out of yourself...especially if you combine it with other simple pleasures.

Here is one of the photos we took with the new gadget...I know it's not great quality. I had trouble holding the thing steady and pressing the button without moving, also we had to deal with the refection in the glass but I'm not sure how much this really matters as I quite like the rough and ready element to images sometimes...and anyway perfectionism is one of the reasons people can end up needing therapy.

Elisabeth Tomlin (1912 - 2012)
Head circa 1920
Pastel and acrylic on paper

The show concentrates on works on paper which include drawings, prints and paintings all by artists working in Britain between 1920 to 2004 including: Jane Joseph, David Bomberg, Gillian Ayres, Frank Auerbach, Michael Rothenstein, Leon Kossoff, Glenn Sujo, Elisabeth Tomlin and Edward Toledano. There are works by 37 different artists in all.

Anyway this show is on until 9 August, which is good because I've been meaning to finish this piece of writing for ages and it's most annoying if it goes out of date while I'm procrastinating.