Thursday, 17 June 2004

Jack me into the broadband and pass the stem cell toffees......

Torquil, Oil on board Posted by Hello

You can't beat it, can you, a good night of amiable conversation and argument over an enjoyable meal?

Patsy123 is up from London again so we spent the afternoon wandering round the shops in town, just mooching. I bought another ludicrously expensive colour cartridge for my HP710c and Patsy123 found out the carpet she has on order for Tynemouth is gonna take another 4 to 5 weeks. I came off best.

And then it was time for another meal out. Can I afford it? Like hell. Should I stop? Like hell. This time it was an old favourite - for me at least - Paris Texas. It's an old student hangout in St Mary's Place; cheap and cheerful. If you stick to what they do best, like pizza, pasta or vaguely Tex-Mex stuff, you'll do fine. If you push the boat out and opt for something like grilled tuna steak, you'll be making a big mistake (won't you, Buddy K?)

The food was excellent, anyway. In fact I'm tempted to think they've got a new chef - they've definitely got some nice new bistro-style tableware. Must remember, also, to tell Will Barrow that there seems to have been a sufficiently large turnover of staff to maybe make it safe for him to go back again.

As the pretty good house red loosened my tongue, I found I was talking myself out of what Eric Maisel would call a meaning crisis. With some effort on my part, it may be that I should channel my efforts into a slightly different meaning container.

And what meaning container might that be, I hear you ask. Well, no, I don't hear you ask anything of the sort, of course, because you probably haven't the faintest idea what I'm talking about, so I'll ask it for you.

"What meaning container might that be. Mr Zip?"

Why, thank you for asking. I'll tell you. One of the strands running through my thoughts for some time, has been an urge to do some figurative painting. I spent years doing cartoon figures and all the while wanted to do figure paintings. When I finally got to painting, what did I do? Don't worry, these are all rhetorical questions. I began painting townscapes with no figures in them whatsoever.

In the last year or so, perhaps as an expression of my need to make and keep contact with people, figures have started to walk into my pictures. In ones or twos at first; in crowds later on.

But I've been trying to make sense of my attraction to certain kinds of figure painting. It's not a school to which one might attach oneself. The painters are as apparently diverse as Stanley Spencer, Paula Rego, Alan Feltus, Carel Weight, Balthus and Hopper (you'll have heard of him?)

In his foreword to a 1998 exhibition, Jeffrey Carr, the Curator, has this to say:

Embodied Fictions is an exhibition of twelve nationally known realist painters who use the figure to create fictionalized worlds. These paintings demonstrate the power of painterly figuration to embody content. The quality of embodiment relies on the depiction of visual appearances to create fictional worlds, in the way a novel or film can make an invented situation seem "real". This use of the figure is distinct from the way a modernist might use the figure for a purely formal exploration, or the way a postmodernist might use the figure as a cipher, a sign or a decorative symbol to generate content.

I think this, and his even more interesting essay, may be enough to point me in the right direction. "Go for it," said Patsy123, and she's often right.

But she wasn't right, I felt, when we later turned our attention to an argument about the current proposals for human embryo cloning. I'm much too tired to cover the ground of the entire argument - and it was a proper argument, not simply a difference of opinion - but basically I came down on the side of support for stem cell research, broadband connections for nursing homes and colonies on Mars (I think if you're going to have an argument, you should be wide-ranging). I ventured that science, research and technology are the only things which will get us out of the hole we're very likely digging even now. That they may have got us into it in the first place is irrelevant.

Patsy123's arguments tended to be more like reservations about the fallout from technology. Really, she's been reading too much Oryx and Crake. If Margaret Atwood would simply admit she's writing science fiction, I'd have a whole lot more time for her.

I think I played my masterstroke by telling Patsy123 that she was arguing from a position of a glass half-empty, while mine was half-full. She doesn't like to think her glass is half-empty. If I hadn't seen her opposition wilting, I'd have played my trump card (what kind of game requires strokes and cards?):

Anything the Conservative Right Wing Bloody Moral Majority in America are against must be OK.

I rest my case.

And my weary body.

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