Saturday 31 July 2004

My momma done say

On this blue moon day, my horoscope said:

Your key planet, Uranus, and his mental friend, Mercury, are singing your favorite tune today as they harmoniously snap, crackle and pop with eclectic ideas and stimulating thoughts. You feel alive, although not necessarily in your body. You are in your head. It's a thinking day and you'd do well to seek out other like-minded eccentrics with whom you can travel to the edges of the universe.

Like-minded eccentrics, eh? Nothing for it but to visit my dear old mum. Actually, as it's her 88th birthday, I could hardly do less.

And did we travel to the edges of the universe? Not quite. I still got it in the neck. Why, she wanted to know, did I give away my wife's second baby to my Big Auntie? All Big Auntie does is put it out in the garden first thing in the morning.

After a while, I made my excuses and left.

Geordie Frustration

Well, we're getting into the early part of the morning and there's a big yellow disc in the sky. That must be the almost complete blue moon fighting its way through the grey clouds.

I've just come from watching the latest episode of The Smoking Room, a comedy series on BBC3 I generally find amusing. Tonight's episode had a cameo part by someone pretending to be a Geordie, for no reason other than being a Geordie is funny/cool/whatever.

I know that Geordies have become flavour of the moment with the media. Generally, I don't have any objections to that. Christ, I actually watched the mediocre talent on Top of the Pops tonight simply because it was a live broadcast from Gateshead Quays. People said nice things about Gateshead and called it a "City". Which it isn't, but it deserves to be as much as Sunderland did (but then we don't have a Japanese car manufacturer to impress).

My objection to the inclusion of Geordies in tv dramas and comedies is that they keep faking it. There's some voice-over git on Channel 4 who does an absolutely awful Geordie accent. There's also Jane Middlemiss who crops up as much as Wogan did in his heyday and is just awful anyway.

But there now seems to be a desire to put Geordies in dramas because they're cool, not because they have anything to add to the plot. This week's Waking the Dead had much of its action in the North-East, but it was clear that the main character had learned his accent in the Sunderland/South Durham area, rather than somewhere around Alnwick in Northumberland, as suggested by the plot.

This is not parochialism on my part. The problem with the accents is that they're trying to be something they're not. Mostly they're trying to be Tyneside (ie. Newcastle and Gateshead), but for some reason, perhaps to do with acting schools, the actors are mainly from the Sunderland / Co.Durham area.

But if that's where they're from, let them speak like that. Don't encourage them to try to be Geordies. It's a difficult accent.

Obviously I have no idea whether other regional accents are convincingly portrayed on tv. They sound OK to me. But maybe other bloggers can tell me whether they had the same kind of annoyance when their accents went through the Popularity Barrier?

Friday 30 July 2004

Dead & Buried

In my efforts to create a more "natural" garden, I've left things to grow as they will; to run wild, in fact, much to the chagrin of Lucy Smooth next door who sees it as her Mediterranean duty to use the land as profitably as possible. My crops of grass and brambles threaten her more carefully tended beans, lettuces, garlic and artichokes, and the Martock Bean Enclosure must look like a sick joke to her.

Alas, the thickening undergrowth has also proven the undoing of one of the less bright avian ground feeders. I discovered the remains of a collared dove under the bushes this morning. I say "remains", but frankly it was virtually intact. Just dead and a bit defeathered. Bloody cats again.

I dug a hole for it next to the garden wall. In the process, I uncovered a very active ant colony which I thought I'd persuaded into non-existence a couple of years ago.

They're now going to have to decide whether the presence of a rather large bird carcass presents insurmountable rebuilding problems, or simply incorporate a considerable food reserve into a remodelled colony.

Oh to be at the council meeting.

Not a lot of people know that

Well, I didn't

According to my friendly online
horoscope provider:

We celebrate two Full Moons this July, and when that happens in any calendar month — which is pretty rare — the second one is called the "Blue Moon." Even though the Moon does not really change colors, the image of a Blue Moon has inspired poets, songwriters... and lovers!

I've stored that one away mentally, to drop heavily into conversation at an appropriate moment.

Thursday 29 July 2004

Arm and Hammer

It's been a funny couple of days. Yesterday was taken up with yet more paper-clearing. One of the annoying things about clearing kipple (a fine word coined by Philip K Dick for accumulated paper) is that when you open something and decide to tear it up, it almost inevitably involves doing something else before you can actually tear it up. So, if you don't do that required thing, you have to put the original piece of paper back into another pile.

Regarding this as self-defeating (and acknowledging that this is what contributes to the huge piles of kipple in the first place), I decided to make sure that all the chains of requirement were carried through to the end.

Even if this led to the wrath of Patsy123 who was waiting for me to help with assembling various bits of IKEA flatpackery.

Which it did.......but we'll not dwell on that.

Anyway, I finished assembling her new computer desk with the aid of a hammer. This rare item of toolbox gimmickry was something Patsy123 doesn't have. My friend CJ doesn't have a pair of pliers. How do women get along without hammers and pliers (he generalised)?

After seeing her off to London again, I wandered home and sweltered a little in the garden. A turn about the Martock Bean Enclosure shows that three whole bean pods have developed and there may be more to come if I can remember to buy some slug pellets.

And then it was a bit of a slump in front of, alternately, the tv and the monitor. Should have stuck with the monitor, but instead I half-heartedly watched a 1987 movie called Over the Top.

Made by Golan-Globus, in fact directed by Menahem Golan, it starred Sly Stallone and featured him as former loser making good in the world of boxing. No, sorry, what made me say that? In the world of armwrestling.

The finale took place in Nevada (Las Vegas, I guess, but I wasn't paying that much attention) at the World Armwrestling Championships. Inevitably, Sly done good by beating a HUGE mountain of a man, some twenty feet bigger than himself, and in so doing, won the love of his estranged son and the grudging though unstated respect of his father-in-law.

Yeah, you got it. Absolute bollocks.

But it got me to thinking: is armwrestling one of those "international" sports the Americans so love, like baseball?

So I googled it. And lo and behold, it has member organisations in just about
everywhere you can think of. Even Scotland.

I didn't think it possible, but here's another sport I can add to those I already take no interest in. Wonder if I'll be ignoring it as part of the Olympics?

Tuesday 27 July 2004

Fun: minus zero

Posted by Hello
A couple of years or so ago, MIT published some research which showed that an untidy desk was evidence of a creative mind. I'm living proof that this is so.

But the level of untidiness in Stately Zip Mansion should indicate that I'm a second Michaelangelo (or third, given that that buffoon Jeff Koons thinks he's the second).

The trouble with this level of disorganisation is that I can't find anything I want when I want it. And this, coupled with a considerable degree of sensory and experiential overload, has led to the pilot light going out in my Fun Boiler.

While Patsy123 struggles with her new carpet and IKEA flatpacks alone, I've spent the day trying to achieve my No.1 priority: finding out if there's really a table under the pile of paper in the dining room.

And indeed there is. For the first time in months it would be possible to eat a meal set out on it. Still some way to go, but most of the paper has been sorted, torn up or filed.

I feel a real sense of achievement.

Coupled with a further sense of trepidation as I regard the pile of paper on the coffee table. And the one on the armchair. Oh, and the one on the footstool.

And could that be one lurking under the table?

I'm determined to get this project done, though. When it's finished, not only will it make sense to actually hoover the carpet thoroughly, but I should have completed the paperwork on some important arts contacts and updated my AXIS account.

But it won't be what I call Fun.

Monday 26 July 2004

Lost the thread

In the Hancock (etching and aquatint) Posted by Hello

My head is in a confused state. Bear with me while I reassemble my thoughts.

The etching, which dates from about 1998, will have to speak for me for the moment. Not my preferred course of action, but my mind is too woolly to put together a decent verbal posting.

It will pass, as all things must

Sunday 25 July 2004

Musical Interlude

Posted by Hello

When I got to Tynemouth, the tide was out, so I couldn't hear the sea. Instead, we played PS by Andy Sheppard and John Parricelli, which is almost as sensuous and relaxing as the sound of the sea. Highly recommended, if you haven't heard it, as is everything else Andy Sheppard has done since switching to the Provocateur label.

On the way home yesterday I decided to check out
Windows, probably the most eclectic record store in town. I try to ration my trips there because I always find something I want.

Sure enough, one of the most recent additions to my Keep an Eye Out For list -
Rounds by Four Tet - was in stock. Rated 5/5 by The Guardian, 5/5 by Uncut, 9/10 by NME and "The future starts here" by The Independent, I figured I could do worse than buy it.

And it's growing on me. The brainchild of Keiran Hebden, it melds folk, jazz and Eastern rhythms with hip hop production to give a beautiful and absorbing product. Funky too. I think I'll be listening to this for some time to come.

Friday 23 July 2004

A breath of sea air

Posted by Hello
Another long afternoon in the gallery, with only two visitors until Patsy123 turned up to keep me company.

I spent the time getting into
Robinson by Chris Petit and look forward to finishing it. A curious mix of Ian Sinclair and J G Ballard.

I'm off to Tynemouth tonight to sit and listen to the sea and read my book, while Patsy123 either slaves over a hot stove or, more likely, goes to the chippy.

There might even be a short investigative foray into the depths of darkest Cumberland Arms.

The gallery can take care of itself tomorrow.

Thursday 22 July 2004

Not so curious.

I sat in the Figure 8 Show again this afternoon and that is called Invigilating.

And I finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. And it was very good and I enjoyed it a lot.

But it made me sad for a while because it made me think of someone I loved very much who died aged 34.

And 19 people came to look at the show. The first two people were Indians. The next two people were a man and his wife and then two people who were ladies.

The ladies spent more time looking at things (8 minutes and 34 seconds) and giggling, which is what ladies do a lot. But they took away a copy of the Press Release and were interested.

And then four people came in. Two of them left after 2 minutes and 16 seconds but the old lady knew you had to stand back from the pictures to see them properly and then her daughter did that too. But they left after 4 minutes and 22 seconds.

And while they were there a woman and three small children (one boy and two girls) came in and they looked at everything in 1 minute and 47 seconds.

And after a while I got bored. And I sang quietly to myself "This is boredom you can afford by Cyril Bored," and I wondered if anyone would know why, if they heard me.

And so I ate a Boots Meal Deal. That was a Greek Feta Salad Wrap and a bottle of still raspberry and mango spring water and a packet of Walkers Max Paprika Flavour Deep Ridge Potato Crisps and everything cost £2.49.

The Walkers Max Paprika Flavour Deep Ridge Potato Crisps were in a red packet and I liked that. And there was a picture of a very big crisp on the front and underneath it was a line of small print which said Not actual size.

And that made me laugh.

But nothing else made me laugh this afternoon until Patsy123 arrived from London at 15.09. And that made me happy because she is not a stranger.

Wednesday 21 July 2004

Afternoon Subtext

It was my turn this afternoon to invigilate the show in the Long Gallery. Not a burdensome task, but not one involving any great excitement.

Several punters came and went. An MA student slopped past in shoes with no laces, dragging first a pile of paint cans on a trolley, then a compressor and spray gun.

A woman came in by mistake, thinking we were the show of false teeth and haphazardness next door in the public gallery. Finding we weren't, she looked uncomfortable and then asked which were my pictures.

"The ones in the middle," I said.

She stood for a while, then started to say "They're........" "......very individual."

On the basis that this was meant as a compliment, I thanked her, though it did feel like a compliment that had been searched for with care not to offend. She scuttled off, looking flustered.

One of the benefits of being in the University is that there are often students from other Departments looking for volunteers to help with their projects. So it was today. A guy from the Royal Victoria Infirmary over the road (a teaching hospital affiliated to the University) was doing some research into the workings of the brain.

Recognising that I might actually have a brain he asked me to don some headphones and listen to some sounds which would be repeated twice. All I had to do was tell him what I thought they were.

At first I hadn't a clue, but gradually the electronica gave way to distorted human voices.

The next stage involved my listening to various spoken sentences and repeating them back to him. Pretty easy, that one. They were something on the lines of :

  • Ben has corked two bottles.
  • Liz has crashed two cars.
  • Ben has driven a red car.
  • Don has a red car and a yellow car.
  • Liz has cracked two cups.
  • Finally, I had to listen to the original sound sequences and tell him if I thought any of them were the spoken sentences and to point out any words I recognised.

    I got soft cries of "Excellent!" several times on that one. Apparently, artists and musicians do better at this kind of recognition than non-creative people. I hope I might get to see the results of his research some time. Interesting.

    Even more interesting was the obvious subtext to this exercise. It became clear that:

    • Don is a rich bastard who has two cars.
    • Don is really pissed off with Liz because she has crashed both of his cars.
    • Ben is pissed off with Liz, because occasionally Don let's him drive the red car, but now he won't be able to borrow it because Liz has crashed it.
    • Ben makes his own wine, but the cups he used to drink it from have been cracked by Liz.
    • Liz is a real liability

    Tuesday 20 July 2004

    Private View

    Posted by Hello

    The Private View went really well last night. We reckoned beforehand that if we got about 70 people we'd be doing well. I'd say there were at least a hundred people there. There was a good vibe and I caught up with some old friends who'd fallen through the cracks in my life.

    It's a funny thing, this exhibiting lark. We sold nothing. We paid for folk to hang about and have a good time, nattering and drinking and eating. Yet we judged it a success.

    But then, life's not all about selling, whatever Capitalism may tell us.

    Perhaps it's that we were responsible for people having a good time; that there was a good vibe. For our part, we got a lot of positive comments and came away feeling that we'd achieved something.

    Word of mouth and people returning with their hot little cheque books may yet produce something in terms of sales. But in a way, that would be a bonus.

    "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again..."

    There's a lot of archaeology in Cornwall. In a day driving round only a small part of the peninsula, we looked at ancient standing stones, a standing stone put up around 500AD to commemorate a fallen warrior, and the ruins of the tin mining industry.

    All very much to my taste.

    While it might have been more comfortable to have done all of this in sunshine, much of our sightseeing was done in a gently blowing mist. But this certainly gave the distinctly Romantic remains of a tin mine, with its nearby chimney , a charming ghostly quality as it loomed over us out of the mist.

    Later, parking by the road, we walked up a country track then out onto the moor to find Men-an-Tol. This is the relic which looks like 101 - three standing stones in a line, the two end ones straight upright, the middle one round, with a round hole in it.

    The very worthy and interested Victorians messed around with these stones, as they did with many others, so it's unclear whether there was any astronomical alignment. It did cross my mind that it might be digital machine code, but the vision of Erich Von Daniken leered at me and I dropped the idea.

    Legend has it that a sick person passed entirely through the hole will be cured. Both Buddy K and I stuck our feet through but I'm here to tell you that it didn't work. This is not a cure for planta fasciitis. But then we didn't actually pass bodily through the hole, so who knows...

    Further up the track and in another field, is Men Scryfa. It's an eerie feeling standing in the middle of a field in a dense fog, with nothing but each other and a tall inscribed stone for company.

    The stone is said to be the height of the fallen warrior whose death it commemorates, but considering some of it is below ground such that the inscription is partly hidden, he must have been quite a giant. Buddy K and I are about 5 ft 9 and the stone rose almost a foot above us.

    Back on the road, there was another site not too far away. The probably very famous Lanyon Quoit. The Victorians stood these up too, and one was broken, so the monument is no longer as tall as it once was. But it's still a very impressive construction.

    Sunday 18 July 2004

    Roving Gallery Report No. 309

    I've often wondered what it would be like to live in an artists' colony. Having been to St Ives I'm still not in a position to know the answer, because I went as a visitor, of course.

    I can't imagine what it was like for Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Leach, Bryan Wynter, Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost et al, to hang out in 1950s St Ives, and mix with an international art set there.

    "In St Ives you could walk into a pub or go to a party and see Rothko or Motherwell and eminent critics, American and British. At the time it all seemed natural but in retrospect it was an extraordinary and exciting period."
    Tom Cross,
    Catching the Wave

    That's all gone now, of course, but St Ives still retains a little of the aura of what once was.

    A lot of that is in the visitor's head, however. I found myself wandering round an exhibition by the
    St Ives Society of Artists and being surprised to find that some of the work was at best average. Why should I be surprised? There's no reason why Newcastle should have more average artists than St Ives.

    What I think helps artists living in St Ives is that they're in an atmosphere where art is expected to be found and where ill-informed visitors assume that what is on display must be good because it's in an "artists' colony." In fact, my visits to quite a few local galleries and artists' open studios showed there was an awful lot of distinctly average art about, and that's being kind.

    Better by far were the exhibitions we found in
    The Great Atlantic Map Works Gallery in St Just. The show coming down and the one going up were both really good, and the profusion of red dots, even on works as yet unhung, showed there are people about who value good work and are prepared to invest in it.

    Of the two Tate institutions in St Ives, I got most out of the Barbara Hepworth Museum. Like the
    Baltic in Gateshead, the Tate St Ives is an interesting building conversion with not a great deal in it. A small selection of Nicholsons, Naum Gabos and Peter Lanyons in the permanent collection and, currently, a pretty good show of wood sculpture by David Nash, but also some indifferent stuff like a sound installation purporting to demonstrate how much the streets of Mumbai sounded like St Ives. OK, there was too much traffic in St Ives, but Mumbai it is not.

    The Barbara Hepworth Museum was a whole nother thing. The little Sculpture Garden attached to its house and studio, is almost exactly the garden I have in mind for my house. All I need are the big bits of sculpture and lots of bamboo.

    Monday 12 July 2004

    Tiddy Oggy

    Posted by Hello
    The Saturday hanging went very well indeed. We were done within about an hour and a half. And I have to say the show looks pretty damn fine.

    Only the press release remains to be done (by me, tomorrow). The posters are done and look good and the invitations to the Private View have been posted.

    If you're in the area (BykerSink?), do please look us up! Bring your cheque-books!

    There's no release for me from fun, it seems. On Tuesday I'm flying to Bristol, where I'll be picked up by Buddy K and Suzie who are in Swansea even as I write.

    From Bristol we drive onwards to the ends of the world, or at least St Ives. After Desperate Cornish Fun, including no doubt the Tate St Ives, it's back to Bristol and a return flight to Newcastle.

    Speak to you then.

    Until then stay sweet and fresh.

    Saturday 10 July 2004


    Tell me, is there something about pilchards I should know?

    In the ever-increasing search for oily fish replete with omega-3s, I came across a nice little tin of South Atlantic pilchards in Kwik-Save. In a can made from recycled steel, too.

    I don't remember if my mum ever went in for pilchards much when I was a boy. Sardines, yes, and tuna, but pilchards I just don't know.

    Anyway, pushed as I am for time, what with hanging the show tomorrow and the pictures not being quite finished, I thought, "What could be easier and quicker than some pilchards with boiled new potatoes and some green beans? After all, it's Friday and even if I'm not religious, that makes it an even better excuse."

    And they were rather nice, like fatter sardines. All the more omega-3s, I expect.

    Why then have I spent the evening between the easel and the loo?

    I'm just getting to the tricky bit of the Madonna at her cash desk, when I think...uh oh...gotta go. This has not been an easy night and the pictures are going to be - at the very least - tacky when Mo and Mr Grumpy call round for me at 9.30.

    But then Mo's been standing her latest in front of the fan heater trying to dry it, without success.

    I think we might have to have a Varnishing Day.

    Wednesday 7 July 2004

    More Tales of Mum

    As I entered the nursing home, the Emaciated Lady drew me to one side conspiratorially, and told me, sotto voce, that "In the lounge there's a woman who's wearing two of my socks."

    I thanked her and thus forewarned, went in to see my old mum.

    She wasn't saying much today, other than to ask after my wife and baby. I reminded her that I'm actually now a singleton, despite the attachment of Patsy123, but all she could say was, "Well, why did you let me think otherwise?"

    There's no real answer to that.

    She did express real concern when I had to deny having a fleet of cars.

    "What's the good of having one and a half million if you haven't got yourself a fleet of cars yet?"

    Eventually, I made my excuses and left.

    Overweening Ambition

    George & the Dragon (oil on canvas, 16 x 20 ins) Posted by Hello

    Things have gone well today. The new 3 x 4 painting has moved along remarkably well, thanks in part to a return to Spectragel, the fast-drying impasto additive. Inevitably, of course, the figure - undoubtedly the most successful part of the painting so far - has turned out to be too small. I guess I'll just have to bite the bullet, wipe her out and redo her. Bollocks.

    Mo came round today with her digital camera and took a photograph of what will probably be my image on the publicity. I'm happy enough with it. That's it above.

    Tomorrow (Wednesday) is shaping up to be a total loss as far as painting is concerned. I managed to get an appointment with a doctor of uncertain pedigree at 9.10 tomorrow morning.

    That'll be a laugh. Me getting up in time to make an appointment at 9.10!

    Then I simply gotta see my mum. She'll be running out of ciggies.

    And to round the day off, a much-postponed visit to the dentist for at least two fillings. Oh joy.

    I can see I'm unlikely to get all the paintings done I'd hoped to, unless I really knock myself out. Ambition will be the death of me yet.

    Tuesday 6 July 2004

    Stretching Credibility

    A long tiring day assembling stretchers.

    This consists of creeping about on the floor screwing the bits of stretcher together. Then fixing spacer strips to the edges and cursing as I run out of panel pins.

    Creeping about on the floor measuring up the canvas and cutting from the roll comes next. Then stretching the canvas on the stretchers and cursing as I run out of staples for the staple gun.

    Finally, priming the canvas and cursing as I run out of acrylic gesso.

    It's so good to work in a well-stocked studio.

    This is the tedious part. Tomorrow I can get on with laying out the pictures, several at a time. I like that bit.

    But today was just grind, brightened only by the news that the trial of Slobodan Milosevic has been postponed indefinitely due to his failing health.

    Surely they know that all they have to do is send him home and he'll be well again. Worked wonders for Thatcher's friend, poor old General Pinochet, the only man in history to recover from Alzheimer's.

    Would that my own cure might be as easily attained.

    I phoned the surgery today and asked for Doc Pop. Apparently he was expecting my call, because he went on two weeks holiday today.

    "Well, I don't know who to see, then," I said. "I don't even know who else is in the practice now."

    "I might as well tell you now," offered the receptionist, "that we have no appointments left today. If you phone tomorrow after 8.30, you can ask for an appointment for that day. We're now an Open Access practice, and that's how it works now."

    Why does this sound ominously like first come, first served, and if you don't get an appointment on one day, you have to go through the same rigmarole the next day? At this rate, Doc Pop will be back from his hols before I get an appointment. And what guarantee is there that I'll get to see him, anyway?


    Monday 5 July 2004

    The stress! It's wonderful!!

    I've just put a note out for the milkman, asking him to resume my Saturday delivery which, unaccountably, has failed to appear for two weeks.

    It was the act of communicating with someone in the 21st century by putting a message in a bottle that suddenly seemed so bizarre. Long may it continue.

    Anyway, this is a roundabout way of letting you know that the blogging method of communication may falter in the days ahead. I fear I'm about to enter painting purdah. While I was in London, I learned that three other painters and myself have been given the go-ahead for a show in the Long Gallery at Newcastle University which will last until the end of July.

    This is really great, given that we've been trying to find a venue for the best part of a year.

    However, we're hanging the show next Saturday and I have to make desperate decisions about what I want in it. I have more than enough pictures at home to fill the Gallery myself, but I saw this as an opportunity to show something a little different in a group context.

    Accordingly, I've spent the last couple of days sorting through my Hoppings photographs and fiddling with them on Photoshop, to see if I might have a theme.

    And I do have a theme. So much so, that I must now select which of the images I want to take forward. Much of Saturday was taken up with beginning a new painting. It's very Hopperesque and called, provisionally, The Cigarette Break. Today,Sunday, I spent assembling stretchers and beginning the stretching of canvas on them. Tomorrow I'll finish the stretching, get them primed (usually three coats of acrylic gesso) and maybe start the basic laying in.

    Frankly this is my favourite part of the process. There are no worries about making mistakes. Indeed, mistakes can be welcome. They add to the look of the picture, give an idea of the history of its making.

    At the most, I guess I'm going to be working on three new pictures, in addition to The Cigarette Break, but that's a lot of work, even if it goes well. In between working, I have a dentist's appointment, probably a doctor's appointment (my foot is no better), a visit from Mo who needs to take a photograph of one of the, as yet, incomplete paintings for the show's publicity, and a meeting with the rest of the group to agree the wording of said publicity, budgetary matters, mailing list and arrangements for the Private View.

    It may mean that I shan't be able to keep blogging as regularly as I'd like, but I will try to keep you up to date as often as I can.

    Even if I have to send a message in a bottle.

    Saturday 3 July 2004

    At last: Hopper.

    I can see I'm in danger of letting the Hopper show get away from me. It already seems to be slipping into the occluded canyons of my mind ( the drawer marked shirts).

    And what can I say about it that will satisfy not only myself but my devoted reader (Hi, Marja-Leena!)?

    It was everything I hoped it would be, even with the omission of favourite pictures like New York Movie or House by the Railroad.

    Or indeed, Chop Suey. Remembering this picture of two women in cloche hats sitting in a restaurant, outside of which is a huge sign showing part of the word "SUEY," suddenly brought back to me the memory of having seen the last Hopper retrospective at the Hayward in 1981. How could I have forgotten? What's wrong with my memory? I had a poster from that show, depicting Chop Suey, on the wall of the attic at my previous house for years, for god's sake!

    Ah well, this one won't get away so easily.

    Going round this exhibition was a lot like visiting old friends, although there were a couple I didn't recognise, and it was a real pleasure sharing views with Patsy123. I was particularly struck with how clean and modern the paintings looked, mainly, I suppose as a result of Hopper's paring away of detail.

    But most of all I came away with an impression of paintings of people disconnected, nobody talking to anyone else, everyone looking in different directions. And his choice of composition often gave the feeling that the main protagonists were looking at something important out of the picture that we could not be party to.

    Is that woman looking at something beyond the tree line, or inwardly cursing the tree line for keeping the world from her? What has the dog seen to the left of the picture that prevents it from looking at its master who calls it, while the woman looks in upon her own thoughts? What kind of light is it that bathes the man sweeping his yard in a Pennsylvania coal town?

    Overall, a sense of mystery.


    A window gaping wide
    Exhales the heavy city heat.
    Curtains move seductively
    To embrace the cool, crisp night air.
    Darkness of stone without,
    Makes a frame for an enticing glimpse
    Of life within a lighted window.

    A woman, unknowing,
    Offers her proud, red robed rear
    As she bends tending what? why?
    Offers a brief flash of her life.
    Bids me welcome, draws me in,
    But answers nothing, shuts me out.
    Within the room
    Shapes, shades, shadows, inconclusive, tease,
    They are hers to know. Intimate, familiar,
    Mine only to conjecture, ungraspable,
    A mystery.

    (Patsy123 - July 2004)

    Heavy Weather

    You can't beat a good British summer, can you? There's nothing I like better on a Saturday afternoon in July than sweeping floods of water out of the garage, while hail crashes on the garage door and thunder and lightning disport themselves in the heavens.

    I even let out an involuntary "Aaaaah," as I spotted a wedding car drive by, its wipers frantically trying to clear some vision for the driver.

    Better than my usual "It'll all end in tears," I suppose.

    As I was brushing out the burgeoning garage lagoon, a soggy and dishevelled figure poked his head round the door.

    "Have you got an old towel?"

    Was this some kind of survey? I thought not.

    "What for?" I asked, not unreasonably.

    "Because I'm in a mini-bus and I'm soaking wet. I want to dry myself off."

    Although I was having trouble with the chain of logic (Where did the mini-bus come into it? Why me?), I gave in to my better side and scuttled back into the kitchen fetching forth my kitchen towel.

    "Not very big, I'm afraid."

    He took it and disappeared.

    After about five minutes, a mini-bus drove away.

    Mr Zip: Dispenser of Free Towels to the Terminally Damp. I ask you!

    Friday 2 July 2004


    Posted by Hello
    I got into London on Monday with enough time to take in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, though humping my bag through hot and sweaty London streets, given my current limp, was not a lot of fun.

    I can't say the Exhibition was a lot of fun, either, though it had its moments. The usual ragbag really, but the Academicians seem to be taking over the place. Considering the show was set up to allow open submissions from the country, it pisses me off when the RAs decide to load it with their own works and invite "Honorary" RAs from abroad to show too.

    There were the expected delights in the Small Weston Room, where very small pictures by your average Joe are skied alongside better-known names like Craigie Aitchison and Jane Corsellis.

    The Large Weston Room was also good, being given over to prints as usual. It always fascinates me to see which subjects are given the long line of red dots treatment. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see more red dots on an etching of a cute grey seal than on a colossal woodcut of Zeppelins attacking London.

    In Gallery V David Mach had found a good use for hundreds of postcards of the Clotheshorse Princess. He'd cut up lots of Diana postcards, as well as others depicting fruit, grapes etc, and collaged them all together to form a reclining nude called "Princess."

    Tom Phillips presented a typically idiosyncratic arrangement of 40 sheets of Minutes from RA meetings on which he'd doodled quite exquisitely.

    Drawing seems to be making a comeback. Gallery VI was stuffed with them, many very good indeed. I don't include in this the two Tracey Emin monoprints of quite extraordinary ineptitude. I begin to think she may be dyslexic. But as Patsy123 puts it, while dyslexia should not be a barrier, it should also not be an excuse for lack of ability. Anyone unknown presenting such dross would have no chance of having it accepted.

    Emin's crap was more than made up for by a beautiful Dennis Creffield charcoal drawing of Skenfrith Castle, Alessa Avelino's New York Drawing 1, Mary Fedden's two unfashionably precise pencil drawings, and On the Moors, a lovely poetic semi-abstract landscape in pencil, acrylic, oil stick and chalk by Victoria Petterson-Turner.

    Too much to go into in any more depth. There was a huge polychrome sculpture of an owl in one gallery. Must have been 15 feet high. "No dear," said one deaf old lady in a loud voice to her equally deaf old friend, "it wouldn't go in my sitting room."

    Anthony Whishaw, whose work I've always looked forward to, disappointed me by producing pictures in what I took to be simply black and white acrylic. Then Patsy123 pointed out how he'd painted over a heavily textured red underlayer which gave a fascinating effect apparently Not to my red/green defective vision, unfortunately.

    There was some kind of function on that night, so we were thrown out at 5.30.

    Time to shuffle and drag ourselves through the crowds outside to a pub with no beer, where we'd arranged to meet the Big Dave, True Rat, Buddy K and Suzie Sue. The Expected Welshman wasn't able to make it. Then on to an excellent meal at a Turkish restaurant. Lamb shanks all round, despite True Rat's suggestion that it might be Cockney rhyming slang for something offensive.