30 January 2008
How is it that I am so shrewd? I have never stopped to reflect on problems that were not real problems, never wasted my time on such things.
Painting an icy waste
Anyone capable of breathing the atmosphere that pervades my work will know that it is lashed by an icy wind. You need to have been born for such a climate if you do not wish to catch cold. Painting, as I live it, is a deliberately chosen existence in an icy waste, a quest after everything that has been proscribed by the established order.
I do not remember ever having made an effort to obtain anything. I am the contrary of the heroic nature. ‘Wanting’ something, ‘aspiring’ to something, or having an ‘objective’ are all things totally outside of my experience. But that is how I have always lived. I have never had any ambitions. In fact, I can say that I have never been excessively preoccupied with men, women, or money.
Thus, the relations I maintain with people test my patience to the utmost. My ‘humanity’ does not consist in sympathising with my neighbours but in putting up with the fact of feeling them so close to me.
Needless to say, I am not a chameleon. I have proved this by always choosing, instinctively, the atmosphere that would first change my skin. I do not take on the colour of my surroundings, however, but adopt one totally opposed to them. On the whole, I have always been the same; superficially, I have changed on many occasions, to become exactly the contrary of all that surrounded me.
I have always condemned myself to being different at every moment, to being beyond all conventions. The pressure I put on myself to avoid ever being assimilated by anybody or anything shows that I possess the instinctive, absolute certainty of what I need on any particular occasion. I enjoy all the good things – and even those little things that others are hardly capable of enjoying. And thus, out of my will to continual change, my will to live against the grain, I make my art.
One dark night a dervish was passing a dry well when he heard a cry for help from below. 'What is the matter?' he called down.
'I am a grammarian, and I have unfortunately fallen, due to my ignorance of the path, into this deep well, in which I am all but immobilised,' responded the other.
'Hold, friend, and I'll fetch a ladder and rope,' said the dervish.
'One moment, please!' said the grammarian. 'Your grammar and diction are faulty; be good enough to amend them.'
'If that is so much more important than the essentials,' shouted the dervish, 'you had best stay where you are until I have learned to speak properly.'
And he went on his way.
Let those who can, see.
29 January 2008
One of them quoted approvingly that old story about the painting competition where one painter painted some fruit and birds tried to eat it. Then they went to draw back the curtain covering the other painter’s work and discovered that the curtain was the painting. He won, because while the other guy had fooled birds he had fooled humans (which is not that difficult really).
I laughed and said what a stupid story that was. The Romans got all huffy and started quoting Aristotle at me. The exchange went something like this:
Me: ‘Bollocks to Aristotle. He was Alexander the Great’s tutor, and look how that turned out.’
Roman: ‘Yes, Alexander the Great conquered the known world!’
Me: ‘Exactly. The murdering bastard.’
Picabia intervened at this point. He tried reasoning with them and used the example of music. Aristotle reckoned art was mimesis. However, music doesn’t imitate anything. It is a purely abstract art. Picabia then tried to lead them through the way he developed abstract painting through the analogy with music. They just looked at him blankly.
I reckon the problem was with their assumptions. They assumed that Rome was centre of the world. All roads lead to Rome and all that. Because it was the centre of the world, it was necessarily the most advanced city in the world. And since they were Roman, they were the most advanced painters in the world, by definition. These assumptions actually made them very parochial and insular. They assumed they had nothing to learn from barbarians from the sticks, which is what they took us to be. Idiots.
Poor old Piero. He had all his illusions shattered.
Update: Well, I've just had Picabia on the phone. My first clue that he was a little irate was his opening line: 'You fucking idiot!' He thinks I misrepresented him in this post and wants me to stress that the the whole abstract painting through analogy with music thing only reflected his thinking for a short period between about 1911 and 1913. He moved on fairly quickly from there. (I won't quote him on the subject. He did go on for a bit.) The only reason he mentioned it to those Roman gits was because he thought they needed to start with the basics. Fair call. They didn't even get that.
I'm fairly sympathetic. He's a bit sensitive to being misinterpreted at the moment. You should've seen him after he'd read some of the stuff art historians had written about him, especially when he read the one who thought he'd ripped off Duchamp. Of course, it was the other way round. He was a little disappointed no-one realised Picasso ripped him off either (to say the least).
28 January 2008
26 January 2008
25 January 2008
Piero had spent the day in the library reading up on what art historians made of his work. Apparently he got told off because he was laughing too loudly. We got into a bit of an argument about when was the best time to be a painter. Each of us maintained that we’d been born at exactly the right time.
Piero made the point that people were a lot more visually literate in his time than people in either Picabia’s or mine. He pointed out that a lack of standard weights and measures meant that people got really good at judging areas and volumes just from a single glance. He also mentioned that widespread illiteracy meant that the visual communication of ideas was a lot more important.
He used the example of gestures. In the 15th century there was an established vocabulary of gestures, with individual gestures having a highly specific established meaning that viewers in his time would understand. That’s just one example of the highly sophisticated system of visual symbols that were a part of the general culture. They didn’t need to be explained. Not knowing this vocabulary, we miss a lot of the meaning of Renaissance paintings and often misinterpret them. He went into some detail, but I missed a lot of it because I had to go break up a fight between Picabia and Mark E Smith.
24 January 2008
23 January 2008
I'll get there in the end.
20 January 2008
I will, however, mention the wall labels for other exhibits. It is not reasonable to mention one or two spelling and grammatical mistakes in a piece of writing. With the best will in the world, these can still slip through. However, when you have one every three or four lines (and the lines are only five or so words long), that's a problem.
It's not just retired English teachers with nothing better to do than write letters of complaint who pick up on these things. Having a lot of mistakes like this destroys your credibility. It tells me you haven't taken much care about your work, and makes me wonder whether you've taken as little care over the factual accuracy. It's simply unprofessional.
Running a spell-checker over it isn't enough. A spell-checker won't tell you that 'hay day' should be 'hey day'. What you need to do is hire a proofreader. The benefit significantly outweighs the cost. Their hourly rate will probably be a quarter or even a fifth of a graphic designer's. It's not that hard people, and it stops you looking like lazy illiterate arseholes.
17 January 2008
Update: Oh well, it didn't last. I have a new phone, but with the same number.
14 January 2008
08 January 2008
Recent telepathic experiments have established that the black square is the main conduit for the avant-garde thought virus through the ur-dimension. Unfortunately, we inhabit one of the minor hell-worlds, far from the centre of things. This is why the thought virus is so attenuated when it reaches here and can only infect a few select individuals inhabiting separate spacetime locations (with the notable exception of the early 15th and 20th centuries).
On the way back, we wound all the windows up and had the air conditioning going (to stop the kamikaze bees). I turned around at one point and was surprised to see the back window open. I didn't open it. I asked Rose. She hadn't opened it. We concluded it had to be a fluke. Surely the dog had trodden on the button by accident.
To test this hypothesis, we wound the window back up. A little later, I turned around again. Sure enough, the window was down. I find it very difficult to credit, but it looks awfully like it was deliberate. It was done twice, and it was the same window that I'd demonstrated how to open both times.
07 January 2008
Due to technical problems, I didn't take any photos of the Pinnacles themselves, but this should be enough to remember them. They were pretty spectacular.
Rose and I have slightly different ideas of what camping entails. I've usually done it while hitching or tramping, where you have to carry everything you take. Being such a skinny bastard, I try to minimise this as much as possible. But when you roll a car up next to where you'll pitch your tent, it's a little different. We had beer and wine, and lots of fresh food for it to wash down. It was fantastic.