31 December 2011

Last PLF meeting for 2011

I don't think there'd be many dissenters to the opinion that 2011 has been a pretty shit year all round.

Before the weather turned to custard, kai-boshing our New Year's plans, I spent a fair bit of time sitting in the sun in my undies working on my exegesis. Except I'm not calling it that any more. I've adopted Dad's term for it: my screed. He suggested I remove the 'infelicitous language'. Which I considered. For about 10 seconds.

My supervisor reckons I should apply for an extension, get my head together, and come back to it. Some suggestion I should discuss my work. I said I didn't want to do that.

What I've been doing instead is removing the boring factual historical background stuff and adding in more madness. Not less! More! Nyah ha ha ha ha!

Then, just before the pre-apocalyptic rains began, the PLF held its final meeting for 2011. For those who haven't met the PLF before, it is a not-so-secret society dedicated to the fine art of smoking tobacco through pipes. And because it's been such a shit year, we decided to hold our meeting at PLF HQ, Blandings South.

We started by listening to traditional PLF tobacco smoking songs:

Those are anno 1944 US Army valves driving things there (the ones that look like dildos with anal beads attached, that US Army eh?), driving these things here:

Here is the patron of the PLF and font of all knowledge, the Oracle if you will:

After getting fired up in the Listening Pavilion, we moved round the front to the Fire Pit, past the Croquet Lawn:

And of course when the sun went down and the embers had built up properly, it was time for the Secret Fire-Dance Ritual. But I can't tell you about that. I've probably already said too much:

Blandings South is not in conventional spacetime, you see. It exists outside of it. To get there, or leave, it is necessary to navigate a specially equipped open-top two-seater automobile. Here we are, blasting our way home through the mists of time (note the Colonel's protective eyewear):

I bet this guy got a shock when we suddenly emerged back into the real world:

Here's to 2012! As Mr Frederick Threepwood Esq. puts it, 'Not a year for dieting!'

20 December 2011

Here's Dad...

...showing us how we should dress for Xmas dinner.

(This is, of course, a dirty lie. It's actually Dad getting slaughtered at some Belgian pub in Akkers before seeing Ben get a nice prize a while ago. But, that said, the how we should dress thing still goes.)

15 December 2011

And this is why he is the King

Yeah, so Jagger can suck this guy's fat corpse cock: And now, for an even more awesome contrast: But those piss-anters pale in comparison to The Man:

Draft MFA exegesis

I've been staying away from the computer since sending off my final draft of the MFA exegesis (your work is your thesis, you see, so what you write is an exegesis on that thesis) for comment.

It's still got to through the processes of structural editing and rewriting, copy-editing and proofreading. And I've still to do some drawings for the figures. But all the actual work's done! Woohoo!

Not had a peep out of the supervisor(s) yet. Though he did say the end of the week.

The working title is A strange book of incomprehensible nonsense: Or how I became an intertemporal avant-garde artist and went completely batshit insane.

(It has to have a colon followed by a subtitle so you know it's academic.)

It's the story of how time-travelling back to meet Piero della Francesca affected my painting.

Oh yeah, and I went to see the witchdoctor (on the same day as handing in the draft no less). I've got a diagnosis, bipolar I disorder, and they've put me on the Lithium.

13 December 2011

09 December 2011

Time for some drunkenness

This is a drunken abusive blog post, just cos it's been a while.

I can't be fucked spelling it out for the 50,000,001st time, so take it as read, arseholes.

07 December 2011

Something in Wellington to go to

Well worth trekking up the hill for this I reckon:
Conversation 4.4: The Production of Identity
Tuesday 13 December 2011, 6-7pm
Cultural psychologist Ronald Fisher and art dealer Robert Heald will tease out the notions of cultural value and social taste that underpins the cultivation of the collector. Chaired by David Maskill, Programme Director, Art History.
Free entry, all welcome.
If they give us drinks, I'll heckle. Actually, I'm not sure I need that condition.

30 November 2011

Oh yeah

My brother Ben won some prize last night. Check this shit out.

Very fucking nice.

29 November 2011

Summer projects

I've stacked up some summer projects for while I get my head together. Some I don't want to mention just yet. But others I will.

I've got some paintings to do, which I'm idly planning now. This includes, among other things, another altarpiece. I'm thinking an Adoration of the Magi, and I'm also thinking of designing the composition from scratch, old school stylz. I mentioned it to Rose's son Jules, and he said 'I'll be Jesus!' Tsk tsk, the youth of today. 'No,' I answered, 'you can't be Jesus, but you can be a guard or a saint or something.' One of the Magi perhaps.

This altarpiece will be completely straight. I've got nothing against Jesus. He was a top bloke. I'm going to take my time over it. Just do some initial sketches and research over summer, and the main painting over winter. I am very excited about this. Come hell or high water, it will happen.

Vaguely related to this project is another summer project: to learn some rudimentary Latin grammar. I'd like to be able to come up with Latin phrases that are reasonably accurate by myself. It would also be useful to read stuff that doesn't have an English translation attached. I've borrowed an introductory beginner's Latin book, and had a gander at what I'm getting myself into. It's quite daunting. Such an insanely logical language! Those bloody Romans. Amazing and terrifying all at once.

28 November 2011


Well, last week was quite full on. First there was setting up my show. The stupid pills they had me on made that a nightmare. But it got done, which it wouldn't have without some invaluable help from some solid people. I'm so happy with how the altarpiece worked out (it's a Xmas show you see). All my experiments worked! I still can't believe it.

I'm going to see the shrinks again next week. I'm off the pills now, and the lingering side-effects (absolutely horrible) are waning. I'm beginning to feel like me again, not some unrecognisable monster. I think they're going to want to try to experiment with more of their crude primitive drugs, but I'm not having any of it. No fucking way.

The end of last week was quite a blast. My opening, which started out an anxious blur but ended up quite fun, and then Prospect, which was insane. I managed to go to the loo and go outside for a cigarette. Crossing the room twice to do those things took the entire opening. I'll go see the actual show later this week. And put up the stupid marketing form I filled out, which was not-so-politely refused when offered. Who's inane idea was that anyway? Absolutely dreadful. Then to try to manage the responses. Ick.

(Speaking of, I really didn't like the efforts to manage the after-party either so got the fuck out of Dodge. Who wants to be herded like primary school children? Who thought that was a good idea?)

And losing Kate immediately after this show? Makes the show a bit of a waste of time really eh?

But anyway.

Then there was Saturday. I watched a bit of the election courage. Thank fuck for the Greens! Hopefully, they'll be able to work sensibly with the other opposition parties to provide an effective opposition. The next few years are bleak as.

I'm really worried about being able to carry on painting. I need to work out how to do that. It's not looking good.

Or I burn everything and go live in a cave as a hermit. That has a certain undeniable appeal.

24 November 2011

Final preparations

20 November 2011

Theme song

19 November 2011

17 November 2011

Egg-sucking for young children (the come down's a bitch episode 51,000,000)

  1. Read lots of books, especially Nietzsche. The earlier the Nietzsche the better. Reading includes looking at pictures.
  2. Draw self-portraits. Start by staring yourself in the eye in the mirror for hours on end. It's ok to go to the loo or eat or drink, just go straight back to the mirror. Then draw without looking at the page.
  3. Don't whatever you do ever kill yourself. You don't know what's going to happen next. But you can bet your bottom dollar it's nothing you're expecting. And fuck it anyway cos:
  4. It doesn't matter whether you win or lose but how you play the game. Dance motherfuckers dance! Only stop when you're dead.
  5. Nothing matters. Nothing is all there is. Sprezza-fucking-tura.

And youtube the fuck out of this

Now for the best song ever:

And people laugh when I say they're the best band in the world. In all the worlds. (Cue maniacal laughter.)

Some other people reckon he doesn't make any sense. That it's just nonsense.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

Time to Cope

16 November 2011

Some things to go to

I've left it a bit late cos I've been otherwise occupied away from the internet but there's a fair bit of good art to see in the next couple of weeks.

At Hamish's at the moment is Shane Cotton of course. I managed to have a chat with Shane at the opening, which I very much enjoyed. He told me about Te Kooti and I him about Dada. Two things that go together well.

At McLeavey's this evening is Bill Hammond, which I'm very much looking forward to seeing. Bill Hammond shows are always a revelation. Amazing surfaces (and everything else).

Then there's next week's craziness. Patrick and Michael up at Ivan's on Wednesday, which I wish I could go to [and which I got all wrong at the first go cos, being an idiot, I saw the first email but not the second]. However, I can't cos there's the small matter of getting my show ready to open on Thursday night.

Then there's Prospect at the City Gallery on Friday, which several friends of mine are in. I'm very much looking forward to seeing that. I have a lot of time for Kate Montgomery, who curated the show. It's a great pity she's leaving the City.

Then, for something completely different, there's the election on Saturday. It's been hilarious so far. I'm quite looking forward to the results. I don't have a dog in the race (though I'm sure it'll be a game of one side, and democracy will be the loser on the day). I am very much enjoying watching from the sidelines, heckling.

Whatever happens, there will still be good paintings to look at. I wouldn't mind being a post-apocalyptic cave painter (too much).

10 November 2011

Cartoon competition

08 November 2011

Ha ha

Oh yeah

I went to see the shrinks today. Well, when I say 'shrinks' I mean mental health professionals, of whatever kind. They like to get different people's perspectives on things, of which I heartily approve.

The final diagnosis is not in yet, but I get the impression I might not even be officially mad at all. Or if so only a very little bit. I was horrified when they mentioned the doses of the pills I'm on that other people take. I'm on the lowest dose, a very very mild dose that's only meant to help me sleep, nothing else.

Unfortunately, the side-effects are far too full on. The cost outweighs the benefit by rather a large margin. I can't think, and I can't concentrate. Most worryingly, I can't work! I'm all over the place, blithering like a fool and wasting my time. When I have some clear space around me, we shall experiment with finding interim replacement pills.

I was worried about getting my show done how I want it, because I've run out of time to piss around in, but after having several discussions with sensible people who are not drugged up and hopelessly confused I'm not any more. It's all good (hopefully!). I'm so looking forward to seeing it.

This year may well be a write off in some respects, but if I get two good shows out of it I'll be happy. And I have plans! Exciting plans.

04 November 2011

Caption contest

If you go here and scroll down, you'll find a mention of my upcoming show at Robert's, which is really not very far away at all.

I've warned Rose to be careful what she says about that painting. It hasn't been named yet. Very tempted by the noun preceded by a string of adjectives she used to describe it.

Heh heh.

01 November 2011


I'm sick of it. Sick of people telling me what I 'really' think, am 'really' saying, am 'really' committed to, or am 'really' serious about. I am sick of being dicked over by cynical hypocrites who think themselves clever for manipulating the letter of their responsibility while pissing on its spirit. I am sick to death of human beings.

Ugly, selfish, and stupid. Nasty horrible things. Where are the redeeming benefits? Good people are hard to find.

This is why I spend all my time with my pictures, my partner, and my friends. Something not to lose sight of.

And again

30 October 2011

Old school punk rock

Lonely press:

26 October 2011

Playing Kingmaker

Okay, so last night I couldn't sleep. I was bored with reading, and tried shooting zombies for a bit, but that didn't cut it. During the last week or so, I've been reading the 'Game of thrones' books, which are a lot of fun. Not fantasy at all but science fiction, complete with all the usual flaws.

Anyway, it's reminding me a lot of this old boardgame I used to play, so I dug it out. I've been trying to persuade my friends to have a Kingmaker night (2–7 players) like we've had poker nights, and to do this I need to remember how to play. It's quite complex.

So last night I set it up with two players and played both sides. I got most of the way through the game before I finally crashed. Here are some variable quality photos of the state of play as I left it:

So you start with a map of England in the mid-15th century. On it are placed counters representing the various royal heirs: of House York and House Lancaster. Richard York is in York, and King Henry Lancaster is in London. Henry's wife and child are in royal castles near Nottingham Forest, and Richard's heirs are in Wales, Ireland, and Calais.

Each player (a faction vying to crown their heir sole king) gets dealt the same number of cards. Some represent nobles, the lords making up your faction. Others represent offices, titles, ships, bishoprics, towns, and mercenaries. Each noble comes with a force of arms and at least one castle, and the other cards they hold augment that strength.

At the start of the game, my two factions were the Sun and Moon faction (supporting the true king Henry) and the Boar's-head Gate faction (supporting the Yorks). The Earl of Arundel lead the Sun and Moons, and Lord Percy, a grim Northern lord from the borders with Scotland, lead the Boar's-head Gates.

Because of the deal, the two factions started out very mismatched. The Sun and Moon lords controlled the riverlands around the Forest and so the road south to London and the approaches to Wales. Arundel made himself Warden of the Cinque Ports and Mowbray (the other major lord in the Sun and Moons) Captain of Calais. He made a minor Sun and Moon lord Warden of the Northern Marches (just to piss off Percy). The Sun and Moons were strategically located, blocking Percy in the north, and had control of all but one ship.

Percy, on the other hand, although isolated, made himself Chancellor of England and one of his minor lords Treasurer. He controlled the Archbishop of York, and the other minor Boar's-head lord controlled the Archbishop of Canterbury. By himself, Percy could field more than three times the number of men than any other lord.

When the game started then, Percy came sweeping down the road towards York, while Arundel met up with the other Sun and Moon riverlords to besiege the castle holding Henry's wife Margaret of Anjou. Meanwhile Grey took ship for Ireland and Mowbray for Calais. Another Sun and Moon minor lord moved to surround Harlech, where one of the York heirs was holed up. One of the minor Boar's-head lords, although heavily outnumbered, snuck around Arundel and made for London.

So things started to take shape. The Boar's-heads captured London and held Henry hostage (even a minor lord could hold London against much larger forces), while Percy captured York and crowned Richard York king. Arundel, spitting tacks, secured Henry and Margaret's baby before heading west to invest Harlech. Grey and Mowbray (diverted from Calais) had landed their forces in the south of Wales and had marched on Harlech, leaving the York heirs undefended in their ships.

Percy, seeing this, left Richard in York with a minor lord to defend him and swept down the road towards Wales, enabling him to reach Harlech before Arundel, Grey, and Mowbray could join. The Sun and Moon lord outside Harlech didn't have enough force to besiege Harlech, and was heavily outnumbered by Percy. It looked pretty hopeless. Unless the battle went extremely badly for Percy, he looked to have Harlech in the bag.

However, there never was a battle. Instead, there was a peasant uprising in Cornwall, which all the Cornish lords had to go off to suppress, including the guy surrounding Harlech. Percy marched up to the walls unopposed. Meanwhile, in Cornwall, the two Sun and Moon Cornish lords descended on the castle of the one Boar's-head Cornish lord, burnt his castle, pillaged his villages, and paraded his head on a stick.

Poor old Percy, meanwhile, fucked up the Siege of Harlech and got killed. His warhorse and he got encumbered and peasants filled his armour with boiling oil. Then they hung his corpse on their walls and burnt it. Percy's heir took control of their hereditary seat up north and said 'Fuck this'.

As if this was not bad enough, there was also at this time a particularly virulent plague outbreak. First King Richard died in York, then his heir Richard in Calais (with Mowbray just about to come sailing in for him), then King Henry in London, then Arundel in Shrewsbury.

Everything suddenly changed. Instead of two rival kings, no king at all. No archbishops (all died in the plague too), so no way of crowning a new king. The Boar's-head faction had been completely wiped out (though that didn't mean the player was eliminated).

Mowbray sailed for Wales and took Margaret and the remaining York heirs with him as he marched on Harlech. After a quick and bloody siege, Mowbray married Margaret of Anjou. He had a pet bishop who could marry them, even though he couldn't get crowned king. Unfortunately, during the siege, all the remaining heirs (the York kids and Lancaster baby) met with an unfortunate fate when the wagon they were travelling in was destroyed by outlaws. Spreading rumours the 'outlaws' were wearing Mowbray colours is likely to lose you your hands and your tongue.

After this outrage, new lords declared for the Boar's-heads. They were able to call Parliament and assign themselves some choice titles and offices (twice even). Mowbray is in London, surrounded by angry Boar's-heads. They can't get in, but he can't get out except by ship. The Boar's-head force is split on either side of London.

Mowbray sits brooding in his throne room. He is sick of sitting still and plans to lead his forces out and settle this thing once and for all.

Update: After many twists and turns, Mad Mowbray the Terror of the High Seas and Would-be King of England won the game by doing a dirty deal with the French and sailing into London from Calais with a load of mercenaries and getting a couple of tame bishops to crown him. I really hoped Hastings was going to be able to start a rebellion from his base in Nottingham Forest, but he got hunted down and ripped to pieces by Mowbray's personal hunting pack.

I won't bore you with the details of the next game. It had four factions and was therefore a lot more interesting in terms of alliances and strategic betrayals. The Welsh lords pulled a swifty (using smugglers and false promises) that ultimately led to their downfall in a glorious battle outside the walls of London where the entire English chivalry lined up against each other, one side led by King Henry Lancaster and the other by King Richard York. Richard killed Henry in a duel in the midst of the fighting. Then the Northern lords smashed the Southern lords. Very, very satisfying.

However, it didn't get the drawing I need to do done. Neither is this.

23 October 2011

19 October 2011

Some things in Wellington to go to

Yeah, yeah, late notice, but you know how it is.

So tonight at McLeavey's is Brendon Wilkinson's opening. And tomorrow night at Robert's is Peter Madden's.

How's that eh? And a Don Driver show on at Hamish's.

Spoilt for choice. I think I'll choose to see all of them.

Oh, and coming up is an art book sale, being somewhat grimly advertised. I'll be sitting at Robert's desk at the sale, with a nice range of well-made books by various people to fill any gaps in your collection.

Support your local artists! Someone has to. It's a bloody hard slog.

08 October 2011

The common-sense nihilist political programme

The common-sense nihilist political programme is that everyone in the world should become their own independent sovereign republic. And, while we're at it, we should all fuck off into space and let this place go back to being a garden. Somewhere to visit, not to live.

It's as simple as that. Let's all just fucking live forever. Why the hell not?

07 October 2011

More rock and roll

And this one, the best music video ever.

What are we here for? We are here to go!

Right here, right now! This is our chance! Our only chance! To go now! Before it's too late!

Stop fucking around with stupid bullshit and get your shit together!

What are we here for? We are here to go! Go! Now! Before we're not able to any more!

We are here to go! Right now!

Crit week

At about half two or three the other night, I was sitting in my studio having a cigarette break when I suddenly remembered it was crit week. I checked my computer to see what day it was and what day my crit was, and discovered I had to be there at half nine that morning.

Boy was that an adrenaline shock. And, boy, was I glad I remembered. Not showing would not have been a good look. So I toddled off to bed, fruitlessly of course, being all hyped up to paint.

However, I did make it, and make it through both days in fact, despite not sleeping the other night either. The first crit was a bit rough, a video work with a loud Pink Floyd sample repeating endlessly. It did my head in. But next up were Picabia-style mechanomorphs, which cheered me up immensely.

I ended up saying whatever came into my head during each crit, which only got me into trouble a couple of times (my mental filing system is a bit haphazard – I file things under rude jokes). And I tend to swear a lot when I get carried away.

I had a great time, and my crit in particular I found very useful for what I've to do next.

One thing that struck me was the difference in the kids a couple of years makes. Even though I did call them all fascists at a couple of points, they really impressed me. When I first went a couple of years ago, the kids were dull, sullen, and inactive. These are – or most of them are – quick, interested, and active. The second years in particular (though I got a bit confused who was what doing what when). The ones doing their own work. It was really good to see. (The inactive print studio not so much.)

With this lot, once they get their new building and administration bizzo sorted, Massey could well be a force to be reckoned with. If they want to.

04 October 2011

Rock and roll!

Oh well

I've gone off this blog a bit recently. When I started it, I wanted to start a wee campfire to warm myself with in this icy wasteland. But, cos I can't stand tedious repetitive work (i.e. I'm a lazy cunt), I just switched on the gas instead of building it from scratch.

But now the goddamn gas company is making all these changes, and come calling with the bill, which I find I don't much fancy paying. So I tried warming up another fire, but to no avail.

Worth a crack, Nigel.

30 September 2011

Party non-political broadcast

I am thinking, for the election, of doing a 30-second youtube animation. With a strident soundtrack of course.
Update: My friend Shaun had a play round with one of the scenes:
Definite possibilities.

28 September 2011

Fucking gold mate

I've ripped these pics (badly) from here. I can't be bothered chopping them up to show properly.

23 September 2011

My work in Cy, the group show at Robert's

The frame was custom made by Mr Paul Craig. I think it turned out a treat.

22 September 2011

20 September 2011

Ten years

Sometime in 1995 – I fondly think of it as April Fool's Day, though it probably wasn't – I started a drawing programme based on my reading of the painting manuals of Cennini, Piero, Alberti, and Leonardo. I was living in this kind of anarchist commune thing just north of Dunedin, you see, and some young guy who'd taken too many psychedelic drugs freaked out and claimed I was the devil. Seriously. 'All he does is sit there and fuck with people's heads,' he cried as he was restrained. (I might be exaggerating slightly, but that's the quote I remember.)

I thought, 'That's true. I suppose it's time I started doing something with my life.' True about sitting around, I mean. I do not resile from fucking with people's heads. Back then, I still tried to persuade people of things. When some idiot says to you, 'Don't worry about the future because, when the UFOs come, they'll save all the vegans,' I felt compelled to tell them exactly why that is a vile proposition.

So, in accordance with the advice I'd read, I set about learning to paint by drawing after the best paintings I could find and from nature. When I left school in 1987, you see, my head was full of silly ideas such as that painting was dead and the only valid art forms for a late capitalist society were punk rock videos and science fiction short stories. So I did art history and philosophy as preparation for writing science fiction. And look how that turned out, ha ha!

Funnily enough, when I left school in 1987, Mum was doing an industrial psychology course and, being of an experimental bent, tried out some measurement tools on me. She was a little dismayed when I scored 0 out of 10 for ambition. That's cos the stupid test measured ambition solely in terms of career success. I am actually quite ambitious, and was then, though that ambition has changed – I want to do the first fresco on Mars, for fuck's sake!

Being a rambling git, I've drifted far from the point. Which I need to take a moment to recollect. Oh yeah! Ten years.

So, around this time 10 years ago, I got a boot up the pants. I thought I had plenty of time for this long-term project, but the start of the resource wars and the turn of western societies towards authoritarianism happened a lot sooner than I expected. And now I'm doing my MFA, rereading all those books I read in the early 90s.

At Massey for the last two and a half years, they've been repeatedly telling me that I'm not really a painter (cos, I suppose, I'm not like the painters they usually deal with) and that my interest in art history is a problem because it makes my work 'anachronistic'. One person told me that my 'attempt to recreate' the avant-garde was 'sentimental romanticism'. I just smiled and nodded. Like I said, I gave up trying to persuade people long ago.

However, I am not trying to 'recreate' the avant-garde as anachronistic escapism, motherfuckers. I AM the avant-garde! It's a genuine contemporary response to the situation I find myself in, using relevant historical models. I mean, really, just imagine putting my pictures with ones from people of equal ability from the periods I work with in a time-travel group exhibition! Ha ha ha, fuck they'd look out of place! It's a ridiculous argument that's simply not worthy of a serious response.

Academic artists broke the avant-garde in the 1960s and 1970s, because all the good artists went into music instead, so we have to rebuild it from scratch. In a vaguely related way, we also have to rebuild painting from scratch more generally. And, you know, we are living in a time of great transition too, just like the early 15th and 20th centuries.

That's how I see it anyway.

But maybe I'm just insane. In the late 90s, I went to a barbecue at a friend's place. This being New Zealand, a friend from boarding school and his mother were there, cos his sister (the butter girl from the ads in the 80s) had just moved into the flat. My friend introduced me to his mother, saying 'Remember him from school?' His mother said, 'That's right! You were the crazy one.'

I didn't know what to say to that. Still don't.

17 September 2011

16 September 2011

Some old drawings

The other day, I pulled out my draft of a graphic novel cos I hadn't looked at it for a while (and I always get a laugh out of it), and I thought it could be kind of relevant to what I'm doing now (but it's not really). If you click on the label at the bottom of the post, you can see scans of the draft (except you can't really cos the google overlords seem to have done something deeply stupid to how they display images, possibly completely ruining the blog format [update a few days later: it seems people have whinged, and they've changed it back]).

But here are some other pics I did as part of the research:

13 September 2011

A political post

I can't stand politics. I think it's an irredeemably nasty business that taints anyone that even comes close to it. Left, right, up, down, forwards, backwards, I don't want a bar of it.

I'm especially dubious about political idealism. I'm dubious about all idealism, but political idealism in particular scares the shit out of me. Those motherfuckers will do anything they like to you, the most horrible brutal things you can imagine, with the best intentions in the world.

Save us from earnest idealists with good intentions! Save us from people who believe in things!

Don't get me wrong. I don't have any problem with cogent analyses of how fucked everything is. No problem with that at all. However, when you take that self-contained abstract model and try applying it directly to the world, you start running into problems.

Let's face it, earnest idealism and good intentions, when applied as policy, do not have a good track record. It's not that they don't have a good track record for success (which they don't). Rather, it's that they just don't have a good track record at all – in any field you care to name. I refer you back to the earlier comment re: scary motherfuckers.

All you artists trying to change the world? You can fuck right off.

As Picabia said, 'If you don't want dirty ideas, change them like shirts!'

12 September 2011

Quote of the day

It is the plea for immortality beyond the illumined wrack where the sun goes to sea, a life within a liquid and diaphanous sun propped out of sight by waves. We can look at the sun at its going, and thither we are drawn in fantasy, forsaking the eastern dark for some low, nocturnal day lit by occidental beams to which the wandering sun returns for plenitude.
The Greeks, too, created myths from such emotion, but neither the sun nor any other elemental power had the exorbitance in that climate to submerge their poetry with over-compulsive longing. Theirs was the full life, theirs the life-giving poetry for which each element of Nature was loved for its seemingly wayward and informal behests. Man will make of them formal gods, statues for the sea and the rain, and even for the momentary lightning, eyeless statues of human stature. As sculpture are the lands, as sculpture the mountains and their vales, as sculpture the promontories and the tesselated seas.
And when Plato again set his thoughts upon the west, upon Atlantis, he was questioning the whole egocentric position on which Greeks and Romans in particular constructed Mediterranean culture. In the Renaissance, that culture attained its potent affirmation: its final affirmation; for already men were moving further west: soon America, soon Copernicus and his theories by which the astronomical foundation of egocentric feeling was destroyed, leading away from grandiose fantasies based upon the senses, leading on to pure science and the industrial age. Science has tracked the western sun: it is true that it does not set.
But what Atlantis is this that we have found?

11 September 2011

How you should endeavour to copy and draw after as few masters as possible

As regular readers have probably gathered by now, my two big influences (or models) are Piero della Francesca and Francis Picabia. I have been big fans of them since I was 22 and 15 respectively. My friends sometimes express surprise at this combination.

Here is Cennino d'Andrea Cennini on the subject:
Now you must forge ahead again, so that you may pursue the course of this theory. You have made your tinted papers; the next thing is to draw.

You should adopt this method. Having first practiced drawing for a while as I have taught you above – that is, on a little panel – take pains and pleasure in constantly copying the best things which you can find done by the hand of great masters. And if you are in a place where great masters have been, so much the better for you [Ha! Thank you industrial capitalism for cheap, high quality colour reproductions!].

But I give you this advice: take care to select the best one every time, and the one who has the greatest reputation [this bit only holds good if the reputation-making process is sound]. And if you go on from day to day, it will be against nature if you do not get some of his style and of his spirit.

For if you undertake to copy after one master today and after another one tomorrow, you will not acquire the style of either one or the other, and you will inevitably, through enthusiasm, become capricious, because each style will be distracting your mind. You will try to work in this man's way today, and in the other's tomorrow, and so you will not get either of them right.

If you follow the course of one man through constant practice, your intelligence will have to be crude indeed for you not to get some nourishment from it. Then you will find, if nature has granted you any imagination at all, that you will eventually acquire a style individual to yourself, and it cannot help being good – because your hand and your mind, being always accustomed to gathering flowers, would ill know how to pluck thorns. [Emphasis added.]

07 September 2011

Rose's birthday present

Rethinking my approach

Yesterday, I had several extremely good conversations with friends. One was part of an ongoing conversation continued yesterday by an impassioned response to this post.

I've been thinking about 'good pictures', pictures generally, in terms of the properties they all share. My friend slapped me around the head repeatedly (virtually) and said (I'm paraphrasing), 'You fucking idiot, the properties of good paintings are different from the properties of good drawings and good photographs and good digital things [for lack of a better term]. For example, good paintings have good paintwork and layers.'

I am a fucking idiot. I've been deliberately conflating painting and drawing, but my friend is completely correct. They should be treated separately as things in their own right. As I said, 'I've been focusing too much on the blurry edges and not paying enough attention to the clearly distinct areas in the middle.'

Alberti defined the good painting in terms of three things. Piero adapted that definition and changed those three things in subtle but highly significant ways. I want to have a go at another reformulation, after modernism.

Of course, we shouldn't really be worrying about this shit. That's allegedly what the art historians, theorists, and critics are for. But they seem to treat painting as indistinguishable from writing (because they got all silly about writing being a visual symbol) and so are completely fucking useless.

I mean, honestly, when I first toddled along to Massey a couple of years ago, I was handed a copy of Foucault's 'Death of the author' and told, with a perfectly straight face, that wherever it said 'author' I should read 'artist'!

I hate the written word, deeply and passionately hate it. It was invented by the priest-kings to oppress us.

06 September 2011

Thundering from the pulpit

I have been enjoying myself immensely recently. I'm immersed in making pictures, putting things together.

I think Rose has found it quite trying. I am at present a completely preoccupied monomaniac. When I am not staring into space and forgetting to do basic things (it's lucky I noticed the fire I inadvertently started in the kitchen last night), I am ranting at her. About everything.

I'll calm down soon. Once I've got these pictures nailed.

Then it will be time to think about what to do next.

05 September 2011

An evolutionary basis for making pictures (and other random blithering)

It looks like, as a species, we've established pretty clearly that, from an evolutionary perspective, carrying around these silly big brains and producing this silly babble (I use the term advisedly) from our mouths was not such a good idea after all.

The birds communicate with each other much better, but then they've been around for a lot longer than we swaggering apes. It's important to remember we're just animals acting out of instinct. None of the findings of our neuroscience would surprise Nietzsche. He realised the rationalisations are just superfluously added on afterwards.

Both your self and your free will are illusions, wild imaginings of your mind, to be enjoyed as such but never taken seriously, no, never taken seriously.

I make pictures because I think they're the only worthwhile contribution our species has made to the world (along with maths and possibly music and architecture – oh, and philosophy and theoretical physics, but just for the laughs). If we didn't make pictures, no-one else would.

And a great picture is such a glorious thing.

This is why I also reckon that, if there's a decision to be made that affects whether a picture gets made or not, that decision is a no-brainer. If it's a question of whether the picture exists or not, of course the picture should exist. Including the bad ones. You don't know till you make it. And the distinction between good and bad is not something that anyone really has any control over anyway.

But that's a story for another day. (The short version is that the concept of control is another wild imagining.)

Like all pure research, art is a field of human endeavour to which the laws of supply and demand do not apply. (From which it follows (with some intervening steps elided) that none of the normal rules apply to artists!) Whether there is a demand for a picture is not a factor in determining whether that picture is produced. It is produced for its own sake – for a rare actual example of a term usually loosely bandied about far too widely: its inherent value.

Nothing else matters. The battle-cry: Lines and colour on a flat surface!

04 September 2011


03 September 2011

Painting technique

As I've been showing the constant stream of visitors to my studio during the last couple of days,* I've been experimenting with technique.

[*This is a joke, just in case you need to be told.]

I reckon painting technique is an impenetrable jungle filled with the full range of deadly traps: spear traps, dart traps, poison traps, pit traps, dead weight traps, etc. If you venture in, you get lost. And you need to be very careful while stumbling around trying to find your way back out again, or you'll end up dead.

Just try putting 'oil painting technique' into a search engine! There are millions and millions of people with completely the wrong end of the stick.

Technique is not an end in itself. I can't stand attempts at virtuosity. I hate them with a deep, fundamental, abiding passion. I stand in front of one of them and am filled with blinding rage, with a very real physical desire to punch the grinning idiot face of the wanker who produced it. Fuck, it makes me so mad. Mad, I tell you! Mad!

But that's beside the point.

I reckon a good painting shares the same properties as a good mathematical proof – elegant simplicity. A good painting, like a good proof, does the most things with the fewest possible elements.

Theoretically, you shouldn't need any more colours than the three main ones the cave painters used. Combinations of them should do everything under the sun. But, of course, there's a difference between a theoretical ideal and mucky reality. I've added a couple of colours, not taken them away.

Hypocritical cunt that I am.

01 September 2011

Dorothy Wight

Among other pictures, I've just started a picture of my grandmother, Dorothy Wight. The figure will be blue and the background yellow.

I'm the the eldest child of her only child. She had a close relationship with each of us. She was a fearsomely intelligent, take no nonsense, extremely funny woman. I effectively left home when I was 12, when I went to boarding school (and never again had a room of my own at the olds'), but I had a model for keeping in touch from writing letters and sending drawings to Nana, which I did for as long as I can recall.

We especially had astronomy, science fiction (along with my mother), and discussions about time travel in common. Nana taught me to look at the stars, and a lot else besides.

I miss her very much. Stupid modern living.

29 August 2011


26 August 2011

Sick of it

I am sick of how difficult it is simply trying to live your life as an independent human being trying to do something worthwhile with that life, surrounded by fucking morons.

Sure, there could be reincarnation or some other kind of afterlife, but I sincerely doubt it. And in any case, you can't count on it.

All you can be sure you have is the life you have now, and of that life it is the work you do that matters, not the lifestyle you lead, despite what the marketers tell you.

But it is so fucking hard doing something worthwhile. Every single step, there is some idiotic cunt standing there with some stupidly smug idiotic suggestion or objection.

Clueless motherfuckers, fuck off.

If you have nothing to say, shut the fuck up and get out of my way.

I should stop being so earnest.

25 August 2011

Something in Auckland to go to

Cave painting

I was very disappointed with Cave of forgotten dreams. I went twice.

I think the problem was that it was consciously made for middle America. If you consider your audience to be morons, the work you make will be moronic. That seems axiomatic to me.

As well as looking at the nice pictures, I wanted to know how they were made. Despite the film, I think I can reconstruct the process.

Let's say it is 35,000 years ago and you are a member of the world's second oldest profession. I think it more likely that you would travel around tribes and negotiate with the local shaman to exchange a painting for food and whatever other goods the tribe produces that you need. I doubt you would live permanently with the same tribe.

This is the same shaman who will, as soon as you leave, get the tribe fucked up on drugs and spray his stupid dots all over your nice composition.

You start by preparing your surface, by smoothing the cave wall, first with a stone adze and finishing with wet sand. You want the surface smooth and pale but not flat. You'll use the curves in the next stage.

The next stage is drawing the outline of your figures using charcoal and ad hoc perspective. You stand in the viewing spot and picture the finished figure on the wall in your mind. You draw the figure, stand back in the spot, and compare the drawing with the picture in your head.

You rub out half the figure and extend the lines further back around the curve.

Once you are satisfied, it is time to paint. You have pigments, a medium, and brushes. The pigments are from charcoal, clays, and plants. The medium is probably animal fat. No doubt you think that painting a representation of an animal using parts of that animal adds meaning and significance to that representation. The brushes are a mix of sticks with chewed ends and sticks with tufts of animal fur attached with leather and glue.

You also use the heat from your light source to help spread the paint.

24 August 2011

If I were completely insane

I would, next year when this Massey bollocks is finally finished, set up the Common-Sense Nihilist Party as a charitable organisation with an educational purpose and take on apprentices in my workshop, a common-sense nihilist painting school.

It would be run along strict early Renaissance lines (adapted for the context), which I think I understand well enough to replicate. You would start as a novice and pass degrees until graduating as a 3rd degree master.

To pass as such, you would of course have to be better than me, do things I cannot do. As Leonardo said, 'It is a poor master whose students do not surpass him,' which, as he well realised, was a sad indictment on himself. That's what you get when you dick around.

Luckily, though, I am not completely insane.


A painting is a sequence of spacetime events. The sequence as a whole is what matters, not the particulars of any of its constituent parts.

22 August 2011

Painting and baking

That's Maltese bread rising in the bowl there. Except it isn't really, cos I've adapted the recipe and changed a couple of ingredients. I call it Cauchi bread.

Rose freaked out when I foolishly mentioned that it shares an ingredient with the painting. Initially, she refused to eat it but soon relented when presented with the result.

This is experiment no. 2.

17 August 2011

Ice age hat

Given ice age conditions, it seems to me sensible to apply ice age solutions, so this is what I've been wearing on fleeting visits through the sleeting to the studio:

15 August 2011


A day of amazing sights

visitors since 29 March 2004.