Right up my street, this.

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Donald Trump Red Money

Warning: Not for those of a sensitive disposition. This post contains many images of Donald Trump.

Each year Single Malt Whiskey distillers Glenfiddich host a Spirit of Scotland Awards. It has a number of categories including for music, screen, art and writing.

Glenfiddich 2012 Spirit of Scotland

For the 2012 awards there were some controversy. Not for the music award which went to Gaelic folk-singer Julie Fowlis, or for screen which award went to actor Kelly MacDonald, not for art, awarded to the owner of Edinburgh Arts hub Summerhall, Robert McDowell, or for writing where the author Ewan Morrison took the award.

It was for the prime award itself, the Top Scot, which was won by Michael Forbes. You may not have heard of him but ask Donald Trump about him, mmm on second thoughts do not do that. Beyond the expletives and the bluster you will not be enlightened much.

If you…

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New Toy on T’Internets!

Hey guys, just a quickie…
Check this out! A film of your site!
Hours of fun via wibbitz.com !
If you know it already, take a bow, you are:

I can’t get my film to embed in WP so here’s the link.

Tks to @Exomene for the info and an enlivened Sunday evening!
And special shoutout to @mkhajdin just ‘cos…

IN-GER-LAND: more Mackie!

‘Twas a Happy Day when I – entirely by accident; I actually bothered to ‘View Photo’, for once – came across Mackie’s work on Twitter. So happy, I got in touch and begged permission to write a blog piece (which you can view here, and also on Mackie’s site),

So It’s with utter delight I present to you, cherished readers, his new work, A Modern History of English Football:

Oil on canvas; 1520mm x 1520mm

Past and present England football managers are gathered together, playing … subbuteo!
Now I Iove soccer. Not the grossly overpaid, hyper-sexed, racist, misogynist, show-pony proponents of the men’s game, but the game itself. Played well at the highest level, it can indeed be the Beautiful Game, a matchless display of skill and physical grace. Sport-wise, little compares to ‘your’ player hitting the back of the net with power and inch-perfect precision from forty yards out. Get in.
Unfortunately for England fans, such a display is as rare as rocking-horse crap. The last few decades have been a bloody nightmare of promise, hope, prayer, followed by gut-churning anguish as the dream disintegrated into a looped nightmare of broken metatarsals, ignominious sendings-off and dismal penalty shoot-outs.
‘Golden Generation’?
It’s looking like our manager, whoever he is, wherever he’s from, could not, in fact, manage a piss-up in a brewery…

It’s no coincidence then, I think, that Mackie references here Caravaggio’s The Calling of St Matthew, serendipitously featured in a recent post, but, sod it, we’ll have it again:

A gang of low-life shady types are gathered in the gloomy back room of some insalubrious dive, when lo, Christ appears to interrupt their tawdry games of chance.
Roy Hodgson ( Mackie’s figure right, current England manager) as the Messiah? Haha.
But this is what we do, we England fans; we invest in the new incumbent and his team, if not exactly faith, then a kind of desperate desire, praying that he, he will be the one to finally lead us out of The Dark towards the Shining Light of Heaven that is the FIFA World Cup Trophy.

Of course, we know, really, deep-down, that he won’t. Been there, seen that, got the tee-shirt.
And this is Mackie’s gift, to once again capture that frailty, that slightly ridiculous withering of the dream even as it is being dreamt, that is the perpetual lot of the average, not just English but British, male (and female footie fan).
Knowing wryness undercut with empathy, understanding, and a blue, blue melancholy.

Like Caravaggio’s back room, the world of modern professional football can be and very often is, thanks to some of the class-free morons involved, a shamelessly tawdry cum sordid affair, but the game itself remains a fine one.
And that’s what it is: like subbuteo, ‘only a game’.
Isn’t it?
Well, that’s what we’ll be telling ourselves in 2014, as yet again we heave ourselves off the sofa and, with a deep dispirited sigh, go and put the kettle on.


Mackie’s new work can be seen here:

The Luxury of Light: the art of Shilowska Pretto

The clocks have gone back; days are shortening, shadows lengthening depressingly early, as we hurtle towards midwinter. The light is suddenly at a premium: we treasure those fleeting, crisp, golden autumn days; we make our Jack-O’-Lanterns, our bonfires, and fill the sky with fireworks; Diwali begins; lamps are lit, we hunker down and think about that great tangle of Christmas tree twinklers that will soon need unravelling…

At this time of year Shilowska’s shining art is, I find, irresistible.

All painting is essentially about ‘painting’, about what it as a medium can do. In Shilowska’s words:

“…light, reflection…a search for a technique that allowed me to move away from my preconceived ideas in painting, and above all, fulfil my desire to liberate form and take advantage of the magical, transformative qualities of light..”


Composed of mixed media – non-traditional materials such as car paint, sequins, glassy mosaics, as well as oils – on canvas, these pieces really are Light as Object of Desire.
Jewel-like colour and iridescence, finely-wrought sensuousness:
The paintings exude for me a gleaming preciousness and glamour, a warm richness that appeals to my shameless wintry desire to indulge myself:

“Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté. “*

(From Baudelaire’s L’Invitation au Voyage in Les Fleurs du Mal.)

I love that, the ‘calme’, the tranquil timelessness; the smooth languor of the gently flowing paint which is allowed to go desultorily, lazily, where it will, creating an image of…
Well, what?

Something both macrocosmic and microcosmic; organic patterns reflective of distant galaxies, fathomless oceans, the filigree delicacy of a spider’s web.
Or gorgeous, enchanting magpie dreams.
You choose.

Santa, if you’re listening:
I want.


* “There, everything is but order and beauty, / Luxury, peace and pleasure.”

More of Shilowska’s work: http://www.shilowskapretto.com/

All images used with the artist’s permission.
Thanks, Shilowska!

Still here, rambling on…(and some Caravaggio)

Hello, my lovelies!
It’s an age since last I gifted to the world my perspicacious insight (read “facetious ranting to minimal effect”) on matters artisitic, but to be honest there’s not been much that’s grabbed my attention.
I did consider adding my two-pennyworth on our Damien’s latest ‘Verity’ monstrosity, but the vitriolic, almost spiteful attacks against it – and him – by all and sundry have left me disinclined to jump back on this juggernaut of a bandwagon.
To wit: from today’s Guardian, Peter Duggan’s Artoon:

Too cruel.
Besides, if you didn’t think he was a cack-handed, talent-free zone twenty years ago, IT’S TOO LATE NOW, you ridiculous, fad-following, tightly-tousered numpty.

This post isn’t for you, it’s for me.
By complete accident/serendipity/whatevs I stumbled upon a really wonderful (to me) short but beautifully articulated talk by Ben Quash, Professor of Christianity and the Arts at King’s College, London, part of BBC Radio 3’s The Essay series on Caravaggio from a couple of years ago.
He talks about The Taking of Christ:

The Calling of St Matthew:

and about how the painter uses light, dark, space to lend these great, great works their huge emotional/religious impact; creating a kind of ‘God of the Gaps’ to which even a godless heathen like me cannot fail to respond.
Some BBC accompanying blurb:

“Tonight’s essay… maintains that in his great religious paintings such as The Calling of St. Matthew and The Raising of Lazarus Caravaggio is a master of capturing movement and the vibrancy of exchange. Furthermore, it is contended that in depicting exceptional relations between people and things in his religious works, the artist who espoused a turbulent and morally doubtful way of life, came as near as is possible in painting to representing God.”

Listen to Professor Quash (great name: In the Bathroom! With the Loofah!) here.

As I say, this is really for me: a way of keeping something rather marvellous to hand. I hope you enjoy it, but if not, no matter.
See you again when I can think of something vaguely interesting to say.


PS If you did enjoy it, here‘s another one by another Light of My Life and tip-top Caravaggio scholar Andrew Graham-Dixon, in which he talks about the painter’s dramatic last years: the ‘murder’, his time as a Knight of Malta… and, not least, his legacy and influence on those great artists who came after.
What’s not to love?

” ♫ Happy Birthd… ♫” SHUT IT!!

There’s a downside to following an ‘interest’ on Twitter.
On the anniversary of the birth of anyone vaguely famous, there’s a rash of ‘Happy Birthday, ____________ ! (Insert ‘Diogenes’, ‘Pliny the Elder’, ‘Hildegard von Bingen’, whatever; ‘Hitler’, not so much, to be fair.)
It drives me nuts because, guess what?
They’re DEAD!
They can’t hear you!

So today I’m bracing myself.
For on this day  in 1571 was born one Michelangelo Merisi, in the village of Caravaggio near Milan.
The idea of anyone actually knowing Caravaggio and wishing him Many Happy Returns of the Day (“We got you this card…” “Aawww, you guys…..”) without getting her/his teeth re-set in the back of her/his head is, frankly, preposterous.

There’s worse.
Certain instititions/publications will no doubt ask me how I am planning to ‘celebrate’ this Great Day.
Well, I will throw myself from a horse, pick a fight with a Knight of Malta, and round off with supper in Emmaus, all the while carrying a huge spot-lamp so that I am invariably lit from one side only.
Will that do ya?

To cap it all, someone, somewhere, with no discernible talent, will make a crappy Gimp-pimped mash-up, fatuously desecrating a majestic image. Something like this:One I made earlier; just for purposes of illustration, you understand.

How will I bear it?
“Log out of Twitter!!”
Ooooh. Reckless. I might miss something unmissable, like a hamster in tiny leathers lip-synching to L.A. Woman. (One can but hope.)
No. I shall go on as usual.
With grace, gritted teeth, and a certain amount of alcohol.

(PS This film has STILL not been made! For shame!)


(For you, MM. I Love You. Be Mine…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=5H1UEh30QgM )

“Walter’s been!”: Britain’s first street artist?

Before Phlegm… before Banksy… there was….


Walter Kershaw, to give him his full, zippy ‘handle’.
(What is it about the name ‘Walter’?
Ancient British readers may, like me, picture the dithering, imbecilic character in that ‘much-missed’ (i.e. egregious) archaic northern sitcom Nearest and Dearestin which most of the dialogue centred around concern for the functioning of said Walter’s dodgy bladder, hence lots of ” ‘Ave yer been, Walter?”, ” ‘As ‘e been?”
So far, so ‘street’.
But I digress.)

Kershaw (K-Walt? Waltsy? Wal-Ee Bah Gum?) was born in 1940 in Rochdale, one of the many once-great cotton and wool mill towns of Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire which fuelled Imperial prosperity. To house the mill-workers, row upon row of back-to-back terraced houses were built, as close to the mills as possible; I myself (in Yorkshirese, ‘me’sen’) was born in just such a house:

“Everything was so grim and black and white in those days…”

Indeed it was, Walter.
Mucky, filthy from the continuous belch of smoke and soot. That’s not to say outside walls were left entirely to their own devices:

Bile Beans??
Apparently, some heinous quack laxative. (Sorry. Again already with the ‘internal plumbing’; but the importance of being ‘regular’ was something of an obsession in those days. Trust me.)

“… so I asked this chap if I could paint some big flowers on his wall…”

BIG flowers.
Do not underestimate the radical nature of this work. Hardly ‘political’ on the scale of, say, the Northern Ireland murals, it caused no end of fuss and mithering amongst the petty Jobsworths at the Town Hall; furthermore, they’re not just ‘flowers’, they’re pansies, ‘pansy’, in those halcyon, taste-free days of the mid-70s when these works were created, being the demotic for what the papers liked to refer to as ‘a confirmed bachelor’.
Go Walter!

The following is perhaps my favourite.
The plan was to paint Elvis –  you know, an actual icon – but someone had forgotten to bring the picture to paint from, or something, so they had to make do with Alvin Stardust. Alvin bloody Stardust!! A leather-clad, be-gloved and be-quiffed, slightly-too-old-looking popster, who pointed suggestively at the camera while intoning such deathless classics as My Coo Ca Choo:

(Please, watch this video: a master-class in half-assed miming and audience indifference.)
But you know what? The People LOVED Kershaw’s works, (the Alvin not so much, maybe; word is, he felt obliged to ‘leg it sharpish’ on completion), not least the rather marvellous ‘inside-out’ house:

Kershaw became quite famous, got Big in Brazil, won prestigious public commissions (Trafford Park), and continues as a practising artist to this day. (You can read his Wiki bio here, and visit his website here.)

But his later successes don’t interest me half as much as these earlier efforts with their “shock value of… technicolour guerilla work…” (Bob Stanley, in a Guardian article on Kershaw. Well worth a read.)
Aren’t they what street art is all about?
To be democratic, and to not give a flying feck about ‘officialdom’?
To make something extraordinary out of the horribly mundane?
To make people sit up and/or smile? Pay attention?
To actually, literally, change our world, if only for a passing moment?

These paintings – and, with their traditional drawing and use of perspective, they are paintings, not ‘graffiti’, Mr Stanley – are long gone, what with the decline of the textiles industry and the demolition and clearance of swathes of ‘industrial’ slum housing.
That’s the other thing about street art: it’s essentially ephemeral.
All the more reason, then, to treasure it and its makers while we can.
Here’s to you, Walter Kershaw.
You rock.

Phlegm at work in Doncaster!! Thought you might like to see this, Mr Halliday!

Warren Draper

Just a few more teaser photos for you as Phlegm’s Church View work develops…

And that’s before the rope-work starts!..

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I’m reblogging this in support of the women at JPLNASA who object to the casual sexism (the most pernicious kind) displayed in the ‘cool’, dudely video. As usual, their voices are not being heard.

To Assange supporters, Galloway, Akin, rape apologists everywhere:

“…no matter the cause, the progressive left cannot deny, downplay or ridicule the seriousness of rape and sexual assault to treat women’s bodies as collateral in some wider battle. Women’s rights are not secondary to liberal or class politics, they are, and should be, placed at the their heart.”

~ Women from Compass, a group for the betterment of society, in a letter in Thursday’s Guardian.

To ‘feminist’ right-on male and female supporters of Pussy Riot: READ THIS:


















































From Lyn Gardener’s review of Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh:

“It’s a reminder that, in the powerplays of men, women’s bodies are often the battlefield”.

So it goes.


Excellent article by Tanya Gold on the current vogue for ‘rape jokes’ at the Edinburgh Fringe:

Exiled Stardust

Today on Spot the Misogyny: the viral video “We’re NASA, and We Know It”

This video was all over Twitter today and even @MarsCuriosity thinks it’s OMG THE BEST VIDEO EVAR!!1!

Youtube user who posted this video: “Satire”

Am I the only person wondering why such a spirited celebration of geekery just HAD to include a headless dancing chick in an American flag bikini?  While every male in the video remained fully clothed with his dignity intact?

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Talking Balls 2: ‘artspeak’

“These images represent the juxtaposition of the timeless and majestic elegance of nature’s sensory-surpassing miracles with the entangled and growing tensions of our time in culturally reconnecting with the shift away from the human condition of love.”

You know what this is, don’t you?
It’s the first sentence of an ‘artist’s statement’, the artist in this case being photographer John Kilar. (Apologies, John; I’m not picking on you out of personal spite, just by way of a bone-idle, half-assed Google search; you are very, very far from being alone.)
A couple of John’s photos accompanying said statement:

“In giving careful attention to the mediating filters that propagates socially-constructed irreverence, I aim to address the necessity of breaking down the symbolic paradigms of understanding to revisit the overlooked empathy for humanity…”

Ah, now I get it.
That’s not just a lardy fry-up; he’s not just a raving lunatic with a Messiah complex: they’re ‘symbolic paradigms’.
Read the whole thing here: pay particular attention to the comments; is Mr/Ms ‘rien de le monde’ (sic) for real?

“…a glimpse into the unmanaged consciousness that searches for meaning amongst the chaotic jumble of stigma, tropes, tenets, and tradition…”

Or taking the piss, big-style?
How very postmodernly ambiguous.

I was inspired in my seconds-long quest by a great article at artinfo.com pondering on the past and future of International Art English, aka ‘artspeak’, or as I prefer to call it, ‘bollox’.
It, IAE, consists in the main of pseudo-sub-Derridean-esque-ian drivel which, from my own observations, must increase in inverse proportion to the quality of the artwork to which it is attached, and which, as Richard Feynman once famously said of quantum mechanics, “nobody understands”.

Understanding, of course, not being the point; the ‘democratisation’ of art, the great post-modern, defiantly anti-modenist ‘project’ – “we’re all artists now” – has run concurrently with increasing obfuscation and obscurantism in the way we talk about art. So banal is so much ‘art’, it must rely on words in the form of arcane/portentous titles and mystifying accompanying text, convoluted exegesis, to give it any heft whatsoever; ie, to compensate for shocking levels of mediocrity.
There is nothing ‘democratic’ in this; impenetrable bamboozling jargon is always exclusive and elitist, in whichever sphere it operates.

Of course, it’s terribly easy (and fun) to parody this type of discourse, as was shown by Charisma Robot’s Bottom Boom in my last post.
And remember the Sokal Affair? A ‘postmodern essay’, Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity, was cobbled together randomly from “…grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense… structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernist academics]…”
It was created to prove a point; hilariously, it was accepted for publication; rightly, the shit hit the fan.

Yet back here in ‘Art’, the crap goes on. And on.
This is not a good thing.
For one thing, you can still get away with misogynistic, ‘titillating’ rubbish, if you frame it ‘right’:

“Though the subject itself is revealing and seducing, the intimately intertwined images weave the viewpoint and gaze in such a way that the work becomes less an open seduction and more a psychological game of voyeurism and ways of looking.”

This from the blurb accompanying the work of Lee Horyon; and you know what I thought about that. “Ways of looking”: reference John Berger obliquely, and it’s alright, mate; it’s cool. We dig.

Happily, I reckon the game may well be up. Or it will be if the rather marvellous artybollocks generator has anything to do with it.
Dipping into the Golden Treasury of Delight that is the Museum of Bad Art, I officiated at a marriage made in the Ninth Circle of Art Hell:

Circus of Despair (yes, really) by Someone From Whom All Art Materials Must Be Forever Withheld:

“My work explores the relationship between Critical Theory and life as performance. With influences as diverse as Munch and Frida Kahlo, new tensions are created from both opaque and transparent structures. Ever since I was a pre-adolescent I have been fascinated by the ephemeral nature of the universe. What starts out as hope soon becomes debased into a dialectic of defeat, leaving only a sense of failing and the inevitability of a new beginning. As shimmering phenomena become distorted through diligent and diverse practice, the viewer is left with an insight into the inaccuracies of our existence.”

Fabulous. I could do this all day.
But my point is serious: language, words, are, I firmly believe, the greatest tools for good or ill that we have; it matters, more than anything, how and to what ends we use them. Use language disingenuously, without clarity, honesty and forethought, and you make the world just that little bit shittier.
‘Art’ is a language and it speaks for itself; if it cannot, maybe it should keep go away and keep its gob firmly shut.