Archive for the ‘Art’ category

More Art

April 26, 2007

Sorry about that little break in proceedings. Please consider this a seamless continuation of the last post.

Yesterday, I was pondering exactly what is meant by art. And more specifically, is art a worthwhile pursuit? And when it comes to selling art, who decides what’s good and what isn’t, and how might an art work be assigned a monetary value?

The argument I hoped to convey was that, when considering the value of an art work, there appears to be more to it than just the technical expertise shown in the finished product. That’s why some Johnny-come-lately will never be able to sell a painting for the price of an Old Master, even if it displays all the right technical and aesthetic qualities. But then again, there appears to be more to it than artist pedigree as well. Van Gogh’s Sunflowers might sell for $50 million, but no one is going to pay that much for some scribble he produced as a one-year-old infant.

banksy.jpgConsider the works of the famous graffiti artist Banksy. I don’t know really know what he’s all about, but I enjoy looking at his work. His outdoor works are usually spray-painted in public areas. Of course, some would call this vandalism, and have articulated their views on his website. But then again, houses on which Banksy plies his trade see an enormous upward surge in value.

Consider also his painting of two policemen kissing each other, painted onto a wall in Brighton. The local community loved the iconic image, which became a popular attraction. So much so that, when it was subsequently defaced, the perpetrators were hauled before the courts on charges of criminal damage. But was their act so different from that involved in producing the work in the first place? Why is it a good thing to spray-paint a wall in some instances, but a criminal offence in others?

I recommend a visit to his website. For a flavour of what to expect, the picture shows a Banksy work as witnessed during my (not very) recent trip to Bristol.

Let’s look at another of my favourite artists, David Shrigley. He very much falls into the ‘a three-year-old could do that’ category of modern art. Technically, his works appear crudely and hastily thrown together. They rarely ‘make sense’. Sometimes they are just scribbles. So why is a trawl through his website such a treat? I don’t really know.


As I write, I am looking forward to watching The Apprentice tonight (obviously). The candidates will be faced with the task of buying and selling artworks in order to garner the approval of one A. Sugar. I’m looking forward to how the best business minds might grapple with these philosophical quandaries…


But is it Art?

April 25, 2007

sunflowers.jpgRemember that book I was talking about a few weeks ago? It was called The Pig That Wants to be Eaten. I wonder whether you’d permit me to draw upon it for inspiration once again, since one of its conundrums is relevant to what I want to talk about today. I don’t remember the detail, but the gist will suffice.

Let’s imagine that I want to make some money. A way of doing so occurs to me: I could forge a painting, and sell it. I do some market research, and discover that an original painting by Vincent Van Gogh could change hands for about 20 million pounds. I therefore decide to paint a picture and pass it off as one of Vincent’s.

Naturally, I am not immediately in a position to do so. I need to spend quite a few years researching his techniques and influences, and perfecting the physical materials necessary for the task. All this turns out to be quite an undertaking, but nonetheless I am eventually ready to create my masterpiece.

Once it’s done, I decide that it looks fairly good. I pop Vincent’s signature at the bottom, and contact an art dealer, who, after inspecting the goods, agrees to buy my painting for a cool 20 million.

Now, there would be those who say that my actions are morally offensive, since I am knowingly deceiving people. I am claiming that the picture was painted by Vincent Van Gogh when I know it was not.

But let’s leave my deception aside for now. If the painting is technically and aesthetically as good as anything Van Gogh ever produced himself (which it would be) why is it unreasonable to expect to receive a price comparable to that obtained for a genuine Van Gogh?

On the other hand, if we accept that the dealer is ‘just paying for the name’, that’s surely his lookout. If he’s willing to pay much more for a picture with a certain name at the bottom, even when a technically similar painting would fetch much less, he’s welcome.

OK. What was intended as a prologue is starting to look like a post in itself. Muse on it awhile, I shall return.

The Persistence of Memory

April 20, 2007


I love Salvador Dalí. He is probably in my top five, as artists go. This is probably his most well known painting, though not one of my personal favourites. I thought I’d pop it in anyway. Have a look at his other paintings here.

I was in St Andrews the other day. Mrs H’s father has just retired (read all about it) so it was decided that we all go to St Andrews to get a family photograph. The task was entrusted to Peter Adamson, and a more amiable gentleman you would be hard-pressed to find.

It was interesting to walk around in St Andrews. It’s the sort of place where progress happens slowly, if at all. For the most part, all the familiar shops and haunts are still in their respective places. But now, walking down Market Street, I see no one I recognise. There was a time, of course, when one could walk the same route and be sure to be greeted by friends and acquaintances. But now the faces are blank.

I walked past The Coach House, where I used to live. The landlady’s grandchildren were outside in the garden. They look quite big now. They didn’t look up as I passed.

Towards the end of the morning, we found ourselves down on the West Sands, and we had a few snaps taken by the Elephant Rock. While I was there, I recalled a lazy afternoon on said Rock, a good five or six years back. I sat on the Rock with a couple of friends, just talking. There was nothing that needed to be discussed, but there was no pressure to be elsewhere. It was one of the last days we spent together in St Andrews. Somehow, it was a day that seemed to represent all that was good about being a student there. So much so, we decided to immortalise it, and our existence in it, by adding our signatures to the Rock.

The front door key to my parents’ house in Oxford was pressed into service for the purpose. When I got home to Oxford a few days later, it didn’t work. I never told my parents why.

Anyway, when we were there having photographs taken, I looked for my signature again. It had vanished, scoured away by a few years of gritty wind, and with it the last piece of evidence that I had ever been there at all.

I was just about to leave, when something caught my eye. The handiwork of one of my companions remained:


As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalm 103:15-16).

It seems, however, that you can leave a lasting legacy. You just need to press quite hard, and use the right implement.

Photos of Stunning Models

February 17, 2007

I need to introduce you to a couple of characters today. Here’s the first:


His name is Optimus Prime, and he is very pleased to meet you. Optimus is the one-time leader of the Heroic Autobots, who represent the morally righteous portion of the Transformers. For years, I was convinced his name was Octopus Five. He didn’t seem to mind, so we just went with it.

Now, his introduction was intended to serve as a necessary prologue to other things today. But while we’re here, allow me a moment to reflect on the Transformers. They are (we were assured) a race of robots who somehow crash-landed on Earth long before humankind ever showed up. However, once humankind was up and running, our robotic friends somehow came out of hibernation and started causing all manner of mayhem. You see, half of them (the Evil Decepticons) really, really hate the other half (the aforementioned Heroic Autobots), and have made it their raison d’etre to give them a good hiding.

Still with me? Excellent.

I know what you’re thinking. How on earth does all this inter-robotic argy-bargy carry on right under our noses without anyone noticing? Well, the Transformers happened to be blessed with the ability to (you guessed it) transform into objects one might reasonably expect to see lying around on Earth (tape-recorders, guns, tanks, etc).

All this made for some splendid adventures, marred only by a few logical howlers and blatant commerical pressures. I’ll let you infer them for yourselves, having already gone on for far too long about a subject of interest to very few.

I mentioned that there were two characters to introduce you to today. The second is a chap called Michael Floyd. Let me explain.

The other day, I wrote a post about making balloon animals, and for reasons I cannot fathom, the hit-rate on the Monologues went through the roof, smashing all previous records. The commenters also came out in force, which was nice. One commenter was the Balloon Artist, Mr Michael Floyd.

My own excursion into balloon modelling was no more than a little dabble. This guy, however, has opened my eyes to a whole new world of inflated, latex possibilities. I’ve had a quick word with him over email, and he was more than happy for me to publicise his blog and to steal pictures from it to put on my own. So, if you could all make your way over there, and encourage him in his ballooning ventures, that would be excellent.

Before you do, here’s a taste of what he gets up to. I hope, by now, it will ring a bell.


The State of the Art

February 14, 2007

As another holiday activity, Mrs H suggested a walk by the Water of Leith, a damp brown artery meandering through Edinburgh, leading us from Murrayfield to Stockbridge.


Along the way, we stumbled into The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and thought we might have a look at their ‘Off the Wall’ exhibition. The gimmick, this time, was that none of the artworks involved walls (i.e. they were all on the floor or ceiling).

There was plenty to see here. Some chap had decided to go through the Yellow Pages to find all the listed places of worship in the surrounding area, and had made a scale model of each out of cardboard boxes. I couldn’t find Bellevue Chapel, although I’m assured it was there (he’d torn out the relevant Yellow Pages and ticked off each entry, as some kind of ridiculously legalistic proof that he’d met his own rather bizarre brief). The whole thing struck me as a collosal waste of time (there were hundreds of these things) but, happily, that was the whole point according to the blurb next to the exhibit. I forget why.

I love reading these little explanations next to art exhibits. Invariably they make grandiose statements that just aren’t warranted by the exhibits to which they refer. Most art, I suspect, just ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’, but you will never see this written on one of these little panels. Instead, they always say that the exhibit ‘asks questions’.

‘This work asks questions about mortality, conscience and our conception of the infinite.’ But what questions? And how do we get at them in order to have a stab at answering them? Perhaps if the guy had questions he wanted to ask, he could have gone onto an appropriate internet forum. Or asked his dad.


The most likely place to find Mrs H at an art gallery is in the gift shop. Once there, I had a quick thumb through some of the books on offer. One of them (I forget the title) was a thick hardback tome, on every second page of which was an identical close-up of someone’s face. On each page in-between, there were three or four seemingly random words. A cracking read, I say. Well worth the 31 quid, anyway.

Yes, I am frequently bewildered by modern art. And yes, I suspect that there is a little less to it than is pretended. And yet, I spent a good chunk of my time looking at it today, feeling (I confess it) very cultured and just a mite superior to my fellow man. Sometimes it’s hard to know who’s kidding who.