Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Last day of Nine Lives exhibition at The Mainstream Gallery

Thanks to everyone who made it down to The Mainstream Gallery in Ramsgate to see the Nine Lives exhibition. The show featured work by nine great artists; Barney Bubbles, Mel Cole, Russell Herron, Phil King, Cathy Lomax, Erica Macarthur, David Shrigley, Julian Wakeling, and Roeland Zijlstra. More photos to follow soon.
Work in the photo above by Russell Herron
Work above by Phil King
Work above by Phil King
Above work by Phil King
Above work by Phil King.
Above work by Barney Bubbles.
Above work by Roeland Zijlstra
Above work by Barney Bubbles
Above work by Roeland Zijlstra
Above work by Phil King
Above work by Barney Bubbles
Above work by David Shrigley and Erica Macarthur
Above work by Roeland Zijlstra and Mel Cole
Above work by Julian Wakeling

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Chris Packham painted by Team Beswick and Pye

Above: "A Starry Night in Southampton with Chris Packham" is a new painting by Team Beswick and Pye that's approximately 225cm wide and 100cm high Gordon Beswick and Harry Pye are delighted to be working with Jonathan Kelham and UGO who give artists the opportunity to utilise underused billboards in Southampton. Currently on show "Free For All Forever" by Mark Gubbin
Gordon and Harry get to have their image featured on a billboard between the 5th December and 12th December.
(Above photo of Harry & Gordon in the studio by Julian Wakeling) Chris Packham was born in Southampton and educated at Taunton's College. He studied Zoology at the University of Southampton and later became a presenter on the Bafta award winning Children's program The Really Wild Show.Since 2009 he's co-presented Springwatch. Recently Packham wrote his autobiography "Fingers in the Sparkle Jar"
In the book he expresses his love for Kestrels: "Every minute was magical, every single thing it did was fascinating and everything it didn't do was equally wondrous, and to be sat there, with a Kestrel, a real live Kestrel, my own real live Kestrel on my wrist! I felt like I'd climbed through a hole in heaven's fence." Chris is also known to adore his two pet poodles, Itchy and Scratchy. The painting by Team Beswick & Pye features Chris with his dogs by his feet and a Kestrel on his wrist. The other creatures that put in an appearance include a spider, a Grey wagtail, an Alpine Chough, A Jackdaw, an unlucky worm, a blue tit, a Robin, 2 moths, several badgers, a red squirrel, a mallard duck, a field mouse, a hedgehog, a bumble bee, a couple of deers, an eagle owl and a whooper swan and a fantastic fox. The location of the billboard is:70 Bevois Valley,Road,(A335) SO14 0JT.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Patrick Caulfield at The Approach

I love Braque Curtain by Patrick Caulfield. It’s the last painting he ever did and it’s currently on display at Tate Britain. There is also an exhibition of other selected works of Patrick Caulfield on at The Approach in Bethnal Green until the 11th of December. So I thought: what better time to ask some fellow artists, art fans and critics to share their opinions and feelings on one of Britain's best artists of the last 50 years. Answering the questions are Sacha Craddock, Charles Darwent, Peter Davies, Abi Parry, Kes Richardson, Sarah Thacker, and Liesel Thomas.
Question One: David Bowie bought the 1973 painting Foyer for £36,700. If money was no object which one Caulfield painting would you like to own in your home and be able to have a proper look at whenever you wanted?
Sacha Craddock: “I would love to have any Caulfield whatsoever, but Inside a Weekend Cabin 1969, Paradise Bar 1974, After Lunch 1975, Second Glass of Whisky 1987, Grill 1988, are favourites.”
Charles Darwent: “Unambitiously, it would be a screenprint rather than a painting: Small Window (1969).”
Peter Davies: “I really like the very simple ones like Battlements 1967 or The Well 1966”
Abi Parry: “That is so classy. I had no idea. David Bowie being a fan makes so much sense. I hope I'm not being too clich├ęd with saying I would like to own After Lunch. I'd love to gaze at it across a room in my house. I'm not sure which room I would put it in, though. I can imagine waking up to it. The blue mesmerises me a little and there's lots of detail to study.”
Kes Richardson: “Foyer is a wonderfully odd painting and I see it just sold in the Bowie sale for £665,000. The painting Dining Recess is an old favourite. I like its simplicity and the strange, almost crepuscular tone: the darkening sky through the window against the moon-like light source that fails to illuminate the sombre interior. But I think I would prefer a later painting that plays with pictorial space, any of the large pieces in the current Approach show."
Sarah Thacker: “I’ve never really wanted paintings on my walls. I like the pilgrimage, space to view and think apart from the various drags of domesticity. Caulfield’s chimney pots actually stir some notion of ‘home’ for me, evoking the numerous terraces I grew up in... Always the same bedroom view: backyard, outhouse, chimney, chimney, chimney. These days I relish glimpses of Caulfield’s Paper Moon stained-glass window, when walking past The Ivy… If money were no object, perhaps I’d go in.” Liesel Thomas: “Just one? That's tricky. There are many that I could happily look at every day, but if I had to choose one I think it would have to be Glass of Whisky 1987, it just seems to capture all of the elements in Caulfield's work so succinctly. The painting depicts a glass of whisky painted in a representational way, on a single colour brown backdrop with impasto work to suggest wooden panels and the dark, heavy interior of a pub. Wavy lines scraped through the paint hint at wood grain, and geometric patches of light in flat off-white balance the composition perfectly whilst describing more of the interior; a table's surface, the light from a window or door and light bouncing off the glass onto the walls. A single black angular shadow is cast from the glass. The description of light and shadow, the life sized every day object, the uninhabited room with its remnant of human presence, the theatricality, the precision of the composition; it's all there in this one piece.”
Question Two: Would you agree that a lot of Caulfield paintings have a melancholy side to them which set them apart from the more celebratory and upbeat Pop Art being made in the 1960s by artists such as Peter Blake and David Hockney? Sacha Craddock: “Yes, atmosphere, found in painting not in Pop, necessarily. Not melancholy, they represent time spent drinking, eating, and then drinking, cut off, apparently far away, but really only down stairs, in the Italian restaurant, surrounded by wallpaper, light from the fish tank, waiters waiting to go home. The structure and drawn out etiquette of a meal with alcohol makes for a parallel existence, a different relation to time. Inside, downstairs, in unnatural light, it is both day and night and each painting carries real logic but little sadness.” Charles Darwent: “Broadly, yes: there’s a Hopper-like emptiness to many of them.” Peter Davies: “Yes they all feel melancholy to me, and from looking at them recently I have realised he’s not really a Pop Artist and that, that is a red herring.” Abi Parry: “Definitely. I think it's quite a British melancholy that perhaps the others lack. Caulfield captures quiet moments, I think, rather well. His works are simple but have a deepness not instantly obvious. They're a good example of everything and nothing, a world beyond the canvas and the artist's surface image. I think we all experience the same kind of moments of contemplation, After Lunch is that for me and I instantly feel a connection to it.” Kes Richardson: “I don’t think Caulfield has a lot to do with Pop Art, Blake or Hockney. And I think there’s something more of the uncanny going on than the melancholy. Lighting from multiple sources, odd drop shadows, tricks with space, visual jokes about illusion and representation. A celebration of the history of painting and just finding his own voice." Sarah Thacker: “The blues are still blue and I do associate Caulfield with various shades of it: Juan Gris’s suit, the darkness of it in Santa Margherita Ligure, the ambience of the restaurant in After Lunch — bright goldfish and picturesque Swiss view no balm for the downcast waiter and implicit eater. The melancholic is often sardonic though… I mean, have you seen his gravestone?” Liesel Thomas: “Absolutely, there is an emptiness or loneliness in many of his works, they have an almost post apocalyptic feeling of abandonment, bustling public spaces, restaurants, foyers and bars alike, now uninhabited with every day objects left behind, inanimate and still. He has a fantastic way of contrasting these quiet scenes with the loud and vibrant 'pop' colours in his palette, which surprisingly heightens that sense of melancholy, in much the same way loneliness can become amplified when you live in a big city.”
Question Three: In June 2013 Tate Britain gave Caulfield a solo show which ran parallel with a solo show of Gary Hume. Did you like this coupling and appreciate getting to see two artists for the price of one or would you rather the Tate had devoted a bigger show to Caulfield and published a catalogue? And, in your opinion - Is Hume as interesting or important an artist as Caulfield? Sacha Craddock: “The Tate show of Caulfield seemed somewhat defensive. He is someone, something, each painting just brilliant, but even though we know that it was not made clear by the coupling. The strong graphic nature and quality of Caulfield has nothing to do with the outline of a Hume painting. Close but far away, one sharp the other soft.” Charles Darwent: “I didn’t like it. Either artist as part of a broader voice, or either in monograph, would have made more sense. As it is, the show forced a dialogue that wasn’t really there. “As interesting” isn’t a useful question, I think: Hume is very interesting (especially his sculpture), but with very different ambitions.” Peter Davies: “I would have preferred to see a bigger Caulfield show and don’t make any connection between Gary Hume and Patrick Caulfield apart from the fact they are both British artists and use/used paint, and sometimes simplify certain images.” Abi Parry: “Yes I did appreciate the coupling, and yes I think Hume is important, personally I find his work interesting in a different way than Caulfield. I can't imagine hanging a Hume painting in my home. But I certainly make the connection between the artists and found it intriguing. It would have been nice to have a Catalogue for Caulfield and perhaps a solo show too.” Kes Richardson: “I would have loved a bigger show of Caulfield. Just the other night my friend Shaan and I were saying how much we like Hume’s door paintings. I quite like the Tony Blackburn one too but he’s no match for Pat."
Sarah Thacker: “There’s a (shallow) formal affinity between Caulfield and Hume. But, with Hume my mind slips in the slickness; the abstract poetic expanses of Caulfield transmute into glossy vacuity in Hume.” Liesel Thomas: “Sadly I missed the show so I'm not sure I'm qualified to comment, but I would say a full retrospective of Caulfield's work would be very welcome indeed. I can understand the Tate's decision to pair the two shows of course, when I was at art school, everyone was talking about Gary Hume, so in that respect yes I suppose he is as important an artist. I think there is a certain element of the melancholy in Hume's work too, but unlike Caulfield his work dipped a toe into the world of fashion and so he managed to reach a new and different audience.”
Question Four: Caulfield paid homage to various art heroes in his work such as George Braque and Juan Gris. In 1986, when The National Gallery asked him to select works from their collection his choices included two still life paintings by Pieter de Hooch. Some of his paintings were named after pop songs such as “In My Room” by The Beach Boys. And by reading Clarrie Wallis’s book on Caulfield we learn his favourite film was Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil and books by his bedside included Laurence Stern’s Tristram Shandy and American classics by Hemingway and Steinbeck. Do you like the people he liked? Do you approve of his choices and do you share any of his tastes? Sacha Craddock: “I am not really concerned about the film and music he liked. He was never mad on Video art, I promise, asking me to account for that when we were both External Assessors on Chelsea MA, him Painting, me Sculpture. I would be sent in to the dark, through the curtain, report back and we would go for a drink. I like both Gris, with his front of stage surface and finish and Braque, exactly the opposite. Caulfield is a setter of surface and stage with little working out or back stage doubt allowed. His graphic sense is amazing, Prunella Clough told me about Adami, as well, in the same place as Caulfield.” Charles Darwent: “Wow, multiple warhead questions. I like Stern, Steinbeck and de Hooch, also the Beach Boys and Braque. I don’t get Gris and deeply dislike Hemingway. But I guess you’re touching on postmodernism? I don’t think Caulfield can be pigeonholed as a postmodernist, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
Peter Davies: “I always find it curious what informs an artist, although my tastes are very different to his, and change frequently.” Abi Parry: “Oh my god, yes! I wonder if he was a fan of Bowie? In My Room by the Beach Boys is probably my favourite song of theirs. It's easy to connect that melancholy contemplation feeling here again. Clearly his tastes were wonderful and diverse. I find it interesting that he liked Hemingway.”
Kes Richardson: “I love his portrait of Gris. The influence that keeps coming up in relation to Caulfield is Léger, who I like very much and who Caulfield liked because ‘his things were bold, not woolly, very strong, linear, figurative, but not in a kind of a representational perspective sense, but in a decorative way, without being mere decoration as it’s called." Sarah Thacker: “Gris and de Hooch are beaut. Braque is ‘important’ yet banal if viewed en masse — deft sculpting of space but all that brown… I almost prefer him as a Fauve. I guess Caulfield got the drive to impishly play with perspective from Braque. The blank flatness jostling with trompe-l’oeil in works like Study of Roses akin to the illusionistic nail in Braque’s Violin and Palette, juxtaposed with the Cubist planes… I’ve owned Tristram Shandy for a number of years but it remains unread and I expect will do for much time more. I suppose it’s never felt pressing enough. Hemmingway’s a lad. I say that in a vaguely fond way. The Beach Boys can be moving; I like the sentiment of In My Room but don’t quite share it. God Only Knows is overplayed but still stirs. But all these boys! Why are none of these influences women? Caulfield was taught by Prunella Clough. I like Clough. I like Clough’s auntie.”
Liesel Thomas: “I suppose Braque and Gris are firmly fixed in my mind along with Picasso and other greats from the art historical halls of fame, but I haven't given either of them much thought since Art History A-level, perhaps it's time to take another look. I've always admired Pieter de Hooch as a master of composition so it doesn't surprise me that Caulfield was a fan. I have always loved the Beach Boys - it's the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds this year! I do tend to enjoy American classics, although my tastes are more aligned with Fante, Bukowski and Vonnegut. I also read that Caulfield once named a painting after a racehorse called Rust Never Sleeps which he was unaware was named after a Neil Young album.”
Question Five: Have you been / will you be going to the Caulfield show currently on at The Approach gallery? Are there any particular paintings in the show you were pleased to see again? Sacha Craddock: “I have not been but I am thrilled that it is there, in the context of some good current painting. Thank you for reminding me.” Charles Darwent: “I haven’t been, but am a Caulfield fan so will go. I don’t know what’s in the show. Generally, I’m more swept away by his works on paper; his canvases have that intentionally unpleasant shiny surface I find hard to get past.” Peter Davies: “I have seen the show and will return. I was delighted to see all those works and especially in the particular context of The Approach. I thought it was a great show and was surprised by the size of the paintings in the main space.”
Abi Parry: “No, sadly I will not be able to. But I will definitely follow on social media and look into the gallery.”
Kes Richardson: “I was really blown away by the Approach show. I don’t know what I was expecting but those four large paintings were knockout. Caulfield talks about starting Fruit Display and The Register from a light source at the top right corner of the painting and working across from there without planning. To me they seem so cleverly composed and taut I can’t imagine that they were created in that way, but perhaps why they have more surprising compositions than earlier black outlined works that were squared up. These later works are so economical yet so generous and complex. Twisting and wrong-footing the understanding of space. It’s like he’s reinventing the laws of physics and smiling as you try and figure it all out. The pictures within pictures within pictures. The black circles in Reception seem to be nods to Bacon or Fontana, more jokes on illusion and scale. The cheeky tiger looking up under the lamp shade. The dramatic filmic shadows in Fruit Display almost feels like you’re watching one of those frozen panning Matrix shots. Just so much to enjoy." Sarah Thacker: “I live quite close to The Approach; these questions prompted a visit to see Stillness & Drama. The wet autumnal leaves that stuck to my shoes as I traipsed over matched the colour palette of the works in the main space. I loved the cat’s impossibly long tail on the vase in Reception. I liked that I was alone in the room and these images pertained to social spaces; social spaces staged without people inciting that aforementioned melancholy. Motown music seeped through the floor as I viewed—friends and colleagues passing a boozy lunch hour in the bar below, setting-off my solitude. Yes, stillness and drama. Still lives but a drama in scale, a drama, too, in the emphatic flatness meeting forceful sensations of three-dimensionality. I enjoy being in the ‘viewing room’ of The Approach; the space structured like a James Turrell sculpture. Skyspace almost stole the show... but the radiant grooves of the light in Caulfield’s Corner Lamp have deep feeling. The drama of the works in this room is rooted in the somber grounds imposed with some high-key hue, still scenes under the scrutiny of artificial, abstracted light.” Liesel Thomas: “I visited the show last week and was delighted to see Glass of Whiskey hanging in the office which was unexpected as it wasn't listed on the website. I particularly enjoyed the four large works in the main gallery space and thought the scale worked very well in that room.”
Question Six: What was special about Patrick Caulfield as an artist? In what way did he inspire you with his work? Sacha Craddock: “Caulfield is a genius of atmosphere. Of place, design, heightened detail and lost corners, The Still Lifes carry a total sense of place. He merges genre to make a textured sense. In a way he is a two dimensional Mike Nelson, who makes three dimensional fact into poetic fiction.” Charles Darwent: “His inscrutability. His work is hugely intelligent in setting on a series of fences – representation / abstraction, flatness / depth, sociability/loneliness, etc etc.” Peter Davies: “I think Patrick Caulfield is a very important and not fully appreciated artist. I’m curious how his work has been thought of as Pop but is really about many other things (De Chirico etc). It appears simple but is actually really complex. I also like the restraint and all that is left out, and how that results in the construction of a painting, and through that a proposition as to what a painting might be.” Abi Parry: “I don't really know how to answer this question. All I know is that I really like what he stood for and the time he lived through and shared with us in various ways. His humour and his references can be quite joyful while also making us think a bit more about the world around us.” Kes Richardson: “It's funny, thinking about his work I've just remembered I was investigating a lot of similar concerns with a bunch of paintings I made in 2008. I guess it's his playfulness, his humour, his pictorial intelligence and his elegance." Sarah Thacker: “Well, I’m not an artist thus don’t feel directly ‘inspired’ by him… yet I am thankful for the pregnant pauses he presents. Regarding these works has reminded me of the vital need to make time for such quiet reflection in an otherwise strained schedule...” Liesel Thomas: “As a painter there were so many things about his work that stood out for me. His preference for painting life sized objects helps you feel part of the painting, the large pieces engulf you so you begin to inhabit those empty rooms. The way he plays with light and shadow, patches of flat light slicing through the canvas and dark shapes describing the shadows cast from absent objects, allowing your mind to fill in the gaps. I remember I was particularly inspired by the way those shadows helped to marry his two painting styles on one surface. For a while at art school I experimented with painting representational figures from photographs on flat colourful backgrounds, the dark shadows cast from the camera flash acted as outlines or shapes to anchor the figure in the empty space, hinting at the surroundings without explicitly painting them.”
I recommend the Clarrie Wallis book above which is available from Tate Britain. Big thanks to those who answered my questions. Sacha Craddock is an independent critic and curator. Charles Darwent is an art critic and writer currently working on a biography of Josef Albers. Peter Davies is an artist who lives in London. He is represented by The Approach Gallery: http://theapproach.co.uk/ Abi Parry is a Mother, Lover and Dreamer. www.pinterest.com/daxieloverrr Kes Richardson is an artist represented by FOLD. Find out more: http://www.kesrichardson.com/ Sarah Thacker is a writer studying at the Royal College of Art. She tweets @sarahthacker23 Liesel Thomas is a London based artist. Find out more about her here: www.lieselthomas.com Stillness & Drama is on at The Approach gallery until the 11th of December.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Picasso Portraits at The NPG

Kirsty Buchanan, Matthew Collings, Stuart Cumberland, Tori Day, Georgia Hayes, Nicola Hicks, Dominic Kennedy share their thoughts on Pablo Picasso
For the first time in a generation a major exhibition of Picasso Portraits has opened at London's The N. P. G. There are over 80 works to see including portraits of Lee Miller, Stravinsky and Cocteau. For some critics the big deal about the show is that it features Picasso’s painting of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler from 1910. (This cubist masterpiece rarely leaves Chicago.) Other reviewers mention the daft cartoons that have been discovered or they bring our attention to the two portraits of Pablo’s wife Olga – (one painted in 1923 and one in 1935) – which couldn’t be more different from each other. What I liked most about the show is that seeing these paintings made me want to make a new painting of my own. I was curious to know what other artists made of Picasso Portraits so I rounded up some esteemed artists and e-mailed them the same 6 questions. Now read on... 1) What was your introduction to Picasso can you remember about your first encounter with his work?
Kirsty Buchanan: "I really can't remember my first encounter with Picasso, he's sort of an establishment like Jesus so he really just existed since I can remember. I have always been a fan, I find that he always changes for me too, I get sick of some artists but with Picasso he always surprises me, even now." Matthew Collings: "I don’t remember anything about it at all, and for a long time after I was aware of him I didn’t particularly think about him, he was just a name in art. At art-school after a while I might have been quite impressed by various organizational ideas I could see in his paintings: I remember at a party stealing the limelight by turning the pages of a Picasso coffee table book and pointing out structures, and people gradually paid attention." Stuart Cumberland:"I was fortunate enough to be 'of age' when Late Picasso came to the Tate in London. I was 17 or 18 and I travelled up by train from Surrey twice to see it. I bought the catalogue, it was the first catalogue I owned and it is probably my most looked at and treasured. ‘Fan’ is too passive a word for my interaction with Picasso. We come into contact with Picasso before we come into contact with his work because the effect of his achievements changed the world - at the very least changed the appearance of the man made world. In other words I do not think the world would look the same if Picasso had not existed. The adults in his paintings may not appear the way sight constructs them when we concentrate on vision alone but then that is not how we interact and experience others. I instantly recognised the people in Picasso’s paintings on a phenomenological level - that is how Cezanne was his father and how he may have killed his biological Dad but not his artistic one." Tori Day: "I think the first image of a Picasso I remember seeing was when I was a very young child, in an encyclopaedia my parents owned. It was one of those that you collected in instalments and then bought the folder to bind them. It was poor quality and the colour in all the reproductions of paintings was terrible. I remember seeing The Weeping Woman for the first time and being shocked - not only did she have a massive green nose but both her eyes were on the same side of her head! I didn’t know what to make of it. I found it frightening - it was so bold and aggressive and confrontational. Those thick black lines. The hideously deformed face. It was monstrous." Georgia Hayes: "I can’t really remember not knowing about him and I always accepted his work as interesting and special. But when I was young I liked the blue and pink periods which I now don’t like at all." Nicola Hicks:"I can't remember the first Picasso I saw, only the stonking effect of each new seeing of a Picasso,different pieces having resonance at different moments,in fact it could be a defining feature of his work, the fact that every time you see a Picasso, its the first time you’ve seen it,he’s that good in the flesh. Key moments for me have included, realising the cat sculpture was more cat than cat ( about age 11) thinking the Minotaur etchings where awful until I heard Hockney talk about them, it has to be said, in terms of the little agonies of waning machismo, having to write about the young girls of Avignon at school ( secretly hated it, it made me feel stupid and left out) literally crying in Paris at the beauty of his ceramics ,having heart pain the cutout metal sculptures were so good and realising I was going to be a sculptor standing in front of man with sheep or was it the big woman in the white shift?or a metal cut out of a woman with arms outstretched Or perhaps the shift as a student from having always accepted the received wisdom that Picasso was king to actually feeling the greatness myself probably in the Paris museum in the 80s. luckily for me the Tate was my local so I don't remember when or which work,more the blissful feeling that you always recognise a Picasso . In fact you can see that even thinking about looking at Picassos takes you on a rollercoaster ride of memories, almost an assault of images." Dominic Kennedy: "I was lucky enough to go the Picasso museum in Paris when I was about 16 or 17 years old with my Dad. He was taking his art students on a trip there and this was the time I really started to look at Picasso. I must have been aware of his work before then through a few postcards and books at home but this was when his work really started to affect me. Around the same time I borrowed a rather worn and tatty Picasso book from the art room at school. I had it in my possession for so long the teacher gave up asking me for it back in the end and said I could keep it. I've still got it somewhere." 2) When the Tate Gallery bought Three Dancers directly from Picasso in 1965 he told them that he considered Three Dancers and The Young Women of Avignon as his two greatest paintings. Do you rate these two paintings amongst his best works. Are there any of his paintings that excite or impress you more?
Kirsty Buchanan: "I really love his drawings, I have an Avant Garde magazine from the 60s full of erotic drawings." Matthew Collings: "Anyone should be capable of seeing different things at different times in the same body of work. You see what’s of interest to you because of what you’re doing yourself. Picasso’s all about the means of representation being capable of becoming subjects in themselves, the pursuit of shapes and angles for their own sake, and this formal energy always having a psychological correlate, so people he pictures are in a state of metamorphosis, because of the shapes he’s representing them by being so independent, and changeable, even as you’re looking. It’s the same for the two pictures you mention as anything he does after about 1905." Stuart Cumberland:"Those two are among his best - for sure. I particularly like the Dora Maar post Guernica 1939-1942 period." Tori Day: "I do love these paintings – but what a painter thinks of as her or his best works are often very different from what a critic might decide, as we’ve lived it and battled with it and birthed it. As an observer I am (and we all are) speaking from a position that is heavily bogged down with cultural criticism and with the spoonfed ‘preknowledge’ of what experts say. But that said my personal favourite is ‘Blue Nude’. It’s the quietest and most profound and gentlest and saddest of his paintings – it contains grief but without the hysterical drama of some of his later works." Georgia Hayes: "I do like these two paintings, the first was the first Picasso I remember seeing for real and the Women of Avignon was in art books and impressed me then. It still seems very complete and radical so yes among his best but the stand out one for me is Guernica which I found totally overwhelming when I saw it in Madrid. Otherwise two that are new to me I really like which are in the NPG show are Maya in the Sailor Suit and Lee Miller." Nicola Hicks: "I don't particularly rate these two paintings, but I'm not standing in front of them, and it does tend to be the one in the room that stuns you into submission. I don't really feel the blue paintings, but I did have a moment , suddenly wanting to see the one at the NPG on a loud yellow wall paper, some of them need to be one on one in a domestic interior to sing to you.If I was going to buy one I think it might be 'Claude painting Jacqueline and Paloma,'it's just so perfect." Dominic Kennedy: "Oh there are many Picasso's that excite me more but those two works are really important for different reasons, especially the Women of Avignon. Maybe they suffer from being over reproduced and lose some of their impact after a while. I saw the Women of Avignon for the first time a few years ago and it was something else to finally stand in front of it." 3) In the 1920s Walter Sickert said Picasso's work wasn't a patch on Poulbot, Genty, Falke, Arnac, Kern and Laborde. Are there any painters you can think of that you consider vastly superior to Picasso?
Kirsty Buchanan: "I prefer Matisse's paintings, he's more sincere." Matthew Collings: "Sickert was just saying there are other things art does than what Picasso does, which is fair enough. Bonnard, Matisse, many artists are so different to him, he can seem tedious, especially his eclecticism, if you’re thinking about those other people. But also there are artists who just move him aside as part of their successful innovation, Magritte, for example, he makes Picasso’s shape-creating energy seem a waste of time." Stuart Cumberland: "Didn’t know that Sickert thought that. I always though that Sickert was the best English painter, surprisingly good for an English painter who are generally terrible - I should know I am one - then I found out he was German and it all fell into place. Velazquez and Titian are incredible but it’s difficult to compare." Tori Day: "Impossible to say, as he was of his time and no one had ever done what he was doing. I could list many whose work I would prefer to look at but not one of them had the staggering ability and neverending breadth of skill, he was proficient in so many techniques and forms of image making and master of them all." Georgia Hayes: "No I think of him as a giant alongside Matisse and Valasquez." Nicola Hicks: "Unlike Sickert,or any of these names that are not on my radar, you can't tie Picasso to an era or a movement he out lives everyone, except for painting by painting, comparisons are useless, as you move through his years you see most of the greats reflected, Ingres, Gauguin, Braque, Matisse then Miro, Calder, Herron, Frink, Moor, Hockney, Hepworth Lautrec, Dix, Guston and you realise you're whizzing about improbably through time,Picasso is the bench mark the constant mirror. In his time or out of it. The Bon atelier." Dominic Kennedy: "I think when you get to this level of achievement and greatness, 'better' or 'lesser' seems irrelevant. He is untouchable in many ways. Sickert's quote seems a bit premature to say the least." 4) Some of the work included in The National Portrait Gallery's current exhibition of Picasso Portraits are comic. Have any of Picasso's paintings of his children or his cartoons made you laugh? Can art that makes one laugh be regarded as important or of value?
Kirsty Buchanan: "YES, humour is so important." Matthew Collings: "He’s very frequently funny, but not always. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is funny -- as well as all the other things it is -- but you couldn’t say Weeping Woman in Tate Modern is funny, or Guernica, or works from The Blue Period. When he’s funny it’s a savage humour. The Portraits show is full of jokes. One of the earliest pictures of himself as a stunted monkey with a little penis is funny, and tells us we’re all the same monkey." Stuart Cumberland: "Picasso made terrible images of children, his methods are too adult to be adapted to rendering children. I’ve laughed at loads of Picassos. Oscar Wilde said that if you make someone laugh you’ll be considered a trivial fellow but if you bore them in just the right way they’ll consider you a genius. Laughter is very important and of value. We laugh at truth." Tori Day: "I’m not really familiar with the paintings you mention as I haven’t been to see the show. I think it’s good for art not to take itself too seriously, and it can be life affirming – which is why I like your work, Harry, and why I like the work of Charlie Day, Gary Goodman, and Gus Watcham, herself a massive Philip Guston fan. I’m also a fan of text and imagery together, especially if it’s a joke that really hits the spot. David Shrigley and Graham Rawle for example." Georgia Hayes: "Yes, for example Woman in a Hat in this show, made me laugh even though it is also sad and poignant. The cheeky inventiveness of it but also tragic expression. And that mixture is often there in his art. I think that it is of great importance and value. Humour is a human emotion that we share and it brings relief to the tragedies of life." Nicola Hicks:"Humour is a basic element of life so of course it must be present in art. The trick is finding the humour that endures, the one that's mixed with pathos ,the truth in human frailty needs humour .what to avoid is spelling it out. I find Picasso s bull made from bike seat and handlebars hysterical, but I also found 'Jacqueline in a black scarf quite funny, Picasso is surely showing his slip, women sadly really aren't that deep/enigmatic/submissive .still it was magical to see his romantic need made flesh." Dominic Kennedy: "Oh yes definitely. I went there yesterday and some of them are really funny. I rather liked the painting of his daughter Maya in the show, the way in which the legs and shoes are flattened out. This made me laugh. Some art we find comedic often has pathos and humour in equal amounts so that it's a hollow laugh in the end, with humour used as a way of disarming the viewer. I'm thinking of late Guston for example."
5) The NPG show features one painting that rarely leaves America and some other paintings from private collections that haven't been exhibited in the U.K. before - but the admission price is almost £20. Do you think the NPG is asking too much or is £20 a bargain?
Kirsty Buchanan: "I think we are so lucky to live in a country where we can see art for free, and I have really taken advantage of that since I've lived in London and I feel that our National collection belongs to me. But because of our government that is now threatened and I understand that charging for special exhibitions is unavoidable. £20 is expensive but if you compare it to other entertainment like a Justin Bieber concert or a play then it's really not." Matthew Collings: "No it’s far too much but I don’t know what anyone can do about it." Stuart Cumberland:"The admission price is too high. The show is not good enough - it’s a hodge podge!" Tori Day: "Of course it’s too much, it’s bloody extortionate. How is this bringing Picasso to the masses? Massively wealthy more like. I couldn’t afford that." Georgia Hayes: "At first I was horrified at the ticket price but thought it pretty good value when I came out. The trouble is people (artists especially) can’t necessarily afford it and I wanted to go again but bought the catalogue instead to help remember the show. I think if paying that price was the only way to put those paintings together maybe that is ok and anyway it is much better value than Caravaggio. Also if you compare it to a theatre or concert ticket its fine but i believe where possible art and museums should be free." Nicola Hicks:"Most of me is cross that all shows aren't free, if you don't have much you should at least have museums but I'm doing ok so enjoy being 'friends' with our public galleries. I can't bear to think that people will miss shows because they can't afford to go,truth is our world is so messed up twenty quid is either nothing or unobtainable. But art opens windows in the head and you never know what the view will be, we need to help people to it not price them out." Dominic Kennedy: "Yes I think it is too much. Maybe it's the times we live in and organisations are forced to make as much money as possible because of cuts. I don't know but people shouldn't be deterred from seeing a show like this because it's £20. Even with a discount it's expensive for what is, in essence, a small show. Maybe the sponsors could contribute more." 6) What's special about Pablo? In what ways has Picasso inspired you or had a positive impact on your life?
Kirsty Buchanan: "He's amazing. I love him. Look at the You Tube video for Jonathan Richman's song Pablo Picasso Never Got Called an Asshole..." Matthew Collings: "The energy of invention is very impressive. I doubt of he’s really had an impact on me more than art as a whole system, and thinking about art history in all its aspects." Stuart Cumberland: "Picasso was an utter cunt and he was generous and kind enough to allow that part of him to make his paintings, sculptures and drawings. When he was being nice he made those boring ceramics . . . zzzzzz. Phoebe Unwin said to me that she thought Picasso was amazing because after all of the accolades and all of the accusations Picasso’s work is not egotistical - I think that is impressive. It’s why I find Richter and Polke boring (for example) - too much ego. Picasso developed clumsiness as a possibility." Tori Day: "He had been able to paint like a master whilst still a child. He was so prolific and such a polymath - printmaking, ceramics, painting. Seeing a Picasso in the flesh is exciting, is exhilarating - like eating a steak after a long time or like water when you’re thirsty, or like sex. It speaks to something wordless and deep down and passionate and rich and raw. But it is also awe inspiring to see the dedication and the skill. I saw the series of lithographs ‘Bull’ at the Gagosian a few years ago and it was like looking into his mind - a visible dissection of the creative process." Georgia Hayes:"He was incredibly inventive and always changing - breaking new ground and managing to break away from the classical, academic strictures he was steeped in. He made me realise that you should have the courage to use anything and break the rules but with a seriousness that is not just about novelty for the sake of it. All through his life he made different kinds of work in different styles but still recognisably his. For example the wonderful sculptures made out of found objects and cardboard which I think he was the first to do. Unlike many of us he didn’t stick to painting the same painting over and over again with minor variations, so I think his work feels wonderfully alive and risky and utterly modern even a century later." Nicola Hicks: "Picasso is a phenomenon his work is as ingrained in my being as the school curriculum or a sense of the gospels. You can take a Picasso from any era and find a comparable master or master piece, but he just keeps living and evolving and stealing and inventing rolling along painting the pants off everyone else , so yes there are comparable even superior works and indeed life's works but for the artist as viewer he is the voice of authority for every age, and every ism, a lesson in confidence, a constant fixed point of excellence somewhere between benchmark and naughty God. Incidentally, the only book I've ever really rated on Picasso is 'Lump the story of the dog that ate a Picasso'An awed photographer on a commissioned photo journal shoot arrives at Picasso's with by twists of fate a broadly unwanted small dog. Picasso is so transfixed and delighted by the crotchety pooch that the ensuing photos are unguarded and intimate not just of the man but his studio and household .it's a book that I'd choose as quite frankly the only manual on life and how it should be lived. Picasso is the master, whether you like him or not always alive to new beginnings, art simply being his language. No one else comes close, although I probably get more pleasure from Calder and more practical help from Rodin for size the only thing comparable in excellence would be the ancient Greeks." Dominic Kennedy: "He's just this huge presence. His contribution to art was enormous. He was a complex character, flawed in many ways but his work and his drive to realise it were just incredible."
Six of The Best: Here are some examples of Pablo at his most Fab........... Painting One: Doora Maar 1937
Painting Two: Claude et Francoise et Paloma 1954
Painting Three: Maya in a Sailor Suit 1938
Painting Four: "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" ("The Young Women of Avignon") 1907
Painting Five: The Three Dancers 1925
Painting Six: Guernica 1937
Thank you to everyone who answered my Picasso questions. Find out more about the artists by visiting their websites: www.nicolahicks.com, http://theapproach.co.uk/artists/stuart-cumberland/images/ http://emmabiggsandmatthewcollings.net/ http://dominickennedy.net/ http://www.toridayart.co.uk/ http://georgiahayes.com/ http://royaldrawingschool.org/artists/drawing-year-alumni/kirsty-buchanan/
Picasso Portraits at NPG is on until Feb next year.