I read the Guardian newspaper online nearly every day and I read it as much as anything for the comments, not because they are uniformly good but because almost every day there will be someone driven to a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth rage by some innocuous comment by a fellow reader. You can spot the Rabid One by the rapid reply to almost any comment offering a counter view and these replies escalate in insistence and anger as the morning plods onwards. The rest of the world is at peace but in some dim bedsit (I always imagine it's a bedsit), the Rabid One is almost glowing, incandescent with volcanic rage, his - I suspect it's nearly always a 'he', his keyboard bouncing with the force of his convictions. This morning, the argument concerned the painter, R.B.Kitaj, a personal favourite of mine and his so called 'painting style'. It was described by the Rabid One as a 'cartoon-style comprised of jagged lines and therefore he could not possibly qualify as an artist of the first rank but it was clear for all to see he was a mere second-rater'. This was a point of view I couldn't agree with and fortunately nor did many others and the argument commenced. The Rabid One became ever more vehement in his view, talking of 'real painting' and 'genuine expression', both highly contentious phrases but the hysteria mounted and however reasonable other people expressed their love and admiration of Kitaj's work, the Rabid One grew ever more entrenched in his view and determination to impose his own constructed ranking system. Eventually The Rabid Ones trenchant views became tedious and you sensed much of it was informed by his own failure and deep cynicism of the art world as a whole.
What I like about our sessions is beneath our British diffidence, wariness and inherent modesty, there is a large portion of optimism otherwise why would we return time and again. I like optimism, it's the engine of the artist or as our beloved Tony Hancock might have said in the early scenes of The Rebel, 'Optimism is the belt holding up the trousers of Art', I would like to think he would have said that if I hadn't just made it up. We need to believe in a forward momentum, things will improve and usually they do. Unlike The Rabid One I don't believe in an easy right and wrong, the History of Art is full of revisions, values in art are rarely universal and timeless. Do a bit of travelling and you'll see different cultures just as avidly celebrating their values as we do ours.
Ian's piece should be wrong, a failure by many standards but place it in Paris in 1904 within the circle of the painter Maurice de Vlaminck and the painting, with it's dark eyes and green tinged flesh would have been the height of fashion and so it goes. I like Paris 1904 and so I like Ian's work and I particularly like it's angular shoulders and bowl like shadow under the chin. For me it's reminiscent of the way Kitaj tried to re-make reality, to take it apart and reconstruct it in such a way that each element is no longer subservient to it's neighbour. It's odd when you first encounter it and not always pleasing to the eye or successful but it's always interesting, a bit like Chris's work, always intriguing and often unexpected which just about sums up my definition of the word 'Good'.
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Cathy, David, Fiona, Hadyn, Ian, Ivan, Olivia, Patrick, Roger, Sandra, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist Chris.