Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Russian Play

The painting gets it’s title from the Gershwin song, and I had the version by Chet Baker in mind - - when I titled it, and I guess I might very well have imagined Baker in himself as a model for the figures depicted- Baker in a heroin-induced daze.

But Not for Me

They're writing songs of love, but not for me.
A lucky star's above, but not for me.
With love to lead the way
I've found more clouds of grey
than any Russian play could guarantee.
I was a fool to fall and get that way;
Heigh-ho! Alas! And also, lack-a-day!
Although I can't dismiss the mem'ry of his kiss,
I guess he's mot for me.
He's knocking on a door, but not for me.
He'll plan a two by four, but not for me.
I know that love's a game;
I'm puzzled, just the same,
was I the moth or flame?
I'm all at sea.
It all began so well, but what an end!
This is the time a feller needs a friend,
when ev'ry happy plot ends with the marriage knot,
and there's no knot for me.

George and Ira Gershwin

It’s part of the same group as “Before the Party”, and “Our Velvet Sorrow”, and was painted at much the same time probably London's Maida Vale.

As with the painting “Our velvet Sorrow” this one features a self conscious melancholy, a certain self-indulgence, and the usual sleeping figures.
I suppose the picture might be described as sentimental, but I hope there’s homour there enough for it not to be stifling. It takes something, not much from children’s books.

The song and the music are connected to the décor and style of the painting which is suggestive of the late 30s to the late forties, roughly when the song is written (1930), vaguely art deco and geometric and with that sense of doom and enclosure that seems so much to typify that period- I think of Dorothy Parker and Kafka (contrast with the 20s and 60s). It’s a period I feel particularly connected to, perhaps because of its internality, also because of its sense of futility

There‘s a cartoonishness about these pictures that I was wary of at the time, but which now I like, perhaps because simply that phase has passed. I like it now because it’s unfussy, but at the time I was uneasy of straying off the fine art tradition.

The picture was shown at London’s Metro Cinema (now defunct) and was something of a success along with 20 monotypes, and marked in my mind my sense of being on top of my art, of having found my voice. This was to do with accepting and knowing that the Fine Art tradition was too serious for me, and that I needed an aesthetic zone which was closer to cabaret or nonsense poetry: black comic, absurd and fun, touching on deepr things, but not absorbed by them.


  1. marvelous paintings - not that it looks like him, but it reminds me of Francis Bacon

  2. Thanks Gunther.

    I regret very much that I didn't get to see the recent Bacon retrospective in London, which I heard was spectacular.