Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Limey (1999): review- 7/10


Charismatic cockney thug Terence Stamp seeks revenge for daughter's death in LA.

Enjoyable, shallow, violent and efficiently made.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Winter day, Florianópolis


Winter Day, Florianópolis , oil on card, 8.2 x 12.5 cm  SOLD


A day so happy.
Fog lifted early. I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

Czesław Miłosz, Berkeley, 1971


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Three characters in search of a tableau

These are threee drawings of characters who will one day become made into cutouts, and set up as a tableau.

What I really need is a jigsaw and some light hardboard. Then I can cut out profiles to paint with the characters: doing such cutting work in this apartment just isn't feasable. But perhaps it will be some day: what I can do now is store up ideas for that day.

Another option is to use these characters in a painting: though what I like about the idea of having them as cutout two dimensinal "dolls" is the toy-like aspect that they'd have (I am extremely fond of children's toys, and there used to be produced pressed tin soldiers called "flats"; I'm also a big fan of the toy theatre).

I have had these ideas for many years, but often felt deterred not just by lack of a workspace but by my lack of a narrative within which to place my figures. I have decided not to care too much: the narrative can look after itself.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cypress tree

Cypress tree, oil on card, 9.7 x 12.6 cm

Painted quickly in the cemetery: if it isn't raining it's just about to.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002): review- 7.5/10

A shy, internally frustrated businessman meets a beautiful girl, falls in love and defeats the sex-phoneline sharks who sought to oppress him.

Intriguing- even bizarre- with beautiful camera-work and a fine score.

Splendor in the Grass (1961): review- 5.5/10

Small town Kansas: two high school students wish to engage in sexual congress but their parents are too stuffy to let this happen.

As a result, the female goes nuts, while the boy, who's father is a cultureless oaf, has to go to Yale and study law, instead of the agrucultural college, as he would really like.

This is a self important, humourless piece that has dated badly. However, it is is well paced and carefully made and is still watchable.

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009): review- 9/10

Based loosely on Dahl's characters: Mr Fox is married and suburbanized: he seeks to re-experience some of the wilder, feral pleasures of his youth.

Magnificently made with a witty, insightful script.

Magnolia (1999): review


A variety of interlinked characters in LA pass through personal crises.

It is elegantly and assuredly made: Tom Cruise is supurb and the film has definate momentum. However, the characters are not really allowed to breathe freely- they are just puppets, whose purpose is to serve the director's (presumably Christian) moral preconceptons.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Servidão José Antônio de Lima

Servidão José Antônio de Lima, oil on card, 8.5 x 11.2 cm

Another of the lanes near here: this time the lane has a sweetness that is almost excessive.

A beautiful day for painting: wonderful sunshine.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Trees on a hillside, Córrego Grande

Trees on a hillside, Córrego Grande, oil on card, 10.7 x 9 cm

Very cold today: had to work fast.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Servidao Rodolfo Rodrigues Feijo, Itacorubi, Florianopolis


Servidao Rodolfo Rodrigues Feijo, Itacorubi, oil on card, 12.1 x 8.8 cm

Another of the lanes near here:  in the distance blocks are constructed, relentlessly.

I find these places mysterious, and think of Ultravox's Quiet Men:

Waiting, we were waiting
As the traffic moved through all our hearts and our heads
But things were different then
For the quiet men

Shifting, things were shifting
Through the walls and hall, there were no walls at all
For the quiet friends
Of the quiet men

Oh, the quiet men
Oh, the quiet men

Springtime, there was sunshine
Through the window panes, down all the English lanes
Where they walked again
The quiet men

Talking, they were talking
Of the times to come, and all the time that's gone
And they smiled again
The quiet men

Oh, the quiet men
Oh, the quiet men

Listening, they were listening
As the season changed and all the reasons changed
And people came and went
By the quiet men

Walking, they were walking
Through the rainy days, looking at all the faces
But no-one ever noticed them
The quiet men

Oh, the quiet men
Oh, the quiet men
Oh, the quiet men
Oh, the quiet men

(Ultravox, Island Records, 1978)


I thought today about how I should plan a journey through Santa Catarina, driving west and painting along the way: a test run for the USA road trip, which I intend to do in the years to come.

It would be nice to meet other artists on these trips: please contact me if you want to meet for a drink somewhere and are not a psychopath.


A Prarie Home Companion (2006): review- 8/10

An elegant ensemble piece: the final night of a radio show is overseen by a private investigator Noir, and recieves a mysterous blonde visitor.

The piece contains many very funny scenes and songs, and reflections on life in Michigen, penned by Garrison Keillor.

It evenly handles a wide range of characters giving them equal weight: does this result in a film that lacks dynamism?

The Ladykillers (2004): review- 0/10

The Coen's remake "The Ladykillers", moving it from London to the deep South, whose culture they attempt to satirise.

This could be interesting. It isn't: indeed, this film is a disgrace: the humour is inane, it's very poorly paced and it completely fails to create any dramatic tension. It should be struck from the Coen brother's catalogue.

Oh, and the acting is universally poor too- with a horrible, forced "zaniness" all round.

The Girlfriend Experience (2009): review- 8/10


A expensive call girl in New York visits her clients during the stock crash; at the same time her flatmate, a freelance salesman, visits his clients. The film consists mainly of their conversations.

Beautifully filmed, with a delicate, ambiguous mood throughout.

The Weight of Water (2000): review- 5.5/10

An island in New Hampshire: for a magazine commission, a photographer visits the site of a murder in the 1900s together with her lover, his brother and new girlfriend.

In the course of her visit, the murder case is examined using flashbacks.

The films falls on its own seriousness, becoming self-important despite the good acting. I suspect the director wished to make a serious film, but did not, in truth, really know what she wished to say. The film is completely without humour- an essential ingredient in all truly serious art, ironically enough.

Contrast with the same director's "Hurt Locker", which is defintely serious, and yet which contains flashes of dark humour. For it is in humour, far more than tragedy that artists shows their ability to relate to their audiences.

Brüno (2009): review- 6.5/10

Extended satire, using a documentary format, on fashion, flamboyant homosexuality, reality television, celebrity, and conservative American values, with some spontaneous silliness thrown in for the apparant hell of it.

The effect is rather "spattergun", and undirected, but almost always entertaining and often extremely funny.

Though "Bruno", has much of "Borat"'s naivity, he lacks his charm, and the film seems driven by a real anger against contemporary sillinesses.

The Hurt Locker (2008): review- 8.5/10

The story of three members of a bomb disposal team in Iraq and the tensions arising from their work and their relations.

The film conveys intelligently certain masculine, soldierly attitudes; stoicism, valour, cheerfulness, camraderie, efficiency and aggression: the acting is univerally excellent.

The description of the situation in Iraq is also supurb, full of tension- showing the sense of ambiguity, of uncertainty and strain and the difficulty in defining the enemy.

The film is only let down by the scenes set in the USA, where the lead character's personality bent is given a pat "explanation".

Waking Life (2001): review- 8/10

Curious animated film in which the protagonist meets a run of people who espouse a range of philosophies.

Some may find the film naive and rambling, others might see it as Bergsonian; for me, Linklater manages to convey a incredible enthusiasm for his subject, indeed for life itself; and his film has an endearing American optomism about it.

The Horse Whisperer (1998): review- 8/10

A girl she loses her leg and her friend is killed because of a riding accident. Her horse is also badly hurt.

The film tells the story of how the girl's mother takes her daughter and horse to be psychologically healed at a ranch in Montana.

The film is terribly wholesome, and occasionally twee, but it is so well acted and describes with such care the psychological changes in its characters that it deserves considerable praise.

It is also beautifully shot with a great soundtrack.

The Cider House Rules (1999): review- 2/10

In Maine: an orphanage, an abortionist and his assistant. The assistant decides to leave the orphange to "make himelf useful": he picks apples.

This is a dawdling, pretentious film that fails to deal with the issues it raises about abortion and identity.

It is also extremely boring.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A quiet street 2, X-factor

A quiet street 2, oil on card, 6.7 x 13.2 cm

This is the sister painting to that of two days ago, showing the same street but facing the other direction.

To me, this ´picture is less interesting, either because of the excessive use of black paint to mix the greys- which tends to kill the palette- or perhaps the heavier brushwork or perhaps because of some x-factor related to mood, which here is less delicate somehow. The picture was painted from the car because it threatened to rain: this always, obviously, makes one experience the world less keenly.

The notion of an x-factor in making art is one that is critical in distingusing art from craft: a craft object, to me, being one that is capable of being reproduced; while a successful art object contains always the element of surprise and of individual authorship.


I am glad to have worked here on a wide scale: it will be nice to do a series of the quiet roads round here. They have their subtle differences of mood which are charming to relate.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A quiet street

A quiet street, oil on card, 10.2 x 14.2 cm

I had originally intended to title the picture "a boring street". I'd walked past it and thought, how spectacularly dull, I must try to paint it!, but of course as soon as I came here with my easel and started looking the more I found of interest. The little road leads to various research institutes each featuring rather anonymous buildings and, as with many academic institutions, there is a very particular atmosphere of "hush". The road curves round, undulating slightly.

This is one of the oddities of boring things: that is, when you start studying boring things they very quickly stop being boring. Martin Parr's collections of "Boring Photographs" illustrate this very plainly.

There is a tense stillness in paintings by Alfred Sisely, especially apparant in his paintings of floods at Port-Marly. This is one of the most Sisely-ish pictures I've done for a while.

Of the Impressionists, I feel the greatest connexion with Sisely: he isn't syrupy, like Renoir, or heavy like Pissarro, and he doesn't have Monet's inclination towards epiphany (which I don't give two hoots about, not having any mystical instincts whatsoever). His sensibility seems plainly British: phlegmatic and free from melodrama and I love the sense of harmony in his works, which usually are constructed using a simple grid system.

The theme of silence, of boredom is very late nineteenth century: I suppose it relates to the often idle leisure class of the time and its evasion of social responisbilities.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Courtyard, 6.8 x 10.8 cm, oil on card

This is the contemporary Brazillian equivalent of those courtyards found in apartment blocks in Paris or Budapest: strange, silent places; half public, half private.

Apartment blocks here usually consist of blocks grouped together which are then enclosed by fencing to create a secure space for cars and occasionally for swimming pools and other residential facilities such as children's climbing frames or tennis courts. There is little that is charming about the architecture, and there are seldom gardens: a very narrow idea of functionality is represented.


I used to enjoy the glimpses of private gardens from suburban trains in London: the gentle private civilization that the orderly street view disguised.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Near UDSC, Florianopolis

Near UDSC, oil on card, 15.5 x 8.5 cm

There is a good modernist church here, distantly influence by Corbusier's Ronchamps, I suppose, and I'd originally intended to depict it: instead I give you the curves of the road, the trees and that created by the garage in the distance.

I'll go back and do the church later.

This painting looks very much like 1930's painting to me: a generic sort of forties painting, maybe Edward Hopper, maybe Rex Whistler, maybe Balthus.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Shops and block, Itacorubi, Florianopolis

Shops and block, oil on card, 16 x 17 cm

A bigger picture than usual, today, and with a much lighter, sunnier atmosphere than usual. It was painted on a red ground, which lends the picture a somewhat pink tone

Sunday, July 4, 2010

House on the corner

Houses on the corner, oil on canvas, 16 x 16.3 cm

Painted fast near here. I have more time again so I shall start trying to paint every day this week.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The nosepicker

The nosepicker, ballpen on paper

He's lost in pleasure, indifferent to society and its conventions.

The finger explores ever deeper, squeezing into his nostril. He sensed a bogie on the wall of that fleshy chamber: it irritated, he felt it protrude, provoctive from the nasal wall, an insolent presence. He tried to blow it out- to no avail!

So he inserted his forefinger into the orifice, speedily locating the offending piece of dried snot: now he must concentrate and, focussing all his mental energies, he carefully twists his fingernail round to catch under an edge of the bogie. Then, patiently, as not to tear it and to recover it in one satisfying piece, he levers the bogie from the nasal wall, prising it gently off with an exquiste sensation that is ever so slightly ticklish.

It is the assured performance of a skilled nosepicker: economical, swift, stylish.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Days, months, years

Ball pen on paper

This is a self-portrait showing how I am lying down.

I did this while waiting for my student to show. I have to repress the instinct not to doodle during lessons: the desire is especially strong with beginners who can be very tedious indeed. It's suprising how difficult learning a language is for most people, and it's surprising that people often don't realise how difficult it is, so they start language lessons with incredible optimism. But, unless they are motivated by the possibility of gain- such as the chance to study or work abroad, etc- they usually give up fairly soon on.

Anyway, lack of storage space means that most art I make now has to be small or disposable, which means the doodle is now re-habilitated as an art form for me. The internet has made looking at images, usually diminished and always pixillated, the norm and little works of art seem to suit the scale of the computer screen and its intimacy well.

With the internet much is lost- scale, texture, weight; but some things are gained- concision, accessability, speed. I miss the physicality of big painting, but I cannot add to an already big storage space problem by painting more.


If anyone wants anything of mine from here or my Flickr site then drop me a line: the prices are so low they're almost shameful!