Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tunisia, London, Edinburgh

Well, the bags are packed and I'm off painting for a month. Maybe there will be a little show in London.

I'm glad to get away from internet-land with its strange fictions for a while, so I'll probably just check my emails occasionally.

In March, assuming the trip is successful, I'll post the paintings I've done: which is likely to be an odd and contrasting crop. I felt that the work from the recent Santa Catarina journey suffered from "sameyness" the natural landscapes too alike to provide a varied crop- or my eye and skills to slight to emphasise sufficiently the differences between scenes.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Church at São Pedro de Alcántara

Church at São Pedro de Alcántara, oil on card, 12 / 13.7 cm

It's difficult to know quite what to make of this church, which is painted a bright bubble-gum pink. It's in an old German colonial city- not that they let you forget that for one instant. The town in very prettily located and is orderly and pleasant.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Yard of a builders' supply merchant, two workmen


Yard of a builders' supply merchant, two workmen, oil on card, 12 / 8.9 cm   SOLD

One of the yards on the way to Ingleses. 

The workmen wear flip flops even when lifting heavy materials.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

House being built, stray dog

House being built, stray dog, oil on card, 14.5 / 11 cm

A sort of kitchen sink realism here. There's a British school of painting which is very much about concentrated looking, and includes people as various as Bratby, Freud and Millais. Usually the subject matter of such pictures is banal and what matters is the intensity of scrutiny: it's anti-picturesque.

I must admit, that I don't actually much like this school, despite having entered the mindset myself here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Putting on a little show

Many thanks to Adriana and Jorge for help.


For reasons which completely escape me, everything here has to be done last minute, as if it's a personal favour. This means that to achieve anything here oiliness or  pseudo-friendliness is a necessary quality.


Looking over the work itself, it strikes me that the paintings are actually much more difficult than I had imagined. I mean, they are harder to understand: they are less easy and open in sentiment than I had thought when painting them. I don't, honestly, think many people will like them but I am not sure that matters.

There is also a fair degree of variation: this is good.

It annoys me that the paper on which I set the paintings isn't perfectly flat: it's made of several paices joined together: in the future I'll use a painted board.

I haven't included any information about the pictures other than the titles. I used to do that, but this time I thought, what the hell, let them find out for themselves.

Small town

Small town, oil on card, 13 /11 cm

Angelina, one of the little wealthy towns in the interior of Santa Catarina. Painted last year in October.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Song of the Sea: art exhibition

Song of the Sea

Convidamos nossos amigos para o vernissage de Tadeusz Deręgowski que se realizara no Espaço Cultural Rita Maria de 19 a 27 de Janeiro de 2012.

O coquetel de abertura será dia 19 de janeiro as 19 horas na galeria que fica na parte superior da Rodoviária Rita Maria.

Favor confirmar sua presença através do e-mail:

Mais detalhes sobre o artista em:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My shoes

Three pairs of brothers

I have three pairs of shoes that are identical in in design and size, though they have aged differently. You can see their three ages above. And in a year, perhaps, I shall get another: four pairs of brothers.

They were all bought at the same shop, with about one year intervals between them.

Their shape is immensely pleasing to me. They are a little pointed, a hint of Gothic, but not so pointed as to arrive at the mannerism of the winkle picker. They do not have girly decorations: no whorls, or additional bits of leather, or preposterous seams. The leather is very good: supple, breaking in nicely.

A negative is that the soles are a little thin, though were they thicker, the shoe would be unbalanced, visually.

So I have to take them to a Paraguayan up in Trindade every few months. There are two Paraguayans and they have shops almost opposite each other: both have fat square faces and bad teeth and spade hands but one is charming but useless, the other brisk and efficient and seldom comes out from the back. A women, perhaps his wife, handles all the transactions. She isn't that friendly but once they gave replaced my laces for free. Last time she refused to repair the pair on the left, saying that the welts had gone, therefore the soles no longer worth fising: hence the purchase on the right two months ago. I respect a trademan when he refuses work, though I left saddened. I am considering, therefore, taking the shoes to the other Paraguayan repairer, who is certainly less conscientious, but more perhaps more sensible to  the demands of sentiment.

Another negative is that the the makers, Brooksfield, seem to have a passion for chocolate, so that their shoes are generally variations on chocolate colours, from dark through to Cadbury's milk. I'd be happier if Brooksfield had a passion for Chestnuts or mahogany, something redder.

But as the shoes get older and I add polish of a more pleasing hue, they change and develop a lovely patina. In the Hotel Mercury Hotel along the road is a wonderful machine, and not the worst thing you can do on a dull day is to cover the shoes liberally with polish and stand by the lift and put your shoes in the machine which has who entrances each with a different brush- one for the initial phase of brushing with a stiff brush, the second with a finer one for buffing up a glowing polish. But for some reason that glow doesn't stay for long. Perhaps had I trained in the Guards I'd know why: I'd be sure of the correct technique, which I think may have something to do with heating the polish a little before applying it, and then spitting on the shoe a good deal before polishing.

You can see the three generations of shoes in the photo: when I went to the shop last time and bought the newest pair the shop assistant exclaimed, "oh my God! They are like those shoes in old Italian films"- which delighted me: I love "Bicycle Thieves", even if I am not sure I want to be one of the characters in it.

I like these shoes because though they could certainly tell stories, having been been all over Europe and seen many things, they chose not too because they are stoical, they don't blab, they merely absorb experience: theirs will be the patient silent faces of photos by Dorotea Lange.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Making Friends with Michael Smout


The birthday parties were an exchange between our mothers: a suburban pact, possibly never spoken, but certain nonetheless.  I had little, I suspected, in common with Malcolm. Naturally, I felt a certain kinship with any other boy who was weak of frame but, he was distracted, too soft, and ill constructed with thin legs and thin straight hair while I was merely small. 

And there was a current of aggression in the boys I usually played with: a tendency to destructiveness that I found charismatic, represented better in Graeme MacDonald's pugnaciousness and in Julian Dyer with his mad mass of blond hair and extraordinary collection of firearms (he shot Jonathan Rust in the leg, thus two weeks sentenced to a fortnight’s  nightly reflection in his bedroom in Deeside Gardens: we loved and admired him for this, though the shooting was surely accidental).

Michael Smout lived in one of those low suburban houses, coddled together like woodlice, pewter silver in sun-rain combinations, a dull violet most days. They’re a weird contrast to the august Georgian and Victorian that characterises central Aberdeen:  they sprall over Aberdeen’s wide hills, covering vast areas, but never really seem to add much to the city, they just lie there, mute, guarding  their tiny gardens.

His mother, avian, sweet, a friendly sparrow, so like my own mother, with that energy that small women sometimes possess; organising wonderful birthday parties in their densely carpeted front room with a game where you sang, “there was an old man called Michael Finnegan”, in a round over and over and another where each sat on the knee of the one behind, forming a sort of centipede, then laughing would topple over. I recall that game and its physicality, how the children became a squirming mass, too close, almost squalid, the smell of other skin.

But I could feel that it incumbent upon me to call alone, to cement the nascent friendship.  I can’t recall if that was because my mother said something: most probably there was more than a hint. But I made somehow the determination to visit Michael Smout. 

It was all arranged by the mothers.

Going up there, pollarded Elms remaining despite the British Elm holocaust,  twisted darked trunks, wiry, feeling that  the air up there on Countesswells road is damper,  windier too, no more sheltered by high granite walls  and soft green privet hedges, seeing the beginnings of muddy ploughed fields.

I arrived: Michael said, “let’s go upstairs”: he led me to a wooden stair rising from the narrow hall. He climbed; I followed to an attic, dark: inside was a dangling  bulb : he lit it and I saw the room with its low sloping ceiling, even for a boy of nine, too low to walk comfortably. There were coloured boxes of toys, a fair collection then piles of clothes, disorder, dampness. I had a stray sense of squalor, that something was not right. But I was determined to make the best of the play date.

While my Quaker mother forbade war toys and anything that might encourage my bellicose boy instincts, Michael’s mother was lax , or too kind to be severe and it transpired that Michael had a fine collection of Dinky tanks. These included, to my patriotic horror, models of German panzers: a horrific presence, symbols of evil.  Their cannons held little springs, and you could fire matchsticks from them. We sat on the floor, spread them out, we fired the matchsticks.

The floor was dusty and uncomfortable but I tried to respond creatively to Michael’s hospitality, diligently firing the cannon and trying to demolish his plastic legions of Airfics infantrymen. Some time passed like that, but Michael became restless. He decided to take off his trousers: he was wearing brown polyester underpants. I chose to concentrate on firing the panzer cannons. We continued to play with the toys. Then he stood up again and went to the far corner of the attic, where he took a plastic bucket. “Look, we can use this”, he said. “Oh”, I said. Then Michael placed the bucket on the floor, pulled down his brown underpants, sat on the bucket and proceeded to excrete.

The smell of Michael’s turd was not pleasant. Indeed, it disgusted me: I had never perceived that shit was so foul: my stomach wretched.

I cannot remember now exactly how the visit ended : I suppose I made my excuses and left. Perhaps Michael had intended the act of excreting publicly as a gesture of fellowship, a sharing of intimacies: if so it was a miscalculation, for it had the opposite effect.

I did not mention the incident to my mother.


This is a true story, but the name Michael Smout is made up.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dear Annie...a letter I found

Here's a letter I found inside a book (Voltaire's Candide):

Dear Annie,

It is a long time since I last heard from you: I hope you've been well.

My room is at the end of a long corridor, and overlooks the courtyard. It's small and I have to lie on the bed to take my shoes off. I have a wardrobe, a small desk, a chair and a bed. I love the wardrobe, which is a dark wood thirties thing, Utility issue. I can sit inside and enjoy the dark silence. If you come and visit we could sit in it together. You'd like it's mysterious smell, dust and wax combined.

I sit at the desk and look out the window. Usually I hear little from the courtyard save the sound of water running down the drains.
There's frosted glass on most windows but at times, I catch the creaking sound of a frame moving and the face of one of my neighbours appears, usually a pasty woman, with grey fair hair, a face suspended in the indeterminate period that strikes some women, older than twenty -five but younger than sixty. Sometimes it is another face, the face of a little plump girl: her fresh pink mouth smiles, her eyes are tiny bright black dots in her fleshy face.

Also, twice I saw a Siamese cat, perched with absurd elegance on the seat of an old bicycle... so the atmosphere is tranquil, like a Dutch painting: I wouldn't be surprised to see a clog-wearing servant appear with a white smock and bonnet and broom at any moment, clogs clicking on the cobbles.

I'm fighting the goblins still, but we have reached a sort of truce: the room has been divided in two.

We marked the floor with a white chalk: theirs are the areas between the door and my furniture- though the place is so small that to reach my furniture I must always trespass and, moreover, the chalk line cuts the left side of the bed (the only way we could realise complete parity of room area), so I have to be wary when I sleep not to let my body stray over to the side. But that was the best compromise we could find. At least they aren't shrieking all the time.

I hope to see you soon,


I suppose I wrote the letter some years ago in Camberwell.

Illustration: Arched Windows, monotype, 45 / 61 cm, 2003

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Love Revisited

I am thinking about our love affair. How you met me at the station and we went immediately to your place and made love.

Why did you insist on my keeping my socks on?

I remember the taxi ride from St Pancras and the smell of new rubber on the inside of the cab, which was one of those bizarrely inflated to accommodate gigantic wheelchairs. When I commented this you admonished me, telling me about how your mother found them very useful.

There was often this disquieting tension between us, which passion did not quite fill. Anyway, I sensed that. Did you? 

You took me to a little French place in Soho. You ordered crepes, recommending them gushingly, though I found them meretricious at best, with an unpleasing lack of crispness. I did not mention this. It began to rain heavily. I felt sick after the crepes but, as we made our wet way up Wardour Street, made a solid effort to ensure the umbrella mainly covered your head, protecting your precious hair, whie serendipitously allowing sufficient rain to wetten the fabric of your thin summer dress round your backside so that I could see the elastic line of your panties across your hips: only an unusually thick rubber could lend such a clear line.

I think of that as our principal erotic moment, much more than the bedroom scene earlier: I’d felt humiliated by the sock-wearing,  and I am grateful to the cold London rain for its blessing, a compensation from the Fates. Shyly, shamefully, I did not act on my instincts and give that elastic a good twang. After the conversation about your disabled mother I'd felt constrained: my lower moral intelligence too keenly exposed for me to act spontaneously.


Now you are married: I know because I ran into your half-brother. I can't remember which one, there seemed to be so many. This one was quite charming: there does exist a fellowship among men, and his eyes read large with pity. He was wearing a good suit and in a hurry, but for moments, at the entrance to Marylebone Underground, we shared something with glances and platitudes.


I'm standing in Camberwell waiting for the 36 with the polluted air.


Illustration: Someone you once loved, monotype, 554 / 84 cm, 2009

Sorrowful day

Sorrowful day, oil on card, 14 / 11.5 cm

Heavy days: a difficult time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Duck II


Duck II, oil on card, 14 / 13 cm    SOLD

A second duck from yesterday.


Thursday, January 5, 2012



Duck, oil on card, 11.5 / 9 cm

There is a pleasant "cleansing" feeling to working in black and white after having worked in colour for a while.

I think I may drive to one of the zoos here- there is one in Pomerode and another in Brusque to see if I can spend a day doing more animals.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Santa Catarina Road Trip 2011: fourteen paintings: the final set of four


 Orleans, oil on card, 14 / 12.5 cm

Well, that was 2011: a strange and sometimes difficult year.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Santa Catarina Road trip: fourteen Paintings: the second set of five


Road, Paraíso, oil on card, 14.5 / 9.5 cm

Street on the outskirts of São Miguel (lady with a parasol)
 oil on card, 13 / 12 cm  

Fazenda Derrubada, oil on card, 14.5 / 11.5 cm

Fields near Lages, oil on card, 14 / 11cm


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Santa Catarina Road trip: Fourteen Paintings: the first four


The BR 282 near the turnoff to Urubici, oil on card, 13/ 11cm

Campos Novos: a view from a hotel, oil on card, 13 / 11 cm

Campos Novos: the evening skateboarder, oil on card, 11.5 / 13.5 cm

Industrial building on the outskirts of Maravilha, oil on card, 14.5 / 11.5 cm



Day one: Florianópolis- Lages- Campos Novos
Day two: Campos Novos- São Miguel do Oeste
Day three: São Miguel do Oeste- Paraíso- São Miguel do Oeste
Day four: São Miguel do Oeste- Chapecó- Curitibanos
Day five: Curitibanos- Orleans
Day six : Orleans- Florianopolis


Five nights and six days driving and stopping: fourteen paintings. Doing more in my little Celta would be hard as my right arm started to ache badly: it's a city car really. 

But I feel I've won a good sense of the state: there isn't now a region I haven't visited. The most interesting, both culturally and topographically, is the Serra from Lages through to Orleans, where Brazilians of usually Central European descent live in a landscape of considerable variety, with amazing mountains and valleys, where the temperature varies much and little communities heft there way forward, steadily in coloured wooden houses, like characters from Growth of the Soil.

I've no truck with the rubbishy modern Brazil of identikit shopping malls and degrading television. Nor do I find much in the Brazil of Carnival and foolishness, which serves as a palliative for low educational expectations and squalor. I don't like the Brazil of Brasilia and of bureaucracy and politics and greed and legal minds. I detest the disorder and filth of the big cities, and those rich Brazilians in their preposterous four-wheel drives and Barbie wives and smugness, cruising from their costly prison-condominiums through dismal streets where beggars and drug-addicts sleep in thousands, to office blocks whose only architectural qualities are their lack of distinction. And I find the holiday Brazil of beaches and sungas indescribably banal.

I sense an intrinsic worth to the communities that patiently tend their allotments late into the evenings, and who are polite, conservative and, at least superficially or sentimentally, religious. I like the sun hardened faces of the people with their stern lines and reserve, I like seeing them with their cattle or driving their trucks and I like how they don't say too much and are modest and tough.


I don't entirely like travel, with its dislocations and the mental travails that it brings in the melancholy of strange evening hotels: does the work make it worthwhile?

Glancing over, there are good individual pictures, but across the series there are too many repetitions of design, often a consequence of using the same level of distance from the motif, usually with little foreground.

And I'm wary that I'm starting to use and re-use certain "catchphrase"  brush strokes- typically a certain whiplash line-a mannerism, I should be careful not to habitualise. The solution is to re-think the entire architecture of the painting: to begin at another point: though quite what that means in practice I am not clear as yet. It has something to do with classicism, to do with reinvesting in the underlying construction of the work and the conscious rejection of  easy gestures.

Also, the small standardised format is becoming too much the same: it's become a limitation. So I need to vary more, with some larger pieces, about A5, I reckon.

There's a sky-land dichotomy which all landscapists face: an obvious central contrast defining the composition from the onset.  But when landscapists like Klimt rebel against that format, the result often appears contrived, as if the novelty of composition has taken over from the actual perception of nature: so I’m somewhat uncertain how to vary this, or even if it is in vain to try.

The landscapist makes a peculiar claim to be painting the world (at the other end of the spectrum is the still lifer, though those philosophically minded might say that there is no less of the world in a flower petal than in a an entire Alpine vista) and from this derives the ecstasy that landscapists feel: a pantheistic joy so glamorously conveyed in van Gogh, Munch and Turner. Ergo, there is a weight of responsibility upon him, not necessarily present in other genres.