Saturday, December 22, 2012


Six photos from a set taken at a land clearance site here in Florianopolis.


This is probably my last post before the New Year: Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Departed (2006): review: 2/10

Men, of Irish descent and various ages, behave unspeakably in Boston. The  focus is on two new police recruits: one is commissioned to act as a mole withing a criminal organisation lead by a particularly nasty hoodlum. His bosses are no cute kittens either. In contrast, the only notable woman in the film, a police psychiatrist, is all quite nice however. It`s a pity we couldn't`t spend more time with her instead of those Mick brutes!

The film is very long but despite this length the characters hardly develop at all, and remain completely two-dimensional. There is a good deal of violence, using guns, fists and shoes and pieces of metal.

The film plot is not especially complex, but nonetheless it is hard to follow. The film is not elegantly paced.

The  violence is relentless and boring. Are we supposed to enjoy or endorse the violence? It`s hard to care either way.

I don't sense that Scorcese has the feel for Irish culture, that he has for Italian. There are none of the poetic aspects that can be seen in other Scorcese films which, if also violent, have considerably more artistic and emotional complexity. I don`t understand why the Rolling Stones are playing in much of the film.  The acting is not interesting. This is partly due to the uninterestingness of Wahlberg and Damon, though Nicholsen`s character also lacks richness. Moreover, relations within the film are characterised by obviousness and unsubtlety.

Another Year (2012): review: 6/10

London: a suburban couple nearing retirement entertain friends and family: they are visited by a female alcoholic, brothers, their son and the son`s partner. We see their relationships change over the course of a year.

The film emphasises the importance of blood ties over friendship: this is cruelly illustrated in their unsympathetic treatment of their lonely alchoholic friend Mary when she arrives unexpectedly at their house. She is not really part of the family and her difficulties are coldly treated.

There are many unpleasant aspects to Mike Leigh`s films. One is with the female characters, who seem invariably in stereotypically female  "caring professions"". They are often frumpy, physically unattractive, given to fantasy, anxious, incapable and over-eager to please (here this is illustrated in a plot line about a used car which the unfortunate Mary buys, and which causes her a good degree of nuisance). They are ignorant and speak hideous English. This is conveyed in a mannered style of acting which seems to consist entirely of nervous tics and is grotesque to watch. In this particular film, the female caricature of Mary is contrasted with her opposite: the mother figure and a more emotionally stable black nurse who becomes pregnant.

Leigh`s treatment of vulnerable people is often mocking. There are two scenes in this film in which the characters make sexual advances: both are pitiful, and played in such a way as to invite the condescension of the viewer.

However, despite these moral shortfalls, the film conveys something about the selfish circles of family, and the rejection of outsiders when they place any sort of burden on family: it does so without too much obviousness.

Sleepwalk With Me (2012): review: 7.5/10

New York: an aspiring comedian begins to make sketches based on his indecision about marriage. he becomes increasingly successful as he works better gigs.

 Diverting piece, if occasionally amateurish piece, with something to say about humour as a function of honest confession, and something to say about the way relationships have to move forward towards marriage if they aren't to die, and something to say about building a career.

Creation (2009): review: 6.5/10

Darwin's faith, and that of his wife, become challenged by his conculsions as he works on The Origin of Species in his country home.

He is troubled by sickness and one of his children dies. He is encouraged by friends in the scientific community. His relationship with the Parish Vicar deteriorates.

The directing style is imaginative, but the films themes are probably unfilmable and it drags.

The Words (2012): review: 6/10

New York: How an ambitious writer wrote his first successful book: a fable.

The themes of this book are ambition  theft, anger,  deception, guilt and shame, and at times it conveys these well, especially in themes featuring Irons.

 However, there is something  overly polished about this film, that makes it less enjoyable and spontaneous than one might desire (in other words, there is an excellent budget film noir lurking inside this somewhere).

 Perhaps this  lack of life is partly due to the obvious New York setting, and perhaps it is also to do with the absence of real passion between the couple at the centre of the film- this largely the fault of the bland wife who reminded me of the models used in mail order catalogues to sell hosiery.

Perks of Being a WallFlower (2012): review: 3/10

A young man with literary interests starts high school where, after a humiliating start, he makes some friends and begins his first romantic relationship with a bossy girl, despite a strong attraction to a more charming female member of his set who, alas, seems more interested in men who maltreat her- much like his sister.

The film begins sympathetically enough, but rapidly turns routinous with  stock characters, such as a standard issue flamboyant homosexual and various jocks. The direction is unimaginative and the soundtrack is obvious.

It compares badly to Donnie Darko.

Damsels in Distress (2011): review: 1/10

Three women proffer advice to newcomers in an American campus, running a self-styled Suicide Prevention Centre and trying to initiate a dance craze. There is also a conflict with the campus newspaper`s editor.

With a dead performance from Greta Gerwig as central actor, and a dud script with little plot, the film presents nothing more that a hail of obscure snobberies.

Like many US films, Damsels suffers from a claustrophobic insularity: it is surely pertinent that the villain of the piece is a foreigner, specifically a French sodomite.

I think what made the other Stillman films effective was that excentric and, occasionally snobbish, characters were placed in challenging environments: either abroad as in Barcelona, or in New York. Thus, we could see  them as an outsiders, and feel a certain sympathy for  their individualism. In this film, the outsiders are now insiders: their elitism becomes considerably less likeable as a result.

Wicker Park (2004): review 2/10

Chicago: a man sees a former partner in a cafe and, intrigued, delays an important business trip to China to investigate.

The piece begins well enough, successfully creating suspense, but, gosh!, after that the plot becomes so convoluted it would be quite impossible for any sane person follow it for the rest of the film.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A visit to São Francisco do Sul

São Francisco do Sul, a railway crossing, oil on card, 14 x 9.5 cm

São Francisco do Sul, a yacht, oil on card, 11 x 9 cm

Pictures from a trip up to São Francisco do Sul: the port has a touristic charm, with many well preserved, charmingly painted buildings in various eclectic, quasi Art Noveau or Deco styles.

It also has a pleasingly Waitsian element: great freight trains move continually transporting something or other from a giant and noxious factory , near which are bars with varying degrees of seediness.

Train Song by Tom Waits:

Well I broke down in East St. Louis on the Kansas City line
Drunk up all my money that I borrowed every time
And I fell down at the derby, the night's black as a crow
It was a train that took me away from here
But a train can't bring me home
What made my dreams so hollow was standing at the depot
With a steeple full of swallows that could never ring the bell
And I've come ten thousand miles away, not one thing to show
It was a train that took me away from here
But a train can't bring me home

Friday, December 14, 2012

Nocturne: stardust

Nocturne: stardust, oil on card, 12 x 9.2 cm

Painted on Beiramar Avenue.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Egypt: some decisions

The Rough Guide doesn't include Alexandria among it`s top twenty-eight things not to miss, and its entry for the city is less than positive. I`ve used Rough Guides extensively, in Italy, Chile, Brazil and Tunisia and  although I`d quibble with specific entries on hotels or restaurants, say, I`ve found their recommendations to be prescient. Any romanticism I feel about the idea of visiting the city of Cavafy and Durrell has been tempered, and given the time restrictions on my Egypt trip, the proposed itinerary will be:

Cairo-Luxor-Aswan - possibly Abu Simbel- Cairo

Thus I am following a very standard touristic itinerary, albeit one in which i spend more time than usual in Cairo.
The risk of traveling to a "new" place is that I get sucked into tourist painting- a feeling of obligation to paint what is known or espected, rather than responding to my actual experiences. I think that I became somewhat trapped in the Italian trip by romantic expectations. I hope to avoid this in part by the longer stay in Cairo, and by spending long enough in the other places to overcome the obvious. 

In truth, in planning painting trips, I always get it wrong, as. Surprise, the basis of inspiration, cannot be planned. And expectations distort, as does research, and it is very hard to predict if a place will really lend itself to inspiration or not. tourist sites are often cleaned and ordered to the point of sterility, so that their local character is lost to the demands of a massive international industry.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nocturne, Beiramar

 Nocturne, Beiramar, oil on card, 11.5 x 14 cm

Inside carrier. The picture should bee greener, but I cannot manage to change it without making the rest of the picture very orange.

It`s so hot now that painting in the the afternoon is uncomfortable. Much better to rest  then and go out in the evenings.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

On Moçambique beach


On Moçambique beach, oil on card, 12 x 14 cm

This is a wonderful beach for painting, often empty of people and with its own peculiar light.


Thursday, December 6, 2012


Papers, oil on card, 13 x 13 cm

A painting of the accumulating papers and junk on my sofa.

I'm attempting to find a way of incorporating the singular strokes of Chinese painting into my work.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The dunes from Joaquina

The dunes from Joaquina, oil on card, 14.5 x 12 cm

This is the size I shall be taking to Egypt. The larger sizes are only sometimes successful. The virtue of these little pochades is surely in the sense of concentration they convey. If I move up to about 18 x 16 cm, say, that feeling of concentration is diffused. The painting is neither intense and  little nor big and  free.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Joaquina, oil on card, 14 x 12 cm    SOLD

Painted from the dunes, looking down. I am not sure if I perfectly captured the way the dunes cut into the vegetation, but I'm happy with the sense of the scale of the place.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fields on the way to Santo Antonio de Lisboa

Fields on the way to Santo Antonio de Lisboa, oil on card, 12.5 x 15 cm

I'd wanted to stop here for a while but never did. 

I am reverting to a smaller format again. I miss the intensity that comes from working small.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A road in the North of the island

A road in the North of the island, oil on card, 14.5 x 10.5 cm

Very hot, almost unpleasantly so. I am counting off the days until I go to the UK and Egypt: six weeks exactly.