Thursday, 15 June 2017

30-day Sales

A new 30-day Sales page is now on my website at

What is a 30-day Sale?

I have a lot of paintings that don't fit into current series I'm working on or won't appear in future exhibitions. Some of these are older paintings, some are new experiments working out new styles to use, or new ways of paintings for different subjects, but the result is the same: they will not go into any future shows.

So, what to do with these paintings? Paintings take a lot of room to store, so I usually remove them from their stretchers, roll them up, and put them in a cupboard somewhere. But that's not something I like to do. I would much rather sell them at a massive discount; after all, a painting is best on a wall where it can be seen and enjoyed. But of course, I can't have these paintings at low prices forever and still have to store them. So I have decided on instigating a 30-day Sales page where I can upload whatever paintings I want, to sell at a huge discount for a strictly limited time of only 30-days for each individual painting.

When does it start?

It's already started! The first four paintings are online and ready to buy. Just click the buy now button to send me an email and we'll go from there. And remember, there will be new paintings added from time-to-time so keep coming back to grab yourself a bargain.

When does it end?

Each painting has its own 30-day countdown. Once the 30-days are up that painting will no longer be for sale. It will be taken off its stretcher frame, and the cupboard will have gained one more victim. So don't delay. If there's a painting you like, get in touch and lets get it on your wall!

Click here to go to

Here are the first four bargains to be had:

Top of the Downs, FRAMED, £150
Top of the Downs, FRAMED, £150

Sunset Diptych, FRAMED, £300

Three Cliffs, FRAMED, £300

2x Flower Paintings, both FRAMED, the pair for £150

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Frank Auerbach - a brief biography

Frank Auerbach, 1989
Frank Helmut Auerbach was born in Berlin in 1931 to Charlotte and Max Auerbach who was a patent Lawyer.

In 1939, with the rise of Hitler and impending war, his parents decided to send him to England on the Kindertransport which was organised to save mainly, but not exclusively, Jewish children from the NAZIs.

He left Hamburg on the SS George Washington just before his 8th birthday arriving in Southampton 3 days later and was subsequently taken to Bunce Court School in Kent, a boarding school, while his parents stayed behind in Germany. They were later killed in the Holocaust, probably in Auschwitz.

When the news reached him that his parents had been killed his reaction seemed to not have been that great - that is, as far as one can tell from watching interviews with him. But, of course, who knows the depths of anguish hidden beneath the calm and controlled waters of any of us? What he has said, however, is that he was happy at Bunce Court, and thought his family was a bit "stuffy". We must also remember he was only a little boy at the time and reading between the lines in his interviews, to me it seems that he was clearly not that close to either of his parents.

In 1948 he went to St Martins School of Art where made friends with Leon Kossoff, while at the same time, from 1947-53 he also attended night classes at Borough Polytechnic, also with Leon Kossoff, where they were taught by the great David Bomberg. He and Leon would go out together and paint scenes around London, particularly bomb sites and construction sites which were plentiful after the War. He was happy at Borough Poly where he felt he could paint more freely than he could at St. Martins, where the stifling atmosphere of a traditional "art school" clearly left him struggling with the constrictions of what art was supposed to be (according to whomever were the designated "master artists" of the time).

After studying he started teaching in secondary schools, and then travelling around the country teaching at various art schools, but mostly at Camberwell School of Art in London where he taught from 1958-65.

In 1958 he also married Julia Wolstenholme, and they had a son called Jake the same year.

Head of E.O.W. - profile, 1972
He is best known for his portraits and his steadfastness in painting the same painting over and over and over again until he gets it right, often taking a year or more. In that way we could consider him to have painted many thousands of paintings, but that he re-uses his canvases again and again before he considers what he has done has achieved what he set out to do. The point of this is that what he wants is an immediate description of his subject, as if painted in a few minutes or hours. But that is a very hard thing to do which is why he does it again and again. He doesn't so much build on previous work he has already laid down on the canvas, although some influence must obviously be there, instead he scrapes it all off, and "starts again". So what you end up seeing as a painting that is marked as, for example, 1985-86, is something that he actually painted in a couple of hours, although it took him over a year to get to the point where he knew the idea of the painting so well that he was able to produce it in such a short period of time.

Most of his sitters he has painted for decades, regularly seeing them at the same time, on the same day, week after week after week after year after year, and they include:

  • Stella West, also know as EOW (Estella Olive West)
  • Julia Briggs Mills, also known as JYM,
  • Catherine Lampert,
  • Jake Auerbach (his son),
  • Julia Auerbach (his wife),
  • Ruth Bromberg,
  • David Landau.

There are others of course, but those mentioned above have provided some of his most constant material.

Albert Street III, 2010
Frank Auerbach doesn't only paint people, he also paints landscapes he knows well in London such as Primrose Hill and the streets around his studio, and the inside of his studio itself.

His series of paintings "To the Studio", painted over many years, has always intrigued me simply because I live nearby to where his studio is known to be. So I took an hour out of my busy schedule to go check out the precise area where I hoped to find him strolling down the street to his studio. But of course, no such encounter occurred, and in fact, I couldn't even see where the studio was. I have a good idea, but there was nothing obvious, no sign, no smudges of paint on the pavement outside, no lingering taint of turpentine on the air.

It is now 2017, and he is still alive, and still travels to his studio everyday to work - a man after my own heart! This is man who knows he is an artist, and therefore has always had that imperative to work, and I, for one, am just glad that he is still able to do what any artist must - create!

Frank Auerbach is, for my money, the best painter in the world. Why? Because he does what so many "painters" actually do not do (see my review of the Hockney exhibition). Everything he expresses, as an artist, as a man, as a human being communicating directly to another human being (as any artist must), is done primarily through the power of his brush strokes. It is not the composition, it is not the colours, it is not the subject matter or the intellectual game, it is not fashion, it is not pretence, and it most certainly is not pretty pictures to please the eye. No. What you get with Frank Auerbach is real art - the brush strokes, those brush strokes that take him so long to get right. He is a pure painter, and better than anyone else.

If you want to learn more about Frank Auerbach, I recommend this book by Robert Hughes for pictures (which only goes up to 1989 but has great images):

There is also a good film about him, that has interviews with him and a number of his sitters, produced by his son Jake who has made films of a number of other artists too:

And finally, if you don't want to read this blog, then you can just watch/listen to my youtube version "Frank Auerbach 2 minutes" here:

Summer Building Site, 1953

Leaon Kossoff, 1954

E.O.W., 1955

E.O.W., 1957 charcoal

E.O.W., 1961

E.O.W. VI, 1963

EOW, SAW, and JJW in the Garden I, 1963

Head of Miss Steinberg, 1967

Mornington Crescent, 1967

The Origin of the Great Bear, 1967-1968

Primrose Hill Autumn Morning, 1968

Primrose Hill - Summer, 1968

E.O.W., 1970

Bacchus and Ariadne, 1971

Julia, 1981 charcoal
JYM, 1984 charcoal

Vincent Terrace II, 1984

Jacob, 1984-85 charcoal

JYM, 1984-85

Catherine Lampert, 1985-86 charcoal

Catherine Lampert, 1986

Mornington Crescent Early Morning, 1991

Park Village East, 2006

In the Studio IV, 2013-14

Frank Auerbach's studio in 1985

Monday, 15 May 2017

David Hockney at Tate Britain

David Hockney has a big show on at Tate Britain in London until May 29th 2017. I say big, but to be honest, it didn't actually seem that big. Part of the reason for this is that I found it a little insubstantial, and certainly the first two or three rooms you needn't do more than walk straight through since they are full of art school crap, semi-abstract designs masquerading as painting, and just straightforward bad work.

So I have split up my review into three sections: The Good; The Bad; and The Ugly - or you can just watch/listen to my review on youtube here:

The Good

So, lets start with the good stuff.

Billy and Audrey Wilder, 1982
Billy and Audrey Wilder, 1982
In the 1980's Hockney started experimenting with using photographs as photo-montages that are reminiscent of cubism, and there are a number of portraits in the show which are very effective. The ones I liked the most were the earliest which used Polaroids, something that you will only remember (or even know about) if you are of a certain age, but which, because of the white border surrounding the developed image, lend a prism like effect to the finished works which helps give the impression of looking through the artist's eyes. They also worked particularly well I thought, when compared to the other photographic works because of the colours. The colours of analogue photographs are greatly effected by the processes involved in the images chemical development. That is something that we all had to wrestle with back in the past when analogue photography was all that was available, whereby different film stocks would produce slightly different colours and contrasts, the kinds of differences that you can now synthesize with a tap of your finger on your smart phone, but which, back in the day, you had to decide about well ahead of time. I have to say though that I didn't like as much the later montages that used full frame 35mm photos. Something about them gave the impression more of a scrap book than something deliberately worked on to best effect. The best known of these was of a desert road, which I had seen before and still felt it just looked a little washed out, a little lacking in intensity which the Polaroids do not. There was one rather touching image though, created with the 35mm photos, of his mother looking cold, wet, and dejected at the ruins of some cathedral or church. A nice image, but none of these left me feeling I had seen a great work of art. But the Polaroids definitely left more of an impression.

Moving on, and perhaps the highlight of the show for many people was his video/digital series "The Four Seasons".

The Four Seasons - Winter, 2010
The Four Seasons - Winter, 2010
Imagine going into a square room. On each wall are ranged nine large flat screens in a grid, 3 x 3, each displaying a slightly different view of a country road as you drive slowly down it. You can imagine how this is done by attaching 9 separate cameras to a car, each pointing in a slightly different direction, and recording as you drive. It gives a great impression of the 3-dimensionality of the road, and added to this, the same drive has been made in winter, spring, summer, and autumn, each season on its own wall. And it looks really good and is a great idea. Most peoples favourite is winter, and I have to concur, finding it peaceful, restful, imagining the deadening of the air by the blanket of snow. Good stuff.

Then we move on a little further, and find his i-pad "paintings" which I thought were much better than his "real" paintings. Frankly speaking, he doesn't know how to use paint. Some may find that an extraordinary statement but honestly, paint is there to be used as a medium for expression whereas David Hockney seems to only use it as a means to get colour on a canvas - this is a complaint I have about many an artist who are called painters but who actually cannot paint, they can only colour! But more of that later. His i-pad work doesn't seem to suffer from quite the same problems as his real paintings. My conclusion was that this is mainly to do with the fact that he has far more control over the opacity of the colours used, and there is no argument about texture since digital images have none.

Many of these images you can see him drawing, watching the screen capture as they are created. These seemed quite fascinating to many at the show, whereas for me, not so much, but I am no stranger to this kind of thing since some 15-20 years ago I wrote my own computer program to do just that, and trust me, the novelty soon wares off. Interestingly though, they printed some of these digital images and displayed them above the screens. The prints were not good, far duller and less interesting. The vibrancy of the colours in the digital realm, which of course is how they were originally created, were far more appealing. It is as if something was lost in translation. It is not so easy to create digitally using light, while at the same time creating a work which is just as effective once printed out - I know, having done this myself many times.

The Bad

I have already stated that David Hockney cannot paint. Sure he uses paint, but it is not used to express anything, it is solely a means to an end. The first two or three rooms were full of rubbish. Semi-abstract nonsense purporting to contain some mysticality of art, naive art-school rubbish which, done by any none-famous artist would soon be found only in a skip or the back of a dust-cart. His paintings at this time started veering into abstract geometric designs, where again, paint is used only as a means to get colour on the canvas. Uninteresting, badly executed, and lacking in any philosophical or artistic depth. Loved by those who value graphics above expression, but without expression there is no art. I was not impressed.

Going Up Garrowby Hill, 2000
Going Up Garrowby Hill, 2000
You finally get some works that are a little better when he paints portraits of the wealthy in California. Presumably he was being paid a tidy sum and so put a little more effort into these. He clearly has an ability at portraiture, creating great likenesses and the "appearance" of character. But as I have said, the paint itself is badly applied with little or no thought. Edges are left badly defined where he clearly couldn't be bothered to do otherwise, drips of paint left where the rest of the canvas is made pristine, none of this aiding the work in artistic terms just simply leaving the impression of a man who paid no attention to his craft or expression, but only the image.

These failings are a constant throughout his career, as can been seen in his later landscapes where from 50-60 feet away the overly large canvases look great (what artist doesn't love the easy effect of size?), the imagery shining through. But as soon as you get close enough to see the quality of the paint work, his lack of care for what the paint is actually doing and for what it is capable of, appals me.

The irrefutable conclusion I am left with is that David Hockney is a graphic artist, not a painter, and it is no surprise therefore that his digital work works best.

The Ugly

But there is a very big and expensive elephant in the room, which is not directly connected to the work on display: the price of entry!

I have ranted about this to friends, I have ranted about it on my video review, and I will rant about it again here. To gain entry to this show costs and adult £19.50. This is an extraordinary price, a massive price, which puts shows such as this way out of reach of most people who simply haven't got that amount of cash to spend to see an exhibition. There is a concession rate - which doesn't deserve the name, of £17.50! So if you are unemployed or a student, are you really going to see this show? And it's not just this show, or this gallery. All the big galleries do this - massive prices that ensure that art becomes more and more an entertainment for the wealthy middle-classes, pricing everyone else out of the market.

I could only go to this show because I went with a friend who had a members pass that let us both in. Without it, as a non-world-famous artist, this is not a show I could afford to go to. It really disgusts me that art, something which at its best is direct communication from human being to human being regardless of age, rank, worth or any other way you may wish to divide people, is being made more and more elitist. And not elitist in artistic terms - that would be OK: only wanting the best art is fine. No this is money elitist: only those with substantial spare income can go, lets keep the poor, the unsuccessful, the lowly and downtrodden out. Ever wondered why you see all the posters for big new exhibitions on the underground in London, on the busses and bus stops, in the papers, but they never ever mention the price of a ticket? Well now you know.

The prices are disgusting, non-inclusive, and monetarily elitist. Shame on them.

So, should you go see this show? If you are a fan of David Hockney, sure, go fill yer'boots. Otherwise, you could probably do something better with your twenty quid.