Wednesday, 13 December 2017


Back in October we visited Paris, primarily because my partner had to spend a couple of days working there; why waste the opportunity? One of the highlights of our stay was a comprehensive exhibition of the work of André Derain at the Pompidou Centre, which was something of a revelation. I knew his fauve London paintings, but little else. I'm no art historian, and simply "know" those artists (or, more precisely, individual artworks) that have attracted my attention, magpie-like, over the years. If I like it then in it goes into my mental rag-bag, probably to pop up again, transmogrified, in my own picture-making, possibly decades later. This is the difference between theft and appropriation, or unconscious influence and plagiarism, Your Honour.

I was very struck by Derain's "weathercock" tendencies. It seemed that he adopted something of the style of whoever he had recently been hanging out with: Matisse, Picasso, Cézanne... Hard not to be influenced by such chums, I'd say. I was probably particularly alert to this because I see something of this tendency in myself. Sadly, I don't get to go drinking with the great artistic names of our day, so my weathercock gets spun by whatever I've most recently been admiring; in a gallery, a book, or online. So I was in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum last week, and most strongly felt a breeze of japonisme blowing there, admittedly something of a prevailing wind for me. Hence the above pastiche.

Certain sharp-eyed observers have asked about the Led Zep-alike symbol that has been cropping up in my collages (see top right). Have I joined a cult? What does it mean? Well, no, and nothing, really. While we were in Paris, I spotted the grating below in a wall on the Rive Droite*, below the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Amazing, no? How could I not steal / borrow / appropriate / be influenced by something so ... pointlessly and decoratively mysterious?

Oh, and those other cryptic inscriptions? Should you ever find yourself on Southampton Railway Station, Platform 1, look down at your feet:

* Why on earth do Parisians refer to Left Bank and Right Bank, when they could quite straightforwardly have used "South Bank" and "North Bank" (see: London)? Does everyone always face west in Paris? I think not. The Seine isn't even as wiggly as the Thames! So much for that famous French logic...


Malka Baruch said...

Wow! So colourful. I do not know you called your blod "idiotic", because it is really fantastic

Mike C. said...

Thanks, Malka. I can see I'm going to have to do a post explaining (or apologising for) the English vice of irony for my overseas visitors!