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August 22, 2006

Forgotten languages

Weíve forgotten how to look at paintings. Time was we knew. Time was we knew the language. We knew what to look for, what to expect, how to enjoy a painting.

Show a film to a hidden tribe in, say, Papua New Guinea and they wonít understand it, visually Ė Iím not talking about speech here. They will just see a lot of flickering light [which isnít bad for starters it has to be said] but they wonít understand anything.

Letís face it we went through a period of endless images of trains steaming through the night to suggest that the next images came from a different location, and many calendars with the date peeling off and fluttering away in the wind to suggest that the next images were in the future. It took us a while to learn the language Ė and weíre becoming more adept as directors push the language further.

Before film and photography and television we could read a lot about a picture, we knew a language we have since forgotten. Quite apart from hidden metaphors in paintings, there were at times strict codes in practice. Wealthy people in the 18th Century had pictures of The Poor on their walls to show that they cared. The Poor were distinguished by the fact that their mouths were open. Wealthy people had their mouths shut in paintings.

People sometimes write to me some months after buying a picture saying how much they are enjoying it and that it looks different all the time, and they keep seeing new aspects of the picture. Well thatís the difference between a good painting and a High Street print. The High Street print my have an initial Wow Factor, but there is no depth to seek out, what you see is what you get, no more.

The same can be said of all the arts, music and writing especially. When the creator has something to say and a good command of the language, the depth of the work is accessible. We retain the ability to interpret music and writing in a way we have lost when looking at a painting, which is a shame really.

Posted by john at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2006

Trouble with the furniture.

ďCOME ON! Ė paint you no-good worthless piece of yesterdayís dinner, Iím all here, waiting, ready, all geared up, raring to go. Iíve got everything you need. Itís all here isnít it? What more could you possibly need? Call yourself an artist! Pah! I could do better myself. What are you waiting for? Thereíre brushes, thereís paint in copious amounts, and you like paint, I know. Thereíre panels, paper, charcoal, easels, hell, itís all here. Pull your fucking socks up. Get your finger out. Get off your arse. Get on with it.Ē


You know things are bad when your studio starts talking to you.

Posted by john at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2006

More Kosovo Stories

The people of Gjakova are just like you and me, [well me anyway, I canít speak for you obviously]. But then you sit down for a meal with Besari, a local doctor, and he tells you a chilling tale. In March 1999 he heard shouting and banging on the old gate leading into the beautiful small courtyard in front of his old house in the centre of Gjakova.

Besari didnít hesitate, he picked up his one year old daughter, took the hand of his five year old daughter and together with his wife Fikriya walked out of the back door of their home, in the clothes they stood up in, and hiked for eleven hours over the mountains to the Albanian border.


Had Besari and his family not left as they did, this warm, friendly, big man would not have been sitting opposite me in the quiet evening, he would have been shot, and his wife Fikriya too, for she is a doctor as well. And their beautiful daughters would have become two of the 900 or so orphans left after the conflict.

Itís a situation we in this country have not had to consider since the nose of Williamís boats scrunched up the pebble beach at Bexhill some nine hundred odd years ago; and then his regime seems to have been a bit more humanitarian than that of Milosevic.

One thing that Besari said to me, raising his glass of Kosovan beer, was: ďThank you.Ē I said: ďFor what?Ē He replied that it was part of our taxes that pay for NATO and the UN, thank you. At that moment the world seemed a smaller place.

Posted by john at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2006

Kosovo Stories

Right, time to tell some tales of my trip to Kosovo...

First of all Kosovo isnít a country, though it is applying to become one. [Who do you apply to to become a country?] Itís being run by the UN at the moment, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo to be precise, or UNMIK as the stamp in my passport says.


Iím not qualified to go into the politics, suffice it to say some bad stuff has gone down in Kosovo in the last ten years, some of which weíve heard about on the news.

Ten years? Talking to Teki, one of the Gjakova Lecturers, it goes back thousands of years. The phrase ďThereís Trouble in the BalkansĒ is not without meaning. A dozen or so countries with almost as many languages and three opposing major religions donít go to make for a contented neighbourhood.

Apart from a huge military perimeter fence round the airport, the many road blocks and the constant convoys of KFOR troops, Kosovo looks like most countries on latitude 42. Oh, and the bridges have little yellow signs advising the speed limits:


There are houses with red-tiled roofs and lots of concrete, dusty roads, big lorries and small tractors,


a mid-European mix of the ultra-modern and timelessness with the connection that at least one window in every building I saw, old or new, was cracked or broken.

Posted by john at 12:00 PM | Comments (1)

August 04, 2006

I apologise for the break in transmission

Normal service will resume just as soon as I find out what is normal anyway.

Posted by john at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)