Monthly Archives: November 2015

Gilding the Lilywhite


Universally accepted beauty is naturally occurring. Sunsets, waterfalls, flowers. Paint is not naturally occurring, at least not in the commercial form we’re familiar with, but its defining state and characteristic – liquid and colour, are both phenomena that have existed longer than we’ve been around to perceive them. Paint is liquid colour and it is beautiful.

It is beautiful long before we get our hands on it. If in employment we allow it to exhibit its natural attributes we stand a good chance of retaining at least some of that beauty. It only becomes ugly when we try to force it to do what we want, not what it wants. The more we treat it as a tool, the more of its quality we risk chipping away.

Paint’s primary use is commercial – its purpose is to change the colour and texture of objects and spaces in order to improve the way they look. Its liquid state makes this possible. Its colour and texture makes it desirable. It is instant beauty in a tin.

The best painters are able to use these things. They come to an agreement with their medium such that they may achieve some of what they want whilst allowing it to do just what it will. And it will. Paint will sometimes move in the directions we ask. Directions it might never have naturally moved. It may go more or less where we want it to go, but it’ll do just what it likes when it gets there. All we can hope is that the places and directions in which we push it are conducive to its behaviour.

When we decide to make a painting we take a risk. We choose a substance of significant inherent, existing beauty and try to improve it still. Like the man who throws up in the hat of Bear Strangler McGee we’re either mighty brave or mighty stupid.

Peter Duggan’s Artoons

I will take a momentary break from my usual monologue to briefly alert you to the publication of a rather wonderful book by my good friend Peter Duggan:


I won’t say a lot because I’d have to start explaining his jokes and I doubt Peter would be particularly grateful for that. All I need tell you is that they’re cartoons on the theme of art and the artworld and they are hilarious. I strongly recommend you go out (or stay in) and buy yourself a copy as a matter of urgency. I’m sure they’re available in lots of bookshops (I don’t have a list to hand), but let’s be honest, you don’t need to leave your seat as you can get it on Amazon right here.

And you can look at his website here

Why are you still reading this? Go buy the book.