Of all lies, art is the
- Gustave Flaubert
Pictures deface walls
more often than they decorate them.
- William Wordsworth
Art has increasingly
become the business of the artist
and the bafflement of the public.
- Paul Gauguin
McKeown: The Morning Room
Almost everyone has heard
a definition of modern art which goes something like:
Modern art is produced
by the talentless,
promoted by the unscrupulous,
and bought by the clueless.
None of that is true.
McKeown: The Waiting Room
The creators are certainly not talentless - because they have a flair
The art-galleries are
not more unprincipled than any other dealers in goods.
The buyers know very well
that the monetary value of what they have bought
will decrease only in such circumstances as the final months of the
second world war.
Even though what they
have purchased is no more than a little studio experiment
or visual joke, marketed as a 'work of art'.
So it would be slightly
more accurate to say that:
is produced by the unscrupulous,
promoted by the clueless
and bought by the talentless.
McKeown: The Paradise
for a close-up]
And even more accurate to say that:
is produced by the clueless,
promoted by the talentless
and bought by the clueless, talentless and unscrupulous
such as banks, depressing
modern art museums, overpriced hotels,
and advertising agencies
McKeown: The Field (Buttercups)
Though even that is much too glib.
However, it is safe to
say that the appeal of much 'modern art'
is hardly greater than that of 'Modern Jazz'.
McKeown: The Well
for another painting in the same vein
'Irish art: the cracked looking-glass of a servant.'
- James Joyce
I was, for a few months when he was living in Belfast in 1985-6,
William McKeown's friend and sex/cuddle-buddy.
He was at that time interested in fabric-design,
and wove on the Jacquard loom in the beautiful old weaver's cottage
at the Ulster Folk Museum.
Here is a painting of
his from that time which shows his interest in fabrics.
McKeown: Pink Sleep.
for another design from the same period
William was very taken by one of my pictures, painted in 1975, white
on white, titled
Bland, the Blind Totality of White".
I cannot help but think
it influenced his paintings of white flowers on white backgrounds.
McKeown: Tobacco Flower.
here to read vacu-art-promo-prop.
In 1985 we both experimented
with fingerprint designs,
following my early Metamorphotos based on Irish passage-tomb engravings.
The picture above is typically meticulous, whereas mine are messy
and textural, like this one:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
for something completely different...'
Here is my portrait
of William taking a bath in my rustic hermitage...
a homage to Bonnard...
...and sitting in a
chair - with removable, jokey add-ons.
In the pictures on this
page there are two extremes of modern painting:
one (meticulous)) which was bland, conformist, acclaimed, bought by
banks and places run by committees
winning its creator a place in Aosdána, a kind of Irish mini-Académie
which Wikipedia describes as 'the exclusive Irish Arts
The other (impromptu,
neo-primitive) was (because of its creator's horror of trade,
self-promotion and the beau-monde, and his admiration
for the philosophy of the brothers van Gogh)
iconoclastic, painted for private spaces,
and rarely exhibited or bought. The only review received
for his only (shared) exhibition in a private gallery was, however,
and was generously written by William McKeown -
whose frequently-stated ambition was
to own a Porsche.
the Fenderesky Gallery, Anthony Weir, Dora McAvera and Tom Bevan were
Weir is a colourist unequalled among Ulster artists.
This admirable quality, spun against the elementary awkwardness
of his forms creates, at its best, epicentres
of oscillatory tension. [!!!]
Weir handles well the æsthetics of decay well..."
so the artspeak goes on]
Shortly after he wrote
this, William made a very beautiful and (of course) well-sewn
shirt for me to give as a present to my hairy French boyfriend, Pierre,
of whom I painted four portraits, including this one holding Paul Cézanne's
William was strongly of the opinion that presentation was vital for
I, on the other hand, antagonised by the hideous frames so often found
and by the trendy ones in art-galleries, have always - with my Shakerish
mind-set, have gone for the simplest frames, none at all,
or (as in the painting above) nice old battered ones.
Frames often seem to trap paintings, whereas I think they should be
that the painting leaps out from.
I remember how William
at my seemingly-paradoxical description 'bright black'.
He died in 2012.
I guess that, by then, he was driving his own Porsche.
I joined the Artists'
Collective of Northern Ireland for one week.
Here is another member
of Aosdána whose portrait I painted,
a closeted, drunken lump of clingingly-uncloseted self pity without
a milligram of humour
- but with a ravaged face which was a gift to any painter.
And here are two
portraits of William, in another totally-uncommercial medium,
The only exhibition of
Metamorphotos took place in a small café-gallery
in West Berlin in 1986. None was sold.
Art is either the decoration
or the stripping down of what we see.
Often, it is both.
- Anthony Weir
We have art in order not
to die of the truth.
- Friedrich Nietzsche