IN-GER-LAND: more Mackie!

‘Twas a Happy Day when I – entirely by accident; I actually bothered to ‘View Photo’, for once – came across Mackie’s work on Twitter. So happy, I got in touch and begged permission to write a blog piece (which you can view here, and also on Mackie’s site),

So It’s with utter delight I present to you, cherished readers, his new work, A Modern History of English Football:

Oil on canvas; 1520mm x 1520mm

Past and present England football managers are gathered together, playing … subbuteo!
Now I Iove soccer. Not the grossly overpaid, hyper-sexed, racist, misogynist, show-pony proponents of the men’s game, but the game itself. Played well at the highest level, it can indeed be the Beautiful Game, a matchless display of skill and physical grace. Sport-wise, little compares to ‘your’ player hitting the back of the net with power and inch-perfect precision from forty yards out. Get in.
Unfortunately for England fans, such a display is as rare as rocking-horse crap. The last few decades have been a bloody nightmare of promise, hope, prayer, followed by gut-churning anguish as the dream disintegrated into a looped nightmare of broken metatarsals, ignominious sendings-off and dismal penalty shoot-outs.
‘Golden Generation’?
It’s looking like our manager, whoever he is, wherever he’s from, could not, in fact, manage a piss-up in a brewery…

It’s no coincidence then, I think, that Mackie references here Caravaggio’s The Calling of St Matthew, serendipitously featured in a recent post, but, sod it, we’ll have it again:

A gang of low-life shady types are gathered in the gloomy back room of some insalubrious dive, when lo, Christ appears to interrupt their tawdry games of chance.
Roy Hodgson ( Mackie’s figure right, current England manager) as the Messiah? Haha.
But this is what we do, we England fans; we invest in the new incumbent and his team, if not exactly faith, then a kind of desperate desire, praying that he, he will be the one to finally lead us out of The Dark towards the Shining Light of Heaven that is the FIFA World Cup Trophy.

Of course, we know, really, deep-down, that he won’t. Been there, seen that, got the tee-shirt.
And this is Mackie’s gift, to once again capture that frailty, that slightly ridiculous withering of the dream even as it is being dreamt, that is the perpetual lot of the average, not just English but British, male (and female footie fan).
Knowing wryness undercut with empathy, understanding, and a blue, blue melancholy.

Like Caravaggio’s back room, the world of modern professional football can be and very often is, thanks to some of the class-free morons involved, a shamelessly tawdry cum sordid affair, but the game itself remains a fine one.
And that’s what it is: like subbuteo, ‘only a game’.
Isn’t it?
Well, that’s what we’ll be telling ourselves in 2014, as yet again we heave ourselves off the sofa and, with a deep dispirited sigh, go and put the kettle on.


Mackie’s new work can be seen here:

The Luxury of Light: the art of Shilowska Pretto

The clocks have gone back; days are shortening, shadows lengthening depressingly early, as we hurtle towards midwinter. The light is suddenly at a premium: we treasure those fleeting, crisp, golden autumn days; we make our Jack-O’-Lanterns, our bonfires, and fill the sky with fireworks; Diwali begins; lamps are lit, we hunker down and think about that great tangle of Christmas tree twinklers that will soon need unravelling…

At this time of year Shilowska’s shining art is, I find, irresistible.

All painting is essentially about ‘painting’, about what it as a medium can do. In Shilowska’s words:

“…light, reflection…a search for a technique that allowed me to move away from my preconceived ideas in painting, and above all, fulfil my desire to liberate form and take advantage of the magical, transformative qualities of light..”


Composed of mixed media – non-traditional materials such as car paint, sequins, glassy mosaics, as well as oils – on canvas, these pieces really are Light as Object of Desire.
Jewel-like colour and iridescence, finely-wrought sensuousness:
The paintings exude for me a gleaming preciousness and glamour, a warm richness that appeals to my shameless wintry desire to indulge myself:

“Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté. “*

(From Baudelaire’s L’Invitation au Voyage in Les Fleurs du Mal.)

I love that, the ‘calme’, the tranquil timelessness; the smooth languor of the gently flowing paint which is allowed to go desultorily, lazily, where it will, creating an image of…
Well, what?

Something both macrocosmic and microcosmic; organic patterns reflective of distant galaxies, fathomless oceans, the filigree delicacy of a spider’s web.
Or gorgeous, enchanting magpie dreams.
You choose.

Santa, if you’re listening:
I want.


* “There, everything is but order and beauty, / Luxury, peace and pleasure.”

More of Shilowska’s work:

All images used with the artist’s permission.
Thanks, Shilowska!

Nice interview with lovely T’Art Club member and super artist, Mary Lonergan, featuring her ‘Grand Iroquois’ which was shown in the recent NY spectacular, Art Takes Times Square.
Very proud!

All About Travel

”Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” ~Steven Pressfield

Bay Area Artist Mary Lonergan is a client and friend of All About Travel and we wanted to share with you a bit about her creative endeavors.

I have personally known Mary for many years. We worked together in the Bay Area in the music scene managing bands and producing live events. In fact, Mary and I have created artwork alongside one another working on our own projects, spending the day creating with music in the background. It’s definitely something I miss quite a bit. I actually worked with oils mostly until Mary introduced me to acrylics.

In fact, Mary’s first show in Florence I was going to…

View original post 1,364 more words

Just calling to say…

Hi! How are you?
Long time no see!

Yes, at least half my life has been put on hold while I savour The Greatest Show On Earth and thank God I’m not Australian. I’m no sports fiend, but it’s so exhilarating, so uplifting, to see anyone doing anything to the absolute peak of her/his ability, whether it’s winning a chestful of medals or recording a PB; in a world where gratification and reward are increasingly expected to be instant and involving the least possible effort, it’s a timely reminder that the best most often comes from long, dedicated, slow-cooking.

That’s Jason Kenny on his way to a gold medal.
I’m (morbidly, not pervily) fascinated by the sprint cyclists’ thighs. Who would win a thigh-off between a cyclist and a speed-skater? Where on earth do they buy their trousers?
Important stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I also want to mark, as so many have, the fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn’s death. She remains elusive to me, and, I think, to the zillions who profess an opinion on who/what she was; suffice to say, to a gawky, angular, too-tall, un-pretty adolescent she was a vision of what a woman ‘should be’: lusciously ripe, petite, baby-faced, baby-voiced, desired and accommodating.
Then I grew up.

By our youngest T’Art Club member, Dayne Britten.
Very affective, I find.

Finally, RIP the great Robert Hughes, whom I thank for providing my favourite ever art quote. Not this one – you should know which I mean by heart by now! – but it’s pretty damn good too, not least for being applicable to all human endeavour, not just ‘art’:

“There is virtue in virtuosity, especially today, when it protects us from the tedious spectacle of ineptitude.”

Speaking of which: nearly forgot: huge congrats to NASA!
(Why did I nearly forget? Why aren’t we more thrilled at Curiosity landing on Mars? Are we indeed suffering from what William Gibson calls Future Fatigue?)

Again, as in the Olympics, people, just people, being the best they can be, through sheer hard graft and patience, at what they do.
If you don’t take inspiration from all of them someone should check your pulse.

So, somewhat bitty and rambling, but I just wanted to check in.
Back to cogency, sense (really?) and rampant disaffected cynicism next week when, all being well, I’ll be less distracted and emotional.

Take care, and speak soon.


Really enjoyed this by Chris at Anxiety and Biscuits: A Very British Olympics…

See more of Dayne’s work here.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Adam Berry, artist

“Field Sport Series (Fear of the Dog)”, 2011-12

I know Adam and have long admired his work, so writing about his latest pieces has been difficult in that I’ve tried to forget almost everything I know about his views on art and look at them through a stranger’s eyes, as I have – out of necessity – the works of other contemporary artists I’ve discussed. (I’ve also studiously ignored the 10,000 word thesis that accompanies this series as part of Adam’s final submission towards his MA degree; if art can’t speak for itself, it’s not doing its job.)

I’ve always been struck by a certain ‘Englishness’ about Adam’s work: hard to put into words precisely; something Turneresque, perhaps? Constable-ish?
Then, looking again at Field Series, it hit me: Thomas Gainsborough.­
Now, I’ve no inkling about what Adam will make of the comparison, but I’ve come to view him as something of a natural heir to the great 18th century painter.

Gainsborough’s great love was reserved for landscape, the land; portraiture was how he earned his living. When he combined the two, something extraordinary happened, something a world away from the academic ‘grand manner’ style favoured by his rival, Joshua Reynolds:

‘Mr and Mrs Andrews’, 1750, 69cm x 119cm
The National Gallery, London

Portraits were (still are?) commissioned by the landed and wealthy to reflect their social standing back at themselves and at their peers: a kind of certificate of authenticity, of ‘belonging’.
But the newly-minted Mr Andrews got rather more than he bargained for.

The artist, having no love for the monied, landed classes, produced a painting which, while doing what it says on the tin, is full of irony, subtlety and subversion. It is what Adam would call ‘a situation in an image’, where nothing is stated and everything implied.

Consider the gawky awkwardness of the couple in posture and, in her case, dress: their relationship to the land is strictly proprietorial, not ‘natural’ –  the land has not been tended by their hands; the great oak tree, symbol of tradition and stability, is surely ironic when one recalls that Mr Andrews was something of a parvenu. But he’s got the land, the gun, the broodmare: to him, then, the history.
What he hasn’t got is the nous to see that, in that lowering grey cloud, Gainsborough is about to piss on his parade.

This, in my view, is exactly what Adam, another lover of the land, does in Field Series.

Stylistically, the artists are similar: the warm greeny-brown palette of an English late summer/autumn (the start of the hunting season); superb draughtsmanship combined with vigorous brushwork and a lively painterliness; in Adam’s work here, however, the ‘situation’ is not in a particular image, but in the series as a whole. Several pieces could be taken out of context and appear quite anodyne (and look well on a huntsman’s drawing-room wall; oh, irony), but viewed together, referentially, they imply an over-arching narrative that is as satirical as Gainsborough’s masterpiece.

Just as Gainsborough took traditional form and content and used them as a means of subversive social critique, so Adam appropriates age-old artistic tropes and genres – the hunting print, the cartoon, the portrait, the horse study – and deploys them not just to ‘condemn’ fox-hunting – too crudely didactic –  but, I believe, to allow for, while never insisting upon, a strongly political interpretation: the ‘State of the Nation’, no less.

Hunting with dogs, opposed by the ordinary majority, has been illegal in England since 2005, yet the law is routinely flouted by those with the money/power, the rich ‘them’, with their exclusive and excluding ‘uniforms’ (hunting ‘pinks’, hunt buttons, special ribbons, collars, etc. etc.), their strict top-down hierarchy, their particular and peculiar jargon, their arcane rituals (‘blooding’ of children, for one.)

The government does not give two hoots, clearly. We are supposed to live in a democracy, all equal before the law.

The fact is, we are governed by a self-regarding ‘club’, a network of vested interests which rides rough-shod over the rest of us much like the local hunt once ploughed through a North Yorkshire neighbour’s garden. Just as we have pro-hunt types waxing sophistical about the ‘traditions’ and’benefits’ of chasing foxes and their cubs and ripping them to bloody shreds, so we have Cameron and his mob hunting down and tearing the lives away from those among us, the ‘vermin’, who have so very little to start with; at the same time they are doing nothing at all, other than engaging in diversionary moralising (Jimmy Carr), to curb the excesses and evasions of the obscenely wealthy.

It is not ‘we’ who control our land, our history; it is still ‘they’, Mr Andrews and his ilk; the toilers, like Andrews’ invisible farm-hands, the true curators of those golden, rolling acres, don’t get a look-in.

What is ‘tradition’? Whom does it serve?
Both Gainsborough and Adam raise these questions formally, through the medium of paint; ‘traditional’ content becomes the means of it’s own radical subversion. Crucially, Adam’s work shows that painting, as an art form, can still be relevant and incisive, whatever the ‘conceptualists’ would have you believe.

Oscar Wilde once described fox-hunting as “the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable”.

So it remains.

Adam’s very own (True) ‘Blue Boy’?

Come the Revolution…



All Adam’s images in the series –  the above are a very small selection – are approximately 25cm x 22cm, and are framed in Adam’s own idiosyncratic, handmade style:

The frames, which would require their own blog post,  and the position of the images within the frames, are integral to the art works, but I wanted to concentrate in the first place on the images. The above gives you some idea of the look of the whole, and why, together, with this extra heft, I view the Series as something more substantial, more ‘sculptural’, perhaps, than simply ‘paintings’.

See more of Adam’s work here:
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