Blog archive – September ’16
12 October 2016

Friday night, Saturday morning..








Friday 30 September..Bagehot on Jeremy Corbyn

Balancing Peter Oborne’s piece from the other day (see below in this blog) –



Jeremy Corbyn, dodgy dealer

Light on substance and heavy on salesmanship, Corbynism is a political pyramid scheme

Oct 1st 2016 |

ALL big suits and swagger, Vehbi Alimucaj was a symbol of Albania’s post-Soviet embrace of capitalism. The fall of communism had blown open the economy, people had money to invest and Mr Alimucaj—a businessman known as “the Pharaoh”—knew, or claimed to know, where to put it to work. Savers piled in, attracted by interest rates that looked too good to be true. They were: Mr Alimucaj was a fraudster and used the deposits of each new wave of investors to pay the dividends promised to previous waves. When his pyramid scheme and others like it brought down the Albanian economy in 1997 he was arrested and found guilty of stealing $325m from his fellow citizens. How had he done it? Albania’s then-unsophisticated financial culture had played a role. But so too had an eternal truth: it can be remarkably easy to sell an imaginary product if it sounds good enough.

Bagehot recalled this tale as he watched Jeremy Corbyn’s big speech at the Labour Party conference on September 28th. Thousands of idealistic lefties had flooded into Labour to re-elect him as party leader. But why? Starchy and monotone, Mr Corbyn’s public speaking has improved in recent months, but only from terrible to mediocre. And for a man who had spent the past few days swanning about the conference telling everyone he was putting Labour on an election footing, he had a flimsy prospectus.


On Brexit, Britain’s most pressing priority, he had nothing substantive to say. Likewise on the budget deficit, the root cause of Labour’s electoral defeat only last year. In his speech he wafted about a long shopping list—more research spending, infrastructure investment and cash for areas with high immigration rates—without saying where he would find the dosh. His wishlist of ten policies including “action to secure our environment” and “security of work” read as if he were the first person to think of the notions. The man proposing himself as Britain’s next prime minister offered only, to quote Kerry McCarthy, a former shadow cabinet minister, “things you could fit on a T-shirt”.


Mr Corbyn was equally unconvincing about how he might one day reach Downing Street. Though his triumphant re-election subdued the party’s deep rifts during the conference, they remain live. From the podium Len McCluskey, the loyalist boss of Labour’s largest affiliated union, called for Mr Corbyn’s enemies to quit. Meanwhile Mr Corbyn himself betrayed next to no real curiosity in the electorate. He had nothing to say about the causes of Labour’s defeat last year, or why the party is on its lowest poll score in opposition for three decades. Nor was he any more willing to engage with a mass media he has, to date, treated as a walking insult. Instead of conducting the usual breakfast interview with the BBC on the morning of his speech, he recorded one in advance, his aides reportedly explaining that the would-be prime minister “is not a morning person”.


Yet this potpourri of unfunded policies, nice words and electoral complacency has attracted legions to his party. Its membership has more than doubled since Mr Corbyn became

leader; 15,500 joined after his re-election on September 24th. His rallies over the summer typically attracted thousands. This energy was palpable at The World Transformed, an alternative conference hosted by Momentum (Mr Corbyn’s unofficial cheerleading brigade) a short walk from Labour’s official gathering. In a cavernous former church stallholders representing anti-poverty and anti-racism campaigns vied with Corbynista platform speakers. One stand offered copies of the “Corbyn Colouring Book” and even a collection of poems praising the man: “Gee, Jeremy Corbyn, we’re sorry to say / That compromise and stalling have led us astray.” To thunderous applause Mr Corbyn told the conference: “Our hugely increased membership is part of a movement that can take Labour’s message into every community.”

Like Mr Alimucaj he has made a virtue of having little of substance to offer those investing in him. He makes up for his lack of details about how he will win power in a sceptical country and realise socialism in a competitive world by hailing the almost mystical capacities of his movement. In Liverpool its growth was widely heralded as proof that ordinary Britons can be won over. In his punchy speech on September 27th Tom Watson, Mr Corbyn’s moderate deputy, praised the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, for winning elections. “Just like Jeremy Corbyn does,” heckled an old duffer in the crowd, revealingly eliding the Labour leader’s appeal to the half-million Britons involved in the party with the 45m-strong electorate at large.


Mr Corbyn’s genius is that all this is self-reinforcing. The more vague and sweeping the promises and ideals he ascribes to the movement, the more people join it. The more who do so, the more formidable the movement seems. Labour’s leader is using the deposits of hope placed by one group to pay the dividends expected by the previous one. Overall the process gives the impression of success and motion that far outstrips any basic asset, including any kind of plan to win power and wield it effectively.

The movement, c’est moi

All pyramid schemes collapse eventually. It is not clear when that will happen to Corbynism. Most commentators and Labour moderates expect him to lose the next general election, probably badly. But there is no guarantee that this will end the cycle; that it will not just be seen as proof the movement is not yet big enough to take on interests—media, business, defence—that have supposedly conspired against Mr Corbyn. This vicious circle helps explain why Labour’s reality-based politicians, including Mr Watson and Mr Khan, seem stuck in a cul-de-sac. None wants to split Labour: the party is too tribal for that and most doubt a new moderate party could survive under Britain’s majoritarian electoral system. Yet recruiting enough centre-left types to take on Mr Corbyn’s uncannily pyramidical movement looks like a long shot. There are no good options.


Thursday 29 cont’d.. first roll with a 66 🙂


Thursday 29 September…Life – where the overriding objective is getting and satisfying an audience? And Peter Oborne on Jeremy Corbyn. Which I guess is about the same thing…

I have started reading Life: The Movie (How Entertainment Conquered Reality), by Neal Gabler.


Usual story (of why it takes me so long to read anything) – I didn’t manage to finish the first page of the introduction before I had to revert to Google to find Philip Roth’s essay from 1961 “Writing American Fiction” . I have since progressed to page 5 (still on the Intro’ tho’). Oh dear..

Neal Gabler quotes Roth on the first page after the dedication.

“What if the world is some kind of – show!

What if we are all only talent assembled by the

Great Talent Scout Up Above! The Great Show

of Life! Starring Everybody! Suppose entertain-

ment is the Purpose of Life!

– Philip Roth, “On the Air” (1970)

You know that feeling you get when something suddenly  m a k e s   s e n s e  ?

Also like Peter Oborne’s piece in Middle East Eye about Jeremy Corbyn.

Peter Oborne recently wrote (in a different article) about the 3 politicians who he feels have made a genuine, enduring difference to Britain in the past 50 years. The 3 were – Roy Jenkins, Ted Heath & “Third was Margaret Thatcher, the greatest prime minister of the post-war period. She destroyed the power of the over-mighty trade unions, yanked the economy off its knees and restored national pride. We’re still benefiting from her foresight and bravery.”

So I think that helps identify Oborne’s position. And adds reliability to his view on Jeremy Corbyn.

Recently Oborne resigned from the Telegraph over the paper’s reporting of HSBC – which Oborne considered fraudulent to the paper’s readers. And a while back he filmed undercover in Zimbabwe (Mugabe’s Secret Famine, Channel 4). Which I think demonstrates his credentials. Because if you get caught filming undecover in a rogue state – it will be a very bad trip.

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - Peter Oborne

Many thanks to Theresa Caruana for sharing the Oborne story.

And the picture in the Assad link above is by artist Taryn Simon – whose work is also well worth a look.



Monday 26 September – cont’d… New (old) camera & a snap from another country


circa 1960…


August 2016

Monday 26 September – Abstract expressionism at the RA, Television, Alexandra Shulman, Eve Arnold, Nate Silver & Clay Shirky..

I haven’t had a TV set for 5 years & as previously when breaking a long abstinence, there’s a decompression period – where I like the instant gratification & supreme relaxation that TV offers. I’m debating Netflix. Which would be an overdose, a blitkrieg. Possibly disastrous. I’m not sure it’s a wise move. TV sucks up time more voraciously than thinking about what to say in a Fine Art photography website blog.

Apart from Storyville’s desperate but beautifully photographed depiction of the ugly lives lead by lifers in a Russian prison (that I have only watched half of so far – v intense) and then yet another comforting viewing of Hitchcock’s 39 Steps, two other programs have really got me thinking:

Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue by Richard Macer (& episode two)


Who’s Afraid of Conceptual Art? With Dr. James Fox.

I wish Richard Macer & Dr. James Fox had swapped. Because the deference that Dr. Fox brought to the subject of conceptual art would perhaps have been better employed in Vogue HQ, where Editor Alexandra Shulman was plainly unamused by Macer’s peskiness. The delicate tea dance type battle of wills between Shulman & Macer seemed about a 3-3 draw by the end of episode 2. Shulman edited Macer out of the picture, who then balanced the scoresheet with some hilarious questions – often taken seriously. And then some pointy editing of his own.

Perhaps it’s a nostalgia thing, or certainly an affection for charm as much as analog photpgraphy – I liked the interview with Alexandra Shulman’s mother, Drusilla Beyfus, who happily showed us her own portrait taken by Eve Arnold.

Soa and Rocket - Fine Art - Eve Arnold

But Macer’s skeptical gaze & Duchampesqian piss taking would have worked better in the deadly serious & passively censorious world of conceptual art. Faced with Turner Prize winner Martin Creed’s input, I’m guessing it would have been great performance TV – with Macer  asking Creed how he felt about people buying Creed’s ‘Work No. 88’ – for £188 or whatever it costs. And a follow up querying what that says about the idea of art’s ‘value’ & the tastes of its consumers. On the basis of the Vogue doc’ I’d bet a decent dinner at a posh restaurant that Macer would have waded in & grabbed the elephant Dr. Fox seemed a bit reluctant to grapple with.

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - Work No.88

Value – £750 jeans – came up at Vogue too. I guess like Art, it’s a case of ‘smoke ‘em if you got ‘em’.

The Vogue scene where Alexandra Shulman thinks out loud about the role of the magazine’s cover & the potential to change its presentation – in context of today’s socially networked exoteric, is a good example of why she’s in charge. Because it’s a very difficult thing to articulate the obvious in a simple elegant way.

“It’s a kind of reaction to the social media that’s going on. And a feeling that people are so used to – to having access to peoples’ lives .. on Insatgram .. you know – showing themselves in bed, or what they had for breakfast, or on holiday or whatever. And – ‘Question?’ (I don’t have the answer) Do perhaps people like the idea of a magazine cover reflecting that more intimate knowledge?


Or – other question (?)


Do they actually want covers to remain distanced – and something that’s other than that?”


I’m paraphrasing her follow on – How do you keep it iconic – yet part of the democratic conversation?


Both documentaries are highly entertaining. Alexandra Shulman stands out as someone in complete & reliable control.

So. To the RA for some – Abstract Expressionism.

As usual, a schoolboy error on my part, by going on a Saturday. Which made me wonder – how long will it be before the RA, Tate etc start to offer different price band tickets according to visitor density? As in, you pay more to see less people. End result, I started the show in reverse – trying to see more art and less shuffling bodies. Which in an overcrowded room – was tricky.

Joan Mitchell – Salut Tom was first.

The show centers on American action painting – a phrase coined by poet Harold Roseberg in his essay – “The American Action Painters,” (1952), where in “Rosenberg (1906–78) defined a movement and a moment.”

I especially like the last sentence in the essay – “So far, the silence of American literature on the new painting all but amounts to a scandal.”

Top Ten ARTnews Stories: "Not a Picture but an Event"

There’s also a link here to photocopies of the essay in ArtNews from Dec’ 1952.

More resources here – an excellent slide presentation about Abstract Expressionism by Lori Kent – Thank You.

As with previous reports on gallery viewings, thoughts here are not intended a critical review of the show at all – more a glimpse of the work that I like & how this show in particular relates to ideas I’m trying to think about regarding contemporary abstract painting. I’ll return to this in a few days – with a look at what I’m calling, rather blandly – the ‘new expressionism’ in an effort to define a curatorial position? As in, looking at contemporary expressionist painting with a style, or painterly idiom that I think groups the new young artists’ practice together.

Baziotes Mariner 1960 / 61 – right at the end of the RA show, (or, as was for me, the beginning) seems to perhaps be a link between past & present.

Meanwhile – along with Joan Mitchell, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline and Barnett Newman went some way to justifying £17 fee to see.

Ad Reinhardt’s work is pretty tricky to do justice to in a website image. In fact, one can’t. I won’t even bother to show a picture. The visual tactility of the paint, the density of tone, its colour & Reinhardt’s technique require presence. They work for me in a way that Rothko doesn’t. Like cheese & chalk.

Having Robert Motherwell & Franz Kline in the same place is excellent. Yin & Yang? Kline gets the glory here – More Motherwell & Tobey would have been nice & given the scale of the show & resources involved, it’s a shame there wasn’t a room dedicated to all 3. Mark Tobey could have been the bridge.

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - Robert Motherwell
Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - Kline
Soap and Rocket - Fine art - Mark Tobey

& contrasting Barnett Newman’s linearity –

Eve 1950 Barnett Newman 1905-1970 Purchased 1980

Critics are mixed. While Time Out’s Eddy Frankel (who sounds like he has Tourette’s) opines: “If you don’t leave this show feeling completely overwhelmed and totally breathless, you’re either blind, dead or a bit of a dick.” Here’s another example of Eddy’s technique “Video art is so fucking boring. Okay, not always.”

Well. I make the occasional video, don’t like Pollock & definitely don’t like prescriptive art critique. I appreciate Pollock’s contribution – but on an aesthetic level, & along with say, Rothko – they both leave me cold. Thinking about it, I’m not that fussed about Van Gogh either. There’s a theme developing here – maybe it’s the case that I don’t like the work of psychologically unstable artists? Or critics for that matter.

Re: Editorial – As mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not sure how, or whether to cover politics. Because my experience suggests that many artists are somehow oblivious to current events & so it seems incongruous to include them here?

But, with a psychopathic war criminal in the Kremlin, an idiotic reality TV show presenter & controversial businessman manipulating the divisions in US society while gunning for the White House, Theresa May hell bent on rolling out discredited grammar schools (The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that “amongst high achievers, those who are eligible for free school meals or who live in poorer neighbourhoods are significantly less likely to go to a grammar school”.) and an alleged Trotskyite & definite Republican treasonously elected to be Leader of HM Government’s opposition it seems reliable to keep abreast of the basics. N’est-ce pas?

So – a couple of ideas:

Interesting & frank exchange of views at the end of Monday’s Today programme on Radio 4(circa 08:56) betweeen Kerry-anne Mendoza, editor at The Canary and New Statesman’s Stephen Bush . The segment highlights the difficulty of accessing reliable information – a subject dear to my heart & basis of the ‘Fake Phoney Reality’ ideas. Peter Preston at the Guardian is also concerned.

End result, I have been checking out – , &

Remembering the portrayal of what I call ‘NewMedia’ in House of Cards I’m starting to think that by the time the next election rolls around, the confident & aloof who are decrying the left wing now – and there are too many prominent people doing this to mention here – might realise that communications have moved on somewhat without them being aware of it. And, to coin my mother’s lovely & usually witheringly employed expression – they will perhaps see, but too late – that they have been ‘previous’ in their current assessment of the left’s unelectability.

And – If it takes as long as it has for the idea of post truth to finally hit home – when will PostInternet get traction?

As in, will there be a collective, ‘caught in the headlights’ type awareness of the scale of change that has followed the widespread adoption of the internet? We have been booking Ryanair, getting on Netflix & paying the gas bill etc. for years now. Things have moved on – as Momentum & Jeremy Corbyn are demonstrating.  This isn’t about my political preferences – it’s pragmatic politics.  New Labour Blairites could easily have won the leadership election. But for some reason they couldn’t find more voters than Corbyn did.

With more unstoppable approaching truth in mind, November’s election in the States looms.

I’m using two information sources to see what’s happening.

Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight website – which covers polling – asking people who they are going to vote for?


Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - nate Silver

and The University of Iowa’s 2016 US Presidential Election electronic Futures markets. (Betting on the outcome.)

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - Iowa

Alan Howard levels of acuity are not required to see that Hillary could be in a tight spot. The money & the pollsters both say that she’ll scrape through. But as Clay Shirky points out – “Elections are a harsh corrective to thinking everyone agrees with you. Winning isn’t about policy, or passion. It’s about headcount. “

Monday 19 September – Soap and Rocket shortlisted in 2 Photo’book competitions 🙂

Pleased to tell that Soap and Rocket Photo’books have been shortlisted & will be showing @ Encontros da Imagem – International Photography Festival and TIJUANA Porto 12ª Feira de Arte Impressa (& Instagram).

Small steps…


Friday 16 September – Doug Aitken, tall poppies (?), Robert Hughes (of course) & Chess…The Beautiful Game

So. I first saw Doug Aitken’s work in Victoria Miro’s (enormous) gallery, near Old St in London – I think around 2011. (Coincidentally, this is where I also first encountered Grayson Perry dressed up for a Big Night Out. He’s very tall in heels.)

The piece of Doug Aitken’s work that grabbed me was Black Mirror. The flat screen YouTube version below (likely viewed on a laptop, or even worse, phone – please, No!)  gives a pale imitation of the work’s force in its gallery / installation setting – where multiple large screens are housed in a room of reflective black glass & mirrors. It’s aesthetically powerful & just the right side of impenetrably abstract for my taste.

Soap and rocket - Fine Art - Doug_Aitken

And like many famous artists his work rate is prodigious. I know there’s a team of assistants & subcontractors involved & weary of the row that goes with that methodology – because I would love to hire an assistant, so I can’t complain. His commercial creative background lends super high quality production processes & big bucks values to the work. Somehow this doesn’t bother me in the same way as it does with Geoff Koons – about whom I’m afraid I’m in Robert Hughes’s camp. (Sorry, even though I don’t image Geoff will lose sleep.)

However. Christopher Knight, Art Critic at the LA Times isn’t impressed with Doug’s Electric Earth show at MOCA in LA (The Museum of Contemporary Art): “The overarching theme is Modernism within the passing of a dominant, analog world and the rise of a digital empire. We’ve been buffeted by that vertiginous metamorphosis for a generation. But Aitken’s mostly gossamer-thin digital dirges offer scant solace for what’s been lost and less joy in the new adventure.” Ouch!

I’m not sure what more to add. Writing this makes me think about the emotional & cultural cross referencing basis of my preferences, rather than an academically backed analysis. Doug Aitken’s work seems to have cultural integrity. Others less so. Is that about the subject matter? But I love Warhol – so how does that work? Is Koons’ deification of kitsch & consumerism any less valid than Warhol’ celebrity, mass production & death? As Arsene Wenger will tell you – and, as my resident Muse has just confirmed – it’s all about “showing Quality….”. To be continued…

Saw this in the paper – –

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - Chess

Some interesting stuff in the Guardian piece about Duchamp, Bobby Fischer, above on the right, and Boris Spassky & ‘The Beautiful Game’.

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - Guardian




Crazy beautiful blue movie & The Art of the Lie – a subject dear to my heart…

The idea of ‘Fake Phoney Reality’ seems to gaining traction. Hurrah!


Post-truth politics

Art of the lie

CONSIDER how far Donald Trump is estranged from fact. He inhabits a fantastical realm where Barack Obama’s birth certificate was faked, the president founded Islamic State (IS), the Clintons are killers and the father of a rival was with Lee Harvey Oswald before he shot John F. Kennedy.

Mr Trump is the leading exponent of “post-truth” politics—a reliance on assertions that “feel true” but have no basis in fact. His brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power. And he is not alone. Members of Poland’s government assert that a previous president, who died in a plane crash, was assassinated by Russia. Turkish politicians claim the perpetrators of the recent bungled coup were acting on orders issued by the CIA. The successful campaign for Britain to leave the European Union warned of the hordes of immigrants that would result from Turkey’s imminent accession to the union. 

If, like this newspaper, you believe that politics should be based on evidence, this is worrying. Strong democracies can draw on inbuilt defences against post-truth. Authoritarian countries are more vulnerable.

Lord of the lies

That politicians sometimes peddle lies is not news: think of Ronald Reagan’s fib that his administration had not traded weapons with Iran in order to secure the release of hostages and to fund the efforts of rebels in Nicaragua. Dictators and democrats seeking to deflect blame for their own incompetence have always manipulated the truth; sore losers have always accused the other lot of lying.

But post-truth politics is more than just an invention of whingeing elites who have been outflanked. The term picks out the heart of what is new: that truth is not falsified, or contested, but of secondary importance. Once, the purpose of political lying was to create a false view of the world. The lies of men like Mr Trump do not work like that. They are not intended to convince the elites, whom their target voters neither trust nor like, but to reinforce prejudices.

Feelings, not facts, are what matter in this sort of campaigning. Their opponents’ disbelief validates the us-versus-them mindset that outsider candidates thrive on. And if your opponents focus on trying to show your facts are wrong, they have to fight on the ground you have chosen. The more Remain campaigners attacked the Leave campaign’s exaggerated claim that EU membership cost Britain £350m ($468m) a week, the longer they kept the magnitude of those costs in the spotlight.

Post-truth politics has many parents. Some are noble. The questioning of institutions and received wisdom is a democratic virtue. A sceptical lack of deference towards leaders is the first step to reform. The collapse of communism was hastened because brave people were prepared to challenge the official propaganda.

But corrosive forces are also at play. One is anger. Many voters feel let down and left behind, while the elites who are in charge have thrived. They are scornful of the self-serving technocrats who said that the euro would improve their lives and that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Popular trust in expert opinion and established institutions has tumbled across Western democracies.

Post-truth has also been abetted by the evolution of the media (see Briefing). The fragmentation of news sources has created an atomised world in which lies, rumour and gossip spread with alarming speed. Lies that are widely shared online within a network, whose members trust each other more than they trust any mainstream-media source, can quickly take on the appearance of truth. Presented with evidence that contradicts a belief that is dearly held, people have a tendency to ditch the facts first. Well-intentioned journalistic practices bear blame too. The pursuit of “fairness” in reporting often creates phoney balance at the expense of truth. NASA scientist says Mars is probably uninhabited; Professor Snooks says it is teeming with aliens. It’s really a matter of opinion.

When politics is like pro-wrestling, society pays the cost. Mr Trump’s insistence that Mr Obama founded IS precludes a serious debate over how to deal with violent extremists. Policy is complicated, yet post-truth politics damns complexity as the sleight of hand experts use to bamboozle everyone else. Hence Hillary Clinton’s proposals on paid parental leave go unexamined (see article) and the case for trade liberalisation is drowned out by “common sense” demands for protection.

It is tempting to think that, when policies sold on dodgy prospectuses start to fail, lied-to supporters might see the error of their ways. The worst part of post-truth politics, though, is that this self-correction cannot be relied on. When lies make the political system dysfunctional, its poor results can feed the alienation and lack of trust in institutions that make the post-truth play possible in the first place.

Pro-truthers stand and be counted

To counter this, mainstream politicians need to find a language of rebuttal (being called “pro-truth” might be a start). Humility and the acknowledgment of past hubris would help. The truth has powerful forces on its side. Any politician who makes contradictory promises to different audiences will soon be exposed on Facebook or YouTube. If an official lies about attending a particular meeting or seeking a campaign donation, a trail of e-mails may catch him out.

Democracies have institutions to help, too. Independent legal systems have mechanisms to establish truth (indeed, Melania Trump has turned to the law to seek redress for lies about her past). So, in their way, do the independent bodies created to inform policy—especially those that draw on science.

If Mr Trump loses in November, post-truth will seem less menacing, though he has been too successful for it to go away. The deeper worry is for countries like Russia and Turkey, where autocrats use the techniques of post-truth to silence opponents. Cast adrift on an ocean of lies, the people there will have nothing to cling to. For them the novelty of post-truth may lead back to old-fashioned oppression.


Monday 12 September – Finally, a quick run-through of my favourites from the New Language show at the Observer building & Jeffrey Louis-Reed’s lovely Palace Court studio –  in Hastings…

Curated by Christopher Winter  – who also exhibits – the New Language “investigates themes of acceptance, alienation and displacement in foreign culture”. This translates into a group show collecting some great painting, 3D & video. Aesthetic & craft vie with narrative to create a rewarding engagement.

Highlight of Friday’s preview, was Peter Wilde’s riveting gaffer tape blindfold painting performance – an intervention into his own painting to make it legal.


Pietro Sanguineti – uuuhh


Christopher Winter – Time Dimensionality (and the 1911 Cubist Monkey)


Peter Wilde


Peter Wilde’s intervention materials


Peter Wilde

Soap-and-Rocket-Fine-Art-Tom Hammick

Tom Hammick – “[using] Casper David Friedrich’s device of Ruckenfigur to make a historical and metaphorical connection to wonderment as well as draw attention to the uncertainty of the destination of this particular family. It’s as if, as they come to a halt at the sea’s edge, they are about to come to their senses that their dream of the possibility of a new life is under severe doubt.


Matthew Burrows

My apologies about the fact that this quick run-through does no justice at all to the show as a whole – & simply reflects my own taste. Paint & esp.  photorealistic paint of course attract, because of my own interest in the Internet, imagery & the ‘post reality’ place I find myself in – which I call ‘Fake Phoney Reality’ – & trying to somehow find a way to articulate an evolutionary next step that has already taken me by surprise, perhaps following after Neal Gabler’s idea from only 17 years ago that argued entertainment had taken over peoples’ lives – & we were living in a scripted reality of our own making, but as if in a movie.

I was particularly interested in Christopher Winter’s idea in the Artist’s talk yesterday afternoon (Sunday 11th) that paint seems out of favour with contemporary curators in context of the techno / Internet driven zeitgeist. I guess it makes me a contrarian to suggest that it’s precisely because of this shift that I think paint provides a stable reference, the better to see the movement taking place.

Down on the seafront at Jeffrey Louis-Reed’s studio  – formerly a ballroom – in the implacable, if tatty Palace Court apartment building there’s more than plenty to see & chat about. Different vibe to the Observer show & Jeffrey clearly keeps things moving at a pace – with works by his good self, along with Shuby Sophie AshtonSusan Diamond, Mark Charles, Victoria Kiff, Grand Dame &  Tiff McGinnis. I really like Victoria’s painting – (see below), the oil troweled on in places & rich as you like – physically & metaphorically tactile I thought.


The Ballroom


Current events


Victoria Kiff




Saturday 9 September..An excellent New Language in Hastings & a weird kinda’ language @ Facebook

So. Busy day yesterday – to the point that I went to the New Language Show at The Observer building (review coming later) without having seen the story about Facebook & their censorship of the Kim Phuc photograph by Nick Ut – that depicts her burnt, terrified and fleeing from Napalm bombs. I imagine that readers of this blog will already be familiar with the details – and the Dear Mark letter from Espil Egen Hansen, the Editor-in-Chief and CEO of the Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten to Mark Zuckerberg, Editor-in-Chief and CEO of Facebook.

I suspect deleting the Norwegian PM Erna Solberg’s criticism was probably the point at which the red telephone rang & the algorithmic prose style back tracking response began thus:

“After hearing from our community, we looked again at how our Community Standards were applied in this case. An image of a naked child would normally be presumed to violate our Community Standards, and in some countries might even qualify as child pornography. In this case………” Facebook spokesperson.

So. Continuing the theme of melon twisting & bizarre language of the type that some galleries also like, I thought it might be fun to run up an artist’s statement for Mark Zuckerberg. In this regard, I’m indebted to Belgian Artist Jasper Rigole – Thank You.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg (°1984, White Plains, United States) creates media artworks, photos, media art and films. By using popular themes such as sexuality, family structure and violence, Zuckergerg often creates work using creative game tactics, but these are never permissive. Play is a serious matter: during the game, different rules apply than in everyday life and even everyday objects undergo transubstantiation.

His media artworks are characterised by the use of everyday objects in an atmosphere of middleclass mentality in which recognition plays an important role. By taking daily life as subject matter while commenting on the everyday aesthetic of middle class values, he often creates several practically identical works, upon which thoughts that have apparently just been developed are manifested: notes are made and then crossed out again, ‘mistakes’ are repeated.

His works are on the one hand touchingly beautiful, on the other hand painfully attractive. Again and again, the artist leaves us orphaned with a mix of conflicting feelings and thoughts. By manipulating the viewer to create confusion, he touches various overlapping themes and strategies. Several reoccurring subject matter can be recognised, such as the relation with popular culture and media, working with repetition, provocation and the investigation of the process of expectations.

His works often refers to pop and mass culture. Using written and drawn symbols, a world where light-heartedness rules and where rules are undermined is created. Mark Zuckergerg currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

Thursday 8 September …..End of another Era (etc, etc)

This makes me think of Sir Alex Ferguson leaving Man U. For non footballing readers (probably 99% of the audience, with me being the 1%) that leaves his successor with quite an act to follow. Sidecar note – I went to the Tate Tanks a few weeks ago for the first time & thought about the Albert Hall – in that they’re both amazing venues, but think both need huge presence from the  spectacle inside to make the room come alive.


Wednesday 7 September….End of an Era (etc)

Not sure yet what to think of the Fabric nightclub closure situation

It feels reactive, rather than proactive.  Having been only once I can’t reliably comment. But in a risk mitigation context it feels reliable to assume that a large number of people across the land are completely of their heads on psychoactive substances in similar clubs. For sure, the decision will put pressure on licences everywhere to tighten up – making nightclubs more & more like an airport with music instead of shops. But how is that going to stop kids loading up 5 minutes before they greet the bouncer? And so it goes, the drugs policy merry-go-round still seems to be going round in circles.


Monday 5 & Tuesday 6 September 2016 – Coastal Currents review cont’d, with excellent nutrition & beverages en route & Durutti Column…

V interesting week-end in St. Leonard’s-on-Sea & Hastings – chatting with artists and looking at 21 open studios and galleries taking part in the Coastal Currents Arts Festival  – which runs for a month with various events & a repetition next week-end of the open studios covered below. There’s a wide range of Art to take in – everything from Sunday Afternoon painting, through kitsch and all the way to white wall ‘Fine Art’ conceptualism…take your pick.

Looking forward to this week-end – when I’ll try to see the balance.

And, there’s a second bigger Festival for Hastings, Bexhill, Battle & Normandy too: The Root 1066 International Festival which is grander in scale & budget with a more diverse series of events – in the public arts environment. The preview for the ‘New Language’ show looks especially interesting – see flyer below.



Scroll down for earlier posts about the  Project 78 Gallery,  Baker Mamonova &  Lucy Bell Fine Art.

So, the week-end studios – kicked off with Brazilian artist Luiza Machado’s fantastic studio in an old shop on Silchester Road, St Leonards.

Nearby, Angel Rose gets top marks for business card clarity & arresting website imagery –


Same building houses Oska Lappin’s Fine Art painting practice – with an abundance of oils & Minotaurs, which is on the corner of Norman Road. At Fleet Gallery had a good chat with Patrick Robbins about a cool pair of Drylund Smith original chairs & round table I’d like too…

Another cool shop – on King’s Rd – is Frances Emerald’s Calneva Vintage goods. Frances is an artist – see her Lino Cut of the Grade 2, late thirties Art Deco Marine Court apartment building.

Also on Kings’ Rd, I met Danielle at Bargain Studios which I hope the Bargain collective won’t mind me suggesting has echoes of the v successful Turner Prize winning Assemble Architects’ collective .

Swinging by the Warrior Square train station, I had a great conversation with Rob Maxted from Zoom Arts, who have a small, but well placed space right next to the train station front door & a group show. We chatted about art for all, egalitarianism vs. elitism – esoteric & exoteric art….I think Rob is doing a great job.

More photography based work at No.1 Undercliffe Terrace – with Selina Chen‘s work & Stuart Robinson’s ‘States of Mind’ pictures of Russia, China & North Korea. I liked Stuart’s stuff – in terms of access they’re fascinating – showing times & places in a blank, detached way that’s in keeping with the reputation of the subject matter. Of course this opens the door to a conversation about the reliability of photography as representation, which I think is half the fun, no? But some of the pictures also work on that other, trickier to achieve intangible level that I think people can feel – but find hard to articulate. Something about presence, or depth…& somehow triggering memories of what you can see – but that can’t exist because you were never there.

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - Pip Carpenter

Around the corner, is Pip Carpenter in Stanhope Place – with a full monty printing press in her living room. After a quick & instructive tutorial on acid etch Dry Point hand coloured printing, a catch up on Ulster politics and a peek at some of her Fauveseque palette work I headed to Alexandra Leadbeater’s huge studio – where  the enamel jug series paintings particularly stood out. Across the way I found Julie from Cribb & Hammer – Restoration and Bespoke Carpentry and Joinery, working away restoring a fine but tired table to former glory. Next door, is tree surgeon & Timber Sculptor Joc Hare’s workshop – full of trees, machines & a beast of an oil drum wood burner stove & oven.

Further North, at Ben Hunt’s impromptu gallery ‘No. 6 The Green’ there’s an interesting mix of conceptual Fine Art sculpture by Beccy McCray, photography based collage by Emma Midghall  & paintings & mixed media pieces by John Hunt.

Really like this one by Emma – (please excuse screen grab presentation..)

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art -

Heading back into town, I met Emma Harding & see her mosaics – some of which are townscapes – that really attract with an unnerving sensation of a presence behind the anonymous windows in the street compositions portrayed.

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - mosaic

Headed back into town there’s Jenny in Woodland Vale Road – whose studio is a peaceful shed that overlooks a garden with more plants of different types than I have ever seen. I mention that it smells nice & Jenny has me rub some leaves of something between my fingers – which then smell of lemon sherbet dib dabs like I had when I was a kid.  There’s a great painting in the kitchen, decent size & abstract. And check out the hats…Indigo Jones would definitely approve.

In Hastings I gravitate towards the Observer building – at this stage pretty much unaware of the tumult surrounding its future.

I’m delighted to see a Robert Montgomery piece hanging over the door, which is part of the New Language / Root 1066 ShowI love his stuff.


Inside I meet Wendy Smith – whose studio unfortunately doesn’t have room for loads of her other interesting textile / installation stuff – but the ink drawings of the surrounding coast are stark & true – & I really liked.

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - Wendy Smith

Enfin, I got chatting to Ben Browton, who was respondent in orange & generous with his time – Thank You.

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - Ben Browton

Excellent nutrition & beverages along the way were enjoyed at The Old Custom House pub in Hastings (delicious Italian house white & chowder) & a v tasty burger (“..the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast..”) at HalfMan HalfBurger

The Old Custom House chef stopped me square in my tracks playing – Durutti Column – Sketch For Summer – from back in the day when…

Thursday 1 September – Parkhead & the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute, Rodrigo Duterte’s dirty war in the media & the Coastal Currents Arts Festival in St. Leonard’s-on-Sea & Hastings…


In an August post I mentioned that I was uncertain about introducing a political element to the ‘editorial’ of Soap and Rocket, in context of its Fine Art intentions. That said, there’s a balance to be struck somewhere between art, artists and how we respond to current events. And in this circumstance, given my healthy respect for civil disobedience, Liberty, the ACLU etc, I couldn’t let the Celtic football fans performance at a recent game pass without note.  The Daily Mail can give the uninitiated a run through of events.

However, at Haaretz, the popular Israeli newspaper “[My] search for parkhead celtic palestine flags did not match any articles”. Which is a shame, because I’m keen to understand how mainstream publications with a more connected interest in Palestine report things. It’s all about how we see.

My immediate thought was to link Tommie Smith, Peter Norman & John Carlos @ the Men’s 200m prize giving at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico – with Parkhead. For sure the contexts are wildly different – but the resistance to rules intended to keep politics separate from sport & sponsorship is a constant.

See Feyisa Lilesa & Colin Kaepernick  who continue the trend.


Soap and Rocket - Fine Art Blog - Feyisa Lelisa


Soap and Rocket - Fine Art - Colin Kaepernick - NFL


Another story getting regular press revolves around Rodrigo Duterte, the new President of the Philippines – where the goings on  that result from the President’s shoot-to-kill strategy for crime reduction feel eerily dystopian, despite their happening – now, today. Which is less a reflection of my politics & more a confusion about how things got so out-of-control, and how they are reported in the media.

As with coverage of the Parkhead Palestinian flag waving, perspective is all & sober or lurid lifestyle preferences are catered to.

But then I read the BBC piece below – which seems to render all other coverage or commentary about the same story as clickbait.

A world away – in St Leonard’s on Sea the Coastal Currents Arts festival kicks off Saturday 3 September.

Taking a sneak peek ahead of the rush I found Poppy Joneslovely etchings & prints in a show called ‘ The Gardener who saw God’ at the Project 78 Gallery – run by Patrick Adam Jones, whose striking ‘I AM’ picture hangs just down the road in the Baker Mamonova gallery – inside the Kino – Teatr building.

Soap and Rocket - Fine Art Photography - Patrick Adam Jones

And there’s an excellent show at Lucy Bell Fine Art – of Graham Keen’s beautifully printed 35mm black and white sixties photographs that cover everyone who was anyone – including a couple of fantastic pictures of Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon chatting in the Tate.

More about Coastal Currents after the week-end..