From watch the birdie to the brilliance of Constable

Who remembers watch the birdie

New Forest reminiscence and reflections on the passing of time in the art world

Mark and Hugh writer and cartoonistThis week's musings and cartoonings from our resident pair Mark and Hugh begins... 

"Here’s a little memory test for you. Do you remember the palaver of holiday snaps back in the eighties? Remember how you snapped away, hoping the exposure was right, the composition acceptable, the image not shaken? The joy and laughter as you, the snapper, shouted ‘Bananas!’ before pressing the button on your Instamatic?

Then, once back home, the dreaded, brightly coloured envelope with the accusatory questions on the lip which reminded you before you licked the gum. Have you included a cheque (remember them?), your address slip, the film?

Then the ten-day wait before the photos plopped onto the hallway carpet and then, after all that, probably two or three went straight to the bin. Now, of course, you think nothing of taking a selfie with a friend as you both smile happily and then, effortlessly, transmit the results across the globe.  How astonishing!

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Continuing with Mark...

"Recording a portrait in days gone by was a teensy bit more involved. The process required something called an artist and a client and a chair. Also paint, canvas, an easel, a studio and time; oodles of it. There was something else that the client needed and that was patience, and a good cushion.

If you were asked what sort of paintings you would associate with John Constable I wonder what would your answer be? Landscapes perhaps, scenes of the Suffolk countryside? You would be right of course but what about Winchester Cathedral, what about Weymouth Bay, what about portraits?

Drawing with the right side of the brain.

This is the title of a wonderful book by a lady who disagrees furiously with those familiar words “Oh I can’t draw, never have been able to”. In it she takes the reader through simple but effective exercises which prove that the reader can draw. Her argument is that we need to engage the right side of the brain, something that artists do subconsciously.

John Constable, like many artists I suspect, tried most genres in order to bring the bacon home, it’s what a man does! Particularly a man with seven children to support! He tried portraiture which he found boring and he also painted occasional religious pictures. How odd that an artist who has painted what are arguably the most striking, most evocative and powerful images of English country life was not a commercial success. In fact, he did far better in France than in England. Thankfully many of his wonderful works can be found in galleries in this country although some did go abroad.

Praise be to the specialists.

They do say that in nature specialisation can be the death of a species. For example, there is a humming bird which is supremely adapted to feeding on the nectar of just one plant. Its bill and tongue have evolved for one specialist purpose. However, if the plant were to die out then so would the bird. Alan Turing, an utter genius who saved many lives through breaking German codes during the second world war was, seemingly, incapable of basic bodily hygiene. Offer him a bar of soap and he might look away disinterestedly. Offer him a page of seemingly unintelligible letters and numbers and you could lose him for months. Constable was lined up to take over the prosperous family grain business but he preferred his art. He turned away from a comfortable and secure future and chose his calling, not an easy thing to do in the days before the advent of the state safety net that many of us take for granted. The result of this determination and iron will was that he was able to devote his time and his imagination to the paintings that so many of us love today. There are some younger artists that dismiss his more traditional style as they self-publicise their brave new ‘creations’ or ‘installations’. To us though, and by us I mean ordinary British people, the utter beauty that Constable gifted us has given us joy for a very long time and will certainly outlive butchered animals in oversized fish tanks or unmade beds. 

15may20 Excuse me constablecould you tell me the time please NO BORDER

 "Excuse me constable, could you tell me the time please?"

Finally, a message to Mr or Mrs Covid 19.

Go to hell, please. We want our culture back! Once the restrictions are eased, I shall be off to the St Barbe Museum or any of the other galleries nearby, or perhaps up to Town to take in some of the more well known galleries for a little time spent nourishing the right side of the brain. For the moment you are a nuisance, but we, and our delight in the beauty of art, will survive whatever you throw at us. So there!

Please take care and please stay safe.




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