– Sudden Death, 2014 –

Since I decided to concentrate on art for these posts, I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries. A recent one I enjoyed was episode five of Masterclass – in which a group of young artists talk to Julian Schnabel in his studio. It was filmed around the time Schnabel was finishing work on The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (2007) (Schnabel won best director for the film at that year’s Cannes Film Festival). I was really struck by Schnabel’s generosity of spirit, the way he put the students at their ease and his desire to entertain them. He reminded me of the feeling I’ve had about art since I first encountered it as a concept.

In 1975, I was at Gorsemoor Middle School in Ferndown, Dorset, which in retrospect was a free-thinking, experimental place – we were exposed to The Beatles, Bowie, and Mike Oldfield in music lessons and there were posters of works by Warhol, Lichtenstein and Richard Avedon dotted about the premises. The teachers were easy-going and hippy-ish. In art class we were not expected to produce representational drawings and paintings, but to explore ideas which, although not strictly current, were forward thinking for nine-year-olds. In one lesson we were introduced to Pop Art and invited to produce paintings based on the tins and packets the teacher had brought into the classroom. Although the powder paint ran on my can of Heinz Baked Beans, it was accepted by the teacher and the class, I was included, and I saw a door to somewhere else.

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– Save Us, 2014 –

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Sudden Death, Save Us and Helen of Troy are tracks eleven, five and two respectively of John Cale’s album, Helen of Troy (1975). I have a critical blind-spot when it comes to John Cale, so I wouldn’t know a bad album if I heard it. This one contains a really beautiful song, I Keep A Close Watch, which reminds me of Gorsemoor School – I suppose it’s possible I heard it there.

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– Helen of Troy, 2014 –

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I believe that a picture, a work of art, lives and dies just as we do. That is, it lives from the time it’s conceived and created, for some 50 or 60 years, it varies, and then the work dies. And that is when it becomes art history. So, art history only begins after the death of the work, but as long as the work lives, or at least in the first 50 years of its life, it communicates with people living in the same period who have accepted it or rejected it and who have talked about it. These people die and the work dies with them. And that is where the history of art begins.

(Extract from an interview with Marcel Duchamp, reproduced in The Art Newspaper, 1993)

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