Ars longa, vita brevis – “Life is short but art is eternal” (kinda).

Retrospective graphics.073

What a treat! At the weekend we went to see the “Death: A Self Portrait” exhibition at The Wellcome Institute, London, UK.

Like many British people, I have a strong love / hate relationship with London. The UK wealth and population is grotesquely and disproportionately distributed between London and “outside London”. Many years ago, in my pre-broadband days, I was telephone-ordering a computer peripheral and the North-American voice on the other end of the line asked me “Is Rotherham in Greater London?”

Anyway, regular readers will be aware of my obsession with memento mori and vanitas art, so it was a great pleasure to be treated by my lovely wife to there on a trip to see the remarkable personal collection of Richard Harris, a retired antique print dealer, presented by The Wellcome Collection. The show continues until February 24th so if you want to see it, you’d better get your skates on, but watch those busy London roads. It would be ironic if you met your end on the way there.

It’s a great show, very dense and wide ranging. The stand-out work for me is the sculpture, particularly a beautiful bronze skull, and also a stunningly visceral mixed media sculpture  “Are you still mad at me?” John Issacs, 2001.

It said “No photography” on the walls although people were still snapping with their phones but, being British, I didn’t. However, I did capture Stalky having a look around.


We also took Stalky for a trip around London, including The Wheatsheaf on Tottenham Court Road, one of the watering holes of George Orwell, another hero of mine. Orwell was dead at 46 and achieved great work in his time. I’m older than that already, and that fact is a kick up the ars longa if anything is.

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Stalky Ringbits on tour, at The Court, Tottenham Court Road & The Wheatsheaf, Soho.

An unforeseen bonus was a trip through Tottenham Court Tube Station and Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1984 public art masterpiece.

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Tottenham Court Underground Station, 1984, Eduardo Paolozzi

After a few delays, I’ve got eight “Retrospective” flyers in print and online, and there will be lots more to come. Below is one of the earliest designs, but only just printed, commemorating a work of art that was anything but eternal.

Hippocrates was actually referring to art as in technique or skill, rather than what we now know as fine art, alluding to the time it took to acquire skill. Despite this common misinterpretation, remember life is short, and art doesn’t last forever either, so make sure you get to the shows while you can, and enjoy them before it’s loo late.


Wargames: A blast from the past

“Firestorm”, 1999

Made at a time heavily influenced by easily identifiable sources, “Wargames” is a series of 18 collages depicting an unnamed conflict, sometime in the past, present or future.

There is a catalogue entry for it here containing all the images.

Retrospective: re-imagining the past

In 2004 I went to Edinburgh to see the major retrospective show “Paolozzi at 80” at The Dean Gallery. Eduardo Paolozzi was a major early influence and, although his work is shown regularly, it is rare to see so much of it together.

Reviews of the show:

It was a very good show and upstairs was a gallery of “early work” including some juvenilia as well as a drawing of himself aged 11. The drawing is listed in the catalogue as “Self-portrait c.1935, Pencil and blue crayon on paper.” Paolozzi has signed it but the title has been added by a curator at sometime later once he had become an established artist. I could’t help feeling this is slightly ridiculous, it’s just a child’s drawing, but it led me to reassess my own work as the output of a whole life rather than suppressing the early doodles, the naive cul-de-sacs and the embarrassing failures, and only concentrating on the more successful and mature “serious” stuff.

Above is a self-portrait of mine from 1988.

As a result, I have decided to catalogue and publish my entire life’s output (so far), warts and all. Well, not absolutely everything, but a representative catalogue from childhood through to maturity. I have been very productive (on and off) although most of my work has never been seen. I will be 50 in 2014 and need to make a start.