Dick French: On The Town – September 2017

I’ve just been to see an exhibition by an artist whose name for the moment escapes me. He is having an exhibition of his furniture-friendly Pop-Art style abstractions. They’re copies of book covers – title above, abstraction below. A few years ago there was someone, perhaps it was the same bloke, doing large pictures of penguin book covers. Scrape that barrel.

The only unusual aspect is that the hard-edge compositional passages are superimposed on sloppy bits that he lets dribble at the lower edge. It’s a formula he could pursue for the rest of his life.

Some would say “’Twas ever thus!” And thus ’twas, I suppose. But the art world has never been such a joke as it is at present. And it behoves us all to treat it accordingly. You can go along and have a laugh at White Cube Gallery in Mason’s Yard.

“Sir!”, as Dr Johnson didn’t say, “The man who is tired of the 24 bus route is tired of life. From the bosky glades of Hampstead Heath it glides gently through Camden Town and down to the West End. At the bottom of Gower Street you can turn left for the British Museum or right to Bradley’s Spanish Bar and Soho. Further on past the guitar shops of Denmark Street, now destined for demolition by the megalomaniac town and railway planners. The 12 Bar Club is already closed down and before that went the wonderful Black Gardenia at the top of Dean Street – all victims of Crossrail. Stay on to Leicester Square and turn left for the Salisbury or a bit further for Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. link Thence to Whitehall where I often alight at the Cock and Bottle for a morning draught. Thus refreshed I might continue on foot along Millbank to the Tate Gallery.

The other night I deviated from my usual habits and took a bus up to Islington to see the new exhibition by George Rowlett, who has been painting in Italy for a while, taking in the temples at Paestum along with a few land and seacapes. While waiting for Mrs Cravat in the Island Queen I noticed a tall earthenware jar by the window. Its neck was decorated with fairy lights. It reminded me of Samuel Beckett’s great novel The Unnameable, and although some call it The Unreadable I have always found it most absorbing. In it a creature lives in a jar by a restaurant, just a stump with its head poking out. There’s some sawdust in the bottom and from time to time it gets mucked out and spread on the roses. At Christmas they string fairy lights around the neck of the jar and place a tarpaulin over its head if it snows. As the menu dangles from the neck, to read it people must lean down towards the creature’s head.

Edward Burra was a great fan of Beckett and he thought it would be rather nice to live in a jar with just his eyes poking out. He did a number of pictures on this theme. Being so disabled it was a bit like describing his own condition, although he always managed to get around.

An interesting feature of George Rowlett’s paintings is that they often contain fragments of the scene which inspired them. Flies, gnats, twigs, and in one of his recent pieces what looks like the tailfin of a sardine is poking out of a rape field. It’s a bit like Goya writing “Yo Lo Vi”. I saw this. I was there. Perhaps it’s just another way of trapping the moment. I always wonder about the insects etc. which must have been stuck in Van Gogh’s paintings. He always complained about