Moping Owl: Club Feat

Oh dear. I had expected to be out and about again by now, as did we all, even if it did mean wearing the mask and keeping one’s distance, and hardly daring to look at anyone, let alone breathe. But no: here we all still are, stuck at home and doing as we’re told, good boys and girls to a man, or woman as the case may be – though it’s becoming increasingly hard to tell which is which in these confusing self-identificarious times. And to make life ever more troublesome than it needs to be, there then follows the awkward business, taken with all due care and consideration for the feelings of others – a natural civil duty and obligation after all – of wondering on the most meagre of evidence if we are dealing with a truly delicate plant, a manifest lunatic, or a joke. People do take such offence at the slightest and most innocent provocation, whether imagined or contrived, don’t you find, and we don’t want to end up at the bottom of the river like that lump of old bronze.

At least that genial if tiresome national treasure, Sir (it can’t be long) Cynthia Puppy RA, potter to the stars, doesn’t put us to that trouble. We know perfectly well where we are with him, usually that state of mild embarrassment as when the joke falls flat, yet again. But at least when he’s on the television he seems to prefer to leave his frock in the wardrobe and ankle socks in the drawer. He’s been on it quite a bit lately, supposedly to keep our spirits up amidst the gloom, and he seems somewhat less colourful too so far as I can tell, watching in black and white as I do – a Sony 9” portable c. 1970 since you ask, which I have to give a shake from time to time to get a picture: I mislaid the aerial long ago. And without the Alice Band his hair is rather floppier, and much longer too. I’m surprised Mrs Cynthia, who has been appearing with him on the programme, hasn’t picked up the pudding bowl and given him a trim. She does her own hair, perhaps in the same way, rather fetchingly in grey and white stripes, like a badger, very neat.

Where was I? Oh yes, the programme. It was called Cynthia’s Art Club (I speak from fading memory) in which under his eponymous direction the viewer of every hue and cry, talent, description and proclivity, was encouraged to produce what he, and I fear you and I too, moving with the times as we must, would call an ‘artwork’ on the set theme of the week, safe in the understanding, since we are all artists now, that art wouldn’t come into it.

And so it came to pass that every Tom, Dick and Harriet, Sharon, Jim and Wayne, not to mention Malik and Ramon down the road, nor forgetting old Dan Pearce out in the sticks, set to with a will with whatever was at hand or came to mind – macramé, finger-painting, applique, matchsticks, corks, wool, glue, pencils, coloured pencils, charcoal, ink, even paint: you name it. They then took a photo on the phone of said ‘artwork’, loosely fitting description as painting, drawing, print or sculpture, and pinged it off to Cynthia for adjudication in hope of being singled out for discussion on the programme and virtual exhibition (one Clare Warde’s effort, above).

Cynthia, meanwhile, had been far from idle, calling on both long experience and natural talent slowly to produce – for it had perforce to last the series – one of his pots-cum-sculpture, or sculpture-pots if you insist. It would, we were assured, come to signify and celebrate his experience of the lockdown and what it meant to him, or something like that. And we followed its progress as it grew, or sprouted might be the better word, episode by episode, into something rather more than just a pot or indeed common sculpture: something, how shall I say, more exotic, fetishistic, even organic, like a small triffid, or mutant cactus. And every so often Mrs Cynthia would potter in and say, “Ooh, that’s nice Dear. Yes that’s much better. It’s changed a bit, though, and what’s that chunk of metal doing? Oh, I see. Hmmm”. And then she’d potter off.

On the whole Cynthia’s Art Club was all rather charming, in an evening institute kind of way, and certainly very popular. But then art as therapy so often is. Let’s Fill this Town with Artists, as the old song goes. We’re all artists after all, aren’t we?