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Paint like a child

An ‘insider’ documentary about David Gilmore I watched recently ended with a summer evening scene of his family glowing in the flames of a barbecue. A sweet voiced young girl sang to her guitar. A scene of perfection, yet of closure, as though Gilmore was handing down the musical batten to a new generation.

David Gilmour Wider Horizons - BBC documentary

The documentary prompted me to dig into his music - I had overlooked the ‘solo’ Gilmore, and I came across him singing a song by Syd Barrett.

Gilmour describes Syd Barrett as: “… very strange…The light had gone out of his eyes…He was very monosyllabic. We did five gigs together, as a five piece…which was pretty strange I can tell you!”

I wondered what had happened to Barrett and if he really had gone ‘crazy’. I found a long drifting ZBS foundation interview from August 1967 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xRaVTKDipA) where, speaking very slowly, he talks about the first drive to paint, as an infant, and due to social and family setups and exposure to teaching and instruction, this creative urge becomes altered and modified. As an adult he wanted to paint, without the influence.

It brings to mind the famous Picasso quote: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

Syd Barrett

Syd Barrett painting

Wylie and Twombly

Rose Wylie, Palm Tree and Camel (Queen of Sheba), 2012. Oil on canvas

"I don't like slick, I don't like clever" says Rose Wylie in an interview with MK Palomar.

Commenting on Wylie's habit of writing in her art, Palomar notes: "It's interesting coz alot of times...when people paint words on canvases... it's telling you something... and yet somehow you're not, you're subverting that even?"

Wylie replies: "I don't like knowledge being shoved on by quoting Plato or Homer. I think it's pathetic. If the painting doesn't work without shoving Homer on it, then you should make the painting better"

Fifty Days at Iliam: Shield of Achilles, Cy Twombly

Are you stuck?

If there is an artist that the public love to hate it would be Tracy Emin. She's not highlighted for her drawing skills.

Tracy Emin
Tracy Emin

Culturally, we tend to think it's just fine to draw 'spontaneously' but only so long as we can draw. A child can't draw, but that's ok, as a child.

Childhood drawing by Lucien Freud
Childhood drawing by Lucien Freud
Lucien Freud
Lucien Freud

Typically, after years of training and school one learns to draw. Until it's realised, in the age of post Dada, actually anything goes...

Rosie Wylie
Rosie Wylie

Unless, of course, you're Emin. Years of our teachers aspiring to realism, years of students telling themselves that they can't draw, years of perplexing conceptional art, won't let Emin get away with it. She just can't draw.

Tracy Emin
Tracy Emin

Yet Emin's drawings are more interesting. Deciphering them, not marvelling at their technical prowess is surely the point?

Emin's former husband, Billy Childish, coined the term Stuckism - apparently Emin had exclaimed, "Your paintings are stuck, you are stuck! Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!". Perhaps she has a point.