Posts filed under 'News'

Tony Benn’s Funeral

 

It was a real honour for me to have been invited to Tony Benn’s funeral at Westminster Abbey on Thursday. He made some enemies over the years but a lot more friends so the more intimate St Margaret’s Church in the Abbey was full to the rafters. It looked more like a demonstration outside as we went into the church with miners strike banners from the 80’s and Stop the War Coalition banners from the noughties , a huge crowd that he had encouraged and inspired over the decades. I found myself sitting next to , or in close proximity to Alastair Campbell, Peter Tatchell and George Galloway, quite a formidable trio.

As Tony Benn became almost a “National Treasure” in later life, after he had retired, it’s easy to forget just how radical his politics was with mourners like Arthur Scargill, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in the congregation. In fact I remember the afternoon after one of our morning sittings Gerry Adams was due to have a meeting with Tony Benn in his basement office.  This would have been back in 1997 , still the very early stages of the peace process and I seem to remember shortly after this Benn was the first politician to invite Adams into the House of Commons for which he got a lot of stick from the press at the time.

I also thought it was interesting to see Shirley Williams and David Steel there too after Williams , one of the Gang of Four who broke away from the Labour party in the early 80’s to form the SDP , largely due to the direction Tony Benn and Michael Foot were taking the Labour Party which caused a huge rift.  Tony Blair didn’t make the funeral , he sent Cherrie but something tells me Tony Benn wouldn’t have missed him.

His 3 son’s and daughter made extremely emotional and articulate speeches towards the end of the service , the Benn spirit of oratory was in them all.

Although I was only really an acquaintance of the family Hillary Benn made me feel like the closest family friend  when he greeted me which is quite a skill. It certainly felt like the end of an era in many ways but he definitely lives on through his family. Photo’s courtesy of  The Guardian.

March 31st, 2014

TONY BENN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was very sad to hear the news about Tony Benn’s passing.   I knew that he was unwell and was kind of expecting an announcement but it still comes as a shock. It’s been a huge news story, as he got older he became a national treasure which is in stark contrast to his political hay day when he was hated by many. But ultimately  he was  a man of huge principal , conviction, passion  and belief which the nation respected him for. Certainly I felt that he had a very purifying presence when you are in his company and you felt that there was a lot of good within him. The last time that I saw him was just before Christmas when we made a film about the portrait that I painted with him for the Palace of Westminster archive and website. I could tell then that he was getting older but bless him he still tried to light up his pipe in Portcullis House on 3 occasions during the filming to the dismay of the fire security man who very respectfully asked him not to.( There’s a link to the film below).

I first met Tony back in 1998 when I went for a series of sittings at his home in Notting Hill which he had moved into way way before the area became gentrified. The office was very busy with lots of papers on his desk, lots of technical gadgets on a table , mainly for recording purposes because he always recorded interviews. There was a sense that he lived and breathed socialism and there were lots of socialist/ Labour objects that people had given to him over the years and he had kept them all,  the plavce felt a little like a museum. I remember one room was completely taken over by a huge miners banner given to him by Arthur Scargill. We sat in his white plastic lawn chairs in his office and talked about how we might like to compose the portrait and what we could put in it that reflected him as a sitter. many of the things were already in place and others we brought down, like chair which he is sitting in which was once owned by Kier Hardy and he loved the idea of getting a small statue of Karl Marx into Westminster which is on the shelf.  His wife , Caroline would often pop into the sittings for a chat and his brother would come for soup at lunchtime sometimes. He gave me a little socialist pin badge which I have treasured after the last sitting. My Dad was a big fan of his and he came into the sittings the one time and was made extremely welcome. I had a number of sittings and unveilings with him and we became  friends. When my Dad died and he found out he telephoned my mother straight away to offer his condolences and he wrote to me and when he say my work in the broadsheets he would often write to me and when Anne and me got married he wrote a little  piece for the day. A measure of the man I think, somebody who was always interested in people and something he always said , which I haven’t heard many people mention in the tributes  was ” Always encourage people”

It was a privilege to meet Tony and become one of his many many friends and his contribution will never be forgotten.

 

March 15th, 2014

STORM IN A TEA CUP/ slow news day – MP’S PORTRAITS AT THE PALACE OF WESTMINSTER

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/14/mps-portraits-scandal-britain-hatred

 

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/14/mps-portraits-scandal-britain-hatred

I can’t believe how this story about the portrait collection at the House of Commons has escalated. It’s been on every TV news channel , radio, broadsheet and even tabloid. I think the most balanced and truthful piece was in yesterdays Guardian (which is attached above) by Jonathan Jones and it was very nice of him to focus on my portrait of Tony Benn which is in the collection.
I imagine a journalist was invited to Portcullis House for lunch and was shown the collection and had the germ of an idea to gently massage a nerve. In truth it’s a none story, £250,000 spent over almost 20 years is actually peanuts in the scheme of government spending. And from it they have some great depictions and a few exceptional portraits from some of the best portrait painters in the country. Again, in truth many of the artists did the portraits very much in good will because in the early days of the collection there was very little funding so back in 1998 I took the view that it was a great project to do and other work would come from it which indeed it did.
It’s a shame when issues like Syria have dropped off the news agenda in recent months this kind of inflammatory journalism can steal the headlines.

January 15th, 2014

ANDY HAMILTON DIES

I saw on the local TV news a few weeks ago that the Birmingham based Jazz legend Andy Hamilton died which I was very sad to hear. I think he was about 94 tears old. I’ll never forget the entrance that he mad when I went to his house for the first sitting with him, gliding down his stair lift with a sharp, pin striped suit and trilby, holding his sax and looking every part the legend that he was. More pictures of Andy to come…

June 17th, 2012

GERMAN TV SHOW

A German TV company approached me and a few of the other artists from Plus One to do a show for them on Photorealism. The show is called Galileo and I understand from the producer that it is a German version of The South Bank Show but a bit more populist, so maybe with a bit of The One Show thrown in too. I recorded it a few weeks ago at the gallery in Chelsea and the background was mocked up to look like an artists studio. I was basically doing a lot of talking and they filmed me painting a little segment of a painting which I was working on. I think my painting of Ray, the floating tattooed man is also a big feature of the show. I think it’s going to be broadcast over the next few weeks.

June 17th, 2012

NEW BABY

Sorry it’s been so long since the last post, Anne and myself had a lovely little girl back in late November and I’ve taken a little time out but am back at the easel now. Many of you already know, but her name is Scarlett and she’s 12 weeks old now and is a little beauty. Thanks to everyone who sent cards and gifts and came to visit, much appreciated.

 

 

February 13th, 2012

Current Exhibitions

invitation-black-and-white-1.pdf  –  (click on link)

 The Frissiras Museum , Athens.    2/3/11 – 31/7/11

 The Frissaris Museum is about to stage an exhibition called “Black and White”. It features work from their collection of drawings, etchings paintings and lithographs. They sent me a catalogue yesterday because they are showing one of my paintings and it looks like a great show. I like the poster with the fantastic Greek typography. Quite a lot of the artists are Greek and I’m not familiar with most so it’s lovely to see what they are up to. There are a few names I recognise, Aurback, Hockney and Rego so we’re all certainly in good company. It’s nice to see galleries doing shows in monochrome, it’s a wonderful area to explore.

Americans Now, The Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.  Continues until 10th July.

http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/americansnow/index.html

This exhibition features to of my portraits, Cormac McCarthy and Prof. Murray Gell-Mann.

In Focus,  Plus One Gallery, London.  16/3/11 – 9/4/11

http://www.plusonegallery.com/Shows-Detail.cfm?ShowsID=215

This show opens in a few weeks and features the figurative work of 3 artists, Philip Harris, Simon Hennessey and myself.

February 27th, 2011

Kitty Godley obituary – The Guardian 20/1/11

 

Click on the following link:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/jan/19/kitty-godley-obituary

January 21st, 2011

Farewell Kitty.

46-kitty-triptych-e-mail.jpg

I received the sad news that Kitty Godley had died last Monday morning from her daughter the following day. I think we all open e-mails in a rather automatic way, each one seems to have the same weight and importance but when I resad the message I was really taken back by the sad news. I ‘ve left a few days before I posted anything because I hadn’t seen anything in the press until Fridays’s obituary piece in The Times.

I remember when I was about 16 seeing a poster of a profile portrait of Kitty by Lucian Freud which was in the collection ate the old Walsall museum and art gallery. I immediately loved it and at this age had timmid hopes / aspirations  of being an artist. I went into the gallery , the first time I had ever dared set foot into a gallery in fact feeling crushed by the feeling that I shouldn’t actually be here and hoped no one would speak to me and I looked at the painting that I had seen in the poster. As the years went on I went to art college and graduated and worked professionally, almost forgetting about the profile of Kitty having devoured so many images over the years. It was still at the beack of my mind and towards the millenium I started to wonder if Kitty was still alive. I carried on working on my own work and commissions and around 2005 I thought right, if I’m going to catch up with Kitty I’ll haveto do it soon. I liaised with The New Art Gallery ,Walsall and got in touch. I first spoke to her on the telephone, I speak quite quickly, like a machine gun some say,  and with a broad accent and Kitty spoke very very quietly and slowly, almost in a kind of distracted way. Kitty was extremely obliging and agreed to allow me to visit. It was a idealistic gentile picture postcard little country village, thatched cottages, duck ponds and village pubs. I immagined the locals to be like the Warmington on Sea home guard or John Gielgud and it certainly felt more like the 1940’s than 2005.

I walked up the overgrown pathway to Kitty’s door. I hadn’t seen any photographs of her since the 1950’s and as soon as I saw Kitty I thought “Wow, waht a fantastic face”. I went in and had a glass of water with her. “I like your wallpapaer” I said. “Morris” said Kitty. It was very much the bohemian cottage I would have expected , Aga, log burner, and paintings, drawings and etchings on the the wall. But not your ordinary pictures. Kitty’s family donated their art collection to Walsall Art Gallery in 1972 and what a collection it was, Van Gough, Picasso, Constable, Freud the list goes on. So, as I walked around Kitty’s house I walked passed a Courbet landscape or a Goya etching. Kitty was a keen painter herself and in one corner was an easel with a painting in progress. Celotaped onto the wall was a newspaper cutting about her former husband, Lucian Freud’s recent exhibition. I was trying to settle down to the sitting but was constantly interrupted by her cleaner who was dusting and hoovering around us, then a carpenter came to work on the front door  and later came the meals on wheels for Kitty and her husband Wynne. So, there was a kind of Chaos going on but we managed to settle an chat. We both shared  the same favourite Freud portrait which was of John Minton.  Kitty talked about when she used to be married to Freud and Francis Bacon used to come over for the weekend and disappear to the next village in pursuite of male company and gambling. Kitty really didn’t care for Bacon she said. Towards the end of the sitting I met her husband Wynne Godley and we had a long chat about America and the two of them living in New York in the 50’s and how glamorous that seemed to me. I could tell that they loved eachother very much and I think their relationship is the thing that  I remember most about my visit. Despite the chaotic sitting I left feeling invigorated because Kitty had let me into her world  I knew I’d got some great material to work with.

 

 

January 17th, 2011

Don Van Vliet – Captain Beefheart

p11358kc1tw.jpgtrout.jpg

 American music lost of of it’s greatest and most eccentric muscians last Friday in Don Van Vliet alias – Captain Beefheart. As important as the Velvet Underground in my opinion with their crazy fusion of blues , jazz and weird. I love Beefheart.

December 22nd, 2010

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