Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!

Cat - Philip Absalon
This splendid action picture is by Philip Absolon a Stuckist painter. They’re a rebel art movement, dedicated to overthrowing the conceptual art establishment, as represented by the Turner Prize, in favour of figurative art. Here is the Stuckist Manifesto, which contains some interesting and radical ideas. The name is taken from the jibe by Tracey Emin, whose My Bed epitomises everything non-conceptual artists, and much of the general public, hate about conceptual art:

Your paintings are stuck, you are stuck! Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!

I can’t be so doctrinaire, either way, because I don’t know what I’m talking about. More to the point, I’m one of those dreadful people who Know What They Like, a group that’s often conflated with philistine Little Englanders. In my case, when the wind’s in the right direction, I can like pretty much anything – only the work matters and the labels are unimportant.

Here is an entertaining video of the two factions going at each other hammer and tongs. I love an Art Fight.

A Midsummer Night’s Melancholy

A Summmer Night's Melancholy  Michael Sowa

A cat and dog in one painting, two tribes satisfied(?) in one post. This is either efficiency or laziness, or just because I got behind in my daily posts and now I’m infilling (and backdating) as best I can.

Michael Sowa is the latest Surrealist to grab my attention. I like the way his bland titles play with language, suggesting you’ll get exactly what’s on the tin, and of course you don’t. Though the title is always “factual” in some sense. The paintings are witty, whimsical and satirical, as you can see from his gallery at WikiPaintings.

This painting features a bare, empty room, which captures the mood of a summer night when nothing seems to be happening, yet we’re filled with an inarticulate yearning for something. Sowa’s dog and cat perfectly counterpoint this unfocused longing with the alert gaze of the dog and relaxed posture of the cat.

Here are some of his illustrations for Donna Leon’s book,
Handel’s Bestiary: In Search of Animals in Handel’s Operas.

Hilda and I at Burghclere

Hilda and I at Burghclere - Stanley Spencer

There’s so much going in this painting by Stanley Spencer, from the preparations for bathing the baby to the detailed textures of the clothes, the wicker chair, the fireguard, and the weave of the rolled-up mat. It has an immediacy that puts me right there in the room.

The cat, a streak of fur in pursuit of the mat, steals the scene. Irresistible.

Here is a selection of his paintings, set to music, which complements them perfectly.

Between Heaven and Hell (1989)

Between Heaven and Hell (1989) - Yacek Yerka

I like this mysterious Surrealist painting, by Jacek Yerka, for the juxtaposition of a feasible domestic reality with the adjoining regions of Heaven and Hell. It’s daily life in the human condition, on the cusp of eventualities we read about every day in the media. Well, Heaven is a bit far-fetched, but does falling in love, winning the Lottery, or becoming a star on The X Factor count? Hell is so much easier to achieve. Even this cosy domesticity is undermined by the strange creatures breeding beneath the sink. The cat makes it a home, sacked out on the kitchen counter, not at all worried by the erosion of this fragile world.

This is my world, without the cat to make it bearable, the reason I’m so drawn to the painting. Not so much re-arranging the deck chairs as admiring their design. Jethro Tull had something to say in 1977, at a time of similar economic disaster, about the reality Yerka’s painting illustrates. If only it were just the economy.

You can read the lyrics here.

P.S. This is the Saturday Cats series, now moved to Sundays, and without the obvious title. There will always be a cat, but it won’t necessarily be the obvious focus of  attention.

Camouflage Cats

Camouflage CatsThe style of painting is called Toyism, a movement that began in The Netherlands in the 1990s. The artists all use aliases. Camouflage Cats is painted by Dejo, founder of the movement, and “a former rock musician who traded in his guitar for paint brushes sometime in the early 1990s, a tireless promoter of the Toyists and a fine human being.”

I like it – colourful, cheerful, playful – hits all the right fuls.