Friday, 28 November 2014

My fine artists

It's been a wonderful arty year and these are my fine artists who have afforded me the privilege of representing them. I hope you'll keep watching this space: I have solo exhibitions planned for next year for Gill, William and Sue, all professional artists who paint the most beautiful landscapes inspired by our British countryside.

Bluebells at Bradley Hill, Oil on canvas, £800. Copyright Sue Holpin

Sirenpool, Acrylic on canvas, £200.
Copyright William de Wilde
Path to Hart Land, Oil on canvas, £900. 
Copyright Gill Bustamante

More of the artists and their work for sale can be found at

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Furore: Vine versus Monroe

I have to admit that I don't read Sarah Vine's columns and I know even less about Jack Monroe. But being an avid tweeter, I happened upon the furore surrounding Ms. Monroe's comment about David Cameron using his late son for propaganda purposes and the subsequent reaction by Ms. Vine.

Now, let me start at the beginning. I think that the hashtag about why David Cameron is so disliked is riveting reading. How fantastic that the vox populi can air their views about something that really riles them. We're used to plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose in politics in Britain so to see the blood and guts of real anger as it unfurls live on Twitter is very interesting reading.

Now back to the main story. The two protagonists: Ms. Monroe had no money and had to find ways to feed herself and her child on a very straightened budget. I think her recipes are not non plus ultra, personally. It never ceases to amaze me that cookery books are all the rage and people with no obvious talent end up becoming cooks then chefs or rather, experts in the field of cooking. What, I hear you say! These so-called experts never said they were anything but mere cooks. Exactly and they're not even that. It's a bit like watching virgins have sex for the first time and suddenly they're reciting the flaming Kama Sutra and telling us how to do it. The whole cook/chef thing just gets my goat. We don't celebrate excellence we revel in flipping mediocrity. So, no, Ms. Monroe is merely a Joe Bloggs who likes cooking.

Now onto Ms. Vine- married to a politician- poor thing. It must be difficult to never know what to think when you ask what he'd like for breakfast and one minute it's poached eggs and the next fried but then he switches to boiled eggs with two rashers of bacon because he read somewhere that that's what he really wanted for breakfast after all. Oh, well, the upside is that being married to a politician means that you get a fair amount of exposure and suddenly you're sort of legitimate in a professional sense.

The difficulty I have with all of these individuals is that they don't know how to have a good slanging match without resorting very low down on the not-exactly-fair-play-scale. Ms. Vine brings up the fact that Ms. Monroe got herself into financial hardship and so she is plain stupid. She also brings up the is-she-really-a-lesbian thing plus the fact that she should never have had a child without knowing whether she is or isn't a lesbian. Naturally, Ms. Vine is a model of all that is perfect in this world and therefore feels entitled to bring up scurrilous and pointless information on Ms. Monroe's background with the sole purpose of mocking her.

Who honestly cares what Ms. Monroe gets up to in the sack or otherwise. If she claims to be a cook let us be bamboozled by her ability to cook, dammit! As for Ms. Vine, who maintains a slavish devotion to Mr. Cameron- enough already! I'm sure the combined damehood and knighthood is assured but isn't the mudslinging a bit puerile? Furthermore the welfare state is not a bad thing- entrepreneurs risk going broke every day- that's the nature of taking risks in business which is encouraged across the pond but seemingly frowned upon in this country. In the event that someone genuinely suffers hard times why is recourse to the state for assistance so terrible? As long as taxes have been paid and that person has made a contribution, why not? The us-and-them approach to those who are lower down on the pecking order or who have not been fortunate enough to sail through life, is pretty disgraceful and shows a genuine lack of humanity.

Ms. Monroe is entitled to be peeved- poverty is pretty soul-destroying regardless of how she ended up in a mess. Ms. Vine is entitled to stick her nose in the air but not to pontificate. I mean the comment about her waiting to have children until she felt emotionally and financially secure is just bullshit of the highest order. Billions of women on the planet make choices every day- only in the west do women like Ms. Vine start preaching on a high horse about having made superior decisions.  Everyone does stuff they regret and feel badly about in life. None of us is Jesus Christ. If one were to really look at this spat very carefully, one would see how all this 'success' of both protagonists is nothing but a house of cards about to collapse at any time. Perhaps the real issue of whether people, you, me, everyone is permitted to sound off and feel aggrieved. If not then this is clearly not a democracy.

Photo copyright SvD.

Post Pop East Meets West Exhibition

As I've said before, I'm not a great fan of the "temporary art" movement that The Saatchi Gallery promotes but I ate my hat and then some last night when I attended the private view of their latest exhibition, POST POP EAST MEETS WEST. Please get yourselves down there to be bowled over by the sheer scale and quality of the work. Very, very good. Here are some photos from last night- with the kind permission of the artists.

A very nice coat- why has no one thought of this before?

 On the inside of an installation depicting Macdonalds:

 This lady had me entranced as she revels in her jewels:
Yes, that's me:
This sculpture is perhaps the epitome for me of perfection: it threw me right up in the air:
Photos (in between lots of champagne) copyright SvD.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Genius of Picasso and The Curse of Convenience

The Genius of Picasso
Picasso famously said, "I find. I do not look". He also said: "Look and you will never find." Many have remarked that these two messages from the mouth of a genius are obtuse and incomprehensible. But in fact Picasso is saying something profound. Put another way, Picasso once remarked that in order to create one has to 'kill' art. In other words, if one stands before Da Vinci or Ingres or Gainsborough, one is in awe at the mastery of the painter's brush. Picasso would remark that in order to develop new ideas in art, once must forget or kill everything that one has learnt or even seen before. Let us not forget that Picasso created new art genres such as cubism (along with Braque) and all of his life, he literally pushed the boat out as far as it would go. His painting Les Demoiselles D'Avignon, with its mask-like faces looking straight ahead but with the nose painted sideways or at the wrong angle completely of a regular face, so horrified even his closest friends that they derided Picasso vigorously for creating a painting that was ugly in the extreme. Picasso frequently would get exasperated with anyone who would endlessly question his motives or inspiration in his art. To him, art was who he was. Whether what he did was good or bad, he left to the critics to decide- and there were many. But let us return to the enigmatic statements, "I find. I do not look,' and "Look and you will never find."

Picasso questioned the existence of truth. He believed that absolute truth could not in all probability exist but rather the process of doing, of being was in essence living one's truth. This concept that more recently has appeared in all manner of self-help manuals such as How to Find Mr. Right and Keep Him From Running Off With Your Best Friend. One frequently hears that one needs to live one's truth. In Picasso's day, (he died in 1973 at the age of 92), how ironic that instead of espousing theories or telling others how to live, here was a man who silently went about revolutionizing art and the process of being without seeking accolades or writing flowery prose explaining why truth is merely an interpretation of some idea, or as Picasso himself declared it, a lie. Picasso possessed an amazing vitality that many remarked upon- unsurprisingly, he fathered his last child at 67. When Picasso was not painting, he was writing, illustrating, making ceramics or sculpting. He also favoured company and maintained enduring friendships throughout his life. Picasso was famous for his conquests of the opposite sex and was never without a lover. He remarried yet again at the age of 80. Perhaps it is useful to mention that Picasso smoked a lot (and managed to live to a ripe old age). I mention all of these things, as they are proof of what is the elusive truth we all seek. I find it refreshing to be reminded of Picasso's greatness not just as a creator of unforgettable art but as a human being- flawed yet brilliant. Flawed like the rest of us but a genius too because he allowed himself to be one.

For example, when Picasso developed cubism, he was seeking to pare everything down to a simple and uncluttered state. This is achieved by reducing all the objects in a painting to geometric shapes- cubes, cylinders, spheres etc. and by so doing, depicting the very essence of the object. Cubism was a radical change from traditional painting by subsuming colour to form. Consider this, if you look at a portrait, you see a beautiful face or you see an aspect that moves you such as an evocative gaze or soulful eyes. In a cubist painting, each part is dislocated into its simplest expression. Humans too are multi-faceted and complicated beings. Cubism challenges preconceived ideas and creates a new perception, once again a pursuit for truth but a reaffirmation that truth does not exist. 

Are geniuses born? Does our disposition ever change? Would Picasso have been as prolific and revolutionary an artist had he lived the life of an aesthete suffering for an elusive belief?  Away from his more traditionally-styled early paintings, the unique view that Picasso had of the world is perhaps best seen in his paintings of women- complicated, emotional, beautiful, desirable, maternal, yet also ruthless, vindictive, jealous and possessive. In those paintings we see the whole of humanity and beyond into eons that have preceded us all. This ability to show us as we are is the accomplishment of a genius. How many of us can say who we are and what we represent? How many of us have found our truth?

 Photo copyright SvD.

The Curse of Convenience
One of my secret dirty little secrets is a desire to see how people live in their unguarded moments. From what I see at the supermarket check out, I am beginning to think this would not be such a good idea. Picture this: the frozen pizza, the ready made porridge with fruit, the endless snacks, the gallons of sugary drinks, the processed ham and plasticized cheese ready packaged for the kiddies to take to school- perhaps already digested too. I think inside those homes, not a lot goes on besides laying around prostrate staring into space. I do believe our politicians have us right where they want us- zombified into stupidity. Don’t believe me? Go and stand at the check out at any major supermarket near you.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Is this a Picasso?

Dear art sleuths,

In 2011 I visited a Norwegian friend with whom I was at university. Her husband had in the house this piece of art and he told me the story of how he had come to have it in his possession: he had inherited it from his uncle. My Norwegian friend has always been convinced that this is indeed a piece created by Picasso and in his family it was always referred to as such but there is little hard evidence to support it. I sent photos of the piece to the Picasso Administration in Paris but they stated that based on the facts I had conveyed to them, it was unlikely that it was a work by Picasso.

Here it is. Ceramic and metal.

Have a go and let me know your thoughts!

Photo copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Things I saw in the woods today, part 98

All of these mushrooms were within a stretch of 300 yards or so in the woods. There are hundreds of different types of mushrooms growing wild in British woods- perhaps as many as 400! Our current spell of mild weather during the day has resulted in prolific growth. If you are an avid mushroom hunter, please be sure that you know what you are doing. Just identifying these mushrooms- all of which are poisonous- took me over an hour clutching my Mushrooms of Europe Guide (Collins). I've been foolish enough to eat mushrooms I found in the woods without knowing whether they were poisonous of not- I did that once but will pass on tempting fate again. By the grace of God go I, that's for sure. So please don't follow my silly example!!!

One of my favourite memories involves hunting for cèpes (boletus) every October in France. How I loved finding a cèpe, bringing it home and sautéeing it in butter with loads of garlic and sprinkled generously with chopped parsley. The tradition in Bordeaux, where I lived, is to eat the cèpes with an entrecôte- a massive piece of beef also cooked in butter. My dear friend, Madame Bué, taught me how to find mushrooms and I will love her always for that. She died almost 30 years ago, and after a long and unhappy life some of which was spent in occupied Paris where she watched her husband killed by the Nazis and where the only food she could find was abandoned cats. We do not realise how lucky we are.
 Mycena fagetorum- poisonous
Clitocybe dealbata- poisonous (these two mushrooms clutching each other are rather sweet- but deadly)
Clitocybe gibba- poisonous - these were growing in a semi circle
Clitocybe gibba- poisonous - close up

Heterobadision annosum- poisonous - note how the mushroom has grown into the groove of the wood and looks like a mouth
Photos copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Things I saw in the woods today, part 97

Wild mushroom on autumn leaf

The Mighty Beech

All roads lead to Rome.

Photos copyright SvD.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Making sense of getting old

This is me today, writing about life and getting older.

Photos copyright SvD.

Things I saw in the woods today, part 96


Photos copyright SvD.

PS I have deliberately left out any description of these photos- perhaps viewers would like to test their knowledge of what they see...

Thursday, 13 November 2014

I'm not 18 anymore

There I was today at the famous Wong Kei retaurant in London's Soho, a place I first visited when I was 18. In those days, the waiters only spoke Chinese and the menu was also in Chinese only. How I managed to order anything then remains a mystery but it is an enduring memory of my youth. I was 18 a long time ago and the Wong Kei has hardly changed its decor in all those years- still anti everything, the waiters remain surly as they direct diners to the communal tables, covered in uninviting plastic tablecloths. That's the fun of this old establishment which traditionally was the preferred eatery of the Chinese community in Soho. A pot of green tea is provided free of charge and the meal arrives within minutes from the basement kitchen drawn up by a dumb waiter. I ate my favourite- a huge plate of boiled rice and sweet and sour pork. Dean Street, famous for its cinema and media companies and The Groucho Club, is just up the road. Everyone and from all walks of life can be found eating at the Wong Kei- it stays open straight into the early morning too so ideal for inebriated partygoers falling out of the nearby clubs. I shared my table today with a nurse heading home after a marathon 18 hour shift. She ate her bowl of noodles and soup without wanting to really chat. Some things never change- the Wong Kei resolutely refuses to be hip, fashionable or remotely special. It has steadfastly remained an old-style eating house with no frills. And remember- cash only.

London's Soho at dusk and The Wong Kei.
Photos copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Pierre Chalory Exhibition on 06th December

Here's the sign outside the hotel. Many thanks to my diligent photographer, Gill Bustamante, who offers service with a smile, always!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Mirror, mirror....

A maple leaf becomes an impromptu bowl filled with rainwater reflecting the woods and the sky. On my walk this morning.

Photo copyright SvD.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The evil that men do

The news this week has been awash with the most sordid of crimes allegedly committed by a hitherto  well-educated young man from a good home who benefitted from all that money can buy- a public school education etc. and suddenly he is in the news for murder while under the influence of drugs. By all accounts, he had supposedly grown stressed and exhausted in an ultra-demanding job and despite the trappings that came with a high-flying career, he slid lower and lower into oblivion.

A former boyfriend of mine used to smoke an awful lot of pot. Friends and family rallied around and warned him that he was becoming psychotic- too detached and unaware of how the seemingly 'cool' drug was affecting or perhaps more precisely, addling his brain. By persistent encouragement he agreed to give up the weed and hey presto, he was able to return to the world of work and relationships. We met soon after he went clean. Although in theory he seemed fine, there were times when his reluctance to conform could have been a worry. By some strange irony, replacing drugs with alcohol resulted in him being able to remain on an even keel, as it were. Another former boyfriend had been a heroin user as a teenager and during his military service in France, was thrown into solitary confinement where he spent the better part of six months. At the end of it, he was effectively a former addict (no softly, softly approach there or dithering about human rights) but the lasting damage to his brain and body were apparent. He experienced major lapses where he would exhibit alarming behaviour and suddenly would appear devoid of a moral compass and without remorse or regret. His own father once remarked to me that he was terrified of the cold, unfeeling, ruthless individual his son had become. Needless to say that once I discovered my boyfriend's narcotic past, I hotfooted it out of that relationship before he (or I) could say "vaya con dios".  (I'm not very good at wanting to save people from themselves.)

For all those liberals lobbying for the legalisation of hard drugs, perhaps they have never seen how drugs destroy lives. It struck me the other day that rich and successful actors (the biggest exponents of the legalise-drugs brigade) who smoke pot for example, can actually indulge themselves. The soft cushion and safety net that loads of cash brings means that they experience less of the every day worries, which can crush frailer egos.  However drugs can easily destroy others who are less confident or successful especially when there is so much more that is seemingly wrong with their lives. Drugs are rampant in the all-or-nothing environment of high stakes professions where the risk is to lose everything or to win big. Stories of traders going in to work and before they can reach for their latte and a croissant are shown the door, abound in the City of London. Ruthlessness and expendability are the way things are in that world. Everyone recites the exact same explanation for staying- they plan to make as much money as they can and then leave because physically, no one can keep up the pace demanded for more than a few years. Ever.

The worse tragedy in the Hong Kong story is the young women who debased themselves for money. The promise of a better life at all costs. Somewhere a good-natured girl who wanted to change her destiny became a whore. No woman can possibly enjoy having a strange man crawling over her and handing her a wad of bills at the end of it (regardless of what has been written by a former escort girl who shall remain nameless but whose best-selling book was made into a TV series). Nothing in fact could be more heartbreaking than having to revert to prostitution- lost dreams, compromised reality, the horror of what should have been and never will be. How does one even think like a prostitute? Sex is a ridiculously personal thing unless one is completely blotto which unfortunately is how many children are conceived (and regretted) these days.

The alleged murderer was off his head and lost in a psychotic vice where right and wrong are indistinguishable and instead there is an urgent need to do bad, terrible things. Drugs seem to unleash the monster that lurks within a once primal spirit but which has been concealed and civilised over centuries. These frequent episodes of men, always young men, committing atrocious acts when drugged up to the eyeballs is a dreadful indictment of our society. Am I my brother's keeper? Yes. Is there an ounce of compassion in us to forgive such acts? That is the hardest question of all. The act of forgiveness requires magnanimity of spirit that is almost holy- a devotion to goodness and an acknowledgement that generosity of self is more important than anything else. I would argue that it is not possible to forgive the criminal who shows no remorse. That to me is like throwing a bag full of much-needed cash onto a bonfire- wasteful and stupid.

The alleged murderer's education alone cost the earth, and a privileged life has come to nought or rather, the wrong kind of notoriety. We in the west are specialists at abusing our luck and good fortune. We spend a lot of our precious time obsessed with the wrong things. In our hyper materialistic world, we refer to 'me', 'myself' and 'I' instead of 'my fellow human beings'. Our needs are paramount, our desires more important than anyone else's. Our ego is voracious and always wants to be the centre of attention. Why repeat how important it is to love yourself? It means little to have self-love when a man dying of thirst would rather a glass of water. Perhaps all those wishing to decriminalize hard drugs should consider that and the events in Hong Kong.

 Photo copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Surrealist artist to exhibit in the UK for the first time

Renowned French Surrealist painter, Pierre Chalory, will be exhibiting for the first time in the UK for one day only on 06th December 2014 at The Brambletye Hotel, Forest Row, East Sussex. Mr. Chalory is considered a master of surrealism, an art movement that has its roots in the early 20th century and his art is held in private collections around the world. One of Mr. Chalory’s paintings, Twin Towers, is held on permanent display at the 9/11 memorial in New York- the artist first exhibited a series of paintings in 1998 depicting the Twin Towers damaged and burning- this prophetic vision, long before the actual events of 2001, established Mr. Chalory’s reputation throughout the world.

The Brambletye Hotel, The Square, Forest Row, RH18 5EZ

Free parking
Free admission to the exhibition
For further information, please contact the artist’s agent only, Samantha van Dalen. Tel: 01 883 341 646 Email:

For more information on Pierre Chalory and to browse images of his work, please go here: Pierre Chalory

Why I charge artists to promote them

Just to clarify one thing: I get asked a lot to represent artists and I'm happy to do so if 1) The artist has a substantial body of work to their name, not just a handful of paintings, I like their work and think it will sell 2) they are willing to pay for me to promote them and their work. Of course, I can hear the very loud gasp of derision but before you do so, please look me up on google and see the many things that I do. I frequently work 13 hours a day straight. In order to get an artist a sale, a tremendous amount of time and effort has to go into promotion on social media, endless networking and frankly, badgering the press to feature photos and stories. You may have noticed as well that setting up exhibitions and the one day gallery costs a lot of money, sourcing sponsorship and the like. I do appreciate that paying to be promoted goes against the grain of wanting to be acknowledged on the basis of merit alone. Of course! I agree. But consider this- there are a lot of artists vying for the attention of buyers and a bit like finding a needle in a haystack unless that artist has preferably slept with someone famous and can get plastered all over the press, they are facing an uphill struggle. Furthermore artists need a track record and gravitas- a list of public and private collectors to their name, residencies, group and solo exhibitions and a a CV that proves that they have put in the years required to be taken seriously and have honed their craft. What I can do and have done is get an artist a good dose of visibility for their work. And the buyers will come. And while I'm doing all that, the artist gets to paint. A famous agent to the stars used to charge a huge monthly retainer. If anyone ever asked him for a discount or begged and pleaded poverty, that agent simply refused. How was he after all, meant to do the best job for his clients if they didn't want to pay him in the first place? So unless you're planning on sleeping with a footballer and selling your story to the press.....

 Photo copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

My amazing stupidity

The hound and I were returning from the woods today and I spied a young squirrel in some distress on the side of the road. He had his head between his paws, was laying on his stomach and was breathing with difficulty. As I neared him, I saw that he was covered in flies- usually a sign that the animal is already dead. The squirrel was breathing though. The hound decided to be an opportunist and nudged the squirrel with his nose at which point the squirrel, as if by magic, ran away. I realised the squirrel was indeed seriously hurt as he stopped halfway across the road, unable to move an inch. The flies returned to nest all over the poor thing and I felt compelled to do something. I searched out the gardener I know nearby and asked to borrow his spade. My intention was to put the squirrel out of his misery. The thought of being devoured alive by flies seemed a fate worse than death, after all. As the squirrel saw me coming with the spade in hand, he mustered all his strength and ran as fast as he could, disappearing for good into the woods. I decided to abandon my murderous task. On my way home, I encountered another neighbour who asked what I had been up to. I told him the story of the squirrel. He began to laugh heartily. "Of course the squirrel ran away, you silly moo! He saw you coming with the spade of death. I'm dying of cancer, should I put be put out my misery too?"

There you are, dear readers, more proof that I know absolutely nothing.

This photo is not of the said squirrel but one that met an untimely end in a car crash several moons ago.

 Photo copyright SvD.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Rain falling on leaves

On my walk this morning in the pouring rain with the hound. All photos copyright SvD.