Category Archives: watercolour

Peter Wächtler, Untitled (2013)

2014-09-19 15_Fotor

The perversity on display here is not the a tergo position adopted by the blonde mistress or the rake so drunk he has fallen out of the large double bed.

No the perversity is that Wächtler uses a medium as gentle as watercolour to incriminate the bad behaviour of this fornicating sot and his willing accomplice.

Not that getting drunk and having sex is always reprehensible, it’s not. Not unless you do so in the presence of a subordinate, in this case a servant, with no choice but to watch.

These days, in the wake of the Starr Report, it’s hard not to watch. Only just the other week, we had to hear about one of our social betters in the political class, caught up in a sexting scandal.

And while his employer may be half naked and sprawled across the floor, the butler comes out of it little better. To say he’s overdressed for the occasion is putting it mildly.

But his poise, which says, Sir, You Called?, manifests an English class trope in which servile dignity might just give you the upper hand in such situations: an X-rated Jeeves and Wooster.

All the moral authority in this painting is on the butler’s side. The Lord has none of it, and neither does the German artist, who appears to laugh at all concerned.

In fact, he may be more concerned with that sinuous line which snakes down the picture from the raised behind of the mystery blonde through to her paramour’s flailing leg.

There is surely some overlap between the ‘one percent’ (those to blame for all the world’s ills) and those who have the wherewithal and the self-importance to employ a butler.

That could make Wächtler’s watercolours into a political statement in which the laughter cloaks despair. But just remember, that’s a room service trolley and not a barricade.

This painting, along with some equally compelling film and sculpture by the artist, can be seen in A Needle Walks into a Haystack The Old Blind School, Liverpool, until October 26 2014. 

It is part of Liverpool Biennial 2014. There’s a good discussion of the event’s politics with regard to Peter Wächtler on the The Double Negative.

John Cage, River Rocks and Smoke 4/11/90 No.1

John Cage, River Rocks and Smoke. Courtesy The John Cage Trust

The universe, it seems, has good taste. Here is a painting it did. Or rather, here is a painting John Cage allowed to happen, letting the I-Ching direct his brushstrokes if true to form.

Observe the wispy sfmuato effect, created by students with burning straw. Look at that delicate use of colour and the almost Assyrian shapes, each one traced round the edge of a stone.

You could hang this on a wall and feel a deep oneness. Or you could marvel at the process involved, the radical shift towards egolessness.

Either way, it is great in theory. You don’t even need Cage for this. You could leave a sketchbook out in the rain or scatter blossom on an adhesive canvas. That too would be pretty.

Of course, Cage is pushing at the boundaries. Perhaps he is saying we don’t even need artists, in the same way it seems he once said we don’t need composers. Perhaps we don’t.

But surely life is not a zen garden. It seems more like a game of chess. Chance dictates which side we are on and then we need to attack and defend. Aimlessness is not often the best approach.

Cage apparently loved chess, but he wasn’t the world’s best player. It is said friend Marcel Duchamp was known to lose all patience with him for making silly mistakes.

Of course, the I-Ching paintings may have been an ! move in chess terms, threatening bishops and laying siege to kings. Except Cage is so light-handed, he hardly touches his pieces.

John Cage: Every Day is a Good Day is at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, until June 5 2011. See gallery website for more details. Read my review of the show at Culture24.