The Aye of the Tiger

I didn’t get where I am today without knowing good old-fashioned painting when I see it. People and their fads, eh? Still, no use kicking against the pricks. Neither Mrs. Ruskin nor myself has ever kicked against a prick. And never use two words where one word will do, that’s my motto, that’s my axiom, that’s the way I look at it.

John Ruskin, Lectures on Architecture and Painting delivered at Edinburgh in November 1853, London: George Allen, 1891.

Painting has changed a little bit since John Ruskin voyaged by donkey to deliver his aesthetic sermons to the good people of Edinburgh. Gone are the days when painters laid out their whole palettes in an arrangement of tones which, with slight variations and a certain amount of glazing, formed a basis for painting all the different fields of a composition. Ulglinous, waxy, greasy surfaces have been replaced by alchemical readings of painting based heavily on the writings of French revolutionary martyr Jean-Paul Marat. In today’s media-dominated society, contemporary painting graduates must work with celebrities on behalf of their favourite charities. Hannah Gordon took this year’s graduates to the spectacularly beautiful Les Baux de Provençe; a Nazi-occupied Renaissance village perched on top of a rocky crag. There they busily examined the phenomenology of figure-ground relationships in the local bouillabaisse spilled over their laps in classic Galton & Simpsonesque sitcom style by Rene François Artois. The lucky pups were also treated to lectures by eminent German art historians Lieutenant Hubert Gruber and General von Flockenstoffen, whose pataphysical research on Van Clomp’s Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies (1583) is unparalleled. In Avignon, the students set up right in the centre of the bustling town hall square, full of pavement cafes and tourists, where some worked with modern materials such as laser beams, frozen food and telepathy. One intrepid student made obscene gestures, like Italians flicking their chin, at dwarves in a vivid and fragrant lavender field in the heart of Van Gogh’s St Remy de Provençe. Gordon then flew the peer-group to Hollywood where they were expertly tutored by neo-expressionist painter Sylvester Stallone, who attributes his artistic success to his constant confrontations with adversity, hard work and dedication, much like his alter ego Rocky Balboa. Important advice was also given by inimitable portraitist Derren Brown, who was in town acquiring some Windsor and Newton turpentine and a biro to fill in a Scottish Arts Council grant application. I would like to think that this year’s graduates from the School of Drawing and Painting will easily achieve the celebrity status of bleeding-edge artists such as Stallone and Brown. Combining Brown’s bewildering powers of psychological illusion and perceptual manipulation with Sly’s dogged Italian-American determination and infinite patience, I’m certain that they who continue to dare shall win.