Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
Basically a ditch off a muddy path, 5 minutes from my home.
Bentham, Charles Saatchi, Damien HIrst, Dan Snow, Ernest Hemingway, FT, Grayson Perry, List of Reith Lectures, Manet, Nigella Lawson, Olympia, Proust, pushpin, Richard Hoggart, sociology, springer spaniel, transformation, Trinny Woodall, Uses of Literacy
Brassica could hardly hear herself speak for the frothing of the coffee machine
and the screech of a toddler.
Yeah, it’s that bloke in a frock who’s giving The Reith Lectures, she informed
Who? Grayson Perry? Suddenly I was interested in what she was saying.
Yip. I liked his tapestries on class but I admit that I used to think they-
the artists, I mean- actually made the stuff themselves.
What? You thought that Damien Hirst went out and caught his own shark,
like Ernest Hemingway? I was somewhat surprised.
Well, I thought they would weave the tapestries, or, say, Henry Moore
would cast his own bronzes in his back yard.
Right. Before the scrap metal guys nicked them. Brass, you’ve just got
to understand the difference between craft and art.
Some philosophers have described it as the difference between pushpin
It’s like shove halfpenny. I tried to clarify the analogy. Look,
I addressed her. Read the front page of the Life and Arts section of the
I reached up and took down the pink pages of a grease-stained
newspaper from the wall rack.
You see, I gestured, take a look at the artwork in this cafe. I think it comes
from The Suttonford Art Society’s Annual Show. You be the judge. Is it art?
If it goes by financial value, then I’d say not, she deliberated.
Emmm, yeah. Not many of them have a reserved sticker. I suppose that
they could come under therapeutic, or popular art categories.
Some of them could be improved by more sympathetic
presentation, she decided.
Yes. Proust wrote that we can only see beauty if we look through a
gilded frame, I expanded on the theme. I wonder what Charles Saatchi
is collecting now..? Certainly not portraits of Nigella! Maybe Trinny
Woodall woodcuts? Skinny Trinny as Olympia. Not a good look!
My granny used to commission oils of sunsets to match the colours in her
swirly carpets, Brassie mused.
(You could never accuse Brass of being a snob.) She was reading the
front page by now and she came out with:
Are individual works of historical significance, or do they exhibit aesthetic
No, I replied quietly, looking carefully round the room for any paint
stains on clothing. There is an acrylic over there which shows the oldest
pub in the town, though. It all comes down to Bentham’s pushpin/ poetry
But, endorsement is surely part of it? I mean, if we placed a label under that
unconvincing representation of a Springer Spaniel and it announced that it was
by Dan Snow, would it change our perception of it? Brassie probed.
No, but it would change my perception of him, sadly, I replied.
Brassie began to show enthusiasm for this debate. Didn’t Richard Hoggart,
who incidentally lived not too far from here, discuss some of this in his book
on popular culture, The Uses of Literacy?
Yawn. Early sociology, I said dismissively. Mind you, he made some good
Brassie pushed on, paraphrasing as she read: Apparently, what the’ lovely
consensus’ agree on is seriousness.
Mmm, some of these are seriously bad. I tried to be generous and failed. Okay.
Who is going to validate them?
Brassie brightened up. I expect their mummies, grannies, aunts, husbands
and wives might rescue them from ignominy. They’ll probably buy them.
So, laying aside meritocracy, they will be saved for posterity by love? I
The greatest ennobler, breathed Brassie. The Art of Human Understanding.
Compassion. An act of grace. Love for the unlovely. Transformation!