22 OCTOBER 1994, Page 68


iSIS. it Sii,i iCOICE A MAI





Bestial art


IN COMPETITION NO. 1852 you were invited to supply an extract from a cata- logue from an exhibition of art by any 'tal- ented' non-primate.

A recent book features works by several leading feline artists, rivals of Wong Wong and Lulu — Misty, a Formal Expansionist; Tiger, a Spontaneous Reductionist who insists on destroying his own work; the Neo-Synthesist Ginger, whose art is con- fined to wallpaper-scratching; and Prin- cess, an Elemental Fragmentist who spe- cialises in painting disrespectful portraits of dogs. I was delighted by the wide range

of daubers and splodgers on show in this competition, but it was Roy Bland's `Hibernation' by a Minimalist tortoise that specially caught my fancy: 'a blank canvas with a single profound impression at its centre where the artist spent the winter of 1992'.

The prizewinners, printed below, get £25 each, and the bonus bottle of Isle of Jura Single Malt Scotch whisky goes to Martin Woodhead.

`Tedium IV' (emulsion on plasterboard, 1993): This gargantuan canvas, the high point of the exhibition, is set where the artist would have wanted it: on the ceiling. A complex, allusive work, it will convince any remaining doubters of the mighty intellect pent within the tiny skull of the visionary little lizard whose mastery of the mural earned him the name El Gecko. The meticulous pointillisme of the claw-pads melds with the luxuriant abandon of the tail-strokes to create a heart-rending conspectus of lacertian life, its seemingly random circles and curlicues dotted here and there, brilliantly, with dead flies.

The artist (who regrettably lost a leg during the execution of this Sistine labour) somehow evokes sultry Mediterranean nights, sand, sun- tan oil and the breeze-blocks of unfinished hotels, and speaks to us in a way that is dis- turbingly human and at the same time quintessentially reptilian. (Martin Woodhead) The recognition amongst animal psychologists that defecation is among the most creative forms of self-expression for species otherwise unable to communicate with us has provided the impetus for this, the first ever exhibition of mammalian egestion. The variety on show is outstanding. The strength of the cylindrical 'Big Log', one of several pieces from the versatile Fido, is splen- didly contrasted with the more two-dimensional Pat', artist unknown (but one of 27 heifers on Norman Giles's lower meadow), a breathtaking feast of country pancake.

Not all of the artists, of course, show quite the deftness of touch of Fido or that unknown heifer. The considerably lower asking price for Pogo the pig's 'Untitled' reflects the fact that this piece of art is of a decidedly poorer quality.

(Paul Brummell) We should beware of reading `Farewell My Porcupine' (oil on cardboard, undated) simply as

an expression of the poignancy of separation, the depiction of a sentimental adieu to an impossi- ble love. In a series of bold flourishes, achieved with a 'rolling' technique, Herve seems to defy melancholy as surely as he disdains the fastidi- ousness of pointilliste tradition. Yet the staccato agglomerations of dots, spots and — often blots are, for all their bravura, no more than red herrings. There are no clues, should we seek them in these seemingly three-dimensional explosions of colour, to the id-ego-superego of the artist. As ever, the resonance of Herve's work emanates from what is not stated. We must look at the painting's blank spaces, at their threatening flatness — the unspeakable incubus of a two-dimensional state — for the key to the universal Weltschmerz of the 20th-century hedge-

hog. (Patrick Smith) `Caged Eternity' (mixed media, 25 x 40 cm, 1994): Naturally disposed to a blue palate, P.B. (`Pretty Boy') Budgie's encapsulation of his cos- mic vision answers as many questions as it poses. Interrogation is his medium: one hears his dis- tinctive 'Who's ?' motif in the irregularly scored indigo lines, so suggestive of imprison- ment, and in the hammered margins, those beat- en bounds of his imagination. Anger? — almost certainly, in the mirrored circles weirdly swing- ing in the upper left corner above the impasto groundwork. A mature work, with no twitter of indecision, P.B.'s innovative application of sand/millet to the thickly textured foreground gives an almost Impressionistically `plein air' quality — although 'en plein air' is diametrically opposed to the artist's intention. Art — a word not in his vocabulary — is too limiting: it clips his wings. 'Caged Eternity' transcends conven- tional categories.

The brushwork, feather-light in touch, is mas-