Friday, 15 February 2019

Durruti and Roma


It's been kind of a busy time. I have finished a weird painting of Buenaventura Durruti which I have mixed feelings about: I like the technique I used and how the paint looks, but unfortunately I think I have made Durruti look like a moronic clown - a bit like a version of Guignol - the scary looking French puppet which I guess is a pit like Punch and Judy. 

 I am sorry about this because in many ways i admire Durruti, who led a column of anarchists to fight against the fascist Franco during the Spanish civil war. I don't think Guignol did anything as admirable. I was going to put a picture of Guignol on here too, but he is too scary and horrible looking.

"It is we the workers who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and in America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones! We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts.  That world is growing in this minute."
— Buenaventura Durruti 


The news about Rome is that I am honoured to have been selected for Artrooms Roma an international Art Fair to be held at the end of March. It is an unusual event - each artist is allocated a room at the Church Palace Hotel (a four star Hotel in central Rome) and turns this room into a mini gallery for a few days. I am looking forward to it - as well as being excited about the exhibition,  I actually haven't been to Rome for 42 years, and plan on driving there - 1000km each way - which in itself will be an event. I am now frantically framing and tidying up paintings as well as working on a commission which has to be completed soon.  So there's nothing like a bit of procrastination by writing this blog!

Friday, 28 December 2018

The Greatest

Another portrait - a bit different, Ali, the Greatest. An inspiration too many. His political views upset some, as an active member of the Nation of Islam, but he contributed to civil rights fights in the USA, and refused to fight in Vietnam, costing him his freedom. He was a man of principle, and without question the greatest boxer who ever lived - as well as being a fantastic showman. I love him, and consider him to be another great revolutionary.
oil on canvas 90x70cm
I wish I could photograph the painting a bit better - the black background makes it hard!

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Trotsky - whatever happened to our heroes?

I had to get around to Russia sooner or later, and Trotsky's exile in Mexico and his interesting looks make him a good subject. What's the difference between Stalin and Lenin's views and Trotsky's? Put simply Trotsky believed in internationalism, not the concentration of communism in one state - the Soviet Union. Trotskyists believe that his views were more reflective of Marx's. Leninists don't . Meh. As Bakunin said- A dictatorship of the proletariat is still a dictatorship. Stalin was the real problem, as he ended up believing in the dictatorship of Stalin. Simplistic? Moi? Stalin purges Trotskyites in the Soviet Union, and eventually murdered Trotsky. As the Stranglers once noted "He got an icepick that made his ears burn".

Leon Trotsky - Oil on Wood Panel 40x52 cm

Thursday, 1 November 2018

It's been a long time... More revolutionary portraits and other stuff

It's been a long time since I've updated the blog. Lots of stuff has happened since then, and I have done lots of work of different types, quality etcetera. I have managed to keep my main website at up to date so for missing artworks take a look there! Mainly I have continued with my portrait series of revolutionaries. Here are some them:

This is Franz Fanon. A very interesting man. He was born in Martinique and was therefore French. He trained as a doctor became a psychiatrist, and is noted for his writing on philosophy, politics and race. And of course as a revolutionary and a Marxist. He swapped sides in the Algerian War of Independence and became a member of the Algerian Liberation Front. He worked on the front line of the war supporting wounded and traumatised Algerians. His written work became hugely influential, particularly his analysis of the effects of colonialism black people. It's very hard to simplify his life down to one paragraph, but here's a quote from leading African scholar and philosopher Lewis R. Gordon: "Fanon's contributions to the history of ideas are manifold. He is influential not only because of the originality of his thought but also because of the astuteness of his criticisms. He developed a profound social existential analysis of antiblack racism, which led him to identify conditions of skewed rationality and reason in contemporary discourses on the human being"

This is Giuseppe Garibaldi, 19th century revolutionary, mainly known for his influential involvement in the unification of Italy, but also because of his revolutionary activities in South America and France. He was born in Nice (then part of Piedmont) in 1807. He worked as a merchant seaman, and as a young man joined the then illegal "Young Italy" movement founded by another Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini. After being condemned to death for his anti-Austrian revolutionary activities, Garibaldi spent many years in exile supporting revolutions across the Atlantic, always looking, however to return home and fight for the unification of Italy.  He loathed the dominance of the Catholic church and what he saw as its misuse of power in Italy and in other latin countries. He famously wrote "God didn't create man, man created god". His ideas for his time were revolutionary, and he supported always increased rights for ordinary people.

Emiliano Zapata Salazar 8 August 1879 – 10 April 1919) was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution, the main leader of the peasant revolution in the state of Morelos, and the inspiration of the agrarian movement called Zapatismo. He fought for the freedom of ordinary Mexican people from the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, which had last for 35 years, and caused immense poverty for agrarian workers. He fought all his life for land reforms that would give ordinary people control over their land and lives, and whilst he succeeded in getting these reforms implemented in Morelos, Mexico deteriorated into a series of battles, wars and disputes. Series of governments refused to issue reforms that revolutionaries had fought for, and Zapata viewed that a number of his contemporaries sold out, so he had little option but to keep fighting. Government forces killed Zapata eventually by tricking him to come to a meeting, and then gunning him down.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

And more political portraiture

I have continued with the portraiture. I commission which I won't publish yet, and a couple of others: Huey Newton and Emma Goldman. Emma Goldman was an interesting woman. She left Russia (actually now Lithuania) as a teenager in 1885. Many Jews did at that time, including my great grandparents, escaping anti-Semitism. It wasn't a safe place to be a Jew at the time. She ended up in America and became a famous anarchist and activist, fighting for the rights of women, and the rights of workers. She was jailed numerous times in the US and was eventually exiled to Russia in 1917, where she for a while embraced the revolution, but ultimately condemned the bolshevik state for its dictatorship of the proletariat, as other anarchists did.
Emma Goldman
Oil on Canvas 35x24cm
Huey Newton was one of the founders of the Black Panthers in the 1960s in the USA, alongside Bobby Seale. Despite getting regularly into trouble as a teenager, Newton was extremely well-read, intelligent and qualified. There is so much written about his life and about the Black Panthers I can't hope to put anything useful in writing here. It's impossible to write about everything Newton and Goldman did and said, but it's worth anyone's time doing the research. Both advocated the use of violence on occasion to attempt to achieve their aims. Given the oppression of black people, of women, of discrimination and of persecution that they both suffered, it is not a surprise, nor easy to condemn.

Jeez this is possibly the most illiterate entry I've ever written on this blog! Just look at the pictures and forgive my inadequacies...
Huey P Newton
Oil on canvas 60x60cm 

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Anarchist portraits

I've completed a couple more portraits. One of William Godwin who was very interesting in many ways. He was influenced by both Bakunin and Proudhon and amongst other things was father of Mary Shelley - author of "Frankenstein". There's a lot more to him than that but you can look that up. The other is of Rosa Luxemburg, another interesting anarchist-communist. She disapproved of what became of Soviet Russia and she also was influenced by Bakunin. The point of these early anarchist/anarcho-syndicalists was that they believed that better communities would be built if each community or workplace was self-governed, not ruled by the state. Bakunin argued that a dictatorship of the proletariat was still a dictatorship...

These ideas could not not be more opposite to the "individual" anarchists in the USA, many of whom support Trump. These right-wing anarchists (as they style themselves) believe in individual "self-rule" with no responsibility to society or their communities - or anyone else. They are nasty fuckwits who have perverted a philosophy for their own ends.

William Godwin, Oil on canvas

Rosa Luxemburg
Oil on Canvas 60x60cm
I've also been doing some portrait drawings. Here's one: Spanish anarcho-syndicalyst and anti-fascist  fighter, Juan Garcia Oliver:

Juan Garcia Oliver
Ink on paper

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Portraits and politics. And history.

I have been continuing with my portraiture. I find it relaxing and I use it to research things that interest me. For example the paintings below. The first is of Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary general, who led successful battles against reactionary forces, who were (of course) supported by the USA. Villa's army was not ultimately successful, and he was assassinated in 1920.

Throughout the 20th century (and beyond) the USA increasingly used its growing power and influence to undermine democratically elected governments of South American countries, whose politics the USA felt (and feels) is/was undermining of US capitalism. The role of the US in these acts of oppression throughout the American continent ( and elsewhere) - it's extraordinary what sort of anti-democratic acts America has got away with - and continues to - whilst it defends the (ahem) "Free World"

Pancho Villa 
The second portrait is of Earl Browder, the former leader of the US Communist Party. These days the whole concept of a thriving Communist, Socialist, Anarchist movement in the USA seems so unlikely and so against contemporary mainstream thought, because people like Browder, and others were suppressed, repressed and persecuted. The reference for the painting is a photo when a young Browder was jailed as a conscientious objector during the first world war.
Earl Browder