Alice Jones’ diary

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  • #9962

    jojo
    Participant

    This began with Francis observation of the content of the interview in the Independent: embalmed tramp, witch’s skeleton, faked death, mistresses and children, book dealers, money and debts, well-trodden path. I am asking the question, isn't the fact that Robert could be described in this way, his fault? And why did he feel the need to do sationalist acts. During the research I have spoken with people who have given countless examples of Robert going to extreme lengths to amuse himself or others, sometimes there was an obvious point sometimes not: Obvious points: whitewashing over the barbican mural and painting the flying ducks over it, changing the name of the alley next to his studio to Piss and Puke Lane and then translating it into many languages and each week replacing the street sign with one of his forgeries. Talking of forgeries, the occasion when he spent days attempting to fool afriend who had boasted that he could always spot forged documents, by purchasing an old parchment and then creating a forgery on it. It's quite an extensive list. Then there was his courting of the media, both through interviews and his adoption of "The Robert persona" that comes accross when you watch many of the documentaries made about him, as he does his stern persona and pretends he can't remember how many times he married, to locking journalsts in his studio, on and on. Then some more personal ones that just seem to be about Robert going out to shock, here's what one of the people writing in the book said: One night Robert took me to a place in the middle of Plymouth and there he opened a hatch. In the darkness we went down a few stairs. He asked me if I wanted to speak to the devil.He liked to scare me, but I dared him and said," Yes, why not?"As soon as I had said that he began gesticulating and mumbling magical words.Nothing happened and no one was present, it stayed dark. Robert then laughed and asked if I wasn't scared. I laughed and bluffed again.One day Robert asked me to sit on the wall in the middle of the little square in the Barbican, to talk to Bishop and meanwhile take off my shirt.I did this and Albert kept talking, which I did not understand because of his accent. `suddenly from all windows on the square women waved their dust cloths. Robert watched from behind his shop window sniggering. We both liked shocking people. It seemed to me for a long time that Robert couldn't help but be distracted, for every fantastic work of art there was an act of foolishness, showmanship or mediocrity rushed off. For a long time I didn't get it until a later sitter for the book made an observation that put it into some kind of context for me:I had never met anyone who had contemplated non-existence as profoundly as him. When he spoke of the empty, deep blackness of nothingness, you knew he had really thought about it, intellectually, psychologically, emotionally. I feel that this grasp upon mortality contributed to his great humour, theatricality and joie de vivre.

    #9963

    marlowe
    Participant

    ANy thoughts?

    Crap?You might have some sort of valid point jojo if Robert was already known far and wide as a great painter, whose private life had been kept a mystery. Sadly the opposite is true. Every man and his dog knows the dead tramp, faked death and women stories. Isn't it time for his paintings to speak for him instead?

    #9964

    jojo
    Participant

    Robert was as fascinated with the private lives of the great artists as he was with their work, it wasn't enough for him that their paintings speak for them, he wanted the whole picture. Also the trouble with letting the paintings speak for him is that there are so many of the quality that were used by the Independent to illustrate their feature.

    #9965

    WILLIAM
    Participant

    Go

    #9966

    gbl
    Participant

    Could you recall the dates of any of these endless 'colour' suplements by any chance?

    I can certainly remember the Express, The Mail and The Telegraph covering Robert around the time of the Birmingham show in a similar fashion. Then there was Daniel Farson of course - is that enough for now?

    #9967

    marlowe
    Participant

    It's the best yet gbl. ::)jojo, your view?

    #9968

    jojo
    Participant

    Well my view is that the description of Robert in that article is sensationalist tabloid speak but it goes to the heart of what I was saying, how could they describe Robert in those terms: because his actions made their discription possible. They are not lying, they are merely communicating one side of the story, I believe both should be known: the man and his work.Talking of his work, and at the risk of being called names again, I have just come back from photographing the 98th person for my book of people who were painted by Robert. The guy was 14 when Robert worked as a teacher when he was in his early twenties and his description of Robert as a young man is delightful, in fact i'll share it with you.I also have a description of one of this man's classmates but I wonder is there anyone with a portrait done by Robert when he was even younger. Would you like yto be the last in the book? Please let me know if you would: jo@jo36.wanadoo.co.ukANyway here's the description of the man whose name is Phil:When I was a schoolboy Robert was a substitute art teacher at Delaware County Secondary modern School.He was a square peg in a round hole: the school was very strict, we had an old style head master, and Robert was quite eccentric and off the wall. He didn’t behave like a teacher he just showed just drew and painted us rather than showing us how to paint. He was always painting, whatever it was he would always paint it: especially of portraits of people. I remember he did a great big mural on the school wall; he picked out the kids and the teachers and everybody else and painted them. The whole thing must have been about fifty feet.Doing this meant he would usually use up all the art materials for a term in two or three weeks so that was it, nobody could do any painting, so when that happenedhe’d always tell us stories about the Jews and the holocaust and stuff like that. Also we’d just have a load of fun: he get all the girls in a circle, get a lad in amongst them and see how long he could stand up or he’d take everybody outside to look around rather than doing the lessons.Before the materials ran out he’d always get us to do nudes, from our imaginations, he’d come along and suggest corrections like bigger boobs or more fluff down there, stuff like that. And it was mixed classes, boys and girls, it was fun really. He also used to get all the boys to do arm wrestling and he’d bring in Mars bars as a prize, things like that just to fill in the time when he’d run out of paint. He didn’t go down well with the establishment: the headmaster was there in a collar and tie and he was there in his half mast brown corduroy trousers which had warn out in the backside so he’d cut the bottoms off to use as patches, and he was always covered in paint. He was very scruffy looking and of course that didn’t go down very well: Especially as the lads were starting to behave like him: he was influencing the young guys who were coming in all scruffy. He used to say he could earn more money being a bin man than being a teacher.This painting of me exists because my old man said to me: "one day that guys going to be famous because he’s a nut", so he told me to go and see if he’d do a picture of me. So I went and asked him and he was painting everybody else so he said yes, so I went round to his house: his flat, it was a two room flat, one room had the bed in it the other had paintings in and that was it, little kitchen thing in the corner, everywhere there was paint or paintings and anyway he painted it. I remember we had beans on toast for tea and his wife was there, she was pregnant. And there were large canvases of nudes all around.

    #9969

    007
    Participant

    Saturday, 17 May 2008Robert LenkiewiczIn Search of the English Eccentric A few days ago in The Independent there was a profile of Robert Lenkiewicz, painter, showman, artistic musketeer, lothario, and eccentric, who died six years ago leaving a mountain of unsettled debts. There were 240 claimants to his estate. Most of these claims have been met by selling off his paintings and his collection of rare books, but it's the record prices for his paintings that sparked the article.They're newsworthy because he was not, and is not, seen as a cutting-edge contemporary artist. Instead his work was shunned by what you could call 'the contemporary art world' yet embraced by 'the public', in the way that Jack Vettriano's work is. Though their work is quite different - even if Tom Lubbock more or less lumps the two together at the end of this piece (along with Beryl Cook). More on this further down.Robert Lenkiewicz is someone I was planning to write about in the chapter on eccentric artists (towards the end of In Search of the English Eccentric). I went for Sebastian Horsley instead, and then wrote in a general sense about how the modern artist has been perceived over the last 500 years. All of a sudden I'm not sure if that was the right thing to do.Lenkiewicz would have been fun to write about, mainly because he falls outside the accepted caricature of the aristocratic, anachronistic eccentric toff who lives in cheery isolation somewhere in the English countryside, also because there are some great stories associated with him. But, if I'm entirely honest, and after starting a sentence like that I kind of have to be, I didn't want to write about him because I used to work for his son at his gallery. He's called Wolfe. I know one of his daughters too, and I guess the idea of writing about their father with any kind of authority felt unnatural. I couldn't see a way of describing him that would allow both of them to recognise him. But that's an aside. Again. At times this entire blog feels like an aside. Much more interesting is Wolfe talking about what it was to be a teenager growing up around his dad.He told me once about a tramp called Andy Leech who had been taken in by his father. One night Andy drank a titanic quantity of meths, climbed to the top of the building where they lived and began to piss onto the street below. Mid-piss he set fire to the stream of urine issuing forth before jumping, ablaze, to his death. Wolfe was about 16 at the time. His father wanted him to know death, to understand something of its smell and what it looked like so he took him and his brother Ruben to the morgue. There they found Andy's corpse. He told his sons to sit with it for fifteen minutes. Wolfe went to feel the texture of the charred flesh but pushed too hard and broke the blackened surface. From the way Wolfe described it, it had the consistency of a crème brûlé pudding. On the way out, with a rare kind of forcefulness, Robert insisted that they look into the other cubicles in the morgue. He wanted to show them more bodies and more death. So they did, like negatives exposed to the non-light that was, here, death.Wolfe's an artist now. There's one more thing to say about the way Robert Lenkiewicz was described in this article, and it's to do with how we configure art and artists.Although he is lumped together with artists who produce kitsch and unchallenging work, Lenkiewicz's output is different to that of Jack Vettriano or Beryl Cook. Because of its inconsistency. That and its ambition. There are occasions when he achieves the clarity and quality of mark, intent, visual impact and the kind of compositional harmony that he undoubtedly aspired to. Yet there are thousands of times when he does not - the works he did in a hurry, to pay a bill, get out of there, pass the time, or just feed the part of him that needed to be prolific. Towards the end of his life he rarely struggled to push each painting as far as it could possibly go, more often leaving the paint thin and light.When talking about art, a lot of the time you end up talking about movements or artists - though more often it's artists. When talking about artists you end up referring to the work they have produced. Their character, eccentric or not, with time becomes less important than the works that have survived them. And it's at this point, for the sake of concision, when describing an artistic oeuvre in your mind you flatten the images that you can associate easily with the artist, until they form a single generic image. Your response to that image controls your reaction to that artist. The artist becomes a discrete productive entity: a kind of machine there to produce 'arts'. It makes it easier to say yes or no to, say, Klee art, Kippenberger art, Kosuth art. So when Lubbock sets out a mini-hierarchy of figurative painters (a bit like a school sports day with coloured rosettes, trophies and plaques) he's cementing that.I suppose the thing that interests me here is that (as with someone like Giorgione) the artist-machine is rarely judged according to how many 'arts' it produces. Our minds can't easily concertina a thousand images into one.But don't bother telling this to a freakishly prolific artist. The drive to create on this scale doesn't stem from a reasoned intellectual decision; it comes from somewhere lower down.Posted by Henryhemming

    #9970

    art3366
    Participant

    This is probably the most insightful and intelligent article that has ever been written about Robert Lenkiewicz. It demonstrates the difference between a real writer with knowledge and personal experience of a subject. Who is this guy? TLF need to recruit him fast, if they can. Jojo, take note! Can you see the difference in this man's approach to your own? You also need to start using a spell checker Jojo, your spelling is atrocious!Thanks to WEB WEAVER for posting this.

    #9971

    jojo
    Participant

    We can only be who we are

    #9972

    marlowe
    Participant

    We can only be who we are

    Never a truer word Jojo, never a truer word.

    #9973

    TheWolfman
    Participant

    Look guys, I don't know everything that is going on, all I know is that a year ago there didn't seem to be much, so I decided to do something. I'll happily answer the question about which ones of Robert's paintings I think our crap, and I know from previous discussions with the previous foundation members when they were trying to disuade me from photographing certain people with their pictures because of the quality, that I am not alone in my view. But I will do that when you tell me what's wrong with admitting that some of Robert's work was poor compared to those pieces which were outstanding. I also want to make it very clear I am not aligning myself as a crusader of Robert's for all time. I will get involved whenever I can, or when ever I am asked but if I'm not then these two projects will be my only contribution to celebrating Robert. I believe the views I expressed in the interview to be an honest response to the questions put to me and as long as critics, (not just the independents but all those who I have seen on various documentarys about Robert's work)also, acknowledge that some of Robert's work is poor, it will seem strange and deluded to have a small group of disciples screaming that all he ever did was fantastic and that he is the mesiah. Robert condemned his painting at various times in his life, what is wrong with an honest response to his work, for me his flaws make his masterpieces all the more poiniont. Sorry for the spelling but I can't figure out how to check it, but that's the only apology you'll get from me.

    A dictionary is a good place to start. That said research of anything, whether it be spelling or factual information does seem to be rather against your nature.

    #9974

    TheWolfman
    Participant

    I never said Robert's work was crap, I said some of it was crap. My definition of works which are crap, includes the portraits which I have seen, (usually commisioned from him) in which the subjects look nothing like the individuals, the painting is unfinished and just seems shoddy, this view has been echoed, albeit without the specific word crap, by many people I have spoken with, it seems to be acknowledged by everyopne that Robert did not maintain a universal high standard, how can you disagree with that?

    Going back to this post I can honestly say I have experienced this. I have seen Robert refuse to take payment for a commission as he felt the likeness was bad. In truth the likeness, of two children, was not good and the painting was never hung. I recall the finished work was very dark. This post reminded me that I likely still have access to this painting, an oil, so I will endeavor to get an photo and some information about it as soon as I can. It would make a nice addition to the Book Project.

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