The first day of the Jack Vettriano exhibition was on Saturday and it seemed to be pretty busy, although a lot of the people there were because of the book signing (cancelled, unfortunately) by the big man so we’ll have to wait and see if it turns into a big money spinner for the RWA. I genuinely hope so as it seems to be an attempt by the gallery to engage with a wider public. Vettriano isn’t a darling of the critics and I can’t call myself a huge fan but I admire the fact that he’s a successful self taught artist and his sense of design and use of light is good. It’s one of the reasons why his work reproduces well and Mr and Mrs Public obviously respond to the anecdotal quality of his pictures. Get up close though, and they start to look a bit”stodgy” It’d be nice to see him play around with the surface qualities of his pictures for example and use a wash or glaze or two. His drawing also has a lot of the hallmarks of somebody who only ever works from photos. There’s nothing wrong with using photos as source material, artists have been doing it for years but it can be a problem where the photo doesn’t give you enough information. At this point it really helps to have some experience drawing people from other sources such as life. Many of the paintings in this particular exhibition are based on photos of ballroom dancing competitions by Jeanette Jones which you can see on the wall opposite. They’re nice photos but lacking in clear details for a painter, the figures of the male competitors are just dark cut outs really with a hand or two just about visible and little to go on for the arms themselves. In the corresponding Vettriano paintings they just end up looking crude and ventriloquist dummy like and the hands look disappointingly like sausages. A wiser artist might have taken a clearer photo of a person wearing a jacket with his arm in the same position to use as an additional reference rather than just plough on. That’s my opinion, for what it’s worth. I think it’s important to say why you don’t like something rather than just splutter something like “Jack Vettriano is the Osama bin Laden of Art” which is what a lot of Fine Art types would probably tend to do. So that’s my attempt.
Having said that I did learn one suprising thing reading the current issue of the RWA’s free magazine which contains an interview with the artist, Jack is a Simon Bates fan!
“I always work with the radio on. I’m a man who’s lost in a time warp of the ’70s and 80’s. I listen to a station called Smooth–Simon Bates. He does a small piece called Your Story;a real-life love story, with the music they’ve asked for, Very emotional. It brings it all back to me–who I was seeing, why did that go wrong? And believe it or not, very often by the time the song’s over I know what it is I want to paint. A lot of my work is autobiographical, often about the mistakes I’ve made, and the pleasures I’ve had”
If you are under the age of 40 you are probably better off skipping the rest of this article as it just won’t mean a lot to you. but trust me, for alternative types in the 70s and 80s he was truly the Sultan of Smarm! Simon Bates ( who, with the benefit of hindsight is probably quite a nice chap etc) was an uber popular Radio 1 D.J. who would feature an item in his morning show called “Our Tune” where a listener would send a long letter about the ups and downs of their relationship read in Bates’ booming William Shatner-esque delivery. (Lot’s of pauses. In. The Middle of a. Sentence. That kind of thing) This would go on for an incredible length of time, the background music was “The Love Theme from Romeo and |Juliet” by Henry Saloman and His Orchestra and finish with a request to play “Our Tune”. A sample “Our Tune” might describe the relationship between “Kevin” and “Lisa” and how they shyly started dating after bonding over their shared love of bell-ringing/Airfix model kits/C.B. radio/handwriting analysis/jet engines by the office photocopier after which they would move into together but Lisa would then discover that Kevin had a secret love of Barbara Streisand Songs,embarrassing body odour or more usually some form of substance abuse. Their love would endure many ups and downs from that point on. Lisa might move in with “That Dave from Accounts” at which point Kevin would hold up a Securicor lorry with a sub machinegun made out of pieces of balsa wood or may’be a spud gun and be imprisoned for 10 years. They would always be back together again by the end, however and the writer would finish by asking them to play their song, usually something by Billy Joel or Our Kid.
It was a very easily parodied format, and one that Batesy has continued to use over the years in his various radio shows. Go on, do a quick search on YouTube if you don’t believe me. Is this the key to the artist, I wonder.? How could you Jack?!!!!? All I can say is, I will never look at Vettriano’s paintings in. The same way. Ever. Again.
Jack Vettriano exhibits at the R.W.A. 28th June-31st August