Notes on how to be a 'pretentious' artist without getting slapped.


"To understand Liverpool and its people, you have got to get right with this basic fact that any form of pretentiousness must be punctured swiftly and mercilessly. Nobody must be allowed to get away with anything. If they do, you’re the mug.“ Alun Owen

I was brought up by Liverpudlians but I still fell in love with all things arty and pretentious.

I remember aged about six laughing out loud at a joke for first time which had not been told on telly. It came from a great great uncle in the austere Liverpool home of my Mum. Nan had asked the whereabouts of some new shop. My great great uncle said "Well you know the Carlton cinema on the high street?" Nan said "Yes,"

"Well it's nowhere near there," he said. Until that moment I hadn’t thought real, old, not-on-telly people capable of such silly/brilliant humour.

He had fought in the war. He had lost hearing in one ear from being shot in the head. He was a very serious looking man and he was hilarious.

No comedy without tragedy they say;

Just as there can be no 'pretentious' art without extreme levity.

The point at which these juxtapositions meet is where moments of enlightenment lay in wait. The moments artists attempt to capture and depict permanently.

To catch this moment the artist must be jumping back and forth between the two extremes in order to manage such an ambitious task. As an artist one cannot reside IN enlightenment otherwise the artist would simply put down their tools and BE.

Neither can the artist comfortably reside on only one side of this fence. To be too heavy is to bum out your family and friends; to be too light is to lose the faith of those in the art market.

It is the artist's curse never to enjoy the fruits of their labour until they are ready to quit; until then they must dance a merry dance to some pretty dark music, or else skulk sulkily in the shadows of life's k-pop disco.

Nonsense = Tragedy

Josie - "All of my friends are existentialists."

Tony Hancock - "Yeah, well it's company for you, innit'."

The Rebel - 1961

Look at the Liverpool poets Adrian Henri, Brian Patten and Roger McGough. Their alluring blend of sweet and sour is quintessentially Liverpudlian.

Football poem/Goodbye poem

You never wore


Adrian Henri

I read last week that In a eulogy at the scouse comedian Tommy Handley’s memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral, the Bishop of London, John W.C. Wand, said that "he was one whose genius transmuted the copper of our common experience into the gold of exquisite foolery."

I like that, the copper of our common experience into the gold of exquisite foolery.

This is a fine ambition. A beautiful alchemy.

Kitty - I'm kitty kent Secretary of the school.

Mayor Handley - Well kitty, whatever your salary is I'll double it.

Kitty - Well I work here for nothing.

Mayor Handley - very well I'll treble it.

'It's That Man Again' - Tommy Handley (1941)

Working on new piece about gender role expectations and depression I realised that the blog notes I had been making this week were extremely propitious. Primarily because the notes I had made for this and for the next blog made reference to 5 separate Liverpudlian artists.

This gave me pause to think on my no nonsense working class roots and the expectations I lay on myself on behalf of others.

Have I been deluding myself that there is 'face' to save in this business.

How to be a 'pretentious artist' without looking like a big girl's blouse. Is this still a weight I carry?

Am I still caught up in the process of throwing off these imaginary shackles and false taboos I have dragged behind me since childhood? Can I say or do anything without putting on a show that the 'cool' Michael thinks it laughable.

The work I did in the studio today punched me hard and made me cry.

I am grateful to it. I am slightly in awe of it. It’s a bit of a bully. I hope this fear lasts. I need a bloody good slap.

"Be MORE pretentious, you wimp!"

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