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Thursday, February 9, 2012


And that dear readers is how a check for 140 million dollars looks. Am sure noone who reads my blog has ever had 140 million dollars to spare and so there’s a chance that some may think that when you get to such dastardly levels of money they give you a coloured chequebook sort of like that black card(but I prefer the term African American express- awesome Kanye line-)

That up there is a painting by Jackson Pollack, the name of the painting is number 5, the price tag of the painting is 140 million dollars. Why am I writing about this painting and the absurd number of dollars it collected, well the beginning goes something like this. I live in  a small town of about 80,000 people. A huge population of that nearly 8,000 are university students and they study in the University of Agda. Google maps tells me all I have to do is cross the bridge and keep walking and sooner or later I will get to the university. The truth is it’s later, much, much later. An hour+ of walking is needed to get you there.

Walking is nice, there’s a cool(well freezing) breeze, the air is fresh, the bridge takes you over a river.  I can’t explain why I love water bodies so much or why they represent such huge sounds of freedom, calm and fight to me. Maybe because I come from a landlocked area(I know Kenya isn’t but with Nairobi 8 hours away from the nearest coast it practically is.) maybe it’s a little of genetic memory left over from the fact that my ancestors followed the Nile down to Lake Victoria and made their home there fishing, living, loving and dying within downward drainage distance of the lake. Whatever it is I love lakes and rivers and seas, I love piers and waterfronts, I love boats and ships. I love the sound of the sea and the rush of the river, I love the big magic O of the ocean and passing over a river makes me happy whenever I chance to do it.

1 hour + later we came to the uni, it’s a nice place, big and adorned. They let anyone inside this vast library they have that has row upon row of books. Not all academic not all Norge, there’s biographies of Martin Luther King jr. of Bill Clinton and even of New York city, a book that’s knighted quite rightly Gotham. Then there are the paintings. Row upon blessed row of paintings on the walls, some with obvious skill attached to them, there was a cowl with a scowl. a portrait of the assassin from the creed, the albino from the code(Da). He has a monk’s suit up to his head and his covered in graphite for its a pencil painting  and within it you can see  texture and  colour. You can feel different emotions emanate depending on how you as a person feel, he could be scowling or glowing, threatening or treating.

This is not him, this is something entirely else, this is the introduction to abstract art. To explain picture quality; I have seen strange things since I came to Europe, things I wouldn’t have imagined happened here in Norway the country that did not feel the pinch of the economic crisis of 08. Two brown outs at home, internet speeds of 700 kb. And lastly a camera that doesn’t come with rechargeable batteries. The picture quality has been getting worse and worse as the battery gets less and less. Well since there are no visual aids I’ll just say it’s a picture I could do without seeing.

 This is woman 3 by William de Kooning, price tag 137.5 million. Why? I don’t get it. And there it is I don’t get abstract art and I feel like am missing out on something. It could be a scam couldn’t it? The emperor’s new clothes on an arty level, a bubble started by an art critic who unbeknownst to us is the grandson of woman 1 and entitled to a good chunk of the change. But it’s probably not.

Look at books or movies. They say read War and Peace  by Tolstoy, greatest Russian novel ever written perhaps greatest book on earth. They say read Moby Dick  by Melville, never has there been a greater exploration of the effects of desire and revenge, a voyage not only into the dark deep sea to harpoon a whale but a journey into the depths of man, of a man in a  quest to rid himself of the demons he must face. I have never read Moby Dick not that I haven’t tried, I gave it a shot. I took it from a friend’s house because the critics and literature schools said  I should and I couldn’t. it was page after line of some of the most inane crap i  had read in a while, but maybe I was young then, too young in my language, too impatient in myself to truly enjoy a masterpiece, not at peace enough to let it seep into my subconscious and live there altering what needed to be altered until I was left a different man.

Maybe, because I read War and Peace later in life and I loved it. I had it on pdf and I would sit at the dining room table with the laptop on and read a chapter a day every day for a month or so. All 900 pages of the pdf and I was so caught up in the story it was ridiculous. There was a world of characters and like practice for later listens to A song of ice and fire(the universe encompassing books on which a game of thrones is based) I was caught up in all of them. All finely drawn and nuanced, none of them white or black, all of them grey with struggle and soot, all of them changing and different. I would miss someone if they were gone too long because the book had taken the trouble to build them up minutely into full humans, then it would draw back and look at the society or discuss Napoleonic war strategies and why the skill of the general matters not, it would take a look at a continent in crisis and confusion, at refugees and burning houses and rushes into battles that were more foolhardy than a suicide walk. And in the end it was a whole book written as a philosophical argument against the way we read and write history. And I loved it. There’s a chance that if these were switched in the order read then I would have lauded dick and loathed peace but we’ll never know.

My point is I have no idea why those paintings cost so much, it may be a scam but that’s too simple, too easy a way to look at such a vast and challenging industry. One that has been the abode of the intellectually well off and the financially gifted. Only those with means could afford it and while a fool and his money are soon parted I wouldn’t call anyone who has such reserves of wealth a fool. I wasn’t smart enough to be born into such money and so I hold my tongue. And the art professors, critics and professionals. They seem smart. They have studied and they understand what is meant by representational art, the words impressionist mean something to them. They don’t lump the baroque together with the renaissance school and call it all abstract. They take care to categorise and mark. They make note of brush strokes and paint choices, of canvas layout and its relation to artist history. They research the provenance of a piece before they recommend and they make a living critiquing art.

Maybe like the book masterpieces am too young to understand it. Too uneducated(in that field) to understand it. So I won’t bash it. But I won’t praise it either. Its making a fool of yourself to worship a sun god in the winter(not but should be a Norwegian saying-just saying.) I don’t understand it maybe if I knew enough I would but until then I can take simple pleasure in the art I don’t have to learn to like,

the portrait of Dr. Gachet  byVincent Van gogh
 This is the portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent van Gogh. He was an art genius we all know his name if not for his art at least for his ear or lack thereof and when I look at the print of this painting I can understand why he's so praised. Dr. Gachet looks sad, he looks lonely and heartbroken, no one has to be told this. He gazes off into the distance with a kind of longing,  a deep well of longing, he wants something he cannot have. But in his eyes is acceptance, the round oval light of a truck coming down a tunnel. Maybe one day he can look back at his love as a lesson learnt but right now he cannot. Right now the world doesn’t feel real to him, he’s in a wave of despair and it alters all around him. His table and the things on it, his coat and the stitches in it, they are distorted and distended, changed by grief. The air behind him is almost a weight at least on itself, it presses down making more waves, mountains of waves, blue, blue waves. that without lessons is to me a painting of hearbreak

That I believe is art.


  1. i quite honestly don't get it either! n yea i gave the Nantucket whalers a crack too! needless to say that was abandoned! but Pyotor Alexandrevich on the other hand: i finished both Chapters in four days! but like you say it; maybe its my primitive mind but honestly i sometimes doubt its my faculties! and as they say in Malawi 'makonda makonda: buluzi anakonda khonde'(different likes: the lizard loves the verandah)

    1. yeah that moby dick novel is a mountain, i haven't read pyotor alexandrevich but sounds russian and i like thos russian books, that's my verandah