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Of Art and Cunning. What's the diff?

OF CUNNING AND ART. WHAT’S THE ... Picasso hadn't much to say about anything but found a thousand ... ways to say it. He ended his days ... ... female ... from his te


Pablo Picasso hadn't much to say about anything but found a thousand different ways to say it. He ended his days frantically sketching female wrestlers from his television set. He was adamantly a realist. He was a demon-possessed little man who evidently thought that creative freedom was to be in a permanent state of demon-possession. They also say that he suffered from satyriasis although none of his wives ever referred to his medical condition. One simply called him “a dirty old man”. Oddly, for a Spaniard, he was an atheist which, of course, allowed him to treat women abominably. Atheism, as Josef Stalin and his likes discovered, comes with a lot of perks. If Pablo's output had been less prodigious we would be looking at him quite differently. Together with Georges Braque he founded Cubism. Just who contributed what to this style is still something of a mystery as Georges wasn't a great talker.
If a writer is an eejit it will manifest in his diatribes. Not so with painters because it is harder to tell the good guys from the bad guys by looking at a blue square. Paul Klee, for example, brutally beat his son on a regular basis as good Germans were taught to do. But, who could tell from his child-like fantasies? Those delicate lines and elfin figures fairly tug at the heart-strings. Even Hitler's water-colours have a certain charm. The Fuhrer’s dad incidentally was not one to spare the rod and spoil the child as millions of Jews discovered. Art is sacred after all, isn't it?
That's why you had an entire art movement dedicated to taking the piss out of it called Dadaism. After the 1st World War people figured that if neither they nor their children were sacred, nor life itself for that matter, where the hell did art come in? I mean, did anybody clamber over the muck of Flanders on his way to certain death with The Louvre uppermost in his mind? That is why Duchamp who had lost friends in the great fiasco painted a moustache on the Mona Lisa. Duchamp would be famous for that alone. I doubt if he was the first either. Every schoolkid in France must have had crack at that one. But, what Duchamp is really famous for is this; he took the piss out of art while carefully refraining from taking the piss out of his own. We doff our caps.
Cunning was greatly admired by the ancient Greeks. In politics, law firms, accountancy offices, Jesuit colleges and poker games everywhere it is still revered as a virtue. The global corridors of power resonate minutely with the lemming cacophony of black humour afforded by cunning. Art establishments too from the Venice Biennale to the Turner Prize worship at its shrine. Artists themselves are exemplars in the field. You really wouldn't want to be lost at sea in an open boat with low supplies and an artist for company now, would you? Your first and last mistake would be to try and get some sleep. Best to throw yourself overboard and die with dignity.
People who take the piss successfully like Voltaire, Ibsen and Shaw are called "great iconoclasts". People who are unsuccessful at it are called Salman Rushdie or more usually “the deceased”
Salvador Dali, another applauded fox and roue, takes cunning to the heights of art itself. A self-styled showman along the lines of Barnum complete with waxed moustache and malacca cane Dali marketed himself on the back of his divinised wife Gala with the gusto of a Madame Hollywood. In reality, their relationship manifested all the warmth of a title fight. Dali kept his output deliberately low so that his produce would stay over-subscribed and therefore over-valued. Had he lived long enough he might well have floated himself on the stock market like David Bowie, himself a dabbler in pigment.
Journalist and television host the late Malcolm Muggeridge declared that Dali was the worst man he ever interviewed. His egotism was insufferable, he wrote. And this to man who talked fondly of Winston Churchill! By contrast, the best man he ever interviewed was Brendan Behan the boundaries of whose ego stretched no further than the next pint. Brendan just sat there in his studio chair, oblivious to any and every question, singing his head off, and then promptly fell asleep.
Dali’s bag was, of course, Freudian psychoanalytic theory which he illustrated using his “paranoiac method”, a red herring if ever there was. Gullible Americans addicted to the couch bought the lot wholesale and made Dali collectible beyond his wildest hallucinations. You can’t help but admire it, eh?
Freud’s nephewBusiness Management Articles, by the way died in 1998 at the age of 105. He was the founding father of the global-mind control we call ‘modern advertizing’. He used to visit his uncle regularly in pursuit of a good slogan. One wanders if he ever bumped into Salvador Dali on the stairs.

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Will Kelly is one of The Bogside Artists Ireland's most famous muralists. He has worked as as freelance journalist on-and-off for years and is author of The Bogside Artists' website;

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