Updated: Nov 8

I was given a wonderful project from my adult education jewellery making class once, which was to make a piece of jewellery influenced by the great artists. I chose Picasso and Matisse. I didn’t want to replicate their work into jewellery, rather do something a bit different. These were great projects to do. I delved into their lives and their works, and trying to fathom a bit about them as people and understand more about their art.

It is fashionable today to discuss Picasso as a sexist person because ‘of the way he treated women’. But you can’t judge a person on the basis of their relationships, or can you? He was renowned for his amazing art, he painted many women, there were clearly some issues; whether it’s that he found it hard to trust or hard to love, we might never know and he is obviously not here to tell his side of the story.

One of my favourites of his is the weeping woman. I have heard some people say that by painting a woman who he was having an affair with and showing her clear distress was cruel. I dispute that. Whatever was going on for him (which we may never know) he left a most insightful and beautiful piece of art, and it helps people who have suffered or may still be suffering something similar. I was in that position too, being a mistress, and it is excruciatingly painful. How common is it? Love triangles and so on? At a guess I would say it was very common. It’s something I wish would be taught about in sex education in schools because for many young women and girls they have no idea that they could be degraded during their adult lives, they very much believe it’s something that would happen to other women and not them. It’s tragic affairs of the heart. Picasso painted it and experienced it.

Of course, he is most famous for the great anti-war painting, ‘Guernica’. He was obviously a great artist and also a person who had deep sensitivities. Having feelings is something that is all part of our lives, and under the epoch of war and fascism; sensitivities are repressed. I consider Picasso to have been a strong character who channelled his feelings into art and left a profound, lasting and damning legacy for all to see.

The piece of jewellery I designed for him in my class in 2015 was made as a gift to him and it comprised an open hand made in copper; stone set with a blood stone.

Copper hand with bloodstone cab design from my jewellery design sketchbook
For Picasso jewellery design

Updated: Nov 8

At first glance the paintings were intriguing and impressive, but I couldn’t quite work out what was going on – apart from the obvious – being lots of naked and semi naked people dancing around statues of gods like Pan and Bacchus. At one point as I was in front of one of the paintings, I got a flicker of a sense of ‘freedom’, but it was brief and was followed by a sense of a strange sort of sickness.

I found myself drawn and mesmerised by how these paintings were made, and in that technical sense they are masterpieces. To capture dancing figures and represent them in 2D without there being any photographic references is an amazing feat.

The exhibition showed his whole process; he made wax carvings of figurines, used multiple light sources and raw silk drapes on them. He also made preliminary sketches of the paintings. I found that the background of the countryside and woods was pretty unremarkable but the dancing figures in the foreground stood out completely. In that sense the background and foreground did not really flow together, but it was technically amazing.

The paintings to me smacked of debauchery. It was interesting how Poussin and his paintings were very much accepted into the establishment at the time. He was commissioned to do a triple portrait Cardinal de Richelieu in 1642.

I found the narrative in his paintings on show at the National somewhat inconsequential except as a technical directive for the future. Poussin was fascinated by the art of the Roman empire, the friezes and enormous decorative vases. While I was at the exhibition, I sketched the second century (at least that was how I read the date description) frieze of dancers. And took a photo of the last painting of Poussin shown in the exhibition, of the dancers.

There are three main trajectories in the definition of ‘culture’. Beauty, History and Interest. I believe Medway has them all, and very strongly.

Obtaining recognition of Medway’s culture nationally would significantly raise awareness of what we have here. ‘The Medway Scene’ is well known nationally and internationally and is well loved locally by all and especially those who were and those who are currently part of it, in terms of innovation. It’s manifested here primarily in poetry, writing, music, art, and comedy. Those who partake in the culture and those who lead it are aware of the somewhat subterranean nature of it. It’s very much a sub culture, and it’s very precious to the local people, and the youth in particular.

The Medway Scene sub culture needs to be left alone because it can and often does centre around peoples’ (often young peoples’) feelings of being hurt, misunderstood, rejected. I feel that it would be very wrong to raise the Medway sub culture scene to a formality. Instead, I believe a more effective way would be to have and promote formal or perhaps what could be described as “High Culture”. If we look at cities that facilitate a large number of ‘High culture’ venues and institutions, like London or Nottingham, Cardiff, Sheffield, Bristol, for example, the richness of it breeds, and there’s a fusion of high culture and sub cultures.

The point would be to allow the two to interact and inspire. The strong and famous ‘Medway Scene’ would benefit from formal recognition but this is more likely to happen if our “High culture” venues were to be enhanced. I believe building up arts and culture in our formal venues like schools, charities and businesses would be so good for the area and would involve no more than a strategy that funnels investment to our cultural venues, and utilises materials and resources that are already around, like plays, orchestral music, art and so on.

It would need to all link together, so for example an encouragement of drama at the schools and colleges, maybe specific drama colleges, and then reinstate, revamp or rebuild our theatres. Similarly fine art.

Art is known to aid regeneration, so it would be needed to be encouraged in the schools and colleges through to arts venues like centres, galleries with places to congregate such as eateries and bars. The same formulation for music, start and encourage it at the schools and colleges and then provide the venues that will link them to the wider population.

I believe that High culture has a place in encouraging young people and also soothing, entertaining and enhancing the lives of everyone. Things like Shakespeare, opera, classical music, these sources are incredibly rich and vibrant. If these were to be facilitated the whole area would benefit and the youth sub cultures would also be inspired.

The Medway sub culture is famous. The portrait here to illustrate it is of Bill Lewis who was one of the original stuckists; along with Billy Childish and Tracey Emin.

It is great, and it could well be left alone for example and there be formal cultural facilities enhanced and high culture brought out. There is beauty, history and interest here in Medway, let's bring it out, let's use it.