Decamot of the month

31 May 2020-Pictures at an exhibition

Decamot inspired by the following items: Moorland, Abrams tank, hoofer, clock tower, Stetson, spectator, keyboard, 5th Avenue, satellite, telephone box

Homburg Hat* Property Developer* Jazz * Chocolate Cake * Garden Shed*

“This picture depicts a property developer wearing a Homburg Hat listening to jazz whilst eating a piece of chocolate cake in his garden shed”

The semi-circle of twenty first year students gathered behind Professor Sir Jonathan Noh-Whitall were a mixed bunch given some semblance of conformity by the museum’s new health and safety rules obliging all visitors to wear yellow plastic helmets with their names displayed on white labels stuck on the front.

An introduction to art appreciation was a mandatory element in the Open University’s BA Hons degree, so some were more enthusiastic than others. Sir Jonathan himself was standing in for a colleague who had called in sick at the last moment; his normal specialisation was Japanese puppetry.

They were on the first floor of Tate Modern overlooking the Thames. The picture they were studying was by Jacob Easel - Board, one of a series called Shed Through The Seasons.

“It is typical of his late Victorian period when most artists were seeking inspiration to justify the post-colonial, post industrial revolution era. The aesthetic had given way to the functional. Lowry was yet to make his spectacular entry on the scene and Walter Sickert was about to bore for Britain.”

One of the students interrupted the professor’s intellectual flow with a question which was on the lips of several of her colleagues. Easel-Board’s masterpiece looked like a pile of planks on which an old cuckoo clock had been thrown, together with a discarded record player which could have been a Crosley Bermuda in vintage red.

“How the hell can you deduce all that from a picture my five year old could have knocked off before breakfast?” she said

“Elementary my dear Watson”, replied the Professor reading the name off the questioner’s yellow helmet. “The time on the cuckoo clock is 3 o’clock, a traditional time for tea and cake, the shadow cast on the shop wall by the sun reflecting off the clock has the shape of a homburg hat – a typically clever touch that by Easel-Board – reminding us that his father had been a property developer in Dresden. The record player speaks for itself”

“But this picture could have been taken outside any branch of Dr Barnardo’s most weekends, blown up to ten times its original size, stuck on the wall and six chimpanzees let loose to colour it in as an advertisement for PG Tips” retorted Emily Watson to the muffled sound of some shuffling of feet as other students began to observe social distancing.

“Ah but it wasn’t Miss Watson” said the Professor deploying his most condescending tone yet,” That’s the whole point of conceptual art. Easel-Board was influenced by Gustav Schlappedasch whose experimental studio in Dresden is credited with paving the way for such artistic geniuses as Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Tracey Emin. It would be fair to say that Emily Watson was not alone in her reservations but, equally, many of her fellow students were enthralled. One or two were near to salivating at being in the presence of such an éminence grise as Sir Jonathan Noh-Whitall.

The next picture on their introductory tour was easier to take in. It was painted by Kristopher J. Battles a well-known war artist of the American post-Vietnam era. He was a sergeant in The United States Marine Corps which conducts expeditionary operations with all branches of the US armed forces, Army, Navy and Airforce.

It showed a Stetson wearing black hoofer, dancing on an Abrams Tank. One spectator to the left is clapping the dancer’s nimble footwork along the pointed barrel of the gun

Sir Jonathan was quickly into his smooth linguistic stride, his mellifluous delivery covering any cracks in historical facts.

“War artists explore the visual and sensory dimensions of war, often absent in written histories or other accounts of warfare.” He intoned with his polished air of gravitas “But this picture has been the subject of some debate among American politicians.

Emily Watson instantly recalled the video clip of President Trump answering questions at his weekly Press conference when one journalist after another cast doubts on the real significance of “Tank Dancing” by Kristopher J. Battles.

Journo 1: Mr President, do you think it demeans the dancer who is clearly of colour and is being applauded by a member of the Klu Klux Clan?

Trumps Reply: “Have you seen my latest poll ratings?” Next question!

Journo 2: Mr President, doesn’t it show that the enemy, by dancing on top of the tank, cannot be harmed, therefore the Abrams Tank is next to useless?

Trumps Reply: “Have you seen my latest poll ratings?” Next question!

Journo 3: “With 10,000 manufactured at a cost of US$ 10 million per Tank, would it not have been more cost effective to set fire to a 5000 ft pyramid of 10 dollar bills?

Trumps Reply: “Have you seen my latest poll ratings?” Next question!

Journo 4: “As it is parked on 5th Avenue pointing at Trump Tower, the spectator and the hoofer are rejoicing at a direct hit. Any comment, Sir?

Trumps Reply: “Have you seen my latest poll ratings?” Conference over!

Sir Jonathan was now coming to the end of his impromptu Open University lecture determined to finish on a peroration worthy of his genius. Most of his students were seized by indifference. Only Emily Watson and a quiet shy retiring young man stood out as dissenting from the rest. Unlike Emily who had made her scepticism obvious, the young man was totally enthralled by Sir Jonathan’s dazzling command of ideas.

“So you can see how great art sows the seeds of creativity in the mind of the viewer. It has the ability of turning a simple telephone box into a satellite circling the moorlands of your imagination, without the need to use a single note on the keyboard of experience, like a timeless clocktower”

The quiet young man picked up his complimentary copy of Tate Modern’s bestselling cassette “Professor Sir Jonathan Noh-Whitall talks complete Jackson Pollocks”

He approached the great man so he could sign a copy for him.

“That was truly inspirational Sir Jonathan” he said “As I was listening to you I found myself composing pieces of music in my head that seemed to fit the aura you created with your extensive vocabulary. I cant wait to get home and put down some crochets and quavers of my own!”

The Professor looked up and smiled at the name on the quiet young man’s yellow helmet. M. Mussorgsky it said.

“Glad to be of service young man” he said “I am glad you found my modest contribution inspiring”

When he arrived back at his study that evening he googled Mussorgsky. Funny name he thought.