The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
Paintings by 49 British, European and US artists are on show at this major Tate initiative which includes work by Andy Warhol and Bridget Riley along with canvases by younger painters like Peter Davies, Francis Baudevin and Daniel Sturgis.
The exhibition was conceived by Sturgis and the selection of work is his, reflecting his "partial and partisan" interests as a painter.
On an initial viewing, the divergence of style and the sheer quantity of work on show makes for a bewildering incoherence.
Some of the more recent paintings revamp the formal building blocks of abstraction - colour relationships, shape, illusionistic picture space versus flat surface - using both novel and familiar techniques of making/painting and referencing the history of abstraction.
Sometimes craft skills are literally overwhelming as in Peter Davies's huge - 15m x 10m - Small Touching Squares Painting (1998).
In the accompanying textual explanation Sturgis says that the "tenacity" evident in thousands of tiny squares "reveals something of his own temperament and perhaps underscores the situation of contemporary painting in all its absurdity and endurance."
Hopefully, the irony is intended.
In some of the paintings the decorative surface dominates and obscures meaning, rather like contemporary celebrity architecture where the shiny seduction of cladding often confuses our understanding of a physical structure, hiding its meaning as useful space.
Yet there are interesting questions concerning the nature of abstraction, its history and potential for the communication of ideas for artists now, which are implicit in a number of works.
In Third International (1985), David Diao appears to connect with the revolutionary, utopian intention of early modernism in the nascent Soviet Union in a three-canvas work stacked in an arrangement intended to recall Vladimir Tatlin's 1919 design for a never-built, colossal tower.
Implied questions - is the modernist project unfinished? Is the utopian project impossible or is it a playful abstraction of abstract art? - are left open.
That appears to be the case too with Francis Baudevin's wall painting Ejafjallajokull which at first seems merely to be an abstract arrangement of black and red triangles.
Yet the accompanying text provides a different interpretation, explaining that it represents the carbon dioxide output of the recent Icelandic volcanic eruption balanced against the emissions saved by the simultaneous grounding of aircraft.
Thus while the exhibition has the intention of attempting to show that the languages of abstraction have remained "urgent, relevant and critical," that laudable mission is only partly realised in its execution here.
Runs until January 3. Box office: (01736) 796-226.