There are many occasions where one requires the need for escape and Christmas and New Year offer up a feast of them. Topping the list of escape ruses has to be the child. For those of you who have one I am sure the errant use of such child in awkward family situations has come to the fore over the holidays and no doubt you’re quite smug that you have gotten away with it: well you haven’t. The problem is that after being a child, one is quite aware when a friend or relative is using one against you. For example, “He’s / she’s tired," is a classic; often invoked when the gathering has turned stale. ‘Making strange’ is another one I love; this generally happens when the parent wants to hint that you have been less than attentive in your baby-visiting. The one I usually get is the mother asking the child in question, “do you know who this is?" Which, when issued from my own sister, translates to, “you’re the worst aunt in history: my child thinks you’re a stranger!" I freely admit that I do harbour a certain lack of baby-interest; I think it stems from being a callous scientist; my sensitive compass is somewhat off.
In art escapology arises when someone asks you do you like their work? or would you write a review for a certain show? It’s an odd practice but one that happens regularly. So you agree to write the forward for the show of an artist whose work you normally love and lo and behold they have a howler. This is a predicament; you no doubt were asked because the person in question presumed you’d give it a gushing write-up. This in-turn suggests they think you’re easy – in the critical sense, which is akin to being easy in any sense and regardless of situation nobody likes to be called easy; I pride myself on being generally quite awkward. So you turn up and hate it; then what do you do? Well you are obliged to be honest and I have to say there’s nothing quite as scary as a crossed artist. It all stems from being coddled in art school. Process is professed when really they didn’t finish the work adequately, concept theorised when the work is vapid and naivety is an all-purpose excuse for being incapable of drawing. I have to say I am terrible in these situations; I have a certain facial over-expression when I don’t like something that invariably gives me away. My old boss used to say that he always knew when I thought an idea he had was terrible as I would scrunch up my face; of course he hated me. Nobody, no matter how arrogant they are, likes to be told they’re wrong and this is more pronounced in the art world. What to do then? It is highly unlikely that a less-than-glowing foreword would be published with the artist’s monograph; though think of how funny that would be – maybe people would actually read them? In a similar vein, I read an interview with Chris Evans in this week’s Sunday Times wherein he explained how he had asked several acquaintances to write a (favourable) foreword about him for his biography. He thought it was quite ‘artistic’. There I would have to agree.