Monday, 29 February 2016


This week I went to the incredibly popular Royal Academy show “Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse”. It had been described by the Guardian as

a ravishing joy from start to finish”.

Yet - oh dear. Am I a philistine? I was a bit bored. Monet is in the money as an artist - one of his many lilies “The Water Lily Pond” sold for $54 million at New York in May last year but there was a dreary sameness of colourful blobs throughout the exhibition. I found myself growling that flowers are precise and mathematical in design not random slobs. My mind was annoyed and my heart unmoved.

Until I came to the less well known Alfred Parsons (no me neither). Born in 1847 he died in 1920. He lived in Broadway where artists of the late 19th century congregated.   He was an artist, illustrator and a garden designer. As it happens I know one of the gardens he designed. It’s wonderful.

Here is the picture that really caught my wife’s eye and mine. It has movement and invites you in. It is one of the pictures in the RA that actually smelt of flowers. These rude orange lilies reek of summer and there’s a back story behind that gate…a couple embracing or a cat sunning itself. The painting is alive. It’s also valuable but more like $20,000 than $20 million.

I’ve decided to listen to my heart more and less to what I’m told to think. And let that terrible expression of the second rate businessman “the devil lies in the detail” be forever sent into exile. That’ll be good news for Boris Johnson whom, as far as I know is not keen on gardening, painting or detail.  If he had a song here’s how it would go:-

You put your right arm in
your right arm out
In, out, in, out,
You shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Cokey and you turn around
That's what it's all about...

But I digress….

After recent weeks of working on presentations and reading business books I’d had enough. They maybe full of quotable stuff from chaps like Peter Drucker positioning culture as the key to success:

Culture eats strategy for breakfast” he said; right on Peter.

Because yes, it’s good (but like Monet is it worth the money?) So I decided to refresh my mind with some John Le Carré.

My wife had bought me “The Night Manager” which is also currently on TV - it’s BBC drama at its swaggering best. The book’s astonishing, dense and beautifully written; it speaks to my mind and to my heart.

He’s such a fine craftsman and his definition of what a story is, is  unsurpassable:
“‘The cat sat on the mat’ is not a story.
‘The cat sat on another cat’s mat’ is a story.”

He also wrote a book called “The Constant Gardener” which brings me back to Monet……
Painting the Mo Garden: Monet to Matisse

No comments: