Sunday, 24 January 2016

Paolozzi Revealed

I have just finished reading Ann Shaw’s Paolozzi Revealed.  It’s an account of Paolozzi’s 10 day 1996 ‘masterclass’ in which 18 people participated.  Ann herself seems to have ‘got’ Paolozzi eventually, though there was clearly some animosity, especially because of an incident on the last day when he gave her a verbal dressing down in front of the class. 

Ann’s record of the ‘event’ has an ongoing theme wherein the ‘students’ feel dissatisfaction with the lack of instruction/direction by Paolozzi.  Coupled with his apparent lack of manners – what we’d now call ‘interpersonal skills’ – the Artist is portrayed as antipathetic, hostile even. 

It is said that the most technically gifted footballers cannot be good coaches because of a lack of patience: they just can’t understand why their pupils are unable to perform with the brilliance they themselves do.  And with Paolozzi you have a man who has spent a lifetime building up ideas/concepts and repositories of objects and imagery – component materials with which he is ready to work in novel and refreshing ways at the drop of a hat.  Little wonder that he was frustrated by a group of mature ‘students’ who seemed to be wanting to be told ‘what to do’! 

Paolozzi told the group that they would ‘learn’ by an osmosis-like process facilitated by being in his company.  That seems entirely logical.  All that is unfathomable to me is why Paolozzi would have agreed to conduct the masterclass at all – I can’t see what was in it for him. 

Incidentally, in response to Paolozzi’s suggestion that the class goes to the library to read what’s been written about him, Ann says that he hadn’t written much himself.  That’s not so – for starters you’ll be more than a day or two working your way through the book, Eduardo Paolozzi: Writings and Interviews edited by Robin Spencer.  This book alone will tell you far more about Paolozzi than the recent monograph by Judith Collins which Ann advocates: it is a disappointing book for its superficiality and absence of fresh insight and interpretation of Paolozzi’s ideas and imagery. 

Ann’s account is fascinating and the photographs add immediacy.  If you already ‘know’ Paolozzi you won’t learn much you don’t already know, but it will add what used to be referred to in painting classes at my Sixties Art Schools as ‘local colour!’.