Endings and beginnings

Fugitive Ink

Preeminently, 2008 has been discouraging. Most of the reasons for this are so general and obvious as to require no elaboration, the rest so obscure as to elude it. Suffice to say, the ending of the old year seems to me more a cause for celebration, or at any rate a sigh of relief, than anything else.

Yet for all its gratuitously nasty surprises, minor sorrows and longueurs, 2008 has not been without consolations. And while the variously cheering effects of my beloved husband, son, cats, small amounts of travel and a box-set of Bach cantatas (Harnoncourt conducting) might have been predicted, the success — however modest — of Fugitive Ink’s first year proved more of a surprise.

The fact that Fugitive Ink will soon celebrate its first birthday — quite possibly with a self-indulgently long, effusive review of this, for what could be more festive? — is in no small part due to the kindness of friends, the virtual sort as much as the terrestrial, and of course those in between. Which is to say, warm thanks, in no very obvious order, to Iain, Julian H, Barry, Franklin, and in particular, to the incomparable if presently silent JL.

Thanks too — profound ones — to all those visitors whose comments entertained, informed and generally encouraged me. All of you made Fugitive Ink seem a bit less like a diary left open on my desk, and more like a means of communication.

Praise, curiosity and friendly concern — sometimes in the form of personal emails rather than comments per se — has been more welcome than some of my correspondents may have realised. Indifference from some quarters was expected. Outright hostility (‘you used to be better than this’) should perhaps in retrospect have come as less of a surprise than it did, but was at any rate disillusioning, which is rarely a bad thing.

That, anyway, was 2008. Life moves on. In the year ahead, I hope that Fugitive Ink will continue to provide more badly-edited, over-elaborate, near-unreadable commentary on deeply obscure subjects than virtually anyone will want to read — if only because, well, some of you clearly do enjoy reading this stuff, almost as much as I enjoy writing it. That being the case, it only remains for me to wish all of you much happiness, peace and tranquility in 2009.

Bunny Smedley
London

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Endings and beginnings

  1. And a peaceful and prosperous 2009 to you, Bunny.

    If there is any consolation in living through unpleasant experiences, at least we’re presented with new opportunities to learn about ourselves. (I’ve learned at least a few things about myself that I didn’t particularly want to know at the time…)

    That may be small comfort, but it’s not nothing, and in the long run it’s *far* from nothing.

    As for the blog:

    Bravo. I enjoy reading about any obscure topic you find yourself considering, but I especially enjoy the art-related content…as someone with little formal training who finds most art criticism (and writing about art in general) absolutely impenetrable, I think you do a wonderful job, not least because you provide so much useful context. And your thoughts and reflections are always worth reading.

  2. Typically wise and cheering words, Barry.

    Insofar as I’ve learned anything much from this marginally tiresome year (and, my newfound enthusiasm for the arrival 2009 notwithstanding, heaven knows 2008 wasn’t really as bad as all that — just, well, a bit discouraging in places) then it’s to be even more grateful for the quite remarkable number of blessings vouchsafed to me. And surely we should include 37-year old friendships amongst the more spectacular of those?

    Anyway, the happiest of new years to you and those close to you, two-legged and four-legged both.

  3. JL

    “Incomparable”? I’m flattered. I’m also afraid that my pleasure at seeing 2008 depart (ushered out, as it happened, at home, while eating a tasty puff pancake washed down with a couple of glasses of cider, wondering who all the people on the tv were, exactly, before rushing off to bed) was only tempered by dismay at having to face 2009. Terry Teachout found the right quote, I think.

    All whining aside, cheers to a year’s worth of Fugitive Ink and more to come. Venetian paintings at the National Gallery seems like just the thing as I mentally prepare for this (and who knows, I may even manage to write about it.) I’m still carrying around in my bag the Greater London Council’s 1982 catalog on Batoni and his British patrons, by the way, a slim volume that’s convinced me that a trip to Uppark would be very worthwhile, if possible. For that, and for all that your writing has given me to think about or laugh with (not to mention the times it’s sent me scurrying to the library), my deepest thanks.

  4. ‘Incomparable’ indeed, JL — not just your rather elegant lack of urgency in rushing to judgement on Batoni, either! Obviously I’m already looking forward to whatever you may post about this as one of the potential highlights of 2009. Or perhaps, given the rate at which our various blogs progress, 2010 or beyond … ; )

    Meanwhile, the very apt Dos Passos quote notwithstanding, my uncharacteristic optimism regarding the new year persists.

    We saw ours in at a friend’s place in the Lake District. A small party of friends spent the last day of the old year scaling mist-shrouded fells, the allegedly magnificent views on every side completely invisible, dark masses appearing suddenly a few feet away before resolving themselves as trees or lichen-mottled limestone outcrops or indeed briefly vanished companions. Even Cartmel’s very beautiful, extremely prominently-sited 12th century priory failed to provide any sort of visual reference-point, if only because once we’d moved a few yards beyond it, it was no longer visible. Needless to say, we were soon quite remarkably, hilariously, eventually almost supernaturally lost.

    Eventually we found our way home again. Around midnight, nourished by a combination of vintage champagne plus the only slightly greasy offerings of the chippie down the road, we watched as a log that had ostentatiously failed to ignite for hours suddenly roared into flame, burned briefly and brightly, and dissolved suddenly into a heap of radiant ash.

    The first day of the new year saw us out on the hills again, this time looking out at a prospect more like this than anything I’ve ever seen in real life. And indeed, down in the valley, a New Year’s day hunt was in progress. Through cold, clear air its music echoed up to us on Black Crag: the faint cry of the hounds, the weirdly ululating notes of the huntsman’s horn. At the top we ate chocolate and basked briefly in the sunshine, before scrambling down again. The views seemed all but infinite.

    Readers who like that sort of thing may, of course, supply their own metaphorical readings. Alternatively, they could simply enjoy it all uncritically, which is what I did.

  5. Oh, on the contrary, thank you for existing.

    Fugitive Ink represents a level of erudition, thoroughness, and artful phrasing that sits quite out of reach of the author of Artblog.net, who will have to satisfy his readers, if he can, with short-form jaunts littered with occasional spasms of cleverness. A few audience members are asking me to pick it up a bit, citing your work in comparison, which frankly makes me think I should stick to the art.

    2008 was mightily disruptive to our lives as well, but so was 2007, and 2006 wasn’t exactly a model of stability, so I expect 2009 will feature more breaking loose of all hell and we will make the best of it anyway. I hope against hope for an uneventful year full of quiet pleasures, and wish you the same should you want it, or all of what you wish for instead. As the year proceeds I look forward to more Fugitive Ink.

  6. Wow, thanks for that, Franklin!

    While I’m a great fan of your reviews in particular (always thought-provoking and beautifully written too, c.f. this recent one) the frequency of your blogging has also proved a source of amazement as well as pleasure hereabouts. How you manage to achieve all of these things, while painting too, is quite genuinely beyond me.

    As for 2009, an uneventful year full of quiet pleasures would be perfect, actually. But until that happens, I’m more than happy to settle for some remarkably generous comments from three bloggers whom I admire hugely.

    So, here’s to making the best of whatever this new year has to offer, which seems a reasonable goal for all of us.

  7. I achieve all these things by not making enough art, which has become a sore point among the committee in my head that handles steering. Some adjustment must take place in the coming year. What manner thereof I’m still deciding.

  8. Perhaps, Franklin, that new studio will make all the difference? I hope so — although, entirely selfishly, I concurrently hope that whatever ‘adjustment’ takes place still allows plenty of scope for artblog.net, or at least something very like it. And for once, in saying this, I’m not even staking out a freakishly unpopular position.

    The committee in my head that handles steering resigned in disgust years ago. One of these days I should sort out replacements, I guess — but where to find the time?

    Meanwhile, JL is no longer silent! Truly, this new year is off to a marvellous start.

  9. JL

    Careful, now–I’m feeling quite a bit like the famous groundhog, and am likely to scamper back to not-posting if I, or anyone, spots my shadow. But I am trying to get back to things, yes, and hope to have more to come soon.

  10. Groundhog or not, JL, I was thinking of you today, because at long last I made it to the absolutely delightful Osbert Lancaster exhibition at the Wallace Collection.

    Not only were Lancaster and Anthony Powell friends (although as to whether they ever ‘overlapped’ I remain in agreeable ignorance), but one of the small masterpieces on display was Batoni’s magnificent portrait of ‘Sensibility’ Littlehampton — as rendered by Lancaster, anyway, whose pastiches manage the near-impossible trick of being funny, sharp-eyed and yet always true to Lancaster’s own very distinctive style, all at the same time. All of which was quite a lot of JL content for one morning, especially if I’m also supposed to be ignoring your existence!

    In any event, if you truly are a groundhog, that means at worst we have to wait six weeks for your next post. Could be worse, couldn’t it?