Friday, 29 February 2008

Composition in Yellow, Blue and Spanish ('Frankie')

(Background – Following the announcement that club stalwart Antony ‘Frankie’ Howard was leaving the club for America, Fleydon was apparently approached by both the Cuban artist Jay Cee and a representative from the secretive but influential Kent Wombles association. Telephone records indicate that their radical proposal was for Fleydon to produce and lend his name to a flag designed by Jay Cee and to be commissioned and presented by the Men of Kent. To the surprise of many Fleydon appeared to accepted this minor role, especially in light of his recent comments that he “must be left free to plough my own damn artistic furrow – however wobbly it might be”. However events on the day belied this backroom status as Fleydon seemed to dominate proceedings with tannoy announcements, public signings, special all-access clearance to the President’s Lounge and the total usurping of the post-match award ceremony. This exhibition of preening self-congratulation and obsequiousness was of Winkleman-esque proportion as Fleydon took every opportunity of projecting and promoting both himself and his works in a shameless display leaving the assembled audience stunned and embarrassed. For some reason neither Jay Cee nor the Man of Kent were present for the ceremony and their current whereabouts are unknown. Relatives are highly concerned and appeal for anyone with information to make themselves known.)

The 'Commissioned Work' has a long and and distinguished history in the world of art - the Sistine Chapel being one of the more notable examples - but it came as a surprise to find that that Fleydon was happy to accept not only a commission, but also to work in collaboration with the Cuban artist Jay Cee. For an individual renown as having an ego the size of a Hillman Minx what, I wondered, persuaded him to contribute.

"I could say it was the stimulating need to justify my ideas to a co-worker; I could claim that a co-operative work was a suitable tribute to a great servant of the club; I could claim that it was the challenge to work within prescribed limits that intrigued me. However, to be honest I figured that I wouldn't have to do much myself as passable flag had been designed already (and lets face it I'm far more famous than that Cuban lothario and every one would think it was my design anyway). There was a good chance the finished work would end up on the box with my name associated with it and a good chance I would probably appear in the next matchday programme. I had heard that 'Hello!' magazine were sniffing around as well so with just a bit of extra effort on my part I reached a whole new market. From my point of view this was a win-win situation all round and, as they say, all publicity is good publicity!"

With a wink and a cocky-cockney saunter Fleydon moved on down the line to his next work leaving me both disheartened and disillusioned. Had being labeled "The World's Greatest Living Artist" finally gone to Fleydon's head? His willingness to profit from others hard work in order to make a quick buck reminded me of Salvador Dali, another of the infamous 'Fleydon Circle'. I felt obliged to reconsider my attitude toward this icon. Was Fleydon, in fact, less an artist and more an arrogant sh*t? Once the seed had been planted I found myself watering it with the corrosive moisture of doubt and with the genius removed Fleydon did seem to have more than his share of character failings

Composition in Yellow, Blue and Spanish ('Frankie') is presently on its way to the USA where it will be flown every 4th July. Since being signed by several Wimbledon luminaries the flag has rapidly increased in value and is currently insured for double figures.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Composition in Words ("Victory")

"I'm not happy with this work and I fought hard not to have it included in this exhibition but, hey, what can you do?"

Fleydon almost slouches as he draws his rounded shoulders tight around his neck, reminding me of both James Dean and my Aunt's pet tortoise Flash. He continued with his explanation.

"It's not because of the content - a homage to very dear friend no longer with us - nor because of the intellectual basis of the work but really because of the execution. It suffers through my mistakes and like Frankenstein repelled by my own creation, I am both attracted and repelled in equal measure."

Fleydon pointed to the work with his furled umbrella, waving it over the canvas as though still engaged in the act of painting. There is a discernible sense of disappointment about him and a large sigh wracks his frame.

"They say a picture is worth a thousand words but my dear friend Guy Debord* disagreed. He believed that words can conjour up a myriad of mental images especially when the words are chosen with care - a powerful weapon against injustice in hands such as his. Would the rioting Parisian students of the '60's have found inspiration in a Banksey? I doubt it but they did find inspiration in the words of Guy and what is so wonderful to me is that what was true of the young revoloutionaries of Paris is equally true of Terry Brown. Hard to believe? Well it might be seen as a case of convergent evoloution - a similar response to circumstances. Consider the immortal phrase ... "Victory will be for those who create disorder without loving it" - I ask you, what is that other than a succinct summary of Terry's declaration of intent that 'we will win playing football, but if necessary are prepared to 'win ugly'?

Fleydon fell silent again and I tried to gather my thoughts together. It seemed to me that here we have a work that consciously rejects the image for the mentally stimulating power of the word; that then pays homage to a close personal friend and fellow revolutionary; that also echoes the ethos of a team aware that victory can sometimes only be achieved by a disruption of harmony in the opposition - however unaesthetic that may be to the viewer. What, I wondered, could Fleydon find so wrong?

"Execution dear boy. Firstly I bought a king-size canvas in error, which means that the work is inevitably obscured (as in the photo above) and secondly my 'Victory' is far too small. It should have been the word that carried the work but instead the focus is on 'Disorder' and what sort of message is that to send out? I screwed up big time on this one. Guy must be pissing himself laughing"

Composition in Words ("Victory") is currently on loan to the 'Tea Hut Wall Gallery', Kingsmeadow

*Guy Dubord - Situationalist and Marxist Revoloutionary, was a friend of Fleydon from their days together at Stowe and their membership of the Mildenhall Hunt. Dubord delivered the oration at Fleydon's marriage but their relationship became strained in the mid 80's when Dubord declared everything - including Fleydon - a product of his own imagination, a situation Fleydon naturally found intolerable.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Composition in Leather and Whiskers - "Every Shot Counts"

'Ambiguity' is a word that critics often use when attempting to fathom the works of Fleydon. For those not as clever as critics like me this is often seen as a startling statement. 'How can this be so? Fleydon's flags are clarion calls of clarity, as obvious and loud as a street barker selling his wares. How can this be ambiguous?' At first glance this may appear the case, but consider this - the lowly street barker may indeed have a clear voice but what of the ambiguity, the double-entendre, the allusion and, especially in the visual field, the illusion? Exhortation to simpering girls to 'Come and see my cocoanuts!' and winking asides to middle-aged women to check out his 'prime slab of beef' are hardly literal requests!

So it is with Fleydon. When faced with the blank command to Make Every Shot Count, a wise man will pause, take stock, step back a pace or two ... and consider their response.

Fine words butter no parsnips, my saintly Nan once advised me, adding as an afterthought that I should also remember that the devil is in the detail and to always read the fine print. Wise sentiments that have stood me in good stead over the years.

On an objective viewing my suspicions were aroused almost immediately. Where is the crest, the team strip and other obvious visual Wimbledon insignia so prevalant in Fleydon's work? And then there's the man himself, elderly with a full set of whiskers, his eyes wide open and in his hands a weapon - quite possibly a Winchester Repeating Rifle, although the detailing is a little obscure. What are we to make of him? I confess I found myself more and more perplexed the closer I looked. What was it that Fleydon was telling me here?

Time, I felt, to go back to basics and to examine the obvious.

We seem to have a simple message here: Shots at goal are a good thing, but only when they are decent efforts. Blazing over the bar is a waste. Careful shooting is the order of the day then. So far so good and Fleydon chooses to illustrate this dictum with a picture of a cowboy, in the hope that wayward forwards can make the link. Simple and straightforward - no room for ambiguity here. And yet, and yet... something did not add up...

The figure has a grimy yellow neckerchief, it is true, and a sweat-stained blue shirt. But the eyes are wide with fear, the clammy hands locked on to his weapon with a rigidity of sheer terror, not with the usual relaxed insouciance of a Wimbledon player ordering his pint at the bar. He is old, bewhiskerd, befuddled - he's not even aiming his weapon and for all his hardware he looks, well, impotent? The signs were all wrong, I felt a sickness at the bottom of my stomach and my mind was literally spinning as we stood before the canvas. Surely that man couldn't be a Don? What on earth was going on in Fleydon's mind? What was he telling us?

And then it hit me. Just as Colonel Kurtz was struck by his revelation in the jungles of Vietnam, then I too saw everything with a clarity and precision. It was so neat, so obvious and so right. The clue was in the motto Bushwhacked by the Womble Army. Well it was already clear that the old man wasn't a Womble and describing him as an 'army' was laughable and besides bushwhacking is a young man's sport (or certainly was in my Prep School). It was then that the crystal sliver of comprehension pierced my brain. He wasn't the 'whacker, he was the 'whacked!

Everything fell into place - the bewhiskered old man was symbolic of a senior yet decrepit adversary fallen on hard times, as an archetypal 'cowboy' he represented shoddy performances and lack of quality, his yellow and blue were actually the colours of Torquay United, not the Dons, and the fear in his eyes was induced by the sight of lean, hungry and young Wimbledon players laying siege to his goal. He has mentally 'circled his waggons' and has the air of one who knows his time has come. Make Every Shot Count was the instruction to our players aiming to finish him off not advice to a man with flaccid and damp cartridges. Again it reminded me of Kurtz, the symbolic cow ripe for slaughter and scrifice.

Ambiguity? I'll give you ambiguity....this was masterful misdirection that really forces an intellectual gyration from the viewer. Quite brilliant!

Fleydon, however seemed un-moved by my analysis.

"Yes, well, maybe... there might be something in it I suppose. Artistically I was happy with my work but a fat lot of good it does if the opposition refuse to take the message on board. My obvious mistake was to depict the 1879 Winchester, not an earlier model. The 'Gun that Won the West' looks as though it did the job for the South-West as well. And as for my close
friend Roscoe with his cowboy name and his 'love of the club'? Ha! Less
The Man with No-Name and more Bang, Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down. I always prefered Shane anyway."

With that Fleydon turned abuptly and moved on. My exposition had been terminated. With extreme prejudice...