Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Art practice, life, and the everyday.

The dilemma facing artists today is articulated in a work of fiction based loosely on a year-long performance by artist Christopher K Ho.

The character speaking is the protagonist, Hirsch E.P. Rothko, talking to a local biker/skier (Mal) in a small Colorado town who attempts to prod Rothko (who is "taking a break from making art") back into doing what he knows he lives to do. Mal speaks first:

“Dude, there are no breaks from art. You know what Robert Henri said, right? ‘Art cannot be separated from life. It is the expression of the greatest need of which life is capable, and we value art not because of the skilled product, but because of its revelation of a life’s experience.”’

I realized in that moment that if I was going to exist in this place, with these people, even just until the Saab was fixed, that I needed to let them in, let them know who I was, what I was about. I couldn’t patronize them any longer.

“Listen, Mal, right? Mal, the whole art-life dialogue played itself out in some really interesting ways in the past century, especially with Duchamp. Duchamp’s readymades drew from cubist collage, but instead of incorporating real chair caning or bicycle handles into painting and sculpture, Duchamp simply designated an object an artwork. His move established one core aim of what came to be called the avant-garde: the radical fusion of the aesthetic with the everyday, the merging of art and life.

“After World War II, American painters picked up on something else in Picasso and Braque’s analytic cubism: the fragmenting of Renaissance perspective, leading to an emphasis on the actual flatness of the picture plane. This narrative, which differs from Duchamp’s, had painting withdrawing from actuality and becoming autonomous. This was useful for the abstract expressionists and critics like Clement Greenberg, since it provided a formally and visually verifiable patrimony: de Kooning and Kline were at the tail end of a trajectory that began with Manet, moved to Cézanne, then Matisse, and was developed by Mondrian before jumping the Atlantic. More, Pollock’s allover compositions and Noland’s edged abstractions would trump their European predecessors and contemporaries by making explicit these reductive operations, laying bare, to paraphrase Michael Fried, the historical conditions of possibility of painting itself.

“It would take the specter of the monochrome to return Duchamp to the story. For the monochrome was not only reductivist abstraction’s logical epitome, but also approached the readymade; its emphasis of two-dimensional flatness efficaciously cancelled out the illusion of three-dimensional space, to be sure, but also inadvertently thrust the work into actual three-dimensional space. Painters like Olitski and Louis tried, asymptotically, to supplant ‘flatness’ with terms like ‘opticality,’ but others, later known as minimalists, took Stella and Ryman’s nearblank canvases one step further, and embraced the turn to three-dimensional reality. Indeed, for Judd, Morris, and Andre, modernist painting already implicated the everyday, insofar as the qualities of serialization, deskilling—as it were, of abstraction—were precisely those of industrialization and the rise of capitalism.

“Pop, concurrent with minimalism, would take this notion of abstraction—an abstraction of the signifier rather than of form—and elaborate it, building on the work of Rauschenberg and Johns. Informed by the transition from structuralism to poststructuralism and France, as well as political events such as the ’68 uprisings, the Prague Spring, and the civil rights and feminist movements, art engaged with politics with renewed vigor. The English translation and publication of key texts by Derrida, Barthes, Saussure, and others heralded a new emphasis on making visible the hidden operations of power that underlie language and other supposedly neutral vessels, including museums. What began as mere phenomenology in minimalism soon flourished into site-specificity and then into institutional critique, epitomized by Asher, Haacke, and Buren, which in turn bolstered and was bolstered by the photo-based, feminist work of Kruger and Sherman.

“But this story of art’s reengagement in politics, of the reconvergence of converging art and life (what we can think of as the readymade’s return) ends on a downbeat. Duchampian dada returned, but its core polemic didn’t survive long. While it informed almost every aspect of what gets called postmodernism, its critical purchase had waned by the Reagan-Thatcher eighties. By the time Jeff Koons, a former stockbroker, exhibited an unaltered vacuum cleaner encased in a lit Plexi box, the readymade’s point was entirely obscured. If Duchamp used the use value, the utility, of a urinal to question aesthetic value, Koons took an object that already had exchange value (it was a brand-name vacuum cleaner, and the box referred to a commercial display case) and used its new status as ‘art’ to add prestige value to it, making art the instrument for turning a vacuum cleaner worth a few hundred bucks into something now worth millions.

“This narrative is influenced by ideas from psychoanalysis, but even more so from Marx. Both abstraction and the avant-garde are part of the larger story of assimilation, which gives modern and postmodern alike a peculiar tense: that of the future anterior. Abstraction withdrew into the aesthetic sphere as a defense against industrialization and capitalism only to find that that sphere was already vitiated. The avant-garde entered into the real world in order to change that world (politically and socially) only to find instead that the world changed it, turned it into commodity. Art is weak. If modernism’s project of self-definition ended with the monochrome, postmodernism’s critical project ended with the assimilation of the readymade and of institutional critique.

“So the options that this leaves are basically: 1) you can blithely forge ahead, either as an academic or an ‘outsider’ artist; 2) you can cynically choose to be complicit, accepting your work’s future assimilation and nonetheless performing critique, either ironically or exploitatively; or 3) you can acknowledge your fate (assimilation) and your work as redundant because all it does is demonstrate what’s already been established. So I get where you’re going with the Henri quote, and I really do appreciate it, but I’ve thought a lot about this art and life thing, and I feel like that thinking has basically led me where I am now, to the point where I’m, you know, taking a break.”

Mal had listened attentively to all this. He was standing, his small frame exuding health, twisting a strand of his hair between two fingers, a messy mass of greasy blond hair that looked as if it had never been combed and parted before.

“Hirsch, you’re the Tin Man, aren’t you? You live all up here.” He tapped my forehead gently. His finger was warm. Before I could answer he went on, “You’ve heard this before, Hirsch, a smart dude like you. But you probably haven’t listened to it for years. Listen to it for me this time. Feel it down here.”

Monday, 5 July 2010

Nice Painting! How Much? : pricing art

At a recent local open studio event I was dismayed to hear an artist admit that she didn't know what to say when a potential buyer asked her 'how much'. Not only had she lost a sale but also her credibility and the opportunity to have someone else show and talk about her art. The New York gallery owner and blogger Ed Winkleman has posted some good advice to all emerging artists on how to negotiate the tricky subject of pricing in the early stages of their art careers.

He warns against 'emerging artists setting their prices based on how good they feel their work stacks up against that of artists with more established markets. My sense of that is that your work may be just as good or better (and that if indeed the world agrees, your prices will rise nicely as a result), but to try to set your prices too high before there's actual demand for your work is to ensure you'll need plenty of storage for quite some time. Let the people who snap your work up for a competitive price (not an insanely low price, just a smartly competitive price) start working for you by hanging your work, talking about it to their friends, and essentially promoting you! So long as you keep careful watch on your prices and raise them when true demand justifies it, you'll be so much better off than if you sell fewer works at a price that seemed too high for what could have been your other collectors'.

It is always wise to decide your prices in advance of open studio events and artist run shows. By having a typed price list available you are making your pricing policy and professionalism clear. If you appear to be making something up on the spot collectors will get suspicious and walk away.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Debate: art fairs are about money not art

The debate took place at the Saatchi Gallery on March 29th 2010 with Matthew Slotover, Simon de Pury, Sir Norman Rosenthal, Jasper Joffe, Matthew Collings, and Louisa Buck discussing the idea that art fairs are about money not art.

The opening brief was: 'Art fairs, scoff the critics, have become shopping malls for the super-rich. They are giant marketplaces for the wealthy to buy, invest and speculate on the commodity of art. Galleries pressure artists to churn out 'safe', sellable works, which are not so much looked at as bought in bulk. As the critic Jerry Saltz put it, 'art fairs are perfect storms of money, marketability, and instant gratification'. Is this criticism justified? Or are art fairs in fact the perfect format for visitors to see art from all over the world which they wouldn't otherwise see? And by allowing artists to show their work to potential buyers en masse are these shows a crucial lifeline for artists today?'

My response to this is that art fairs are now an essential part of a global art market. I go to Zoo, The London Art Fair and Frieze every year, and I look forward to them. In my view, as an artist and collector of painting by emerging artists, fairs are good because they provide access to national and international galleries that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

Fairs also enable you to see a lot of work in a short space of time. This means that you have to know what you are looking for so you can edit out what is not relevant. Looking through the list of dealers and doing some research first means you can be selective and then if you have the time and the energy you can enjoy browsing the other stands. This is the fun part for me – seeing work by an artist I have read about or finding a new artist who really captures my interest.

Going to an art fair is like going to a degree show at an art school where there is a lot of very different work. For me this is the exciting part of it. The argument about the lack of curation at art fairs really is a minor complaint in my view. I am not going to a fair with the idea that it is going to be hung like a well-curated blockbuster show at a museum. I go to a fair to see artists and work that I would not otherwise have access to without jumping on an aeroplane. As an artist I can’t afford to travel all around the world to see a shows so spending £15 to see hundreds of quality galleries under one roof seems like a bargain to me.

Also we have to remember that the traditional gallery environment can intimidate some people. Fairs offer a more relaxed environment where people can browse without feeling uncomfortable. As an artist I have sold a work through dealers showing my work at art fairs and I am pleased that the dealer has access to more buyers.

Art fairs support artists and dealers while by providing a place to access new audiences – this can only be a good thing, surely?

Decide for yourself by watching the debate at

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Drawing - Rachel Whiteread

Tate Britain
September 8 2010 to January 16 2011

I am looking forward to this show of Rachel Whiteread’s drawings, which form a visual record of her life and also the thinking process behind her sculpture.

Internationally recognised for her sculpture made with a casting process that transforms domestic objects into something uncanny, drawing has always been central to her practice. She draws daily keeping what she calls a 'visual diary' of her creative process and like diary entries her drawings range from fleeting ideas to laboured reflections that echo the themes of absence and presence in her sculpture.

Her latest exhibition, 'Drawing', is a retrospective that seeks to illuminate the relationship between her rarely shown works on paper and her sculptures. Works such as House and Bath capture the traces of other people’s lives, while the traces of her own hand are reserved for her drawings.

Whiteread’s daily drawing practice started early in her career during a Berlin residency in 1992-1993 resulting in a museum exhibition. In this show the lightness of the paper drawings arranged on the walls contrasts with the gravitational pull of the plaster, rubber, and resin sculptures in the centre of the room. In the drawings Whiteread uses varnish, collage, correction fluid, and silver leaf allowing the paper to wrinkle so that the surface becomes three-dimensional. The imagery of domestic scenes communicate the decadence and decay wrought in the wake of Britain’s empire.

Covering her artistic career to date the exhibition is organized thematically according to Whiteread’s principal sculptural projects such as Floors, Beds and Mattresses, House, Holocaust Memorial, Water Tower, and Trafalgar Square Plinth.

Monday, 8 March 2010

What is drawing?

After being trained to use drawing in charcoal as a way to prepare my ideas for final paintings, one day I was sitting in my studio, working on a sketch and for some reason I was unsatisfied; the outlines were loose and the shading weak, so I started to work the drawing up. I wanted the blacks to be really black: dense and mysterious. I wanted the darks to contrast with the bright white of the paper and some details to be found with the mid-tone range. I went over and over each area until it satisfied me and I only stopped when the drawing could not be pushed any further.

It was during the 2nd year of a painting degree that I decided to stop painting and focus on refining my drawing technique. The decision to work in charcoal was led by the subject matter – at the time I was reading Feud’s essay on the Uncanny and I wanted to locate a house that was a dark and unhomely place. This led me to consider drawing as a primary activity and a stand-alone medium; the drawings I make are not the evidence of a preliminary stage that serves painting as a conceptual aid – they are finished works in their own right.

As thinking activity drawing can be considered private with the drawings held in sketchbooks only for the artist to see. As a primary activity drawing can also be public, as in the case of Michelangelo’s presentation drawings now on show at The Courthold in London. Michelangelo drew throughout his life but it was with this series of highly finished works, made at the height of his career, that he transformed drawing into an independent art form because they were made for their own sake and not as preparatory sketches for paintings.

My drawings are highly-finished and finely rendered using a labour intensive process of layering that carefully distributes deposits of charcoal onto the surface. Tonal value is achieved by controlling the extent to which the texture of the ground shows through the spread of black: in this sense we are presented with the materiality of the surface as much as the image. I chose charcoal because it permits a wide range of subtle shifts in tone and sharp contrast between dark and light, conveying a sense of ethereal, atmospheric mystery and a cinematic quality that references early black and white film.

During my masters I began to explore the difference between drawing and painting and the dialogues between the two in my own practice. I explored the definitions of drawing and painting and found my work to be sitting between the two.

Up to the 19th century the definition of drawing included watercolours. John Ruskin considered that the definition was in the support used and therefore a drawing was a work on paper. This meant that watercolour was considered to be a drawing. In particular Ruskin favoured the lightness of touch and unfinished quality of Turner. Here he was looking for marks laid down quickly and boldly as a final statement without being over-worked or modelled.

Walter Benjamin picked up on the idea of the unfinished as a characteristic of drawing when he considered the importance of the background. He defined a drawing as having no background – being left open so that the paper forms a metaphysical space. A painting therefore has an image that entirely covers the ground.

Today the distinction between drawing and painting tends to be a question of medium rather than support, so drawing is often considered to be dry and painting wet. But we are now in the age of postmodernism in which there is an anything goes philosophy with no definitive guidelines, for any form of art practice. This is reflected in the competition rules which define their own terms of what can be considered drawing. In the Jerwood Drawing prize it is up to the selectors to determine what can be accepted as drawing – animations have been accepted as drawings in the past.

Ways of Seeing: Learning to Draw

Drawing is now practised at PhD level as a form of non-verbal research as a way of understanding reality. This ties into the notion that drawing is a right-brained activity, which sits opposite the analytical left-brain activity of language.

I believe that drawing is an inherent characteristic within all human beings. The caves at Lascaux demonstrate that drawing happened as a natural response to human existence before language was developed. The ability to write also stems from the drawing function of the brain; therefore, I believe that we all have the ability to draw.

Learning to draw is about training the spatial activities of the right hand side of the brain so that we draw what we see, not the symbols the brain tells us we see. Children draw in terms of symbols; they draw a stylised version of a house or an animal from their memory because their brains tell them that they know what one looks like. Close observation of an object enables us to find the shapes of tone within the contours that enable an accurate rendering of what is in front of us.

However, once we have developed the skill of seeing we can decide to leave areas unfinished or open to add more interest so that the viewer does more work in the reading of the drawing. This is when we begin to notice the individual perception of the artist and the development of a personal style.

The Story of Agassiz
A student is eager to study with Agassiz and has travelled hundreds of miles in order to meet the man and asks if he might be taken on as a student. When he arrives he is not certain where to go and wanders around looking for someone to direct him. He eventually finds his way to Agassiz’s laboratory, but just as he arrives, he finds that Agassiz is leaving for some meetings.

The professor was cordial but regretted that it would be sometime before he could get back, perhaps more than two hours because he was having two meetings. He would be happy to talk with the young man on his return, if he wouldn’t mid waiting. Certainly not, the student replied, after all he had come so far already. Agassiz pointed to a fish on a platter in the laboratory. While I am gone, he said, spend your time drawing the fish.

Agassiz left and the young man began his drawing. He wanted to do a good job in order to impress the great man. After an hour his drawing was finished and it looked pretty good. He sat back to admire his own work. As he sat there, he looked at the drawing, and then at the fish, and then back at the drawing. He began seeing things that weren’t quite right. Quickly he began to correct his drawing. He wanted it to be finished when Agassiz returned, and it was nearly two hours since he left. When the corrections were done he sat down to wait and to again admire his work. Now it was much better. He looked at the drawing, and then at the fish, and back to the drawing. Again he noticed a few more things that weren’t the same. He began to erase again ad redraw.

Now he really had it! He had revised it twice, and it was obvious that the second revision had made a difference. He sat down again to admire his work, thankful that Agassiz had not yet returned. He looked at his drawing, quite proud of his work. He compared the fish again to the drawing. He congratulated himself because now it really was good. But as he kept looking he began again to see still more things that he missed He erased and redrew again. Again he sat down to wait, but every time that he thought that the drawing was finished, the same thing happened.

Many hours later Agassiz finally returned. He had been delayed, and he had forgotten about the student. He apologised for keeping him so long. The student told him how he had spent his time. Agassiz understood from this story that the young man had the ability to revise this first impression. The student had learned that the act of drawing had helped him to see, and that each seeing helped him to see further. On the strength of that story the young man was accepted by Agassiz and worked with him for many years.

Agassiz believed that drawing was an aid to observation. The story demonstrates both the difficulty of observation and the process through which each action helps us to see things that we hadn’t seen before. Learning to draw is about learning to see. Taking frequent breaks from drawing so that we can 'see' with 'fresh eyes' is important, when we are tired our ability to scan the object and drawing is impaired and mistakes in judgement are made.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Michelangelo's Presentation Drawings

In my last post I wrote about my view of drawing as a stand-alone art form that does not have to be in the service of painting or sculpture. The current exhibition of Michaelangelo's 'presentation' drawings now on at The Courtauld Gallery demonstrates that the idea of a highly finished drawing being a recognised art object started in the Renaissance.

Michelangelo’s Dream is a rare opportunity to see one of The Courtauld Gallery’s greatest treasures brought together for the first time with international loans to form a celebrated group of extraordinary ‘presentation’ drawings.

Described as one of the finest of all Renaissance drawings The Dream (Il Sogno) was one of a series Michelangelo made at the height of his career as gifts for Tommaso de’ Cavalieri, which includes the punishment of Tityus, The Fall of Phaeton, A Bacchanal of Children, and The Rape of Ganymede.

Michelangelo drew throughout his life but it was with this series of highly finished works, made at the height of his career, that he transformed drawing into an independent art form because they were made for their own sake and not as preparatory sketches for paintings.

They were publicly exhibited as finished works and in a letter to Michelangelo, Cavalieri wrote that they had been admired by ‘the Pope, Cardinal de’ Medici and everyone’. 'Truly miraculous,' wrote Vasari. 'Outstanding drawings the like of which has never been seen'.

They are now termed ‘presentation’ drawings because Michelangelo presented them, partly finished, to close friends for approval. Depending on how they were received they would be corrected and finished before being returned to the friend as a gift to demonstrate his artistic proficiency. So what were intended as private drawings have led a very public life to to the technical virtuosity of the execution.

In his first (1550 edition) of Michelangelo’s Life, Vasari noted the effect of chiaroscuro that he achieved by combining shadow and light until they merged into smoke ‘a uso di fumo’.

The show also includes Michelangelo’s drawings of Christ’s Resurrection, including the Saviour from the collection of Her Majesty The Queen. The show concludes with a small selection of works by contemporaries, such as Vasari and Dürer, who addressed similar themes of rebirth, dreaming and the nature of man.

Michelangelo’s Dream
18 Feb 10 - 16 May 10
The Courtauld Gallery
Somerset House, Strand London WC2R 0RN

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Distinctions Between Drawing and Painting

For me painting and drawing are almost indivisible. The place between drawing and painting is a rich territory for exploration and the dialogue between the traditional languages has been a line of enquiry in my practice for the last five years. I find rigid definitions about painting and drawing restrictive and unnecessary.

I made a deliberate choice to work in charcoal in the second year of a painting degree because I felt that it was the best way to explore the subject matter of my work. I have developed a highly disciplined process that progressively eliminates the ground so that the image covers the paper entirely. The deliberate negation of line is achieved through the modeling of volumetric masses using tonal variation as an alternative to linear contour, resulting in an atmospheric quality not usually attributed to the graphic nature of drawing. My drawings are also unusual in that the image entirely covers the surface in contrast to the accepted definition of drawing which leaves large areas of the surface exposed, placing the work closer to traditional painting than drawing. The paintings aspire to the condition of drawing in that they are monochromatic and made alla prima using the ground to achieve tonal variation.

Although drawing is now considered to be a primary activity and is recognised as a stand-alone medium by the avant-garde most dealers and buyers still make the distinction that ‘drawing = quick preparatory sketch for a painting’ which is reflected in the price for ‘works on paper’. However, the distinction based on the type of support has been undermined by developments in acrylic grounds that now make it possible to use oil paint on paper and dry media on canvas or aluminium.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Memories of Michael Buhler

Michael Buhler taught me at the City & Guilds of London Art School from 2002 to 2005 and I have fond memories of his tutorials. He worked on Wednesday afternoons and I would look forward to his visits as he was always cheerful and positive. I remember one tutorial, towards the end of my second year, when I was frustrated with the paintings I was making. I had made some preparatory studies in charcoal and felt a lot happier with those. Michael encouraged me to consider the drawings as works in their own right, so I stopped painting and started to make the first charcoal interiors series.

During my first year on the BA painting course Michael worked with James Jessop on the transcription project. One afteroon Michael had clearly had enough of our discussions about art theory and announced that he was going to have some badges printed with the words 'Strictly Visual'.

He was constantly doodling and I have a collection of German beer mats Micheal drew on during our bi-annual art school trip to Cologne.


Michael Robert Buhler, artist and teacher, born 13 June 1940; died 30 October 2009

This article was published on at 18.51 GMT on Wednesday 9 December 2009. A version appeared on p38 of the Obituaries section of the Guardian on Thursday 10 December 2009.

Michael Buhler, who has died aged 69, was an artist all too typical of his generation in that he was obliged to earn a living by teaching his craft. Far less well-known as a painter than he deserved to be, he nevertheless showed regularly, from solo displays with the New Art Centre, London, in the 1960s to England & Co only last year, and he was a longstanding member of the London Group, the artists' exhibiting society. He was respected and admired by his peers, not just for his personal commitment as an artist, but for the evident consistency, originality and sophistication of his work. A rare quality of gentle wit and humour, in its quiet observation of the human condition, gave it a particular savour.

As a teacher, principally at Colchester School of Art, Essex, where he taught for many years, and then at the City and Guilds school in Kennington, south-east London, Michael was no less remarkable. He will be long remembered with gratitude and affection by colleagues and students alike, for he applied his marked gift for teaching to the full scope of his wonderfully miscellaneous interests. His methods could be somewhat singular – one wayward student, given to wandering away rather than addressing the pictorial problems at hand, found himself roped to his chair.

Michael was born in London, the only son of the first marriage of Robert Buhler, himself a distinguished painter, a royal academician, a long-time member of staff of the painting school at the Royal College of Art (where he taught his son) and a pillar of the Chelsea Arts Club. Michael was sent first to the Hampshire school in Chelsea, then to Betteshanger in Kent, and finally to Bryanston in Dorset. There, in the art master's flourishing department – a rare thing in the public schools of those days – his innate talent was encouraged and developed.

It was while he was at Bryanston that his parents' marriage broke up. He later recalled waiting on the steps where the boys would greet their parents as they rolled up for speech day in assorted Armstrong Siddeleys and Lagondas, he dreading the arrival of the station taxi, from which his father would emerge, already well set up for the day, along with his friend of the moment. Even into the 1960s, the bailiffs were no strangers to the various houses his father took on, with patches on the walls where paintings had been, and ominous gaps among the furniture. Meanwhile his mother, Eve, had married a diplomat, and long holidays in Argentina brought a welcome change of scene.

In many ways it seemed that Michael's personal life would never be truly settled. For all his great gift for friendship, his first marriage, to the journalist and biographer Georgina Howell, ended in divorce, while his second, to Monika Veriopoulos, a painter who had been his student at the City and Guilds, though loving and enduring, was unusual for the extended periods through which they lived apart.

From Bryanston, Michael went on to the Royal College of Art. To be not only the son of a painter, but to be taught by him too, is not always easy, and while Michael shared with his father a natural subtlety and delicacy of touch, he almost immediately sought to distance himself from him in manner and approach. With pop art and hard-edge colour-field painting current at the time, his solution was to develop an amalgam of the two, expressed at first in terms of crisp and colourful landscape, abstracted to a degree, and then increasingly in terms of a highly stylised and simplified narrative figuration, set upon the many themes that engrossed him: love and courtship; tourists; costume; sex, of course; fashion; night scenes and neon lights; and, above all, flying saucers. He also often made layered boxes, representing an upper- and an underworld. It was an approach, and a resolution of a personal dilemma as an artist, that would sustain him throughout his life.

Those themes and subjects in his paintings were a reflection of a truly engaged and most engaging nature. His enthusiasms were as boundless as they were enduring. He was fascinated by comics, in particular Tintin, whose open and earnest curiosity oddly matched his own. He gathered an enormous collection of tin and clockwork toys of museum quality, now intended for the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, east London. His lifelong belief in UFOs, extraterrestrials and worlds beyond faded more into hope in his later years.

But it is Michael himself who will be remembered, in his Fair Isle pullover, tweed coat and a tie from a collection that remains the envy of many. His graphic output was unquenchable, and no old friend now lacks a clutch of thank-you postcards, overflowing with affectionately ribald sentiment and fun.

One particular friend remembers him in the 1980s at the Berry Street studios in Clerkenwell, where they both had spaces. The communal phone was in the corridor, and "he would frequently be seen there doodling on the wall while he talked to one or other of his beautiful girlfriends. All the various chips and marks on the wall were transformed into a wondrous procession of arched cats, grinning dogs and art world luminaries."

Diagnosed with cancer of the bone marrow some four years ago, Michael died of cardiac failure brought on by his illness. He is survived by Georgina and their son Thomas, and by Monika, who cared for him devotedly throughout his illness, and their daughter Alexandra.