Vitality 9.  Painting.


When low moments hit, it’s vitality we need, rather than vigour. Vigour can be a kick in the teeth, a lurid cuss, running away. But vitality lifts and shows a future.  As an eighteen-year-old, in 1968, just about to start my art teacher training, my distraught Dad rang, telling me that my mother had left him, and our home – leaving no forwarding address.   This was crap of the first order, with the likelihood of my giving up on college and going home to look after Dad.  The Principle told me that I could re-join the course the following year, but my prospective art tutor, Stanislaw Frenkiel, told me that if I went home, I would never come back.  He was probably right.  The painting in progress on the easel in his studio that day  (smelling deliciously of turps and linseed oil) was Riders on the Shore.  Two horses, a self-portrait and an indeterminate figure against a low horizon, cadmium blue sea and ochre yellow beach.   The energy of the horses, cream against burnt umber shadow, and the intriguing artist/rider burned through my sorrow and sparked the future, not the past.   I stayed life long friends with this extraordinary painter – he died in 2002 and is a subject of my, as yet unfinished (but getting close) novel, Hannibal and the Masked Girl. I am honouring Stas’ by giving him a fictitious retrospective in Tate Modern in 2003 – the year they showed Gauguin.  A nifty replacement I thought.  It’s also the year Blair ‘facilitated’ the invasion of Iraq. Watch this space.  By the way, my mum turned up not too long afterwards, Dad married someone else, and I got my Certificate in Education with a distinction in art.  So I guess it had vitality.  We can’t go round putting the V sticker on works of art – we’d never finish – so it’s best to say, we know when it hasn’t got any, as it doesn’t move us.   See Stas’s work at   Or get the book Passion and Paradox by Anthony Dyson.


Jan Woolf
Painting: Stanislaw Frenkiel




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