Both were painted directly onto a white ground, only the copy is more crudely drawn and bolder in style, so arguably more expressionist than the first.
It is interesting to note that Munch never fully explored the possibilities of paint. From the first room to the last, he never built up the paint surface, preferring as the Sick Child demonstrated to work on a white ground directly with a loaded brush, rather to use glazes. This no doubt reflects the motivation behind Munch's work, as he was primarily concerned with expressing a narrative above all else. Many of the paintings were concerned with the relationships between lovers. It was obvious early on in the exhibition, in paintings such as Madonna and Vampire, that Munch harboured contradictory views about women. On one hand he obviously desired to be with them and valued their company. While on the other, he seemed to resent his need for them and the pleasure they gave him. Choosing to depict women as temptresses feeding of the soul of man, his soul.
It would seem quite likely that these feelings were closely linked to the death of his mother and sister when he was a child. For to have lost their love, must have caused him great distress and unhappiness, which he possibly then associated with women later in life.
A nude woman stands two thirds of the way along a canvas, next to her a man lies on a bed covered in blood. The painting depicts an incident when Munch shot himself in the hand after having an argument with his lover Tulla Larsen. After this, she left him and married another painter leaving Munch bitter and jealous.
The last image that touched me was called Jealousy. Munch crudely paints himself staring out of the picture. Behind him , framed in a doorway stood Tulla and the young painter like Adam and Eve.
I felt profound sympathy for this man, whether he was right or wrong, I cannot say, but he clearly-had an unhappy life, and did try with honesty to express the nature of his existence.
"So what are you working on?," the tutor asked. She must have already asked that a hundred times today, heaven knows after all these years how many times she asked that and really wanted to know the reply.
She was a small middle-aged woman with a white powdered face on which were perched a pair of half moon spectacles. Behind the glass, her eyes darted here and there like a butterfly, unable to settle and properly focus on one point. She was as always impeccably dressed in a smart dress and high heels. A choice I could never understand, as every object in the place was covered in oil paint and every surface in a thin veneer of dust. However there was one advantage, the clatter of her high heels on the wooden floor did at least give prior warning of her impending presence and time if you were lucky to make a fast exit.
If this wasn't possible, she would enter the room and stand behind you in silence, just waiting for you to stop painting, turn and address her. I remember the first time she did this, I was working on a painting in the life room. She had hardly introduced herself, before labelling me an academic painter. I couldn't believe it, without prior knowledge of me or my work, painting nudes was all I did. At the time I remember explaining to her that I'd been working in Next all that summer so felt I needed the discipline. But I don't think she heard, for her unqualified opinions kept coming, being ground out of her mouth like corn from two old mill stones.
"So what are you working on then?', she repeated. I didn't reply, as it was quite obvious what I was doing, besides I didn't want to make it any easier for her.
"This looks interesting", she continued, seemingly unperturbed by my lack of response.
"You've changed the painting since I last came in".
The arrogance of that statement aggravated me.
"Which, that one, no I haven't worked on that picture for sometime now".
"Oh, well it looks different today, maybe it's the light today".
I turned my back on her and mixed some paint. It was rude I know, but she was being paid to teach, and all she ever did was waste my time. Maybe if just once, she suggested looking at the formal relationships in the painting , things would be different. But as it was, she wasn't any help, and never would be. In truth, she wasn't in the least bit interested and was just counting the hours until she could return home, as untouched as possible to do her own work.
I wouldn't have cared, only too many people play this game and I've seen too many talented people misdirected by the negligence of others. Sure, they would argue that they are guilty of nothing, and that's exactly it, as it for doing nothing that they are indeed guilty. I continued to mix up my paint, until the heels clattered off to another space.
So what have you got to say, yes really say after all those years of experience, what have you really learnt from it all, are you wiser or just more realistic now? Does the actuality of your existence pan out before you like some open countryside from a high hill top? So is that what wisdom is then, the realisation of ones limitations, so that one may with some perspective judge another with more openness than before. Or is wisdom and knowledge just an affectation that one contrives with the arrival of grey hair and sagging flesh.
Is it truly compensation for the loss of youth. This vague notion that all this time was really for a reason, yet what that might be, you will never be able to say or know. Just a jumble of thoughts and a collection of objects to distract us from our own isolation. Yet how easily we are to acquire them, and discard them as we walk the path of disintegration that leads to the grave.
An old tutor once turned to me, looked me straight in the eye and said.
"It's much easier when your young, you have far more energy and life. When you grow old you fade, the colours fade as though you had been bleached by the sun, you never recapture the passion of youth".
I smiled, and thought about the truth in what he had just said, but not for long.
To paint is, at its best, to create from almost nothing. To feel this helps one understand it, to understand this makes one aware of the fragile way one adds to it. At times I feel paralysed just at the thought of the complexity of possibilities that can therefore be derived. I sat on the steps feeling empty and alone. Idly, I watched the cars and pedestrians pass below. With a sudden jerking movement, the black hands of a clock on a building across the street edged past six. There was still no sign of the guy from the tube, so I snatched up my belongings, clambered down the steps two at a time, crossed at the cross-roads and entered the gallery.
The Slade Show was located on two sites - printmaking and sculpture at one and painting at the other. I walked around the first building quite quickly to get a feeling for the show. However, after seeing all the exhibition of work, I felt compelled to propel myself out of the door.
I made my way to the painting department which, as I had been told earlier, was being shown in the old Courtauld Galleries, used to house the Courtauld Collection, before it moved to the Strand.
Again I took a quick look at the whole exhibition before choosing my focus. However, the only thing that was of any interest was how so many "intelligent" individuals could come up with so few ideas. The life painting was fascinating as the three leading protagonists exhibiting all used the same technique. This was basically as follows. The object is drawn by joining up a series of dots, rather like a young child might do in a puzzle book. These are then coloured in with blocks of colour.
In short, the painting lacked invention and originality. The images talk of false accuracy and mathematical correctness as if to validate their motives. It would take few marks to reveal the truth of their mannerism and lamentable absence of original thought.
"Hi" I turned and recognised the guy from the tube standing behind me with a group of others, presumably some of the "artists".
"What do you make of the show?" they asked me. "Great, isn't it?"
I walked down Glass House Street and into the heart of Soho. The restaurants were full, bouncers stood in club doorways and well dressed men with portable phones were window shopping. Watching them, were mannequin dolls with a difference. How they could be interested in women here, I do not know. When they wear their sexuality like some vulgar, ill fitting garment, bought cheap, second hand at a jumble sale. So many sad people in love with the unspoken word and the eternal possibilities that this can offer.
I stepped out of the darkness and into the light. I was immediately hit in the face by warm cigarette smoke and the sound of wild jazz. I stood for a moment at the top of the stairway before making the first step of my descent into Quasimodo's. Beneath, everything glistened silver and gold through a smoky blue haze.
There was a jam session tonight, and the place was packed. People were wedged against the bar while others sat around tables, talking loudly and clapping wildly after each number. Between them, waitresses briskly navigated, balancing their drinks in trays high above their heads. Behind them, a large sculpture crumbled off the wall like charred metal remains after a bomb blast.
Suddenly, at the bottom of the stairs, I realised that I was in the company of the Beautiful People. The Beautiful People are here to be seen rather like animals in the zoo. They are to be found in Camden and Portobello by day, and are attracted to Covent Garden and Soho like moths to a light at night. Life in pursuit of vanity. To them, being beautiful is a full time occupation and requires wearing the right clothes and staying in the right bars for as long as possible. When these people have a conversation, they never look at the person they're talking to, but spend the entire time looking over their shoulder to see whose watching them. I can just imagine them getting up early in the morning to practice their mannerisms in front of a mirror before a day's posing.
I doubt there's substance under this mahogany veneer, only cheap pine desperately wanting to be seen to be something but without the grace to be it.
From the corner of my eye, I could see my surreal friend with a group of students sitting around a table in the corner of the bar. I bought a drink and joined them. A couple of girls were talking about the private view and were obviously relieved to have got it over with.
I pulled up a chair and sat down. I was introduced to the group and told each of their names only to forget them again completely a few moments later. Some of the faces I recognised from earlier, having involved conversations about their work while others had been standing around, discreetly, watching people looking at their paintings. Opposite was a gaunt, blonde guy who I remembered seeing earlier, explaining his sculpture. He was very tall and looked throughout the conversation as if the slightest nudge would have made him fall. His mannerisms were contrived and I don't think one of his facial expressions was spontaneous. He never seemed to look at who he was talking to. Talking at them rather than to them, he spoke about his few chosen objects in a well rehearsed monologue.
"I think I could have done with some explanatory text" he said, directing his voice into the blue smoke above. "I think it went over the heads of a few people. I was very pleased with the piece I did, using the driftwood and rusty chain. It came together right at the last minute, I mean, I had the objects in my space, I came back from coffee, saw them together and thought 'yes, that really works - that really says something to me'."
The dark haired girl he was talking to nodded with approval. His eyes came down from the Heavens and fixed onto me. "So," he began, "what do you do then?"
"I'm a painter"
"A painter of what?"
"But why paint people when figurative painting is dead? I mean, I love Rembrandt, Velasquez and all that, but it's dead, it's all been done before.''
"So you're saying it was your idea to place miscellaneous objects together and call it art? Hasn't that been done before by Picasso and Duchamp?"
"I think you're deliberately missing the point, aren't you?''
"Am I? I think not, for they were breaking new ground by making everyday things into objects of art, only the establishment have understood and accepted this now. Which means all you're doing is conforming to modernist expectation of what avant garde art should be. You're not swimming against the tide, you're swimming with it."
"How can you say that when you paint narrative paintings; I mean, that kind of thing went out with the ark."
''So then, what's more conformist - a narrative painting or a conceptual sculpture like yours? I paint pictures that have a narrative because I wish to say something about a particular subject or issue to the viewer. But all things have a narrative. Even a blank, black canvas, only its narrative is linked to all those other blank, black paintings in so far as how the fuck did anyone come to believe this could stand as art." "Look, you obviously don't understand. These works express a spiritualism that transcends representational painting. These works are the high art of our time, for they reflect our time. These works have a place in history and don't coin back to the past. All you're doing is walking in circles - no, not even that; going backwards down the same road, retracing the same steps, back to something nobody wanted then or now. If they had, things wouldn't have changed. You can't prevent progress - it's like trying to deny the truth."
The truth is that the only interesting thing about this type of work is how some people can believe it to be an expression of their time and an adequate expression of themselves. How can anyone think that their black canvas is any more original or interesting than any other? The fact that they should punctuate their canvas with a white line has no importance to me and it would be arrogant of someone to think it should. All it demonstrates to me is how the individual is bowing down to the conforms of society, for work like this doesn't open up new ways of thinking. All it represents is how the individual is afraid of his own individuality. For he is a number, not a name. Where is the man's soul? His imagination? Has he really so little to say other than copying the empty and meaningless things around him like a child? How can someone stand next to a black canvas or a few arranged objects and say with pride: "that's mine"? You may as well be standing beside a brick wall."
There was an awkward silence. For a moment, no-one knew quite where to look or what to do.
"Quasimodo's is always full of life, don't you think?" began the girl with black hair.
"Yes, life and beautiful people," I replied, and gave a warm smile in their direction. I looked at my book and thought how much I valued the little paperback with the brown painting of a steamship and jungle on its dog eared cover. I had carried it around with me for some time now, and even though it was only a short read, I still hadn't finished it. I was thinking how difficult it was not to judge a book by its cover, or the quality of paper, the choice of type face or even the title for that matter, when the train suddenly ground to a halt.
I didn't notice it at first, but as I turned in my seat, I realised that half the window was in the tunnel while the other was in the light of the station. There was something odd about being caught between the two. I looked onto the platform. A young man wearing blue and carrying a large rucksack on his back stood frozen, staring in my direction with an expression of utter disbelief.
"My friend? Where's my friend?"
I could see the realisation hit him. He stood like someone in a blackened room after someone has switched on a brilliant light, slowly beginning to see what was before him.
"My friend! He's under the train! He's under the train!"
I sat and watched. There was something frantic in his voice, something desperate. His hand now covered his mouth; his eyes were wide, searching the darkness, the thin black line between the platform and the carriage. Blood, pain, disfigurement, absence and infinity were all there, in that line.
Realisation began to take hold; the station staff arrived, men in hats took hold of him and led him away while others stood close to the window, peering into the void below.
Then there was darkness. The electricity had been turned off. The people in the carriage began to talk.
"There's someone under the train."
A man, probably the driver, walked through the train from one carriage to another, opening the connecting doors and instructing us to leave. The carriage slowly drained of people. Now the Police arrived. Reluctantly, I left. In the light, my eyes fixed on onto the strip of darkness between the platform and the bottom of the train; and I could not help but think of the carnage. I imagined the dark space underneath the train, I imagined death, I imagined the end.
I thought of his family, I thought of his mother. All her dreams, her love, now lost underneath that train. At midday on this day in June he had become just a memory.
To her he would have been everything; to some he would be news, and to others, just another delay on the Underground.