The Unilever Series: Dominique Gonzales Foerster - TH.2058


Painting is Pure Idiocy: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Tate

By Lee Sullivan

“I don’t like ’em.” ranted Charlie.

“What do you mean, why not?” I replied.

“I just don’t like ’em”

“What about the bloke who’s servin’ that soup, he was alright.”

“Mate, it’s just the way I was brought up. From where I come from we just don’t like ’em, think about our tax and stuff that goes to em.”

“Better than some no do’er, living on job seekers. Wouldn’t you prefer someone who’s alright and actually contributes something, like that lad serving food in the canteen?”

“It’s not that I don’t think they’re alright, it’s just id rather they weren’t here.”

I never could gain an understanding of Charlie’s disliking towards foreigners. I reckon its these kind of issues that have crumbled this society. I like Charlie, he’s a sound bloke, and maybe I’m just being a bit naïve towards his kind of views, but still, doesn’t help in a situation like this.

It’s a funny thing being in a refuge at the Tate, after gaining a degree in Fine Art. While seeking shelter after having to leave our own homes, people like Charlie come up to me asking about the sculptures, with an expectation that I know all about them, but I don’t! Sculpture used to be a thing I bumped into when stepping back to view a painting, but now it bumps into me. I suppose this is a good opportunity to become equated with it all, while this savage rain messes up the foundations of the country. To hell with being outside at the moment.

Dear Jennifer.

Thank god that we’ve somehow got a connection here! Didn’t expect to be stuck here for this long, so I didn’t bring my mobile charger or anything, which has obviously now died. Only get half an hour on here so jus emailing the parents, and you of course my dear friend. How’s things going at the Gherkin? Bet you can even see Essex from there, providing it hasn’t joined Canvey in being completely submerged. Pretty sure they didn’t expect this rain to go on for so long, as our food seems to be getting a bit low, and the bars completely dry, nooooooo! lol. Had soup again the other day, it was good, but they’re blatantly running low if they’re doing meals like that, but hopefully this whole thing wont go on for much longer, I hope things are ok at your refuge. Take it easy, and ill catch you soon x

Charlie complained “So hungry! Adam mate, I could totally go for a ‘Burger Boys’ right now”

“You could always go for a ‘Burger Boys,’ no salad I’m guessing”

“Ha! Damn right”

I then joined in. “You’rite boys, how’s it goin’?”

“Where you been? Me and Ad’ av been waiting for ya to go to the canteen”

“Alrite alrite, been sending some emails, some of us actually have friends”

“Ha, do one”

“What you been chatting about?”

“Jus saying how good a ‘Burger Boys’ would go down”

“mmmm u’d be lucky to get one of those.”

Adam stated “Charlies obviously naïve to the fact that that is all about ‘Curley’s’”

Charlie fought back, “What ever Ad’, it IS all about ‘Burger Boys,’ the chips are better”

And then a brilliant idea from Adam “Ok, what you do is right…get your chips from ‘Burger Boys’ and then leg it across to get a burger from Curleys”

“HAHA, mate that’s a ridiculous effort for perfection! I remember when we were kids, Charlie’s Dad always used to take us too S.F.C. Loved fried chicken as a kid, it’s a shame it closed”

“Why that happen?”

“Victim of the ‘42 recession”

“Everything good closed then.”

“True, true”

Urite Jen.

Glad to hear things are good at the Gherkin, hopefully they’ll get extra supplies to us too if they’ve jus reached you. We can see the boats going around the streets as well, madness! Be well good to bomb around London in a boat, probably still get charged for congestion though lol. Well loads of Police Airships about too, who could be bothered to commit a crime in this weather, you know what I mean!? Starting to get a bit tougher here since I last messaged. The bunks are starting to get a bit uncomfortable, could do with some new sheets, and some clothes! Sorry to reveal the skanky reality, hope it hasn’t spoilt your appetite for that chocolate ration that I’m SO jealous of, but yer this refuge is a bit run down, everyone could do with a bit of a morale boost. Missing you Jen, hope we can meet up for a drink soon, probably gona have to be on a boat though…

“What’s this room?” questioned Charlie

“This Charlie my dear friend, is a collection of paintings my Dad brought me to see as a kid, he had some attachment to them. Probably this kind of exposure that lead me to go and study painting, so I figured id share this experience with you while were stuck here.”

“Who they by? They’re a pretty dark.”

“They’re by Mark Rothko, titled the ‘Seagram Murals.’ They were painted 100 years ago. Its quite a funny story. He painted them after getting a commission for some high class swanky restaurant in New York, before Manhattan was just completely overwhelmed by its population. But Rothko hated that the working class wouldn’t be able to view them, and cancelled the commission, calling these high class people “bastards.””


“I know what a legend. And yer, so he donated these examples to the Tate providing they could be displayed like this, which explains the dim lighting. It creates a environment similar to the one they were painted in, so my Dad said.”

“They’re pretty cool, you know a bit about them then”

“A bit yer, just that story really, my Dad was well into ‘em”

“Is this why you paint?”

“There is some influence from them I guess, but to be honest I don’t know where the desire to paint comes from.”

“Your jus mad, haha”

“Well I guess so haha. My Dad taught me about this painter Gerhard Richter, who was from what would’ve been East Germany, which came before the pre-2043 republic of Germany, a long time ago now, 80 odd years since he would’ve been painting. And Richter said something like “once obsessed by painting one eventually gets to the point where one thinks that humanity could be changed by painting. But when the passion deserts you, there is nothing left to do. Then it is better to stop altogether. Because basically painting is pure idiocy.

“Ha. Did uni not teach you what the desire is?”

“Mate, I discovered how its appealing, how one views work, but its something I, and I think a lot of painters constantly question. There’s never any real closure with painting, its an exploration, a way of thinking. To solve its myths would mean destroying its appeal I guess.”
“A bit beyond me mate.”

“I wouldn’t worry, I hope these Rothko works have opened you up to something. Stick with me Charlie and you‘ll soon know all.”
“Haha, whatever mate, sounds cool.”

Coming up to Two weeks of rain and two weeks of being in this refuge – what is God doing to us! Best start building an Arc. Its incredible how the crashing rain affects your sleep, the dreams one has are weird to say the least. I know it could be worse, I’ve heard of food not reaching the other refuges in London, but still its beginning to get unbearable. I’m tired of washing from the toilet sink and attempting to wash my clothes from them, I‘m tired of some people not borthering with the urinals and going by the stairs. Real grim.

I think about Jen a lot, missing her quite a bit. I’m sure things at the other refuges are getting just as low. Cant wait to get out of here to go see her, she’s all I really care about at the moment.

Dear Jennifer

Hang in there my dear! We’re, doing ok here, it cant be long now. One of the people delivering the food rations chucked us a football – absolute gem, it’s given us a bit of a lift. Just thought id message you to let you know I’m thinking about you, and that your messages help lift me in this situation. You mean a lot to me Jennifer.

I go back to the bunks to see Charlie.

“You’rite Charlie”

“Mate I’m knakered!”

“Your always knakered, you fat-”

“Oit, lets be having less of that”

“Haha, sorry, what you been up to?”

“Bit of 5-a side in the Turbine Hall with those guys from the former German republic”

“Quality, any mention of the world cup victory we‘ve been milking for nearly a 100 years”

“Oh yes”

“Ha. Glad your warming to a bit of multiculturalism, told you they’re al’right.”

“Mate I hate em”

“What do you mean!?”

Tags: ,

2 Responses to “Painting is Pure Idiocy: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Tate”
  1. odd Says:

    Get in, my son! People pissing on the stairs? Someone should write a story about that.

  2. liz Says:

    aww canvey sunk :( ..excellent story lee!, i like how easy it is to follow and the slang, very down to earth.