Gilly Thomas

May 2016

Upsetting everyone - is it just me, the art
therapist’s dream client, who feels better cast as
Doom Monger?
From images of angst comes Art with a capital A.
No-one wakes up in the morning and says ‘I feel
bland, I think I’ll make some art’.
Actually that’s a lie; lots of artists do exactly
that - but I don’t understand it and never have.
So everything’s fine is it? That’s why Goya made
the Disasters of War, why Otto Dix found
astonishing amounts of grist to his mill in the
first world war.
Meaning is the thing, not a vase of flowers on
which the light falls gently through a lace
curtain. (I’m a bit equivocal about this when I
consider Gwen John and the evocation of sadness)
The trouble with anger is that in itself it’s
I’m not yet totally old but my pleasure in
strange mental weirdness may be an eccentricity
edging towards an irrelevant kind of folly.
I remember reading this: ‘Old age is a time when
the meaning of things begins to dimly unfold”
Can anyone be dimly wise? Is the Appel woman dimly
wise? Isn’t the term ‘dimly wise’ an ambiguity in
I wonder what it might feel like.
How much of the Appel woman’s angry futility and
impotent brutishness comes from the dimly
unfolding meaning of things?

June 2016
Is she really without power? Yes and No. Maybe.
Earlier she had two white gloves. Now she has one
black and one white - a confliction or a sign of
magicality? It brings the possibility of doing
wrong with the black hand or good with the right
Cancelling each other out, or doing nothing.

Here, even her creature may stop watching and

start drowning.

In this second image, which has turned into a painting, it’s the end of Art itself as the Appel woman turns her gaze to us from the new Switch building as the tower falls.

The end of the vanity project, and everything we thought we cared about.

Mistakes are chasing us down.

Shit happens.

It’s included in the ticket price for which we all paid up.


It suits my mood.

Finishing this blog with some words by Louise Bourgeois:

‘Everyday you have to abandon your past or accept it, and then if you cannot accept it, you become an artist’

Hey Ho

I don’t much like my last picture – so neat and tidy.
I prefer this.

In one of the infinite probabilities of the multi-verse, scarily this is actually happening.

Flap Flap the Big Wings

I am a long long way from squeezing oil paint in my fist straight from the tube onto a surface.

I don’t strike the picture like a murderer stabs a victim, or crush the paint out into slashes.

Karel Appel did. He paints like a well angry man. Not always, but definitely when he made The City, letting go of the skills he surely had. He purposefully relinquished them, not even allowing himself a brush in the old film I saw of him working.

Just the inch wide top of a 10inch tube that he squeezed from the middle to the sounds of some postmodernist jazz.

Cool. But I wouldn’t want to share the toothpaste with him.

Attempting to bounce off Karel Appel is like trying to share a head

Sharing a Head

Artistic Risk

Sounds ideal to me, probably rarely fatal. But a cluttered mind provokes external hoovering. If there were flies in your head as well as on the window ledge it would become unbearable....

Got to remember – however bad things are they can always get worse.

22July 2015

I just discovered this word UHTCEARE

It means pre-dawn anxiety in Old English and is nothing to do with ultra heat treated milk which is also horrible and the ruination of tea. I could make good use of this word most days.

A also just read ‘Fludd’ by Hilary Mantel – a perfect book. Strangely the main character is a faux priest who may be an angel, or perhaps an alchemist, of possibly the Devil.

And oddly, the effect he has seems to be to rescue an unbelieving real priest and a sad ‘professed’ nun. But here’s a funny thing – nobody can say what he looks like even while they’re looking at him, and the food on his plate disappears but nobody sees him actually eat it. He drinks whisky but the level in the bottle never goes down.

In the same way the Appel woman and her creature stand over the city, and no one sees her coming and no one sees her going. And she’s far too fey to eat anything I’m sure.

But suddenly she comes and suddenly she goes.

Here she isn’t

1 Sept 2015

She’s an enigma to me still

I saw her once, I can see her now

What’s with the arms?
A magical gesture?
A congenital malformation?
A peculiar valediction?
A horribly secret sign?
What do you symbolise?
O Servant with white gloves?

And where, may I ask is everyone else?

18 Sept 2015

And what about the skyline of the city? Like Venice, conjured but not understood. And what about writing in the style of a forgotten poet, probably dead, whose work I knew well when I remembered anything at all.

The world, my world, my city, spins around me at night while I lie still. Or I spin and the world doesn’t. Not good either way.


The drowning city – not a metaphor – a drowning city.
All relics will drown.

The Appel woman and her whatever-it-is survive to see the 11th Century abbey adrift and awash. Lights still blaze from the wobbly gherkins of a flawed modernity. The sea roils more as it reaches the walls.

You can be as solid as you like – one day the waters will close over your spinning head.

All relics will drown.

The Great Filter may have already been and gone, or is waiting somewhere along Time’s Arrow.

Ponder the Fermi Paradox.

Some relics will drown before they even become relics because they didn’t have time to become relics.

Waves come in various forms. We have to watch out for them, mythic or mundane. Afterwards there will be no relics, and not even a solitary angel with stunted wings to worship, and no worshippers either.

There is another witness who stands beyond the 4th wall, the invisible wall through which the viewer gazes from a lofty place, with wisdom, indifference and powerlessness in equal quantities.


Karel Appel.  The City 1982. Oil on canvas, 191 x 222 cm. Collection: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Post 3 May 2015:

So here I am, still in Appel land and trying to connect with my inner WILD.

But just standing here trying.

I’m thinking about Guardian Angels. What are they like?

I suspect they’re on their i-phones constant, where all messages languish forever on unanswered voicemail.

Do we each have one? Or are they like the Macmillan nurse who never turns up? Where are they when you need them?

Are angels impotent like Appel’s viridian monstrosity?

 Do we have to wear white gloves when we reach for the angel, like servants that mustn’t get their thumbs in the soup?

These are the big questions.

And here’s another question.


I’m bleating that I want to ‘loosen up’. I’ve been a fully paid up member of this tribe for years.

A voice in my head keeps banging on about it while I get more and more lost in seductive Ruskinesque transitions. This longing to loosen up could be just another variety of crippling ambition.

I feel I’m a long way from nailing down my response to this project, and things keep happening like this –

Got to keep ‘The City’ by Karel Appel in mind. But in the end I want the work to become My Work, but ideally I’d like to rework/reinvent myself!

Who wouldn’t?

But if I don’t this might happen

Not good.


Should we happen to believe in unliklies like angels, we might all try to reach them.

On a subatomic level we might all be everywhere at the same time, or somewhere else. After all the presence of an observer apparently actually causes this. Maybe.

So how do we, or the Angel know where we are?

The universe may be of a conscious indifference, or not. The Angel may be stuck with no notion of Time in a place where clever men say the laws of physics break down. Perhaps.

Could be tricky to reach for an Angel.

Karel Appel’s woman (who has morphed into me, since we are all the main protagonists in our images) should try to hold on tight to the possibility of its existence and its potential catchability.

Try to understand the


Here is the latest picture. A total failure in the wildness stakes.

Buried not too deeply within this image is the possibility of another kind of failure.

In the act of reaching the hands become increasingly insubstantial, and the angel is fading anyway.

Fading Angel Syndrome (see NHS Direct) is caused by people believing less and less in them. Like Tinkerbell.

And indeed the Angel wears the appealing face of a cuddly chimera and is truly difficult to believe in.

I’m scared it is the same old sad narrative.

I’m an absurdist nihilist existentialist. And a Doom Monger

HOW I LOVE LABELS! You know where you are with them –

Or do you?   

Post 2. March 2015:


This was my first foray into Karel Appel Land. The woman has gained some goggles and the white glove that servants should always wear. She’s a bit enigmatic so we don’t know if she’s on a mission.

She’s gained an extra creature/familiar.

But she’s not exactly running on wrath. Since I mostly do this, I would like to feel she’s carrying the Torch of Wrath.

The city’s buildings in Appel Land are like upturned boats. Man and creature stare out to sea and watch a slowly unfolding catastrophe, like a metaphor for what goes wrong.

Maybe sea levels have risen, and Appel City is washed away. Even the Arks are sinking.

More Appel boats. The creature has indifferently sprouted wings, and longer legs to wander off on. Don’t trust this creature

The catastrophe continues. The woman falls quite gracefully in an inappropriately relaxed manner.


The Inevitable. It has to be faced that this creature is not benign.

These creatures appear often in my paintings, stand-ins for spectators, wiser than humans. I like them to seem to be more knowing, to sometimes be guardians, sometimes malevolent. They have an arbitrary nature.

If they have wings, they might be angels (not that angels exist – that’s the point) so don’t depend on it.

In the above the creature is victorious, the woman is lost.

This latest drawing, still done in Appel Land, feels more like my work.

I’m trying to trudge around London with a bad back, a sense of menace, and a creature which is definitely NOT MY ANGEL

Post 1. January 2015:


Let’s go down to the inner sanctum, the store room where paintings and stuff languishes unseen, where the struggles of artists dead and otherwise live on. We are allowed in. I feel like I was never allowed in anywhere before. I like the floor, each little bit like a faux Tapies.

But even better, these anonymous boxes with enigmatic captions like this

Strangely, this is the best thing I’ve seen. How many dreams are in the world? How many of them are mine?

They’re all fragile

Because art is a fragile undertaking. An artist feels constantly fragile, and the initiating moments are the most delicate and vulnerable. The art continues breakable, people can look with the wrong eyes. Meanings are lost in misunderstandings, the context changes, the impulse is forgotten. We are alone in our box of bone. We just hope that we recognise something, feel less alone, not the only one singing a forgotten song in an empty room.

It’s not too much to ask, is it? Maybe. Hang on, I’m about to be scuppered!


This should be common parlance. Shorthand for existential disappointment.

We did extract a Zobole. It was hauled out with some effort, and slid into view. Slowly, and I’m sad to say, horribly, it revealed itself as the WRONG Zobole, a bland, birds-eye view of a sort of toy village, very white, a bit tasteful.

Less said the better. Apparently the RIGHT Zoboles are at the University of Glamorgan, all 74 of them. Here in the inner sanctum there is only this and it’s wrong.

Back to the tyranny of choice.

And I have chosen.

A ugly giant naked woman, a viridian villainous green outline, B-movie horror, but with arms that hang down in demoralised impotence. Buildings like upturned sinking boats, like unfolded catastrophes. The most stunted red dragon creature with depleted wings. A total daubing confusion. And it’s HUGE. UNFINICKY. And seems straight out of the unconscious.

I’ve chosen this because I want to be WILDER than I am.

More or less thrilling instalment to follow

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