Portrait of the Artist (with credit cards)

This face caught my eye.  It’s a detail from the painting below. And the artist was larking around nearby so I was treated to both the faces he made and the one he wears.

There may well be meaning in the painting, but it just struck me as clever and imaginative. Which could also go towards summing up the area of London where it was hanging. I saw it inside Time for Tea on Shoreditch High Street.

Nearby was a big painted message urging passersby to – Let’s Adore and Endure Each Other. Yes. Let’s.

And there was a shop selling paramilitary teapots and facial decorations for your light switches. In other words, all the essentials.

Which got me thinking: Which rules – east or west?

East London (where I’ve been wandering of late) is clearly cooler, younger, livelier, edgier, more creative and more interesting than the leafier, more sedate west end of this world city. True – you can buy wine with Stalin’s picture on the bottle. But if you were an ineffably cool jazz singer, where would you choose to live? It’s obvious. In the EAST. Probably on a boat. (With or without a bookshop attached.)

But hang on. There’s more to the world than just London. Jim Morrison sang The West is the best. Was he right?

A culture of success puts little value on the unsuccessful - Christopher Robin, 2011, credit cards and acrylic on canvas

What about the WEST Bank of Paris? And WEST Belfast is cooler and more cultural, with better bars and murals than the east of that city. The WEST coast (of Ireland) is warmer and more musical. Isn’t that the same with Manhattan island? What about north America as a whole?

And who could prefer Copacabana to Valparaiso? One may well be the hottest spot north of Havana where music and passion were always the fashion but those lyrics can’t compete with the rousing ring of we’re bound for Valparaiso round the ‘Horn. Generously nozzled crooning v salty wave-washed sailors. There’s more to life than string bikinis on the beach, isn’t there? Which one did Che visit? Well, there’s your answer. The WEST wins again.

Artist Christopher Robin

Horace Greeley didn’t cheerlead the USA’s manifest destiny by urging Go East, young man. No, he was pointing WEST. And cigarette billboards urged Ossies to Test the WEST when the Berlin Wall came down. But then the EAST of that city became cooler.


Test the West - Berlin 1989

Eastern Europe v Western Europe? WEST Can’t ignore France’s wine & cheese and Italy’s food – despite Transylvania putting up a valiant arcadian rearguard action.

 Go West v. East 17? NO SCORE DRAW

 Timbuktu v Samarkand? Both rundown cities of the imagination, but the WEST wins.

Vancouver v Quebec? WEST despite the Stanley Cup riots.

Rome v Byzantium?Perhaps I’ve been led astray by Patrick Leigh Fermor’s theory of the Helleno-Romaic dilemma in his excellent book Roumeli – that the Greek psyche is a zone of perpetual conflict between the glory that was once Athens and the realism that was Byzantium. Been to Athens, but not yet to Istanbul. So I’m choosing EAST. 

And which direction should those country roads take you? Through John Denver’s West Virginia, Mountain Mama – or via Michelle Shocked’ red clay back roads in Memories of East Texas. (I couldn’t find a clip of it online. Odd. Her official website is here.)  Difficult one. Never seen him in the flesh. Met her. She wins. EAST.

And I can’t imagine Fry’s Turkish Delight being “Full of  western promise.”  Then again Eastminster sounds weird.

So far I tot it up as twice as many to the WEST as the EAST. So was Jim Morrison right after all?

Which rules for you? East or West?

Or perhaps the cut-up credit cards at the top have left you so traumatised you’ve had to go and lie down.



Filed under art

27 responses to “Portrait of the Artist (with credit cards)

  1. Which rules for you? East or West?

    In the United States I live near the center — an hour north of Chicago. Washington state — the Pacific NorthWEST is phenomenal. Then again, so is Maine, tucked beautifully in the Atlantic NorthEAST. I’ll be the party-pooper and pivot to both from the center 🙂

  2. Well I grew up East – Boston, which took its Easthood seriously, and in early 20s moved to West, California, which was surfing its freedom of the west, and I’ve lived in the East, the West, the this, the that, and I have to say my heart is in Caliornia! fun post of yours guy!

    • blackwatertown

      So that’s one for the WEST. Ah those California beaches. Epic.
      I worked by one on the east coast – less idyllic – my memories are of ticks and lyme disease and needles washing up on the shore. Luckily I escaped unpunctured by either.

  3. TaylorGooderham

    I’m in the north of Toronto, not really east or west in the city. However, the city is on the eastern-central side of the country, so put me up for east. I’d rather go to the east coast than Vancouver, too.

  4. Plymouth Argyle vs Ipswich Town. No score draw, really.

  5. Paul..in india it depends on which coast you are, In Mumbai the western part of the city is more highbrow, moneyed areas. The dividing line is the railways. Property tends to be more expensive if it is Bandra West or Andheri West. In Chennai where I live on the East coast the eastern part of the city is not only older but chi chi as well. The dividing line here is an arterial road called Anna Salai (Anna means elder brother and a leading politician who brought in great change in this state and Salai means road. )This road until a few decades back was called Mount Road as it lead to St Thomas Mount where there is a small chapel on top of a small….mount of course.

  6. Well, I’m from west of the Bann, so west always wins 😉

    • blackwatertown

      “And yer man Mick McCann from the banks of the Bann” – is what that always makes me think of. Skipper of the Irish Rover he was.

  7. I live in the East, but my bedroom is in the West wing (down the hall)! What does that make me?

    • blackwatertown

      If your bedroom is in the West wing – I think that means you are the President of the United States – if I remember the TV show correctly.

      • I have no TV, so I have never seen the programme, but with Twitter and other forms of media, I do know about it. Their West wing is slightly bigger thyan mine! 😆

  8. as An Ex Resident of Plastow,East Ham , Silvertown & Beckton I guess you might guess My answer!

  9. Well here the west of the city is ‘working class’ and the prestige is in the East. I live in the North West which is kinda burby in-betweeny . . yeh I think West sounds best (and it rhymes) but being called a ‘Westy’ isn’t a good thing in Sydney. Then we’re all a bit arse about down here

  10. Why so competitive? If you like the East, fine. If you like the West, also fine. I live in East Belfast, which is of course unutterably cool, laid back and mellow.

    • blackwatertown

      It was my surprise at how much I like East London that set me off, having previously not had much to do with it.

  11. You have tended to be micro in your approach. In today’s world, Go East seems to be the Mantra BWT, particularly to Russia, China and India. Brazil plays spoil sport in the BRIC nations! Of the four, I think that India would qualify to be the brick. No, it is not a spelling mistake. I wonder what Russia would be?

  12. Isabella

    Great picture!
    Good blog too.
    Isabella S.

  13. Val

    To me, East is cold, West is warm. East London is where quite a lot of my family fetched up when they fled from Eastern Europe in early 1900s as did many other waves of immigrants, so I associate it more with successive waves of people settling and then passing through. Then it was taken over by yuppies (are they still called that? Maybe they’re now Guppies – old, and bloated like the fish!). I also associate East London with extremes of poverty and wealth, which are still there. East England… also, cold. To me it feels mostly unwelcoming. West – gets warmer, people get warmer. And I moved right out of London, out of England, to Wales where I now live and I love it here, so I guess you could say I’m drawn to the West. 🙂

    Poor so and so being called Christopher Robin. I wonder how many times a week he gets asked about Pooh Bear?

    • blackwatertown

      Well Val – maybe we’ll find out the answer to your last question. Perhaps he will tell us.

      I like your newly invented word – guppies. I was chatting with Israeli slang merchants last night who were trying to come up with a new word for date – as in a romantic date, English works well for coming up with new combinations and constructions – but Hebrew is not so sharp and flexible (or so they, the experts, said). But I managed to crack it for them – fish tickle – דג דגדוג
      – which apparently sounds something like “dig-dug” . You see? I’m a genius even in languages I know nothing of.

  14. Leon

    Hello – this post is amazing. Nicely written.

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