Regular readers will know that my regularly delivered rag is the Daily Telegraph. Today I saw the Guardian at the local supermarket and the picture on the front page caused me to shell out £1.20 for a copy. As it was, the picture and the strapline above told the whole story.

“It was just an unbelievably mean-spirited gesture.” David Hockney

Earlier this year, according to the Guardian article, 650,000 people went to see A Bigger Splash at the Royal Academy. I don’t know about the other 649,998 people but the Management and I were very impressed by the exhibition – I’d go as far as to say it was the most inspiring show I’ve seen.

Winter Timber (2009) was one of the main paintings in the Hockney exhibition. A significant feature of this painting was ‘the totem’, a 12 foot high dead tree stump.

Winter Timber

“It was something that I rather enjoyed,” he says of the old tree. “It had been cut down a while back because it was dead but I liked the way it was and I said to the landowners: ‘Leave it that way’ and they did, and somebody else comes along with a big saw. It must have taken two hours to do.”

According to the article, Hockney “is convinced the stump was targeted because it had become possibly the most famous piece of dead wood in Britain after he portrayed it in several of his acclaimed landscapes of the countryside around his home in Bridlington. “It is something that has made me depressed. It was just spite. There are loads of very mean things here now in Britain.””

My title above is ‘why?’. Can anyone explain to me the why behind this vandalism? I nearly said ‘mindless’ vandalism, but does someone spend two hours of labour on something that is mindless?

When my son was a teenager he used to go rock climbing. There was a problem occasionally with people/idiots/vandals who deliberately broke off holds on climbs with hammers, often making enjoyable, challenging routes unclimbable. The reason? Sorry, I never understood.

Nowadays, the interweb thingy is crawling with trolls who seem to have no other agenda but destroying the pleasure of others. Again, why?

Meanwhile, Hockney has now created several sketches of the stump. “I’m just drawing it,” he says. “That’s how I react to it.” That sounds like grief to me.


About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website johnpindararts.weebly.com
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6 Responses to Why?

  1. mobius faith says:

    Some questions have no answers (that are acceptable to our “reasoning” ears).

  2. seascapesaus says:

    I throw up my proverbial hands. I suspect that some person might find it clever or funny to do this. An extension of a classroom prank. I think soul-less is the word in this case.

  3. Nancy Farmer says:

    Some people are unbelievable. Someone took a chainsaw to the Glastonbury Thorn, too, a couple of years back, and that was a perfectly healthy, historic and much-loved tree round here. I suspect some people find other people’s enjoyment a thing of aggravation and provocation. I would almost rather they took to burglary, at least you can see some theory they have something to gain in that!
    Sadly the final death-blow to the Glastonbury Thorn was dealt by hundreds of subsequent well-meaning visitors, who tied loads of stuff to the beleaguered tree and poured all manner of things on it (honey and beer were mentioned) in a misguided attempt to help it. Turns out idiots can do just as much damage but at least they don’t mean to…

  4. clinock says:

    If your question could be answered easily then we might find a way to live in peace with each other – but there is a beast slouching through this world and it doesn’t follow known and tested paths of humanism, compassion, virtue, reason or love. I was heartbroken by your post and also Nancy’s, having lived near Glastonbury for many years and visited the Thorn often and in reverence…

    • Nancy Farmer says:

      I believe Kew Gardens or someone is growing a new one from a cutting of the old tree. It may be some comfort to know a story I heard from a local folklore lecture one time: the tree you knew was itself a cutting once of a previous tree planted there. According to the story, the first thorn was cut down by a vandal too, some centuries back (with an axe, not a chainsaw, of course), but it took its revenge as a splinter of wood is supposed to have come off the tree as it was felled and to have blinded the axeman. And though I very much doubt that the very first tree really did grow from the staff of Joseph of Aramathea as it is supposed to, I like to think the rest of that is true. You can’t keep a good tree down!

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