Bush: President Turned Painter

In ART & FASHION, Commentary, HOME by Figgy Guyver

Just when you thought former presidential laughing-stock George Bush had used up all his funny, he hits us where we’re least expecting it. Yes, you’ve heard the news correctly, it wasn’t an April Fools, George Bush has turned to the brush. He has composed portraits of famous world leaders “in the spirit of friendship”, and is exhibiting them in his Presidential Library. Although, if I were Angela Merkel, I don’t know if I’d still ‘feel the love’ for ex-US president after seeing his rendition of the German Chancellor. Poor Angela. The wonky eyes and blotchy skin have an air of ‘stroke-victim’ about them, and probably haven’t done anything for her self-confidence.

Angela-Merkel-630x350These aren’t the former president’s first works. Since starting his dabble with the arts he has, in his own words, “shocked” his painting teacher with his self-portraits in the bath, and in the shower. Looking at the works, it’s easy to see why Bush’s teacher felt a little shaken. There’s something almost violating about the politician’s nudes.

bush bathroom artBut Bush really shouldn’t have bothered with all this painting, as he already inadvertently reached the peak of his artistic career back in 2002 when he choked on a pretzel. The incident had the feel of avant-garde performance art. The astute irony of almost dying on an inanimate object in a political climate when his security was constantly under threat would have been enough to at least make him runner-up for the Turner Prize. Seriously, check out the video of him explaining the incident, doesn’t it look like video art?

But even more farcical than all this is the discovery made last week by art critic Greg Allan. A simple Google search of the famous world leaders rendered immortal by Bush’s brush throws up images that look strangely familiar. Wait a sec, did ol’George just use the first straight on head shot he could find on Google images? But what about the painting of his father, you say, surely he painted from life or at least used a private family photo? And what about his claims that his painting of Putin “looked into [the Russian leader’s] soul”, he couldn’t possibly have done that working from a printout of a staid press shot? He hasn’t lied to us, has he??!

putin bushAlthough, are we actually surprised? After the lies about WMDs in 2003, after the 935 lies he told in office (yes, someone actually counted), are we really shocked?

In fact, there’s a serious point in all of this. Since the news broke of Bush’s artistic turn his popularity ratings have actually risen. Some of the US papers have praised his work, the Washington Post commenting that the painting of Putin was “really good aesthetically” (are we looking at the same painting?). This version of Bush ‘the artist’, which portrays him as affable, retired, harmless, shouldn’t go any way towards washing Iraq off of his hands. We shouldn’t forget that this is the man primarily responsible for the invasion in 2003. With this in mind, there’s something a little unnerving about the paintings of Bush in the bath and Bush in the shower; it’s as if he’s trying to wash himself of the guilt.

Jonathan Jones, writing in The Guardian, comments that “these empty headed daubs look like the work of someone you wouldn’t trust to mow a lawn without cutting someone’s foot off”. He’s right. You wonder how, for eight years, President Bush led the most powerful country in the world.

Figgy Guyver

Figgy Guyver is the Deputy Editor of ART & FASHION at Prancing Through LIFE. She’s also the Art Editor of The Student newspaper. In a shocking revelation for Art Editors around the world Figgy is the kind of person you might describe as ‘artsy’. She enjoys the works of Mark Rothko and in her free time wonders how sushi would feel. It is indeed a great question.

(Images sourced from: www.guardian.co.uk)