Mark Wallinger’s ID – A Conversation (Part Three).

On May 1st, Richard Guest & I visited Mark Wallinger’s show  ID  at Hauser & Wirth London W1. Afterwards, we discussed the show by email. The following is the result of several weeks’ electronic toing and froing. You can read part Two here:

fresco of hands

Mark Wallinger’s Ego

…David: In the way you describe it, Ego comes across as a possibly disingenuous but certainly disarming glimpse behind the scenes at the moment of artistic creation in 2016. I like to think the ink under his fingernails is from the Id paintings, and Ego represents a kind of dumb show which shows the conscious perception of the creative moment in the mind of the artist in all its glory and shoddiness. Maybe it started as a sarcastic gesture of either satisfaction or dissatisfaction. I can see that it is in a way describing the meeting of our modern selves and our cultural past, but can it simultaneously subvert and promote the creative act? Wallinger seems to be saying this is nothing, but is also everything…can we absorb that paradox?

The Id paintings seem like a cathartic release of the need to paint, to make marks and of course the need to make big canvasses to fill that huge space. Can’t do that with a couple of sheets of A4. They are giant Rorschach tests, no more, no less. On the one hand they seem to be a weak echo of Yves Klein’s Body paintings , on the other because they are so many and they are all the-same-but-different they seem to be devaluing and denigrating the gestural mark in art.  Wallinger seems to be saying ‘marks are nice to look at and fun to make, but in the end one mark or the other – take your pick – call it a face or a cloud if you like – but it makes no odds. All that remains are just the marks. Everything else is your interpretation, based on the primitive parts of your brain that needed to make sense of abstract shapes when we were hunting in the wild and painting in caves. Sort of Anti-Impressionism. Anti-transcendence. We are not in the wild any more.

Mark Wallinger ID Painting 29 2015 Acrylic on canvas 360 x 180 cm / 141 3/4 x 70 7/8 in Photo: Alex Delfanne

Mark Wallinger ID Painting 29 2015 Acrylic on canvas 360 x 180 cm / 141 3/4 x 70 7/8 in Photo: Alex Delfanne

Richard: I’m not so sure…maybe this is a tentative (not so?) step in that direction. One definition of the Id is: the part of the mind in which innate instinctive impulses and primary processes are manifest. Are these paintings titled Id because Wallinger followed his instinct to make marks with his own hands, rather than develop another clean, cool, detached neo-conceptual work? Or has he found a conceptually acceptable excuse to be a painter again (I’m interested in their conception. The canvases are divided vertically down the middle, so that the two sides of the painting roughly mirror each other. There are variations in some marks, which underlines the hand-made quality. But in some of the paintings there are clear central dividing lines, like the ones you get if you try to create a mirror image in image manipulation software (such as Photoshop) (very difficult to get rid of, believe me…) Which makes me wonder whether MW created his images digitally and then used them as a model for the eventual paintings).

They look like they were a lot of fun to make (and I’m disturbed that so many of them suggest to me scenes from Star Trek). And I’d hazard MW was a lot more physically involved (he, not a studio assistant, made these – they are effectively massive finger paintings) in the creation of the final objects than he was with Ego and Superego, so there’s a lot more of him present in the Id works.

Proportionally, the paintings take up a lot of space at Hauser & Wirth. If this show is about the act of creation, which I think it is, does this mean Wallinger is placing more value on the Id than the Ego and Superego in the creative act? Do you think the paintings have more worth as works (and consequently monetary value)?

Mark Wallinger id Painting 56 2015 Acrylic on canvas 360 x 180 cm / 141 3/4 x 70 7/8 in Photo: Alex Delfanne

Mark Wallinger id Painting 56 2015 Acrylic on canvas 360 x 180 cm / 141 3/4 x 70 7/8 in Photo: Alex Delfanne

David: It clearly is no accident that the paintings are linked to the primitive part of the brain, and photographs and printing are linked to the conscious. Photographs capture an image of something that already exists. The moment of the shutter opens is the moment of cognisance: analogous to the awakening of consciousness of the ego as it observes the world and perceives its own distance from it. Paintings – particularly abstract expressionist paintings like the kind the id paintings reference – seek to be making visible the viscera of the internal subconscious without reference to external reality. The Id paintings feel like therapy, but their context points to an ironical rather than a straight reading of them. Freud was a long time ago and any reference to him feels retro, knowing – like wearing a tweed jacket and smoking a pipe.

To me it is like this. Wallinger feels (deep down in the unconscious part of his brain) the need to make art. He gets a three metre canvas (well, he gets quite a few of them because after all he has a big show coming up) and starts to finger paint black on white in a sort of planned-unplanned way. It feels honest and direct; but Wallinger is reflective and oblique. Maybe he did do a digital version first. But I think the tactile element is important here. Having made a couple of id paintings he sits back with a coffee and a cigarette (reaching a bit here). In this contemplative moment of self-awareness he sees himself clearly. He is a creator of work, yes. But the work is unsatisfactory, tawdry, second-hand. And unbidden the image of the Sistine Chapel comes to mind. He compares himself to Michelangelo…maybe arrogantly, maybe abjectly. He touches his own fingers together in a sardonic act. Both acknowledging and taking the piss out of his own self, his work and his situation as a leading contemporary artist. He is in that moment God, Adam and Wallinger. Then another level of mind above all that kicks and and says “hey, you know what? That might be a work there you know?” Ego is born. It is rather a feeble specimen next to the lusty Id paintings and the cold, blank Superego and I wonder who might have the courage to buy it ahead of the other larger archivally made gallery fillers…


Mark Wallinger’s ID – A Conversation (Part Two).

On May 1st, Richard Guest & I visited Mark Wallinger’s show  ID  at Hauser & Wirth London W1. Afterwards, we discussed the show by email. The following is the result of several weeks’ electronic toing and froing. Here is Part Two – you can read Part One here.


My accidental version of Shadow Walker in Lisson Grove – the twins in the camo trousers I was surreptitiously trying to photograph cropped off at the head!

My accidental version of Shadow Walker in Lisson Grove – the twins in the camo trousers I was surreptitiously trying to photograph cropped off at the head!

David: Ever Since and Shadow Walker left me pretty cold I have to say, but there are a couple of things that make me scratch my head. Shadow Walker is on a screen resting on the floor, leaning against the wall. It was shot on a phone of some sort I think, it is very poor quality footage anyway, and it’s vertical). Ever Since is the reverse – very high quality and projected directly onto the wall. Leaning stuff has been everywhere maybe I am tired of it, but is the slipshod presentation of Shadow Walker a little studied – do you really feel any spontaneity looking at it or is Wallinger tying to be too clever by juxtaposing all these disparate idioms?

As soon as we move into the North Gallery we are (if we had been going round the right way) greeted by Ego which is a pair of peeling inkjet prints ‘shot on an iPhone’ we are told. They are stuck on the wall any old how, with blu-tac or similar it looked like. Again there is a massive and deliberate contrast between this and the standardised size of the Id paintings which seem to have the correct production values for H&W. Does this contrast work for you, and does it seem to be a clue to unlocking Wallinger’s approach?

Ego – Gallery tour in progress...we hung back.

Ego – Gallery tour in progress…we hung back.

Richard: Wallinger could be trying to be too clever, but I prefer to think he’s problem-solving, without regard to aesthetics – finding the most direct way to express what he wants to say and going with it (the resulting object is what it is, its aesthetic a part of the message). For me there’s a freshness to this show, which could not have been achieved if it had been all paintings or all videos (But in answer to your question, I don’t feel any spontaneity looking at Shadow Walker, more a wave of ennui crashing over me).

Yes, I think there is a clue in Ego to what Wallinger is doing. He is an artist, regardless of media or technique, who understands that everything he makes has an intrinsic aesthetic value, in part based on what it looks like and in part what that appearance “means”. (To a certain extent, I think he sends up his role as an artist) Ego, for example, would mean something quite different had it been painted. He’s clearly alluding to Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel (and possibly the opening title sequence of The South Bank Show), but the image was made in the quickest way possible and reproduced without fuss. Ego carries an idea as much as any of the other work in the show, so its appearance may be lowly in comparison with the Id paintings, but its worth as a statement is equal. Do you like it as a work?

David: Honestly, it’s only because I am talking to you about it that I have even stopped to think about it. It is not just ephemeral but scruffy…slapdash and proud. You are completely right I think to suggest that the method of production is integral to the meaning, but whether it really is produced without regard to ultimate aesthetic impact is hard to say. Outside the gallery context this work would just be two pieces of paper – within it, it feels like a deliberate old-school provocation. It is almost Dadaist in character and Wallinger must know that. It is the key work of the show I think, but I have difficulty with it . I am curious about its conception…but it seems to forestall my scepticism by referencing the most famous and sublime depiction of creation (and by implication artistic creation) while simultaneously seeming to disrespect it by casually presenting it as a second-hand experience.

Ego installation view …appropriately shot on a blurry phone.

Ego installation view …appropriately shot on a blurry phone.

It’s all a bit too cool for me. It is very far from the impulse that first drove a cave dweller to pick up a piece of burnt charcoal and draw a horse on the walls of a cave. It falls into the category of comment rather than expression. Problem solving is a very positive way of looking at it. For me it is part of a sub genre of critical commentary in an artistic medium. Is that unfair?

Richard: As far as Wallinger’s method is concerned, I’m not so sure it is that far removed from the Paleolithic decorating impulse – the cave dwellers would have used a quick and convenient method to convey their message, with the materials they had at hand, I think, without regard to aesthetics (because they were in the process of inventing them).

For me, Ego represents the shortest route from conception to creation in the show. It appears to be a joke, but it’s a complex one:

  • Wallinger unfairly compares the craft of his work to that of Michaelangelo
  • (whilst simultaneously daring the gallery to sell inkjet prints of photographs he took on his phone)
  • and makes light of the fact that he has spent little time crafting the finished work (once he’d had the idea, he surrendered it to a mechanical means of production)
  • he asks the question, “where do the ideas for my art come from?”
  • and answers it, “from me and my accumulated knowledge of art” (both hands are his)
  • and finally he invites the audience to laugh at the shoddiness (and cheek) of it all
  • and asks, “have you got the guts to buy this?”

What I found really interesting about it as an image was that in it Wallinger has black dirt under his fingernails and the Id paintings are all black – does this suggest we can date Ego to the same period? Did he produce Ego in a creative rush after finishing a particularly satisfying Id painting (if so that makes his joke even funnier)? Do you think he achieved personal satisfaction from executing any of the Id paintings, or was his approach to them as conceptual and cool as it appears to have been with Ego?

David: That is as good an all round picture of how Ego functions as we are going to get, I think. But what it tells me is that if Mark Wallinger is anything to go by when we look around we no longer do it with our eyes, but with our iPhones; and what we see is not life in the raw, but a series of references – images quoted from the past. As if only by looking in the mirror of Michelangelo’s Creations can we correctly place our own. Our ability to directly experience things is compromised by our knowledge of art and our insatiable image capturing technology. There has been a Fall – a loss of innocence and there is no going back. This robs art of its primal power of redefining how you look at something on its own terms as if for the first time. It is always doing so as part of a network of critical references, and each work is merely an inflection of this ongoing critical environment. In a way it’s like the block chain security devised by Bitcoin where each transaction is recorded onto an ever-growing chain of verified transactions. If an incoming transaction does not have all the previous ones attached it will be rejected. Works of art in the critical canon have to absorb and reflect all previous works and critical positions: if they do not then they cannot be verified critically and cannot sit within the canon. They are in outer darkness critically and commercially. Meanwhile the critical canon becomes ever more bloated, unwieldy and impenetrable.

Read Part Three here

The Wizard Who Made Ideas Disappear

Sigmar Polke at Tate Modern

Polke 'Alice' ...the image is the disappearance of the image

Polke ‘Alice’ …the image is the disappearance of the image

Polke is the most enigmatic character in all of contemporary art. His work inhabits a phantom dimension between art and anti-art. A sort of artistic wormhole which distorts the usual values and perceptions, and in which a lesser talent would be crushed to nothing.

For many years I have wrestled with Polke’s work, seeing it and not seeing it at the same time. I just could not understand h0w any painting (and I am just interested in his paintings really) could be so beautiful and so ugly at once as his are. I don’t really know whether I like them or not and I am not sure that it matters. I think ultimately Polke only cared about stimulating a certain response in his viewers, which was a complex compound of dissatisfaction, questioning, aesthetic awareness and a kind of transcendental indifference to everything.

Like all good artists though, he didn’t care to repeat himself and his work takes many forms, and given his rejection of fixed points of reference it is hard to perceive the core, but it may well turn out that the core is rejection. Obviously if you reject everything all at once you won’t make anything, but he seems to have started with rejection of the Nazi past that was so recent for him (he was born in Poland in 1941), but followed that by rejection of post-war consumerism in the early 1960s, and by the time that he was rejecting perceptual reality in the 1970s through his drug use he had also embraced many rejections of new and traditional artistic styles in an exhausting contrarian Odyssey, and for the rest of his life (he died in 2010) he did not slow down or resolve into any obvious pattern, but he often backtracked and took on things he had previously rejected.


Polke’s bleak critique of his chosen vocation


Disintegration of patterns was for Polke suggestive of the disintegration of meaning – of photographs, of images in general. His use of fragmented images anticipates layers of computer graphics but also shows that using images in this way will hasten the descent into the void. To subvert the power and meaning of the images you are using even while relying on them for that very same power and meaning: he knew years before us all that photography was dead as documentation, and showed it reduced to entropic pattern.

varnishing day...

varnishing day…

He used a hundred different ways of making transparency and translucency on the canvas in order to make his work more opaque.

I don’t go to Tate Modern that often, about once a year I reckon. I am not sure about it I feel obscurely oppressed by its omniscient orthodoxy. This time I went in the evening, and it was the best it has ever been. If you are going to try to give some mental space to art, you need some physical space to do so. It was just us and a few glamorous Italians who were really very decorative.

Polke’s use of spillages and other accidental marks seems an echo of Pollock, but his use of ‘ready-made’ images and printed fabrics seems an echo of Duchamp. Between art and anti-art lives the wizard, and like trying to identify the location of a mythical place, clues are often misleading. For many years he claimed his work was dictated by ‘Higher Beings’. Was he joking? Polke has made an enchanted world without certainties, where everything is open to question. That is not an easy place to live, but it is a free one, and I will return.

polka showing his spills

Polke showing his spills


Lunch in Mayfair – Bring Your Own Potato

Julian Opie Ruth Smoking £6,000

Julian Opie Ruth Smoking £6,000


Evening and Day Editions at Phillips Berkeley Square, 22nd January.


Although we live in a world where we can access all sorts of content free and on demand, it seems that most people still want to own physical things that are somehow culturally important to them, that express something about them. We can call it art, we can call it shopping. We may admire the work of Rembrandt or Gerhard Richter in galleries and museums but most individuals are unable to come up with the tens of millions needed for a major original. But what if you want something for a little bit less?

You could of course just steal one, but even presuming that you could get away with it (and like me you have no moral qualms), you could never really show it to anyone. And you might feel a bit like a Nazi war criminal.

So you have to consider copies, acknowledged and unacknowledged,  or you  could just print out the highest resolution image on the internet and hang that on the wall instead. And why not? Now for a major Rembrandt or Richter oil painting, it would obviously not have all the qualities of the original and scale would still be an issue unless you have a very large printer. But for a drawing or a print at the correct scale on a similar paper, the artefact might be physically close enough to bear looking at. But there is no connection to the artist, and that’s cold.

Now if you are talking about a cold artist: a Duchamp, a Warhol or conceivably a Polke, that might just be ok. But Picasso? No. I want to feel that my Picasso was blessed by his touch however briefly or even just his presence in the room. What might I be able to (maybe) afford one day that has that? The Multiple: museum quality art for a fraction of the price (ok it’s still pretty expensive), the only downside being that a couple of hundred other people have the exact same thing. But it is ‘market authentic’ – it is branded and the label still shows when you wear it, which is what you want.

Hodgkin at Gagosian

Hodgkin at Gagosian

Which brings me to the Phillips contemporary sale in their swanky new Berkeley Square rooms last month. I came across it by accident – I wandered down after I saw some Howard Hodgkin prints at Gagosian Mayfair and was thinking that they might be the kind of art you could actually live with – a domestic scale, colourful and with just enough content to hold your interest and not be corporate-bland and not so much content that it would forever dominate your room. And at the Phillips sale there was a whole menagerie of similar work. These were works blessed by the artists, or their estates, and all seemed like fairly good examples of mature work by artists we all recognise. Your dwelling could become a miniature Museum of Modern Art for under $100,000 – or less than the price of a posh car.

It’s not just prints though – the Multiple embraces editions of sculptures of all sorts even less obviously commercial ones like Kippenberger. Even Beuys shows his ironic appreciation of his commodification with his slogan Kunst = Kapital.

Beuys tells us how it is.

Beuys tells us how it is.


Yes, Joseph Art is Money, so what does that make this, precisely?  If Polke is your thing there was an intriguing Apparatus Whereby One Potato Can Orbit Another. An edition of 30, potato not included.

Sigmar Polke. A different kind of multiple

Sigmar Polke. A different kind of multiple

Providing a potato is the extreme limit of my curatorial prowess though. Anything that needs more maintenance than that can forget it. I am not an institution with staff. My pick would have been either one of the striking Francis Bacon prints or this lovely Picasso vase. Just have to be careful to put it somewhere safe…


Breakable Picasso for £18,750



Stuff with stuff in it.

Jim Lambie at Sadie Coles HQ in Kingly St


Jim Lambie and the lamps

Jim Lambie and the pots

The art object is not always an object nowadays. But when it is it can be an object in itself, or it can sometimes contain other objects.  This is a fairly modern notion: re-presenting an everyday object inside an artwork can suggest many layers of meaning.

What’s that I hear you say, cultured readers? Wasn’t it Marcel Duchamp that originated the use of the ready made back in 1913? Groans. Yes, probably – but he was just being contrary and sarcastic. He had no idea what would come through the floodgates he opened. Since R Mutt’s urinal there have been many more significant and subtle uses of found – or indeed purchased objects. So much so that is almost its own genre at this point.

Jim Lambie - Answer Machine

Jim Lambie – Answer Machine


Jim Lambie’s show sits squarely at the crossroads of this genre. On one hand combining clothes and lamps as formal pictorial and sculptural elements, but on the other using them to suggest something else; abandonment perhaps, like the contents of a discarded suitcase.  He is in a tradition both playful, and with an ironical undercurrent.  It involves making aesthetic objects from commonplace consumer items. They are not simple readymades – they interact with more plastic elements – canvases and frames, but because they escape the picture plane they take on a sculptural quality, sort of. The hanging and leaning works suggest Morris Louis and John McCracken – both intensely abstract, but hanging these objects from them the work seems more dynamic and engaging as if the world were somehow penetrating the closed bubble of art creation.


Jim Lambie plugs in

Jim Lambie plugs in

The hanging wire pieces also fall into that slightly less satisfactory class of stuff that looks like it should do stuff. It has a machine aesthetic in other words. But imitating the design of functional things in art objects is a strange thing to want to do and it’s a hard trick to pull off. But the other pieces seem fresh and alive – art history and the contemporary world are quietly coming together in them. It’s stimulating rather than life changing, but it is good.

The transmuted object has taken on several guises. The Picasso bull slaps you in the face with pure form, abstracted from two totally familiar objexts. Picasso at once masters and dismisses this whole genre as joky and bafflingly easy.  The Surrealists going the other way – including objects for their subliminal associations and playing with them through inappropriate juxtaposition. John’s work playing on the tension of making things that really look like real things, but are clearly just art. Or Tony Cragg using the detritus of the consumer society to represent it. This work sits among these, feeling its way to new uses of the real world in its own representation, maybe the consumer society demands consumer objects in its reflection.

Duchamp did break the ice at the Armory Show. Until that radical moment, art was made just from paint, stone or clay – pro to stuff. Now this seems outdated. We require art that contains plastic quotations of our everyday lives. These have replaced the literary or biblical references of past centuries, we simply cannot understand that language anymore. The trouble is, we are struggling to understand this new one as well.


In the Dark with Bill

Hot on the heels of their impressive Duchamp show, Blain|Southern are now showing Bill Viola. I only had a few minutes to check it out so I’m not sure if all the works on show are new, but I think they were.




But first, an admission.

Whenever I walk into a gallery and see video screens my heart sinks slightly. Perhaps this is because I work with video for a living. Perhaps I dislike the invasion of the moving image into the sanctum of the still image with its concomitant insistence that I be still and attentive for the duration of the work. This seems arrogannt and presumptious. Perhaps I feel video artists are usually even more self-absorbed than the other kinds. Or perhaps I feel suspicious of the anticipation raised by the darkened gallery. This darkness in a gallery is unnatural – the intrusion of projected light in a dark space promises a theatrical or cinematic experience. Usually the work is undramatic and I feel thoroughly disappointed.

I imagine a lot of video works from the ’80s and ’90s are residing on virtually unplayable U-Matic tapes. We should not be in any hurry to digitise them. Indeed the word ‘video’ itself is now an anachronistic misnomer.

There are honourable exceptions to my opprobrium. To name a few: Bruce Nauman, Nam June Paik … and Bill Viola. When I saw the Angels of the New Millenium at Anthony d’Offay way back (2001?) I was astounded by it. A lot of previous video installations had turned on the sculptural qualities of the cathode ray tube, but this really pulled you into the content. It used scale, sound and time in a way that was a truly powerful experience.

This show is not on that level, but there is still a considered and painterly approach despite it being lcd pixels. Figures walking in the desert – so far away, but distance crushed by a very long lens: hard to tell if they are approaching or receding. They are separated by an expanse of desert, but presumably they are together in that wilderness. It is compelling but quiet, timeless. Two elderly nudes examine their bodies slowly with a torch.  Might be imagining this – are the giant screens they are on (presumably they are custom made as their shape is so elongated) propped against the wall at an angle? The slow pace of movement in the works and his use of composition makes his work feel shockingly like the future of painting rather than the present of the moving image.


As I became more involved with them, the dark was not a false cinema darkness, but more like the inside of a Gothic church – cool on a hot sunny afternoon. I wanted to spend more time in the dark with these pieces just to look at them. Not to see what would happen next.

Whole Lotta Leon

Undoubtedly the highpoint of my week was Leon Kossoff’s fantastic show at Annely Juda in Dering Street.

This show has works from early in his career to the present. An almost religious vocation has driven him on for over fifty years, doggedly pursuing the same agenda. How many other artists could claim this? How many would feel so sure in their chosen idiom to pursue it when it had no commercial support or potential? Today when even artists are all so career oriented, building their list of shows and networking, how many would just stay in the studio and keep working, oblivious to all else?

Detail from  an early Kossoff painting of a building site.

Detail from an early Kossoff painting of a building site.

This exhibition focuses on his landscape work, rather than portraits. His choice of locations can be surprising – Kilburn tube station, his local swimming pool – urban and often unpicturesque. They reflect not only his own personal involvement in London (there are  new drawings of Arnold Circus, where he grew up for example), but also his take on the themes of the painters he most admires. I don’t know whether this is conscious or not, but I imagine it is. Knowing that he loves Cézanne, and then looking at his swimming pool paintings I immediately think of Cézanne’s bathers. I prefer the Kossoff version, but maybe that’s because I’m a Londoner…

Seemingly the antithesis of Duchampian detachment, he pours into the work whatever he can find in himself. This is introspective work, full of unashamed personal emotion. Unassuming and shunning personal attention, he is a very different kind of artist from those who produce ‘comment’ style work requiring the audience to complete the circle of meaning: only possible in the context of the gallery. Kossoff’s work is context independent – the viewer is allowed to view but the act of viewing is not part of the work, it requires very little critical mediation because the content is actually within the work and not projected from outside. 

Am I in sympathy with this kind of artist more than the detached conceptualists , beloved of the current generation of curators and critics who make more of them than they deserve? Yes, in all probability. Too much attention goes to extravert bores and for someone like Kossoff who is not a natural self publicist, due respect has taken a very long time. But he has never stopped or changed direction when his work received no attention. Painting from life is an idiom that can be lazy and regressive without this strict, almost self-lacerating discipline: contemporary art has taught us this much at least.

a recent drawing by Kossoff of King's Cross

a recent drawing by Kossoff of King’s Cross

Yet this monasticism is not always a healthy approach to making art.

I was lucky enough to visit his house many years ago to collect some paintings for a gallery I was working for. I smelt the linseed oil walking up the garden path. Apparently the house had just had a major clean up but there was still paint pretty much everywhere; this was an extreme lifestyle.  The estimated drying time of the pictures he had just finished was about thirty years. Some of the early ones in this show will be dry by now then. He seemed exceedingly shy and quiet, not so much like his longtime friend Frank Auerbach who has a kind of intense taciturnity about him, but more withdrawn and inward looking. And I would say this is reflected in the slightly more expressionistic quality to his art. Usually I would regard that as a negative, but not here. The energy and vigour of his work is what matters.