Art Comment Quarterly
Serendipity in Room 117
"Heir to the throne left vacant by Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance; 'Channel Fever' finds Jagger writing strong enough songs to make his brother jealous". - Q magazine
Experiencing Chris Jagger seated on the foot of my bed in room 117 in the Ormonde Hotel banging away on his guitar until 4 AM in the morning was for me a thrilling personal musical epiphany, and in a broader context, it provoked thoughts in my mind of the elemental nature of serendipity in the arts.
It was with the release of the album 'Atcha' in 1994 that Chris established his musical identity and plotted a course that he is still pursuing. That course combines CJ's interest in Zydeco, Cajun and Country with the underlying strands of R'n'B, Rock and World music. Constant touring has enabled Chris to hone his skills as frontman and vocalist. In his band he also plays guitar and washboard.
Geraldine Coughlan Loyer, ArtVitae.com director, and myself, your humble editor, found Chris Jagger and his accompianist, Charlie Hart, quite by accident at the Rythmn and Roots Festival in Kilkenny, Ireland this last May Day weekend.
This annual weekend festival is snugly secreted among intimate pubs all over the medieval city of Kilkenny. At the first pub we chanced into we found a lively Irish band, and after securing our first pints, amusingly, the local patrons we encountered there seemed to morph into something like the mad characters in a David Shananhan painting. (I always find it fascinating how, once you have become familiar with an artist's work, you begin to see facets of the world through his/her eyes.) The music and the art linked somehow.
It was in that 'Shananhan' pub that we found a Festival program, and Geraldine, being the musical aficionado, spotted Chris Jagger's name, and insisted that we take a brisk walk in the chilly night air to find Chris. He was working the crowd hard walking atop the few empty stools in the back room of a pub across town. I thought Chris and Charlie were absolutely great, and Geraldine, having followed the music scene forever, was ecstatic to see in person someone she had followed ardently since her teenybopper days.
At the end of the gig Chris and Charlie were selling CDs. So Geraldine approached them to buy some autographed copies. Earlier during his performance Chris had mentioned that, it being the May Day weekend, he should be leaping atop some ancient rites-of-spring circle of stones rather than on bar stools. I told Chris that there was indeed a very nice Druid stone circle on nearby Kilmacoliver Hill, and gave him one of Geraldine's ArtVitae.com business cards, telling him that if in the morning he was still serious about getting out to the stones, to phone.
Geraldine was awakened by a call early the next morning from Chris. So together we decided to give him our local and spontaneous version of a Hidden Ireland Tour. We picked him up from a Kilkenny coffee shop and headed SW in the direction of Kilmacoliver situated near the border between counties Kilkenny and Tipperary.
I had the mistaken expectation that Chris would be some sort of spoiled unsophisticated wild child, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I found him to be well educated, urbane, interested and interesting company - a gentleman and an instant friend.
On the way we picked up Art Photographer Suzanna Crampton and then stopped in Thomastown to pick up accompianist Charlie who had ventured down on his own earlier because he had been advised by former lead guitarist from Paul McCartney's Wings and Joe Cocker's Grease Band Henry McCullough that if he was going to Kilkenny then he must visit Thomastown.
We decided to have a bite there in Billy Carroll's Pub. Billy Carroll's is typical of those weird and magical Irish pubs where showing up with Chris Jagger and Charlie Hart and the like for lunch hardly raises an eyebrow. I don't know if this is due to the surprising number of celebrities, big and small, international or local, who frequent or perform here, or simply because the Irish have a tradition of intentionally ignoring celebrity "blow-ins".
Spring was truly in the air and in our steps as we began our hike up the hill to the stone circle. I could see that Chris was a major high-energy person as he raced ahead of us all to be first to the top of the hill. The clouds parted long enough for us to get some nice photos. Frisky Chris got his chance to jump from stone to stone and onto our backs as well.
We got Chris and Charlie back to Kilkenny in time for their next gig that night, and rounded up a few local friends to meet them there. After their gig ended and after much happy dancing and frolicking, we decided to move the party upstairs to room 117. It was there among the company of Chris Jagger and Dublin musician and composer Errol White, artists Francis Tansey and Suzanna Crampton, and Geraldine and myself that experienced my lesson in serendipity.
Serendipity - the faculty for making desirable discoveries by accident. (Serendip is the former name of Ceylon. Ceylon is the former name of present day Sri Lanka). Horace Walpole so named the faculty possessed by the heroes of the tale called "The Three Princes of Serendip".
Feeling relaxed and comfortable in that room at the end of a vigorous and stimulating weekend, amid the music and in the course of the naturally flowing free-association type of conversation one would expect from such a mellow mood, in reference to a point he was making, Jagger quoted an old saying from the "Industry", "There is no such thing as a mistake in Jazz; it is what you do with the next note that counts".
To me that quote was a perfect example of serendipity, and a lesson to all artists. It occurred to me that serendipity transcends the boundaries of the artistic disciplines, and is perhaps essential to all artistic endeavors. Just as Serendipity is the magical unintended element that, creatively harnessed, distinguishes the musician from the mimic - does it not also distinguish the poet from the scribe, and the artist from the copyist?
Photo: Chris Jagger and Charlie Hart atop Kilmacoliver Hill
You can read more about their music, order CDs, and contact Chris Jagger or Charlie Hart at their respective websites: chrisjaggeronline.com and www.charliehart.com .
And Speaking of Copyists . . .
I found a really interesting article by Milton Esterow about art fakes on the Artnews magazine website:
"The 10 Most Faked Artists
Back in 1940 Newsweek reported that out of 2,500 paintings produced by Corot, 7,800 were in the United States. In 1953 ARTnews stated that there was a "saying in France that Corot painted 2,000 canvases, 5,000 of which are in America."
In 1957 the Guardian in London noted that Corot painted 5,000 works, of which 10,000 were in the United States. And in 1990 Time magazine let it be known that "it used to be said" that Corot painted 800 pictures in his lifetime, of which 4,000 ended up in U.S. collections.
Art historians have noted that Corot sometimes authorized poor artists who imitated him to put his name on their paintings so that they would be easier to sell.
So how many Corot fakes are there? How many Corots by Corot? Plenty in each category, but nobody really knows for sure.
In the recent ARTnews survey of art forgery, experts were asked, Who are the ten most faked artists in history?
The almost unanimous vote went to Corot. Here is the list, in alphabetical order . . . "
To see the rest of the countdown visit: The 10 Most Faked Artists
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