Saturday, 23 October 2010


Yeah what? Poetry. I’ve just entered a competition to win 50 quids worth of Rococo chocolate. The store in Marylebone High Street is round the corner from our London offices and although (very) expensive, they make lovely gifts and taste amazing.
The competition is on facebook, here ….
I decided to go for a theme of deviancy and colloquial filth, totally different to all the earnest / evocative and playfully humorous entries. I don’t think I’ll win, but I’m in with a fighting chance, like when Lordi won Eurovision.
So here it is… the theme was to mention at least one of their chocolate bars, which I forcefully wedged in, like a hedgehog through a letterbox.
I like chocolate,
quite a lot a lot,
Orange and Geranium,
Blows my cranium,
Chocolate from Grenada,
Wow! flippin’ Ada!
I quite like to eat ‘em,
Off a nice bottom,
But not off my own you see,
As that would involve great agility,
But rather, off a burlesque dancer,
Or if you are so inclined, you can feast from the behind,
of a Bengal lancer.

And here is a more serious one, about my lost summer to injury. Only just starting to run again. Seeing the surgeon on Tuesday, so want to be able to play football again and kick my mates. It’s been 6 months.
Summers lost,
The dull dawn,
mist broken by showers,
A gasp, feel the season,
Suck in the chill of Autumn,
the taste of damp topsoil,
The bark of pheasants,
In the woods,
I can run again.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Roy Hodgson's appearance in Christina Aguileras Dirrty Video

For those that know me, they will know that my brain synapses fire in some bizarre ways....

On witnessing the dejected figure of Roy Hodgson the other night, tramping onto the Anfield turf in pouring rain, following their defeat on penalties to Northampton town, soaked to the bone, but still maintaining some semblance of Croydon dignity (always keep your suit buttoned up son, and never take your tie off), a seed planted itself in my mind.

That night, I had a dream, that Roy Hodgson had a bit part in Christina Aguilera's Dirrty video, so on waking up I trawled youtube to see if he had some little cameo, as a site foreman, shaking his finger at the soaking wet dancers because of health and safety concerns as they hip thrusted and gyrated towards each other, battering each other with their powerful invisible sex waves, pounding poor Roy back through the door and out of the video altogether.

But on review (and I reviewed it several times) he wasn't actually in the video, despite me convincing myself that he was.

Dreams are a powerful device, Jung would have loved me.

Anyway, seeing as it would cost several million dollars to make my dream a reality, I've mocked up how this video would have looked through the power of my limited MS Paint skills.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Nansen and the Fram

I’ve just finished reading Nansen, by Roland Huntford. Below is my review of the book. I’m into books on extreme conditions and how it effects the human psyche, the impact of leadership and how even great people can be flawed. Fridtjof Nansen ticks all of these boxes. I really felt for him reading this book, despite his achievements, deep down he was fragile and full of doubt, something we can all relate to I’m sure.
As an aside, the Fram museum in Oslo is wonderful, you get to crawl around the ship and it’s full of mementos and artefacts from the expeditions by Nansen and Amundsen. In some ways, the Fram is the embodiment of the whole golden age of polar exploration, getting to farthest north, surviving the ice pack, then later carrying Amundsen to the brink of the South Pole, where he beat Captain Scott in that legendary race. So it was a real privilege to climb aboard!
There’s a picture of me at the wheel (or whatever mariners call it!) somewhere, grinning like a twonk, which I’ll dig out at some stage.
But for now…

Review: Nansen, Roland Huntford.
Having been to Oslo and visited the Fram, the ship almost as famous as those great explorers who sailed in her, Nansen and Amundsen, I wanted to finally get to grips with this weighty tome which has sat on my shelf gathering dust for a few years.
Huntford presents a brilliantly researched book building up a character profile with little need to make broad judgements as to Nansen the man. Conjecture is kept to a minimum in light of journal entries and letters supporting the conclusions made where fact is perhaps ambiguous.
To say Nansen was complicated was an understatement. I felt a deep sense of sadness when reading about him. An academic, an intellectual, a visionary genius, yet a true man of action in the Viking tradition of hardy adventure, he was able to adapt the polar experience of indigenous peoples, be they Sami or Inuit, without any western arrogance. He was ahead of his time.

Compassionate on a broad level, dedicated to the survival and health of his men, yet unable to relate to people at an individual level, he must have been extremely confusing for those closest to him. Be they his colleagues out on the ice or his loved ones back home. Letters and diary entries from those that explored with him were filled with anger about his mood swings and occasional arrogance. Following his first crossing of Greenland, he commissioned the building of the Fram, a tough ship customised to handle the intense pressure of polar ice.
After leaving the Fram embedded in ice, he struck out with Johanssen for the pole. After getting "Farthest North" but sensibly not overextending themselves in trying to reach the pole itself, they suffered together, eventually reaching Franz Josef land where they overwintered, sharing a sleeping bag together for months, through dark polar winter. Nansen was unselfish and truly democratic in the necessities of survival and yet it didn't seem he forged any great friendship. Loyal he was to a degree (sometimes apparent in later life when he intervened to get his former comrade work or send him loans) yet it was all arms length. And it was a tragedy that Nansen couldn't face the funerals of those closest to him as they slowly fell around him as he got older. Huntford captures this well, the inner turmoil of the man so emotive in his letters and diary and the cold outward exterior becoming of a statesman. He wanted the best for people, but even his own children found him oppressive and perhaps unloving (unless they were skiing). The relationship with his wife Eva comes to life through extracts of letters and telegrams. There is a sweet innocence about their love for each other, but he couldn’t communicate with her when he was with her, away in reveries or research, or in the confidence of other women.
It's awesome fast paced stuff, but fizzles out a bit.
He seemed continuously searching for purpose in his later life and it seemed a recurring theme was he only came to life, when talking about his exploits on the ice.

I feel the weakest chapters relate to the work around the soviet union, famine relief and the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey after the first world war. The complexities around the politics were briefly covered (even this was hard going) but some subtlety seemed to have been missed. All soviet officials and leaders seemed to be fundamentally flawed for instance, ogres or effeminate conniving bullies but this is probably unfair in light the book would needed to have been twice the length to capture all the subtleties needed.
All in all, a great read about the father of modern polar exploration.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Bones and ligaments and flesh and blood……

It’s weird, I can write quite happily about torn flesh, splintered bone and gushing blood. My short stories contain quite gory details at times, but this is cartoon violence, ridiculous, over the top, from the stygian depths of my imaginata (as Garth Merengi was oft to say).
Should I see some mundane act however, for example an injection, or pretend surgery in some tv doctor drama, I immediately go pale, feel queasy, break out in a cold sweat and adopt a floppy helpless manner like someone whose taken a cup full of horse tranquilisers. It’s mostly about blood, not the site of blood, but the thought of it. It’s hard to explain…. but blood keeps us alive, it surges through us thousands upon thousands of times a day. The thought of lacking in blood makes me feel weak. I don’t want to be an empty husk… I think this is what its about. Being transformed into a medjool date. Shrivelled and full of dust, like a mummy.
So when I had an MRI scan on my knackered ankle and was told I needed to be injected with a dye half way through (cue scanner operator saying without irony “you’ll feel a small prick”) I felt a vague anxiousness. They were going to corrupt my blood. They were going to poison my very essence. As opposed to “steal” my blood, which causes an equal effect of horror within me.
I lay down on the table, my leg was immobolised in a cradle, the headphones I was given were playing low volume classical music, Pachabel’s canon I think. It was barely audible above the noise of the creature who consumed me, the MRI machine loomed above me as I slid into its belly. I closed my eyes to relax. Menacing and clinical it snarled and growled at me. Grinding cogs and levers seemed to be churning inside it, like some Victorian steam powered calculating engine. I loosely held the emergency button, I guess it’s there for those people who find the whole experience claustrophobic. But I didn’t mind the confines of the room, or the disconcerting din of the scanner splicing and dicing images of my bones and flesh this way and that.
See examples of my ankle scans below – disgusting isn’t it? That there’s this sort of shit inside you?!
This is a cross section across the ankle, tibia and fibia being clearly visible. The second shows a cross section of the foot itself. The ligament I’ve torn connects the tib and fib. Yuk.
After what seemed like an age, the classical music was interrupted by the scanner operators jolly tones. “The first parts finished, I’ll come in and inject you with the dye now.”
Silence from the machine. The music stopped. The table slid back out. Jonah had daylight again.
I didn’t make eye contact with her as she came in, I was businesslike in my tone, perhaps brusque verging on rude. I hope she appreciated she knew it was because I was nervous. I tried to explain. “I don’t mind injections, as long as I don’t have to watch.” She chuckled and started telling me about previous patients, who couldn’t take the dye, whose veins collapsed. This is not what I wanted to hear. When she asked me to clench my fist and I felt the wet dab on the soft flesh inside my elbow joint, I imagined the blue veins glistening and prominent on the skin. I clenched as hard as i could, but the strength was ebbing away, my hand was weak, I scrunched my eyes. I felt the needle, no real pain, as I expected, just that small prick she promised. She rattled about, i guess trying to get the dye in. “What’s happening?” I asked, head facing away, eyes closed. “It’s not taking I’m afraid… in fact, your vein has collapsed. Going to try another.” There was a tiny hint of doubt in her voice, maybe she was inexperienced at this? Maybe I didn’t clench hard enough, but I imagined the needle shooting out and a spray of blood caressing the walls, which was of course ridiculous, but my mind had gone into mental mode. I felt weaker. Sicker.
“Clench your first again please” she said. I did as bidden, again, my fist was weak. The cold dab of wet cotton on my arm. Vein no 2, needle no 2. Collapse no 2. She was trying to be upbeat, perhaps to hide her inexperience and put me at ease. But telling me “oh dear, this one’s collapsed too” was not the best choice of words. So when she did it a third time and announced it with the same happy nervous chirp my arm felt like a cold mackerel with no strength left to lift, let alone clench a fist, she grabbed the emergency buzzer from my other hand and pressed it herself! “I’m so sorry, you’ll have three bruises tomorrow.” I imagined my poor butchered arm, fit for nothing, no blood pushing through the broken veins, my fingers cold and dead, like a vampire.
Her colleague came in, she just told her to do her best with the procedure without the dye. I felt her sticky plaster me up. She was apologetic. It wasn’t her fault, she didn’t know what was going through my brain though. So back into the belly of the beast, more classical music (J.S Bach) more grinding and whirring, snarling and chomping. The MRI machine was smacking its chops. It tasted my blood.
My most creative moments of inspiration are at times of unhappiness or great stress. So whilst being devoured by the machine I imagined that perhaps they were preparing me, to eat. The scan was… Analysing my calorie content, nutritional value, body mass index, whether my flesh was more suited to garlic or thyme. A slight smile developed. I’ll write a short story, a vaguely funny one, but dark. The following will appear in it, in some form. It’s a bit formulaic, but I like the concept, something to build on.
As he emerged from the machine, he heard her voice, distant and tinny. He felt the medical lamps, warm and bright knocking at his eyelids, but his eyes remained shut.
“there is no immediate visible damage from the scan, your leg looks perfectly delicious, I mean healthy. We do wish to keep you in overnight however.. for a marinade. I mean, observation. And tomorrow, all being well, the chef, I mean doctor, will come and prepare you, I mean discharge you.”
Aghast at what he’d just heard, he rolled his head towards the voice and opened his eyes. He screwed up his face, trying to protect his eyes from the glare. The young woman stood there, a small glass, drained of liquid just leaving her lips, a messy scarlet glob trickled down her chin. She put the glass aside and wiped the liquid away from her lips with the back of her hand, leaving a red smear across her mouth and hand. She hungrily licked at the hand, slurping noisily.
“My blood, give me back my blood….” he whispered. He tried to raise his arm, but it didn’t respond, just a slight flicker of registration, he glanced at it, pale, skeletal and emaciated. He had no strength, they’d taken it from him. Stolen it.
She walked towards him. She rubbed his forehead, as if she really cared, her hand was soft. She dabbed a finger in his mouth, he tasted the metallic tang of his own blood still hanging on her skin. “You need to relax. Stress makes the meat less tender, I mean pushes your blood pressure up. So try to sleep my sweet. You’ll be well looked after here.”

Monday, 30 August 2010

Recent Book Purchases

I’ve made four book purchases of note recently.
Firstly, artist Max Ernst 1891-1976. I stumbled across his work originally in the modern art museum Munich. His technique of “Frottage” sparks the imagination where he scrapes paint on a canvas over a contoured background, eg – bark, creating unearthly landscapes and unsettling forms. Actually, he more accurately called it “Grattage” – the French for scrape. Although “Frottage” is still used (meaning “to rub”) to describe his work, if you look it up, it also is a colloquial term for dry humping, so lets not confuse things….
In summary Ernst was deeply effected by serving in the First World War, I’m not claiming to know much more than what I’ve looked up or seen, but his autobiography begins "Max Ernst died the 1st of August, 1914", so I’m going to add that onto my wishlist too.
Another interesting fact brought to my attention by a proper Art Historian (thanks Miriam!) is that he was deeply effected by the death of his pet bird as a child and a lot of his work also incorporated birds. And you can feel that, without sounding too pretentious, in the deep melancholy in some of his pieces.
Which brings me onto my first book purchase… when I was in Paris recently, the modern art museum had a book on display called Une semaine de bonté. It had a series of animal headed figures, including bird headed ones and prostrate bodies in dramatically posed disturbing scenes. Ernst pulled this book together by cutting up and collaging various sources (magazines, newspapers, books) to create a graphic novel of sorts. I found a modern reprint of it for sale on Amazon, so I bought it. It’s the kinda weird shit I like.

If I saw these two dudes fighting, I wouldn’t take sides, I’d just run away….

The second book I purchased is about a Japanese artist and printmaker, Ohara Koson (1877 – 1945). His work, depicting animals, especially birds, flowers and trees are evocative and beautiful.
Little is known of the artist himself, but his work speaks for itself. It’s pretty much a source catalogue of his work, with some complementary text as to his life and possible influences.
What I find interesting is there is a lively and accessible market for his original work. I may start saving up to buy a print myself one day…. of a crow… obviously. But crows will be the subject of another blog.
The book is called Crows, Cranes and Camelias, the Natural world of Ohara Koson. (By Newland).

My third purchase…. it’s about tube stations (nerd alert)… and one of the foremost architects of the day (1920s/30s) Charles Holden 1875 - 1960. Having spent most of my youth traversing up and down the Piccadilly line, I feel part of it. The stations in the northern section are sleek and modern, full of sexy (can a tube station be sexy? Yes, but no so much as to develop inappropriate behaviour leading to my arrest) curves and lines. Southgate tube station, with its circular form, like a flying saucer is my favourite. As you approach when it’s brightly lit at night, I can imagine myself as a 1930’s spiv, lighting a woodbine against the brim of my trilby and trying to sell watch straps to housewives. Or whatever it is that spivs sell. Is it art deco? I dunno, I’m no expert, but it makes me proud to be a londoner. And a 1930’s spiv.

A pic of Manor House (my most local station as a kid) tube platform from back in the day…

Southgate tube station, where I went to college and took my first steps as a computer loser (and spiv). Even though the shops are different today, the shop frontages and signs use the same low key font and design.

Charles Holden’s last (finished 1937) and arguably most famous building though is Senate House, part of the University of London, but taken over by the government under the Ministry of Information during the second world war. It is an Art Deco monster, imposing and looming over you. It cuts an impressive sight even today when there are so many taller buildings dominating the London skyline.
You can tell why Orwell, who worked there during the war, used it as his inspiration for the “Ministry of Truth” as part of his novel 1984. (photo from wikipedia)
And my final book, and the one I’m most proud of, is I’ve finally got a copy of “Skeletons” by Ray Bradbury… and not only that, but signed by the author! I mentioned this in my blog of 7th April, where I declared my love of Ray Bradbury and his works and also of artist Dave McKean. Well, now I have a copy…
There is an amazing bookshop in LA called “Mystery and Imagination”. If I lived there, I’d be in it most days I’m sure, to browse around. Lots of rare / signed copies of cool books from various authors, deliver to Europe too. Have a browse…!
Ray Bradbury, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday in an event at the shop, had signed it on a previous visit… and lucky me, I bought it! I’m very proud and honoured. Happy birthday Ray Bradbury, and thankyou Mystery and Imagination!

The ink of a master storyteller…

Some art from McKean and wordage from Bradbury….

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Saving a baby from falling down the stairs

Yesterday, I got back to the station from a day at work in London and in front of me was a grandmum and her daughter, who was pushing a baby buggy. They looked a bit haggared, eroded in the wind, like a cliff face battered by the North Atlantic. Broken pieces of foundation flying off them like cornflakes. The grandmum was particularly hard looking, huge hooped earings, grim determined lines in her face, a harsh slash for a mouth, I half expected a fork tongue to poke in and out, but it didn't of course. Although that would have been cool.

I looked up at the stairs which led to street and had one of those awkward moments where I thought should I offer to help or not? In my best friendly disarming cockney voice, 'Allo madams, (doffs cap - if I was wearing one) I see you've got a bit of dilemma on yer 'ands, well let me 'elp ya. I wont charge you a farthing, let alone a shilling. It's me pleasure madams'.

I've been told curtly in the past to piss off and mind my own business when I've offered to do this, or viewed with suspicision as I do look like a dickensian villain who will steal your brief case and fence the contents off to buy broth. So on this occasion, and I must admonish myself, for I should not be swayed by how some people view my genuine offers of help and thus become one of the silent majority who become utterly self centred because of their pride. But at this point, I thought "fuck them" and let them get on with carrying their buggy up the stairs.

The grandmum had forearms like Popeye though, she was a downsight stronger than me by the looks of her. Probably a bare knuckle boxer in her day, so I didn't feel too bad about it.

Anyway, so they start their ascent, grandmum in front, veins all popping in her arm as she drags it up one handed, the more willowy daughter pushing upwards, and the younger lady shouts “MUM! I CAN’T HOLD IT!” and the buggy starts tipping sideways, ready to spill the baby. So that’s when I was required, so I readied my sinews for a majestic leap to save the child, catching it, before cracking my skull against the metal wall and dying myself, the sprawled but safe child cooing on my brain splattered body. In that split second I saw the headlines. “Hero dies saving baby”, except some bald northern dude intervened instead, who looked a bit like a fat Bruce Willis with no teeth, “Ere, let me help thee love” or whatever Yorkshire shit he spewed forth from his cake hole. He just steadied the buggy with one hand and helped to lift it up the stairs.

And the baby was safe. But I was ready. I tell you, I was ready to die.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Things in Specimen Jars…

My last blog talked about the Collect event at the Saatchi Gallery. From the exhibitors there, one artist who worked in glass really stood out for me. His name is Steffen Dam. His work focuses on the forms in nature, combining them with how science catalogues and interprets them. It really is unique, creating forms which could easily be mistaken for fossils or marine creatures captured and frozen in a display box or a specimen jar. His website is here if you wish to look :
From an early age, I’ve been fascinated with collections and curio’s of the natural world. Those old cabinets in dusty museums, the creatures slightly scuffed and brown or pale with age, pinned to a board or suspended in some jelly like preservative, limp, pale and empty.
The process of having to capture, kill, then preserve an animal stimulated my sense of the macabre, these weren’t just naturalists, these were invertebrate murderers to my childlike imagination, beastie’s plucked from their habitats, leaving a hole, possibly being missed… I always applied some sort of Greek tragic element to everything and to a certain extent still do, taking a point of view that somehow there would be a butterfly “wife” missing her butterfly “husband” and these crying caterpillar babies… ! And the process of capturing these creatures, who were these men and women, where did they walk? Who did they meet along the way?
So when I walked into this particular gallery and saw the beautifully lit collections, pristine, not sad or mournful, but bright and vibrant, I thought wow! Until I saw the price that is (some pieces were around £12k), then the reaction was still wow! But with the added incentive not to touch or break anything with my clumsy Mediterranean paws.
All of the images are taken from his website…. firstly a picture of the artist, he is Danish, he is making of one his jellyfish like specimen creations from the look of the work. I believe it is the law that all Danish men of an artistic temperament must look like this, I bet Hans Christian Andersen did too.. although I’ve just googled him and he doesn’t look like this at all, so that’s blown that theory.

We also ordered the catalogue of his work through an older exhibition, which was sold out at the time, but has recently arrived in the post. It’s awesome and contains some background information on his inspirations which of course includes the meticulous work of naturalists in building collections through history.

As to the work itself, the website can give you some excellent blow ups, but for now….

Yes… this is all glass work, no animals were harmed or involved in the making of this art…. nature was only used for inspiration.

Amazing fossil like image below

The man is unique!
But this brought me onto the second part of this particular blog entry… at the moment, the Natural History Museum has a special exhibition on called “The Deep”.
Once again, as a child (my creative peak as a human being… it’s been downhill ever since), when I would flick through a book on fish or the sea, I always impatiently trawled through to the dark murky pages specifically focusing on those deep sea creatures, the frighteningly bizarre ones which dwell in the inky depths of the ocean. Those creatures who are so rarely caught and  never observed in their natural habitat, we know very little about them beyond what we can glean from their corpses, they exist in a world which is still the last place on Earth yet to be fully explored and discovered. They look grotesque, with their massive eyes or their lack of eyes, their huge mouths, their monstrous teeth, distended jaws, lanterns and filaments, long bodied or stout. These creatures are frightening. And it seems the impressions of this undersea world gave the artists of these old nature books some creative license from the monotony of drawing “normal” sea life, bringing them horribly to life in these black pages, with the occasional flash of light, generated from within the creature itself or shone on it, like some ghostly wisp.
What is it like living so far under the ocean, where these creatures, whose bodies have evolved so well to the water pressure, a pressure which could crush a human in seconds? Well, this exhibition does it’s best to explain. It focuses on the Natural History (as you would expect) but also on the exploration of the depths, from the voyage of HMS Challenger a research vessel travelling to the arctic then up through Australian waters, New Zealand and the Pacific / Japan in the 1870s, to voyages in such marvellous inventions as bathysphere’s (a tiny two man submersible used in the 1930’s). As well as this there is a cool recreation of a deep water sub you can pretend to drive (I was on my own, and even though I wanted to shove the kids out of the way and take the controls I felt this would have been inappropriate).
Anyway, I’ve taken some photo’s of “Things in jars” from the exhibition, just a little bit like Steffen Dam’s work…. enjoy.


And not forgetting this absolutely terrifying “mermaid”

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Mark Hanvey – Collect, Saatchi Gallery, May 14 -17, 2010

In the middle of May, me, Debbie, her sister Alison and her husband Mark popped along to the Saatchi Gallery in West London. Mark was exhibiting his work as part of Collect 2010, an event sponsored by the Crafts Council.

In summary, it is described thus “Between 14 – 17 May this international art fair for contemporary objects will be presenting a range of selected galleries that showcase the finest examples of contemporary craft.”

So… there was reams of work in wood, glass and metal from international artists. As the only street savvy cockney in our travelling party I suggested to the Northern Irish members of my family that we should avoid going there too early, as Chelsea would be having their open top bus parade for winning things this season and we would be trapped amongst the heaving blue chested masses…. and as a gooner this would be unacceptable to me, to subject me to such hellish torture.

So we popped to the Geffrye Museum first, which is a pretty cool place to check out interiors, furniture and furnishings from the ages in some old converted alms houses.

Anyway, to the point of this blog… An unashamed plug for my brother in law Mark Hanvey. His work in wood is awesome, both artistic and pragmatic in the form of beautifully designed contemporary furniture.

Check his website here…

And an interview with him here…

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Deftones, ULU, 12th May 2010

After much deliberation, we decided to ebay our chance to go and see Deftones at an intimate venue, ULU. We love this venue, plenty of bars, fast staff and a crowd of students who can’t afford to buy many drinks thus leaving the bar free from massive queue’s :) Also good views of the stage and mosh pit from pretty much anywhere. The bar’s were so good, we decided to buy sixteen JD and coke’s each before the action…. I look rough in this photo. It’s because I’ve only got 5 and a half drinks left.

Perked up, after the 16th one below, as has Rob….

As for the gig itself, it was awesome, they played most of their new album and some of the classics. Elite is my favourite track. It’s a monster. Got to be played ear bleedingly loud in the car. There was plenty of moshing and I even partook in some moves myself, but no punching people in the face or anything like that. I was too busy taking rubbish shaky photos…. see below.
More rubbish photo’s on my facebook page.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Francis Bacon - In Camera @ Compton Verney

Compton Verney... where? That's what I thought when I saw this exhibition advertised in the Independent. It's a pleasant country house in the middle of Warwickshire is where. (I imagined Royston Vasey...)

Francis Bacon is one of my favourite artists, and as the journey to get there wouldn't be too unpleasant on a lovely sunny day, I drove up to Compton Verney to have a look. I went to the Tate exhibition a couple of years ago, which was a brilliant and fairly representative collection of his life's work and although this exhibition was small and therefore there wouldn't be much "new" work on show it did provide some insight into how Bacon worked. How he was influenced and inspired by photography, and also touched on his influences from other artists :Michelangelo for instance, of which there were some torn out pages exhibited from a book owned by Bacon showing Michelangelo's anatomical sketches, splattered with the paint of Bacon's brush. And of course there was Velazquez (although there are no popes in this exhibition, screaming or otherwise)

(Page from a Muybridge book owned by Bacon - messy pup, got it smudged)

When Bacon died, a lot of his resources came to light within his studio (amazingly this was archeologically and painstakingly moved in exacting and brilliant detail from West London to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin), photography from the late 1800's by Eadweard Muybridge for instance, showing the althletic motion of people and animals in stop motion frames. On top of this he had more contemporary resources, cuttings from sports magazines, bloodied boxers, footballers, cricketers stretching for a shot as well as photography from his friends, most notably John Deakin.

Bacon's style, the contorted and tortured figures, writhing, seething into one form, sometimes melting away into nothing, other times reduced to pulped meat really make me feel something. There's violence and sexual energy in a lot of his work, which reflected his upbringing and journey into adult relationships. And an intense sadness. It's hard not to feel something.
It was interesting to see what he did with photos, he'd crush them, rip them, tear them up and then repair them for instance, thus this patchwork repaired photo was what he sometimes used to spark the creative energy to create the painting it ultimately became. This is one of the works on show (I don't believe this was exhibited in the Tate) of his model Isobel Rawsthorne which was based not on a sitting but on three photographs provided by Deakin. I would have taken a picture of the photographs it was based on which was exhibited side by side with the painting, but the beady eyed old security lady with the walking stick would have told me off as there was a strict no photography rule.... and I fancied she was faster than me over 10 yards...

The exhibition also touched on Bacon's inspiration by the moving image. They were showing the "The Battleship Potemkin" a silent soviet propoganda movie where a characters scream inspired Bacon to paint screaming popes (mashed up with Velazquez's popes). Interesting film, especially the way the Tsarist soldiers march down the steps like faceless automatons, lacking compassion, mercilessly butchering the wailing masses (Cossack mo-fo's!) and the use of shadow and light was awesome in the film, especially the way the shadows of the soldiers bayonetts seem to push the crowd in terror down the Odessa steps. Would have been nice to squeeze in a screaming pope painting in the exhibition, as it would have looked cool side by side with the movie still....

I'll be spending the rest of my birthday money on a couple of books now
Francis Bacon: Incunabula by Harrison a lovely hardback book which loosely covers the exhibition and
Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, by Peppiatt, a biography of the tragic artist, his life and lovers

To summarise, well worth a visit! Now until 20th June.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Dave McKean and Ray Bradbury

Last Autumn, me and D were looking at places for a weekend away whilst the sun still warmed the face and the breeze was bracing but not cold. Having investigated the east coast in suffolk, our normal haunt, we tried norfolk, but no luck in terms of character accomodation anywhere. So I traced a fingers along the map of the South Coast and randomly selected a place to visit... Rye. A bit of research proved this was not a chav town and there was plenty to do. The selection of the Ship Inn was a good one too, not too fussy, quirky and with delicious unusual stuff such as razor clams on the menu (oh my god, Ray Mears is right... they are delicious...!)
On the Saturday afternoon we popped into the small Art Gallery in Rye and to our surprise, multi-media artist Dave McKean was exhibiting there.
For the unitiated, McKean has form in many media, childrens books (eg - Wolves in the Walls) and comics such as the absolutely seminal Arkham Asylum graphic novel featuring Batman up against all his enemies. He's also recently designed a set of stamps for the Royal Mail, featuring mythical beasts such as Giants and Dragons... and there are reams of further work.
Both of us are big fans, I was aware of McKean through his work in comics, D through his childrens books, so to find him exhibiting and more thrillingly selling original work in this gallery was amazing for us. He lives locally and is a keen and active member of the local arts community.
We've never done this before... but we thought sod it, once in a lifetime... so we ended up foregoing food and heating for three months and buying two original pieces of work from a new hardback graphic novel/story he penned set in Sussex and around called "The Coast Road". This book isn't to my knowledge going to be available on major release, it was printed as a limited run for the gallery to sell alone, so we felt proud to be part of it and own part of it.
These two pieces of work are now proudly displayed in our living room.
There was another one of a crow in a graveyard which I drooled over, but someone else had already purchased it, so it's just the two bird related McKean originals.

Photo quality isn't that good, but it gives you a gist for the quality of the work.
What was also in the gallery was a group of pen drawings made by McKean to illustrate the sinister Ray Bradbury story "Skeleton". It's about a guy who becomes fixated and terrified of the fact that a skeleton was inside him, so much so that he plots to have it destroyed. His descent into dark obsession is wonderfully captured.
I grew up with Bradbury short stories, tales of small town american fairgrounds and the disfigured and the supernatural.
Most were written in the 1940's and 50's, certainly those I read, and still have some relevance and resonance today. His story "The Veldt" for instance, is ominously premonitory of the technology coming down the line in the modern age.
But anyway, Skeletons, limited release of 500 books. You can't get one for under 100 quid now... and here was the whole set of art from the book, available to buy. Alas... I couldn't afford it of course. Gutted. Here is a snippett of what I mean, it would have made an amazing portfolio if someone was rich enough to buy them all. And there they all were, hanging on the wall... saying "buy me", laughing at me with their bare skeletal teeth, looking through the bare bones of my finances with those empty leering sockets...

Finally, and thankfully more widely available is another great McKean / Bradbury collaboration. In the lush hardback version of "The Homecoming" a tale of a normal mortal boy being born into a supernatural family, McKean adds his art to the old short story.
I wouldn't say this is a particular favourite story of mine, but from a popular culture context I believe the supernatural family Bradbury created was the inspiration for either (or both) the Munsters and the Addams family.
The art really fleshes out the story though and the ending, the last paragraph in fact is really heart wrenching and sad. Here is an example.

If you want to check out more examples of McKean art... try this amazing blog article which pisses all over mine....
Finally, I salute you Ray Bradbury.. he's around 90 odd, still writing, but my favourite stuff is from his pulp short story days in the 40's and 50's... never get bored of them.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Blogs Ported, New Blogs to come

So that's my abridged blog history... now on blogspot.
There is a massive gap, nearly two years.... work has throttled me of late, so I'll do my best to provide my views and pictures on gigs, comics, books, art, football and general observational rubbish once I start to do interesting stuff again!