Friday, 30 December 2011

Tips for avoiding gallery rage (Leonardo, National Gallery)

Me and D visited the National Gallery to check out the Leonardo exhibition a few weeks ago. We bought the tickets early, as in when they went on sale over the internet, so we didn’t have to queue up like the plebs, shuffling along, one metre every minute. I detest queuing, not having to queue is one of my favourite hobbies, although I did have to queue in the Next Sale yesterday and that was shit. So it was marvellous to glide through the magnificent doors, with the sweaty masses to our right… and be directed… to another queue! A shorter one however, just for our ticket time slot. So that was cool. It was only 5 minutes waiting.

That morning we also went to the Wolseley for Eggs Benedict and a fruit salad containing the most endangered fruits known to mankind, killed, skinned and diced in a silver bowl and splurged with an agreeable jus. We also saw Marc Almond in there, buttering his toast. But I have no further anecdotes about him or the Wolseley. It’s just to set the scene that it was a lovely day out, sort of a late birthday celebration for me (even though my birthday was months before).

So Leonardo and his exhibition. It was hyped to the max, a once in a lifetime. And yes, it was impressive. Here was an artist, a scientist, a draughtsman, an inventor and a genius. They’d gathered his work and work of his contemporaries from all around the world. We’ll probably never see the light of it again, certainly not in that magnitude. What impressed me as well was that the National Gallery had reduced the amount of people that could enter per timed slot. The Guardian paints a picture of serenity and calm, of some chim-chimeny love in where everyone is considerate. And to some degree, this was true… as we hate getting jostled by wankers. You need time to get close and study as a lot of his work on show was of small size and incredible detail. For example, two works owned by the Queen and lent to the exhibition :

A Man Tricked by Gypsies (c1493), Pen and ink, 26.0 x 20.5 cm – (i.e Small!). Look at the detail in their expressions, the grotesques leers and snarls.

Studies of the human skull, 1489, Pen and ink on paper, 29 x 20 cm

Which leads me onto Gallery Rage. How to turn situations which would otherwise be irritating, to your advantage.

You are always going to get people with no sense of spacial awareness or respect for their fellow human beings. People who blunder around a gallery space, shoving their bag or backside into you, or just keep standing in the way with a dopey bollocks expression plastered over their faces.

Therefore, two handy tips. It really is quite fun and you should test yourself to see how far you can push it. Don’t do anything to spoil your enjoyment of the art however, just so your nemesis knows that they are an annoyingly ignorant or selfish shit.

1) When someone walks right in front of you and blocks your view of the art, blow gently on their ear. This really works. They usually move as I can imagine this would be really uncomfortable.

2) If someone shoves past you without saying “excuse me” or if they stand in your way and option 1) doesn’t work. Then you should adopt their methods against them. Immediately shove past them and stand right in front of them obscuring their view of whatever they are looking at.

3) If you are brave, do it wherever they move to. They’ll get the message and leave you alone.

4) You could just ask them to politely move of course (tut optional), but this isn’t as much fun.

Now use your loaf, if you see someone is 95 and clearly isn’t the most lucid, then don’t just start shoving over pensioners, then piledriving them, because of some perceived slight. And please do not throw any children out of the window. Pick your targets appropriately. Just cause a little bit of annoyance, don’t earn yourself a criminal record for knocking out an old man, then finding out it’s Brian Sewell.

And whatever you do, don’t smash a priceless painting over the head of someone who has annoyed you.

Finally, one of the most beautiful paintings I’ve ever seen (So I don’t leave you with any hint of bitterness).

Lady With An Ermine

It’s worth going to the exhibition just for this. I’ve been to the Louvre and I’ve never understood the fuss over the Mona Lisa, it’s small, she’s a bit of a sourpuss (to me anyway, enigmatic my arse!) so Lady With An Ermine is a far superior work. She is just beautiful.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Forkbeard Fantasy

I never win anything, this is a fact.

Therefore, I was delighted to break this curse, when I was fortunate enough to win a twitter competition which got me a guided tour of Forkbeard Fantasy’s exhibition on the South Bank, as well as four tickets to their theatre production “The Colour of Nonsense” in the Purcell Rooms.

So yesterday, me, Debbie, my sister Helen and my bro-in-law Mike rolled up at 5pm and were greeted by the gracious, exuberant and highly talented Tim Britton, one of the founder members, performers and artists of Forkbeard Fantasy.

The exhibition itself covers their 30+ years of performance art and theatre. Their costumes, props, gadgets, mechanical peepshows (including the smallest cinema in the world), films, animations, puppets and mannequins were all on display and (mostly) interactive. This was quite trusting of them considering some of the robust assaults on them, not just by the children, but over-enthusiastic dads who were treating them like wrestling partners in some circumstances.

It seemed there was a team of good natured repair-folk everywhere, patching, sewing, twiddling and tweaking to ensure things didn’t get shorn or split or smashed. In some circumstances though, exhibits, some of them of venerable age, needed to be roped off to save them the indignity of utter destruction.

Making the imagination real is a conundrum that has foiled many an artist throughout history, but what impressed me most was how they’ve managed to achieve it, on limited budget.

Take the Unicorn for instance, this is a triumph of Art, Engineering and Anatomy, combining these disciplines they’ve managed to create something unique, fun and genuinely beautiful. It was also tough enough to be able to withstand being ridden in a theatre production. It’s jointed and moves just like a real Horse (unicorn!). Had the exhibition not been so busy, we’d have been allowed a go on it. Now I’ve only ever ridden a donkey before, when I was six in Cyprus. Not many people could say that they’d ridden a Unicorn. Perhaps it was for the best though as my fulsome backside may have crushed and damaged something so magnificent. I would not want to be responsible for the extinction of such a beautiful and endangered creature. So we had to make do with controlling its movements through a system of ropes and pulleys.

(photos from BBC Website)

The productions themselves are surreal, darkly amusing and very much centred on fun. The special effects are mischievously ingenious and enhance the experience. And the knowledge that goes behind making and maintaining them is impressive.

They are a multi-talented and multi-disciplined bunch, I imagine them working away like Gnomish tinkers, in a dark little cave, giggling, working with outrageous looking tools, hammers and sparks flying and consuming copious amounts of tea and cake all day. And combined with performing such that the finished article, i.e their productions are masterfully executed on stage.

As for the play, The Colour of Nonsense was compelling and very funny. It poked gentle fun at the trend in the arts to discover “the next big thing”. And the next big thing in this case was “Invisibilism”. It paid a respectful nod (with a wink) towards the Emperors New Clothes.

There was a great narration through projected comic strip (graphic novel don’t you know!) film as well as other very funny effects. There was a fell villain, the slurpy Angstrom and the three heroes Line, Splash and Scuro overcome the adversity of feeling isolated and out of touch with the art world, to become the leading lights.

It’s only on for two more days, so it’s well worth checking out if you have time.

Otherwise, go to the exhibition, that’s on till the 8th January 2012. If you have kids, or if you just like great art and interactive fun exhibits, then go! Have a blast! Tug and pull! Just not too hard!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

A Haiku a day

Went on a run earlier, through the chilly moors / nature reserve near my house. We’ve had an exceptionally dry Autumn, normally by this time of year I’d need my wellies it’s that muddy and running would be near impossible without sinking ankle deep in peaty mud. But other than a few particularly boggy areas (and being the excellent pathfinder that I am, I can avoid them, like some sort of native American tracker) it was a relatively dry run.

It’s only a 5.5k run, over both Flitton and Flitwick moors. I always find running is a good time to think and being unfit means a longer run and therefore longer to think. Not only do I work the body harder, but also the mind.

I thought about the plot to my novel, I’ve reached an impasse, I’ve got an ending (a fine tip, thankyou Mr Pink – know your ending, this sounds simple, but it’s so true, I’ve just meandered into blah blah bollocks land previously), it’s just I’m just stuck at a particularly shitty bit somewhere in the middle, which by even my own standards of suspending disbelief, seems beyond ridiculous.

But it’s ok, momentum and inspiration will come back. I’m not getting bogged down about it, so I play out little heroic fantasy scenarios in my head instead, whilst running. Nothing too heroic mind, things like walking around in a Barbour jacket as a gentleman farmer and delivering a foal for one of my serfs workhorses and being toasted by the peasantry in the moonshine barn (the moonshine barn doesn’t exist by the way). Or saving a baby Owl whose parents were savaged by fell beasts and bringing it up to be my familiar, things like that.

I’ve stopped listening to music while running now. The psychological effect of music is that it makes me run faster. It shows that athleticism is not just the body, but the mind. And yes, I use the term “athleticism” reservedly. But Debbie always said to me I was missing out, it’s a form of sensory deprivation and by depriving myself of one of my senses, I might as well just be on a running machine. So now, I try to absorb as much as possible, not just listening, but watching, smelling, touching and when I swallow a moth, tasting. The sixth sense, this so called ESP, I haven’t found to be possible to experience yet. Sometimes I attempt to bore into the darkest thoughts and desires of the people I cross paths with solely using the power of my untapped mind, but I just look like a staring freakface, so I don’t do it anymore.

Anyway… The sound of my own breathing (normally huge rasping gasps to be fair) and the stomp of feet into the soft muddy earth. It’s somehow satisfying. As well as that I listen out for nature, try to identify bird song, look out for nature as well. Today for instance I saw a Muntjac deer, with their weird little vampire tusks, normally shy creatures, but this one just watched me suspiciously through the Ash trees.

But before that, I was running along the River Flit and there was a little group of Greenfinches calling out to each other, or probably warning each other about the lumbering oaf running alongside the river towards them, and every time I got near them, they’d all fly off and settle in the next tree with a gentle hubbub of pissed off calling, only for me to get near them again and then into the next tree… and so on. You get it. I know you do. The point was it was one of those little poignant moments that might otherwise be instantly forgotten. So I made up a little Haiku whilst I was running and repeated it to myself again and again, so I wouldn’t forget it.

Greenfinches disturbed

Little flock over the Flit

Disgruntled chirping

And then I thought… hey, why don’t I write a Haiku, for every day of the year, starting January 1st. It wont all be about nature, some will be funny (I hope), silly, serious.. whatever. It will be significant to the day it was written however. It could be accompanied by a photo or picture, or some words to give it context as to what it meant to me. Or I could just leave the words to speak for themselves. The beauty of the Haiku is you are only restricted by the syllable structure and that is no hardship. There is a power in the economy of words. It distils the starkness and the beauty of it and it leaves ghostly hints at the authors inner meaning.

So that’s my plan. I’ll set up a new blog for my Haikus and it will rock and roll come January.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Self, National Portrait Gallery

I visited the National Portrait Gallery for the first time back in September, strangely it was somewhere I’d never ventured into before, but it’s a treasure trove of fantastic art.

I was there to catch the BP Portrait Award 2011 before it closed. As an amateur art lover, I wanted to see that portraiture was alive and well. And I was pleased to see it was. But I’m not going to dwell on that, the link gives some detail.

What really impressed me was the permanent exhibition and the historical context of the portraits of famous or infamous people. The sitter was invariably more significant, more well known, than the artist, but sometimes, both artist and sitter were giants.

I jotted down some notes, just some work which caught my eye.

- The sentimental simple portrait by Patrick Branwell Bronte (he was 17 when he painted it to be fair) of his three sisters Anne, Emily and Charlotte. It’s a bit rough around the edges, looked like it had been folded with worn off paint along the seams and flaked paint. I just imagined he painted this over a winter, when they were all holed up, getting on with their creative pursuits.

- William Morris by George Frederic Watts. Although Morris was full of cold sitting for this portrait and his wife Jane was probably off gallivanting with Rosetti, he still exudes an aura of primal  power. Like a green man, or a bear, there is something of the forest about him. William Morris was a genius, I think this portrait captures that.

- There was a painting of the polar explorer Shackleton. His steely gaze and set jaw shows he’s a fucking hard bastard. (I know, I know, these blogs always start off serious, then I degenerate, Ok, I’m reeling it in). Painted in 1921 by Eves, a year before Shackleton died, the then veteran explorer was renowned for showing incredible leadership of the otherwise failed “Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition” 1914-1917. What could have been a disaster ended up a magnificent triumph of survival. Not one of the men under his charge died.

- Emmeline Pankhurst by Georgina Agnes Brackenbury. 1927. There is a real warmth in this portrait. And perhaps a mischievous smugness. The old suffragette reflecting on her life’s hardships in being instrumental to bringing the right to vote to women. This is another portrait painted a year before the sitters death.

- Charles Darwin by John Collier, 1883. A third portrait taken from the year before the sitters (or standers in this case) death! It wasn’t deliberate, it was only when researching the works I hastily scribbled in my notebook, that this co-incidence came to light. Perhaps there is some resonance in accumulated wisdom which shines out of these portraits, the subject having achieved great feats in their lives. They’ve nothing more to prove, their confidence bringing the best out of the artist. I don’t know. But this portrait of Darwin is just magnificent. He shook the foundations of established science with his meticulously researched life’s work on evolution. It needed to be, otherwise the doubters would have torn him apart if it didn’t stand up to scrutiny. They tried, they lampooned him as an ape, but ultimately his theories and studies were accepted. As my wife just said, this portrait looks classical, this could be Socrates. His eyes just bore into you. What a geezer.

- And there were a number of portraits of Winston Churchill, the one I’d have love to have seen is the one painted by Graham Sutherland in 1954, commissioned by both the House of Commons and House of Lords, which Churchill hated… saying it made him look half witted. Churchill’s devoted wife Clementine had it destroyed it in 1956. Feel a bit sorry for Sutherland, he did create a number of preparatory pieces of work which did survive, including the one below, which I think carries both clout and a haunted air of a man who made massive decisions in his lifetime.

Sutherland (and I speculate, because I don’t know) was perhaps a leftfield choice, but his portraiture was not in question, an accomplished realist as well as an abstract artist, he painted what I think is an honest portrait of Churchill, capturing both the dignity and heroism of the service to his country, but also the vulnerability of a frail eighty year old man. Pictures of it do thankfully exist. Sutherland was mighty pissed off at it’s destruction, describing it “an act of vandalism”. Here is a pic :


But the portrait which shook me is a modern one. It’s called “Self” by a contemporary artist called Marc Quinn. It’s made of the artists blood poured into a cast of his face/head and frozen at minus 15 degrees in some sort of cryogenic sci-fi platform that you can walk round and examine. I wouldn’t describe it as grisly. But it’s powerful. That art has the ability to create a reaction is important. I’m a bit squeamish about blood, so I immediately pondered on the process of how the artist extracted the blood and over what period. It contains 9 pints! The answer = 5 months.

Quinn creates one every five years to show the effects of maturity and ageing. The first “Self” was made in 1991 (when the artist was 29) and bought by the collector Charles Saatchi. Rumours abounded that his wife Nigella Lawson turned the fridge off and the head melted into a pool of blood. But this was disproven when it was subsequently sold.

The “Self” in the National Portrait Gallery is the fourth in the series. The National Portrait Gallery’s description captures the concept of it much more succinctly than I could.

A self-portrait of the artist Marc Quinn cast in several pints of his frozen blood. Described by Quinn as a ‘frozen moment on lifesupport’, the work is carefully maintained in a refrigeration unit, reminding the viewer of the fragility of existence. The artist makes a new version of Self every five years, each of which documents Quinn’s own physical transformation and deterioration.

So… the National Portrait Gallery, you’ll love it!

(pic credits, the National Portrait Gallery website, the Arts Council website)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

PJ Harvey, Royal Albert Hall, October 30th 2011

After a few days to soak it up and let it sink in, I have to say this was one of the best gigs I’ve been to. Out of all Peej’s albums, her current one (Let England Shake) ranks as high as her debut “Dry” (1992) and the beautifully polished “Stories from the city, stories from the sea” (2000).
Why was it one of the best gigs I’ve been to? Well, it was at the Royal Albert Hall, truly a magnificent venue for music. But also the quality of the delivery of all the songs played, the new album in it’s entirety plus more and a near two hour set.
The songs from the new album evoke war and the experience of war told through the eyes of combatants and civilians. Also it poignantly digs into the spirit of a pastoral England, an urban England. The beauty and hardships, the wonder and sadness.  Warts and all. It’s achingly beautiful, uplifting and melancholic. Lyrically it’s just breathtaking.

The Last Living Rose
Goddamn Europeans!
Take me back to beautiful England
And the grey damp filthiness of ages
And battered books
And fog rolling down behind the mountains
On the graveyards and dead sea-captains.
Let me walk through the stinking alleys
To the music of drunken beatings
Past the Thames river glistening
Like gold, hastily sold
For nothing
Let me watch night fall on the river
The moon rise up and turn to silver
The sky move
The ocean shimmer
The hedge shake
The last living rose, quiver.

And this song, the suffering and loneliness of the dying soldier

Hanging in the Wire.
Walker sees the mist rise
Over no man's land
He sees in front of him
A smashed up waste ground
There are no fields or trees
No blades of grass
Just unhurried ghosts are there
Hanging in the wire
Walker's in the wire
Limbs point upwards
There are no birds singing
The white cliffs of Dover
There are no trees to sing from
Walker cannot hear the wind
Far off symphony
To hear the guns beginning
Walker's in the mist
Rising over no man's land
In the battered waste ground
Hear the guns firing
Incredibly, there is a video for every single song on the album. Each one is compelling. All made by a filmmaker called Seamus Murphy. Here is the vid for Hanging in the Wire.
It makes me think of Paul Nash’s sensitive and harrowing World War 1 painting “We are making a new world” (Imperial War Museum). The tender and fragile tendrils of the suns rays tentatively touching the scene of devastation.

As for the gig, Polly Harvey was dressed in a black long dress, adorned with a crow feather headdress.
Here she is pictured with Mick Harvey (no relation) strumming away at her auto-harp.

It was interesting that the three lads in the band and her played some distance apart.

Ghostly Polly plays Autoharp

With guitar

Managed to get all band members in one shot! (Harvey, Harvey, Parrish, Butty, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb) – and if you understood that joke, it makes you old like me… shhhh…

Even the massive Royal Albert Hall organ got tooted.

Thankyou and goodnight!

And the night was topped off by John from work giving me a lift to Turnpike Lane, so I didn’t have to queue up with all the (other) morlocks at South Kensington station. Although he does need to sort his satnav, kept trying to direct him to the nearest chiropracter / police station for some reason!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

John Foxx and the Maths, XOYO, 27th October 2011

I’ll try to write this blog entry without mentioning the following -
1) Dystopian Urban Decay
2) JG Ballard (This one is easy, I’ve never read any of his work, but clever people often cite him as one of John Foxx’s influences)
3) Underpants! (That’s what some silly kids used to sing instead of “Underpass” – but it was a mark of affection of course as it’s a darkly cool synth-pop classic)
Was so looking forward to this gig, loved the Midge Ure incarnation of Ultravox when I was at school, they were in their pomp then, but it was when I discovered the three Ultravox albums fronted by John Foxx that I was really blown away. It was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Making the most of the emerging technology of synthesisers, but still underpinned by rock / punk with spiky guitars and a undercurrent of melancholy and detachment, they sounded so decadent and poetic to me.
I wanted to stand still, hands by my side, against a wall, looking stark and enigmatic, backlit by neon, in a PVC jacket, just like on the cover of the first Ultravox! album (before the exclamation mark left the band). But I didn’t as it would look silly and I’m not elegant and willowy like those boys and no one else I knew liked them… I mean, when I was at school, I remember there being a massive debate between my (male) classmates as to who was the hottest, Chaka Khan or Kim Wilde…purlease! When I suggested Siouxsie Sioux be considered I was told to shut up and vote for one of the official candidates. I abstained.

Not sure about PVC trousers lads, a tad revealing perhaps? It doesn’t need Gok Wan to suggest they aren’t particularly flattering, but everything else is grand. (Apart from blue cowboy boots and a sleeveless vest which shows off your belly button)
And so it was – me and my mate John from work, rolled up to Old Street tube to visit a venue we’d never visited before (XOYO). It was like stepping into the early eighties, it was brill! There was a dude in the audience actually wearing a PVC jacket, now PVC is like heroin, it is a banned substance in some industries, not sure if clothing is one, but there are several united nations resolutions against it. Burning it causes massive poison emissions, so I was hoping no one would set him alight during the gig. He didn’t combust. It was cool.
We caught the tail end of one of the support acts, Xeno and Oaklander, have to say they were really great! So will be following their progress and perhaps turn up to check them out if they headline a gig in the future.
After they finished, the DJ played some old new romantic tunes, there was a brief interlude whilst the priceless relics (the original analogue synths and drum machine) were reverently assembled on stage, fired up and sound checked.
After what seemed like an age… the band. John Foxx and the Maths!

From left to right, Hannah Peel, John Foxx, the synth genius and shy and retiring Benge (he’s behind John -I could see him bouncing around and whacking his kit, but was difficult to get pics of him, he has the reflexes of an olympian squirrel, so managed to avoid my camera effortlessly) and last but not least Serafina Steer.
They opened with Shatterproof, which is the opening track of their 2011 album Interplay, playing these songs live gave them more depth for me, already loved the album. Hearing old synths is really nostalgic, takes me make, those soaring sounds, warm sounding, not clinical in any way. And all this was added to through violin accompaniment by Hannah and bass playing by Serafina. Both Hannah and Serafina are accomplished singer songwriters and musicians in their own right, with big futures ahead, so the Maths are essentially a super group.

Fantastic stuff. Evergreen was also played early in the set, probably my favourite song on Interplay. And interspersing these new numbers were some songs from John Foxx’s early solo material. 
John turns his silhouette to gold during Hiroshima Mon Amour, my favourite ever John Foxx/Ultravox tune. What a beautiful song. The lyrics are just haunting. I’m so pleased to have had the privilege to hear this live.

Absolutely loved the gig, the new tracks, the old classics. It was wonderful. And the band look fantastic together and have a real vibe, they all look like they are enjoying themselves and that makes a huge difference for me. Like I said on twitter (and Ms Peel kindly retweeted), I want *all* of their hairstyles, not at the same time of course. As in the future, we will be able to buy hairstyles and keep them on shelves. Like shoes. Or baked bean tins. John, the archetypal Silver Foxx. Benge, his beautifully styled playmobil hair, barely moving as he energetically works his magic in the background, Hannah, all sculpted elegance and Serafina, a vibrant mass, almost prehensile and sentient, I’m sure her hair played three of her seven keyboards.
Here is a moody dark shot, teasingly hinting at the hair magnificence going on in the room.

Burning Car was the most enthusiastically delivered for me, best song of the night, it seems like a band favourite, all four of them were getting right into it and even my left leg twitched rhythmically in what can only be described as a dystopian dance, evoking urban decay… *failed task no 1.

John invoking the synth spirits.

Encore! Encore! Moooore!
And final pic, after the last track of the night, Underpass (which was brilliantly and tightly blasted out) : if you look up “Jump for Joy” in the dictionary, there is no description, just this picture. :)

It was sad to hear John cut his head on the night of the gig and it meant some cancelled gigs, glad he’s ok that’s the main thing. I loved the pic Hannah Peel posted on twitter, the sinister use of CSI body tape a great touch.
It led me to think was it really a table that caused the injury? I think not, John just doesn’t what to let on he cut his head on his own cheekbones, the man is sharp, a spark of electroflesh… and geared for synchromesh. I am somewhat younger than Mr Foxx, but already my jowls sag pitifully in comparison to the cut crystal that is the face of John Foxx.
What a top gig. Thank you John Foxx & the Maths. And get well soon John!
And so, back to St Pancras and a train home on the shitsville stopper, took ages, the train full of drunks, or youths trying their dreadful one liners (one worders in one case “spiceeeeyyy!” whilst gyrating hips in the general direction of some girls). But I blocked it all out, till I got home.
Love living in the country, as I opened my front door, I could hear the distant hoot of a tawny owl, faintly rolling over the moors. Four hours sleep, then back to work! Wouldn’t have missed it though, great fun. Tomorrow, PJ Harvey at the Royal Albert Hall.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Jane’s Addiction, KOKO, 30th August 2011

What a gig! So pleased the Bossman let me know that they were playing.

I’ve always been aware of Jane’s Addiction, but like many bands they passed me by. Never too late to catch up! So glad we were there.

We got out pitch near the front, a band of youthful lads, and I mean they looked sixteen or so were the support. They were cool, they were appreciative of who was following them, people wanted to adopt them or put them on their keyrings, they went away and we waited for the main event.

They dropped a big curtain in front of the stage and for some reason played almost all of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon before the curtain raised and there was Perry and the boys.

He was dressed in the manner of a dandy Mississippi card shark, semi resident on the steam boat chugging up river. After he hustles you for your bucks, he’ll smoke a fashionably small cigar whilst checking his pocket watch and saying “yessiree, I’m gonna buy me some grits when I get off this old lady”.

Here’s his attire, a most presentable swamp gent (even though he’s from nowhere near that part of America)

As the gig progressed, he shed layers. Here he admires the lack of layers of his dancing troupe.

Shaking his maracas (the maracas are off screen here!)

Is he posing for me? I think he is.

A romance explosion near the end of this amazing gig.

Encore with wine and no top, the svelte bastard

Our feet at the end of the gig, it’s usually traditional we take a photo of ourselves at a gig. So we kept this tradition going.

Cheers Bossman! Haven’t enjoyed a gig so much in ages!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Mauritshuis, Den Haag (No 1 in a series)

This will be the first in a series of blogs specific to art, as I go to galleries, I will pick but one work from within it and write about it, it will be based on what interests me and I will explain why. I’m conscious this is all rather pretentious, so feel free to ignore :)

Part 1 : Mauritshuis, The Hague.

We visited some old friends in Holland last week, was lovely to see Chris, Charlina, their twins Nils and Sophia and their one year old Elano. On the Saturday we visited the Mauritshuis in the Hague, a compact little gallery full of Dutch/Flemish masters.

It is here the famous “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Vermeer is housed. It is a beautiful painting and it was hard to get a good look as people were congregated round it. But this is not the subject of my blog.

The work of art I’ve chosen is “Christ descending into limbo” by Jan Brueghel the Elder with Hans Rottenhammer (1597). It’s only a small piece of work but it contains a lot of power. Seeing as I seem to be be in morbid blog mode at the moment, this painting fascinates me.

In the bottom left of this painting a group of people are desperate to be saved by a seemingly untouchable radiant Jesus, all around him however is chaos, men and women tortured by various monstrous beasts, people fall from great heights, a little horned imp burns a brazier as leering creatures abduct and drag off screaming women, furnaces rage and buildings burn as tiny figures run into the water to drown, soldiers with stunted animal bodies in arms and armour terrorise the naked people, it’s hideous. Religious art, especially scenes of hell (or in this case limbo), even for one with a secular viewpoint is hard hitting. I always imagine how terrifying this would be for someone in the 16th century. Would it have made them turn their back against “sin”? Probably not, but it would have sure scared the crap out of them. I like to think that the artists had fun painting this, trying to make their beasts and monsters as scary as possible, testing it out on their students and friends for its shock value.

From personal experience, drawing beasts is fun, cathartic and mirth inducing. For example, here is my drawing of Booglog (I claim credit for many beasts, but not this one I’m afraid, Paul created this one). His catchphrase is “Throw them in Fire!” so he would have been perfectly placed in this painting. Utterly in keeping with the standard of art too.

Hmm… an idea, in the spirit of the Chapman Brothers (see this blog) I’ve added Booglog into the painting. I think it works.

Well, this blog started off vaguely serious, but it couldn’t last.

Anyway, I don’t know much about the artist (as usual) but a glance at available online resources shows the whole family (father and brother, children) were all accomplished artists. It seems this Brueghel wasn’t known for his hellish paintings but was more famous for flowers and more genteel religious scenes. His father and brother worked more in that space however.

On Rottenhammer (great name) I know even less (surprise!), other than when they worked together, he did the figures and Brueghel did the landscapes. Anyway, it’s an interesting collaboration. That’s it!

Arsenal’s Curse

I am concerned by the bad luck that has befallen Arsenal, since the Carling Cup Final, we’ve been in freefall, relegation form, as aptly shown here.

So today I will cast a spell to remove the bad luck. Is it conceivable that our players have brain freezes at such critical moments or are they possessed by some malevolent force? ;) Are officials influenced by a sinister power, suggesting they ignore offsides or blatant fouls? And look at Wenger, every week he seems to wither on the vine, like he is a puppet of some monstrous entity from another plane? He reminds me of King Theoden in Lord of the Rings, all covered in dust and talking bollocks.

Someone has hexed us. There is no doubt. I'm not sure what I will do as I am not an adept in sorcery, but I will invoke the spirit of Sir Henry Norris, possibly the most Machiavellian chairman we've ever had. He'll know what we should do.


Ok, I’ve had a vision and I was instructed to incant with my hands over the Autobiographies of Tony Adams, Bob Wilson, Liam Brady, Eddie Hapgood, Joe Mercer and Frank McLintock (I also have Perry Groves’ autobio, but wasn’t asked to touch his tome – sorry El Pel). I am also to burn my Carling Cup Final Ticket as this is when the curse brought new heights of pain upon us.  Here is the offending artefact, bringing plague upon our football house.

Here is the ticket, reduced to Ashes. Burn Burn Burn! The hex is reversed, pain in triplicate will be thrust upon the football teams of the invoker.

Chin up Gooners. We’re going to win a trophy this season. Expect a long unbeaten run. I know it. Henry Norris told me.

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Chapman Brothers, Jake or Dinos, White Cube

I don’t know much about the Chapman Brothers, Jake and Dinos, in fact, much as a lot of my blogs are about art, I don’t know much about art at all, beyond some rudimentary knowledge and the occasional blag. So, you are very welcome to join me on this journey of discovery as I apply my own (no doubt hideous) interpretations of peoples work as I explore this wonderful subject over the coming blogs.
What I lack in knowledge, I will make up for in enthusiasm however. When I win the lottery, I’ll sign up to an art history degree and be an earthy grounded gor-blimey mature student, doing some Dick Van Dyke tap dancing shit, whilst my posh course mates steer well clear.
So anyway, the Chapman Brothers. I knew the following prior to attending the exhibition-
1) They are of Cypriot heritage (like me)
2) Therefore they are bald (I checked, they are)
3) They are controversial, I vaguely remember their plastic dolls fused together, quite horrific images, which appealed to me at the time, but I probably went back to playing Football Manager and didn’t go to see the exhibition
4) Something about a scary fairy tale based (and let’s be clear – proper fairy tales are horrific and bloody) childrens colouring in book (subsequently found out it’s a dot to dot, but the colouring in book may also exist)
5) That’s it
So, on a whim I decided to visit the White Cube gallery today, as well as the National Portrait Gallery, which will be the subject of another blog.
There are two White Cube galleries, one in Mason’s Yard near Green Park in London and one in Hoxton. I only visited the Mason’s Yard one today, but I’ve included pics from both, mainly drawn from the Guardian, but also from another website, I would credit, but I can’t find the link now, all I will say is, they aren’t mine and if this blog ever extends beyond seven followers, then I apologise to whoever took the photo!
The “shock factor” from the exhibition involved Nazi imagery, but it was pushed to extreme boundaries of ridiculousness, it made the imagery farcical. Not sure if that was the point, the shock, combined with a vague slapstick amusement, but that’s what I got from this exhibition.
Yes. The Nazi Zombies and I use this term lazily as equally they might be hideously burnt, disfigured or mutated Nazis, are creepy, the first thing that greets you as you walk down the stairs into the basement gallery is one of them staring at you, in his Hugo Boss Waffen SS uniform. Really, it did shock me. I stopped dead in my tracks. Bang! It was instantly unsettling. An art smack down. This was the only photo I took, as photos aren’t allowed.

However, the poses they are in (two are in the process of having sex), the insignia (a smiley face armband instead of a swastika) and the scenarios they are put in (one nazi is sitting under a stuffed pigeon which occasionally “shits” on him) balances things out.
The following video summarises things nicely -
Dinos - “If they say it’s wonderfully offensive then that’s good, if they say it’s horribly offensive then..” (shrug)
Jake - “We’re not bothered by what people think… apart from our mother” (both laugh)
I also like they are belligerent socialists at heart, who want art to be available to all students, whatever their background, not just for the privileged few.
All pics courtesy of the guardian I think, if not…my bad!

Yes, they are getting it on in this pic (tee hee)

Round the corner from the Nazi’s, in a darkened room, is another man sized figure of the same material/ilk, this time in a big KKK hood. He was quite scary. In front of him was a painting, a hellish image of the crucifixion, Christ and the two criminals on their crosses with a crowd under them. Initially I thought, this looks like a Brueghel or Bosch, as the figures were all vaguely distorted or utterly warped in animalistic forms. But I though, oh, it can’t be, Christ himself has tentacles coming out of his face for instance, someone was trying to climb out of a horses bum and someone else was smoking a fag in the painting! The animalistic forms of the people was not a surprise for those two artists, but they’d have never messed with the image of Jesus. I assumed one of the Chapman brothers had painted an original in that style.
As you have to lean forward to examine it as the light is poor, the KKK man is looming behind you. What I didn’t realise is he had a massive hardon bulging his trousers outward, so whilst you are leaning over to look at the painting, you are faintly aware of a large cock hovering by your butt. It amused me greatly when I finally saw it! So again, unsettling imagery / comedy. It’s shocking but great too. His “bulge” is not visible in this photo but it gives you an idea of the space you have to squeeze into and lean over to look at the painting.

Anyway, a bit of research and I found out that Brueghel, or rather one of his followers *had* painted it and one of the brothers had then proceeded to add to it. Some would say this is defacement, but considering this has now sold for £750k (KKK hardon man thrown in) compared to the €220k they originally paid for it… it challenges perceptions and the value of art. Full story as relayed by the Telegraph here (and remember it is the Telegraph so it does have a sober disappointment running through the article and the comments are just typical Telegraph…..)
What I missed had I gone to the Hoxton White Cube, the other half of the exhibition.
You are fucking kidding me!

No, there’s more of them.

And finally.

It finishes tomorrow, next time I’ll pay more attention and definitely go to a Chapman brothers exhibition early!