Monday, 31 December 2012

Visual Delights: Mark Hearld's Work Book


A highlight of my Christmas this year was being given a copy of Mark Hearld's 'Work Book'. What a treat! From the boisterous cover to the hand-written acknowledgments, this book overflows with life and vigour; designer Nicola Bailey of Merrell (the publishers) has succeeded in keeping the artist's exuberance under control while allowing his energy to shine through. I particularly love the end-papers, which would have delighted Edward Bawden, I'm sure.


Near the beginning of the book Hearld provides a hand-written chart of artists who (he feels) have influenced him. To my mind Bawden is his most obvious ancestor, particularly in the illustrations, although the spirit of John Piper seems to hover in those swirling dark backgrounds. It seems typical of Hearld's down-to-earth approach that he freely acknowledges these influences. In the same spirit he admits that he isn't a potter but enjoys designing ceramics nevertheless, and tells us that he decided against calling one picture 'A Rat in the Kitchen' because the r- word might put off potential buyers.

His mission appears to be to bring the ordinary urban-natural world to life in new ways, which I think partly accounts for his popularity. There is nothing sinister or brooding about his creatures (even the rat is cute), yet they have tremendous character. Energy surges through his pictures and designs, almost like the bracing winds that roar across the eastern counties of England, turning farmyard scenes into swirling visions. Occasionally there's just too much going on, but more often the layering of textures and techniques works brilliantly.


A thoughtful text is provided by Simon Martin (curator of Pallant House gallery and an expert in 20th century art); he draws attention to the artist's marvellous hand-writing, which is all the more striking in the e-mail age. Hearld continues the tradition enjoyed by Bawden, Ravilious and friends, of sending hand-written letters embellished with illustrations (although it was Picasso's example that inspired him). There's no reward in this work, of course, other than the recipient's pleasure, but I get the feeling that the giving of pleasure is high on the list of this artist's inspirations.

You can buy Mark Hearld's 'Work Book' here.



Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Lighthouse Weather Alphabet


Dungeness Lighthouse in the days before automation - the base of an older version is behind it.
If you're getting fed up with Twelve Days of Christmas Rain you might enjoy pretending that you're a lighthouse keeper, charged with keeping an accurate record of the weather twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

Keepers were provided with hefty journals by their employer, Trinity House, in which they recorded every four hours the temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind force and direction and, lastly, the state of the weather. Here's a suitably wintry sample...


 The State of the Weather was recording using a special lighthouse keeper's alphabet. Please note the very important distinction between Overcast, Gloomy and Ugly.
This wonderful alphabet was sent to me by the very helpful Association of Lighthouse Keepers, after I saw a Lighthouse/Vessel Journal in a display case at the wonderful Dungeness Lighthouse - a place I would thoroughly recommend visiting. From the top the French coast looked perilously close. Back in 1066 it would have offered the perfect vantage point if you wanted to watch the Norman fleet approaching... The keepers must have been calves of iron after climbing that spiral staircase ten thousand times.

The old Dungeness Lighthouse today, with nuclear power station
The newest Dungeness Lighthouse, with shingle

Friday, 21 December 2012

Happy Christmas!

That's one fiery pudding. Ravilious made this festive design for Wedgwood, and it has now found its way onto a Christmas card published by the V&A. And why not? There's also a rather lovely robin from the same set. Here's to a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

Friday, 14 December 2012

BBC Your Paintings: Mission Accomplished?

News from Robert Bell on the BBC Your Paintings blog:

Today the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) and the BBC completed their hugely ambitious project to put online the United Kingdom’s entire collection of oil paintings in public ownership. This makes the UK the first country in the world to give such access to its national collection of paintings. In total, 3,217 venues across the UK have participated in the project and 211,861 paintings are now on the Your Paintings website.

When you consider how difficult it can be to get hold of a single decent image of a painting, this achievement is extraordinary. I've only been able to dip into the gradually expanding archive over the past few years but so far the reproductions have almost always been good and the accompanying information accurate. My only quibble is that the project's focus on oil painting means that watercolourists don't get much of a look-in, but perhaps this will be remedied in the future. Besides, if you attempted to catalogue all of the watercolours in public ownership in Britain it might take rather a long time.

I'm not sure anyone's taken an approach like this to a nation's paintings before. What is perhaps most remarkable about the project is that, other than the focus on a specific medium, it is (as far as one can tell) non-selective. There may be artists and pictures missing for one reason and another, but the range of published work is impressive; how wonderful, on reading about Algernon Newton or Meredith Frampton or Alfred Munnings or I don't know who else, to be able to view a good selection of their work and find out where to see particular paintings.

I love the idea that you can now hear about an exhibition or an artist and, without having to order books or trawl through old volumes in the reference library, see for yourself what they're all about. The question now is, what happens next? The catalogue is only useful if it is used, so can the project help foster interest in painting among a population far more attuned to music, film and TV? How might this happen?

A while ago I reviewed an entertaining series of short films, in which various critics and celebrities picked their favourite paintings from the archive. That was a nice idea, and one which perhaps went some way to attracting a mainstream audience to the backwater of art. What I'd like to see is some connection being made between the appreciation of paintings and people making art for themselves. The explosion of interest in Urban Sketching shows what can happen when people are encouraged to get out there, draw and share their work - is it possible that people would be more interested in looking at pictures in the context of their own creativity, rather than as examples of art history?

It always strikes me as odd that the BBC has an entire radio station devoted (for the most part) to music of the past, yet visual art of the past struggles to win attention. Every city has a concert hall where people pay good money to enjoy classical music, while any art museum that charges admission has to fight for visitors. Perhaps part of the problem is that a hundred different venues can host a Beethoven symphony on the same night, whereas you can only show the Mona Lisa in one place at one time.

But I don't believe for a minute that British people are innately more interested in music than in art. Show kids an interesting art exhibition and they'll love it. Offer a city's art fans some really top notch pictures to look at and they'll turn up in droves. The problem is not lack of interest, but lack of opportunity. If we could only stop worrying about the value of paintings as material objects and focus on their worth as beautiful things to be shared with all people; if only it could be made easier for provincial museums and galleries to borrow pictures by popular artists...

Well, thanks to the BBC and the PCF we can at least see reproductions of pictures by many thousands of artists. We couldn't do that before, and now we can.




Wednesday, 12 December 2012

'Ravilious: Submarine' - Update



Our new book, 'Ravilious: Submarine' is looking fabulous but production is a bit behind schedule, so we'll be releasing it in January as an antidote to the winter blues. If you were planning to give it to someone for Christmas, don't despair. Simply download the cover picture above, print it and write a message on the back promising a copy of the book as soon as it's available.

'Ravilious: Submarine' is a 72 page book, illustrated lavishly throughout. As well as reproductions of the 10 Submarine Series auto-lithographs, you'll find previously unpublished preparatory drawings and numerous, rarely-seen examples of auto-lithography from some of the best artists working in Russia, France and Britain between the wars.

Plus you'll learn what submariners ate while at sea, why British submarines carried a Jolly Roger and what happened to travel writer Eric Newby when he went to Italy on a clandestine submarine mission...

Apologies for the delay - we'll let you know as soon as the book's ready.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Forgotten, Remembered: Algernon Newton & Alfred Munnings

I remember years ago reading a novel by Milan Kundera, in which I first came across the Stalinist policy of erasing disgraced political figures from photographs. The idea of deliberately removing someone from the historical record seemed to my young mind thoroughly fiendish; little did I know that a comparable fate had befallen a number of 20th century British artists whose work was deemed unfashionable by the opinion-makers of the age.

It is not difficult to make an artist disappear. If you run a museum you leave their work languishing in the basement, and if you publish books you contrive to overlook them. If you leave, say, Eric Ravilious, out of your survey of 20th century British art, then the chances are that art history teachers will ignore him too. So the next generation grow up having never heard of him, and his vanishing is complete. The artist doesn't need to be dead, although it helps. Fashion in art is just as brutal as fashion in Cold War-style Stalinist politics; in both cases, a few influential people control the flow of information to the public, and use their power as they see fit.

Algernon Newton, The House by the Canal, 1945 (Harris Museum & Art Gallery)
People now find it incomprehensible that Ravilious was so neglected, but his work was too thoughtful and too localised for the post-war champions of Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism and so on. In the era of 'The Shock of the New' artists vied to push the great experiment of Modernism to ever wilder extremes; what significance could a painting of an old bus or a lighthouse have in that age of grand gestures?

Following Rav's rehabilitation, art lovers are now wondering whether there are other artists of a similar calibre waiting to be rediscovered. One of those whose name is suggested as 'the next Ravilious' is Algernon Newton, whose work is currently on show at the Alex Katz Gallery, off Piccadilly; it's worth going along just to see the gallery, which occupies several floors of a grand old town house.

Algernon Newton, Dawn, 1936 (Ferens Art Gallery)
The paintings themselves vary greatly in size, but whether working at the scale of a postcard or filling a wall, Newton approached his work with the same meticulous care. His best known pictures show long urban vistas in the manner of Canaletto but with a completely different mood - an unsettling atmosphere, Andrew Graham-Dixon suggests in his fascinating catalogue essay, that reflects Newton's mental state in the aftermath of the Great War and the break-up of his family. Richard Dorment of the Telegraph disagrees with this biographical interpretation, arguing instead that Newton's idiosyncratic style reflects his artistic influences.

Whichever side you take in this welcome debate it seems clear that Newton was an artist of unusual vision, a painter who apparently controlled a terror of impending apocalypse with luminous glazes and fastidious attention to detail. He painted ever brick in his buildings and every leaf on his trees, even in the many large paintings he produced during a long and prolific career. Strikingly, after a tumultuous and frustrating youth, Newton went on painting into his eighties, depicting downland landscapes with the same painterly precision and poetic mystery he exhibited in his earlier work.

Alfred Munnings, The Start, 1950 (Richard Green Gallery)
If you want to follow Newton with something rather different I recommend popping round to Richard Green for a look at an artist who has been thoroughly 'disappeared' from most accounts of 20th century British painting. I knew very little about Alfred Munnings, self-taught Norfolk painter of horses and landscapes, until I saw James Fox's startling series about modern British art. Whether out of genuine interest or a desire to cause a stir, Dr Fox decided to rehabilitate the former President of the RA, whose famous 1949 outburst against Modernism in general and Picasso in particular had earned him his erasure from the art history canon.

I must admit that I thought Dr Fox had gone a bit far with Munnings. I couldn't see what was so great about his crowd-pleasing pictures of racehorses. Walking into the Bond Street gallery, however, it was immediately clear that this artist had something; his subject matter may have been less than challenging but the way he painted was startling. Nothing measured about Munnings. Look up close at a picture and you see a welter of paint applied this way and that, not stroked but slapped and slathered. But the clumsy jumble of colours is transformed as you step away and there, extraordinarily, is the horse or circus troupe or whatever it may be, brought to life without great subtlety but with considerable panache.

This was an exhibition to warm the cockles on a cold December afternoon in a recession, and the accompanying article by Brian Sewell only added to the fun. Odd to think that Munnings (1878-1959) and Newton (1880-1968) were almost exact contemporaries.

Mary Fedden at the Portland Gallery
Other highlights in the vicinity include a celebration of the life and work of Mary Fedden, which has just opened at the Portland Gallery. Understandably, this is dominated by the more decorative paintings from the last twenty years of her life, but there is more than enough variety to make it worth the short jaunt across Piccadilly. A couple of early pictures show that classic brownish Slade palette, but the real scene stealers are a set of gorgeous little watercolours of animals and birds.

FFI: Richard Green, Daniel Katz, Portland Gallery.


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Steampunk Menagerie

Cockerel
If you're in Bristol and are feeling brave enough to venture south of the river, you must pop in to the Grant Bradley Gallery on Bedminster Parade, where the extraordinary Welsh artist Barry Lewis has a pre-Christmas show.


His show is called You Are What You Eat With, which makes sense when you see the role cutlery plays in his inventions: spoons become scales or teeth, while forks are twisted to create delicate bird forms. Meanwhile, the elephant above has a cement mixer body and the cockerel's tail began life as some kind of bladed garden implement.

Not sure who I'd bet on in this tug o'war!

Not all the creatures are scary, but they all share a rightness - a symmetry between the diverse recycled materials used and the subject. And they're great fun.


Walrus above, bear below...

For more information, contact the gallery or visit Barry's website.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Ravilious in Devizes

Eric Ravilious, Train Landscape, 1939 (Aberdeen Art Gallery/DACS/Artist's Estate)
Stop Press: the event is now Sold Out!

I'm excited to be returning to the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes on Saturday 24 November to explore the subject of Eric Ravilious and chalk hill figures. As before I'll be talking about the fascinating White Horse Dummy (which featured in the New York Times), but otherwise I'm planning to make the event substantially different from last time. I'm intrigued by the wider investigation of Ancient Monuments by (loosely) Modern Artists between the wars, and by the fascination people seem to have had for chalk downland in those days.

I'm writing an article on the subject for British Archaeology magazine, so there will be plenty of new material as well as an opportunity to look at some of Ravilious's loveliest paintings (on a screen, if not 'in person'!). Hope to see you there...

FFI: www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Ravilious at St Bride Library



A wonderful evening in store at the St Bride Library, off Fleet Street. We'll be talking about the fantastic interwar boom in auto-lithography - a form of lithography that involves artists working directly on the stone or plate - and showing all kinds of fabulous pictures.

Joe Pearson is the author of 'Drawn Direct to the Plate', which tells the story of Noel Carrington and the Puffin Picture Books, while Alan Powers has written books on the Curwen Press and related subjects. I'm looking forward to seeing what pictures they dig out of their archives and bring along...

I'll be talking about 'Ravilious: Submarine' and showing both the prints themselves and a selection of preliminary drawings - some of them beautiful works of art in their own right. Do come along and support the work of the St Bride Foundation, a unique institution devoted to typography, print culture and graphic design - past and present.



Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Victory Flag!

Jasper Johns, Flag, 1954/55, Encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, MOMA (artist's copyright)
Early last year President Obama presented Jasper Johns with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States.

'It has been noted that Jasper Johns’ work, playing off familiar images, has transfixed people around the world,' said Obama at the White House ceremony. 'Like great artists before him, Jasper Johns pushed the boundaries of what art could be and challenged others to test their own assumptions. He didn’t do it for fame, he didn’t do it for success—although he earned both.'

It's difficult to imagine either the previous incumbent or this year's Republican contender speaking with such eloquence and enthusiasm about a modern painter.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Edward Calvert: The Cyder Feast

Edward Calvert, The Cyder Feast, wood engraving, 1828

Edward Calvert was one of those 19th century British artists who were inspired by the example of William Blake. Like his friend Samuel Palmer, Calvert made extraordinary pictures in his youth, then became rather conventional. 'The Cyder Feast' is one of a series of tiny wood engravings (this one is less than 15cm wide, but I've magnified it so you can see what's going on) with a distinctly pagan feel. The people in the distance look as though they might have enjoyed a glass or two of dancing cider...

By the way, the new and revised second edition of 'The Naked Guide to Cider' is out later this month - now there's a reason to be cheerful!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Ravilious Lifeboat Print: Help for Heroes

Eric Ravilious, Lifeboat, 1938 (DACS/artist's estate)
The Towner Gallery has recently acquired 'Lifeboat', a 1938 watercolour by Eric Ravilious, on long-term loan. This gorgeous painting, which featured in 'Eric Ravilious: Going Modern, Being British' at RWA Bristol earlier this year, is unusually colourful for an artist who tended to prefer more muted tones.

The Mainstone Press, publisher of the 'Ravilious in Pictures' series, has just published a limited edition giclee print of 'Lifeboat', which for a short time is available exclusively from Towner. A percentage from all sales of the print will go to Help for Heroes, the charity chosen by the painting's owner. This seems fitting, given that Ravilious died on active service as a war artist.

'Lifeboat' is also reproduced in 'Ravilious in Pictures: A Travelling Artist', which I will be discussing next month, along with the other books in the series, at several illustrated talks (see panel on right). The V&A Study Day has sold out, but you can still buy tickets for the other events - if there's something you'd like to know about Ravilious or his work, come along and ask!


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Peculiar Greatness of Christopher Wood

Christopher Wood, Breton Woman at Prayer, 1930 (Southampton City AG)
A new travelling exhibition at the Norwich Castle Museum looks anew at the life and work of Christopher Wood (1901-1930) by hanging his pictures alongside those of his friend Cedric Morris (1889-1982). Their lives were a study in contrast. Wood was charismatic, flawed, driven and something of a genius; an opium addict, he died at the age of 29 when he fell under a train at Salisbury station. It is altogether in keeping with the contradictory nature of his life and career that no-one can be sure whether he jumped or fell. Morris, on the other hand, lived to a ripe old age and was a highly respected teacher. Lucien Freud painted his portrait. He was a good painter, but lacked the mysterious something that separates the great from the good.

Christopher Wood, Church at Treboul, 1930 (Tate)
This greatness is something you feel (and it's subjective, of course). Sometimes when you read a story, watch a film or look at a picture you sense that there is something going on beneath or beyond the surface, and you keep coming back to experience that feeling again or in an effort to understand it better. Novels come larded with notes to help you understand imagery, hidden themes, structural tricks, etc; these may help you understand the techniques in use, without explaining why this particular story has such emotional power over you.

Cedric Morris, Breton Landscape, 1927 (Kirklees Museums and Galleries)
I've read some books ('The Great Gatsby', 'The English Patient', 'Le Grand Meaulnes') over and over, with new excitement each time. And the same goes for pictures. I could stand all day looking at Gainsborough's portrait of his daughters chasing a butterfly (a painting the artist apparently didn't rate very highly). Paul Nash's 'Event on the Downs' is always somewhere in the back of my mind. One or two of Peter Doig's pictures keep me awake at night...

When Christopher Wood died he was about two years into his career as a painter of vision. Two years! Between 1928 and 1930 he painted like a man possessed, producing the famous pictures of Cornish fishing boats and Breton churches, and those other strange coastal paintings of sleeping sailors and sunbathers and drying fishing nets; there were other, more disturbing pictures too, such as 'The Yellow Man', which I think he painted in Paris.

Christopher Wood, The Yellow Man

Unfortunately his life story has become tangled up with that of Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis, so that we tend to see him through the filter of that 1928 meeting in St Ives and dwell on questions of influence that detract from the real story. He may have borrowed Wallis's dark dark seas (the naive style he had already), but what he found in the Cornish and Breton fishing villages was something deeper. Sometimes he made his thoughts and feelings visible - in the skeletal timbers of a half-built boat, for instance - but on other occasions they are more elusive. In one picture a woman is mending a fishing net; another shows a woman praying in a simple church. The style is a bit heavy-handed, even clumsy (Morris was more technically skilled), yet there is in these pictures sadness and beauty, serenity and strangeness.

Christopher Wood, Pony and Trap, 1930
Some artists who die young seem already to have given us everything, artistically speaking, that they have. Christopher Wood, by contrast, was just getting started.

'Cedric Morris and Christopher Wood: a Forgotten Friendship' is at the Norwich Castle Museum until New Year's Eve, before touring to the Mascalls Gallery and the Falmouth Art Gallery. It is a Mascalls Gallery touring show, curated by Nathaniel Hepburn.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Winifred Nicholson: Music of Colour

Winifred Nicholson, Daffodils & Bluebells in a
Norman Window, 1950s (Kettle's Yard)
Walking around Kettle's Yard, the former Cambridge home of art collector HS (Jim) Ede, a few years ago I was struck by an expansive painting of a beach and the sea beyond. The picture was wide and soft and strangely luminous and, since there are no labels at Kettle's Yard (the house, I mean, not the gallery), rather mysterious. I found myself in the awkward and unusual position of having no-one to tell me whether or not I should take this picture seriously.

All I could do was look. The brushwork was loose and flowing, as if the artist had liked the scene very much and enjoyed painting it. In turn I found myself enjoying the muted colours and the lively brushwork. It seemed an original kind of vision. Then someone came by and said something about the artist being very good but not well known. I knew the name, Winifred Nicholson, through association with her husband Ben, but I didn't know her as an artist in her own right.

Winifred Nicholson, Sound of Rhum from Isle of Eigg, 1950s
This is hardly surprising, given the lack of opportunity to see her work. While there are stacks of weighty tomes devoted to Ben Nicholson (who left her for Barbara Hepworth in the 1930s), finding a book on Winifred was, until recently, quite a task. Now there is a colourful, spacious monograph by Christopher Andreae, although it's fairly pricey if you're not a fan already. There's also an excellent website, which has some gorgeous reproductions of her work. And, until December, you can see a small selection of her pictures on display at Kettle's Yard Gallery, complete with labels.

Current exhibition at Kettle's Yard Gallery
Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981) enjoyed a long, varied and productive career. During the 1920s, a decade traditionally overlooked by historians of British art, she and Ben worked side by side, developing their own response to the modernist revolution and finding inspiration particularly in the landscape around their home at Banks Head in Cumberland. This became, in the words of Christopher Wood, 'a Painter's Place', where visitors included Paul and Margaret Nash, Ivon Hitchens and Wood himself.

Winifred Nicholson, Seascape (Sea and Sand), 1926 (Kettle's Yard)
He and Winifred became close friends, yet she tends to be sidelined when the story of Wood, Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis is told. The famous 1928 meeting in St Ives comes across as a rather masculine affair, but Winifred was staying there too (as was Wood's delightfully named lover, Frosca Munster). It is arguable that poor doomed Kit Wood was influenced as much by her as by Wallis, and when you look at Ben and Winifred's work from the late 1920s side by side you can see plenty of similarities.

Winifred Nicholson, From Bedroom Window, 1930
'She has probably no equal among modern British painters,' wrote a critic of her 1929 exhibition, 'as a colourist of the most exquisite refinement.'

Two years later she responded to her husband's departure by removing to Paris with their children, there continuing both to paint and to write about her ideas, before returning to Britain shortly before the war. For the rest of her life she would divide her time between her family and her painting, exhibiting regularly in London and enjoying periods of intense creativity and experimentation. Some of the work she painted later in life, especially in Scotland and around Banks Head, is as fresh and luminous as the pictures from the 1920s. Throughout, she maintained a warm, lively correspondence with her former husband and retained an endless fascination for the music of colour.

Winifred Nicholson, Flower Table, Pots, 1929
Thanks to Winifred Nicholson's estate for allowing me to show these pictures. Copyright of course remains with them. Do have a look at their website.

FFI
www.winifrednicholson.com
www.kettlesyard.cam.ac.uk

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The City in Miniature: Alan Wolfson's New York

One of the joys of the internet these days is the site or blog that basically rebroadcasts images from elsewhere on the web. I'm sure there's a word for it, but I don't know what it is. Anyway there's one listed in my Other Voices which is called The Track North and I love it. Another variant is Things Magazine, which rounds up vast amounts of material, and it was there I spotted these extraordinary sculptures.

Alan Wolfson, Hopp's Luncheonette (2008)
Alan Wolfson is a New York artist who has been making miniature versions of real and imaginary buildings and businesses since the 1970s, capturing the Times Square area during its seedy heyday/nadir (delete according to taste). His sculptures, which are usually around a couple of feet square and a foot high, are both fantastically detailed and wonderfully atmospheric.

Alan Wolfson, Hopp's (interior)
He doesn't just show the exteriors of hotels, stores, diners and strip joints, he also shows the interiors, some of which are so vivid you can smell them...

Alan Wolfson, St George Hotel, interior (1994)
In one piece he manages to squeeze in both street and subway levels, giving an unusual view of the relationship between different parts of the city...

Alan Wolfson, Canal Street subway (2010)
His latest piece - after fifty years of work - is a tribute to the famous New York institution Katz's Delicatessen. In his notes, the artist writes, 'Katz’s Delicatessen is one of those legendary New York locations. It’s been in business on the lower east side of Manhattan since 1888, and is New York’s oldest deli. Telling someone to “meet me at Katz’s..,” is almost the same as telling them to meet you under the clock in Grand Central - everyone knows where it is.'

Alan Wolfson, Katz's Delicatessen (2012)
He adds: 'Part of the challenge in building this piece was to come up with a narrative that was believable. Since I don’t put miniature people in my pieces how could I justify that a restaurant that is always crowded had no customers lining up for their world famous pastrami sandwiches? I decided to create a scene that takes place right after closing time, during the cleanup. Dirty plates are waiting to be removed, chairs are stacked on the tables and mops and buckets are at the ready.

'Since most of my work is staged in the 1970s and 80s I was able to create an homage, on the exterior wall, to the rock groups and punk rockers that were so prevalent on the Lower East Side during that time.'

Alan Wolfson, Katz's interior (2012)
Alan Wolfson is one of the artists featured in the wonderful-sounding show 'Otherworldly, Des Mondes Irreels' at MUba, a museum near Lille, France. If you love New York, check out his website.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Lisbon Story




Thinking about details and ways of seeing, I remembered a trip to Lisbon a few years ago and delved into my computer's memory for these pictures...


The old part of the city has been protected from the kind of rapid 'improvement' seen in other European cities by convoluted property laws. No, I can't remember the details. Some buildings are undoubtedly in need of repair, but others have amazing tiles and other decorative touches...




Blue sky authentic, no photoshopping required!



One of my favourite films is 'Lisbon Story' by Wim Wenders, which is all about a sound engineer collecting sounds around Lisbon. This makes me think of the featured band, Madredeus...


The sound man picks up all manner of delightful sonic details. Here's a nice visual...


Could be south Bristol (we even have palm trees) - felt right at home...


Except we don't have tiles like these...


Or buildings like this - wow!


Finally... I think Ravilious might have enjoyed this one, and maybe put it in his Lisbon version of 'High Street'. The place may well be gone by now...