Wednesday, 23 December 2009

On writing

I've been rediscovering a couple of favourite books lately.. Although I do have a tendency to stick with a few staple writers and perhaps don't allow myself to discover something new as often as I should, I'm all for re-reading books, and certainly for me the feeling of engaging with a book you loved the first time and have since forgotten is something I like quite a lot. The books in question are rather different on the surface yet perhaps are not all that different when considering them a little further. First up is Mrs Dalloway, seen by many as Virginia Woolf's masterpiece, an ongoing prose stream of consciousness, striving to uncover the human condition through the thoughts and emotions of a small group of characters. At its core Woolf explores the difficulties of communication and the profound effects of memories and the passing of time. The second is J.D. Salinger's couplet of short stories, Franny and Zooey. Most famous for The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey focuses on the youngest of seven children of the Glass family, a family Salinger has written numerous short stories about, and who, coincidentally, provided rather a heavy influence for Wes Anderson's film The Royal Tenenbaums (not as original as you think). This short novella is heavy with dialogue and once again describes the difficulties language has of communicating inner feelings and emotions, and also discusses the meaning of spirituality. The first part in particular is a rather poignant vignette of a couple growing ever distant, conveyed by Salinger through simple and fragmented dialogue that allows us to witness the deterioration of their closeness.

Writing often influences and informs my own work and these two books seem incredibly relevant to me right now, and perhaps this is why I've picked them up of the shelf again. Woolf's ideas of the transience of time and the significance of fragments of memory have certainly been feeding into my recent work, and the attempt by both authors to highlight the limitations of language when trying to truly express oneself is something I feel I am attempting to convey in fragmenting and distorting images.. It's almost a sensory experience that I'm trying to depict, a feeling of nostalgia or intimacy that you can't quite pin down, trying to remove the image without losing the sense of what is felt. For me it's like listening to music - a lot of the time for me the lyrics are secondary to the melodies and textures of the sound, which often stir up more feeling and emotion in me than the direct images being sung aloud by the singer.

I'm hoping to make a short film in the near future and finally use my ancient cinefilm camera and projector. I'm sure Woolf and Salinger's writing will be somewhere in the back of my mind when it happens.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

All that glitters

So, Richard Wright has won the Turner Prize. Despite my ardent support for Roger Hiorns (in my case still the rightful winner) I had a feeling Wright would swoop in and take it. Wright's piece, a giant wall painting in gold leaf, is incredibly intricate and painstakingly executed and yes, its beauty is undeniable. However I still can't get past the fact that, for me, it didn't really work in the space it sat in, and it wasn't an immersing awe-inspiring experience that everyone was claiming it to be. Admittedly Hiorns' offering wasn't necessarily as spectacular on first sight but I felt that his work contained a quiet beauty, the atomised jet engine creating a beautiful, desolate landscape that spoke of modern world materiality and that was a timely reminder of how everything eventually returns to dust. I do feel that Hiorns was let down by the fact that his most breathtaking work was half an hour away in a dilapidated flat in Elephant and Castle, sitting unaware to anyone that didn't take the time to watch the artist videos at the end. It would be nice to think that the judges took Seizure, arguably the most exciting and original art piece to be made in years, into consideration, however if they did then how did he not win? Perhaps, and this is probably just a cynical presumption, they wanted to reward the piece that showed most 'skill' in an attempt to save the prize from the many of the public and media's perception of pretentious joke (anyone else blame Martin Creed?)... That or certain members of the judging panel had a slightly predisposed bias..

Anyway, I shouldn't take away from Wright's achievement, his work has appealed to many and certainly is magnificent in its own right. It just so happened that he wasn't all my cup of tea.

Monday, 30 November 2009


A view of some work I've been exploring lately, I'm looking at reducing an image to form and shape, tone and line, abstracting it so that it becomes unrecognisable as a conventional, readable image. It's been exciting to see just how much you can achieve with a 6x4 glossy print and a photocopying machine, watching how the image transforms each time the enlarge button is pressed. I'm thinking of creating some kind of wall installation of the different formats I've been working with, each has their own distinct materiality and hopefully I'll be able to create something that captures the intimacy of the original image without directly revealing it.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

How very 1994..

Relational art was a term coined at the end of the 90s by renowned art critic and curator Nicolas Bourriaud as an attempt to classify a group of artists who had come to prominence during the decade. His book "Relational Aesthetics", a collection of essays on the topic which I am currently reading, goes to some length to describe this kind of art form, which he described in short as 'an attempt to improve the world we live in' through work that prompts interaction with its audience. The work he dwells upon ranges from performance to installation and photography and video, covering a particular group of artists he championed as carrying the torch, so to speak, for this new art movement.

Bourriaud has a history of suggesting or attempting to distill ideas and themes within art practice into a definable term, the most recent example being this years Tate Triennial, dubbed 'Altermodern', a phrase coined by the curator as the next stage of modernism, alluding to the idea that modernism and post modernism are dead and this new, alternate modernism can be seen as encompassing works that address our ever globalised world. In some ways an this could be read as an extension of his idea of relational aesthetics, although I don't feel it was an entirely successful exhibition or theorem. I do feel there is merit in his idea of relational art, however. Many of the artworks he uses as the basis for his theory are often based in quite humble and simple ideals - in the context of an ever increasingly technological world they return back to the very basic idea of human interaction and, for want of a better word, spirit, whilst never becoming detached from the context in which they are made. Felix Gonzales-Torres' billboards of empty beds at once engage the wider public with the most intimate setting of the bed he shared with his lover, whilst the fact his lover had recently died from AIDS gives the picture a haunting sense of absence and provides a wider context for the work. Another of his pieces consists of a gallery floor littered with sweets, the audience involvement in some ways creating the piece - its form dependent on the how much each viewer choses to take or leave.

After a decade of big money painting and the return of the 'art hero' (in part showcased by Tate's current Pop Life exhibition) relational art, or the art classed thus by Bourriaud, was an attempt to re-engage with ideas based in human emotion and the interaction we share with others (not to be confused with interactive art..). It strove to exist for a purpose, at times only existing for those present to witness or engage with it.

A couple of pieces by artists mentioned in the book that are worth checking out:

Pierre Huyghe - Streamside Day Follies

A short film depicting the staging of celebrations proposed by Huyghe in commemoration of the anniversary of the new town Streamside in New York state. Hard to find in full online, although a short excerpt can be found here -

Dominique Gonzales-Foerster - Parc Central - Hong Kong

One of a series of films by the artist portraying various cities around the world, ambient, ethereal portrayals that suggest a dialogue between east and west and that question the Western World idea of there being nowhere left to journey to.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

For the love of god

This week has been a very busy week with lots of gallery visits and the exhausting Frieze Art Fair all taken in. Yesterday, amongst other shows, I went to see the Damien Hirst exhibition at the Wallace Collection. I have to say I was highly sceptical, not being the biggest fan of Hirst's past work. The show consists of about twenty paintings based around the theme of death (nothing new, then) that have been painted by the artist's own hand, a noted departure from his Factory-style assistant-produced artworks of old. The first thing to comment on, an unavoidable talking point, is the location of the show. The Wallace Collection is a family collection of mostly 15th and 16th century oil paintings and artefacts, and for Hirst to assume he has the right to show his work there (he funded the show himself, to the tune of £250,000...) is quite insulting, to be honest. Fair enough, he has generated much interest and probably increased the visitor count ten fold, but his paintings are just so incongruous and completely at odds with the many other works of art that the Collection houses that it all feels a bit... distasteful.

Now, the paintings themselves. To say they are an homage to Francis Bacon is an understatement: large scale paintings in prussian blue covered in geometric lines, including a couple of triptychs, featuring such symbols of death as the skull and a lemon. Yes, a lemon. The tour guide, who was doing her best to convince us of a great depth of meaning and significance to these paintings, duly informed us that Hirst intended the lemon as a symbol of death, despite the fact that historically the closest a lemon has come to being a symbol of anything is the inclusion of lemon trees in paintings of the Virgin Mary. There was more, of course. He also included spots in many of the paintings, apparently signifying the death of his old practice (his spot paintings are somewhat of a trademark) and the next stage in his artistic career. In other words, he has realised that the spot paintings and the diamond encrusted skull were hollow and meaningless and has decided to try his hand at the lonely, romantic painter locked away in his studio image. Perhaps this would be ok, were the paintings not so two dimensional and repetitive. Each one feels like a reworking of the last, as if he's taken four elements and tried to configure the most number of ways of composing them possible.

Before heading over to the exhibition a friend and I happened to bump into Adrian Searles, chief art critic at The Guardian who we'd seen take part in a debate at Frieze. He was friendly and had time for conversation, and even recommended a show. This show was by Sarah Lucas, who along with Hirst came to prominence in the 90s as part of the famed YBAs. The contrast is telling: hers, held in a disused shop in Dover Street, was original, intriguing, and held your interest as you took in the four floors worth of art. Hirst's? Well, I think I've made my feelings clear. "Don't get sucked in by Damien" were Searles' parting words. Needless to say, I didn't.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Money over matter

If you thought the Tate's Pop Life showcased the end of integrity in contemporary art, this has just about put the last nail in the coffin. Damien Hirst has proved he's the master at making obscene amounts of money out of an increasingly pretentious art world, and with this he's just about come up with the perfect con. In my opinion.. I'm certainly not going to be buying into it.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

London calling..

So, the birds are flying south and my dear companion has flown north and I'm left in King's Lynn alone with not much else to do but check my flickr stats every five minutes and twit every last banal detail of my daily routine. I think I'm slowly coming to terms with the end of the summer, and for the first time in three months I want to go back to London. Our house is as close to being ready as it will ever be, and a fresh start awaits.

This week hasn't been completely uneventful - I've been taking tentative steps to creating a lo-fi/surf/shoegaze band with a friend and I've also gained ownership of yet another camera (I think the collection is hovering somewhere near 10..) Combine that with the aural pleasures of The Big Pink and Health's albums and a growing appreciation for daytime property shows and Strictly - It Takes Two, and I guess it's not so bad. Really... Ok, I think it's time to go.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

So long

I felt an update was in need, I've been focusing on my flickr a lot recently and my blogs have been rather neglected. I went pro a few days ago and now have a rather swish stats page which charts my daily photo views and thus consumes my life by being ever so addictive. Today I got a film developed from my olympus trip and after rather mediocre results last time I was surprised to find many of the prints were actually well focused and rich in colour. It's certainly nice to know that it will be able to serve me well whilst I track down a new AE-1. Some of the photos are up on my flickr, and I shall upload the rest soon I should think.

Earlier today I also popped into hmv and by some stroke of luck beyond belief they just happened to be selling Albert Camus' The Outsider, The Plague and The Fall for a pound a piece. Needless to say I bought a copy of all three, I've been desperate to read them for ages and I'll most probably be some sort of existential mess once I've finished.

Also, in case you hadn't notice, it seems that the longest summer ever is drawing to a close. Nevertheless there are still adventures to be had, and tomorrow I am off to stay in a yurt and then on Sunday I'm heading to the Lake District for a few days for a spot of hill walking and maybe a peek at the Wordsworth museum. Then it's back to London (hopefully with a fully furnished house waiting) and all of this will be a distant memory...

Friday, 28 August 2009

Music from big pink

I couldn't resist posting this, the one band currently restoring my faith in British music. The hype's been building for a while, and I'm very excited about the soon to be released album.

In other news, check out my now up and running photography project that I mentioned before here.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Making waves

After losing in quite spectacular fashion at the tennis (0-6, 0-6; my forehand needs some work..) I'm now sitting back and taking in the new track by the quite prolific brat from the west coast of America, Wavves. With a new member on board and a notable increase in production values, it's not so much a departure from his last long player but certainly takes his tried and tested formula of fuzzy chords and 'woooos' and adds a few more twists and turns. Catchy stuff, and has reminded me that despite being unable to behave like an adult on tour he certainly writes some catchy summer anthems.

In other news, I'm currently working on an online photography project thing, and will write more about it when I have a clearer idea of what it will entail. This is somewhat in response to the impending 'presentation of recent work' in the first week back at college - I'm slightly worried my artistic development has been rather stunted in recent months. It's easy to forget they expect it to be a full time occupation. Anyway, I'm now off to bed for a spot of light reading, Virginia Woolf's 'The Waves'.. Seems I can't get enough of them right now..

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Au revoir paris, au revoir.

Just a small selection from a rather perfect week. Sad to be leaving, paris je t'aime..

Of course, no holiday would be complete without bumping in to an old friend from home on your last night..

Monday, 20 July 2009

Marché aux puce..

Today we headed to Porte de Clignoncourt for St Oeun's world famous marché aux puce.

At times you could be forgiven for forgetting you were in Paris, especially as we made our way from the metro station through the jungle of stall holders selling cheap knock offs of every kind. (Kind of like making your way to the stablemarkets in Camden). When we did stumble across the actual flea market we could not have been more impressed, a seemingly endless maze of vintage clothing, antiques and world weary bric-a-brac. The pictures don't really do it justice but it's most definitely worth getting lost in its meandering alleys for a few hours.

After, we travelled down to the Marais, the hipster friendly Jewish quarter, for an amazing falafel pitta and a spot more vintage shopping. We're thinking of tackling the Louvre tomorrow.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Greetings from Paris

After surviving the trials of the 12 hour journey on the coach we finally arrived in Paris at sept heures local time this morning. After fighting off a brief case of what I feared to be imminent swine flu, we took the metro four stops to Parmentier and made our way to our apartment. Small but homely and overlooking the rooftops of the 11th Arrondisement, it could not be more perfect.

More typical tourist shots to follow I'm sure...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Just a thought..

American music is far superior to British music these days. From all corners of the continent North America seems to be producing the most original and exciting bands that have emerged in recent years, whilst over here all we seem to come up with is more and more substandard indie bands obsessed more with image than music, that are so beloved by the NME and Radio One. Animal Collective, No Age, Grizzly Bear, Telepathe, Health, Abe Vigoda, Yeasayer, Deerhunter... The list is seemingly endless, with thriving scenes in Williamsburg on the East Coast and LA on the West providing a real community spirit (just look at The Smell), and other big names showing that the rest of the country has something to offer too: Fleet Foxes are doing a pretty good job at keeping up Seattle's musical heritage, whilst bands like White Denim and The Dodos, although not the most original, are still a far more interesting proposition than another Scouting For Girls. Even the side projects, like Bradford Cox's Atlas Sound or Grizzly Bear Daniel Rossen's Department of Eagles (whose last album is one of the best things I've heard in quite a while) are getting more praise than our own homegrown 'talent'.

There are, of course, exceptions. I believe that Foals are one of the most exciting British bands of recent years, their debut album consistenly great from start to finish, and their B-sides are often as good as the A-sides, which bodes well for a second offering. The Big Pink are another band promising greatness, and I look forward to hearing the debut long player, and Fuck Buttons deserve a mention. However, and I may just be making a terrible sweeping statement here, it just seems that the only bands getting any exposure are the dregs of that last great British musical revolution, New Rave (any band with some synths), a third rate Joy Division wannabe band or another female solo artist whose songs are kind of average, yet just because they are a girl making music they are thrown into the limelight. I mean, there are many far more talented female musicians than Little Boots (Emmy the Great?), we just don't seem to be trying very hard to find them.

That seems to be the whole point, we don't seem to be trying very hard at all. It seems our musical standards have slipped, there no longer seems to be a clamour to find the next Beatles, all we want is another radio-friendly sing-a-long or the next X-Factor winner. Perhaps it's the recession, and no-one being brave enough to invest in good music, but even so it doesn't seem like there's much of an underground scene trying to make its voice heard. It's time for the independent labels to come along and remind us that we can make good music, just as they have done in America.

Anyway, some songs I've been listening to the past few months. American, of course..

No Age - Teen Creeps
Wavves - Gun In The Sun
The Dodos - Fools
Fleet Foxes - Ragged Wood
Times New Viking - My Head
Animal Collective - Grass
Health - Perfect Skin
Yeasayer - 2080
Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
Bon Iver - The Wolves (Act I & II )

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Another one?

Another day, another half-baked Strokes side project. This time it's the turn of singer Julian Casablancas, the only thing the rather work-shy singer has released since The Strokes's last album (apart from that rather suspect Converse song with Santogold and Pharrel..). This has seemingly appeared out of the blue, and the promo kind of sounds like the soundtrack to a cheesy early 80s sci-fi film, whilst the imagery is very much First Impressions of Earth booklet brought to life. Can we not just have another Is This It or Room On Fire?

Sunday, 12 July 2009

I've been silent

This song is currently getting lots of plays on my car CD player..

Friday, 19 June 2009

Dreaming of the countryside

As summer neared, as the evenings lengthened, there came to the wakeful, the hopeful, walking the beach, stirring the pool, imaginations of the strangest kind - of flesh turned to atoms which drove before the wind, of stars flashing in their hearts, of cliff, sea, cloud, and sky brought purposely together to assemble outwardly the scattered parts of the vision within.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


I just made a new flickr, I've uploaded most of my film photography from the past year. Will keep it up so I can show all my photographs in one place. I also got the first film back from my new camera, and somehow managed to get pretty drastic light leaks on almost every shot. I'm hoping it's my shoddy film loading skills and not the camera.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Northern soul

This past week has seen Dulcie and I exploring everything that sunny (yes sunny) Manchester has to offer that I haven't quite had the time to discover this year. From Whitworth Park in the glorious sunshine (battling the aforementioned fever..) to taxidermy in the Manchester Museum, coffee and cake at Kro to Triad-approved midnight chinese at Tai Wu, via the beautiful dereliction of the Northern Quarter and secret, umbrella-d alley ways, it was a lovely week by all accounts. I found myself liking Manchester more and more than I already do as the moments passed, it's lack of pretension a breath of fresh air from the London hipsters. The presence of a certain someone may have had an influence.

We also managed to pack in a day out to York, where my amazement and excitement at finding the exact 1976 Canon SLR I have been craving for the past few weeks in a charity shop (of course!) was dampened only slightly by an evil ticket inspector from Leeds on the way home. Still, York and Manchester are beautiful cities, and here are some photographs to testify.

The sun had his hat on for most of the week.

These rather large ice creams were purchased at Moonlight, possibly the best ice cream parlour in all of Rusholme, maybe even the world..

I honestly thought these weren't allowed anymore.

The view after climbing 267 (I think) steps to the highest point in York.

I broke my camera half way through the week, which was in keeping with the great amount of bad fortune the week seemed to bring upon me (damn magpies). However, I continued taking photographs on my newly treasured Canon, so perhaps some more shall follow.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Summer in the city

I have a fever. How is it actually possible in this heat? I think it's just my luck that on the hottest day of the year I'm aching all over and feel like cutting off my head would be a pleasant solution.

In other news, Allen Ginsberg came to me in a dream today during my afternoon siesta. Running through an open field he said to me "oh and another thing, you're going the wrong way". I don't know whether to take this as some kind of sign, or a vision that's meant to spur me into some form of existential crisis. Perhaps this fever is worse than I thought...

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Re: meeting Wavves

To quote Dulcie, to the dregs and back indeed... I think we met him on a bad week:

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Never meet your heroes

(This is what happens when you own five cameras and not a single one is working.)

Saw Wavves live at Rough Trade last night. The first thing that struck us was just how little he was. He played a pretty awesome set though, To The Dregs, So Bored and California Goths highlights. He seemed rather pissed off after though, possibly due to his amp catching fire and a rather non-reponsive crowd, and some rather embarassing conversation and picture taking ensued. His drummer was a United fan though.

Monday, 25 May 2009

End of foundation and G-town.

The year has drawn to a close, and the stresses of last week are long forgotten. A few photographs from the weekend.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

C'est fini! (Almost..)

I'm now just a 500 word evaluation away from completing my work. Thought I'd post this song as a kind of tribute to my project, which all draws to a close tomorrow.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Wolf songs

Just heard the new Patrick Wolf album for the first time. Have to say when Hard Times (the album's first song proper) started playing I was apprehensive, but as the album rolled out (with a helping hand from Tilda Swinton's narration..) it became clear that he hasn't disappointed - there is plenty of the Patrick Wolf of old despite his promised darker side, and I'm sure the album will grow on me even more with a few more listens. In a weird way it kind of sounded like a cross between pagan folk music and a weird 90s sci-fi film soundtrack. With lots of strings. However, this listening may have been influenced by the cover art. There's certainly lots of variety, with heavy riffs (!) and battle chanting on, er, Battle, and a beautiful choir on The Sun is Often Out. I'm sure it'll be on repeat on my ipod before long.

Monday, 18 May 2009

And so the journey comes to an end..

Today we have been busy preparing and painting the studio, ready to hang our work tomorrow. The pristine white walls now await our wonderful work, and I really can't believe it's all coming to an end. It's kind of crept up on me, and suddenly this project that I've been immersed in for the last three months is two days away from being finished forever. It's a strange feeling.

After college James and I went to the Barbican for 'an evening dedicated to the American suburb', two films based around the theme of suburbia and its artificial nature and utopian vision of life. We managed to catch the first one, Streamside Day Follies, which was beautifully shot (see the picture), however when they began to play Wonderland, the second film, it became clear after watching the first thirty seconds of a grainy London pub scene that the Barbican had in fact been sent the wrong film from America. This was rather amusing, although I would have liked to see the film.. Luckily we were refunded, but the director understandably did not stick around for the scheduled Q&A, clearly rather peeved that his UK premier had been foiled.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Just read about this..

No Age + Paris + Skateboards. I think 'sick' is the word.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

No-one knows where our secrets go

The Smashing Pumpkins are a band I've never quite managed to get into, despite numerous half hearted attempts on and Dulcie's insistance that I will like them. I think, however, it's time for this to change, as I simply can't stop listening to the above song. Also, loving the video montage..

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

To buy or not to buy? (I can't believe I just wrote that..)

I'm in a bit of a predicament, as I really can't decide whether or not to buy yet another camera. I already have five, as well as a Super-8 (which due to some recent good fortune may soon be in use), but my lust for beautifully crafted photo makers seems to be insatiable. The camera I currently have my eye on is a Canon AE-1, first manufactured in 1976. They do look rather special, particularly the old school Canon logo, and would certainly keep me happy until I can afford that Leica. For the kind of prices they're currently going for on ebay, I think it might just be worth it..

My project is almost coming to an end, it's been a long and 'emotional' journey, which as usual has seen me fret over the quality of my work, hate it all on numerous occasions, and have lots of ideas which I never actually carry out. Nontheless, I have begun to put it all together on the wall in our studio and it is looking better than I expected. At various points over the past few weeks I honestly thought this was going to end up as a disaster, but I've somehow managed to rescue it and produce something I'm (fairly) pleased with. Hopefully anyone who reads this will be able to make it to the show in June!

Anyway, enough writing, I must get back to work, the clock is ticking and my sketchbook is still in need of serious attention.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Some photographs..

I remember going to this shop as a kid and buying things like Nerds and Space Raiders.

So mature.

This is generally how most of us feel in college.