Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Vispo: untitled print / More question marks than answers

RTomens, 2020

The randomly sampled text would inspire more questions, wouldn't it? ? ? ? I couldn't resist the lure of the question mark. It is, after all, one of the most attractive symbols in our language, isn't it? Now I can hardly write a sentence without it turning into a question...can I? 

This piece was born on the Remington and was expanded/altered afterwards. 

Nice is burning / Bukowski's Pulp

The Nazis set fire to Nice; I'd been tipped off that they would. I had to get the boat back to where a bus would bring me home. That was crucial. The agricultural show where I'd met some of my family had been enjoyable enough, not because of the machinery or animals on display, but because I'd not seen my nephew and sister for so long that we hugged, kissed and probably wept. I say 'probably' because such details of the dream are gone, blown away by a new day, as they always are. The sadness, heartbreak, call it what you will stayed with me though even as I woke up. That's also true of dreams in the semi-slumber/wakefulness moments when the emotion of a dream still has some hold on you.

I armed myself with a big stick in case I met any Nazis on the way to the boat. Luckily, I didn't. Boarding the boat I impressed my nephew by managing to ask for a ticket in French. We waved goodbye and the motor chugged its way through choppy Mediterranean waves. We weren't far from Nice. Nice was Nice and looked nothing like the real thing, the way people you know can populate dreams yet look nothing like them. As we entered the port I looked up at the ancient buildings, cracked colours faded by so much sun they seemed to be clambering onto each other's shoulders to get the best view of the sea. That isn't Nice port in reality. They are actually low-rise buildings, well-kept for the most part, forming an orderly line around the port.

Fire! There, high up, the bushes around one of the grander houses were ablaze....

It's no surprise I should dream of Nice, the finest city in the world, because I've been daydreaming of it ever since being imprisoned by the government. Not that we planned to go back this year but just not being able to made me pine even more for it. Perhaps the craving for something French resulted in me reading Patrick Modiano. Missing Person was a pretty good read. I must stop assessing everything as 'pretty good'. It's a verbal tic I've acquired. I said the other day that a film was 'pretty good'. It's become a default response. Missing Person is one man's search for his own identity. He goes from person-to-person, gathering names and photos until he slowly emerges. I won't say more in case you read it.

I hankered for 'alternative' crime novels. Not that there's much crime in Missing Person. I mentioned Bukowski's Pulp to someone online, having read it years ago, so I ordered it to read it again. I'm now halfway through. It's....more than pretty good, it's a brilliant satire of the pulp genre, full of Bukowski's wit; bawdy, brutish, absurd and goes at a hell of a pace. Bukowski's straight-talking prose was made for pulp. I'm surprised it took him so long to write one. One of the detective's jobs is to search for Celine, or rather, find out who Celine is, exactly, since he can't be the real Celine, the writer, can he? At one point the P.I. turns on his car radio from which someone starts talking to him. This must be taken from Jean Cocteau's Orpheus. Nice calls me again! Near to Nice we found the Chapelle de Saint-Pierre des Pecheurs, decorated by Cocteau.

So guess what I'm reading next? What else but Celine's Journey To The End Of The Night...

Friday, 22 May 2020

Print: Letters Dance / Dancing to drum'n'bass / Source Direct

RTomens, 2020

Let us dance - geddit? Of course you do. You're smart, which is why you're here. Ha-ha. It's a print made from typing onto an image.

I dance more at the moment as a way to keep sort of fitter than I would be if I didn't. Without the regular cycle to work I'm getting more slothful. And yes, fatter. I dance to Kraftwerk, James Brown, Rocksteady reggae...whatever I think will get me going; anything but dance class music, or what I presume is dance class music, you know, a regular 4/4 beat with which you're supposed to keep up by flailing your legs and arms around whilst being barked at by a woman/man. 

Drum'n'bass would be too fast. When I DJ'd as part of the Merry Pranksters in the mid-90s someone once approached me saying they didn't know how to dance to D&B, even though they loved it. I told them to go with the bass, not the drums! It's possibly the soundest advice I've ever given anyone. The trouble is, I recently ignored my own advice and tried dancing to the speed of the drums on a Source Direct tune...nearly killed myself.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Patrick Modiano's Missing Person / My missing self

Image may contain: indoor

Fifty-odd pages into Patrick Modiano's Missing Person it's shaping up very nicely. Since it's about a man with amnesia I had the thought that I'm an amnesiac when it comes to remembering what novels were about. OK, I may recall, roughly, very roughly. I think that's true of most of us. We read. We forget. Fiction leaves that leaves an indelible mark is rare. Yes, we each have those novels that still bear their mark decades later. We probably don't recall much detail though. Our brains aren't built to retain so much information, obviously. 

Novels that left a mark on me...On The Road, Tropic of Cancer, Moby-Dick, The Big Sleep, Naked Lunch...there may be others that I can't immediately recall. 

A book about a missing person (the self) seems appropriate during lockdown, in my case anyway. Without being able to do all the things I normally do I feel incomplete. The 'real me' is 'missing'. Is that over-dramatising? Perhaps. Yet it feels true. I and many others are living half-lives. Yet some online gurus no doubt run classes about finding 'the real you' during lockdown. A golden opportunity to meditate on the nature of your...being..or something. Pah! The day I get used to this half-life is the day I've given up. To be about and about in a living society is essential. 

Meanwhile, there are books, thank god. I haven't read more since being imprisoned but, as always, their existence, at least, is unaffected by lockdown. 

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Vispo: Changed / Lockdown life

RTomens, 2020

LJ suggested we go for a cycle ride - "Let's go to Chelsea's ground!" - Argh! She has no idea how much that would upset me, so I tell her so. "But you don't go to games anyway!" I know, that's not the point. Just being there would  heighten the sense of misery felt by the absence of football. Ironically, on recent rides, we've passed Arsenal's ground several times, it being the nearest to where we live. Even seeing that made me angry. What have they done to our game?! Our country?!

Perhaps lockdown has changed the way we all look at things, although the piece here was not intended as social commentary, but a reflection on how we look at words and letters, bereft of their intended linear narrative, as in Vispo. 

Life in lockdown has broken the narrative of existence for most of us; the 'linear' nature of time dictated by Work, for instance. But outside of that, the social patterns we formed over the years, be they regular pubs and cafes, shop and restaurants. It feels...petty(?) to complain about not being able to make my regular trips to bookshops, yet all the elements of our individual lives which constitute pleasurable pursuits are, by nature, selfish. The relativity game is endless. Even in lockdown, we're better off than those more used to being bombed, or scratching around for food and shelter. Inhabitants of big houses with gardens are better off than those in flats. And so on.

Changed features a piece of good fortune, or chance. The orange 'eyes' happened by chance, even though the double-'o's are sets up as eyes.

Well, as The Prisoner said: Be seeing you!

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Vispo: Deep Significance / Vispo or Concrete Poetry? / Lockdown tension

RTomens, 2020

Vispo or Concrete Poetry? I've discussed the terms before. Whilst not liking 'Vispo', as I told someone the other day, it's commonly used and so I use it because more people will search it than, say, 'Concrete Poetry'. He found my work by searching 'Vispo', for instance.

Deep Significance was created from an original typed 'block', the one in red. I inked that in and added the same text (cut up) as background text-ure. Hey! Have I created a new term there? Text-ure? Remember where you read it first.  

Whether they have any deep significance or not, we witnessed two examples of people losing it yesterday. One street row involved about five people including two women who screamed insults, loudly, at each other, whilst one was being held back. It was fierce. Later, loud voices in our street, a police van outside and much to and froing around the house opposite. Without wishing to derive too much from these incidents, it's hardly fantastical to imagine that lockdown in pushing people to the limits of endurance and patience, making them more likely to snap.

London without open cafes and bars is not London. I miss the former especially. Without necessarily talking to anyone, to be on the street amongst people, observing the world go by, jotting ideas in my notepad...I long for those days to return but shudder at the idea of 'the new normal' being anything but normal. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Vispo: Memory-Image

RTomens, 2020

The old Remington Portable is finally being put to use on a regular basis after years of intermittent key-bashing. I can't recall what inspired me to use it more, but for the last few weeks I've been exploring typing letters, sentences and characters in various patterns. The example above is typical of what's been created so far. 

Whilst the urge to fill as sheet with content is always in the background, as mentioned in a recent post, the 'that's it!' moment arrives before that's done. I confess, though, that filling a sheet is not only 'hard work', creatively, but daunting. Hours worth of work could be ruined. Or perhaps not! After all, I'm not aiming for precision in the formal, structural sense. Such is my way. That said, many times I have had to carefully position the paper so as to stamp a letter where I want it to be. Even in apparent 'chaos' there can be precision placement.

I have a book in mind, but how much to rework the original pieces is undecided. Whilst I love the simpler forms I know so much more can be done with them. 

Meanwhile, lock down madness here in the UK continues. Everyone, I suspect, is going quietly insane but I, at least, have the key(s) to help keep me occupied, creatively.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Monday, 11 May 2020

Drawing: Untitled / Is it right? Is it finished?

RTomens, 2020

Great ideas come to me some mornings whilst still in bed, brain in the twilight zone betwixt sleep and wakefulness, but I never leap up to write them down, as I tell myself I should. Nor do I keep a notepad by my bed, which I also probably should but don't for fear of becoming the type who writes down their dreams then burdens the world with them.

Great ideas also come whilst I'm cycling. Or 'great thoughts'. Or just thoughts which I think are...interesting? is that too arrogant? I mean, I was cycling the other day and started thinking about when a piece of art is finished. No not the old question, so much, more 'When is it right?' I'm not sure there's a difference, specifically in relation to non-figurative work. Abstraction, in theory, can go on growing forever? No, no, you just might think that's the case. Canvas limitations aside, the contents don't improve by the simple act of increasing their number, do they? 

A common mistake I notice, especially in abstract digital art, is to cram the space with shapes, colours etc, just because...well, it's easily and quickly done? Hold on. Who am I to say that's a 'mistake'? Well, I can if I want and you can't stop me! In truth, though, in my heart-of-hearts, I say 'If that's what she/he felt like doing, good luck to them!' I mean that (except for people who created soft porn images digitally and big-eyed little girls...and perfectly rendered tigers...they should all STOP!).

Where was I? Oh yes, cycling, when I started thinking about when a piece is ready; the 'that's it!' moment. As I cycled I had in mind the notion of 'finished', but also, perhaps more importantly, 'art', namely, the old Is It Art? question. People still ask it, don't they? The Fine Art finishing school no doubt has many rules but I know none of them. I revel in not knowing...ignorance being a kind of bliss. What the artists sees is unique to her/him. Viewers have their own perspectives. Trying to second guess the viewer's reaction is a slippery slope towards dumbing down. Assuming, that is, that you wish to please as many people as possible. 

That moment of completion can come at unexpected moments for me. Not working with a grand Finished Picture target in mind, I can find it 'done' any time once a initial elements are created. It's a strange experience, this 'done' moment. If I could explain it properly I'd be the type who writes Art advice books. But I can't. And I never will write a book like that.

This post has sat as a draft for a day...because I didn't know how to finish it.