When I say that yesterday I had 'Coltrane running around in my brain' I'm not telling the truth, strictly, but cannot resist paraphrasing a line from Dillinger's classic tune, Cocaine In My Brain. John Coltrane's sound was running around in my head as much as it could via my ears, but it wasn't exactly on my mind which, I believe, is situated in the brain...but what's the difference? And what does it matter? I was listening to Coltrane, that's the point and he inspired me to make some art in his honour, a kind of portrait, if you will. It began with a simple enough image (slightly altered version above), then I decided to illustrate Coltrane's sonic journey in three stages.
Those of you who know Coltrane's work will recognise the stages, but in case you don't, he went from being a relatively 'straight' player in the 50s to increasingly exploratory in the early-60s and finally completely Out There before his death in '67.
My favourite Coltrane period spans ten years from the mid-50s. I love to hear him running around inside a tune, testing the borders, pushing back the bars to make more room for himself. Limits can be a good thing. I sometimes wonder how my art would change if I had no limitations regarding materials and space to work in, but I'm not sure it would be better if I had everything at my disposal. If, for instance, I could stand a massive canvas against a wall I'm sure I would fill it with one huge mess. A 'tune' that long would give me too much time to meander. Well anyway, here's to the greatness of John Coltrane...within limits.
I first heard of this book whilst listening to Frank Whitford's extensive interviewwith Eduardo Paolozzi. You can read or listen to it via the British Library site. During that period, late last year, I was hunting down as many of Paolozzi's artist's book as I could find and afford. The interview is fascinating, a real journey from Paolozzi's beginnings onward and Ozenfant's Foundations Of Modern Art seems like a seminal influence on Paolozzi. When I finally got a copy I could see why.
It may not be so much about what Ozenfant says as the way so many aspects of society just after the modernist boom are brought together, crucially in the form of pictures. Here the ancient and new, scientific and tribal combine to create, when flicking through, something akin to a book Paolozzi might have produced himself.
Far from being a dry theoretical text, though, it's full of Ozenfant's opinions on all subjects and their relationship to art, his teachings and theories enlivened by the way he expresses his beliefs and, crucially, the way the book is designed.
Coincidentally, as I was cycling this morning, I noticed, not for the first time, the uniformity of the parked cars, one row of which presented a colour scheme of grey, silver and one muted black. To say the average car today is boring to look at is an understatement. Later, having thought about posting this and flicking through, I came across this passage. How right he was in 1928!
This afternoon I felt 'A need', even 'a buzzing' to create, so I set to work on an idea which, as I speak, is still drying. So instead of posting that here's one from a few days ago. It's one of several versions created from the original, which was a paper 'assemblage/collage. Thanks for calling in - ta-ta!
I tried to be clever, once. It didn't work. I'm all for self-improvement, intellect-wise, but staring at the books on the Philosophy shelf in a charity shop the other day the names on the spines taunted me: "Heidegger", "Kant", "Deleuze" - "Try us if you dare!" they screamed. I didn't, but I kid myself that I can/might one day. I fear, though, that I'd end up like Tony Hancock in the sketch where he's on his bed reading Bertrand Russell and having to reach for the dictionary every few lines before giving up.
What irks me is knowing that I'd understand most of the words, but not necessarily what they mean when joined up! Ideas can be challenging, can't they? I mean, complex ideas in writing.
I was going to say 'meaning plagues art' but, you know what? There is no 'art'. Art is so varied that one word doesn't cover it. Sorry to state the obvious but I'm trying to get things clear in my own head. Admittedly, I should do so before posting but...call me crazy...and spontaneous!
There's The Art World (moneyed, status-seeking etc) and the rest, the majority. I enjoy books on art though, of course. I'm thinking of Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word, which I read years ago. As I recall, he was nailing the descriptive notice phenomenon and all the talk, talk, talk about art becoming as important as the art itself. Well, we've all stared dumbfounded at a conceptual piece and needed the blurb to help us get it, haven't we? I don't have a problem with that.
Now I'm thinking of abstract art, meaning, bemusement on behalf of the layperson etc in relation to my own work (and the long historical 100-year-plus trail)...and how a piece can contain recognisable images yet still be baffling. Confession: I'm guilty of never (or rarely) helping viewers, but then, I rarely (if ever) know what they 'mean' anyway.
Meanings...so we're back to all those separately understandable words compiled into sentences, the meaning of which can be elusive. And their equivalent in art. I might have answers for you...if I actually bought one of those books...
From the 'Liberty' series which I began a few weeks ago, experimenting with various styles, not having settled on one or necessarily wanting to except for reason of cohesion which, I confess, has never been my 'strong point'. Cohesion, that is, should the book containing these ever materialise. Besides, cohesion is, actually, anathema to me as an artist, by which I mean a 'totality of style', as you've probably noticed. I am eclectic in artistic styles, media and most importantly, taste in chocolate. Oh yes, I love both Wispa bars and Lindt. I can swing either way, common or posh. Wispa bars reflect my working class roots whilst Lindt my aspirational side - ha-ha! Yes, I've broken free (partly) from the class stereotype that was seemingly my fate and moved up into the realms of 70% cocoa world! I've escaped the chains of Cadbury's milk chocolate-only that was my lowly childhood and made something more of myself! I'm at liberty to eat what the hell I like, when it comes to chocolate, at least.
Graphic artist Reid Miles is most famous for his Blue Note label covers. I didn't know he'd made any for Classical music until I found Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7 in a charity shop the other day. The design smacked me between the eyes so I bagged it but didn't realise it was the work of Reid Miles until I got home, put my specs on and read the small print. Ironically, according to the Wiki page, he preferred Classical music to Jazz. Huh!
I'm not sleeping too well recently but was under long enough last night to dream that an alien monster was tearing London apart. I didn't catch a glimpse of it, only feeling the terror as all around me fled for their lives. This dream of an alien can only be down to watching Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey in stages, as we are. During the Tuesday night session I snoozed whilst Bowman tried to get back on the ship and was woken up by loud beeps from his controls, thinking it was my alarm and I had to get up for work. LJ happened to be watching me, not the film, so she caught the moment - "Time to get up for work!" I said, jokingly. Oh how we laughed.
The best book on 2001 is the one above, created by master editor and coolest coordinator of text-images interface in the 60s, Jerome Agel, who was involved in McLuhan's The Medium Is The Massage, War And Peace In The Global Village, Buckminster Fuller's I Seem To Be A Verb and his own Is Today Tomorrow? A Synergistic Collage of Alternative Futures. All worth getting if you can find them at the right price.
More than a head trip 2001 is a sexy Super Panavision 70 voyage of exquisitely composed shots in colour that makes you salivate. It's pure eyeball cinema, so perfect you could freeze every frame and have a masterpiece. Seeing the pristine modernist interiors I wondered if all spaceship decor would really look that way one day. You and I will never know if Kubrick got that right. Astronauts don't smoke, of course, but will crews in space ever act as Ridley Scott's did in Alien? I mean will some wake up and light up with a cough and splutter like John Hurt? Will Scott's idea, which seemed like a radically realistic vision at the time, ever come to be if ordinary, working class folk get to work in space? No popping out for a fag if smoking's not allowed on board! Imagine the cravings once awakened from a machine-induced slumber for several years.