Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pies & Picasso

graphite, putty eraser & digital collage/815x1200px, drawing 20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 04/08

This attraction of this particular newspaper photograph as suitable source material for transcription in the form of drawing first suggested itself through the presence of the chequered tiled floor, which, in colour, is red & pale yellow, bringing to mind very much such a work of art as Carl Andre's floor piece 'Copper Magnesium Plain' (see this post for a previous reminder of & reference to Andre & a similar work).

Carl Andre 'Copper Magnesium Plain' 1969

And then I noticed the pie: of course, it features, courtesy of its latticed pastry topping, our dearly beloved Modernist grid, but, more than this, the rim of its crust suggested a very close affinity with the rope edging Picasso applied as the finishing touch to his oval format 'Still Life with Chair Caning' - as perhaps noted previously, if one looks at enough art (which, of course, can never be achieved), visual achoes occur almost everywhere.

Pablo Picasso 'Still Life with Chair Caning' 1912
oil & pasted oilcloth on canvas, & rope/27x35cm

Having processed the drawing with this in mind, the inclusion of Picasso's object-painting within the picture came to seem imperative. By a combination of digital processes - including resizing, slight distortion of shape (narrowed to the right), conversion from colour to monochrome & then collaging onto/into the scanned image of the original drawing, with shadow drawn with a digital 'pencil' tool as a final touch - an image of 'Still Life with Chair Caning' was thus incorporated into the drawing, as 'hanging' on the rear wall, establishing a visual analogue with the pie.

Picasso's painting is a fascinating example of the ground-breaking artform of so-called 'Synthetic' Cubism (actually existing on the cusp of the 'Analytic' & 'Synthetic'), whereby actual fragments of matter from the real world & everyday life are incorporated, synthesized, into the picture: in this case, Picasso uses a piece of oilcloth onto which a pattern (grid-like!) resembling textured chair caning has been printed - a mass-produced item co-existing with, within, a unique artefact - & also frames his painting with a length of rope that is perceived both as itself, a real thing, whilst also suggesting the carved edge of a wooden table top which, of course, the viewer 'reads' when apprehending the still life collection of represented objects (or 'significant' fragments of) - including a newspaper, pipe & glass - on the picture plane.

Further to the 'game' that Picasso is playing with representation, levels of, & the various means by which it/they might be achieved in such an instance - the 'jou' of the 'journal' title of the newspaper could also suggest the French 'joue(r)' - the inclusion of the rope as a framing device might also be a little in-joke, alluding to Braque & Picasso's notion of themselves being 'mountaineers roped together', scaling new heights of pictorial exploration through Cubism, particularly the development into the realm of papiers colles & collage, where art & life meet through the inclusion of actual materials along with pictorial representations of, that serve to both exist in & as themselves or otherwise symbolically suggest something else.

In similar manner to this drawing, Bernardo Bertolucci's film 'The Dreamers' quotes from cinematic history, inserting clips from e.g. Fred Astaire, Marlene Dietrich & such examples from the French nouvelle vague as Jean-Luc Godard into the course of its narrative of the lives - in the context of the social & political upheaval of May 1968 Paris - of its three young cinephile protagonists. A gorgeous-looking piece of cinema (not least in the form of the central triumvirate of its cast), ravishingly photographed, richly sensual & decadent. The DVD also includes an excellent, extensive 'making-of' feature, among the very best of its kind, fascinating in the manner in which it describes the temporal & cultural context of the film & insightfully explains the process of its creation.


Lambchop 'Is a Woman'/'Is a Bonus'
Tunng 'Good Arrows'

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Man (Almost) on the Moon #3

Today (but not just) the opposite of tomato is 'technically, brain damage'

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Times' 23/06/08 (facsimile of edition dated 21/06/69)

And the third of the 'astronaut portrait' drawings transcribed from the same source & in the manner of the previous examples (see explanation/justification for #1).).

Again, with recourse to what suggests itself to be the original photographic source from which the newspaper reproduction was taken, one is able to appreciate the changes & degradations visited upon it during the various stages of its transition (as in the case of #2, which contains a slightly fuller explanation of the likely process).


My Bloody Valentine 'Loveless'
Scritti Politti 'White Bread Black Beer'
Belle & Sebastian 'Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant'

This particular listen to ‘Loveless’ was inspired by a recent post & then a follow-up (dated Thursday 19th June) on Simon Reynolds’s Blissblog, the former in its turn referring to an online review of the reissues of both of My Bloody Valentine’s albums, also including the preceding 'Isn’t Anything', where a most thought-provoking theory is proposed.
The view of the sonic invention & overarching aesthetic of 'Loveless' as “poisonous to the British 'rock' 'pool' for half a decade following its release in 1991” - taking in the guitar-based phenomenon of Britpop - 'inspiring' a generation of bands to merely, indulgently ape its (wall of) sound to a bombastic, formulaic, lazy, (dead) end is something with which I’d concur, having felt this for a long time.
Indeed, going further, I’d argue that 'Loveless' was somehow the album that, essentially, marked the end of whatever 'rock' might be, had been & could ever be, its glorious, brilliant white hot disappearance into the void…of nothing particularly inspiring again: all has subsequently been retro, derivative, second hand, dull - diminished in sonic, sensual thrill & lacking in any real sense of creativity, of invention, of exploration into unchartered areas.

Maybe its just an age thing: my tastes, concerns, requirements from music have shifted, evolved - as one would hope, from experience - but still ’rock’ seems not to have done so in any significant way, as surely it should in order to continue to be of cultural relevance, otherwise new, young listeners are being seriously ill-served by the current, ersatz version(s).
There’s undoubtedly been life in the old guitar as an instrument of passion, desire, emotion, pleasure, inspiration, in the hands of maverick talents such as PJ Harvey & Jack White (Stripes), who largely hark back to an earlier incarnation of the Blues tradition anyway, & I’ve found much to love in the mostly opposite-to-MBV minimalist aesthetic of Low, for instance (at least before they too turned, disastrously, to dull bombast). Perhaps Low, indeed, as the other side of the same coin, were, at their properly inspired best, the true, purified, hushed successors following in the wake of Loveless’s ‘efflorescence & deliquescence’ (to paraphrase the wonderful old Chills' song), the calm after the blissful, self-effacing storm that claimed MBV, emerging wide-eyed, innocent, into the light & stillness, a gentle breath of fresh air, whose own occasional gatherings-to-a-crescendo would yet serve as a fond & poignant reminder of & a portent of what the elemental nature of ‘rock’ could rouse itself to be.
Then again, I’ve also believed, as strongly, that Low were the heirs to the aesthetic of Galaxie 500 - riders on, particularly, the slow train they had set in motion with much of their valedictory ‘This is Our Music’ &, especially, its closing moment, ‘King of Spain part 2’: no reason, of course, why they couldn’t have been both.

I always regarded Spiritualized’s ‘Pure Phase’, of all their output, as being a worthy successor, in some way at least, to ‘Loveless’ (no one album could ever do the job on its own, that much has become increasingly clear over time, as the dust has settled), featuring as it does some of those torrents of sound yet mixing in such fragile, quietly flowing moments as ‘The Slide Song’ & ‘All of My Tears’ (especially as they occur sequentially, either side of the raging blizzard of drums, cymbals & guitar of ‘Electric Phase’, a stormier development of MBV's ‘Glider’), the synthesized interval of ‘Born Never Asked’ & the crackle of electricity in the pregnant pause of 'Let it Flow', separating such essential elements of the MBV sonic aesthetic, the fused textures of ‘Loveless’, into their own discrete spaces, allowing them, perhaps, to breathe a little, apart from what could be the claustrophobic, all-encompassing fuggy fuzz of those astonishing droning edifices - such is their sheer physical presence - of guitar noise, of electricity.

A grave & critical omission, it seems, on the part of those who followed, plodding, in the wake of MBV, was that liberating looseness of rhythm that oft not necessarily powered but, rather, co-existed alongside or could at least be discerned submerged beneath the level of the guitar noise on ’Loveless’, especially on some of its peaks like 'To Who Knows When' & 'Soon', enabling them to flow, float, so sensually.

Ah, mere mention of the names of those…soundscapes, sculpted & burnished: ‘To Here Knows When’ - still astonishing, always, yes - is such an erotic experience, more subtly, less overtly sexual, perhaps, than predecessors such as ‘Slow’ (with its injunctions to lick & suck) & ‘Soft as Snow (but Warm Inside)’, all the more sensual, abandoned, profound for all that, its wordless refrain, breathily-sighing, softly-moaning, repeating & repeating, on auto-pilot, its climax endlessly deferred (a suitable metaphor, too, for the perfectionist working practises of Kevin Shields & non-appearance of any follow-up to ‘Loveless’ - indeed, the constant desire to keep playing with, to keep delaying the moment of closure, might be said to render ‘THKW’ more properly auto-erotic in nature &/or intention), the perfect sonic representation of sensual indolence, submerging under the weight of its own pleasure, slipping in & out of consciousness, that almost disembodied state that precedes the dissolution into orgasm & the cloudburst of pure, sensual, time-space-&-placeless transcendence. Heady & decadent, where could they go from there, really, without becoming a spent force?

Still, there remain few introductory sonic thrills of such viscerality to match the battering, roaring opening salvo of ‘Loveless’, ‘Only Shallow’ (there a misnomer, for one is soon dragged, physically, into the depths of the vortex of noise, wowing in one’s ears & head, there to be crushed under the weight of the sheer heaviness of 'Loomer'), or the insistent swarm of the guitar sound of the yet-deeper vortex that is 'I Only Said' (indeed, one could easily & most appropriately liken the passage through what was, originally, the first side of the vinyl LP version of the album to that descent into Dante’s ‘Inferno’ of Hell, but one so deep that it emerges the other side into something, somewhere heavenly).
I recall suggesting Sol Seppy’s ‘Move’ communicated a similar buzz-swarming charge amongst its dynamic charms - which opinion time has little diminished, in fairness - but, amongst the examples of that artist’s oeuvre to date to reference MBV (mercifully few, to Sol Seppy’s credit-in-diversity), another, the aptly-named ‘Slo Fuzz’, plods (though not without a certain glittering charm) where MBV’s buzzing, crackling, thrumming strum of 'Sometimes' floats, free of gravity, timeless: incidentally, what better sonic accompaniment to soundtrack, as in ‘Lost in Translation’, a speeding, dreamlike, late night taxi journey through the electrically-charged, buzzing, neon-lit ‘floating world’ of Tokyo, especially as fleetingly, ephemerally reflected on the car’s windows, than 'Sometimes' - the coincidence of sound & vision is perfect (& how poignant to hear the new song 'City Girl' during the same film, for all it exists, in comparison to the enduring magnificence of 'Loveless', merely as a tantalizing, souffle-light confectionary, an insubstantial morsel, a taste of what might have been).

For all that one can recognize some of the criticisms levelled at ‘Loveless’ in comparison to ‘Isn’t Anything’ during the course of the aforementioned & excellent review of both, still I feel it, of the two, best manifests My Bloody Valentine’s aesthetic, or at least that for which they were striving - the first album being, rather, altogether too sketchy, unrealised, tentatively exploring the sonic terrain ‘Loveless’ claims as its own & secures, seemingly in perpetuity.

Further to...

Coincidental to making the ‘Man on the Moon’ drawings & posts - & thus recalling not merely REM’s song but, rather, Jim Carrey’s compelling turn as Andy Kaufman in the excellent film of the same title (that somehow transcends the ‘biopic’ genre were it not for the fact that the subject was someone it wouldn‘t be possible to invent, fictionally), fascinating not least for its recreation of many of Kaufman’s performances & alter ego characters (particularly the appalling, monstrous, cabaret ‘singer’ Tony Clifton, magnificently grotesque, a true work of art) within the broader context of their creator’s life story - I watched the recently-purchased DVD of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, also, of course featuring Carrey, written by another Kaufman - Charlie - & directed, as is another fondly-regarded cinematic favourite ‘The Science of Sleep’ (cf. this post), by Michel Gondry.
A pleasure indeed to enjoy again the intellectual & visual invention of a wonderful work of cinematic art, working with & across, creatively exploring, the scope of the medium & adding a bit more besides. Utterly convincing performances by the 2 lead actors, Carrey & Kate Winslet (in their respective ways playing against type), as the narrative of their relationship is revealed, unfolding eccentrically from (new) beginning to end to (original) beginning & back again, & all the other members of the ensemble cast & their various intertwining relationship statuses, issues & complications, over the course of a compelling, thought-provoking, thrillingly inventive disquisition on the nature of memory, remembering & forgetting (& how these play such a large part in the sense & construction of ‘the self’ & its place in the world), romance, love & loss, that is poignant & profound & endlessly entertaining: fabulous stuff.

I sometimes feel as though the films to which I’m attracted, & watch & enjoy, employ a pretty concise troupe of actors: in addition to such an example as above, it occurs that Paul Giamatti, for instance, appears as Jim Carrey-as-Andy Kaufman’s co-conspirator Bob Zmuda in ‘Man on the Moon’ in addition to his roles in previously-mentioned favourite movies ‘American Splendor’ & ‘Sideways’: a culturally small world, it seems.

Man on the Moon #2

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Times' 23/06/08 (facsimile of edition dated 21/06/69)

Being the second 'astronaut portrait' drawing transcribed from the same source & in the manner of the previous example (see explanation/justification for #1).
There appears a strong suggestion that this image might well be the original of that which was printed in the newspaper: from this source, it is possible to see how the reproduction, in addition to being cropped, has been compressed from the sides in order to make it fit the columns into which the text & image content of the newspaper has been organised - form over (faithfulness to the 'truth' of) content - &, from the transcribed drawing, the degree of degradation to which the photograph has been subjected during the various stages of its transition, becoming each time something different.


Tunng 'Good Arrows'
Charlotte Gainsbourg '5:55'

Man on the Moon #1

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Times' 23/06/08 (facsimile of edition dated 21/06/69)

Following on from the recently-posted 'Whistling in the Dark' drawing transcribed from a facsimile newspaper source, this drawing was processed from related images on the same page, of individual portraits of the three astronauts involved in the first moon walk by man.
Given that the facsimile has all the appearance of a monochrome photocopy - of an original itself produced using 1960s mass-printing technology - the images have an interestingly degraded quality about them: the reproduced newspaper photographs themselves would have had the rough, grainy, dotted quality recalled from one's youth (prior to the smoothness achievable through the inkjet printing process, for instance), & the copying process has reduced further from this source such factors as what tonal subtleties & specific details might have been originally apparent, resulting in a stark source image offering little but transitions from black-mid grey-white, with vary slight variations discernible in the grey. Consequently, the drawing as processed attempts, necessarily & sympathetically, to convey a more roughly-hewn & textured, broadly-realised ('painterly') result.

Listening to:

'Test Match Special' Eng v SA, 2nd Test

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Out of Control...

What are they like..?

The not-so-great British culture of mindless disrespect continues to gather pace.

Coincidental to that saddening newspaper article, picked up a copy of the recent film 'Control' on DVD last week, at a price low enough to dispel the reservations I'd harboured about really wanting to watch this docu-dramatization of the short life & times of Ian Curtis, Joy Division, et al. At least I can say now I've seen it, should anyone enquire, but I must admit to finding the film ultimately disappointing. The cinematography, in monochrome, is beautiful, as one might expect of a work directed by the photographer Anton Corbijn, whose stark images of the band around the bleak wastes of late-1970s Manchester contributed in no small measure to the creation of the myth that grew, snowballed, around them: the whole, whose heart is the back street terraces of Macclesfield, is perfectly realised aesthetically, but this aspect of the film's art overrides all else, it seems to create a distance from any real emotional involvement with the characters & the central Curtis-young wife Deborah (& child)-lover (his) triangle, the dynamic of the essential art-versus-domestic life, dream-versus-duty narrative & its tragic conclusion, which, for all the 3 actors concerned's efforts, feels pretty passionless, cursory & entirely predictable (through familiarity, of course) in its unfolding, all else sketched very slightly around. Although it might be said that the claustrophobic, stifling ennui of the mundanities of daily working & domestic life within the wider context of the decaying industrial cities of the late-70s north of England is effectively communicated, for all that the story is factual, still the film, essentially dramatized documentary (based on Deborah Curtis's written account, 'Touching From a Distance'), somehow lacks the believability, the compelling intensity of fictions such as 'Room at the Top', 'This Sporting Life' & 'A Taste of Honey', of which, in its aesthetic at least, 'Control' is strongly redolent.
Were it not for the reminder of the goose-pimple inducing power of Joy Division's music, actually quite well captured in snippets of live concerts & TV appearances, as sung & played by Sam Riley & the other actors compromising the band, it would seem pretty pointless indeed: there's something very by-numbers about the result, somehow. A shame. And poor Tony Wilson, acted, caricatured again (see also Steve Coogan in 'Twenty-Four Hour Party People' - actually, an altogether much better & more enjoyable piece of cinema, even just the Joy Division segment, suffused with warmth & humour) in a manner that fails to do any sort of justice to the man himself, whose own construction of self was so much more complex & creative: that, perhaps, is one of Control's problems, that the actual people, such larger-than-life characters - also including the other members of Joy Division, their manager Rob Gretton, the producer Martin Hannett - (in) themselves, are so much more interesting than any dramatization, aestheticization of them could ever hope to be, even allowing for the fact that, in the story of 'Control' they are necessarily more minor players supporting the central triumvirate of the Curtises & Annik Honore - you really couldn't make them, or those times, their desperate urgency, the ferment of their creativity, up. See the BBC documentary on the subject of Factory Records instead, especially for the starring role played by the mighty & tragically-late Mr Wilson.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

'Whistling' in the Dark...

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Times' 23/06/08 (facsimile of edition dated 21/06/69)

This drawing was processed from an original image, published recently in facsimile form, depicting the first moon landing: the 'photograph' appears in fact to be, rather, a still from a TV camera, given its horizontally-lined nature which gives it an appealing texture for transcription purposes in terms of explicit attention to mark-making, which, as always, is the primary intention of the process, to make obvious the significant physical, temporal, hand/technologically-made differences between the drawings & their photographic sources.

J.A.M. Whistler 'Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay'/1866
oil on canvas/29x19"

J.A.M. Whistler 'Nocturne in Black and Gold: the Falling Rocket'/1875
oil on canvas/23x18"

The nature of the original, where form, detail & spatial relationships are ambiguous at best, the whole verging on 'abstraction', put me in mind particularly of painted images of a century earlier, Whistler's series of 'Nocturnes', where, again, form & detail is submerged under the cover of darkness, thus enabling the artist to move beyond the strict confines of realism & endeavour, rather, to represent the atmosphere, the effect, of dusk & night, to move towards creating an art more complex than & independent of a mere reliance upon & fidelity to appearances, a more 'painterly', aesthetic place, where the attention of the viewer is drawn to the design of the image & also the technique of the painter & the materiality of the painting as a stained & brush-stroked, mark-made surface, the whole acting very much as a precursor to Modernist 'abstract' painting at the same time as the Impressionists were working to represent the physical & atmospheric effects & optical phenomena of sunlight, daylight, dissolving form into colour, describing the fugitive nature of appearances, drawing attention through their painterly technique to their paintings' facture, to similar ends.


'Test Match Special'
Eng v SA, 2nd Test

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Four's (part of) a Crowd...(7)

Today the opposite of tomato is Heaps of Sheeps

graphite, putty eraser & watercolour/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 16/06/08

Continuing the sequence of drawings transcribed from the large-scale photographic original, again in synecdochical part-for-the-whole mode courtesy of the basic grid format. In this instance, although not all the figures' faces are visible, as has been the case previously, this nevertheless seems to create a pleasing, 'human' dynamic between them.


Robert Wyatt 'His Greatest Misses'
Tunng 'Good Arrows'
Rachel Unthank & the Winterset 'The Bairns'

A visit to the local library resulted in the loaning of a couple of CDs from the available stock:
Robert Wyatt's self-chosen 'greatest misses', not least because the realisation dawned that I didn't have any of the man's music on CD, despite once owning some on vinyl, in the good old days, a grave omission indeed. How delightful to be reunited with the gorgeous & somehow very poignant reading of 'At Last I Am Free' (one of those worth-the-price-on-its-own, every-music-collection-must-have classics) & also, of course, RW's unsurpassable, heartrending interpretation of Elvis Costello's 'Shipbuilding', a song to which his singularly plaintive tones are perfectly suited to extracting maximum, thoughtful, subdued emotion (EC's own reading always seeming just a little bit too polished &, perhaps, 'cabaret' in comparison, for all of Chet Baker's exquisite contribution) & a veritable treasure trove of other absolutely unique, magical 'songs' or, perhaps more appropriately with many examples, musical works that follow their own idiosyncratic course.
Particularly of such nature, having the opportunity to hear his 'Sea Song' then inspired a comparative listen to Rachel Unthank's thus-far more familiar interpretation of the original, a good excuse to listen to another fine, rolling album of 'otherness' again.
The reflective, philosophically-inclined 'Free Will & Testament' features such an apposite lyric in "Demented forces push me madly round a treadmill", perfectly summing up the nature of much of one's modern, daily life & its insistent, clamouring commitments - "Let me off, please, I am so tired", indeed: how vital the privilege of retreating into art & one's world of, of drawing, & research, & books, & music, & cinema, the saving graces. Approaching the end of the 3rd of 9 weeks' summer break from the mostly enervating demands of the day job, I probably shouldn't complain, but still how I envied Stanley Kubrick's creative reclusiveness as alluded to in Jon Ronson's recent, intriguing TV documentary on More4, featuring the director's extensive store of archive boxes, a fascinating collection of research & other material, with such intense attention to detail, allowing intimate access to the creative process & the nature of, now in the possession of London's University of the Arts.

And Tunng - only previously, intriguingly, experienced in remixed form - & their contemporary, urban take on the tradition of folk (see also The Winterset's approach to, different, more obviously traditional in nature, but again 'expansive' in its scope), jolly good stuff, an engaging sort-of slightly skewed mix of the acoustic & electronic, great groove & relaxed ambience, frequently conversational in tone (&, indeed, form), especially sympathetic to the drawing process.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Four's (part of) a Crowd...(6)

graphite, putty eraser & watercolour/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 16/06/08

Presenting the sixth section of 'the project within The Project', the transcription of the newspaper photograph of the Euro 2008 football crowd &, below - to place this drawing in the context of the five preceding it, each a part of the whole yet featuring within the basic heads-within-the grid format common to either & both - is a compendium of all the drawings to date, in sequential relation to each other in the manner of Zak Smith's drawings illustrating each page of the text of Thomas Pynchon's 'Gravity's Rainbow' as described in the post dated July 5th.


Test Match Special Eng v SA

Friday, July 11, 2008

Four's (part of) a Crowd...(5)

graphite, putty eraser & watercolour/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 16/06/08

Continuing 'the project within The Project', transcribing discrete sections of an original large-scale newspaper photograph of a football crowd, again the drawing serves in the manner of synecdoche as part-for-the-whole, yet still the individual faces & their expressions - particularly as they generally run counter to the frivolous headgear being sported - provide compelling human detail...


Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'Best of', 'Abattoir Blues' & 'The Lyre of Orpheus'
Sol Seppy 'The Bells of 1 2'
Lambchop 'Aw, C'mon' & 'No, You C'mon'

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Four's (part of) a Crowd...(4)

Today the opposite of tomato is getting the Abattoir Blues...

graphite, putty eraser & watercolour/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 16/06/08

Continuing 'the project within The Project'...


Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'Abattoir Blues' & 'The Lyre of Orpheus'
homemade compilation with selections from 'Debut', 'Post' & various remixes & 'Homogenic'

Time, also, to mention some music recently viewed.
Firstly, courtesy of BBC4's 'Nick Cave Night' (now there's cult programming & special interest broadcasting, for which we should be truly thankful), & thereafter again, at one's convenience through the wonders of the BBC's iplayer resources, an all-out entertaining, rocking live concert filmed, as part of the channel's 'Sessions' series, at LSO St Luke's chapel, which looks a lovely venue, on this occasion strung out & across with a myriad bare lightbulbs, featuring songs from the artist & bands' latest album 'Dig, Lazarus Dig' in addition to a variety from their extensive back catalogue, switching from full-on, foot-down performances of songs such as 'Get Ready For Love' to the hushed piano balladry of a sublime rendering of 'God is in the House', an elegiac, spare reading of 'The Mercy Seat', ending with a blistering, brooding, ever-amusing 'Stagger Lee': absolutely stonking stuff.
And then a truly wonderful compilation of TV appearances taken from 'Later with Jools Holland', spanning the better part of 20 years, from 1990 onwards, featuring a representative selection of great songs, 'greatest hits' & performances & also affording the opportunity to appreciate the ageing process in action (at least in terms of appearances, for there's no noticable diminishing of energy, they all still rock magnificently, disgracefully, in the best tradition, when required), as the Bad Seeds themselves have remained pretty much constant with occasional changes & additions in personnel. Interesting to note, particularly, with a keen eye, as always, on art history, that the multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis seems to be transforming into Cézanne...

Warren Ellis, right, with Nick Cave

Paul Cézanne 'Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat'
1875-76/oil on canvas

Further to the theme, I recently invested in the DVD of Portishead's legendary first live appearance, at the Roseland Theatre in New York, a fabulous filmed record of what appears to have been one of those events where 'you had to be there'. The venue itself, featuring a stage 'in the round', whereby the performers are thus surrounded by the audience, creates a suitable ambience & also affords the opportunity for some excellent direction, with the cameras roaming the stage & its perimeters in order to feature some terrific local, intimate footage, of the various members of the band & the orchestra accompanying them. The performance, too, is stunning: featuring the band's second, eponymous album in its entirety, supplemented by selections, 'greatest hits' from their debut 'Dummy' such as 'Sour Times', 'Glory Box' & the exquisite 'Roads', what one might imagine to be very much 'studio creations' as heard in their original incarnations are brought to life in the most thrilling, magical manner - having been fortunate enough to see singer Beth Gibbons live in concert, promoting her 'Out of Season' album, I know what a fine vocalist she is & her performance, her voice, here is wonderful, intense & emotional & technically just right. The orchestra, too, play a sympathetic part, augmenting the songs subtly but significantly, & the film has a nice 'intermission' at its mid point, featuring a couple of the songs performed in rehearsal & a selection of 'environmental' footage of NYC. All things considered, the film of the concert is an exemplary piece of work, not merely a 'live DVD' but a great film in itself.

Also a mention for PJ Harvey's 'Please Leave Quietly' DVD, featuring concert footage from the band's 'Uh Huh Her'-era UK tour, collaged together in a most original manner (observe, for instance, the numerous costume changes in the space of just one song!) & interspersed with back stage clips that really help give a nice sketchbook-diary-snapshot feel to the whole, sympathetic perhaps to the touring experience from the viewpoint of the musicians. Fantastic songs & performances too, of course, from another artist I've been privileged to see live, although not for far too long a time now. There's an excellent, fascinating interview with Polly as an extra, too, allowing intimate access to the creative process & thinking. And, neatly bringing things together, try & see Polly & that man Nick Cave again duetting in the video of the latter's lovely ballad 'Henry Lee' on the Bad Seeds' 'Videos' collection.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Four's (part of) a Crowd...(3)

graphite, putty eraser & watercolour/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 16/06/08

Continuing 'the project within The Project', the 3rd drawing 'sectioned' from the football crowd original newspaper photo, reading to the immediate right of the previous entry, the cellular nature of the grid format helping the part serve for the whole, featuring as it & each does the same essential components of a person-framed-in-a-box although each face & expression is of course individual: the variety within the basic limitations serving to provide continued inspiration & freedom of expression.

This particular work (part & whole) enables me on this occasion to mention & cite as influential the work, & particularly the drawings, of Zak Smith, an artist discovered through his inclusion in the compendious survey of contemporary practice 'Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing' as previously mentioned.

Subsequently, suitably impressed, especially by the archive of work available to view on Zak Smith's own website, I invested in his book 'Pictures of Girls', which features a fine representative selection of the artist's work in various projects & allows access to a suitable study of his technique - labour-intensive, highly-detailed ink drawings with acrylic washes on plastic-coated paper which gives them a very distinctive, wonderfully fluid appearance - & equally individual style, what one might term essentially punkish & contemporary - peopled by characters very much of 'the now' - yet suffused with & quoting all manner of art & other visual references such as Klimt, Art Nouveau, Japanese graphics (contemporary & historical) & the western comic tradition, resulting in a densely-patterned, exuberantly Baroque aesthetic. Similarly, the form that many of the drawings take as individual, discrete parts of series references again graphic novels & both cinematic & literary narrative, works teeming, overflowing, with life.

The particular project of Zak Smith's to which I'd like to draw attention with which to contextualize the football crowd drawing(s) is his illustrative interpretation of Thomas Pynchon's vast, ornate novel 'Gravity's Rainbow'.
As may be observed below, this work, with a drawing produced to refer to some aspect of the text of each single page of the novel's total of 760, has, in addition to being presented in book form, like the novel it illustrates, been exhibited in its entirety, as a whole entity, where one might choose to view it for itself in such a form, & narratively, page by page, drawing by drawing, cell by cell of its grid format, or otherwise free-associate between various separate drawings, up, down, backwards, forwards, diagonally, jumping across at will, reading them in a very postmodern, non-linear, rhizomic fashion.

Also included is an example of a couple of the separate pages of the project, again illustrating the artist's general technique & the method - which has directly informed the football crowd drawings - of applying local colour to certain areas of the otherwise starkly monochrome drawings.
With the football crowd drawing, it seemed an obvious choice to primary-colour the various headgear & replica shirts of the supporters.


White Stripes 'Elephant' & 'De Stijl'
Elliott Smith 'From a Basement on the Hill'
Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man 'Out of Season'

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Four's (part of) a Crowd...(2)

graphite, putty eraser & watercolour/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 16/06/08

...Being the second drawing transcribed from the original newspaper photograph of a Euro 2008 football match crowd, this one following on to the right of the previous example, again, in its gridded format, serving as a discrete unit &, as synecdoche, as a part of the whole.

Enjoying the movie 'American Splendor' (as mentioned previously & now forming a part of the DVD collection) once again last night, it occurred that the drawings as a sequence (as intended) would function in some form in the manner of a comic strip & its consecutive panels, each relating to the previous one & establishing a dialogue with, constituting a narrative as they progress. In both instances, the individual cells function as discrete units, drawings in the own right, but having greater meaning when experienced cumulatively (although the football crowd drawings may be less dependent on this to a degree & also enjoy greater 'relational' freedom with adjacent sketches).


'The Essential Leonard Cohen'

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Four's (part of) a Crowd...

graphite, putty eraser & watercolour/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 16/06/08

This drawing is a small section transcribed from a larger photographic original that formed the 'Eyewitness' centrespread in that day's (broadsheet format) 'Guardian'. The main appeal is that the figures, the faces, are arranged, contained, within a perfect grid format (our Modernist friend), one to a cell, formed by the metal safety barriers of the architectural structure of a football stadium (the photo was in fact taken at a Euro 2008 match). The range of expressions on the individuals' faces - often at odds with the colourful, oft-extravagant & mostly frivolous headgear they sport in support of their teams-nations - is, of course, a fascinating, human aspect of the image, & a challenge to realise in the context of the transcription of, in effect, a multiple portrait.

The intention is that the remainder of the original photograph will be 'processed' in similar manner, the separate, discrete sketches then going to form a much larger, multi-panelled piece: a project within 'The Project' as each of the individual drawings are to the whole.