Friday, October 31, 2008

More Cutting & Pasting & Retro

Further to the preceding post, regarding the aesthetic of the Blank Workshop/Moon Wiring Club in particular, & techniques of collage (visual & aural) & cut-&-paste, issues of nostalgia & retro more generally, all this provides the perfect opportunity to mention a much-loved, fairly recent work of art in the shape of Graham Rawle's graphic novel 'Woman's World'.

The book is such an involving, entertaining & amusing read & also a very engaging visual experience. Most definitely a work of graphic art, the entire text is composed of cuttings from women’s magazines of the 1950s - 60s in style (form & content, in terms of typefaces & the language used, which is both enlightening & quite hilarious in its pre-feminist way), all collaged together in such an inventive way to form a coherent (if peculiar!) narrative: the mind boggles at the amount of work involved, the sheer endeavour, in terms of research & physically compiling (cutting & pasting) it all, it really is an astonishing thing just to look at, let alone then read. But it is a good story too (form & content co-existing in equal, mutually-enriching partnership), fast paced & full of intriguing & surprising plot twists, taking one into another world, time & place, & someone else’s head & personalities altogether. Intensely poignant & human too: considering all, form & content, it's some achievement.

This is what it looks like, in terms of the cover image & also a selection of the text content, better to illustrate than try to explain, perhaps, so singular is the form & effect:

Again, the whole aesthetic is so vividly redolent of socio-cultural time & place, displaying in its retro stylings a quintessential Englishness, provincial, suburban, petit-bourgeois. One might consider too a certain Dada-punkiness to the cut & paste, 'ransom note' aesthetic, & recall Jamie Reid's graphic design that so suited the Sex Pistols' music - more art that suggests its Englishness & particular place in socio-cultural history as an indisputable matter of fact. There's also that atmosphere of the somewhat sinister, the surreal, & a delightful eccentricity that pervades the work & aesthetic of the Blank Workshop too.

It's also worth checking-out Graham Rawle's earlier 'Diary of an Amateur Photographer' for more of his retro collage aesthetic & collections of 'Lost Consonants' from his work in The Guardian for their batty humour, an unmissable weekly treat back in the day.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Seasonal Sounds

It being now but a few short hours to Hallowe'en, this seems an opportune occasion to tell of an intriguing discovery indeed, courtesy of the good offices of the sagacious Mr Simon Reynolds, whose divine Blissblog maintains its position at the coolest point of the cultural zeitgeist: come with me, if you please, on a journey through time & cyber space, to the remote northern English village of Clinksell, isolated upon the misty moors, & where one may find the Blank Workshop & the strange but wondrous goings-on therein.

Populated by an eccentric cast of stylish, sophisticated & somewhat arch personages, amongst the productions emanating from the workshop is the latest CD of the Moon Wiring Club’s music, ‘Shoes Off and Chairs Away’, very recently purchased & much recommended, not least as a pleasing object in itself, the disc being accompanied by a handsome booklet introducing one to various other aspects of the whole ‘Blank’ aesthetic, of which the front cover & reverse of the casing provide a tantalising glimpse:

One gets the picture: nostalgia is in the air, the retro stylings of the graphic design also serving as a visual analogue to the collaged method of the music where, to mostly languid, trip-hoppy beats overlaid with sometimes brooding basslines (& an occasional bossa nova) & recurring electronic melodic motifs (classic Minimalism as an element within the Cubist framework), fragments of disembodied voices (clipped, plummy, sometimes hammy, enunciated English ones of the type heard upon the BBC Home Service or 'Afternoon Plays' on the Light Programme of the past) manifest themselves, unsettling, eldritch, before echoing into the mysterious ether of the atmosphere generated.

The air is that of the soundtrack to psychological parlour games, played upon the unwitting victim by those of superior, sophisticated wit, characterised by sly humour & simmering menace, or of being lost in woods patrolled by eerie, wooden-masked figures, an overall spookiness, otherness, of the supernatural: one is reminded of Tales of the Unexpected (& the visual aesthetic recalls such a period, of the 60s - 70s as influenced by earlier styles, a very English mix of, e.g. Art Deco & the Victorian-Edwardian), of Hammer Horror in its milder manifestations, &, more recently, certain aspects of the Royston Vasey of The League of Gentlemen. All in all, visually & sonically, its such a beautifully realised conceptual whole, a fabulous conceit, complex & rewarding.

One's first thought upon listening may suggest early Boards of Canada as a general point of reference or departure, but (& an interesting coincidence occurs here, given my recent mention of them), Cabaret Voltaire lurk significantly in the background too, with their similar 'Radiophonic Workshop' aesthetic, their sampling of found voices - especially 'proper' English ones - & the uncanny sounds that create an atmosphere of unsettling mystery, of the inexplicable, of something or things 'out there': Moon Wiring Club seem almost to exist in a space - & a place all of their own (i.e. Clinksell, of course!) - between the Cabs & the Boards, but ultimately the effect is a singular one.
I was also put in mind of DJ Shadow's mighty 'Entroducing', its magic enduring, employing perhaps a similar sonic aesthetic of an electronic cut-&-paste technique & vocabulary of samples, loops & minimalist motifs, although the idiom is of course completely different: his sound is unmistakably American, urban, & the Moon Wiring Club/Blank Workshop's is quintessentially English & provincial-rural, if of a highly refined & sophisticated, 'knowing' nature.

But why not avail yourself of & be seduced by the 'little night music' so generously offered as a taster, of both 'Shoes Off and Chairs Away' & the equally intriguing preceding album 'Art Deco Eyes'.

Aside from the music, further examples of the Blank aesthetic include a periodical, book design & even a range of tempting Scrumptytons sweets, again perfectly, delightfully referencing the history of design & redolent of a lost, disappeared time in English socio-cultural life.

The Ideal Tiger contributes a wide-ranging post on the subject of Moon Wiring Club & the Blank Workshop, eloquently stated, introducing a number of fascinating theoretical cultural issues, not least the concept of 'hauntology' (via the always excellent k-punk), & goes on to term MWC most wittily & succinctly as 'haunted house music' (hence its particular topicality).

Something else I happened to notice, by way of strange, perhaps spooky coincidence, is the presence of a cat - that weird creature - lurking amongst the visuals accompanying both the Moon Wiring Club CD & 'Entroducing'...

Happy Hallowe'en!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thinking Alike

Via a comment kindly supplied by Laryssa pertaining to the opinion I expressed regarding the tangibly autumnal nature of Nick Drake's gorgeous, wistful album 'Five Leaves Left' & how perfectly it captures the sound & mood of the season, here's an interesting, thought-provoking & in-depth article written by Peter Ricci, on the subject of a sense of autumn pervading Nick's oeuvre in its entirety, citing a number of specific examples to support the theory.

Into the Trees...

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 25/09/08

Or not, perhaps. As with the earlier example of a drawing processed from the particular (colour) newspaper photograph that served as its source, any real sense of spatial recession is negated through the insistent 'all-over' surface activity of the addition-&-subtraction mark-making & monochrome nature of the tonal, graphite image.
Klimt's paintings of forests would again be the particular art historical reference point, similarly patterned & flattened.

Here joining both drawings for a panorama...

graphite & putty eraser/digital composite


Nick Drake 'Pink Moon'
Moon Wiring Club 'Shoes Off and Chairs Away'
DJ Shadow 'Entroducing'

Sunday, October 26, 2008


graphite & putty eraser, digital composite
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 06/10/08

Of course, the obvious thing to do with the series of drawings processed from the original source of a selection of Warhol's Polaroid portraits was arrange them together, in serial fashion, as reproduced in the newspaper, & working very much in the 'multiple', mass-production style of Warhol himself. We're also back in familiar 'Modernist grid' territory, a homely place.

Two interesting articles in September's edition of Modern Painters feature illustrated variations on the theme.
On the subject of Warhol's one & only visit to China, he professed himself an admirer, as one might expect, of Maoist multiplicity & such socio-cultural phenomena as uniformity of dress, & the ubiquity of the mass-produced & disseminated Little Red Book & the simplicity of its ideas, all very much in accord with his own aesthetic philosophy & production.

Andy Warhol modelling 'Mao' jacket
photographic contact sheet/1982

Mark Wallinger, meanwhile, by simple dint of the application of a little drawing, using a felt-tipped pen, upon standard photo-booth passport-type self portraits, produced in multiples, transforms his appearance into a number of ethnic (stereo)types, (dis)guises, whilst remaining the same person underneath, suggesting that such significant differences as are habitually perceived might be more a matter of superficial surface appearance than the more profound, essential factors human beings share.

Mark Wallinger 'Passport Control'
colour photographs/1988

Addition 28/10/08

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' 22/10/08

Closely related to the Wallinger photos & the creation of multiple identies from the same essential, individual source, this drawing was subsequently processed from a newspaper reproduction of a selection of 4 original photo booth images (arranged most seductively & irresistibly in our beloved grid format, note) of Jacques Mesrine, the so-called 'man with 1,000 faces', a master-of-disguise French criminal of the 70s (yeah, dig some of those hair & spectacles styles, very redolent of the period), which status also of course references Warhol's serial images of 'most wanted' & other mug-shot felons & gangsters, the glamour of which endures, particularly in cinema & TV: indeed, the Mesrine article which the photo-composite accompanies by way of illustration details a just-released 1st-part-of-2 biographical film of the subject, made topical by such.

Similar to the drawings of the 1st moon landing astronauts processed during the 'summer', the source of this drawing is of a suitably degraded nature through both technical considerations of its time & the various stages of reproduction to which it & its constituent components have been subject.


Nick Drake 'Five Leaves Left'
The Delgados 'The Great Eastern'
Charlotte Gainsbourg '5:55'
Sol Seppy 'The Bells of 1 2'
Luna 'Best of'

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Painterly Process

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Times' 20/10/08

This drawing being processed from a newspaper reproduction of an unfinished portrait of Francis Bacon by Lucian Freud, stylistically belonging to the painter's mid period, when his brushstrokes had loosened up & the paint displayed a seductive liquid quality, given a luminosity akin to that of typical Pre-Raphaelitism or Impressionism through the use of a white ground, before the typically mature style with its clogged, clotted, crusty, profoundly corporeal quality. The subtle colour harmonies of the original are wonderful to behold, even in cheap reproduction on newsprint, demanding of great care in the attempt at tonal transcription.

Life Imitating Art...

"Watch a single leaf fall drunkenly to the ground
And you still got some shopping left to do"

Lambchop 'Uti'

Experienced something of a Kurt Wagner moment in town today, on the way to the 'li-berry' before braving the shops - it occurred just so, a leaf spinning slowly to a stop at my feet!


Cabaret Voltaire 'The Living Legends'
Nick Drake 'Five Leaves Left'
& 'Bryter Layter'

In something of a bizarre coincidence, I contrived to hear Cabaret Voltaire's still-fresh-fabulous-&-remarkable-after-all-these-years proto-techno-punk stomper 'Nag Nag Nag' not once but twice in the same evening, it featuring not only on the 'Living Legends' CD but also later on the soundtrack of the film 'Me Without You': the band's influence on subsequent generations of musicians & electronic experimentalists still endures, the echoes being heard as vividly as ever, in any number of instances, especially those employing samples of 'found' voices, & otherwise an affected, self-consciously 'retro' aesthetic.
'The Living Legends', being a selection of EP & single tracks, is an excellent & recommended primer.

It also occurred that 'Five Leaves Left' might well be, considering its sonic aesthetic, the most autumnal album it's possible to imagine, so perfectly realised & evocative is its ambience, the atmosphere of wistful nostalgia permeating every note & even the spaces between, even allowing for the associations inevitably conjured when listening to Nick Drake.
Like the sound of the clocks going back...forever.

Remembering John Peel

On the 4th anniversary of the passing of the great John Peel, to whose guiding light the Opposite of Tomato owes an incalculable musical & wider cultural debt (I mean, where else would it have been possible to be exposed to the sonically-experimental delights of Cabaret Voltaire, for instance, back in the late 70s?), it seemed appropriate to devote at least the time for a listen to 'Uh Huh Her', the last album of PJ Harvey's that The Man would have had the opportunity to hear before his untimely death (see the wonderful, poignant photos on front & back of PJH's 'Sessions' CD for an indication of the fond mutual regard they obviously held).
Thanks, John - the melodies linger.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Polaroid Process #9

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 06/10/08

Being the final drawing in the series processed from newspaper reproductions of Warhol’s original Polaroid portraits, this one incidentally (to The Project, at least) being of another artist, Joseph Beuys, by whom a self portrait drawing is included below, another conceptual & stylistic approach to the representation of identity.

Joseph Beuys self portrait drawing

In relation to the work of Warhol & its concern with, its exploration of, celebrity, it’s notable that Beuys himself cultivated & promoted a distinct artistic persona & sense of identity, not least through a series of iconic performances & lectures, themselves illustrated by blackboard drawings.


Lambchop 'Is a Woman'
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'The First Born is Dead'
Belle & Sebastian 'Push Barman to Open Old Wounds'

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Polaroid Process #8

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 06/10/08

Continuing the series of drawings processed from newspaper reproductions of Warhol’s Polaroid originals dating from the 1970s, &, although it isn’t the purpose of The Project as such (or even this ‘project within’), in this instance making specific reference to the subject of the portrait, the late artist Robert Rauschenberg, in terms of drawing.

Renowned for all manner of ground-breaking work in numerous media – painting, sculpture, collage, assemblage using found objects, printmaking, performance & various combinations of, operating in, as the artist himself claimed, “the space between art & life” – one particular, iconic piece is Rauschenberg’s ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing’, which is, essentially, as titled.

Robert Rauschenberg 'Erased de Kooning Drawing' 1953

With the consent of Willem de Kooning himself, Rauschenberg chose one of that artist’s drawings & proceeded to erase it, thus creating a new work of art in the process of doing so: in order that the ‘work of art’ involve significant effort, de Kooning specified that the original drawing chosen should not be made merely of more easily-erasable graphite but rather of mixed media – Rauschenberg’s finished work as labelled (by fellow artist & one-time cohort Jasper Johns) indeed makes reference to traces of ink & crayon on paper.
Given the date of this act of Rauschenberg’s – 1953 – the appearance of the erased drawing relates closely to his recently-preceding series of ‘White Paintings’, thus establishing aesthetic consistency. The erased drawing itself is therefore not negative in either conception or production, but a positive act: as one thing – a de Kooning drawing – disappears, another – an erased (being a performative process) drawing – appears, leaving a faint trace of the original, creation results from an apparent act of destruction.

Interesting to note a relation between such a process & that habitually employed in the making of my own drawings, where the utilisation of a putty eraser often removes part or all of some original marks in the process of resolving tonal areas to accord with those of the photographic source, & the act of drawing itself, the process, involves a formal dialogue & maintains a constant tension between the addition & subtraction of marks.

Also, acts of erasure in specific relation to newspaper images coincide in examples of the work of the artist Matt Bryans, again creating new works from existing sources, to which my attention was directed by a post on Kirsty Hall’s exemplary & always informative blog.


Stendec 'A Study of 'And''
Belle & Sebastian 'Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant'
Go-Betweens 'Tallulah'

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Polaroid Process #7

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 06/10/08

Another in the series of drawings processed from newspaper reproductions of a selection of Warhol's Polaroid portraits, this one, by virtue of displaying large areas of very pale tone, involving a significant amount of erasure of the initially-made marks forming its basis, rather neatly relating to what should comprise the following entry...


The Divine Comedy 'Victory for the Comic Muse'
Pulp 'Hits'

Friday, October 17, 2008

Polaroid Process #6

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 06/10/08

Another in the series of drawings processed from newspaper reproductions of original Warhol Polaroid portrait photographs. In this instance, the subject’s check-patterned jacket provides suitable scope for the realisation of a more obviously apparent ‘all-over’ surface & reacquaints us with our old friend the Modernist grid.


Low 'Secret Name'
Rufus Wainwright 'Want'
& 'Want Two'
Belle & Sebastian 'If You're Feeling Sinister'
& 'Tigermilk'

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Polaroid Process #5

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 06/10/08

Being another example of ‘a project within The Project’, this drawing was once again processed from newspaper reproductions of Warhol’s Polaroid portraits. The seriality of such an endeavour establishes an obvious link with the particular artist’s work, as does its ‘reproductive’ aspect.


Sparklehorse 'Good Morning Spider' & 'It's a Wonderful Life'
Cocteau Twins 'Lullabies to Violaine' vol. 1

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Polaroid Process #4

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 06/10/08

Continuing the series of drawings processed from newspaper reproductions of a selection of Warhol’s Polaroids currently being exhibited as part of the Hayward’s ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’ show.
Although closely associated with celebrity culture & the depiction of, the celebration of, & perhaps therefore an easy target for playing a not insignificant part in the development of the phenomenon into its all-encompassing nature today, it’s worth noting at this point that Warhol only features subjects – such as this one - famous for actually doing things, achieving things & status, being celebrated for something other than merely fame in & for itself, as is so often the contemporary example & aspiration.


Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'Abattoir Blues' & 'The Lyre of Orpheus'

Monday, October 13, 2008

Polaroid Process #3

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 06/10/08

Presenting the third in the current ongoing series of drawings processed from newspaper reproductions of Warhol’s Polaroid portraits, in this instance also utilising the skull motif to which the artist made regular recourse, again characterised by the harsh, high-contrast, flattening & detail-suppressing light of the original medium.
Interesting to contextualize the image with a similar one in which Warhol pictures himself in the company of the skull.

Andy Warhol Self Portrait with Skull
acrylic & silkscreen ink on canvas


Velvet Underground & Nico 'Gold'

Impossible to resist the temptation of listening to the glories of the Velvet Underground whilst drawing from & thinking of Warhol...enduringly magnificent stuff.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Polaroid Process #2

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 06/10/08

Being the second in a series of drawings currently being processed from newspaper reproductions of Warhol Polaroid portraits which themselves served as source material for his own paintings, as in this example.

Andy Warhol Truman Capote
acrylic & silkscreen ink on canvas/1979


Lambchop 'Nixon' & 'Is a Woman'

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Polaroid Process #1

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 06/10/08

The original source of the newspaper photograph from which this drawing was processed is an historical one, actually dating from the 1970s, being one of Warhol’s Polaroid portraits made topical by its inclusion in ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’, an exhibition of the artist’s work currently showing at the Hayward Gallery. As a contrast to, for instance, the daguerreotype photographs of Chuck Close (as previously mentioned & used as source material), the instant nature of the flash-lit Polaroids gives a much harsher & considerably less detailed result from which to work, something that lent itself to the habitually flat, graphic, ‘posterized’ manner in which Warhol worked & produced his typical painted silkscreens.


Lamb 'Lamb', 'What Sound' & 'Between Darkness & Wonder'

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Still Life...

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Times' 2 17/09/08

The attraction of the particular newspaper photograph from which this drawing was processed resided mostly in its recalling the paintings of Vilhelm Hammershoi (as mentioned previously), those of quiet, still rooms with certain architectural features such as mouldings & windows that admit light but afford no view beyond, carrying an indefinable yet mysterious charge: the box, the only object in the space, plays such a role in this otherwise empty scenario, adding a narrative element to a still life, pregnant with possibility, affording opportunity to the imaginatively inclined, but to remain forever unresolved (this isn't cinema or theatre, after all). One might also be reminded of Magritte's ordinary domestic rooms made fantastic by oversized objects or the like.

Vilhelm Hammershoi 'Sunbeams'
oil on canvas/1900

Think of boxes in an art context & an obvious example occurs, courtesy of Mr Warhol, icons of banality, regularity & multiplicity yet possessing a distinct resonance that elevates them from their original context:

Andy Warhol 'Brillo Box'

To those of a Minimalist mind, boxes occur frequently, not least these mirrored ones of Robert Morris, making any space visually fascinating, constantly shifting & unfamiliar:

Robert Morris mirror boxes

and another example as might be experienced at Tate Modern such as Donald Judd's exquisite copper cube, its interior painted a bright red, a most seductive object.

Donald Judd untitled
copper, enamel and aluminium/1972

Also another, earlier box of Judd's, in situ, illustrating the ubiquity of such simple forms, 'specific objects', within the Minimalist aesthetic.

Donald Judd @ Leo Castelli Gallery, New York 1966

On the subject, & referencing such a body of work as Chuck Close's apparently photorealist 'heads' & its conceptual underpinning, this very project, this year's work, has generally followed pretty strict Minimalist guidelines: working exclusively from daily newspaper photographic origins, on an A4 scale (admittedly this mostly for ease of scanning), in monochrome graphite (save for a few deviations into additional splashes of watercolour), & a general concentration on the subject of process rather than any image content other than that related to & referencing art & its history.


Teardrop Explodes 'Wilder'
Tori Amos 'Under the Pink'
& 'Boys For Pele'
Portishead 2
Mogwai 'Come On Die Young'

Saturday, October 04, 2008

More Ploy of Sex...

Today the opposite of tomato is 'Soft Enough For You'

graphite, putty eraser & watercolour/30x20cm
original source: 'The Times' 29/09/08

The original newspaper photograph from which this drawing was processed provided the image content of the continuation of the pomegranate juice marketing campaign that inspired the recent previously-posted 'Venus' drawing, in this instance pushing the selling of sex(-iness & -uality) that little bit harder. Here, the coy, over-the-shoulder glance recalls a pose such as that of Ingres' 'Grande Odalisque'.

Ingres 'La Grande Odalisque'
oil on canvas/1814

Whilst on the subject generally, it's worth mentioning Barry Hoffman's lavishly illustrated book 'The Fine Art of Advertising' (picked up a while back for a couple of quid, a small victory under the circumstances, perhaps), which, from an ad man's perspective, not uncritically & alive to the many inherent ambiguities of the subject, explores the relationship between art, artists & marketing, its often symbiotic nature & of course the playful, knowing irony with which advertising campaigns habitually appropriate &/or reference iconic images from the tradition of fine art & especially that of Western painting (although it's worth noting that some of the more sexually-inclined art of the East has also, inevitably, provided suitable fodder). All good, thought-provoking & instructive stuff, even if the novelty of the extent to which so-called 'creatives' routinely plunder art with the intention of inspiring desire in order to flog stuff & aspirations soon palls when surveyed in such a fashion, laid out in all its inglorious, mindless banality: but this of course is the very raison d'etre of marketing campaigns, they have a built-in obsolescence before it's quickly time to move on to advertising & selling the very latest 'essential', improved development in commercial, retail culture.
This is why pioneers such as Richard Hamilton & other of the 'Pop' artists & the heirs to their particular tradition, who turned the tables by appropriating images & the visual language of advertising into their art, assume admirable, heroic proportions, by reflecting back to the world for more considered contemplation - aesthetically distanced from the naked hard sell - the sheer dumbness & futility of the endless cycle of consumerism & insatiable desire, visually seductive as it so often is.

Note to self: beware the melancholic consequences of (half or slightly more than) watching reruns of the TV series of 'Brideshead Revisited' (excellent, seductive & absorbing though it remains) whilst also trying to get some art done (at the same time mentally composing drafts of blog posts!) in the all-too-short mere 2-day window of the weekend on a cold, gloomy, grey-turning-to-rain autumnal Saturday...


Boards of Canada 'Music Has the Right to Children'
The Sundays 'Reading, Writing & Arithmetic'
Van Morrison 'Moondance'
White Stripes 'White Blood Cells'