Sunday, March 29, 2009


Today the opposite of tomato 'is a man who's nostalgically prone'

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

A further example of the series of drawings processed from original photographs of local overpainted roadmarkings, this one departing from the horizontal format thus far employed in the interests of attempting to create something of a different formal dynamic within the image. This drawing is also a combination of separate sources, the ‘roadkill’ can being a photocopy of a found object, as with an earlier recent example.


Martin Stephenson ‘There Comes a Time’ (Best of)
PJ Harvey ‘Is This Desire?’
Morrissey ‘Vauxhall and I’
Mazzy Star ‘So Tonight That I Might See’

And another selection of musical blasts-from-the-past (how pleasant to become very recently reacquainted with Martin Stephenson), excellent all in their own idiosyncratic ways (the first three artists especially, & the narcotic timbre of Hope Sandoval's voice is quite unlike any other, bestowing upon Mazzy Star their singular quality).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Still Going Flat-Out...

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

Continuing the series of photographically-derived drawings of overpainted roadmarkings & discarded, traffic-flattened aluminium drink cans, which could be said to combine the traditional genres of landscape (albeit of a manmade nature) & still life, even if the objects represented have been reduced to two-dimensional form.

Referring once again to the essential ‘Jasper Johns: an Allegory of Painting, 1955-1965’, I discovered featured within an image of Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Paint Cans’ of 1954, which incorporates into its formal structure two flattened examples of the type (nothing ‘original’ is possible any longer, of course!): it’s interesting how such a work can be read art-historically as, for instance, presenting paint itself as a ‘readymade’ & the drips & runs of the paint as referring to Abstract Expressionist painting. Obviously, the whole ‘Pop Art Roadkill’ project is intended to be read similarly, with a density of references (as previously mentioned over the course of previous posts on the subject) including, not least, various aspects of the work of Jasper Johns...& now Rauschenberg, too!

Such examples lead to thoughts of developing the body of work, realising it on a larger, life-size scale & perhaps incorporating the source objects themselves into the formal construction of the image-object.


Portishead ‘Third’
Black Box Recorder ‘England Made Me’
Cocteau Twins ‘Victorialand’
Cat Power ‘The Greatest’
Young Marble Giants ‘Colossal Youth’
& ‘Singles and Salad Days’
Mazzy Star ‘So Tonight That I Might See’

The fallout from the recent Rough Trade TV celebration continues, with the most recent investment being the collected works of the Young Marble Giants, echoes of whose deceptively simple yet compelling quiet, scratchy, spacey minimalism - so spare are the formal means employed that one is forced to listen intently - may be heard in the sonic aesthetic & similar atmosphere of, for instance, Black Box Recorder. It’s enlightening to hear now, for the first time, the ‘Salad Days’ demo versions, recorded in such technologically basic form, of many of the songs featured on ‘Colossal Youth’, offering a purer distillation yet of the YMG sound than the original official release of the album: essential stuff indeed.
The whole package is a beautiful production – courtesy of Domino, who also compiled the recently-purchased & similarly expertly-presented Triffids reissues amongst others – with the compilation of music supported by a fine historically-contextualizing & explicatory essay authored by Simon Reynolds & even, delightfully, the additional inclusion of a small packet of lapel badges: a perfect record & reminder of the immediate post-punk period - when such true originals as YMG & an attendant sense of exhilarating independence flourished - & schooldays when displaying one’s musical allegiances through the medium of badges was de rigeur.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

a Beer & a Fag

Today the opposite of tomato is 'as cool as Kim Deal'

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

Being the second example of the 'pop art roadkill' drawings, this, in fact, is a composite image processed from two original sources - a photograph of the 'double black lines' road markings &, dating from some three years later, a photocopy of a recently roadside-found flattened aluminium can, obviously bearing the evidence of having been subject to the compressing weight of a vehicle.


Portishead 'Third'
Black Box Recorder 'England Made Me'
Duke Special 'Songs From the Deep Forest'
Neil Young 'After the Gold Rush'
Scritti Politti 'Songs to Remember'
& 'White Bread Black Beer'
Dandy Warhols 'Come Down'
Belle & Sebastian 'The Life Pursuit'

In addition to the music listed above should be added the contents of the truly wonderful & awe-inspiring TV compilation accompanying last weekend's documentary, 'Rough Trade at the BBC', featuring a mighty cast including both fondly-recalled & shamefully forgotten acts such as Young Marble Giants, The Raincoats, Delta 5, Robert Wyatt, Microdisney (with the fabulous 'Birthday Girl', one of those classic should-have-been-a-hits), Camper Van Beethoven (ditto 'Take the Skinheads Bowling') & Mazzy Star in addition to, of course, The Smiths (also including their alternative version of 'Hand in Glove' as sung by Sandie Shaw): one forgets, a little, with time, just how essential a particular source, such as the record label in question, might have been to one's musical & wider cultural & aesthetic education, making such a reminder all the more important & precious: gladly & gratefully recorded for the archives.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gritty (Photo)Realism

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

This particular drawing owes its existence to something of a ‘back to the future’ situation occurring as a result of a recent epiphany, whereby various strands of source material, creative thinking, research & visual influences & references might usefully be combined to service a potentially substantial drawing project.

The source image dates from November 2007, photographed then & posted under the title ‘Pop Art Roadkill’ coined to describe an aspect of its content which was/is additional to its ground, an extensive number of examples of which had been recorded as visual research prior to this.

This original material – my own photographs of a local phenomenon of ‘double black lines’ road markings (by way of brief explication, correctively over-painted double yellow lines erroneously applied) - & thoughts of using it as the basis for drawing & painting dates back some three years now (already), with numerous examples blogged & contextualized, primarily within the idiom of Modernist painting, in February & March of 2006. Subsequently, in the November of the following year, a small series of 'all-over' drawings was processed from a selection of these photographs, being an initial, exploratory foray into both the practice of working from pre-existing, ‘readymade’ images (habitually, then, being a long-standing stickler for working from life) & the mark-making possibilities that the particular source might offer, with especial reference to the example & influence of the drawings of Jasper Johns.

Shortly afterwards came the chancing-upon of the traffic-flattened aluminium drinks cans - ‘roadkill’ in the contemporary parlance - at the same roadsides as exhibited the double black line markings: duly recorded, posted & contextualized within the realm of visual art (Warhol & Johns providing primary examples) for further reference, as a development of the original theme.

And then began last year’s project of working from print media-derived photographic sources which has developed & held sway into this year & unto the present...

However, the idea of working from this body of source material never having been abandoned as such, & following on from the seeds of inspiration replanted by the recent discovery of Richard Forster’s series of seascape drawings (see this post), the particular catalyst in bringing all the various strands together has been the work of Vija Celmins, via the excellent, handsome Phaidon-published monograph on the artist & her career, recently purchased & in the process of being studied intensely for both its image content & the fascinating accompanying essays & interview transcriptions.

The visual analogies between, in particular, Celmins’ exquisite graphite drawings - displaying such richness of textural incident & subtlety of tonal control - of, variously, still lifes of enveloped letters & images torn from magazines ('almost-flat' objects, as are, of course, the compressed roadkill cans), & photo-derived expanses of oceans, star-scattered night skies, &, most pertinently, stony desert floors, & my source photographs of the tarmacked roadsides (with attendant discarded consumer 'roadkill' & without) are obvious, & compelling to such a degree that the hope is that the influence of Celmins' work, along with that of Forster & Johns, & such other painters as Robert Ryman, will prove suitably inspiring to instigate a profound exploration through drawing, mark-making, of my source material & any issues that might arise from such.

Returning to the drawing with which this post opens, an interesting aspect of its process was that much of the detail of the texture of the road surface was interpreted from the source photograph, being suggested & led not by direct reference to the image with the aim of faithful reproduction of its specific appearance - apart from a selection of positional markers & reference to general appearances - but, rather, the initial marks made upon the surface of the paper, building up, layer upon layer, to create the form of the drawing (as representation).


Black Box Recorder 'England Made Me'
Sundays 'Reading, Writing & Arithmetic'
Sparklehorse 'It's Wonderful Life'
Lambchop 'How I Quit Smoking'
& 'What Another Man Spills'
Belle & Sebastian 'The Life Pursuit'

Coincidental to a couple of items on this list, a word in praise of BBC4's fascinating documentary 'Do It Yourself: the Story of Rough Trade Records' (upon which label both the Sundays' album & 'The Life Pursuit' were released): so much great, challenging music made available through various means to the world, from Scritti Politti, Cabaret Voltaire, Robert Wyatt to The Smiths, from noble, idealistic beginnings through various political & financial power struggles to bankruptcy to renaissance, utterly compelling & rather 'Proustian' too.
Featuring as it does so many of such bands & artists & those on similar, related labels of the era, I really must read Simon Reynolds' wonderful history of post-punk, 'Rip It Up and Start Again' too, especially as I seem to be particularly immersed in the sonic aesthetic of those times...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fashionable Expression

Today the opposite of tomato is 'wondering if there's clouds & stuff in hell'

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
source: 2nd generation 8x enlarged B&W p/copy from original reproduction in 'Times 2' 03/03/09

Continuing the drawings processed from images of Milan Fashion Week, again divested of their ostensible subject matter the refocussed re-mediations are open to alternative interpretations & projections through their concentration on the catwalk models' faces & the masks of the conventional expressions they wear.

As a post-script, this image – being a compendium of photographs of the beautiful people from the Milan & Paris Fashion Weeks – is to be found illustrating this article from Friday’s Guardian, on the subject of the real raison d’etre of such events being not the catwalk exhibition of the clothing designs but, rather, the public ‘front row’ appearance of such figures attending them.
Interesting to observe the range of human facial expressions on view from the assembled spectators in relation & contrast to the conventional blank/solemn limitations of the models’ ‘masks’.


Gang of Four 'A Brief History of the Twentieth Century'
'Rufus Wainwright'
Portishead 'Third'
Black Box Recorder 'England Made Me'
Elliott Smith 'Either/Or'

And how topical, relevant & still viscerally, urgently vital do the Gang of Four sound at such times? 'Capital (It Fails Us Now)' & 'To Hell With Poverty' indeed: fabulous stuff.

Monday, March 09, 2009

All the Fun of the (Fashion) Fair...

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
source: 2nd generation 4x enlarged B&W p/copy from original reproduction in 'Times 2' 03/03/09

A second drawing processed from the large, irresistible selection of images of Milan Fashion Week.
Again, 're-mediated', de- & re-contextualized, the focus of the original image honed to one's own purposes, the facial expression of the subject is open to reinterpretation, liberated to assume alternative meaning.


Test Match Special WI v Eng days 2 - 4, 5th Test

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Happy Days...

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
source: 2nd generation 8x enlarged B&W p/copy from original reproduction in 'Times 2' 03/03/09

With the press featuring Milan Fashion Week extensively, any number of compelling images are available from which to choose a selection suitable for processing, 'de-photographizing', 're-mediating' as drawings. The clothing designs, the ostensible subject of the press coverage images, are, however, merely a distraction from the real action: the 'masks' worn upon the catwalk models' faces, either studies in blank expressionlessness or, alternatively, set in the most wonderful stony scowls, which, taken out of context, become free to undergo whatever subjective interpretation the viewer might care to make...


Galaxie 500 'This is Our Music'
Black Box Recorder 'England Made Me'
Luna 'Best of'

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Artists & Models

graphite & putty eraser/diptych: 2 x 20x30cm
source: 2nd & 4th generation B&W p/copies of original B&W & colour reproductions in 'Magritte' (Paquet: Taschen)

Picking up again the sub-thread of ‘duality’ that informed a pair of the recentish drawings, this diptych is based upon a photograph of Georgette & Rene Magritte enacting the pose of the figures in the latter’s painting ‘Attempting the Impossible’ (both dating from 1928), the two images juxtaposed in the drawing (thus incorporating different forms of representation – in their original form - within the same plane) as indeed they are in the original source, across the opposite pages 60 & 61 of Marcel Paquet’s Taschen-published volume on Magritte, subtitled ‘Thought Rendered Visible’.

As has become habitual, the reproductions of photograph & painting were subjected to a photomechanical degrading process, by taking copies from copies, prior to transcription, bringing their surface & tonal appearance closer together, although the personal style of Magritte’s art retains its separateness from that of the nature of the photograph, more so perhaps than did the previous example of a similar juxtaposition with the work of Anna King. Interesting to note that the tonal emphasis of the photograph & Magritte’s painting becomes largely transposed, thus aiding the composition of the diptych, which thus acquires a light central focus.


Test Match Special WI v Eng days 1-5, 4th Test
Tricky 'Knowle West Boy'
Black Box Recorder 'England Made Me'
Portishead 'Third'
Go-Betweens 'Liberty Belle & the Black Diamond Express'

Test Match Special once again providing essential listening, particularly the 3rd day's play & the consequent quality of opinion & erudite debate centring on the referred umpiring decisions: broadcasting at its compelling best.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Drawn to the Sea...

Inspired by the artist's featuring in the March issue of Art Review as one of the magazine's 30 up-&-coming 'Future Greats', intriguingly & enthusiastically promoted in a text by Michael Bracewell, & a subsequent visit to see more examples of his work on the Ingleby Gallery website, it became necessary late last week to invest in the catalogue of the recent exhibition of Richard Forster's drawings held at that very venue.

The book itself is a handsome object, an exquisitely designed & produced slim volume, bound in linen &, within, a poetic essay by the same Michael Bracewell accompanying & interpreting, generally, over 40 of Richard Forster's seascape drawings, a pair of which are here reproduced as facing pages in the catalogue.

Even in reproduction, the drawings are compelling indeed, their appearance referencing their photographic origins in, for instance, their sometimes 'out of focus' nature & being, as Michael Bracewell notes, through the meticulously-detailed & -realised richness of their transcription, redolent of daguerreotypes, atmospheric & evocative: although made from recently-taken photographs by the artist himself, the drawings' appearance suggests their source as being temporally indeterminate (this also applies more locally & immediately to the time of day they communicate or complicate, which might be any- &/or everything from dawn to dusk). In a very interesting term - to one whose practice over the last year & more, drawing from 'readymade' photographic sources, has been concerned with such a fundamental issue of process - Bracewell states that Forster's drawings "own the dense aesthetic values of re-mediation" (my emphasis): one to consider & research in greater depth (N.B. the term appears to have been used primarily regarding the new digital media & its relation to older ones, but, reversing the process seems an equally valid & fruitful area of exploration).

Inevitably with the subject, Richard Forster's seascapes reference the Romantic & notions of the sublime: one contemplates the wonder of the endless, timeless ebb & flow of the waves, which also suggests the process of drawing, the mark-making, additions & erasures. The drawings are beautiful, their tones subtly, expertly modulated, their individual details described with great care & attention that yet transcends technique: Bracewell suggests that Forster's achievement is twofold, artistic & philosophical, a fitting tribute to such compelling drawings in the form of a sustained & ultimately substantial body of work (completed between the spring & autumn of 2008).

One particularly interesting & profound aspect of the drawings is their invariable depiction of that point at which the sea meets the land in a foamy tracery of lace-like forms, with waves & the horizon receding beyond, that edge between the elements of water & earth: this having reminded me of those photographs taken some time ago now of the local double black line road markings from which I had intended & indeed begun to process drawings &, perhaps, paintings & to which it might be fruitful to return, to reconsider & re-engage with...