Tuesday, December 06, 2011

New Favourite Book

Possibly ever.

Today, TOoT celebrates the recent arrival at headquarters of the most handsome volume (‘1’ indeed) of David Batchelor’s ‘Found Monochromes’, comprising a collection of 250 photographs of examples of such from the artist’s on-going (since 1997) documentary project of these finds, of blank white signs & faded notices, or the reverse planes of, encountered in, primarily, London but also other cities in Britain & around the globe, & one in Church Stretton, the streets of which A & I pottered during a recent restorative stay nearby, also taking in other delights of Shropshire.

As one might appreciate from the sample image pages below, the book constitutes a fascinating record of these occurrences of ephemeral presences/’voids’ in the visual field, ranging in scale from small sheets of paper to billboard-sized, in the fabric of the urban environment which surrounds them in many of its aspects – its architecture & the patina acquired (including graffiti); the details, the doors & windows of these buildings & establishments; its fences, barriers & divisions; its temporary construction sites; its forgotten, forlorn corners; its proliferation of signage & printed notices &, again, more impromptu instances of visual language such as graffiti.
One of course refers to the tradition of the white monochrome in modernist painting & particularly, those of Robert Ryman, & his attention also to fastenings, in the pursuit of the object & spatial environmental nature of his work, visible as a feature of a number of the monochromes photographed by Batchelor, fixed variously by selloptape, parcel tape, string, tacks, blu-tack & other means, all adding to the interest of any given image.
In each example, the white monochromes create a pause in the midst of the environment in which they are found, a still, mute point (or, otherwise, no more than a faint whisper where evidence of faded former content might be discerned through scrutiny) in the visual ‘noise’ around them, a blank canvas to be enjoyed for its purity or, perhaps if one might be so inclined, to be subjectively projected upon or a narrative ascribed to.

From such apparently simple means can a body of work of richly rewarding complexity be accumulated & constructed.

The subject of found monochromes is, of course, one that was until recently, in the form of the ‘double black lines’ markings upon the tarmac roads of a particular North Wales town, documented originally for themselves & latterly with the addition of ‘roadkill’ cans, an active aspect of the content here at TOoT & remains dear to the heart, being by no means abandoned or consigned to history – indeed, as a recent find of another occurrence of such a phenomenon amongst the streets of Chester illustrated.

Interesting to note that mention of Batchelor’s project originally came to my intrigued attention, almost a couple of years ago now, courtesy of the estimable Jazz Green & her excellent online artist’s journal: how good it is to finally have extensive tangible evidence of the ‘Found Mononchromes’, collected together in handy book form, to be studied at leisure.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Twist of Pepper

Today the opposite of tomato is In Trance as Mission

graphite & putty eraser, with watercolour & paper collage/30x20cm

Re-presenting today the expanded version/composition of a drawing processed recently with the intention of providing such a foundation, for, whilst it seemed appropriate for the yellow submarine to exist in a void, the ‘Sergeant Pepper(mill)’ figure, when considering the original inspiration for its existence, suggested it should more properly be situated within the presence of an accompanying cast of the type proposed by the members of The Beatles upon designer Peter Blake’s prompting, of his vision – their ideal audience assembled for a performance of the fictional Lonely Hearts Club Band, comprising, for the most part, a selection of various cultural heroes.

Accordingly, after a little light pictorial research & cutting out of the results (appropriately, given that the models for the Sgt Pepper LP sleeve design were life-size cardboard cut-outs of the band’s ‘heroes’, &, perhaps, a form of linear ‘drawing’ itself?), TOoT has assembled a small selection of admired personages & characters from the world of culture – oft-mentioned influences from the visual arts (i.e, more specifically, painters), favoured musical accompaniment as featuring on the habitual ‘soundtracks’, authors & more, including Peter Blake & his collaborative partner Jann Haworth - to contextualize our ‘Sgt Pepper’ in the manner of the original(s) & collaged these into place upon the page, composed within the picture plane, whose essential flatness they share & intensify even as they contribute to the creation of a subtle three-dimensional relief as is inherent to the medium.
The accompanying cast thus constitutes but a small number of those who might have been considered for inclusion in such a gallery, edited down to fit within the constraints of the picture plane, but with possibilities, perhaps, for further expansion…


Simple Minds 'Sons and Fascination' & 'Sister Feelings Call'

In keeping with the music accompanying the original drawing & watercolouring sessions of the Sgt Peppermill, the soundtrack to the collaging process featured not the album itself or even The Beatles at all but, rather, another delve into the post-punk past & a blast of some real nostalgia, of a surprising nature.
Somehow, I’d never imagined finding myself actively listening to the music of Simple Minds again, or desiring to, but for whatever reason the memory does such things, the song ‘In Trance as Mission’ came to mind recently & lodged itself there until it simply had to be heard: cue a quest to acquire the album the track opens, ‘Sons and Fascination’, & its companion ‘Sister Feelings Call’, duly achieved, & con- & subsequently a most pleasurable reacquaintance with what sound a fine pair of recordings, fresh & compelling in form & content, their manifest influences (shared by a number of peers) assimilated into the creation of something distinct(ly ‘modern’ in its aesthetic) &, seemingly, of an enduring quality, a melding of many layers of the electric & electronic built upon insistent rhythms, sometimes of a certain (comparative) ‘danceability’ that would then, at the time of the albums’ release, back in 1981, have placed the Minds somewhere at the forefront of the tendency towards - before the still-embryonic New Order, for instance, had embraced such a development - expanding beyond the angular nature of the sound of much post-punk.
‘In Trance as Mission’ itself, the welcome catalyst, is a lovely softly buzzing, shimmering, gliding dreamscape of a track, & many a sonic treat is supplied over the course of the diversity of the twin albums: it’s good stuff, frozen in a time if not place between Joy Division & the advent of The Smiths, a subtle broadening of the musical palette then & deserving of preservation within now, having unexpectedly gained re-admittance.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Comice Are Here (Again)...

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm

A second drawing of the pair of ‘Comice’ pears, with, on this occasion, something of a departure in terms of composition, with the concentration not upon proximity of arrangement in the interests of establishing a positive ‘charge’ of energy in the narrow visible space between the objects but, rather, in acting upon a phenomenon noticed & suggested by newly- & delightfully blogging A (to whom thanks are thus due), contemplating that something similar occurring within the area(s) of shadow cast by the objects as they were illuminated, as previously, from both the left & from behind by the fluctuating glow from the television screen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Get Back to Where You Once Belong(ed)...

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm

Familiar subject matter here at TOoT in the (voluptuous) form of a pair of pears, on this occasion much larger objects, of the ‘Comice’ variety, than the recently represented examples of miniature fruits found locally: given this, the objects are drawn sight-size, from a distance of about 3 feet, rather than to life scale as is the habitual practice, in order to compose them in more appropriate, comfortable relation to the physical limits of the A4 picture plane.
As has become recent environmental habit, the objects are lit from both the left & from behind, by the ebb & flow of the glow of the television screen, creating a particular blend of fugitive illumination that plays on both the objects & with the nature of the cast shadows.

There is a certain poignancy to, & historical significance in, the depiction of ‘Comice’ pears in particular, as fruits of this variety provided the objects of study for the very first pear drawings I made, the initial examples of what subsequently developed into a substantial series of tonal studies, in charcoal, during my Cheltenham undergraduate days, one of which is presented below:

This image has, in fact, already featured on the blog, back in the day, in the context of the presentation of a watercolour of another group of pears, where it was supported by a text that, part of which at least, still relevant, it seems appropriate to now recycle (with a few additions):

"[a drawing…] which seems to illustrate a much deeper level of engagement with the subject & (encourage a) more profound aesthetic experience altogether. The drawing (was processed upon) gorgeous, heavyweight Fabriano ‘Rosaspina’ paper, intended for printmaking but wonderfully receptive as a support for charcoal too, the surface of which breaks down easily to allow access to an underlying soft, crumbly texture perfect for retaining the marks of the drawing(’s) process, a record of its making and revisions (the drawing in question, like many of its contemporary fellows, was heavily worked over a period of time, a number of sessions), (an accumulation of marks &) layers of memory fixed in physical form, the scoring of the surface echoing that occurring on the pears with the passage of time, becoming a particular physical aspect of the drawing-as-an-object (as opposed to it being ‘merely’, flatly two-dimensional) and incidentally giving the drawing something of the appearance of an aged photograph, transparency or grainy film still".

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Just Milling Around...

After the yellow submarine tea infuser drawn & blogged immediately previously comes another example of a watercolour drawing of Beatles-related subject/object matter in the form of the rather fetching ‘Sergeant’ peppermill, another recently invested-in must-have addition to the kitchen & home for the retromaniacally-inclined…

graphite & putty eraser, with watercolour/20x30cm

Such a study might find contextual company in the form of Euan Uglow’s painting of a Homepride ‘Flour Man’ figure, itself another retro icon to those of us able to recall such a marketing device, what might appear a humorous aside but still subject, as is obvious, to the same measured rigour of scrutiny & representation as any of the artist’s other source matter, as might be expected, & also claimed of & for the peppermill too.


Dome '1 & 2' & '3 & 4'
Wire ‘The A List’
Hanne Hukkelberg ‘Rykestrasse 68’

Not necessarily the expected soundtrack (although there’s a hopefully-still-playable cassette tape of a wonderful ’20 Years Ago’ anniversary of the Sgt Pepper album’s release Radio One documentary broadcast I’d love to listen to again, considering) but, rather, another blast of retromania, & an altogether more obscure corner of, with the delights of the collected works of Gilbert & Lewis’s Wire-offshoot Dome, none of which was ever previously owned but the memory of one track – ‘Ritual View’ from volume 2, with its snuffily-nasal ‘chorus’ – had endured from a hearing on a dim-&-distant John Peel show: a treat it is to be reunited with, at last, & now in tangible form, along with some other rather good stuff contained within the layers & labyrinths of sonic textures & explorations. By one of those quirks of memory, & the unreliability of, I had somehow conflated the recollection of ‘Ritual View’ with that of Dome-collaborator AC Marias‘Drop’, reacquainted with & mentioned in these parts recently, where its separateness became apparent, so it’s been an especial mission to locate & establish the certainty of the facts of ‘Ritual View’, which have, it transpires, not disappointed: not least, the lyrics at one point make reference to "graphite marks", which is rather appropriate under the circumstances.
In the interests of verity, it should be stated that Dome were listened to earlier in the week, whilst completing a couple of job application forms: the Wire compilation & the enchanting world of Hanne H’s ‘Rykestrasse 68', too-long unvisited, actually accompanied the two sessions of the drawing process.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blue Sky Thinking...

Today the opposite of tomato is turning off your mind, relaxing & floating downstream...

graphite & putty eraser, with watercolour/20x30cm

The subject/object matter of the latest drawing to be processed & (re)presented is the rather groovy 'Tea Sub' infuser, something the existence of which was initially brought to my attention last year by A (to whom this drawing especially is dedicated) & most kindly presented recently. In addition to its irresistible aesthetic properties & pop art, retro desirability, it is of course, to leaf tea aficionados such as ourselves, a practical, functional necessity.

In a departure from the habitual mode of representation of such still life objects, faithful to appearances & generally to immediate environmental context, the nature of the little sub, from source, suggested it should be depicted freed from its actual gravitational relation to the horizontal plane upon which it rested in the process of being observed & drawn &, rather, presented imaginatively, as floating, in this instance within the limits of void of the white sheet of A4-sized paper - which might in turn infer something on a much larger, infinite scale - navigating its exploratory passage across.

Prior to the drawing experience, there occurred a moment of visual serendipity as, sitting in bed enjoying a leisurely start to the day, a cup of tea & a little light research, I browsed through the rather attractive illustrated survey volume 'British Artists at Work' & encountered one of the pages featuring representations of the work of Ian Davenport, including some unfamiliar examples of arrangements of small circles in addition to the known compositions of larger-scale poured coloured lines, both of which related rather nicely to the designs on either side of our fab-groovy duvet cover, suitably psychedelic-Sixties...


The Beatles 'Revolver'
She & Him 'Volume Two'

Inevitably, the observation of such an object as a yellow submarine led to ‘Revolver’ being given a spin to accompany the drawing process: the sequencing of the track-listing is genius, from the lovely ballad ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ to that singalong favourite itself then to the harsh electric jangle of ‘She Said, She Said’.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

P(e)aring Down More Closely

A slight repositioning of the previously-drawn pair of miniature pears, in closer proximity in the endeavour to create that positive 'charge' in the narrow visual space between, again processing the drawing as the objects are observed in the here-&-now, with some edges indistinct &/or ambiguous viewed against the horizontal plane upon which the pears rest & in the fugitive light conditions of the from-rear flicker of the television screen, which also produces occasional flares of highlights.

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm

Monday, November 07, 2011

P(e)aring Down

Paring down the number of found objects to a pair of pears in this latest composition, observed as before illuminated artifically from the left & from behind by the glow from the television screen, with a further source diffusing light from left-front, creating subtle highlights upon the fruits' surfaces.
Again, edges become lost to sight against the horizontal plane upon which the objects sit, & areas of shadow as cast, & the process of the drawing attempts to take account of such...

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm


AC Marias early singles & 'One of Our Girls (Has Gone Missing)'

Another blast from the musical past with a compiled selection of the recordings of another artist discovered via the the auspices of the John Peel radio show, being a collaborator with such members of Wire as were involved in offshoot projects such as Dome, the mimimalist aesthetic of which/whom informs the ethereal sound of AC Marias: 'Drop' remains an hypnotic delight, as do tracks from the album, particularly one such as 'Just Talk', with its repetitive, looped rhythm, ideal accompaniment to the concentrated, actively-meditative drawing process.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Writing on the Road...

Another sunny Sunday afternoon stroll around the locality, again in the excellent company of A, part of the journey alongside the main road, its surface decorated at intervals with coloured zones signifying bus stopping areas, within & whereupon one of which was found an example of the familiar flattened, reformed, aluminium can ‘roadkill’, thus photographically documented in the interests of the ongoing project recording such findings.
In this particular instance, the position of the object in relation to certain striking & significant features such as the painted lettering on the road, & the desire & endeavour to include these within the composition, led to the picture frame being rotated from the habitual horizontal ‘landscape’ to portrait format.

Once again, processes of surface erosion & deterioration, resulting in a form of craquelure upon/within the lower yellow line & the revelation of patches of the original tarmac surface beneath the subsequent overlays, provide both a physical texture to the scene as experienced & a visual texture to the picture plane as represented/reproduced, in the manner, it might be suggested, of the techniques & traditions of painting in oils or acrylics, with accumulations of layers, marks & scrapings-back contributing to the creation of the pictorial surface & its formal design: the embedded still life object of course adds to the overall ‘art’ credentials...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Aesthetics of an Afternoon Tea

An afternoon trip into town with A, each for the purposes of haircutting (successfully accomplished), then a potter & a little light shopping, punctuated by the desire for tea, taken & presented in the pleasing-to-the-eye arrangement thus photographically represented.
The personal choice was for a pot of Darjeeling, the liquid a rather fetching & welcoming amber in the cup & the leaves a most aesthetic mel├ínge of green & browns in the pot, most fitting for the season…

Thursday, November 03, 2011


graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm

Another drawing of an arrangement of a selection of the recently found-&-collected miniature pears, illuminated by artificial means, from the left by the wall light & from behind, to varying fugitive degrees as the picture on the screen changes, by the television, edges lost against the pale tones of horizonatal plane upon which they rest.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Early One Morning (II)

Still pre-breakfast, the early autumnal morning light proved sufficient to process a drawing of another pair of the found miniature pears, as observed, edges lost against & merging with the ground of the horizontal plane on which they were composed.

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm

Early One Morning (I)

Rising nice & early with the thought of perhaps indulging in a little light drawing before being required to fulfil the temporal demands of the day job, the visual day began immediately upon opening the window blinds, to be greeted by the sight beyond the limits of the back garden, of a patch of mist floating over an area of the playing field & enveloping the goalposts situated there. Both eerie & romantic in its way, with the inclusion of the wood panel garden fence in the photographic picture, suitably mossily patinated in itself, there seemed something also of the melancholy aesthetic of George Shaw (soon to be exhibiting in a must-see retrospective at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in his home town of Coventry, images & memories of the familiar haunts of which provide the grist to his creative mill, of course) in such a scene, unpopulated, autumnally damp & somewhat forlorn as it appeared & felt in the uncertain light of the dawning day.

One could/can sense the sounds of the Moon Wiring Club, both comforting but disconcerting, creeping in from the woods, on the mist…

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pears With a Twist of Psychocandy...

Today the opposite of tomato is just like honey

Presenting a drawing that both returns to an occasional theme of late last year & earlier this in that it contains a certain narrative element, although in this particular instance this pertains more to the process of its making than, necessarily, to the composition of still objects whilst, breaking new ground, consequently includes a visual signifier of what proved to form part of the soundtrack to depicted within the limits of the picture plane.

The story goes: inspired by the inclusion of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s ‘Just Like Honey’ as the soundtrack to the closing scenes of ‘Lost in Translation’, watched again on Saturday evening, the vinyl copy of the ‘Psychocandy’ album containing & opening with, indeed, the said music, thought/hoped to have been retained within those examples of the LP collection that survived the extensive cull of yore, was gladly found there amongst & extracted for such purposes as appreciating the very fact of its physical existence & with the intention of soon indulging in the pleasure of playing & listening to this original artefact, in its glorious entirety beyond ‘Just Like Honey’.
Subsequently, the drawing process began, focussed solely on representing the composition of miniature pears on the horizontal plane in the foreground, the LP sleeve propped face-on behind, in eyeline & there as part of the ambient visual ‘noise’ but unconsidered for inclusion within the picture plane. Until such time, that is, that A made the suggestion that such might make an interesting addition to & juxtaposition within the composition, duly considered, appraised favourably & acted upon as the process developed, with the result thus, incorporating an element of text & design, & adding a vertical 'stop' to the suggestion of horizontal recession beyond the objects which might then draw the eye to the essential flatness of the surface of the picture plane:

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm


Jesus & Mary Chain 'Psychocandy'
1000 Violins
2 x John Peel sessions

Not just a welcome fix of ‘Psychocandy’, inevitably, the electric crackle & fizz of which is enhanced by the vinyl experience, but more analogue listening with a further exploration of the cassettes of Peel sessions archives & a most enjoyable re-acquaintance with the tuneful delights & wonderful titles of 1000 Violins: excellent stuff.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Still Grounded...

A sunny afternoon constitutional presented the opportunity for a couple of encounters with flattened 'roadkill' aluminium cans found nestling, firstly, nearby & then within designated 'bus stop' areas upon the road surface, photographically documented for posterity & the continuation of the project recording such findings of 'roadkill' amidst the particularities of the still newishly local environs.

As previously, the coloured paint & tarmac of the bus stop bays, laid upon the original tarmac road surface - which is revealed where deterioration & erosion of such applications has occurred, extensively in places - adds both compositional & textural incident upon & to the ground of the 'still life' arrangement as found. Also, in these particular examples, there is the presence of strong vertical & horizontal linear structure, with these lines, running parallel to as they do, asserting the edges, the limitations, of the picture plane, in best modernist tradition.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

An Increase in Productivity

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm

With the finishing touches applied to the preceding example, a second drawing was able to be processed during the course of this afternoon as it faded, representing - as observed, edges indistinct against the tone of the ground of the horizontal plane upon which they were arranged - a selection of found miniature pear-like fruits, one with an extensive network of scars etched into its surface in a process of natural 'drawing', exquisite things-in-themselves.
The main purpose is to process & communicate this particular act of looking & seeing whilst, as is habitual, the proximity of some of the placements is intended to activate the spaces between the forms of the objects with a positive 'charge', in the manner that Andrew Forge ascribed to certain examples of Euan Uglow's compositions of pairs of pears, as referenced on previous occasions.


Microdisney 'The Clock Comes Down the Stairs'
The Delgados 'The Great Eastern'
Cocteau Twins
2nd Peel session (from 'Garlands' cassette)
The Fall '50,00 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong' (CD 1)
PJ Harvey 'Is This Desire?'

Another soundtrack, spanning the making of both the above & previous drawings (& a pizza), influenced by the legacy of John Peel, on the occasion of this weekend specifically to commemorate ‘Peel Day’, which actually occurred on Friday 14th, to coincide with the date of the great man’s final radio broadcast, now 7 years ago.

Microdisney were what might well be termed an archetypal ‘Peel band’, discovered & their developments – towards an increasing slickness of sound - charted via the good auspices of the show. Listening now to a cassette recording of ‘The Clock Comes Down the Stairs’, for the first time in many a long year, it’s good to be pleasantly reminded of such a singular aesthetic, with the band’s finely-crafted melodic musicality – characterised by a pop sensibility applied to a laid-back 70s’ west coast soft rock vibe nuanced by a country-tinged melancholia, one might say - offset by the sharp contrast of singer Cathal Coughlan’s idiosyncratic lyrics, amusingly mordant &/or sometimes accusatory commentaries on society & its mores. The gorgeous, glorious, stonking, stomping ‘Birthday Girl’, for instance, remains an irresistible pop song, a sure-fire chart hit in a parallel universe where taste might have reigned, one of a number of cracking tunes on the album that co-exist in fine balance with more poignant balladry.

Similarly, The Delgados bore a strong association with the Peel show, with a good half of the tracks from ‘The Great Eastern’ featuring in the ‘Festive 50’ of 2000, at which point they & it came to my attention: an enduringly wonderful album, overflowing with the sonic riches of many overlaid textures, of guitars, orchestration, woodwind (perhaps best exemplified by the everything-including-the-kitchen-sinkery, including chiming bells, of ‘Aye Today’) - one of those suites of songs that, in the manner of ‘Ocean Rain’ for example, gain from the cumulative effect of being experienced sequentially, as a whole, each adding to the others in turn, before the storm of exhilarating noise subsides into the quiet reflection of ‘Make Your Move’.

The second Cocteau Twins session (with the original trio augmented by Cindytalk’s Gordon Sharp, such a guest appearance as might occur within the context) proved to be an essential component of their recorded history to date, subsequently being made available on the cassette release of the ‘Garlands’ album, from which source it was experienced here. Again, one is reminded of how resonant & edgy, how post-punkily gothic their early sound was, at its most Banshees-esque, perhaps (although such an inflection was oft present), on the visceral thrill of ‘Dear Heart’, but one of four more expansive & muscular performances continuing in the sonic vein of the ‘Lullabies’ EP that followed the relatively minimalist & reticent ‘Garlands’.

The Fall, of course, proved to be, over the course of the years, the Peel band, extensively featured & much-loved – their earlier recordings as featured in selection upon the compilation CD endure in all their ramshackle, ornery, undiminished glory & just sound better with age (although not necessarily maturing), theirs & this listener’s.

And PJ Harvey, another Peel & TOoT favourite – once more, 'Is This Desire?' retains the depth of its charms, ever an inspiring accompaniment to the creative, working process.

A Measured Approach

In the context of the recently reactivated engagement with found flattened & suitably reformed aluminium can ‘roadkill’, here is presented another drawing to be processed from such subject/object matter as acquired, again employing the more active surface-‘ground’ mark-making development that characterized the previous example, inspired by the swiping brushmarks that were to be found featuring in the set of photographs of the occurrence of ‘double black lines’ road markings as painted & encountered amongst the back streets of Chester, & blogged here.

graphite & putty eraser, with watercolour/20x30cm

Focussing on a specific detail of the drawing, there was something about the appearance of the visible strip of barcode printed upon the surface of the found object, as reformed, with a sequence of numerals & related short lines (printed above but appearing here, as viewed upside-down, below), that somehow brought to mind that of the measurements upon a ruler, which in turn recalled those examples of the work of Jasper Johns where he incorporates &/or represents just such a device-object into the composition, with but three examples of such, featuring drawing & painting, illustrated below.
As ever, only the slightest pretext is required to indulge in an appreciation of the sensuous surfaces of Johns’, with their explicit mark-making & wealth of visual incident, to which the drawing itself & the nature of its processing makes intentional reference.

Jasper Johns 'No' 1964
graphite, charcoal & tempera on paper/51.4x44.5cm

Jasper Johns 'Passage' 1962
encaustic & collage on canvas, with objects/137.2x101.6cm

Jasper Johns 'Wilderness II' 1963-70
charcoal, pastel & collage on paper, with objects/108.6x65.4cm

Of course, there's that particular aspect of such an instrument of measurement thus (re)presented in these & others of Johns' works that automatically & obviously communicates (its) 'actual size', & this also relates to the representations of the 'roadkill' cans, with all such objects habitually being represented on a 1:1 'life size' scale in the drawings.

Another of TOoT's favoured & much-referenced artists to have incorporated the representation of a measuring device into a painting was Euan Uglow, in such an example as that pictured below, where the inclusion of the strip at the bottom of the picture, with its regular divisions, gives an indication of the size & scale of the represented object.

Euan Uglow 'Nectarine' c.1998
oil on board/13.4x10cm

Further to the subject of Jasper Johns, the latest essential addition to the library was taken delivery of last week, being the sumptuous catalogue to the 2008 ‘Gray’ exhibition, obviously concentrating upon that specific monochromatic aspect of the artists’ extensive body of work across the variety of media associated with his practice.
In addition to the illustrations of the exhibited work, there are included a number of what appear to be intriguing essays, which will hopefully, over the near future, provide much interest & sufficient grist to the mill of thought.
For now, here is presented a photograph of the book as physical object, enveloped in its translucent tracing paper cover, a rather beautiful thing:

The use of such a material in the packaging process returned me to thoughts of the cover of New Order’s ‘low-life’ LP, originally issued in 1985, a copy invested-in then & carefully kept since, as an example of one of the few too-precious-to-part-with (because of this very manner in which it was so exquisitely presented, in common with most of the Peter Savile-designed Joy Division & New Order record sleeves for Factory Records) vinyl LPs & singles to survive the great cull of the collection of such objects. Glowing mention of this artefact, & its qualities, has already occurred on TOoT, back here, whilst the CD version of the ‘low-life’ album, presented with, mercifully, at least some relation to the original packaging (although being not the same thing at all, of course), has also featured in the past. Here then is pictured the LP’s cover, semi-transparently cloaked, along with the inner sleeve to properly illustrate the different material properties:

Such use of tracing paper of course refers one back to works of art & such examples of the paintings of Kees Goudzwaard, & the constructed models upon which they are based, such as the recently mentioned ‘Transit’.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Retromania on the Road

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

There seems no escaping the lure of the ‘retromania’ pervading the atmosphere & operations at TOoT at the moment, considering the latest drawing(s) to be processed, bittily, & then reassessed & reworked into a second ‘final’ state (which somehow feels less so & secure than its predecessor now appears, in retrospect…), over the course of the last few days.

Based initially with recourse to one of the recent photographs taken of the instances of ‘double black lines’ road markings located & found amongst the back streets of Chester & then developed, refined formally, to include an aspect of a second such image, this drawing (in two states) then & thus refers back to a short sequence of five others made, from the source of photographs of the original previously-local double black lines, almost four years ago & blogged at the time here.

As then, the pre-existing image content, the formal structure, subject to reformation, is utilized as the vehicle with which to explicitly foreground the process of drawing, the marks made & surface(s) (& effects) achieved through the medium of graphite (& the erasure of, as positive action) on paper.

Version 1

Version 2

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm


The Chameleons Peel Sessions
Moon Wiring Club 'A Spare Tabby at the Cat's Wedding' (vinyl LP)
Echo & the Bunnymen 'Ocean Rain' (vinyl LP)

More musical retromania too, inspired directly by dipping into ‘The Peel Sessions’ at random points of interest in addition to reading through thoroughly, savouring every word & anecdote. The Chameleons proved to be one of those bands’ names that did indeed inspire recollections of the recording & broadcast of a ‘classic session’ as the book has it, recalled as being much enthused about with a like-minded friend back in the day, & recourse to a downloadable digital source (alas the original cassette on which the session would have been recorded from the radio has not survived, either relocations, de-clutterings or possibly over-tapings: one wonders how the music might sound thus experienced, much more directly present & palpable via its original physical form) enabled a nostalgic re-acquaintance with the music itself.
Although my musical tastes might have moved on from such as The Chameleons’ aesthetic specifically (which chimed with any number of the other bands I listened to at the time & beyond, that much is obvious), being long-since unlistened-to (not least through unavailability), still the session & especially other songs from two subsequent such recordings for the Peel show (also part of the particular download) proved not without charm & interest, & a certain frisson of recognition, of pleasant reminiscence of youthful passions: the book itself is overflowing with such irresistible seductions to indulge in nostalgia, inevitably of course. Further to this last point, & by way of coincidence, that first ‘classic’ Chameleons’ session was originally broadcast in June 1981, in the midst of taking ‘O’Level exams, the night before attending the Bauhaus gig mentioned recently: we really are on a roll, backwards.

The remainder of the soundtrack was then experienced through the medium of old technology in the form of the Sixties' record player purchased during the ‘summer’, with, first, the delights of the vinyl version of the Moon Wiring Club’s ‘A Spare Tabby at the Cat’s Wedding’ - a companion to the contemporaneous CD release (indeed being purchased together in the ‘bundle’, as recorded here, although I failed to include the LP sleeve in the photograph so there's no visual evidence of its existence) but quite different in content whatever the coincidence of some of the tracks’ titles, & equally excellent & compelling: when one factors in the related artwork, & the online presentation, the whole package/experience is profoundly rich & complex, but the music alone is a particularly rewarding accompaniment to the process of drawing.

Then, whilst reworking the drawing into its second incarnation, a re-acquaintance (probably 20 years since the last such encounter) with Echo & the Bunnymen’s mighty & magnificent masterpiece ‘Ocean Rain’ (toured & performed in its entirety during September, in the contemporary fashion for such concerts, a full 27 years after the album’s original release) in all its grandiose glory in vinyl, analogue form, the orchestral strings which constitute such an essential element of the music’s texture much richer, warmer, deeper in ‘colour’ & tone, simply more vibrant as they should be & be felt, an altogether more organic sound somehow, better suited to a fuller appreciation of the overall, encompassing sonic aesthetic. A similar thought occurred whilst experiencing the chamber-pop of Belle & Sebastian’s wonderful, adored ‘Tigermilk’ on vinyl (again, as such an album surely should be), for the very first time, recently too: good vibrations indeed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Brand New, You're Retro

Today the opposite of tomato is all a tremulous heart requires

graphite, putty eraser, watercolour & collage/20x30cm

A return today to a major theme of the relatively recent past here at TOoT, with the confluence of the recent finds of a suitably intriguing ‘roadkilled’ can &the occurrence of those ‘new’ double black lines in Chester providing the stimulation (note the word, as present on the surface of the object & the photocopied reproduction of this collaged onto/into the drawing) to compose & process a drawing featuring both of these elements in a something of a style that harks back to that last employed in June of last year, since when the process & appearance of the body of work evolved into a more watercoloury realm before such subject/object matter went into a prolonged hibernation amidst the general slowing-down/spacing-out of instances of creative operations.

Pertaining to the drawing, in the interests of aesthetic integrity the broad strokes of the darker-toned aspects of the surface/‘ground’ relate directly to, being inspired by, those 'active' swipes of the brush that characterize some of the painting of the double black lines in the previously-posted photographs of such the feature as found.

Whether this drawing heralds a renaissance or might otherwise be but a fleeting example (of an abiding 'retromania' as documented over recent months) remains to be seen, but there’s obviously something about the subject/object matter that keeps demanding attention & some form of documentary engagement with, as the drawing provides tangible evidence of.


The Smiths John Peel session 09/08/84
Cocteau Twins John Peel session 05/09/84
Cornershop ‘When I Was Born for the 7th Time’
(here featuring the album's cassette-format artwork in all its cinematic scope)

Further to the retromania, TOoT finds itself in something of a Peel-fest at the moment & the soundtrack reflects such a fact, comprising a couple of archive recordings from the John Peel radio show & a reacquaintance with an album by a band associated with such source. This circumstance has arisen from A’s kind presentation of Ken Garner’s ‘The Peel Sessions’ book, a must-be-read-immediately volume that features a fascinating history of the show (historically contextualized within the tradition of the 'live' recordings of music for broadcast by/on the BBC) &, obviously, the ‘sessions’ that formed a particular focus for the programme & contributed in no small measure to its legendary status, including, also, an exhaustive chronicle of the facts of those sessions, lists of the bands who were invited to record them, the songs featured, dates transmitted, etc – a wealth of detail to delight those of us nostalgically prone to succumbing to fond memories of the intense musical passions inspired by Peel the man & the show, many of which have endured to this day & provided the template for an appreciation of all manner of artists & sounds.

In common with many a listener, it was my practice to listen to the Peel show with eager anticipation, a tape in the radio-cassette player, finger poised over the ‘Pause’ button in readiness to release it & record whatever delights might be broadcast on a particular night, & a selection of such cassettes have remained stored as precious relics of my own music-listening history: the specially-recorded sessions of course, featuring alternative renditions of familiar songs, differing from the versions available on vinyl or, later, CD, or those recorded uniquely for the Occasion (for that it oft was), are the jewels of the surviving collection &, for all that many of such recordings might subsequently have been granted an official release in whatever format, still those original tapes, as objects, containing the source material in what feels its purest form (however time-worn & diminished in sound quality), recorded as it was at the time of broadcast, have a special, priceless quality, a palpable, physical connection with those times.

It might also be opined that many a Peel session recording proved to be in some way superior to previous or subsequent recorded versions, the Cocteau Twins‘Pepper Tree’ here providing an exemplary case in point, with the Peel version having a thrilling resonance & clarity to the guitar sound, imbuing the song with a tension & dynamic that was entirely absent on its official released incarnation, in languid form on the B-side of the band’s self-produced ‘Spangle Maker’ EP. Indeed, there remains a charm to this particular session, also including the prototypically titled ‘Whisht’ & ‘Peep Bo’ prior to their featuring in different guise, as ‘Beatrix’ & ‘Ivo’ on the ‘Treasure’ album.

In a most appropriate & poignant (for full nostalgic effect) piece of design, the contents page of the book features the list of chapters as they would be appear written of the spines of the card inlays of just such cassettes as I habitually used myself, mostly the TDK brand with an occasional Memorex or Sony, displaying subtle alterations in design as this aspect evolved down the years.

The book is also noteworthy for featuring this particular photograph of PJ Harvey, very much a Peel & show favourite, & of course a much-admired artist at TOoT, here looking very Sixties:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Art of Not Being Boxed-in

An introduction today, via the duties of the workplace, to the work of the late Birgir Andresson, & specifically the artist's cut-out cardboard boxes of his 'Build' series, one of which is pictured in two views below:

Such an encounter brought a pleasant reminder of Leo Fitzmaurice's smaller scale 'de-texted' boxes in similar vein, examples of which, arranged on the floor to all appearances like the buildings of a model city, I was fortunate to see, & hear the artist himself discuss, in an exhibition at Liverpool's Bluecoat Gallery back in 2002. Below are illustrated a pair of the general type:

In both cases, the process of removing the lettering & logos that would identify their (former) contents, brand them, & communicate something particular through one language, transforms utilitarian objects into forms that might inspire a more imaginative, literally & figuratively open reading, such as drawing an architectural analogy to the remaining, redesigned structures, spaces to be explored & considered.