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: