Saturday, October 31, 2009

Price comparison


I remember a time when bank cashiers were called tellers (is that purely from my early visits to the US?).  Perhaps it was because at that time they would tell you whether they could let you have any money.  It's funny what your memory will do.  I'd got it fixed into my mind that I had a postcard showing Bank (the underground station), it's odd to have a postcard of a tube platform - was it for tourists to send abroad or an alternative reminder for Londoners?  Why wasn't it sent? Why send it? Why buy it? Why keep it? On digging it out and looking at it more closely it's not for Bank at all but a view of Seven Sisters.  Is that the Queen standing in the foreground?

Along with millions of others I've walked the Seven Sisters, thinking it would be a gentle 8-mile stroll (that's what I'd been told) clearly my research was lacking as it turned into something more like 18.  Starting at the edge of a village, at the corner of a field that I would never ever consider mowing because it reached up to the sky and it was a hot, hot day.  Traversing the field took an age.  Walking through one of Brandt's locations, Cuckmere Haven, was delightful though STILL relatively at the beginning of the walk.  I'm a walking weakling, give me the flat any day, boring but flat.  Or my flat.  Instead, my body inches away from the chalky grass up-hills like a downhill skier at Kitzbuhel, bruised face stretched into a smile to hide my horror at what I'd agreed to, being totally unfit.  The sight of the chalk bleeding into the sea made up for a lot, although vertigo had something to do with my needing to crawl so my legs wouldn't fly, of their own accord, over the edge.

Jem Southam makes work at Beachy Head, on the shore.  Setting up his 10x8 camera on the beach and creating beautiful visual documents of the cliff deterioration (does he go by boat, surely not that walk that exfoliates your face followed by a dance with death abseil downwards?).  I like to think I have a wall that cries out for one of Jem's enormous prints, that way I could look at the sea and look at the beach of Beachy Head without going outside, or walking that walk.  It's big enough this wall, even with the piano.  Art and music - well - art is music and vice-versa.  So maybe they'd go very well together.  But that perhaps is for sometime later.

Being 'up north' again means having the tv on to while away another long evening in a motel.  I noticed a very naughty ad-man has encouraged a bank to produce the oddest ad using animated figures that have an uncanny likeness to the Chapman brothers' early work I referred to in an earlier post.  If that's not the case then maybe they just came out of Giuseppe's workshop, either way it's bad news.  Do they realise?  The bankers I mean.  Someone should tell them.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Turn Off

Travelling weekly (weakly even) up and down you get to see some sights, some of which, although unremarkable, you wish had remained unseen instead of being burned onto your retina.  Those, for example, where people pretend to themselves that they are virtually alone instead of in a packed train, they glance around to make sure those sitting nearest aren't looking and they completely disregard anyone further away - like on the next set of seats.  People more than a metre away don't exist or matter.  Up goes the finger.  Down it comes, a glance, a roll, a flick and the results have been jettisoned somewhere within the carriage.  It must be something to do with body language and the boundaries we imagine around ourselves where we are impervious to others.  In terms of the observer - photographers are eternal observers - we can't look away, our gaze whether we like it or not is fixed onto something we'd prefer not to see.

What has this to do with photography?  Not much really other than the power of photography can be huge: effecting change in ideas, opinion and behaviour partly because to be caught in the stare of the lens can be so revealing.

Admittedly this train habit, in the history of the world, is not a weighty subject and has miniscule importance (unless you are sitting close by) however I do wonder what the reaction would be should I begin a new series of images around the subject of this flicking business.  It might be a form of street photography to stop people in their tracks on the train.  I could poll the rest of the carriage occupants - look at this, to flick or not?  Probably the reaction would be a broken nose.  Mine.  Being a coward my response is just to change my clothes as soon as arriving home.

I wonder if Walker Evans had similar problems when 'shooting from the hip' on the subway?  Finding among his negatives a percentage of people imagining themselves alone.

Aside from all that I notice the government recently had their own 'Turn Off' campaign.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Some point

What's the point of taking a photograph if when it's taken you wish it wasn't.  Prudence stepped in between the moment something caught your eye and the camera met it.   You shoot it anyway.   It is so frustrating because you have the image and it looks good and then you have to grapple some more with P.   The winner?  In my case, sometimes P.   Although there's rarely a need for me to regret an image because they are mostly unregrettable.  Rocks are hardly going to complain.  And anything else is often out of focus - a bit like my eyesight.

Occasionally it's not and in the process of taking a photograph, capturing a fragment of a moment, a likeness, a portion of a person, my head goes into overdrive and... are we commenting on something about them, or asking others to?  Are we pausing them in whatever activity they are doing for a closer inspection?  With or without their permission we are not just pointing at them, we are recording whatever it was that made us point, and it is that which I am grappling with.

I wonder what self-talk artists/photographers go through to inwardly feel content in what they are preserving and publishing?    Look at the ever-raging discourse on Mapplethorpe's broad range of portraits and content.  Or Diane Arbus, did she struggle with her subject matter?  What about Philip-Lorca di Corcia with his surveillance-like tactics?  How did Robert Frank feel about it all?  Larry Clark? How does Martin Parr?  While I might be torn about what is the 'right' answer, it's a good job photographers through the ages haven't let themselves, or public opinion, censor their images because we'd be a whole lot poorer visually.  Perhaps it's a construct of the time we are living in - where torturous thought ends up leading to a succession of safe but bland imagery.

If the human condition is one of vulnerability and it affects us all - does that mean we don't photograph anything to do with it?  Or should we photograph all of it?  Is there a rule somewhere that tells us what about our vulnerability is ok to photograph and what isn't?  I never studied Ethics but there's a thing in my brain which nags away.  Does it come from so much consideration of the patriarchal gaze while at art school?  Have we got over that yet?  Moved on?

One time I worked with a group at a MIND centre - I gave them the cameras and they produced the best bunch of portraits I've seen in a long time, including one of me - my ass.   I could do with a bit of their attitude.

So with that in mind

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On Bathing

Up at six this morning - still dark, the sea just about seen through the windows that really need cleaning.

As do I.   But I can't do anything about that as my washing machine is broken and it's turning into one of those days of endless waiting for an engineer to come and fix it - it started to smell odd the last time it was used.  There was a burning smell in case you are wondering.  I turned it off before it ignited.   Were I to take a bath now it would be the very moment that the engineer arrives.  That 'now' is clearly extending into the whole morning.  He/She has until 1pm at which point I shall dive in and damn them.

One of my neighbours must have had a similar dilemma only the other day but I think this is a rubbish solution to the problem.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Real Brief Encounters

Strangely, in another conversation, the same friend (prior post) also reminded me of that beautiful tragic frustrating moving 1940's film 'Brief Encounter'.  What a long and winding road we humans have since traversed.

And what planet have I been on in the intervening period?

It was rather eye-brow lifting at the weekend when I spotted a slot machine, in the ladies room, for Edible Panties.  What can they be made of?  Candy-floss?  Knitted liquorice strings?  Are they vegetarian?  Vegan?  Full of E numbers?  Preservatives?  Are they fresh?  Have the makers made them with environmental issues in mind - don't wash your undies, eat them instead?  Is it another flabless diet, a kind of cherry-filled knickerblocker glory picked up in the pub?  Do they fit or are they loose?  Are they meant to be loose?  What happens to the elastic?  My sister's dog once ate a cassette tape (my sister didn't find out until a bit later) but I guess when he started his only choice was to continue, I imagine that would be similar to eating your own pants.  Is it something that is eaten in private?  Or would you eat them in a cafe for example?  When the service is slow, as it sometimes is.  What's the recommendation - should you eat them before or after wearing?  My preference is for before.  But what then would be the point?  Perhaps I've misunderstood entirely and they are merely a take on jelly snakes.

Next time I'm out I will get some and report back.

On another, but related, note I just managed to get my camera out and photograph this as it raced about the sky.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The further the better

A few days ago a close friend mentioned that old saying - or was it a song - 'A picture paints a thousand words'.  

While studying fine art I was fortunate enough to be taught by a lecturer who was really into literature and he set up a series of sessions during which he would read to us, possibly a chapter, from whatever author fired his imagination at the time (I imagine).  One of these was Alain Robbe-Grillet, who really knew how to paint a picture with a thousand (or more) words.

There is virtually nothing like being read to: it has such memories attached to it if we are lucky.   That's one of the reasons I find Iain Sinclair's films so interesting, you get to hear his voice narrating and it really is a soothing voice, the voice alone keeps you watching and listening because you do not want it to end.  Fortunately the subject matter is interesting too and even though they are about him and/or his concerns they have a wider appeal.   That's quite a difficult trick to master - engaging your audience.

It can be so easy to disintegrate into one's woes and make work that other people will want to run from - been there, done it, could do it now in fact but you'll be relieved to know I won't.   Distancing one's self really requires vigilance.  A self vigilante.

I've no idea how this self vigilante works for me - it seems to just do it now I've conjured it up.  Odd I know, but true.   My work starts out with something to do with me and gets transformed the more I work with it - a visual 'chinese whispers' (I hope it's still ok to mention that childhood game - or has it now been renamed 'the ability for verbal communication to be wrongly heard/construed', 'that mysterious gap' or 'oral, aural, oral' - try and say that really quickly).   Thinking about it - there was another lecturer who made us focus on metamorphosis for a while and perhaps that set it all in motion.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Trying to cram it in

Looking back at yesterday's first image, it reminds me of Jake and Dinos Chapman's earlier work and that shocked me somewhat.   Had I used a mouth camera like Lindsey Seers has done makes me wonder what the image would have looked like.

I went to the Sensation show in, was it 97?  Damien Hirst had his tanked flies there.  Speaking of which, when travelling through London on Wednesday I was handed a free evening standard and inside it had pictures of Damien Hirst, his wife and others at an opening night of his new paintings - I was rather intrigued and then alarmed.   Sadly the article was left on the train (even though it had been ripped out) and I brought home the article on Ed Ruscha at the Hayward instead, so it will have to be repeated from memory which is always rather dodgy, especially one from the end of a long day.  The article said something along the lines of 'alcohol was not allowed near the Hirsts and they were surrounded by plexiglass'.  The paintings or the Hirsts?   Well, I gather that they have indeed given up alcohol.   Everyone's giving up drinking - I may have to follow soon.   Cigarettes too.

On a positive note, if I did give up I could afford to fill my flat with dust collectors.

Going back to my Chapman lookalike snap.  The kaleidoscope has a curious label stuck on its side, and in an attempt to create work 'in the style of' I had to give it a go but no, being the size of a biscuit barrel, it definitely didn't fit.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Constance Spry

Where I grew up meant regularly passing the Hoover Building (not J Edgar), the one that lies on the A40 and the last time I passed was occupied by Tesco.   

In the summer I was lucky enough to be given a mantle vase designed by Constance Spry - it is really rather lovely - and I've since discovered they are highly collectible and very expensive.    My sister has a good eye and understanding for these things and knowing my passion for anything Art Deco or of that period very generously gave it to me, it wasn't even my birthday!

Due to having an inquiring mind I sourced a beautiful interior shot of a vast collection of these vases - it truly was stunning and reminded of Andreas Gursky's shoes.   Sadly I lost the source of the interior shot and since I don't yet receive all of the paypackets of Lucinda Wells and therefore can't afford my own Spry collection, my new kaleidoscope had to be used to help me recreate what I saw and coveted.

In a way it's better because the thought of dusting all those vases is just too much and some of them were placed at a very great height only to be accessed by a ladder.

I find Andreas Gursky's work very interesting, especially as he was taught by the Bechers whose water-towers are fascinating.  If you were as interested in them and happened to be in Calais at the very moment as me we might bump into one another while eagerly looking for them.   Wouldn't that be serendipitous.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Road work

Suffering from a form of OCD does make life somewhat difficult.  It means everything takes that much longer because I have to repeat some or all of the steps a number of times until I feel content about proceeding.

To my mind, aesthetics are very important.  They do matter.  Sloppiness, unless intended, is abhorrent and makes my skin crawl.  So, on seeing some new road markings today I felt a burning need to ask questions.  What is the point of removing the white lines identifying a long thin parking bay only to repaint them a little later slightly thinner?  Can only lines of a certain gauge denote a long thin bay?  Did the thicker ones imply something else?  Furthermore did those thicker lines interrupt our view of the architecture surrounding them?  Was the result as intended?  Is it more aesthetically pleasing or less?  Has the painter studied painting and is she/he making reference to one of Degas' barely erased legs?

While the planners have been busy putting their plans into effect: those of digging up the entire city centre where I work, to replace it with an idiosyncratic mixture of paving slabs and cobble stones (designed to keep fracture clinics busy) - the road department has been busy going off on a tangent to create a study in contrast.

It is interesting how one person's work might have an effect on how another's turns out.  By co-incidence my lecture this week was about why it's worth carrying your camera at all times and researching into art and ideas.  I began with Josephine Baker and ended on Andy Warhol (apparently A to B is back out in print).  With a deviation in between via Iain Sinclair and a strange route to Bill Brandt.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I want to touch upon a sticky subject

(I wish my mind wasn’t so visual).
Yesterday, I travelled up to work.  Living in the south and working 4 hours north is strange.  It would be far easier and much less embarrassing to say my work is up north – it could be a minute away – north is north, afterall.   People like me grew up believing Watford was in the north and no-one should venture beyond it – funny old world then.  And now I live even further south, so much so in fact if I go any further it would require swimming to stay afloat.  If you haven’t read Margaret Atwood’s ‘Oryx and Crake’, do so, lest I mention Mr Ballard again. 

Travelling from A to B and back again (on Wednesday), reminds me of Andy Warhol, if you see a book resembling that in a charity shop get it.  Anyway, I just felt colder and colder.  Nothing to do with work – it’s just the flipping temperature difference. 

For some annoying but thankfully undiagnosed health reason the cold gets to me and as a result I have been the subject of some ridicule when walking along the prom in my padded overcoat, while, unbelievably, there were girls sunbathing in their bikini’s. From memory it might have been during July or August. It’s ok and I got over it.

Glenn Gould really felt the cold.  At least I think he did considering that he mostly wore gloves, scarf and a very thick overcoat.  All while playing Bach. So even though it is embarrassing I feel in good company. 

Here’s a still of me in my Mum’s coat on the beach.

It appears that I am skirting around the sticky issue.  Too sticky today for my visual brain but the clues are there and it will be addressed in the future.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Strange Links

I had a very odd occurrence several weeks ago.   A brain blip.  It's rather scary what your brain can do - what it can present you with, out of the blue.   I suppose it might be to do with pressure.  If you feel under pressure it can make you say, or do, the most unlikeliest things.  I'm not talking in medical terms at all, no medical professional has been consulted and neither will they be.

The Towner Art Gallery is in Eastbourne and it has moved from its old location to a purpose built fabulous space - it really is worth a visit.  The lift, the lift I fell in love with at first sight.  It has an open back which as you rise or descend gives you a glimpse of a fairly ordinary scene but through a long oblong window.   Bits of the view are slowly revealed.   I suspect every artist will want to exhibit in the lift.  Their collection is awesome and their vision is, well, visionary.  I am a total fan.

However, when coming back from the Towner,  I pass a HUGE new estate.   Full of gated little palaces.  This estate has to be seen to be believed.   And I am trying to remember what author it is reminding me of.  The problem is that one author keeps popping into my head and won't leave - Cyril Connolly - but he is not the one I am thinking of.   Annoyingly it's on the tip of my tongue.

The next name that arrives in my burdgeoning brain is Alistair Cook, whose letters are absolutely brilliant.  But that is still not who I am trying to think of. 

Is it Aleister Crowley?  I can understand that link but No - for goodness sake it is not.   It is J.G. Ballard and for the life of me I can't remember why, you can find out for yourself.

Interestingly (to me) when I got home I googled Cyril Connolly, he did in fact go to school in Eastbourne and I never knew that.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I suppose I could now be in trouble

because it's a mad old world we are living in.  It seems we are emulating Big Ben's pendulum.   We've swung from the sublime to the ridiculous.  Yes, well I know the good old days weren't so sublime but I am sure you get the point. 

Where once we could gaily and innocently go about our day taking pictures (perhaps that gives us a clue - the taking part) with our Box Brownies now we have to be jolly careful i) of what we take ii) asking permission iii) health and safety iv) politics or correctness, which is it? v) and I'm sorry to do this but blah blah blah.  It's amazing that any art gets made anymore.   Hence, I suppose, the vogue for cropping in so tight that the person can no longer be identified.   I know, having done it myself.  It saves a lot of paperwork.

The only paperwork Art was really ever interested in was the stuff you could use productively in your process whatever that was, even if it was purely for papier mache purposes.

And so I've made a fatal error, introducing a found photograph without the author or subject's permission.  I've stolen an image (what a thought).  Although I think the matter is somewhat cloudy since the image came from a person who shares my name.  And I credit it now as being an image (borrowed without asking - but with my apologies) from Lucinda Wells (how weird) taken by Anon.  Could it be argued that Lucinda Wells had used my name without my permission - which takes precedence, the image or the text?  Here we are back to my beloved circles.

Found photography is truly an interesting subject and worthy of more than just two words in one post.  

I propose that the pendulum swing directly into the middle.   Meantime here is another stolen photograph.   Bring back Lido's.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Going back to finding myself

I once received a Facebook invite from Lucinda Wells which I found thoroughly creepy so never pursued.  Now, typically, my interest in the mystery of all those people with the same name has been piqued and I wish I had followed it up.   This is not an invitation to anyone out there to begin a new project but if you do just remember I thought of it first (although there is nothing new under the sun, as my Mum often says).

What I didn't mention in the previous name blog was so disconcerting that it needed some consideration before posting.   I've been trying and failing to remember the name of the artist who made work about doppelgangers, was it Diane Arbus,  Christian Boltanski, Thomas Ruff, Francesca Woodman, Wendy McMurdo ...?   While looking for myself I stumbled upon an image of a woman with the same name - now it's true the mirror is a terrible liar and our perception of how we look is very different from how others see us.  We even seem to have fixed in our brains ourselves at an earlier age, so do we ever see ourselves as how we actually look today?  I have no idea (except that the mirror always flips us - isn't that a weird notion).  Often we are shocked when presented with a current photograph of ourselves, partly because we have been flipped twice in the process (another in my list of 'to do' projects) and partly because it's not how we think we look.  Bearing all that in mind as far as I am concerned this picture of another woman looks very like me, same name, lookalike, crikey she's even got the same hairdo.

See what you think.


Friday, October 9, 2009

After putting up a heavy bed post

And then removing half of it to reduce the weight, I was well worn out and needed a rest.

That's the problem with heaviness it drags you down.   Maybe that's why I love colour and always have - even when I once tried not to.   Although there was also a brief period when I tried to make images full of colour and light and they just kept coming out brooding, dense and dark (see the dust post for an example), probably as a result of an interest in chiaroscuro given to me by my tutor of the time.

I do seem to spend a lot of my time extolling the virtues of colour theory but there are many deaf ears out there.  Rather than just considering the usual factors in photography e.g. of composition, tone, sharpness, grain, form, content and context, what about also being aware of colour and how colours affect each other?  Itten wrote "Colour is life, for a world without colours appears to us as dead" I agree with that - look at my black and white (or grey) work in the previous but one post.   Seek out 'Homage to the Square', Josef Albers' work, it really is fascinating - he found it so much so that he pursued it for over 25 years.

Below is an image that hovers somewhere between all that I've described above.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Enjoy your bed while you still can

Its days or nights may be numbered.   Look at this image and fix it in your mind, if Chris Marker is right (and I am sure he is) the photograph will become a memory.

There are people out there who would be happier if your bed was smaller, higher and had various appendages.  Don't ask me how I know you'll just have to trust me.

If yesterday's image might be construed as rather melancholy that's because I felt that way.
It got me to thinking:  I wonder if the factories of Silent Night et al are aware that their days of providing us with large squishy dream machines are instead quite possibly going to be filled with heavy lifting apparatus, hydraulic bed-raisers, rubber mattresses fully equipped with removable commodes possibly surrounded by a glass dome through which people could slip their gloved arms and a teasmade on the outer casing so visitors don't suffer from dehydration.

Sophie Calle's hotel bedrooms would take on a whole new slant.  Tracey Emin would never have made her unmade bed.  I can imagine future Ad men's Smash men rolling about with laughter pointing at our deep desire for comfort and lack of sensible foresight, with the luxurious double bed of yesterlife as its emblem.

Chances are we will all be awarded a fully equipped home-hospital bed from the moment of our birth just to be on the safe side.   Or, to save any inconvenience or wastage and to ensure we are completely aware of our mortality, a full-size coffin to slumber in.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

One might be forgiven

for wondering what the o and dots were meant to mean or to whom or what they were referring.   I can tell you they weren't a reduced form of homage to John Baldessari whose work I do admire.    I've always had a liking for circles.  And ever since art school and reading Roland Barthes' text The Death of the Author I have tended to think quite a bit about ambiguity and the audience.  Intention vs Perception/Reception.  Not that that was specifically why I included them.

Clearly I meant what I wrote in the last post otherwise it wouldn't be there, I'd have erased it (Erasure is something that interests me) or never written it in the first place.   But it was something that needed expressing and you can make of it what you will.

Today I was reading an old interview with J G Ballard written by Simon Sellers in The Internet in Print  that referred, among other things, to people's particular interest in the dust in J G's house.  Then I happened to finally spot a BBC News article on the Turner prize nominees (this had completely passed me by) and Roger Hiorns dust piece.   It occurred to me that perhaps my dots could be perceived as specks of dust which would be topical, but rather odd to say the least and completely co-incidental.  I am including an old image of my own intentional dust for comparison purposes. 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How can it be so difficult


to think about just one thing?  Is it the preserve of the enlightened ones among us?  Those careful thinkers who practice mindfulness, which is the opposite of what you might think it is - it is not having your mind so much full as having it empty or at least concentrating only and fully, hence mindful, on whatever task you are in the midst of.   Refer to Thich Nhat Hanh, I have.  Obviously it takes some practice - a lot of it.  Instead of being mindful of Reduction, particularly in photography as intended, my mind is darting in seemingly random directions and I usually find this to be the case unless I am absorbed in making images: my mind is full but most definitely not mindful.

To be mindful slows you down - it stands to reason - if you are concentrating completely on what you are doing it is darn difficult to do it quickly unless of course you are an Olympian or being chased by a shark.

Then I think it would be easy to concentrate on one thing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I used to be able to find myself

On google (admittedly it's a strange thing to do - google yourself - however it's become an international pastime).   Now it seems I'm buried there somewhere among the living and dead with the same name as me.  Do I have multiple other self's?   Is that something to do with string theory?  Past lives?   Reincarnation?  Someone of my name has lost their brown school jumper around about the 11th August, if you find it please return it - we are nearing Autumn and it will be needed.   The 1800's was a popular century for Lucinda Wells who were frequently born then and sadly died not long after.  They married often, so we have more in common than just our name.  Name sharers of Lucinda Wells work in all manner of professions, it would be odd to job and name share.  I wish my pay-packet contained all the earnings of Lucinda Wells.   It really is rather mind-boggling.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

There's me spending all summer ...

I have a tendency to exaggerate.  It was part of the summer - a small part - actually it was a couple of days full of frustrating piddling about peering at the mac screen while the sun and sea outside were too lovely for me to be sat where I was - digging out work from files hidden under obscure headings creating a website only to come to the conclusion that maybe a blog might be better and that the website might be rendered defunct as a result.   And I'd spent £5.98 paying for a domain name, admittedly it was for two years use - but this is the kind of thing I get sucked into.   Often.  Useless stuff.  Or gadgets.  Or any other thing that must be possessed until the moment you realise it's got to go and you sell it for less than the 50p you paid.

At least this is free.  Apart from time - which on reflection is the most priceless thing we might have.