Archive for the ‘art’ Category

This is The End

The End by Heather Phillipson

The 4th Plinth on Trafalgar Square has proved to be a brilliant lens for Britain to look at itself through. The commissions are so varied that taken together they are also a rich record of British identity and state of mind at different times. Each commission takes into account the resonance of the location and its relation to surrounding public art, buildings, environment and the history linked to them. 

Heather Phillipson’s ‘The End’ is a worthy addition to the chain of public art that has temporarily inhabited the free plinth. It looks particularly good against blue sky and the collapsing gobbet of cream topped by the falling cherry matches the colours of the Canadian flags behind it on Canada House / La Maison du Canada. 

On one side is a huge fly, undermining any initial joy at the prospect of some kind of knickerbocker glory. On the adjacent side is a drone, on a different scale, with moving propellors.

a backdrop of the National Gallery

What does it all mean? There’s a sense of imminent collapse. An indication of rottenness. And a strong hint of surveillance.

The stalk paralleling Nelson’s Column

‘The End’ officially took up residence on the plinth on 30th July 2020, the 13th commission there (the first was in 1998). At 9.4 meters height it is the tallest so far and one of the brightest. 

The drone transmits a live feed of Trafalgar Square at www.theend.today Here’s what it looks like right now, the eye of the sculpture itself:

What’s the legal status of those two people? Is it legit to spy on them for artistic rather than security reasons?

The artwork reflects Trafalgar Square’s heritage and function as a place of both celebration and protest, as well as its highly surveilled state.

VE Day (8th May 1945)
Anti-Lockdown protest (26th September 2020)

Phillipson came up with the idea in 2016, in the shadow of Trump’s election and Brexit. 

“For me, we’ve been at a point of some kind of entropy for a long time. When I was thinking of this work there was a sense for me of an undercurrent that was already there … this feels like a continuation of that.”

It was unveiled in the middle of Covid19 year, delayed a few months by the pandemic. The perfect temporal setting for the piece. 

This is the end

Beautiful friend

This is the end

My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end

Of everything that stands, the end

No safety or surprise, the end

I’ll never look into your eyes again

Can you picture what will be?

So limitless and free

Desperately in need

Of some stranger’s hand

In a desperate land

Jim Morrison & The Doors ‘The End’

Despite the title the artist does not envision the work as a dead end. 

“In the end there is the possibility of something else forming. There’s the chance of radical change inside any ending… there is potentially hope for something else.”

The artist

‘The End’ ends in Spring 2022.

The End

Do they pay you properly? (a memory of Prince Philip)

1992: HRH The Duke of Edinburgh photographed in the Chinese room, Buckingham Palace

I crossed paths with Prince Philip only once. It was in the conference centre named after his wife (The Queen Elisabeth Centre) near Westminster Abbey, where they got married in November 1947. I was there with Barnardo’s for whom I was making films at the time. It was a huge room, conference centre scale. I was standing beside the CEO of the charity, Sir Roger Singleton. Philip entered right at the other corner of the room but I knew from the moment he entered he was going to come up to me. I’ve no idea why, I just knew it. 

And that’s what happened. He gradually made his way across the room and eventually reached us. 

” What are you doing here?”

“I make films for Barnardo’s.”

“Do they pay you properly?” (The CEO is beside me, two feet away.)

“They do indeed.”

The bluntness and inappropriateness is the kind of thing, of course, that people loved about him.

The Angel, Islington this afternoon

When I started my career in Marshall Street, Soho at Solus Enterprises with Jack Hazan, Roger Deakins, Dick Pope and David Mingay, Wheeler’s restaurant still existed in the Cambridge Circus corner of Soho, on Old Compton Street from memory. We went there for the company Christmas lunch one year at a time when Jack and David were looking at making a film about Rachman, the pantomime tabloid villain of the Profumo Affair. They told me that Philip had been a very naughty boy upstairs at Wheeler’s at that time (1963). I was surprised that Wheeler’s got a mention on the BBC TV news tonight, with photos of a couple of bottle blondes I didn’t recognise, starlet types. He was married to the Queen for 74 years so fair play to him, no mean achievement. That, the public service and charity work, his awards scheme for young people – plenty for one life, even a 99 year one.

Camden Passage, Islington this afternoon (solar-powered waving arm)

The boozy lunches upstairs at Wheeler’s were known as the Thursday Club – all lads, lots of drink, don’t think they were that interested in the fish. Members included David Niven and Peter Ustinov (film actors), Larry Adler (harmonica player), Kim Philby (undiscovered Russian spy) and Stephen Ward (osteopath and fall guy for the Profumo Affair). 

Private Eye – Dec 1963 (Christine Keeler in the dock)

Apparently there was a Private Eye cartoon cover showing Philip’s coronation robe cast off in the bedroom of Ward’s young protégée, Christine Keeler. It seems to have mysteriously vanished from the Web. Philip’s wing man at the time was his equerry Mike Parker. Parker’s wife claimed that Philip and Parker habitually tore up the town together using their party aliases Murgatroyd and Winterbotham. 

Wheeler’s was no stranger to alcohol-fuelled bacchanalia – the top-equal artist of the 20th century liquid lunched there (Francis Bacon). 

Wheeler’s the year before Profumo (1962) –
(L-R) Tim Behrens, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews
1973 – 19-21 Old Compton Street

Update 11/4/21

I found this among my grandparents’ stuff a few years ago when clearing the house. It is printed on tin – my grandfather was a scientist who specialised in print-on-metal technologies. I liked it for sentimental and ironic reasons but I’ve come to see it in a different light these last couple of days. 

Portland Ware manufactured by Metal Box

The hidden beauty of the world

“Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of Poetry and Other Essays

The same is true of street photography and Instagram at its best. And of Art in general.

Shot on my phone on exiting the BBC – both men have ciggie in hand

Pictures for Finn

After Lunch (1975) by Patrick Caulfield [1936-2005]

After Lunch (1975) by Patrick Caulfield [1936-2005]

Foyer (1973) - Patrick Caulfield

Foyer (1973) by Patrick Caulfield

The Splash (1966) by David Hockney [1937- ]

The Splash (1966) by David Hockney [1937- ]

A Bigger Splash (1967) by David Hockney

A Bigger Splash (1967) by David Hockney

California Bank (1964) by David Hockney

California Bank (1964) by David Hockney

Ed and Mariane (2010) by Julian Opie [1958- ]

Ed and Mariane (2010) by Julian Opie [1958- ]

Graham Coxon (2000) by Julian Opie

Graham Coxon (2000) by Julian Opie

Darcey Bussell (1994) by Allen Jones [1937- ]

Darcey Bussell (1994) by Allen Jones [1937- ]

Art School was Rock School

A couple of years ago I went to a meeting at University of the Arts/Chelsea College of Arts to discuss a programme idea about Art Schools in the UK. Waiting in the cafe bit near the entrance I was really struck by the proportion of Chinese and South-East Asian students in the packed room – a sign of the times. In 2016 I was teaching on an MA course at the Royal College of Art, set up by designer Neville Brody (of ‘The Face’ fame) – I had helped him shape its curriculum. Of the 18 students in the room, one was British – most of the others were European, a couple from South-East Asia. My point is about the mix and the absence of young Brits (rather than the presence of students from abroad).

brian eno roxy music

Brian Eno in Roxy Music

In February 2017 I went to an event in Cecil Sharp House, Camden Town at which Brian Eno was interviewed by Tanya Byron (with whom I worked on ‘Bedtime Live‘ [Channel 4]). He talked a lot about his teacher at Ipswich Art School, Tom Phillips (a signed print of whose is sitting on this desk, just behind my screen, a present from my mum – we went to collect it from Tom’s house together). His teachers there had a formative role in his development as a musician. There’s a good account of their relationship here.

Today I was reflecting again on the vital contribution of Art Schools to British music, not least in the punk and post-punk era in which I was a teenager.

malcolm mclaren vivienne westwood

malcolm mclaren & vivienne westwood

What those schools represented among other things was a space for experimentation, to figure out what you want to do with your life and art, to come across & play with ideas. No nine grand a year debt hanging over your head. They were also a place for people who didn’t fit the mainstream tertiary education system – or rather it failed to fit them.

Paul Simonon The Clash by Sheila Rock

Paul Simonon of The Clash [photo by Sheila Rock]

This is the first of a two-part article on the subject – I want to round off this introductory part with a (kick-off rather than comprehensive) list of musicians who went to art schools around the UK to give a sense of the enormous impact of these places on music across the globe:

  • John Mayall – Regional College of Art (Manchester), 1955-1959
  • Charlie Watts – Harrow Art School, 1956-1960
  • John Lennon – Liverpool College of Art, 1957-1960
  • Keith Richards – Sidcup Art School, 1959-1962
  • Jimmy Page – Sutton Art College, 1960-1964
  • John Cale – Goldsmiths, 1960-1963
  • Viv Stanshall – Central St Martins, 1961-1962
  • Ronnie Wood – Ealing Art College, 1961-1964
  • Eric Clapton – Kingston Art College, 1961-1962
  • Pete Townshend – Ealing Art College, 1961-1964
  • Ray Davies – Hornsey College of Art, 1962-1963
  • Cat Stevens – Hammersmith School of Art
  • Syd Barrett – Camberwell College of Art, 1964-1966
  • Roger Waters – Regent Street Polytechnic, 1962-65 [architecture]
  • Nick Mason – Regent Street Polytechnic, 1962-65 [architecture]
  • Rick Wright – Regent Street Polytechnic, 1962-65 [architecture]
  • Bryan Ferry – Newcastle College of Art, 1964-1968
  • Brian Eno – Ipswich Art School, 1964-1966 & Winchester College of Art, 1966-1969
  • Malcolm McLaren – St Martin’s & Chiswick Polytechnic & Croydon College of Art & Harrow Art College & Goldsmiths College, 1963-1971
  • Ian Dury – Royal College of Art, 1964-1967
  • Freddie Mercury – Ealing College of Art, 1966-1969
  • Joe Strummer – Central St Martins, 1970-1971
  • Adam Ant – Hornsey College of Art, 1972-1975
  • Jerry Dammers – Lanchester Polytechnic, Coventry, 1972-1975
  • Mick Jones – Hammersmith School of Art, 1973-1974
  • Paul Simonon – Byam Shaw (London), 1975-1976
  • Marc Almond – Leeds Polytechnic (Leeds Beckett University), 1976-1979
  • David Ball of Soft Cell – Leeds Polytechnic (Leeds Beckett University), 1976-1979
  • Andy Gill of Gang Of Four – Leeds University
  • Jon King of Gang Of Four – Leeds University
  • Sade – Central St Martins, 1977-1980
  • Jarvis Cocker – Central St Martins, 1988-1991
  • Graham Coxon – Goldsmiths, 1988-1989
  • Damon Albarn – Goldsmiths
  • Alex James – Goldsmiths
  • Justine Frischmann of Elastica – Central St Martins
  • PJ Harvey – Yeovil Art College, 1990-1991
  • Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian – Stow College (Glasgow Kelvin College) 1995-
  • Stuart David of Belle and Sebastian – Stow College (Glasgow Kelvin College) 1995-
  • Fran Healy of Travis – Glasgow School of Art
  • Corinne Bailey Rae – Leeds University
  • Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine – Camberwell, 2006-2007
  • Paloma Faith – Central St Martins

Damon Albarn of Blur by Julian Opie

Damon Albarn of Blur by Julian Opie

If you know other British musicians who came out of art school, please add them in the comments below.

Finishing art works [quotation]

Glen Head Glencolmcille watercolour painting by adam gee

Glen Head, Glencolmcille

When I was on a painting holiday in Glencolmcille, Donegal in the summer I found myself thinking about how do you know when you have finished a work of art? When are you just noodling? It’s a key question for artists in all disciplines.

The French poet Paul Valéry put it well and WH Auden boiled down Valéry’s words to this:

‘A poem is never finished; it is only abandoned.’

Paul_Valéry_french poet -_photo_Henri_Manuel

Paul Valéry – photograph by Henri Manuel

W H Auden English poet

WH Auden

Background on this quotation and its attribution.

I recently heard, in connection with my Art Vandals project, about the occasion when the French Impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard in his later years was arrested in the Louvre with a small palette and brush, retouching one of his paintings. The security guards grabbed him – he was shouting “But I am Bonnard! It’s my painting!” – and they responded “The painting is in the Louvre. It’s finished!”

Quotation: Working at Art

emile zola quotation

It ain’t easy…

Or is it for some people?

10,000 hours…

Or the right gene combo?

A Good and Purple Heart

This is an extract from a really uplifting and heart-felt blog post by a 52-year old mature student at Yale, ex-military, James Hatch.

In my opinion, the real snowflakes are the people who are afraid of that situation. The poor souls who never take the opportunity to discuss ideas in a group of people who will very likely respectfully disagree with them. I challenge any of you hyper-opinionated zealots out there to actually sit down with a group of people who disagree with you and be open to having your mind changed. I’m not talking about submitting your deeply held beliefs to your twitter/facebook/instagram feeds for agreement from those who “follow” you. That unreal “safe space” where the accountability for one’s words is essentially null. I have sure had my mind changed here at Yale. To me there is no dishonor in being wrong and learning. There is dishonor in willful ignorance and there is dishonor in disrespect.

The full text is here

It’s a brilliant springboard to make 2020 a year of bridge-building, connecting, withholding judgement, seeing what’s good about people and ideas.

building-bridge-lorenzo-quinn

Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn’s ‘Building Bridges’ at the 58th Venice Biennale at the entrance of the Arsenale in the Castello district – May 2019

 

Quotation: the merit of craft

“First learn to be a craftsman; it won’t keep you from being a genius.”

Eugène Delacroix

picasso-early-work Self-Portrait 1896 age 15

Picasso – age 15 (1896)

pablo-picasso-self-portrait 90 years old June 30 1972

Picasso self-portrait – age 90 (1972)

 

Picasso self-portraits chronology

Lack of Humanity

In September 2012 ‘Freedom for Humanity’ was painted by Mear One AKA Kalen Ockerman on Hanbury Street near Brick Lane. Ironically it’s the street my grandfather worked on when he fled from Nazi Germany in May 1939.

September 2012. 'Freedom for Humanity' a street art graffiti work by artist Mear One aka Kalen Ockerman on Hanbury Street near Brick Lane london

September 2012. 'Freedom for Humanity' a street art graffiti work by artist Mear One aka Kalen Ockerman on Hanbury Street near Brick Lane london

(detail)

Ockerman: “I chose to depict the likenesses of such early turn of the century Robber Barons, specifically Rothschild, Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie, Warburg, as well as Aleister Crowley who was a kind of philosophical guru to the ruling elite of that time and a well-known Satanist.”

Rothschild banker

Rothschild

Nathaniel Rothschild (1840-1915)

Nathaniel Rothschild (1840-1915) – massive bulbous hook nose, biblical beard? not so much

Rockefeller

Rockefeller

John_D._Rockefeller_1885

John D. Rockefeller Snr. (1839-1937) – more of a pointy-uppy nose really

john-d-rockefeller-jr

Maybe it’s supposed to be Jnr. – John D. Rockefeller Jnr. (1874-1960) – the suit looks right, but the nose is still a bit off (the specs have been lent to Warburg)

Morgan

Morgan

John Pierpont Morgan

John Pierpont Morgan – more fat than hooked in the nasal department

Crowley

Crowley

Aleister_Crowley

Aleister Crowley – rather a slim nose, not much like Kalen’s effort

Carnegie

Carnegie

andrew-carnegie

Andrew Carnegie – schnozzular mismatch

Warburg

Warburg

Paul_Warburg

Paul Warburg – Kalen’s not quite captured him

alf garnett

More Alf Garnett really – it stands to reason, don’t it, you silly moo

der_sturmer_christmas_1929

Der Sturmer, Christmas 1929, urging people not to buy from Jewish shops. The caption included “Our people hung their Christ on the cross, and we do a great business on his birthday…”

Corbyn: “You are in good company. Rockefeller destroyed Diego Viera’s (sic) mural because it includes a picture of Lenin”

frida kahlo diego rivera

Diego & his missus (Frieda Kahlo)

Viera AKA Rivera: “My Jewishness is the dominant element in my life.” (1935)

Lenin: “The art of any propagandist and agitator consists in his ability to find the best means of influencing any given audience, by presenting a definite truth, in such a way as to make it most convincing, most easy to digest, most graphic, and most strongly impressive.” (The Slogans and Organisation of Social-Democratic Work, 1919)

Corbyn: “I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic.”

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