After the distractions of this very special August (friends from disparate parts of the globe came to London for the World Science Fiction con) I finally got back to the workshop and have started to edition – Coming through. It’s murky and I like it that way. You have to peer, for instance, to see the mask-like face of a woman. And there is a hooded man, with no facial features, just smears and marks from overlays. The salient thing in this composition is the barbed wire. So it’s a variation on my war pictures and there is a note in this Available Light, 23 Dec 2013: End Violence Against Women. (plate size: 250mm x 165mm)
Here is the price list for my work to be shown at Loncon3, from Thursday, the 14th of August, to Sunday, the 16th of August. It’s mainly for the titles. (If you click on it for size, then to get back – go to return arrow upper left.)
Another painting finished: After the Flood.
970 mm by 670 mm.
If you click on the thumbnail to get the full painting, then when leaving you have to go the upper left back arrow. It takes you to the beginning of the section. I really don’t know why WordPress saw fit to change when they had a good thing before: you could just click on the full picture and it would bring you back to where you were. But now you click on the picture and it just makes it larger. And larger. You tend now to get angry and therefore leave the premises. Please don’t.
This painting had an earlier manifestation several years back, and was problematic in composition. I started with thoughts of notation, musical modes – they haven’t survived through the various changes. Then, variations on the letter “a”, a Peruvian mummy cloth design, an Inuit shaman, and a young girl looking into this strange world. What kind of world am I trying to occupy here? Is the child projecting all this stuff around her? The idea of projection is interesting. Building blocks of the psyche? Machine codes of the mind? We carve up our emotional experiences in ways that are just below our radar. And there’s movement, a dance. That’s, I guess, where this painting resides.
Here’s Punctuated Equilibrium. This painting has taken me a long, long time to finish. It bears a relationship to Quorem which also took a long time to finish, back in 2010. So I’ll include it at the bottom. (Some of the seemingly simple paintings take longer. Strange. I don’t know why.) Dimensions:
Punctuated Equilibrium is 1030 by 730 mm.
Quorem is 1045 by 792 mm
Punctuated Equilibrium is a theory in evolutionary biology. There is phyletic gradualism, which states that evolution generally occurs by a steady and gradual set of transformations. But in 1972 Niles Eldridge and Stephen Jay Gould published a paper developing the notion that gradual evolution was seldom seen in fossil records, and that actually, and more interestingly, there were in the records to be studied, a sort of “stasis” and then “sudden jumps”. Gould coined the phrase – punctuated equilibrium.
Some biologists have applied punctuated equilibrium to non-sexual species including the evolution of viruses.
And perhaps in a Science Fiction context, Punctuated Equilibrium might bring us to recall a certain moment in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is when the mysterious alien artefact, a black monolith, triggers prehistoric ape people to start making tools. The first tool was, of course, a weapon.
Today was a beautiful early spring day and so John and I went to Tate Britain. The portico was built in 1897 by Sidney R.J. Smith.
Smith also designed the dome inside. There is a joy in walking through the renovations underneath this dome: Rod Heyes and Caruso St John Architects have created a sensitive set of relationships.
Of course we wandered around doing our usual things, including going to the members’ room.
And we enjoyed the exhibition on ruins.
Wednesday afternoon, 5th of February, we noticed the queue outside the Electric Ballroom was huge. It went around the corner at Buck Street and into Kentish Town Road. I googled and figured it was Prince because he had done a “secret” gig there the night before. Then the rains came. I felt sorry for the people standing in the rain, some without umbrellas. But not for long. Next time I looked out there was a pretty display of appropriately – purple umbrellas. I guess the online property website, Zoopla, was alert to this.
My tree witch is screaming.
This etching borrows its title from Peter Viereck’s 1961 play/poem – The Tree Witch. She is a Dryad and has been captured and tortured by a collective contemporary man. This poem/play works for present day Britain where we have the nature of flooding completely misunderstood by the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, “the worst environment secretary Britain has ever suffered.” See George Monbiot’s brilliant article in the Guardian, 14 January 2014: Drowning in Money: The Pig-headed policies that make flooding inevitable.
Owen Paterson boasts that hill farmers on the least productive land “will now receive the same direct payment rate on their upland farmlands as their lowland counterparts.” The farmers will be paid, yes paid, to remove trees and scrubs that absorb much of the water falling from the hills. And they will no longer be given subsidies for further tree planting.
And this, with no reference to all the good work done by the British government for other countries. For decades Britain has been funding scientists throughout the world in the study of hydrology: helping other countries to protect their upland forests as a means for preventing communities downstream from being flooded away. And also helping them organise the engineering to return curves and bends into straightened, scoured rivers.
It’s so simply wrong, what the present British government is doing. Their philosophy seems to be that land exists only to support landowners. See the problem of grouse shooting estates with drained and burnt moors of the Peak District National Park. And, yes, the present government sees waterways as existing only to “get rid of water.”
It all makes you want to scream. Last word to the Dryad:
For his is the end of the world. In technicolor.
Someone used the phrase – a violin in a void. Yeah. I like that. Or – marching out of Eden. Whatever, this painting is not a barrel of laughs. It was started with the CND movement in mind and all the rest followed. Not forgetting, of course, the soldiers borrowed from Sargent’s famous painting, “The Gassed”. So here we are with the absolutely last version:
I’m thinking about the BBC radio 4 programme last night on Charles Chilton. It dealt with The Long Long Trail, a documentary in 1961 about the First World War. Chilton’s brilliance in this new technique, which he in fact invented – making a documentary illustrated with popular songs – caused one of the commentators last night to say that he was perhaps the best, most original person, that the BBC had working for them in the 20th century. Wow.
He certainly demonstrated an overflowing creativity in everything he did. But in this WW1 context he also had a mission. His father had died aged 19 in WW1 and Chilton wanted to understand something of the ordinary men in the trenches. His father and the others who had died.
Statistics. 9 million soldiers had been killed. And another 21 million wounded. And to look, for instance, at the infamous Battle of the Somme alone, over a million soldiers were killed, including about 30,000 in just one day. There was a tendency for this horrendous period of our history to be conveyed historically with a one toned slant: the grand human tragedy, the horror, the horror.
But Chilton wanted to do it differently, in a way that would directly hit the listener. He wanted many voices. In fact he wanted, as mentioned above, the soldiers’s songs. He went to the London Library in St James’s Square to research song book collections. He researched everywhere and delighted in the anarchy that he found. He noted that, of course there were songs about missing their old world back home, but the majority of their songs were grumbles about sergeants and officers and the awful conditions. There was irony and wit and even joy in combination with despair. Very British.
Interesting to note that Joan Littlewood worked with him, or he with her, on – “Oh, What a Lovely War!” She had not really wanted the songs, just a story line. But that was his contribution. He used the structure of his Long Long Trail and the songs therein. To show that Littlewood was distancing herself from the way the production had developed, the poster advertising the premier in 1963, did not have her name on it.
The audience was ecstatic, however. Littlewood immediately had the poster reprinted with her name on it. It became her baby from that point on.
Charles Chilton is one of my heroes. I took some photos of him on the 19th of May, 2011, when the British Library had its opening party for “OUT OF THIS WORLD: Science Fiction but not as you know it.” (You can glance to the left and click on May 2011.)
And the close-up photo of him here is from that time when fans came surging up to meet him. He was responsive as you can see. Penny was, of course, at his elbow. I’m only sorry that my photo is out of focus, but I treasure it because of Chilton’s expression.
This event featured A JOURNEY INTO SPACE, his Science Fiction trilogy, with all three volumes displayed, A Journey into Space, The Red Planet and The World in Peril. Also there was his original manuscript for the first part.
It should be noted in conclusion, that Chilton gave the British Library his original manuscript of A Long Long Trail and this made possible the present BBC production to be broadcast later today on BBC Radio 4 extra at 14.00.
On the 12th of December Amanda Palmer’s Blog was about how the United Nations devoted a day (the 25th of November) to highlight violence against women. The Italian playwright Serena Dandini presented a set of monologues she’d written called “Ferite a Morte”. Wounded to Death. It was streamed live from the UN with a cast of 16 women reading the frightening set pieces. Amanda’s was the last and it was like like a coda. “Men in Uniforms get away with things all over the world.. It’s nothing personal.. You’re part of the spoils of war..”
And so I did an etching. It’s titled, “Coming through” and it’s 25cm by 16.5cm.
Since the beginning of September I’ve been playing with a green man open-mouth profile in two new paintings. Size in centimetres: “Voiced”, 105 x 79; “Parley”, 103 x 73. As with most of my paintings, they are framed, oil on canvas. And they are £3,000 each.
The recent upgrade has made the pictures in the galleries of my site much easier to look at, in, for instance, the for sale section. But here in the blog section it has made the viewer go through extra work. I don’t know why we can’t, as we used to, just click to change from size to thumbnail, back and forth. If you click as before, the picture is merely enlarged with each click. And to leave the picture you have to go the return arrow, upper left. Each time. And it takes you to the top of the section. I’ll try and get this sorted, but in the meantime – apologies.
According to accounts from the late 18th century there were hardly any trees to be seen as you walked the streets and lanes of the City of London. None around St Pauls. Ah, but there was one nearby, at the corner of Wood Street and Cheapside. It grew in the churchyard of St Peter Cheap, a church, one among many, destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt. I’m sorry to note that my 2013 photograph of this tree is out of focus, as though I can’t quite get it to stand in our time and place.
William Wordsworth wrote of this churchyard and tree: At the corner of Wood Street when daylight appears / hangs a thrush that sings loud, and it has sung for three years: / Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has heard / In the silence of the morning, the song of the bird.
“Reverie of Poor Susan” 1797
Throughout the Victorian era that tree was special, quietly growing on the site of St Peter Cheap. It has survived into our time, but strange tree companions in this little churchyard are now – palm trees.
If we stroll from this site a few steps into Cheapside, we see St Mary le Bow foregrounded by newly planted trees
Then in the other direction towards St Pauls, the trees become a veritable screen.
A little farther on, at Christchurch Greyfriars, we have greenery of a different sort.
A very large church had been built here as part of the monastic holdings of the Grey Friars in the 12th century. It was entirely lost in the fire of 1666. Christopher Wren built a small church on the site of the choir. Unlike St Pauls and St Mary le Bow, Wren’s structure here did not survive the bombing of WW2. Only the tower remains and, for the last few decades, the space has been given over to garden. Where the internal pillars had once been, we see wooden platforms for vines and roses. Initially there was an almost formal rose garden effect but with a change of intention on the part of the designers, we now have a casual profusion of low bush and wild flower planting.
We finish with an image of trees in the old church yard. They stand by the central aisle of the former nave. For a couple of decades now, Merrill Lynch, the financial management company, marks closure at the end of the tree avenue and this is where there had been big wooden doors to enter the earliest church on this site.
Here’s an article published in the Geneva newspaper, Le Temp, on the 2nd of February 2013. It’s written by Joëlle Kuntz. The subject is the various types of marriage prevalent today: le mariage dans tous ses états. And she uses one of my paintings to illustrate. The painting is a riff on the famous Arnolfini double portrait sometime called the Marriage of Arnolfini. I painted this in 1988 and it is called “Radiance of the Genes”.
Radiance of the Genes
I’m still fascinated by this upright composition and the things that can be done within the given dimensions (two plates, each 15.4 by 9.7 cm). The titles are – I’m game; Moult; Grist; Okay. The first is based on a photo of Yolande Pickett taken in our garden, summer 2012. The last, a photo of Amanda Palmer in our kitchen, summer 2013.
Here we have four more etchings. This time, almost without my intention, casual portraits are worked into the compositions. These are from photos I’ve taken of friends. I’ve a stash wherein I rummage every so often. Feels good to have this strand of personal vitality in the midst of my stern theme – Darkening Garden. Here are the names: Nick Harkaway; Sarah Lasley; Morgan Doyle; Erin Kissane.
I was there
As usual I asked John for help thinking up a title. For the first in this group he brought out Edwin Muir’s – One Foot in Eden. In the title poem of the book he found just the right words: Compactly Grown.
Here are the lines in the middle of the first stanza.
…Time’s Handiworks by time are haunted,
And nothing can separate
The corn and tares compactly grown.
Here’s the latest etching in the Darkening Garden series. The top part is derived from my painting: Bone Scan. The lower one can look look like a skull, or whatever the viewer wants. It started from a photograph of me drinking from a wine glass, but maybe we don’t need to know that. I really do like things unexplained. (I’m pushing time for this pic because the frame is only half finished.)
This time I’m only putting in three new works, and one, is an amendment. It is a mark-two version of WarHorse.
In the last set of etchings entered here on the 17th of February, I see that I’m not well served by the small square thumbnail format. This time they are photographed in their mounts and their dimensions are accordingly, in inches, 19 by 9 and a half. And in millimetres, 487 x 244. Please click on the images to get the full view.
Meet my daughter
Falls From the Air
The working title for this set continues to be – The Darkening Garden.