Visual Artist

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Welcome to my blog, where you will find all my work, works in progress, there's always something going on, an ever changing place where the you can stay up to date with my work, from the idea, to the trials and celebrations. Also you can found a wealth of film reviews that influence my work. Follow on Bloglovin

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Suspicion (1941) Revisited


Suspicion (1941)I rarely ever revisit a film and talk about it. Usually watching it for the pleasure, sometimes there’s a need to understand what was earlier lost on me. I have a few lined up which I need to reconsider, not really seeing them for what they are. An underestimation of what they are about. So the first in a series of reviews I begin with one of the very first I watched about 3-4 years ago. Having already seen North By Northwest (1959) and Psycho (1960) which I found to be more engaging than Suspicion (1941) which was darker in tone than the lighter North by Northwest with Cary Grant. I think I was caught up in the upper-class world that the earlier film took place in when Johnnie (Grant) begins to court Lina (Joan Fontaine a shy and reserved woman who falls for his charms. Who wouldn’t, its Cary Grantwho was Alfred Hitchcock’go to actor at the time.

However the average man in Grant has a far darker side that starts to reveal itself when they marry and move into a world if debt and doubt. Living in a house that has yet to be paid for and a husband who won’t take a job. The life of a playboy, emphasis on the playing with his friend Beaky (Nigel Bruce) who is in his own little world.

Whilst Lina and Johnnie are squarely in reality with a different set of morals. One living by his wits to get the money he wants, whilst the wife wants stability and safety in her life. Its Johnnie who is control of everything here, helped very much by Grants charismatic performance that steals the show. Leaving both the audience and Lina in the dark as to his true intentions. Lina and the audience develop a very different picture from that of the gambling man. Who could even kill to get what he wants. We never see any deaths on-screen, more a suggestion of what could be. The power of Hitchcock has travelled across the Atlantic and slowly being honed up to become what we see in his later films of. It’s not so much what we see but what we don’t, that power of suggestion. Even the dramatic imagery of a death is just in the imagination.

I think what made me come away from the film so disaffected was the ending that after such a climax, on the open road became a happy ending, very much in the style of films at the time. On thinking about it there is still room for what happens after we leave them on the coastal roads. Will there be another argument, which leads to a death. Who knows. That is the power of Hitchcock which was very much misunderstood at the time. I now hold the film in a higher regard, not as strong as other works of the decade such as Shadow of a Doubt (1943) which really questioned what we really know of people’s past and the true drives.

Pericles in the West Update (18/4/14)


A very brief update today. Before I left for New Mills I received in the post the cowboy figures 1:72  that I ordered at the start go the week. I knew that they would be smaller than my film noir figures, just not prepared for exactly how smaller though.

I’m really going to have up my game in terms if scale and detail, working on a new language which has less detail. I will now be able to make use of the matchstick that I bought years ago for some of the detail. This will be a real test for me. At least with these models I can still experiment and even have men riding horses. I’ll be returning to this project properly next week after the holidays. I could still do both outcomes and see which leads the way.

New Mills Arts Fest Update (18/4/14)


I’ve been on the train a lot this week, up and down from London for my first show in the capital before heading up north to New Mills in preparation for the town trail next month. Stopping by to see some friends I made during my residency there in September 2012. The main reason was more about measuring up the space so I can start to plan which models I would like to display.

I’m really lucky to have such a big space to work with, allowing more to bring up the majority of my Have You Seen? model miniatures. I have a few considerations in mind with the space. First is that there are stands in the window which will divide the work. These stands both interrupt the displaying in terms of gaps but height. I’m hoping to work out a solution to that soon.

DSCF3440 DSCF3441

I also have the entrance where customers entering the shop may knock and damage the work, so they can’t go at the every edge.

The other large window space is a window-sill which is almost twice as long, and wider, so larger models can sit there. I will have to make a few more street lights for the full effect before adding the cars and a few figures. All that’s left to do is to work out the models to take from the street plan, or to make up a new one.

The Inconvenient Indian – Thomas King


The Inconvenient IndianI’ve just finished Thomas King’s  The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North AmericaI can’t help of the opening narration by Spencer Tracy in How the West Was Won (1962) which speaks of how the land that became the United States was won, tamed and made. It touches on the Native culture of America, which I have learnt more about in this loose account of North American Aboriginals. I read it over the course of 3 months or so in my lunch-breaks at work. Every time without fail I came away shocked at the treatment of these people who once were free to live and worship as they please. Since the first Europeans landed, they have pushed, killed, lied and evicted the Native American.

My view of the Native was originally sympathetic, wanting to understand more about their depiction on film, who are only an obstacle for the whites who tore through. My last western saw a tribe being swooned by Randolph Scott in Santa Fe (1951) who took their leader for a ride on the Iron Horse who then concluded was trapped by the rails and was no real worry. I guess that was a consideration, besides the fact that the laying off thousands of miles of tracks brought hunters who killed off the buffalo which was the life blood for some tribes.

The Inconvenient Indian is a light look at how both Native Americans in both Canada and the U.S. have been treated politically. With hundreds of treaties signed (land grabs) which allowed the growth of the countries. Whilst in the last century each tribe has been fighting for recognition, and lost land.

There are a few successes, such as the casino’s which they still had to fight for. They are slowly emphasis on slowly gaining lost lands, like in Alaska. Buying land when they can, at the expense of the whites not able to use it more profitably. It seems that two very different cultures are living on the same land, two very different driving forces, one profit and the other being touch with the land.

If you want to take a first look at the Native Americans, this is a nice easy step into that world. The content is heavy at time, balanced out by King’s delivery, a mix of sarcasm and wit, he’s developed a thick skin to the things that have gone on for his people. I can’t leave this without thanking Marilyn over at Serendipity for making me aware of such a fantastic read that kept me both gripped, shocked and engaged.

Lastly I want to respond to this book, with so much going on, I need to put it to one side for a while, focus on Pericles and see what theme and ideas are there. There is so much there I would be crazy to ignore it.

 

Pericles in the West Update (14/4/14)


I’ve made a good start at Act 4 of Pericles now, which is getting longer than the other acts. I will definitely be adding more depth and dialogue to the previous acts. I must bear in mind a lot more is going on in this act, which is a big reason too. I’m probably about a third into this one, which is saying something.

I have also given in after constantly being distracted by looking for figures, buying two packs of Cowboy model figures. I will then have enough to mix up, cut up and re-glue into place. It will also set the scale of the sets that are to be built. I know they will be a lot smaller than my regular models. Then it’s a matter of finding a language within a language of the model sets to signify what I am saying.  There will be less detail, like on the film noir models, which was reduced to a few brush strokes. This will again test my making and painting skills. My writing skills are already being put to the test.

Haywire (2011)


Haywire (2011)I was expecting more from this spy thriller than I actually got. With a decent cast too I thought I would be impressed. Sadly even in the hands of Steven Soderbergh who has turned his hand to nearly every genre. It’s true that Haywire (2011) is slick and clever as we follow the contracted ex-marine Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) who after carrying out a job for the government is on the run. But why is she on the run. To be honest I don’t care really.

As clever as the script is, trying to improve on Lucky Number Slevin (2006) which both are influenced by Quentin Tarantino who is the man to look up to when it comes to clever scripts. This as good as it looks just falls down, It’s hard to put my finger on why. On the surface for me I just don’t care for the characters, well except the guy who gets caught up in all this crazy s***. Going back to the script it felt too predictable to really care what happens, I knew that she was being double crossed very early on. 

Even with a cast that boasts Ewan McGregorMichael Douglas and Michael Fassbender I wanted, no demanded more. I feel this was the Counsellor (2013) of 2011 just a disappointment from a respected director.

The fight scenes with Gina Carano are what make and break this film, starting off exciting, not knowing where they’ll go, but in the end, she’s beaten a guy to a pulp and off she walks more angry than ever because one is talking to her, well if you left them to talk before you shut them up, you wouldn’t be in this situation. Sorry just frustrated this boring ‘thriller’ that used fight scenes to pad out a short film to extend it from 45 minutes to a feature length.

I wish I could write more about this film, I was in two minds to do this in the first place but here I am summing up a boring, predictable and lacklustre film, that will do no damage to anyones career, just being ignored as a misadventure.

Jacknife (1989)


Jacknife (1989)I had the opportunity to watch The Fan (1996) which from the trailer was just The King of Comedy (1982) but with baseball. The same really could be said for Jacknife (1989) being a remake of The Deer Hunter (1978). I think it’s more the subject matter of war that interested me enough to sit down for this one. Not being so much a remake, or a sequel but a return to that world that was left demoralised by veterans who returned from what TV and film at least depict as a living hell, that’s without asking a veteran.

With Jacknife it was more like a re-visit to see how the veterans had been recovering from their time at war. I was expecting more flashbacks than what I got, returning to the same event over and over from both perspectives of Megs/Jacknife (Robert DeNiro) and Dave (Ed Harris). DeNiro is playing very much the same role (Michael), a guy who was once off the rails, but has since become more grounded, excepting what has happened and tried his best to move on with his life. Unlike Dave living uncomfortably with his sister Martha (Kathy Baker) who above all wants her brother back, to open up to her. A tough thing to achieve when the friends you make are lost whilst at war.

No longer is society coming to terms with the tragedy that is making its way home to America, they are all home, trying the best to adapt to a normal life. Some are not so lucky, now disabled or have psychological issues, even worse they may have died in action. Jacknife is a character study of the Vietnam veteran years after return. The two men were good friends, torn apart by the events of at least the one event depicted. Not the trauma that we experience in The Deer Hunter, its more grounded in everyday life, which is probably why I could still follow the film and chat to my sister, it was more easy-going. I knew more or less what was going to happen. Because I have seen it only better by Michael Cimino  who blows your mind.

Putting the pace of the film to onside it was well acted by the three leads, each affected in different ways, DeNiro is simply returning to a role he played years before. Whilst Harris is embracing the anger deep within him that he has been unable to express. Whilst the spinster sister Martha just does her best to carry on with her life. When Megs enters her life she sees what her brother could be, confident, able to move on with his life where her brother hasn’t, just what she needs. Jacknife is still worth a watch for the performance in this low-budget film that is grounded very much in the reality of life after warfare. 

Art Experimenta Update


Art-Experimenta 2A quick update about my upcoming screening at Trispace Gallery in London this Tuesday. The artist I will be showing alongside are

  • Tinderdust – ‘Fog-BlackMoon1348′
  • Rizelle Molte – ‘Farewell Rain’
  • Alixir – ‘Start & Restart’
  • Lucy Crump and Jake Nason – “CLEANSING”
  • Eva Rudlinger – ‘Slow Heat’
  • Exedra & Robin Cracknell – ‘Distance’
  • Tim Neath –  ‘Have You Seen?’
  • Rebecca Cooper – ‘Extended Living Edition’
  • Kieran Sullivan – ‘Sex education advert’

 

Cross of Iron (1977)


Digital StillCameraWith a very distinctive visual style and portrayal of violence, I knew I was in for something both beautiful and gloriously violent. That’s not to say that Sam Peckinpah enjoyed violence for which he will always be remembered for, in fact it was quite the opposite, hating it with a passion. Increasing the volume greatly from The Wild Bunch (1969) which can seem tame in comparison to the much later Cross of Iron (1977) on the Nazi battlefield in Russia.

It’s very rare that we actually sympathise with a German soldier, something I have only done twice before; All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and Das Boot (1981). Again it doesn’t really matter what side these soldiers are on, seen more as men in the midst of a war they are loosing. Focusing on their dynamics rather than the politics of the conflict as the began their retreat from Russia in 1943. The main conflict is between the decorated and rebellious Rolf Stiener (James Coburn) and the Prussian Captain Hauptmann (Maximilian Schell) who wants the Iron Cross medal, an iconic and sought after piece in the Third Reich. A personal fight for glory is being waged between two men. A clash of class ideals is going on between these influential men on the Russian front. 

The opening titles of this film are fascinating, matched to a frantic succession of images that depict the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazi army, as if they are playing a game, just children taking over the playground. Tinged with cynicism of the weary soldier characterised by Coburn who gas grown to hate all that is about the war and probably Germany. Still he carries out his orders and looks out for his men throughout. Even pitying a young prisoner they find, not having the heart to kill a boy in uniform, which would amount to murder not a legal killing in his and the mens eyes.

Theres a battle within the structure of command, between the colonel Oberst (James Mason) and his assistant Captain Hauptmann (David Warner). Both weary of the war, knowing they have all but lost, wondering when they will surrenderWarner plays a depressed captain whose hopes have been all but lost to the ravages of war, whilst the colonel is holding together his command. Handling a glory hungry upper-class Prussian who will stop at nothing in gaining the Iron Cross, unable to return to his family without one.

A lot of subject matter is discussed here, from the ethics of prisoner treatment to the glory of fighting, philosophy of the individual. By no means is this just a find the enemy and shooter dead kind of a film. It’s both intelligent and thought-provoking as we see the injured soldier, how they are treated by the higher ranks, the mental stresses of war, dramatically seen in slow-motion flashbacks. Whichever side of war you are on, it’s never easy for the simple soldier out there fighting. Who can lose that sense of purpose, killing, running and following orders that lose all meaning with all the death and destruction around them.

The violence found within The Wild Bunch was for its time controversial, by the time of Cross of Iron we had grown used to it all. The very setting of the latter film delivers us more studies of death as they slowed down to not enjoy but be horrified by. Cinematically we see a life coming to an end in far more than a flash of an explosion or a round of bullets piercing flesh and blood. Being forced to see such brutality makes death a spectacle to watch in awe. It’s just a trick, whilst in reality it’s anything but. This heightened experience of war makes it more real and at the same time hype real, what is over in a second we now see for 10 seconds.

It’s ultimately about two men at logger heads, at either end of the social spectrum placed into a world that a power struggle. No one really wins as we leave them when the Russians once more advance. I’m cheering for no one at this point, drained by all the violence that has been spewing out of the screen. All the tired men just trying to live another day as best they can. Isn’t that we are all trying to do, get through the day the best we can, making the most of what we have? Ok maybe a bit extreme there, I’m not in a war zone not knowing if I’ll be alive by the end of the day. For me I’ve just discovered a hidden gem of Peckinpah’s that deserves more praise than it receives, understanding his subject matter, always following the underdog at his demise, just what he does best.

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