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Un[dis]criminate


I am pleased to announce that part 6 of my animation Playing with Plastic (2016) will be exhibited online as part of a new archive UN[dis]CRIMINATE with the Unstitute online gallery.

Located in courtyards of the Unstitute – in between spaces, between other structures, temporary or otherwise – is a network of diverse encampments serving any number of uses; political or otherwise. In these digital encampments you can see the building of a new archive: UN[dis]CRIMINATE.

The outlying buildings of The Unstitute are not guarded by anyone in particular, and often entrances sit wide open for anyone to see. But mainly the nomadic eruptions in disused or otherwise vague areas of The Unstitute appear of their own determination, and deterritorialize as long as they please.

Painting the Town… Update (21/5/17)


The last few weekends have seen me bring the saloon model miniature together, so it’s a solid white, ready to project against. I’ve been moving faster than I expected which is always good. With the model all but complete, the ceiling in place I decided to add the posts which I found at least two in the set itself. If anything they really are the finishing touch without bring too much detail. I’ve got the balance right. I just need to wait for them to fix in place before I prime and paint them.

I then moved on to prepare and edit new test videos, using footage from Unforgiven (1992), the final showdown, which was reduced to the reactions to gunfire. Which took less time to create than first thought. Surprisingly little gunfire goes off in this scene. I decided to slow down each of those reactions a few times. I’ll see how these all work once the last of the painting is over.

Lastly I made a start on the same scene from the Japanese remake Yurusarezaru mono (2013) which I didn’t find surprising that it contains more violence in the equivalent scene. I haven’t finished that test video that will be projected into the same model. It plays with the relationship between the two films  and the violence within them.

New Mills Festival (2017) – The Big Weekend


I’m pleased to announce that I am returning to the New Mills Festival, taking part in the Big Weekend – 22nd – 24th September.

The last weekend of the two-week festival –

The Art Trail includes a “Big Weekend”, timed to coincide with the hugely popular Lantern Procession finale, which attracts an audience of more than 14,000 to the town. The Big Weekend sees artists and venues across New Mills open their doors to host pop-up exhibitions, open studios, workshops and demonstrations, and arts and crafts markets.

More information coming soon!

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)


Just over a year ago I reviewed The Big Country (1958) writing it in response to having just read Five Came Back by Mark Harris which focused on five directors including William Wyler who documented the WWII from the skies, most memorably – The Memphis Belle (1944). The book has just been turned into a 3-part documentary series now. I left my review wanting to watch his first film coming back home to Hollywood, wanting to consider those veterans who were all starting to come home, not all in the same shape that families last saw them go off in. These were the lucky ones, countless men were lost in action and the line of duty but not in vain. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) was Wyler’s tribute to these men, America’s veterans from the world’s most deadly brutal conflict. It was also a massive eye-opener to the public that their veterans were coming home, whilst some were adapting well to civilian life there were of course many who weren’t.

There aren’t many films from the 1940s that run to almost 3 hours in length, yet those don’t have such an important heart-felt message to deliver. It has to run at a leisurely pace to feel like real life, no stylish editing to take away from the documentary style aesthetic that combined actors and amateurs who really brought home what civilian life meant for these veterans. We follow three ex-servicemen who are trying to get home. Taking one from the three main arms of the forces – Navy, Army and the Air force we see three very different men return home. The first hour is full of emotion as we follow them first meeting to the taxi they share. Each optimistic and uncertain of what lays beyond that door to their past lives.

First we meet Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) as he wants to get a flight home, none are going his way for now. Whilst civilians find it so easy, as one passenger literally is just handed his pre-booked tickets. He has to return to his own kind to get a trip home, in a bomber that no longer carries bombs, just passengers where he meets the other two veterans – Al Stephenson (Fredric March) a sergeant who fought the ground war and Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) a navy officer who has lost his arms to below the elbow, leaving him with hooks, a lasting reminder of the warm and its personal cost to him. Having him on-screen is as reminder of the real sacrifices, Russell a non-professional actor who can really bring home what went on at sea, on the land and in the skies of war. He came close to paying the ultimate cost. It’s a shock to see him, yet we quickly accept him and his situation. He can cope with them why can’t we. I was amazed how he could operate these complex hooks which allow him to function. There’s an underlying fear – will he be accepted by his family and ultimately his fiance Wilma (Cathy O’Donnell) who he has to reconnect with.

At this point we don’t know how the war has really affected the other two who have come back pretty much intact – on the surface anyway. It’s when as I keep mentioning they get home do we start to understand what they are coming back to. For Al the banker he’s has changed emotionally, more assertive and sure of himself. His family isn’t yet ready to receive this man back into their lives. Taking his wife Milly (Myrna Loy) and daughter Peggy (Teresa Wright)  on a bender. They clearly haven’t seen this side of their father and husband who has really come of what was a very conservative life of a comfortable job in a bank that assured his families future.

Whilst Fred takes a bit longer to work out. After learning his wife (of only 20 days when he last saw her) had moved out and becoming a club singer. Not the life he was expecting to come back to. He represents all those men who fell in love and got married before their leave was up. Understandably so, no one knew if they would return and wanted to make the most of what time they had. He’s one of the average Joe’s (yes Dana Andrews) who we see again at Butch’s (Hoagy Carmichael) drugstore where we also find Al and Homer who have formed a bond that would never have happened at war, three division of the armed forces have come together. Alcohol fueled and very emotional. It’s at Butch’s that they are all able to open up, start to see their futures.

You could see this as just another standard film of the era, yet there’s something very different in the characterisations, we have more realism, sure they are all well acted, with a nod in Harold Russell, one of the few men in the film who saw action validating what this film is about. He has nothing to lose from his role. You could say the film relies on him which would be unfair, the trained actors/actresses.

Turning away from Homer we have Fred who gives us the first glimpse at what P.T.S.D. really is, of course it’s only fleeting, a nightmare of his time on a bombing mission. Not able to properly process what has happened, to grieve for those he has lost and the scenes he has seen whilst at war. He has it probably just as hard as Homer adapting to civilian life, having to find a job, not wanting to return to his past to support him. A wife whose not the person he married, the woman he knew was in the photo he held onto for 3 years, not the woman who wants the uniform, the image of his past. Both are looking for something in each other that no longer or never really existed, an ideal version. Whilst Homer is unsure that he will be accepted by his family and fiance, not the man they saw leave to fight. It’s one that so many others returning home were facing at the time.

The film drives home what had changed at home in America, that it hadn’t stood still. It’s not like going on a holiday only to see the house is still standing and everyone around you is still there. There was a financial boom during the period, massive change at home, a word I am not afraid to repeat over and over now. Home is what the film is all about, what it means to so many when away for so long. The expectations of the veterans, the civilians who welcome them back and adapt to these changed men to a life they had all but forgotten. No longer giving or carrying out orders, running for or fighting the enemy, all that is over. Going back to where they had always wanted to be. Society at the time was going through a state of mass readjustment, making room and accepting these men back into daily life, a whole other battle. The Best Years of Our Lives went a long way to making it easier for veterans to be accepted back home after they had longed for it ever-since they left.

Lastly I want to find a connection between this film and The Big Country which saw a man out-of-place, adapting to an alien world that spoke his own language yet he had to prove himself to those around him. A war of his own you could say. It’s nothing like Years of Our Lives which was a much-needed film for its time. Much as Wyler’s last film before leaving for war himself Mrs. Miniver (1942) encouraged his own country to get behind the war in Europe. Two films that captured the spirit of the war. Looking at the Western it’s so far away from this time it’s something else entirely, a look back at the war, maybe another look is needed, I know I’ll be taking in Mrs. Miniver soon.

 

Kreuzweg/Stations of the Cross (2014)


I’ve been considering talking about Kreuzweg/Stations of the Cross (2014) for a few hours now. Wondering how to approach such a loaded film. Now I am not a Catholic and if you were to meet me I would be more honest in my opinion on the faith. Not to say I am extreme, yet I am not altogether positive about the religion. I’ve watched a few films recently that touch on the religion in some aspects, each time they have produced a strong emotional response of discussion. The first being Ken Loach‘s film Jimmy’s Hall (2013), the beautifully shot Ida (2013) and most recently Stations of the Cross.  I know my position is heavily formed by family history and discussion. The church is only now accepting its own dark past, the forced adoptions of unmarried women’s babies, the awful sexual abuse in the church by priests. I could go on and have a rant, which I really don’t want to do. No religion is perfect for sure, however Catholicism strict teachings have not helped to project the best image of the church.

Starting with Jimmy’s Hall which is set just during the depression and the beginning of the troubles in Ireland. Moving away from the politics which is both messy and complicated. We have a fight between an Irish communist – Jimmy Hall (Barry Ward) who has slipped back into the country where he is actively encouraged to reopen a dance hall. However at every turn he’s met by the church, in the form of Father Sheridan (Jim Norton) who at first asks him to vacate the property, as it owned by the church – fair enough, could be seen as trespassing. All the community want to do is let of some steam and enjoy themselves. To learn new dances, to exchange ideas – maybe talk about Marxism too. There are flashbacks to before Hall’s self-imposed exile which sees a happy gathering, of course some trouble before he gives in. It’s the hold of the church, the teachings of the bible that are so ruthlessly enforced upon these people who are just wanting to unwind. The scenes between Hall and Sheridan frustrate me, even just thinking about them I want to shout at the screen. Maybe that’s the power of Loach who I find controversial, our politics definitely clash shall we say. I feel like getting on my feet and shouting NO, this is wrong.

Seeing Jimmy’s Hall effect on me as more part of Loach’s power as a director, I can’t say the same for Ida which is more honest and open to debate the life of a young women whose about to enter into the sisterhood, devoting her life to God. Which is her choice, not mine, I could never devote myself to a divine being. Here Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) a novitiate nun’s told by her mother superior that before she takes her vows she’s informed of her Jewish roots, with a family member still alive. Coming from a life in the church (left by her parents during the German occupation). Already she has a get out of jail card there. It’s unheard of to have a Jewish nun, the two words really don’t fit. Advised to go away and meet her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza) who is the very opposite to a pure life. This is the 1960’s, even in Poland under iron curtain. Anna during the course of the film, learns about her parents and life outside of the church, what she has missed out on and about to give up soon. It’s a big ask of anyone to do that. I was shocked by the sudden ending that saw her not being able to live with herself. The battle between her two faiths fighting for a place in her life. All this thrust upon her before another life altering decision. All this could have been avoided if the Catholic church told her sooner of her own history. Left open for our interpretation. Is the church simply looking out for her, did she choose to become a nun of her own freewill.

Moving forward to Stations of the Cross a 14 act/stations/chapters film that follows a girl Maria (Lea van Acken) from her preparation for confirmation to sadly her death. Depicted like a modern-day telling of the Easter story. This time not as grand or spectacular cinematically. Visually is very plain, the camera is held at one fixed position, only ever-moving when absolutely necessary for the station to continue to work. It’s very christian in design, nothing at all fancy, no special effects, focusing on the dialogue. Stripped of any beauty to allow the message to be brought home, one very much of anti-Catholicism.

Beginning with the last lesson before confirmation next weekend, the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood in the church, we’re allowed into hear what Pater Weber (Florian Stetter) is talking about, an emphasis on sacrifice and being a soldier for God. Spreading the word and enforcing the teachings, not to give into temptation. Something that Maria takes a little too literally, seeing herself as someone to be sacrificed for God. It’s scary to hear how unquestioning these children are, absorbing all these ideas, without being able to process them properly.

We discover how strict Maria’s family are, her mother Franziska Weisz is clearly a strict Catholic who can’t see what is happening to her daughter as she verges on anorexia and ultimately death. Again you want to shout at the mother, let her be a child, to make mistakes as she grows up. It’s just not an option. Maria a biblical name goes on a journey that sees her not get closer to God but ultimately further away. Unable to see past all the teachings and believe in her faith. Her upbringing is not to help either, with only a nanny Bernadette (Lucie Aron) to turn to, clearly not religious but can still see the good and love in his troubled young girl who is going through enough with puberty, to be faced with the a strict family that can not see beyond the words of the bible.

The film is definitely attacking the church and not holding any punches either. There’s an agenda here which can’t be ignored. We see an innocent girl becoming more and more troubled as the film progresses. Is the church that strict, we see Pater Weber gives Maria a body of Christ which ultimately kills her. This doesn’t take away the devotion that Maria has for her cause, rightful or not it maybe she sees it through and no-one can stop her, it’s the power of faith. Which makes me now reconsider is this an attack on the church or a modern retelling of the Easter story. I’m now more confused, showing how dense the Catholic religion is to non-believers of the faith.

London Trip (5-6/5/17) Part 4


For me The Centrifugal Soul was going to be hard to top in terms of the effect it has had on me. There’s not a day goes by that I play my phone recordings, which I know is not the real thing, I have some incredible memories of that show at Blain|Southern. We moved onto a smaller show over at Beaux Arts to see Jonathan Leaman, a collection of old and new surrealist self-portraits. I found the later work a little hit and miss. There were pieces that were a little too obvious, whilst others were throwing everything at you. All externalising his emotions into these hyperreal paintings.

Whilst the later work had was far stronger, a more cohesive body of work, a visual style and iconography much like Salvador Dali. I could feel a sense if anxiety in the work, a man overburdened by later life, its all still happening for him. Honestly is at the centre of these paintings, even quite formal too. I feel the earlier painting which were hung downstairs really don’t help this series which are bold and imaginative, highly detailed paintings of wonder and worry.

We had to wait a few hours for the final show of the trip – Hockney at Tate Britain which was more for my sister than myself. Not being a painter I wasn’t as interested. After some refreshment we were let into 12 room show that began with his early work from the 1950’s before slowly moving through time and his work. I was personally quite taken by the portraits from the 1960’s. Far larger than I expected. I guess years of photos and seeing them on TV never prepares you for the real thing – the art itself. Reminding me of the importance the original and the aura of the work.

I must admit I was ignorant of his medium, switching from Oils to acrylic for a time, before reverting back to oils until very recently when he also introduced to his practice the digital, both cameras and iPads. Of course not forgetting his photo-montages. I found the most affecting, those of his family, you can see more attention to them, making the individual stills marry-up to create the figures, most prominently his mother.

As expected the show was packed throughout – the further round you got the more viewers of the work were lost to them. The 4 seasons room, I could have stayed there far longer than I did. Before moving onto the iPad room where we saw a combination of multiple slideshow and his latest works being built up in time-lapse videos. Making the most of the latest technology, something that Hockney has never been afraid to do. I came away with a greater appreciation for his work. After years of printed images I have finally seen the real thing in a show that celebrates a 60 year career.

Hockney rounded off a great weekend of art and more importantly time with my sister. What more can you ask for, family, inspiration and plenty of art.

Cape Fear/e (1962/91/93) Revisited


I’m going to try something new in this review – 3 films, well 2 films and a TV episode all titled – Cape Fear. For sometime I’ve been thinking about the relationship between these horror films. Having also read that the Martin Scorsese remake in 1991 was pointless really, I need to see this for myself to understand what is actually going on here. Has Scorsese wasted a cast and crews time and a film companies money, not to mention the audience who went to see etc. I’ll finish on a more comedic note with The Simpsons spoof Cape Feare which combines the best of both films. I’m one film in – the original which I shamefully saw in about 9 parts on YouTube whilst working at a summer camp a few years ago.

The 1962 original released as part of a cycle of horror films that attempted to emulate Psycho (1960) which reshaped the genre forever, what a was expected from the genre and its very form. What followed was a series of cheap knock-offs so to speak that tried to replicate that magic for the next few years. With time for the industry to react one of the first films out using A-list actors with well established careers, such as Deborah Kerr‘s The Innocents (1961), and the cult classic of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). However Cape Fear has more in common with film noir, or the first shoots of neo-noir after it ended a few years earlier with Touch of Evil (1959). Take some of the best bits of The Night of the Hunter (1955) and repackage it into a more audience friendly film that has also become a classic.

Taking the Charles Laughton noir of a preacher who works his way into a community, marrying a Jail birds widow, in order to get his hands on the money which the dead husband has hidden. Memorably played by Robert Mitchum, whose physical presence transformed the role and the film into that of almost folklore horror. Seeing America through the eyes of an English director who gave us his vision of a country deeply rooted in its religion that could be so easily be corrupted. The Mitchum character of Harry Powell becomes Max Cady, again not long released from prison has a one track mind, not money, he has plenty of that. Its more like a destiny that he has to fulfill coming to the home town of successful lawyer and family man Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) who had to testify against him on an attack charge against an innocent woman. After first meeting Cady we know he’s not a family man, not meant to live around law-abiding people. He’s not a gentlemen who stops to pick up papers for woman on the stairs. He’s to be avoided, even before we learn his back story.

The Cady’s live in reasonable comfort, a small lawyer whose life is about to be turned upside down, about to take him and his wife Peggy (Polly Bergen) and daughter Nancy (Lori Martin). I couldn’t help but start to draw comparisons with this to the remake, what were the new relationship that brings Cady to town. It’s more complex for sure in the remake. Back to this more straightforward film that doesn’t waste time establishing whose the good and bad guys. However it’s the law whose hands are tied, Cady’s being doing more than marking the days in his cell before being released. Reading up on the law and planning his revenge. Starting his war of terror against Bowden and his family, taking aim at the teenage daughter – Nancy whose awareness of the male gaze and sexual power is about to blow wide open.

Cady is not just a deranged criminal out for revenge he’s a sexual predator too, making Nancy his next victim. This could be where Scorsese got a bit of tunnel vision, along with changing taste and the loosening of censorship which allowed for a more adult version of the film. Nonetheless the original filmed in cheap/standard black and white adds another layer to this dark film that gets more intense scene by scene. Tying Sam in knots with nowhere to turn but to lead him into a trap on the houseboat along the Cape Fear river. The sexuality is all coming from Mitchum, even middle-aged has a decent body that added to his domineering on-screen presence. If anything I found the ending lackluster, instead of what the audience wants – and Scorsese gives us. We have the law winning out, the courts of justice putting Cady back behind bars before a swift and happy ending. It feels after all of that struggle the good and civilised in Bowden wins out, his primal desire and wishes earlier on in the film to shoot him are repressed to allow him to drag him to a prison cell before a having another trial. Hopefully leading to reform, something I really can’t see happening to Cady, whoever plays this disturbed character.

Onto the remake now, which after hearing it was pointless, I’m starting to see why after just finishing it. I first watched it at University, thinking it was a great thriller, I even used it as part of my research for thrillers and suspense. What the hell was I thinking, more to the point what was Martin Scorsese thinking. It wasn’t even a film he wanted to do, it was an assignment given to him by the Universal, for reasons I just don’t understand, I don’t think he does either. Probably hoping to get his next project The Age of Innocence (1993).

Lets take a look at the film on the face of it, a remake of the 1960’s classic thriller which saw the Bowden family being tormented by the deranged Max Cady that still remains at the core of this film. However 30 years have passed and the script admittedly needed altering in some respects. There’s far more sex on-screen, along with the usual depiction of Scorsese penchant for violence. Making it a good match, but then the same can be said of lots of directors. He’s a director for hire here. The main difference is Cady played by a hammy Robert De Niro whose clearly having a ball, glad to be working with his old pal Marty one more time. The crime committed now is, aggravated assault, essentially rape when you get to know the character. He’s come back to get revenge on his old lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) who we learn buried evidence that could have allowed Cady to go free. That facts are made clear early on away from Cady who is beginning his campaign of fear.

Originally Bowden was a witness to an assault committed by Cady, now we see that the lawyer has used his professional power to alter the course of Cady’s life. I couldn’t have seen that working in 1962, only a few years from playing Atticus Finch (Peck) couldn’t betray that upstanding heroic image. Whilst Mitchum could’ve easily played that role to the extreme without getting as hammy as De Niro. We spend more time with the daughter now named Danielle (Juliette Lewis) who is more sexually aware. Whilst the wife is pretty much unchanged, reacting instead to the plot as it unfolds. If anything she is more traumatised by the films events. So the father and daughter get the thick of it.

A memorable addition or “nod” of approval to the remake, is the inclusion of three of the original cast Peck, Mitchum and Martin Balsam each having a few scenes. Was this more a ploy to bring in the older audience to see three older actors once more, or to say that the film is not being made without their blessing. I think its more the former with a bit of promotional casting. Mitchum first appears as the detective who wants to help but is forced to not suggest to seek alternatives. Whilst Peck is clearly having more fun in his cameo as Lee Heller who is Cady’s defence lawyer. Whilst a clearly bored Martin Balsam the original detective plays the judge who rules a restraining order in Cady’s favor. The aging actor clearly underused and wondering what the hell he is doing on set.

The law is clearly not in Bowden’s side throughout, doing all he can to protect his family, being screwed at every turn by a criminal who has read his books, including the Bible and Sexus (just for added smut). There are times when you are on the Bowden’s side, then you think, haven’t we been here before, only in black and white and not for as long. Drawing out the scenes and adding new ones that only drag out this practically scene for scene remake. The religious overtones are very heavy and clearly a directorial stroke, which makes the work his – overtly.

Ultimately it’s a hammy overreacted, waste of film that sees an accomplished director scraping the barrel with sacred material that shouldn’t have been touched. He should have looked back to Dead Calm (1989) which had the boat thriller in the bag in every way. We have actors who are doing their best, whilst some are just glad for the bigger paycheck and a few days work. Lastly Scorsese only makes you think about the original more overtly with the lazy use of the original score by Bernard Herrmann, conducted by Elmer Bernstein who simply conducted it for the “new” soundtrack. There’s no attempt to be really a unique film that is about the same basic premise, its the just the same just sexed up.

Now I want to watch the far superior Simpsons parody which focuses in the best elements. The second episode of season 5 – (yes it’s that old), a longtime favorite of mine. I remember getting it on video – the murder mysteries tape. Makes me feel old just thinking about it. It’s been a while since I last saw the episode until last night. It was still as fresh and spot on with the jokes that came thick and fast. Midway through the golden age of the now long running animated sitcom, which has now become the longest running of its kind too. Cape Feare was also the third time that Sideshow Bob (Kelsey Grammer) appears in this now iconic role. Assuming the Max Cady role directly from the Scorsese’s film gave us a year before. It’s a cheeky spoof that is more entertaining that the thriller which is 6 times as long.

I think the focus was on the more recent film still fresh in the public consciousness, which is understandable, leaving the original alone. Taking the best bits of a pointless film and making fun of the rest in 20 minutes of animation. We already know that Bob has it in for Bart (Nancy Cartwright) who has twice already found him out, once for robbery, and for attempted murder. Now it’s time for revenge. There’s no need to build up that history between the two except in a few short scenes. The blood written letters and the parole hearing before Bob’s released, using his charm to gain his freedom.

Already the Simpson family are on edge, the letters and now the cinema scene which is ensures we are in for a scene for scene spoof. Of course there’s more common sense at play, the harassments taken seriously by the police instead of going down the private detective route – which leads to the fishing wire and teddy bear set-up which isn’t taken seriously. Ultimately they’re referred to the FBI who put them into the Witness Relocation Program giving them a new identity and opening titles. It’s all played fast a loose. Yet the law is on the families side, moving the spoof quickly on, there’s no time to discuss the need to use a gun or to kill Bob, it’s about hiding.

The finale is more family friendly with a Gilbert and Sullivan homage, making the most of an earlier scene in the car journey. The houseboat is loose on the water, just not out of control as Bart uses the performance to buy him time. He’s too clever to result to deadly violence to see his enemy (not Moe Szyslak (Hank Azaria) and his panda’s). The episode delivers some of the finest moments not just of the season but a collection of jokes that are better than the expensive thriller that tries to outdo the original.

So ends my first 3 (2 and a spoof) film review, attempting to find a relationship and history. I’ve chosen an easier trilogy (of sorts) to begin with a film, a remake and a spoof. I can see how it a classic (before it was more common) to remake a film. Seeing that it was sexed up, add some violence and some cheeky cameos to draw in the audiences. Whilst a controversial cartoon plays fast and loose, appropriate the events of a recent film and make fun of it, so is the nature of a spoof which in the case of this film is more entertaining, than the remake.

 

London Trip (5-6/5/17) Part 3


My second day continued at a pace, we decided to stop for a bite before going to the second gallery, Blain|Southern which turned out to have the highlight of the weekend for me. Mat Collishaw’s Centrifrugal Soul (2016). The last time I was at the space it was over a year ago for another piece that relied on tricking the eye. We were first greeted by a holographic tree – Albion

Promotional image from Blain|Southern

“…a new installation that takes as its subject the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottingham, which has an almost mythical status. This centuries-old tree has at its core a hollow rotten trunk, and since the Victorian era its vast limbs have been supported by an elaborate system of scaffolding. Collishaw’s monumental, slowly rotating image of the oak is a ghost-like apparition generated by laser scanning. The image represents a living object that is trapped in perpetuity to present the illusion of life. As with the tethered birds in Collishaw’s paintings, it presents a tension between the beautiful and the abject.

Promotional image from Blain|Southern

I was drawn not so much to the movement of the tree, more by its sheer presence in the space and how it was created. A projector and a pain of glass at an angle. An old technique in terms of optical illusion. The work was surrounded by a series of painting, colourful birds all perched in front of graffiti, trying their best to stand out from the urban markings, its a fight between Nature and the urban environment.

The next piece actually moved me to tears the first time I saw The Centrifugal Soul

…a sculpture in the form of a zoetrope, a pre-film animation device that produces the illusion of motion through rapid rotation and stroboscopic light.

The zoetrope animates scenes of bowerbirds and birds of paradise as they perform elaborate mating rituals. The work offers a captivating demonstration of how aesthetic diversity has evolved through sexual selection and also reflects the artist’s ongoing examination of our insatiable appetite for visual stimulation. Collishaw’s sculpture embodies Miller’s idea that evolution has created an inescapable drive to be noticed above the visual competition, feeding our need for self-promotion.”

Promotional image from Blain|Southern

I noticed flashing light and the whirring sound from another space. I decided to go in closer to see a structure that housed colourful objects, flowers and birds, all slightly different yet the same, running in a series. I couldn’t make that out at first. Then it started up again, the lights dimmed, the motor started up, lights flashing, motion was coming from the bright object. Flowers opening and closing, humming birds taking nectar, birds in full display for attract a mate. I was enthralled and in love with the work. A live animation, true it was limited but it was beautiful and breathtaking. The same motion repeated in around 2 minutes flat before drawing to an end. The 3D zoetrope had stopped, the illusion was over. I was on tears of joy at what I had seen. What usually takes hours, weeks, months even to capture alone happened before my eyes. An old trick that feels so very new.

Moving onto complete the Sadie Coles shows – Riverboat song which had a few more pieces at Davies Street. We were greeted by a figure that we found in the video, jet black, Black sculpture (2017), all the joints are replaced with lengths of chain, creating a very loose and horrifying puppet suspended from chain above. Is this a modern darker Pinocchio, or  the remains of a child who has lost their soul to the virtual world of cyberspace, no need for a body, just an identity.

The next piece in the space House with face (2017), a resin based house, that takes a while to work out. As we investigated it, the face started to appear on the roof. It’s hagged and old, something out of a fairy tale, like the house that it covers. I didn’t feel welcomed to it, more interested in it’s constructed. Covered in chain, as it begins to cover the house, more hoops are found, ready for chain to link and pull the house away. It’s lost it’s fairy tale innocence – I know that doesn’t quite make sense. And that’s how these two piece are connected, not so much the visual connection of the chain, more so the loss of innocence that comes from both of them. A child that has lost the colour from it’s body, whilst what could easily be a kids playhouse is being transformed into a house of horror.

Finally upstairs we found a Virtual reality piece, Real violence (2017) I had an idea of how these work, as there’s a show on at my studio’s gallery that has one at the centre. However the this is no game, it’s more simple and darker than that. After waiting a few minutes I placed the head-piece on and head phones. Advised to  hold onto a bar fixed to the plinth, I was taken into a city scene, empty at first, thrown 180 degrees to face a man being beaten up, I’m forced to stand there and watch, everywhere I turn I see a man being pummeled, it’s an intense piece to say these least to be confronted by this violent act in the artificial space, which I ultimately agreed to enter.

London Trip (5-6/5/17) Part 2


My next stop was not planned as I found myself running ahead of schedule, still in the Bethnal Green area I decided to pay a visit to the V&A Museum of Childhood. I’d had only been there previously for an opening whilst on a Uni trip, I had the good fortune to see Alan Rickman who opened the show. Yesterday I went into a space filled with nostalgia, plenty of toys that my sister and I played with, looking back further too. I also found an impressive model miniature of a tower block, architectural in aesthetic on the surface. Tower Block on Holly Street Estate (1998). A document and memorial for two tower blocks on Lomas and Cedar Court. Looking closer at the model I saw within some of the flats photographs of the residents who used to live there. Either seeing a residents or going into empty rooms.

The piece was made by three artists – James Mackinnon making the model itself, whilst the interior photographs of the residents and empty spaces were by Tom Hunter. And the exterior shots were captured by Mike Seaborne. The piece reminds me how both photography and model miniatures can be combined to create more authentic pieces.

I stayed a little longer at the museum before taking the Overground to Camden Arts Centre, home to one of my favorite spaces to see work. This time by Paul Johnson – Teardrop Centre who has filled the space with what appear to be relics of a future dystopia, of concrete and various structures.

“…work is anchored by an enquiry into the way objects and images can transition historically, mentally and physically when filtered through the hands of the artist. Gathering images and objects from diverse sources, he then creates small, labour-intensive sculptures, collages and large-scale installations that stimulate imaginary associations for the viewer to decode. Notions of the outsider, rituals and belief systems are often a point of intrigue in his work.”

The space split up into a few areas, I was first drawn to concrete coffee cup lids on A4 – A2 size paper that made up a concrete pavement, as if they lifted as artifacts freshly dug and starting to be arranged before. Behind that is Tower, a structure which runs almost the width of the space, plastic crates placed on-top of each other. In the window parallel Unselfishness an server rack that has been transformed into a totem, the cables have all be severed, so no connections can be made, no information can be stored. There’s a sense of real freedom in the work.

The next day I started over at Sadie Coles for a show in two parts for Jordan Wolfson’sRiverboat Song, which I went to as part of my research for violence. The first location being on Kingly Street where a short video on large screen built up from 16 smaller. It was the only piece in a room thickly pink carpeted space. We came in as an animated guy was displaying himself, urinating like a sprinkler and playing with it. There’s a real sense of freedom in the work that doesn’t fear to probe into the dangers of modern life. Just from the video

Promotional image from Sadie Coles

This was only the first half of the show that was still yet to come.

London Trip (5-6/5/17) Part 1


It’s been just short of 6 months since my last proper gallery trip, I’m now back in London to see whats on offer in the smaller galleries. Yesterday I planned to do 4 shows, however I was running ahead of schedule so I made a stop at the V&A Museum of Childhood, which was both nostalgic and inspiring.

My first stop was over at the Lisson Gallery on Bell Street for Natalie Djurberg & Hans Bergs show Who am I to Judge, or It Must be Something Delicious (2017). Initially when I was researching potential shows to visit I was unsure about this one, even with all the mixed media figures. It was the content of the work, the sexual overtones, was that too much for my taste. The more I thought about it, I knew it was going to be fun. Plus after watching The Greasy Strangler (2016) a crude and weird comedy about a father and son, and their dark activities, which as much as it was down-right disgusting I couldn’t stop watching. I still have it stuck in my head, says a lot really.

There’s no real text on the show, which leaves it open to interpretation which for me is great, as I don’t like being told, it spoils the exploration of the show on a personal level. I found the work overwhelmingly funny. So much debauchery in one room. Moments of unadulterated pleasure with faeces, sticks, bananas, My Little Pony’s and moons. It was pure madness in a small space. repeated quotes  that question what it going on top of this platform. Balancing out all the insanity before is.

I also watched a portion of one of the animations – Delights of an Undirected Mind (2016), from which these model miniatures are from. Crude in content, with less regard for the skill of the animation, essentially it’s loose allowing the content of innocent fairytale and childish imagery running rampant in the bedroom. Just as disturbing and funny, if not more so than the first space.

My next stop was at Josh Lilley to see Nicholas Hatfull Tofu Dealer (to kill my hunger in daytime wander). I came mainly for the larger sculpture that combines oversized rubbish with other found urban objects – Ludovis/Weltschmerz (Easter in Milan) (2017). The combination of oversized and out external objects complement each other well. Emphasising the dirt we create and blatantly ignore on daily basis. Driving home what is around us.

The majority of the were his painting, which mixed media pieces, depicting food taken to an abstract level at times. A bold use of colour, emphasising the form of the food, which in-turn expresses the passion he has ir had at the time. All these are yearnings for what is on display, we are seeing his eye wandering over the food, longing to devouring it all.

My next show was over in the Bethnal Green area at Space Gallery to see Jonathan Baldock’s My Biggest Fear is that someone will crawl into it. If I’m honest I was expecting more, as in space for a gallery under that name. Moving on I did find the work inside inviting. A four-poster-bed covered in a hand sewn cover, with whispered audio coming from within. After watching the accompanying video by the artist explaining the bed piece it to be a very personal piece. Inviting the audience to lay on the bed and listen to a recording of his mother retelling her life. An autobiography for personal digest, and family record, to pass from one generation to the next. I found in inspiring as I am considering a documentary piece which looks at how past generations have grown up with Westerns, it’s how to exhibit those recordings that brings them to life. I felt even though I have no personal connection to the artist that I was in a warm loving environment, If I laid on the bed I would be recounted a family history from the mother with no prior judgement, a mothers unconditional love.