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Boxing Day

December 26, 2011 Leave a comment

After a very enjoyable but lazy day indoors on the 25th, we woke up to some exceptionally mild weather, and decided to do something we’ve never done before on Boxing Day… go for a bike ride.

So we headed out at about 11.30 ish and after a very enjoyable couple of hours or so of mooching along rivers, canals, back streets and virtually deserted city roads, we found ourselves at One New Change, Jean Nouvelle’s Stealth behemoth adjacent to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Boxing Day sales are a slippery slope I know, and generally to be avoided at all costs, but to be fair to A, as she had predicted there was hardly anyone around, and empty shops do not a stressful experience make…

Not being much of a shopper myself, I left A to the sales, and headed up to the top of the building to take in the huge terrace and the rather wonderful roof top views of London.

It’s not exactly a 360° panorama, but it’s an impressive sight all the same, and the journey to the top offers an interesting view of St Paul’s through the angled glazing of the building.

Contained within the sloping glass cladding of one part of the roof, are some rather fine sculptures. Originally made by Sir Charles Wheeler, I can only assume that these wonderful carvings adorned the previous building that occupied the site. My apologies for the poor photos but the glass is rather dirty and the sun was directly behind me, but I think you can just about see the quality of his work.

Charles Wheeler (1892 -1970) was a highly regarded English sculptor, whose work can be seen in Trafalgar Square, and on various Embassies, Memorials and Ministerial Buildings that went up in the first half of the last century. Like most of the 20th Century sculptors that I admire, Wheeler worked in a contemporary style, avoiding the overly detailed work of many of his peers and producing work that was both powerful and modern, whilst still reflecting the ceremony and pagentry that was generally required of commissions from this period.

The building from which they came, the now demolished No. 1 New Change building was designed by the architect Victor Heal. It was a 1960’s office block that was much derided upon completion, being seen as something of an anachronism, harking back in style to the stripped down classicism of the interwar period, rather than embracing the more contemporary stylings of the 50’s and 60’s. It’s telling I think, that other than this site (from where I’ve borrowed these images) I can find very little about the building on line, which I suppose explains its lack of listed status and subsequent demolition…

I used to work around the corner from this building and can clearly remember a stainless steel plate engraved with a view across New Change, showing both St Paul’s and the building above. I was hoping to find it online somewhere, but sadly no one thought to record it.. (including me of course)

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The Value of Beauty…

December 20, 2011 1 comment

Sadly a fourth “Things I DON’T like…” post.

To the wankers who stole the wonderful Barbara Hepworth sculpture, Two Forms (Divided Circle) from Dulwich Park…

I hope one day a random stranger destroys something that you value and transforms it into scrap…

 

 

 

Fabric Fliers from 2001

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I was inspired by finding the Lemon Jelly Lucky bag the other day, so I thought I’d delve through the rest of my collected stuff, to see what else I could find, (and belive me, there’s loads…)

First up are some beautiful Fabric fliers from 10 years ago, a very scary thought. They are by the artist Tommy Penton  whose work I haven’t seen much of recently, but whose distinctive and immediately recognisable style seemed to be everywhere a decade or so ago, adorning album sleeves, magazine covers and book jackets. Check out his site, see what you recognise…

I particularly enjoyed this set of images when they came out. I liked the story of a morning they told over the six months: In January we see our man at breakfast, February he leaves the house, March and April see him travelling on the underground (I like his reflection in the carriage window), whilst in May and June he walks out to sit in the park.. And much like Tommi Ungerer or Maurice Sendak before him, Penton uses the device of a little repeated motif in every image (in this case a cat) linking them all together. Very nice…

Little A tells me that we went to at least three or four of these nights, and it’s interesting to read some of the names, still relevant (in my opinion) and still banging it out on a regular basis: Tom Middleton, Terry Francis, John Digweed (natch), Ralph Lawson, Bill Brewster and Lee Burridge to name just a few… Whilst my “what are they doing now/ greatly missed” list would have to include Circulation, Dave Angel, Doc Martin and our favourite deep house don, Jon Marsh.

I’ve written about Fabric’s excellently varied and democratic approach to design before, and these fliers are another example of the club giving  young illustrators free reign, without dictating a house style, an approach which is very much to be commended.

If you’ve got this far, I’ll finish with the footnote that this is actually my 200th post… and I’m no where near bored yet… So thanks for tuning in and hopefully the next 200 will be just as good…

A Lemon Jelly Lucky Bag

December 13, 2011 1 comment

We were looking for our last years stash of unused christmas cards over the weekend and I came across this rather wonderful forgotten thing…

The date: Friday 7th March 2003. The place: The Kentish Town Forum. The event: Lemon Jelly’s Patagonian Tour, and a marvelous event it was too. All flashy lights, crystal clear sound and Fred playing a cello…

I think we were all given one of these as we walked into the venue, but being the sad hoarder/ collector type that I am, I ended up with about 3 or 4 of them.. If you were there, you may remember seeing me at the end of the gig, I was one of several, rather drunk sad buggers, collecting everyone else’s droppage (it seemed important at the time): Postcards, pencils (with the helpful instructions “Lemon Jelly Doodle Machine” on the side) balloons, badges, fliers for a kids special matinee gig and an unused bingo ticket (I guess we didn’t win)

I’m sure I vaguely remember a year or so afterwards that one of these lucky bags was put up on eBay, and achieved in excess of £30, not bad for a load of old tat (lovely though it all obviously is)

Finding this has reminded me that I have still to write a post on Airside, easily one of my all time favourite designers. I’m actually a bit shocked and surprised that I havn’t got around to it yet, as I have records, t shirts, calendars, posters, books, loads of stuff from Fred and the team…. so watch this space.

George Shaw (He really should have won…)

December 6, 2011 9 comments

We didn’t watch the Turner Prize on TV last night, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to the swooning over and post rationalising to some supposed state of importance of the usual piles of risibly thin and weak kaka presented as this years Emperors New Clothes…

With one notable exception that is…

I’ve been meaning to write about George Shaw, a Midlands lad like myself, for a while now.

Shaw is a painter, a painter of seemingly everyday and mundane landscapes that, from what I can gather, are never very far way from his place of birth, Tile Hill in Coventry. I use the word seemingly, as upon closer inspection, Shaw’s pictures are neither mundane, nor everyday, offering as they do a rich and sometimes unsettling take on suburban life, raising issues amongst other things of decay, exclusion and alienation.

Working mainly from photographs in his studio, Shaw’s chosen media is Humbrol paint, those small tins of enamel that 40 somethings like me are instantly familiar with from a hundred Airfix kits put together on rainy day’s in the 70’s. I’m not totally sure why he chose Humbrol, but there’s no doubt that they give the finished surface of the works a hard, almost lacquered quality unusual for landscape paintings. They also allow him to use fine brushes which give the works an amazing level of detail. In fact some of his works are so “lifelike” that it’s not easy to be 100% sure the reproductions on line are not actually photos.

A recurring theme within Shaw’s paintings, is the inclusion, usually across the centre of the picture, of a physical barrier: railings, Heras fencing, hedges, walls, and in many of the works, this barrier is so total, it almost completely masks whatever is beyond, allowing us to either imagine it ourselves, or accept it simply as a record of what the artist saw. Either way, there is a strange feeling that more’s going on than at first glance; someone’s just left the frame perhaps, or is hiding, waiting until the watcher has gone to carry on some unspecified business… In fact it’s interesting that Shaw never seems to include people within his work, an act which certainly heightens the sense of dislocation of these very human habitats…

When we go home to see my M&D over Xmas, we’ll definitely be making the short trip over to Coventry, as the list of things to see is growing: Bill Mitchells’ mural at the Three Tuns Pub, Spence’s Cathedral (again, I can never get enough), the Donald Gibson 1940’s town centre redevelopment and the Belgrade Theatre (to take photos for  future posts) and now a trip to the recently refurbished Herbert Art Gallery to see the current exhibition of George Shaw’s wonderful paintings…

Oscar Wilde’s tomb by Jacob Epstein

December 5, 2011 2 comments

It was good to see recently that the wonderful “Modernist Angel” sculpture by Jacob Epstein for Oscar Wilde’s tomb has been cleaned and restored to its former glory…

The monument was originally commissioned in 1909 by Wilde’s lover and possibly closest friend Robbie Ross, for Wilde’s second resting place at Père Lachaise Cemetery in the city of Paris, his first being the Cimetière de Bagneux outside Paris where Wilde “rested” for only 9 years. The commission was a very important one for the 29 year old American sculptor, who had been in London for only a few years and was still suffering the backlash from his work on Charles Holden’s British Medical Association the year before.

Once again however, Epstein fell foul of the Authorities as the work was condemned as being indecent due to its prominent male genitalia, apparently resulting in it being hidden from public view by a tarpaulin. The “offending” item has long since been vandalised and I was rather surprised that this current restoration didn’t look to reinstate the poor thing’s manhood…

The reason for the restoration was the vogue (only a decade or so old, from what I can gather) for leaving lipstick kisses around the monument’s base, the grease from which was beginning to cause significant damage to the limestone.

So the base of the work has now been cleaned and restored and is wrapped up in a glass and steel screen, which looks tasteful enough from the photos, and I am sure is the right thing to do to protect this wonderful piece for future generations etc etc.. Although I can’t help but feel that Oscar himself would almost certainly have preferred the attention and the adoration of the lipstick kisses….

I’ll finish with the rather fine words of Wilde’s Epitaph: chosen by Robbie Ross, carved by Jacob Epstein and taken from The Ballard of Reading Gaol…

“And alien tears will fill for him
Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn”

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