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It’s the wrong sculpture and it’s gone wrong: The Fourth Plinth

March 6, 2015 2 comments

Shrigley435_0The public is always right.. except of course, when it’s wrong.

David Shrigley’s proposal for the Fourth Plinth was far superior in every way to the overly literal horse skeleton with its barely visible ticker tape nonsense unveiled by the Clown Prince himself yesterday.

Like the excellent big blue cock, Shrigley’s giant thumb had humour, panache and style, things that the city can never get enough of..

Hey ho, roll on next years competition…

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William Mitchell wins 2014 Concrete Society Award.

November 4, 2014 Leave a comment

unnamed_trimMy good friend William Mitchell, sculptor, raconteur and all round legend, recently dug out his bow tie and headed off with his lovely wife Joy to be given an award in recognition of his many artistic achievements.

Sponsored by the British Precast Concrete Federation, this years annual prize for Creativity in Concrete was awarded to Bill in recognition of his lifetime’s commitment to producing and promoting concrete as a medium for making wonderful things.

Bill’s name joins the illustrious list of previous winners of the award, including Jorn Utzorn and David Chipperfield and is further proof of the renewed interest in the work and artistic contribution of this under appreciated genius.

So congratulations Bill, I’m very, very pleased for you and happy that others recognise and think as much of your work as I do. The snowball continues to gain speed and kudos (finally…)

For more information about William Mitchell, start by typing his name into the search bar at the top right of this blog, and take inspiration from the images of his wonderful work you find there…

Alan Bean: Moon Dust in every Painting…

October 13, 2014 Leave a comment

book jacketI’ve been re-reading Andrew Smith’s excellent book, Moon Dust. Published about 10 years ago it’s an absorbing series of tales that came out of Smith visiting, talking to and recording the thoughts of the last 9 people to ever have walked upon the surface of the Moon. Forty years after the moon landings, how did the momentous events of that period shape their lives once they got back and realised they were never going to top those feelings again…

Over the two and a half year period from July 1969 to December 1972, there were 7 flights to the moon, from Apollo 11 to Apollo 17. Apollo 13 famously didn’t make it due to problems with exploding oxygen tanks, which means that 12 men have left their boot prints in the lunar dust.

At the time the book was written, three of these men, Conrad, Irwin & Shepard had passed away leaving only 9. (To this list we now need to add Armstrong who died in 2012)

I’ve made this quick table of the astronauts that made the journey. There are a surprising number of names that are unfamiliar, considering what they achieved, the CM pilots who never reached the moon’s surface, especially so.

Apollo Flights copyThe book is truly fascinating, touching on the highs and lows, the expectations and the disappointments, the marriage breakdowns, the back stabbing, the hierarchy within NASA, the demeaning appearances at conventions for the less well known, the voices from god, the new age beliefs and ultimately asks each man, where they felt they were at the turn of the 21st century, mentally, physically and spiritually…

I can recommend it thoroughly.

NightLaunch 1975One name that has stuck with me is that of Alan Bean. The fourth man to stand on the moon, his post moonwalk journey seems to have been both less traumatic and less obvious that the others.

Staying on at NASA, he lived in Skylab for 56 days over the summer of 1975, was a key member of the joint US/ Russian Soyuz programme before leaving NASA in 1981 to become a full time professional artist.

Attending art night classes whilst on astronaut training, his early work (Night Launch above from 1975) had to my eyes at least, genuine promise, with its expressionistic plumes of exhaust smoke from the jet engines creating a real sense of power.

beanToolsHowever since the early 80’s Bean has developed a singular visual style that focuses solely on the limited amount of time (in his case less than 4 hours) that he and the others spent on the moon, endlessly reinterpreting and deconstructing his memories, sometimes painting exactly the same scene 6, 7, 8 times slightly altering the colours or minutely correcting details in order to capture the essence of the experience…

Bean begins by painting the canvas (or more usually a solid backboard) with a thick paste which he then imprints with a variety of devices especially moon boots and tools he brought back from his trip. He also sticks into the paste small cut offs from the various badges and patches that were sewn onto his space suit. These are ingrained with fine grains of moon dust which then become part of the painting. He also uses specially commissioned scale models to help him “meticulously construct” the desired view and get the lighting correct..

The results I would suggest are mixed…

Some are pretty good like the following four, which capture some of the feelings of what it must have felt like to be so far from home in such an alien landscape…

hadleyrille

peteandme

ipresume

moonquakes

Examples of the same view done over and over with slight variations in colour and detail…

colours moon

Some works however are less impressive, as Bean seems to rely too heavily on his imprinting techniques to carry his vision across…

AsBeautifulAsCanBe

And others are just bizarre.. Oddly these seem to be the ones where he deviates from what happened and relies more on his imagination…

reaching

SpiritOfApollo

Still Alan Bean comes across as a contented man in Andrew Smith’s book, which is more than can be said of the other astronauts he meets, many of whom struggled to come to terms with Life after Lunar. And why not, most of Bean’s work is sold as soon as it’s finished for pretty big bucks. There are a few originals available here if you fancy one. Prices start from around $70K. The cheesy (and not unsurprisingly unsold in my book) flag and gold olive leaf one above will set you back nearly $450K…

There’s also a gallery of all Alan Bean’s paintings here where I’ve taken all of the images for this post from.

Grayson Perry : Playing to the Gallery…

September 18, 2014 2 comments

indexReaders of these pages will know that I’m a bit of a fan of our most famous Transvestite Potter

Well we went to see him give a talk at The Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday night and very entertaining he was too… It was an hour long presentation essentially promoting his new book “Playing to the Gallery”, a copy of which was thoughtfully included in the ticket price and which I’m reading at the moment.

Subtitled “Helping contemporary art in its struggle to be understood”, it continues the themes of his recent Reith Lectures and considers such important issues as what is an artist, does art matter and that most pernicious of questions, whose judgement counts in assessing whether it’s good or bad…

Grayson suggests there are 15 key points that all artists might think about as they set out on their chosen path, including turning up on time, making mistakes, being angry and putting in the hours. The precariousness of his position as a successful and wealthy artist lampooning his own profession, is not lost on Perry and other than a little dig at Norman Foster for hanging one of his tapestries in a  garage, he was careful not to be critical of anyone specific, instead highlighting some relatively unknown artists as inspiration and pointing out what the internet tells us about culture… (try typing “art” into Google images and see what comes up..)

Mr Perry did not disappoint in his choice of clothing for the talk either, as he bounded onto the stage in a suitably over the top decorated pink clown suit with yellow boots and purple pig tales…

Photography was banned but I, like a few others (given away by tell tale, back lit screens suddenly flaring out in the darkness of the auditorium) managed to snap a couple of shots. The one below is so poor however, that I’m hoping that neither Grayson nor the Southbank will be in touch instructing me to take it down…

P1080003_a

 

Reggie Pedro & Gomez…

June 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Bring it on (Album cover)Gomez were on the radio earlier today, whatever happened to them? I was never a huge fan, but Whipping Piccadilly was a pretty good tune and their 1998 Mercury Prize winning album Bring it On certainly had its moments…

Anyway hearing them again reminded me of their record sleeves and cover artwork, which I’d always really liked.

The covers were created by Reggie Pedro, a South Londoner born in the early 1970’s and who I’ve just found out, sadly passed away in 2007.

Pedro’s paintings are wonderfully bold montages of colour and shape, populated with figures whose features may be indistinct, but whose presence within the work is always hugely powerful. With obvious references to his Camberwell upbringing, his style is reminiscent of Jean-Michel Basquiat, although I would contend that Pedro’s are generally better executed, less scratchy and with more atmosphere and depth.

It’s been a real pleasure revisiting these fine images again, and it’s sad to think that there’ll be no more…

Whippin' Piccadilly

RP_LE_Bring it on

Walk for road

78 stone wobble

Fire Love

Smiley

Get myself arrested

mudfoot

liquid-skin-4f21ed1fec6ad

2c6643c562cb284a248e470893738119

 

 

 

 

Lazy Post no. 15: AR Folio Project…

May 13, 2014 Leave a comment

tumblr_n3goy0ctFP1rruc14o1_1280As is often the case with the interweb, I was looking for something else when I came across this rather fine site…

The Architectural Review Folio Project tumblr consists of lots and lots of lovely drawings: old, new, colour, black and white, technical, sketch, real and imagined…

I’ve pinned this one (Space Cube by Andre Rocha) to this post fairly at random (it appeals to my love of both architecture and graphic art) but there are so many drawings and images to choose from, I could easily have put ten other images in its place…

The site also invites you to submit your own drawings for inclusion in this ever growing archive and one day, I might just give that a go…

If you’re not familiar with tumblr’s by the way, when you hover over an image, four boxes appear. Just click on the number to get the title and artist details.

Martin Creed @ The Haywood, South Bank

May 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Martin-Creed-at-the-Haywa-012Warning: this is a Things I DON’T Like post, and contains negative vibes. Read only if you’re in a positive frame of mind and open to some unbridled (but honest) criticism…

As Southbank members (i.e. it was free to get in) and on what was the last day of the exhibition, extended to take in the bank holiday weekend, we popped in yesterday to the Martin Creed exhibition, to see what all the fuss was about…

In summary, we wasted 20 precious minutes looking at what is by some considerable margin, the most disappointing, dispiriting and depressingly thin pile of kaka I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience, desperately trying to find at least one thing that had any merit, one thing that made us stop and think, “yeah, that was worth coming for, I like that…”

Nothing, not a thing. Just pile after pile of derivative rubbish… Not an original piece in the whole show. Anyone with an ounce of art history could point to any of this stuff and tell you exactly where Creed took his “inspiration” from. Even this promo shot “borrows” someone else’s iconography (step forward Rene Magritte).

When they come to clear it up over the next few weeks, I can only hope that it will all just be skipped, save anyone else having to waste time on it, as landfill is surely what it constitutes…

It winds me up no end that an artist whose entire oeuvre consists of two, generally poorly executed ideas i.e repetition and scale, can merit a full on retrospective at the Hayward Gallery. Maybe it’s me, but I really just don’t get it. I know art (good and bad) should fire the senses and illicit emotions and opinion, and this surely does, but leaving an exhibition of such banality, angry at the obvious (and possibly deliberate, which makes it worse) crassness of it all, can never be a good thing, can it?

What’s the Point of It? Mr Creed asks through a sneer of postmodern irony. Absolutely none whatsoever I reply, except to say thank f*ck we didn’t pay £11 to see it…

 

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