Posts Tagged ‘art’

Albarn and self-discovery

Posted 07 Apr 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music

Ever the contrarian; there’s a nice little interview with Damon Albarn in the Guardian today. The paper’s John Harris is, along with Stuart Maconie and Steve Lamacq, perhaps the music journalist with the most long term insight into Blur, so he normally manages to extract the most sense out of an interviewee who is notoriously difficult to pin down, and as changeable as Easter weather.

Oddly, he chooses to focus, again, on Damon’s flirtation with hard drugs in the late 1990s, which is neither newsworthy nor terribly interesting, but perhaps instructive when viewed not as a historical detail but rather as the starting point from which Damon embarked on a long period of un-selfconscious musical discovery. Rightly, Harris notes that Albarn, who was raised in a hippy household – always a bead-wearer despite the Essex branding – follows in a tradition of sorts which is “common to a lot of musicians from bohemian backgrounds”. Harris writes.

For all its grave dangers, that drug – perhaps in moderation, if such a thing is possible – sometimes opens up a side of them that they didn’t know existed.

Albarn certainly has little interest in talking up the mind-altering effects of drugs (he prefers the rigours of the 9-5, albeit with the help of an “early morning joint”), so the interview doesn’t dwell. I’m even less interested (in fact, utterly uninterested) in drugs – but I’d gladly hear more about either John Harris or Damon Albarn’s thoughts of un-selfconscious music-making, because it strikes me that that’s exactly what Damon has spent the last 13 years doing – making free, largely unedited rock music with a meandering but always curious emotional and spiritual urgency.

Full interview is here.

Leigh Merrill’s San Francisco

Posted 10 Dec 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Art

I love these: invented images of suburban San Francisco, by Leigh Merrill. I once spent a wonderful afternoon walking around the gorgeous, moneyed streets by Beuna Vista Park, past some of SF’s most beautiful residences, and another taking a local bus through the small towns surrounding San Jose – but this is a kind of American suburb I’ve yet to see; wide, rich, all white boards and topiary.

Here, rendered by Merrill, it’s magical because it’s made up, digitall assembled – look hard at these photos are there are impossible angles and reflections, conjuring up an artful critique of the way that the area’s odd mixture of urban and suburban is oddly banal for all that is elegant and well-maintained. Featureless yet fantastical.

More here.

Angels of New York

Posted 21 Jun 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Photos, Share

There’s something about my enthusiasm for Anthony Gormley that isn’t intellectual or aesthetic at all – it’s a learned feeling which I think I must have developed as a teenager, visiting the North East; the the birthplace of my parents. Gormley’s Angel of the North arrived at the right time for me; a work of art I instinctively got; something big and impressive – meaningful, political and wistful simultaneously. My dad explained how it was important that it paid tribute to the industrial heritage of the North East, but most of all it felt important – at a time when it was particularly fashionable to decry modern art – that the people of Gateshead and Newcastle so enthusiastically welcomed it. Geordies know the value of local pride and the value of loyalty, so they quickly wrapped the Angel in an Alan Shearer shirt.

So I’ve always had time for Gormley – the same way I do for Newcastle United. I want him/them to do well. And he does good work consistently – even if he’s repeated himself and pursued a vision so doggedly it’s become over-familiar, I think he understands public art better than most, and instinctively makes art human, which is innately valuable. Event Horizon, a touring exhibit made up of life-size, cast iron and fibreglass models of his own body, is a brilliant example of what he does best. Having missed it in London, and never seen the comparable Another Place in Merseyside, I was really excited about seeing the figures – placed discreetly or imposingly, high or low – in Madison Square when I visited New York last month.

So I wasn’t surprised at the extent to which I loved the piece. Although they are wonderfully still, the statues inspire constant interaction, whether in a tactile sense at ground level, or, most excitingly up high, where one must strain one’s vision, scan the horizon in search of them. At first, I sought them out keenly, searching the tall buildings for the figures, and then began, in a more leisurely way, to slowly examine the skyline, to see parts of the city I’d otherwise surely ignore. The men themselves – they seem far more real than statues – are startling. Grounded, they are like silent sentries, motionless amongst the hubbub of the city. They attract people to them, who stop and stare. They reach for their cameras, or reach out a hand to cup an iron shoulder blade or, inevitably, laughing, the moulded genitalia.

Raised from street level, their stillness, and their proximity to the edge at such grand heights, is nerve-wracking. They seem poised to jump, and no amount of reasoning entirely dispels the frisson of concern their positioning provokes. It’s funny how hard it is to unlearn the lessons we’ve all been taught. Stand back from the edge. With each sighting I felt a ripple of unease. But the unease is tempered by excitement at seeing a new relationship of sorts between a city and a human form. From what I could tell, others seemed to feel the same way. Gormley has created a really fascinating, involving, thought provoking work. I hope it moves on somewhere where it can alter another familiar landscape is another, unfamiliar, way.

77 Million Paintings

Posted 03 May 2010 — by Jonathan
Category General, Reviews, Share

We’d all appreciate our home-towns a lot more if we had guests to visit more often. I almost always have my most pleasurable weekends in Brighton when people from elsewhere come to visit. It makes me wonder at all the weekends I spend listlessly – having no-one to impress – instead of taking advantage of the fact that I live in this lovely place

Of course, at this time of year – the Brighton Festival has just started – I’m normally starting to get a little busier (and there are a bunch of local things happening over the next month or so which I’ll hopefully be blogging about), but my nice weekend over this Bank Holiday was less a consequence of that and more prompted by the arrival in town of friends. So I spent Saturday having a lovely lunch in the Dorset in the North Laine and relaxing down by the beach, and most of Sunday mooching around Town buying records, doing Festival stuff and sitting in the pub, pretending I’d been stabbed through the neck with a plastic straw (long story).

The highlight – well, the cultural highlight – was a trip to Brighton’s lovely Fabrica gallery, which for the duration of the Festival is hosting an exhibition by the season’s curator, Brian Eno. Rather misleadingly titled ’77 Million Paintings’, the show actually focuses on one piece – a large, evolving graphic up on a large screen at the far end of the dark church.

The same aesthetic which drives much of Eno’s music is apparent in the work; it is neither instantly rewarding nor demanding, but instead a kind of slow, transformative experience for which the term ‘ambient’ (traditionally used to characterise much of Eno’s music) remains the best descriptive term I can conjure up.

It’s essentially a series of locked geometric shapes which move through a range of patterns and colours in a sequence determined by ‘generative software’ which is capable – as the title of the piece suggests – of 77 million possible permutations (which would take, apparently, over a thousand years to unfold). The transformations are slow but remarkably evocative.

Sat concentrating for ten minutes I was only dimly aware of perceptible changes, but when a conversation with Deb and Will distracted me from the screen for no more than sixty seconds and I returned my gaze to the ‘painting’, I found it had changed hugely. Such is the effect of the slow process of gradual change – I thought of the face of someone you love and see every day, which seems unchanging, and the shock of encountering friends with whom you’ve lost touch, and who you find much altered (as altered, presumably, as you are).

It’s hard to describe a work of art without showing it, and pointless to show a still of a work of art without being able to demonstrate the very movement which gives it purpose. So here’s a proposal, instead.

Imagine yourself sat in a church, half-dozing, glancing down at the cobbled floor. As the sun progresses slowly across the sky outside, light catches panes of the stained glass windows high above, and casts a reflection down on the floor in front of you. The light shimmers and shines, ducks behind a cloud, comes up for air. The quality of light changes, and different parts of the window are alternately obscured and revealed. What plays out on the floor in front of you is the combination of chance, nature and design, and it is playing only for you.

If you can imagine that, you might be able to picture Eno’s work. If you like the sound of it, the exhibition is running until the 23rd May.

Co-incidentally, I spent much of the time in the Church sharing a seat with Toby, a mischievous toddler who ultimately ordered me onto the floor so he’d have more space. He told me – and I trust his opinion – that the exhibition was ‘lovely’. He also made me take his socks off and at one point handed his Dad an empty food wrapper and yelled ‘rubbish, rubbish’.

I hope Mr. Eno wasn’t around, mistaking him for a high-voiced critic.

Nolita wall paintings

Posted 11 Apr 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Photos, Travel

The more I write about the disparate districts of New York, the more likely I am to declare each and every one of them my favourite; but another that always inspires me when I’m here is Nolita; a tiny little community north of Little Italy (hence the name), it’s vibrant, fashionable, and everything is probably terribly expensive. This difficulty can be circum-navigated if, however, you only do what I do – which is shuffle through the bustling streets watching for people, windows and – especially – walls.

Film poster design

Posted 27 Mar 2010 — by Jonathan
Category General

I’m a keen reader of Joe Bowman’s Fin De Cinema blog, which is written with such devotion by someone so immersed in their area of interest that I feel a kind of sad envy; I’m not able to concentrate on one thing in sufficient detail and am doomed, I think, to flit from one interest to the next, mastering nothing. If you want to know what is happening in World Cinema, click the link above and benefit from all the time and energy which Joe puts in.

Being immersed in the Film world as he is, it’s about more than just sitting in front of a TV and DVD player, and Joe’s recent attendance of the Berlin Film Festival yielded some fascinating images, as he made a point of collating and publishing all the posters for the films featured, both for reissues and new releases. His posts reminded me how powerful good poster design can be.

Here, then, are a few attractive ones I picked out.

craigie aitchison

Posted 29 Dec 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

Oh, I always miss news at Christmas – too focused on all the adornments of the festive season to trawl through the paper, and days behind as a consequence. Just flicked through the papers and seen that Craigie Aitchison has died. Now, when I was first beginning to express an interest in art, but struggling to really work out what I liked (as opposed to what I thought I should like), some of Aitchison’s paintings were amongst the first to really get through to me. So I’m sad about this. Here’s some examples of his work – and here’s the Guardian obituary.

the london perambulator

Posted 06 Dec 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Books, Reviews, Share

A couple of weeks ago myself, Vic, Dan, Ant and Alec went down to the Sallis Benney Theatre to see the screening, as part of the Cinecity Brighton Film Festival, of John Rogers’ new film, London Perambulator, a wonderfully affectionate portrait of Nick Papadimitriou, a writer who lives in North London – in my old haunting ground of Barnet, no less – who dedicates his life to the pursuit of what he calls ‘deep topography’; what you and I might have heard described as ‘pyscho-geography’ – urban exploration through the medium of walking, enacted not through pre-researched routes but by chance and happenstance, working on the assumption that the mysteries of the landscape will be revealed through being ‘found’.

As that muddled definition implies, the practice of deep topography is an inexact thing, occupying a vague, semi-mystical space between geography, anthropology, philosophy, art and science. What Nick Papadimitriou does, essentially, is walk through the overlooked corners of cities, and writes about his experience. His preoccupation is not with finding conventional beauty, whether ancient or modern, but rather in examining the functional areas where mankind, nature, and necessity overlap. In the process of this obsession, which sees him undertaking long ruminative walks, creating a kind of philosophical mind-map of the city, he has carried out research – and acted as somewhat of a poetic muse – for the likes of Will Self and Iain Sinclair (whose own book, ‘London Orbital’, sparked my interest in this area).

Papadimitriou is self-evidently an idiosyncratic individual, pursuing with admirable single-mindedness a line of enquiry which many would dismiss as eccentric. Rogers’ film cannot help but play on this, observing its protagonist in reveries of post-industrial romanticism, waxing lyrical over water treatment plants and manhole covers, standing rapt on brownfield sites transfixed by concrete posts. As one might expect of a close confidante of Will Self, Papadimitriou is not only incredibly literate but also extremely funny. So it’s easy for the film to poke affectionate fun at him, not least because a contributor like Russell Brand – who is insightful throughout – can’t resist sending him up.

Speaking after the film – which is only 45 minutes long – Papadimitriou expressed a little wry frustration at the fact. And that is understandable; there is something innately comic about the intensity of his passion for, say, Mogdon Water Treatment Plant – but the film plays up his eccentricity without sacrificing the opportunity to include many thought provoking and poetic displays of language and thought. And the more involved with his subject matter he gets the more profoundly interesting he becomes. It’s in Middlesex, that absent county at the top of London that was folded into Hertfordshire, Surrey and Greater London but which retains a geographical presence of its own, that his most fervent interest resides, and for a period in the film I found myself transported back to the vocabulary of my youth – Barnet, Southgate, Potters Bar, Finchley, Hendon. Papadimitriou is not myopic in his interests – he has a long term plan to walk across the Ukraine – but it’s obvious where his heart resides. He tells us:

“My ambition is to hold my region in my mind… so that I am the region. So that when I die I literally do become Middlesex in some way. For me that is my highest spiritual aspiration, I will be the tarmac that you race along on the A41-T, I’ll be absorbed into the mildewed lintels hidden in overgrown knotweed by the side of the Hendon way…”

My own youth was spent mapping out this part of the world; rambling through Hadley Wood, waiting for tubes into the city at Oakwood station, tracing cycle paths through Totteridge, scrabbling over high fences to let off firecrackers behind the Sainsbury’s car-park in New Barnet. I’m not especially nostalgic for those years, but Papadimitriou’s enthusiasm is infectious. I understood him best, I think, when he stopped suddenly between two semi-detached houses in a glum suburb, and pointed out the contour of the ageless landscape through the gap; where a river once flowed. These buildings, he pointed out, could be destroyed in moments, but it would take something immense to change the shape of land which has held its form for thousands of years.

I’m not sure I fully understand to what end his infectious, limitless enthusiasm can be taken, but in his current role, mid way between philosopher and naturalist, urban historian and dreamer, it strikes me that Nick Papadimitriou is doing something terribly important – chronicling parts of the city which are all around but rarely seen; liminal, overgrown, ambiguous places where mankind has made marks on nature which we would do well not to forget. Their unsystematic, unresolved, chaotic distribution seems to have some significance when counterbalanced against our own unsystematic, unresolved, chaotic lives.

You can watch a short clip of John Rogers’ incredibly enjoyable film below, visit his website here, or download the regular podcasts (“Ventures and Adventures in Topography”) which he and Nick make for Resonance FM here. Nick’s own website, misleadingly named Middlesex County Council, and as chaotic a site as you might expect, is essential reading. Here’s the link.

thank goodness for that

Posted 19 Mar 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Music

No Stone Roses reunion. Here’s John Squire’s latest artwork.
Some things are best left alone. Remember them this way:

pick up a pigeon

Posted 20 Aug 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

I love getting nice things through the post. This bundle just arrived from Debbie, who writes the lovely Kept In A Jar blog, and of whose artistic talents I am most envious.

Wonderful! You can buy your own pigeon in Debbie’s shop on Etsy.

heavy shit

Posted 12 Aug 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Daft

Direct to you from the Guardian Website.

Giant turd wreaks museum havoc
A giant inflatable dog turd created by the American artist Paul McCarthy was blown from its moorings at a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a window before landing in the grounds of a children’s home.

The exhibit, entitled Complex Shit, is the size of a house. It has a safety system that is supposed to deflate it in bad weather, but it did not work on this occasion.

Juri Steiner, the director of the Paul Klee centre, in Berne, told AFP that a sudden gust of wind carried it 200 metres before it fell to the ground, breaking a window of the children’s home.

No more words necessary, I think you’ll agree. Full story here.

the whole shebang

Posted 01 Aug 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Reviews

Shebang is a fanzine put together by Liv Willars and Lynsey Woods, and it is one of the most beautifully designed and carefully constructed fanzines I’ve seen. Much effort has clearly been put in on Lynsey’s part putting together an attractive, cohesive page design and the team have commissioned an attractive selection of line-drawings, collages and paintings to illustrate their articles, which themselves demonstrate a satisfying breadth of content.

Although a majority of the features relate to pop music – with decent interviews with the excellent Peggy Sue and the young, eager Poppy & The Jezebels – Liv has been careful to commission articles on photography, art and travel, and it’s in these respects that the fanzine really excels. I’d much, much rather read an article about Berlin or Ghent than I would another indie band, and Tilly Stasiuk’s description of her Geisha makeover is fascinating stuff. When the fanzine dips into popular culture territory to talk about the Mighty Boosh, it takes an unexpected and welcome approach, talking to the prop master who worked on the first series of Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding’s show. It provides for energetic anecdotes and a view of the duo we’re not familiar with.

Some of the features are possibly under-written, and would benefit from more detail, but the overall feel is impressive. It’s a cleverly curated and beautifully executed effort, and hopefully the first of many. Feeling a bit inspired, I dropped them an email a month or two ago asking if they wanted any contributions. I’ve had no reply, which is probably for the best – it points to the fact that they’ve got plenty of stuff lined up for future editions. This is a fanzine definitely worth keeping your eye out for.

What I don’t know, unfortunately, is how to stress the title. Is it shebang or shebang? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it’s an ambiguity that Liv and Lynsey are happy with; both emphases seem equally appropriate.

You can buy the fanzine at, or find it for sale in the following Falmouth shops: Jam, Here&Now and Babahogs, as well as in Brighton’s Resident Records and Stand Out Records in Salisbury! There’s even, wonder of wonders, a Facebook group, here.

gemma correll

Posted 13 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

Really in love with the drawings on this blog; they’re incredibly cute and appealing. The author, Gemma Correll, is an illustator based in Norwich. According to her profile, her interests are “mexico, circus freaks, screen prints, cats, kittens, kitsch, language, flamenco dancers and vintage adverts”.

Here’s one of her drawings, please do go and have a look at some of her others, they’re really ace:

And you can buy a t-shirt she’s designed here. I’m going to order one.

etsy is brilliant

Posted 08 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

Am I alone in having never heard of this site before? Etsy is fantastic – tagged as “your place to buy and sell all things handmade”, it’s exactly that, a kind of brilliant, vivid mix of ebay, portobello market and ffffound; well designed things that you can buy. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s American – they’ve calibrated it so that international purchases are not a problem.

Oh no, I’m clearly going to spend money there.

Posted 31 Jan 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Technology

I’m totally addicted to, a web service that allows people to save and share their favourite images from the web; it’s full of utterly lovely visuals. Here are a few examples:

It’s in closed beta at the moment, and I don’t have an invite. Hmph. Probably cause they know the whole thing will work beautifully ’til they let the likes of me join in the fun…

santiago sierra

Posted 11 Jan 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

I’m hoping to get up to London tomorrow to catch a couple of exhibitions, and one of the prospective shows is Santiago Sierra‘s latest at the Lisson Gallery. I’ve not seen much of his stuff previously, but my interest is very much piqued by Siobhán’s interesting examination of his themes and approaches over the years, and in the strong anti-establishment current which runs through (and perhaps contradicts) his art.

Here’s Siobhán, over at her Wigglymittens blog, on one previous work of his:

“Sierra takes the idea of exclusivity and the art gallery to an extreme. In 2003 he was chosen to represent Spain in the Venice Biennale. He erected a brick wall at the entrance of the Spanish pavilion, and set up a customs style checkpoint. You could only enter the pavilion if you possessed a Spanish passport. Once inside, the gallery space was barren and empty, but the point of the piece was not the space itself, as with the Lisson piece, it was what access to the space symbolized. The idea that the art gallery was run on a closed set of values put forward in ‘Inside the White Cube’ is what Sierra put into question in this piece, swapping one value system, based around art, for another one, based around nationality and normally common at border controls.”

And here are some of Siobhán’s thoughts from the end of her piece.

“If Santiago Sierra’s work were situated outside of the gallery context, it would not be art; it would be the everyday- people working in bad jobs for little money. Sierra needs the gallery space to give his work context, and however much he rails against it, it is vital in validating the pieces he makes as being art, therefore however much Santiago Sierra claims to challenge and highlight exploitation and power structures he still relies on institutions and people with the power to give his work context. Although he appears to be than biting the hand that feeds, he’s merely sucking at it with toothless gums.”

Click here to read her post in its entirety.

lovely mural in san francisco

Posted 07 Nov 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Travel

I’m a massive fan of murals, and saw some of the best I’ve ever seen in San Francisco – it’s not exactly surprising given the counter-cultural bent of the city, but from Haight to the Mission there are some dazzling works. Particularly taken, then, with this new one, via Boing Boing. It’s located in the colourful Balmy Alley, and is really great.

plans for brighton

Posted 27 Jul 2007 — by Jonathan
Category General

Brighton, my home town, has changed a lot since I moved here nearly ten years ago. It has a bright and successful (if rather deadening) shopping centre (Churchilll Square), a beautiful and much-loved new library in the North Laine, a variety of attractive new residential buildings. All of this without losing its scruffy, individual charm. There are plenty more developments lined up, too – the New England district, having been a wasteland sprouting cranes for several years, is coming together, a tall and impressive observational tower (the i360) will shortly be built on the sea front, and the beautiful and controversial Gehry buildings are finally approved. The Brighton Centre and Odeon, two ugly spots on the otherwise beautiful seafront, will be demolished soon, apparently. Most recently, the Local communities secretary, Hazel Blears, finally gave the go-ahead for Brighton and Hove Albion to build an attractive new stadium in Falmer, just outside the city. This is wonderful news for Brighton. Next on the list, I assumed, was the old pier, still standing forlorn in the water, a burned out shell of its former glory.

But no, it seems like the ever changing city will be developed in an unexpected fashion, next, if Council plans are given the go-ahead. The Evening Argus this week revealed a selection of exciting plans to renovate the three major gateways to the city, Preston Road, London Road and Lewes Road, long run-down and neglected parts of our town. The proposals – which at the moment are just that – look genuinely promising, and if a third of what is planned is completed it will be a great step forwards. The plans are outlined below. Thoughts from Brighton residents or interested observers are most welcome.

Lewes Road – this rather unattractive thoroughfare of the city, on the way out to the universities, has long been the most affordable area for student housing, and is at present a busy but unappealing road consisting mostly of funeral parlours, takeaways and budget grocers. The council plan to turn this area into an academic corridor, adding a public square at the Vogue Gyratory, demolishing Sainsburys and the petrol station and encouraging improved shop fronts. They intend to line the road with trees, ban fast food outlets and move Moulescombe station southwards to join it better with the city.

London Road – the closest that Brighton has to a suburban shopping street, London Road is ripe for regeneration sitting as it does in a valley, making high rise development feasible in a city which is famously protective of its skyline. To the west of the high street, the council has already invested in a dense outcrop of buildings, centred on a new Sainsburys, which they hope will provide a new focus for local jobs. But far from reimagining London Road as a financial district, the council see it, post-development, as a new arts district. It’s the soon-to-close St Peter’s Church which will serve as the catalyst, as it is soon to be converted into a ‘cultural centre’, complete with art studios. Elsewhere, the open market, a crucial but run-down part of town, will be completely redeveloped and renovated. The approach to the seafront will be transformed into a “green boulevard leading from The Level to the seafront, cutting the fourlane carriageway to the west down to a bus lane and moving all other traffic to the east”. There’ll be a new car park, too, traffic fans.

Lastly, Preston Road, the main approach to the city, will be similarly redeveloped, focusing on fixing the unused or innapropriate commercial properties and developing the viaduct into a proper Brighton landmark, complete with ‘imaginative lighting’ and space for ‘creative business looking for bespoke accommodation in a high quality, unusual environment”.

This all sounds like a lot of work, but (with the possible exception of the Lewes Road ‘academic corridor’, which may house a lot of students and be on the university route, but which hasn’t in the last ten years supported a single bookshop) it all sounds plausible and beneficial to the city, If some of these proposals are carried out Brighton will be all the better for it,

shrigley record coming

Posted 27 Jul 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Daft, Music

I’ve always got time for David Shrigley’s cartoons, they’re wonderful, but I’m as much a fan of his words as his drawings, so I’m pleased to hear that – after the lovely Scout Niblett song ‘Dinosaur Egg’, which married Scout’s music to a lyric from Shrigley’s LP without music, ‘Worried Noodles’ – the record label TomLab have put together an entire album where some seriously good artists are given free rein to interpret some of Shrigley’s imaginary songs. Brilliant.

Artists represented include the redoubtable Niblett, Deerhoof, David Byrne, Islands, Liars, Trans Am, Hot Chip, Les Georges Leningrad and Franz Ferdinand. Which all sounds rather ace.

Here are some of the words they will be singing.

Elaine is a danger
To herself
And other people
Elaine is a danger
And is not allowed
In the metal workshop
In the chemistry lab or
In the sports hall
Elaine is a danger
And must not be given pens
Elaine is a danger
And must only write in crayon
Elaine is a danger
And must not go
Near the windows
Or the fishtank
Or in the cupboard.

“The Bell (1:55)”
I heard the bell ringing
Ding-dong Ding-dong
There was a funeral
Ding-dong Ding-dong
Lots of people at the funeral
Ding-dong Ding-dong
Funeral of a rock star
Ding-dong Ding-dong
Who died in a fight
Ding-dong Ding-dong
He got his head punched off
Ding-dong Ding-dong
By a 12-foot monster
Ding-dong Ding-dong

“The King (2:52)”
I am the King of it all
And you R my subjects
I am the King of it all
And U R my subjects
Don’t believe me?
Ask the police!
They will beat you up for asking.

Extract from “Ding Dang”
Squirrel squirrel
In the tree
Do me a favour
Collect Nuts for me
Do me a favour
And take the shells off
The nuts
And examine them closely
To check they are not
Before you give them to me.

Nut Nut
Beautiful nut
Salt nut
Spicy nut
You’re a good old nut
And I love you

history via r. crumb

Posted 22 May 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

When I was over in San Francisco I managed to miscalculate how much time I’d have on my last day, and woke up early, packed my bags and checked out of the hotel. Sitting having breakfast in a diner around the corner from Powell St, I pulled my itinery out of my rucksack and worked out how long I had until my flight – six hours!!! It was a happy realisation, a little gift of time which I hadn’t bargained on, enabling me to do one last thing before I returned to the UK.

I knew immediately what I wanted to do. The day before I had headed over to the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts hoping to see an exhibition of Robert Crumb’s comic book drawings, which included a selection of new stuff as well as old, but was disappointed to find that the museum was closed on Mondays and had to miss out. So I jumped on the underground and dashed over, only to find the place still closed. Only because I was too early, though. As I’ve mentioned before, the weather in San Francisco was ludicrously hot, so I sat prone in the sun at the neighbouring park, allowing the fine spray of a nearby fountain to cool my arms. Soon enough, the doors sprang open and I raised myself and went in.

Crumb’s drawings are fascinating – all are highly detailed, allowing no opportunity to document the texture of skin to be passed up, and many highly immature and adolescent, raising a contrast between Crumb’s naivity and his interest in social degredation and sex. Some of the drawings portray women in a pretty unforgiving light, yet Crumb details men’s failings, sexual and otherwise, with an equal frankness. Perhaps the most moving drawings are those which deal with Crumb himself, particularly an inability to vocalise his feelings – which manifests itself in one particularly lovely comic strip where, standing to face the reader, he can think of so little to say, and feels so awkward, that he is reduced to singing a song, moving from nervous to enthused and back to awkward in a series of highly comic frames. His interest in ennui means some of the drawings really do explore life in some philosophical depth – and yet others remain frank, filthy and funny.

By far my favourite is a drawing I’ve written about on this blog before, but can’t resist reproducing again. His ‘Short History of America’ (below, click to enlarge) is just magnificent, one of my favourite works of art of the twentieth century – I don’t care that Crumb is a comic book artist; the 12 frames of this drawing buzz with meaning, emotional currency and history. Brilliant stuff, and a brilliant exhibition.