Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Emerging from the Panton Street Odeon after seeing The Seventh Seal again (I see it once every fifty years). I realise that I now have something in common with the knight (the amazing Max Von Sydow) and his squire (Gunnar Bjornstrand) - I will fail to reach the same destination ... since they are bound for Elsinore.
And I am emerging also from an exchange of messages between my Peckham studio and the very castle in which the story of the Gloomy Dane is set. The author of the official guide to Hamlet's home contacted me a year ago having heard of my work the Ghost Library (which came down this week from the walls of the Royal Academy). His enquiry sounded friendly and was accompanied by a copy of the interesting guidebook: he intimated that Elsinore might welcome a showing of my work when it was done; a cherished idea optimistically announced as a probability earlier in the blog.
What in fact ensued was the most frustratingly tedious correpondence I've ever entered into. Not only were my sometimes light-hearted exegeses of the work (was it Mao or Lenin who said you can't make a Hamlet without cracking jokes?) crushed by page after numbing page of wilfully obtuse pedantry, but it transpired that my correspondent lacked the authority to accept the work and moreover would not support any plan to show it in the castle at all.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Meanwhile I have promises to keep. One is to make an image of a banana as a campaign contribution in support of Turps Banana an excellent quarterly in which painters write about painting...a non-flashy forum that is not, like so many art journals, a pimple of matter on a mound of promotional hype or a few bits of critical prose that serve to keep the adverts apart.
I told its co-editor Marcus Harvey that I'd only met one banana, the disgraced former President of Zimbabwe. I have, it so happens, a poor record in meeting world leaders. Disgrace is a common factor, since my roster includes Saddam Hussein, Robert Mugabe and Tony Blair. If Hillary Clinton gets elected you have been warned.
For some reason some kind of skipping rhyme came into my head to accompany Canaan Banana . I felt the need also to rescue my lovely Olivetti portable from too many years of neglect. How pleasurably physical is the bangy act of typewriting and how fine the font looks after acres of computerface.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Meanwhile Embassy Signs Ltd. of Bellenden Road have, after some adjustments I made to the prototype, produced, in laminated plastic with perspex slide, a handsome multiple of my favourite device. I can't do better than quote my original description from 1965.
A shop that I pass regularly on the way to the studio had a small red and white plastic sign saying C LOOPSEEND. Since the shop sold yams and sweet potatoes I assumed that this was the name of the proprietor; the double vowels suggested Dutch however and I was puzzled each time I passed it.
Having seen this name for about a year and having thought it odd but probably liable to rational explanation, I suddenly came across its double in a second-hand shop in Ipswich in 1965. I was about to ask the shopkeeper whether he was any relative of his namesake in Camberwell when I noticed, in the back of the shop, many piles of similar nameplates, each bearing the inscription C LOOPSEEND.
For some reason I made no enquiry in the Ipswich shop but asked instead at the Camberwell grocers.
'Is this the name of the shop or a brand of banana or what?' and received the reply:
'No, it's broken, mate. There should be a sort of panel thing what goes over the top covering the letters so as you can sort of slide it along like, to make it say open or closed.'
I had failed over a long period to connect this sign with either its combined and opposing messages, or with the hundreds of complete examples I had seen in almost all the shop doorways in England.My delight in the discovery has in no way diminished since I first introduced it into a painting (A Little Art History) shown in my first one man show. Indeed it has taken on new resonance as it reflects aspects of philosophy, science and politics that I have encountered thereafter. I'm certain that uncertainty has no more eloquent emblem.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
The germ of my painting had been lying around the studio floor for two or three years, a left-over panel half used for a portrait sketch. I had idly taken it up from time to time, improvising on it with colour mixed up for a working day gone by (artists are great recylers). Shapes emerged and were cancelled out. Eventually some of these shifting clouds resisted change until the whole panel, though not resolved, drew to a halt. It hinted however at possible extension, looking now like a unit extracted from a larger work. I got Andy to make a panel of the same size (24.5cm x 30cm) and then watched the work spread, as if with relief, into the offered territory. Its shapes now suggested a yet bigger field in which some kind of calligraphic abstraction might... and yes, suddenly the dread tingle, the warning signal of the artistic imperative, the other side of whose alluring coin is inevitably long, lone sessions of excited anxiety. I ordered another panel...