On Monday 17th February, NU Magazine campaigned with German-born Dietrich Wagner to protest against the proposal to authorise the use of water cannons to deal with “anticipated street protests as a result of on-going austerity measures”.
Chief police officers are to ask the home secretary, Theresa May, to give the final verdict on the use of water cannons – Boris Johnson has already backed up the proposal to spend £200,000 on the cannons, despite government cuts.
NU Magazine joined Dietrich - who was blinded by water cannons at a previous peaceful protest - at City Hall, London, to urge officers to rethink their decision on water cannons.
He warns that they are “lethal weapons” and that they should not be introduced to the streets of London. Dietrich was told by doctors that he was only “one second from being killed” by the cannons. “The use of water cannons is akin to the breakdown of the democratic process. I strongly urge the Mayor of London, Theresa May and London’s police not to introduce this weapon.
“Ever since I was hit my life has drastically changed. I can’t drive, go shopping, read or do any of the things I used to do. My message is police need to be aware that they are not just a big shower, they are lethal weapons and do serious bodily harm.”
NU Magazine caught up with some of the demonstrators to hear their views on the controversial subject, including a speech from Dietrich before the discussion.
Words by Poppy Harris
NU talks with Bob and Roberta Smith
Earlier this month I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with the English artist Patrick Brill about his pseudonym Bob and Roberta Smith, the MP Michal Gove and his shed paintings.
It seems for as long as I’ve loved art I have loved Bob and Roberta Smith, but for people who haven’t heard of Patrick Brill or his alter ego’s here is a little insight into his world. Patrick Brill was born in Reading in 1963, where he schooled at the University Of Reading, he was awarded a scholarship to the British School in Rome and on his return he studied at Goldsmiths where he devised the alias ‘Bob and Roberta Smith’. Brill became well known working under his alias, painting brightly coloured slogans onto banners and boards, these slogans often revolving around themes to do with art, politics and popular culture often in a humorous and playful manor, such as “Peas Are The New Beans” painted in 1999. Along with his slogan paintings he paints abstract paintings that he refers to as “outside shed paintings” and plays in the band The Ken Ardley Playboys.
Recently Brill has made quite a forward thinking political piece called ‘Letter To Michal Gove’ (see above), where he questions what the education secretary is doing by trying to cut funding for the arts in schools and explaining the possible repercussions of this decision. In the wake of this, Brill hosted an art party conference in Scarborough celebrating art and culture and challenging Michal Gove’s reformation of the educational system.
I was lucky enough to talk to the man himself just before the art party conference about his work, Gove and his shed paintings.
NU: I was just wondering, did you ever get a reply from Michal Gove?
B&RS: “I got a very boring reply from his office saying things like, ‘we are very disappointed to hear that you don’t understand all the great things that we are doing’, that kind of reply, but not actually from him. I do hope he comes to the art party conference.”
“I live in hope. Maybe he’ll come and tell us why it’s a good thing to belittle the arts.”
The Labour Party, 2013, Signwriters Paint With Collage, 122 cm x 122 cm
NU: When you do pieces like ‘Tony Blair Is A Zombie Of Death’ or ‘Gordon Brown Looks Like A Pig’ do you ever get attacked by the media?
B&RS: “Those two pieces… Well, quite a lot of what I do concerns the context of the politics of the times, so I think that was in 2007 or 2006 and it was when the Labour Party Conference was going to be in Gateshead at the Savacentre, and I had a show at the Baltic in Newcastle. I made those pieces and there were lots of other ones saying, Jack Straw was short sighted and the Labour Party have dipped the British people’s hands in blood, and some of them were quite tough. They were shown at the Baltic and what was really great about that was that they had a dinner, the Labour Party, in the top of the Baltic and, of course, they were all walking around thinking they were all fantastic supporters of the arts, and they were shown around my show, which was attacking them over the Iraq War, so that was really great and it was quite funny. Actually, I got nothing but praise for that show, really, because everybody, especially the liberal minded people who voted Labour into power in ‘97 felt a bit betrayed by the Iraq War. I think a lot of people really liked that show and I got a really good review in The Independent and the Telegraph. Yeah, so I didn’t get bad press for that at all, it worked out very well.”
“I think it was good because it was kind of an odd moment when you could attack the government and all these mainstream left wing politicians and it was kind of almost like a safety valve because in that period there was not a lot of opposition to what they were doing, a lot of people on the left actually voted Labour and voted for this government that was doing all these terrible things and so, strangely, that silenced a lot of people on the right. Certainly in Newcastle, where there’s a lot of dissenting Left wing and Liberal opinion, the show really worked, it was fantastic, and what I was trying to do was to say that it’s OK on some level to talk about things that seem to be closed down, although it seems a bit high-minded of me to say something like that.”
NU: When you have a show like that what do you want people to go away with? Do you want them to have the slogans in their heads? Is that part of it?
B&RS: “No, I don’t really. I just want them to go away, well, it’s hard to say what any artist wants people to go away with in their heads. I guess, you’re offering them a sort of experience and it’s not like, although it might appear that I’m protesting about these issues, I’m, in a way, trying to think about the language of what the protest really means, trying to get people to just think their own thoughts and to have their opinions in a more open and critical way and maybe even see things in a more reflective light.”
Eppy Daddy Battle Bot, 2010, Mixed Media
“I’m just trying to create a bit of a space where people can not think about things in the way society wants you to think about them all the time. In the ‘60s, I think they called that consciousness raising, and that kind of space where you can come to understand something is important. I know that when I was at University in the ‘80s you kind of have this moment of political awakening, don’t you? Like, you understand things like this. When I was growing up in the late ‘60s, my sister was a real old hippy, she was a young hippy though, she used to drag us around to all these funny events in London and later on, I didn’t have the sensibility to think of it at the time, but later on I thought that was kind of an image of freedom, all these people doing their thing. I suppose all I’m tying to get people to think is, well, certainly not to go away with one of my slogans in their head, really. Not to repeat it like a mantra but simply to think well if he can do that I can do that.”
NU: Do you ever see your work as concrete poetry?
B&RS: “I have thought about it a bit like that sometimes, I’ve done a lot of works with miss-spelt words, well a whole series of miss-spelt words which I did see slightly in that vein, also with the insults, and calling artists things. I like the way when, sometimes, language becomes a bit sculptural, when it has a kind of sculptural quality, but I don’t know quite how to describe that. I suppose that it’s a bit James Joyce, or something. Or Becket or Mark E Smith, or indeed John Cooper Clarke, they all have a fantastic use of a kind of invective where they can then kind of misplace the reader in a sentence. Somehow that seems to be quite something, like stage direction, or something quite physical. I’ve always liked that quality in words and I do think about that, and think that someone might read a particular text of mine and think it’s a bit misleading or they might think, ‘Oh that’s ridiculous’, and they might think ‘why has he done that?’ So I do think about it in those terms, yeah, not all the time, but I have done.”
NU: Can you tell us about your shed paintings? The ones you keep outside?
B&RS: “Yeah, I’ve had to take them into the shed because they have completely disintegrated. One is just a collection of stretcher bars with a few snails crawling over it under a bit of plastic and then there’s another one where the snails have really got in there and kind of drawn around the side of the canvas and taken the canvas off its frame, so, I was thinking if I leave these out there they’ll just be mud. But, maybe that’s a good thing. I broke my rule and brought them into the shed or they’d be nothing left of them. I think I did those around the time of that Tony Blair thing actually, that was probably seven or eight years ago and they really have disintegrated and they are still rotting slightly in the shed. It’s cold out there and it’s damp, so they are still gently rotting but, I suppose what I need to do is have a cycle of them and make some abstract paintings, because they are quite serious paintings. I should just make another series every year and just put them out and just gently chart the entropic return to ground.”
Patrick with one of his abstract paintings at the BALTIC, from ‘Bob and Roberta Smith: Help Build the Ruins of Democracy’ - LINK
NU: Do you not want to show these abstract paintings because you’re so well known for your slogan paintings?
B&RS: “Actually, I’ve just done a whole load of not abstract but symbol paintings with a star and spiral and I’ve just shown them in Ireland with a lot of other stuff and, yeah, they only come inside when there is a show and I think that’s to do with the idea of a cheesy metaphor, just a thing about being an artist or performer, so you think, like with a comedian, when they are not on stage they don’t exist or something. If these paintings are not in the show then where are they? They are just dumped in the garden gently rotting. I think, sometimes, that’s my art career. Although I am doing very well, I’m always conscious of the thought of rotting in the garden, completely forgotten about, being eaten by an old snail. So, that’s what I think that’s about really, rather than the form of the paintings but the paintings themselves are really quite beautiful, although they are a bit knackered now.”
NU: Well the ones I have seen are quite beautiful and I’m just surprised you don’t show them more.
B&RS: “Well, I would do. I think it’s funny if you do a lot of different things, which I do, I think inevitably some of those things people are more interested in showing than others. I just think those paintings, well, I think it’s a great idea that they don’t get shown much.”
After speaking to Patrick, or maybe Bob and Roberta, well I guess all three of them, I came to realise some things. Firstly, that Brill has a great vantage point to make statements about politics and popular culture. He is an artist, separated from the mainstream society by the confines of a gallery. Secondly, he uses this separation from the outside world to promote free thinking, creating spaces where people can think differently and challenge what we are being told within society, all done in a very DIY punk way. And thirdly and finally, he is not scared and says what needs to be said, he’s like David catapulting rocks at the Goliath of our modern society, for those reasons - and many others - he has to be one of the most interesting and relevant living artists of our lifetime.
Words by Lewis J. Henderson
Top 5 Films about Artificial Intelligence.
Artificial intelligence has been a recurring theme in film since the early days of Sci-fi. Whether it’s a dystopia of bloodthirsty human haters, or a charming companion on a quest, super intelligent machinery is a theme that is here to stay. I think the reason that it is so successful is that it brings forward the question of where our conscience was born. If we - mere humans - could create a being that exceeds our intellect, maybe we could find the answers to our own origins? I say we - what I mean is, a very small percentage of the human population that have the knowledge, equipment and understanding of the brains cognitive functions and an extreme urge to pursue the limits of computer technology. All things that I wish I had. So I had to settle for watching films about it. These films are my favourite examples of films about Artificial Intelligence.
1) Blade Runner (1982) 4/5
Harrison Fucking Ford! Plays Deckard the blade runner in a 1980’s themed dystopian future world. The styling and visual elements of this film I think is one of the reasons it ends up on so many classic movie lists. It is just the idea of humans getting to a stage where they can create a human replicant artificially, and what kind of relationship they would have with the humans that makes it so captivating. I cannot do this film justice in a shot caption. It’s a must watch. I mean it’s basically Han Solo pre Star Wars. Directed By Ridley Scott (let’s not mention Prometheus).
2) A.I. ArtificialIntelligence (2001) 2/5
Spielberg’s A.I. seems like somewhat of an obvious choice. Well it is. This film has stuck with me since I saw it as a kid. Maybe because its about an AI child being left to fend for himself in the wilderness only to be found by another AI bot that happens to be a male prostitute for the human kind. Gigolo Joe (Jude Law) then takes David (Haley Joel Osment) to a weird, soft focus neon future world with no real hard hitting futurological elements. It rather simplistically asks “can we love a robot?” Well according to the end, - yes. Robot boy gets a home. It’s just too surreal and all too creepy to not be included.
3) Moon (2009) 4/5
Directed by Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie), it follows the life of a solitary spaceman, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) living in a station on the moon with the companionship of his AI robot GERTY (Kevin Spacey). The style of this film is great. Little dialogue and a fully sized beautiful looking space station built in a studio makes for a very intimate film. Of course GERTY is not all that it seems when Sam starts to uncover the truth about his place on the Moon.
4) Singularity Or bust (2012) 5/5
This is a film with far more questions than answers. It follows the work of two AI programmers and asks what is in the near future of technology. Can we create an AI far more intelligent that any human mind? Is our conscienceness simply a pattern regeneration mechanism with which we uncover the secrets of the fabric of reality as we know it? I know, all really big questions - ones that are hard to grasp. But, put forward by Dr Ben Goertzel, he explains that a huge change in what we conceive as reality is in the near future. But will it be one of positivity and prosperity, or one of death and suffering on a scale that the world has never seen, in a Terminator-esque robot war with the humans? Only time will tell. If you want your ideas of technological advancement vastly expanded watch this 45 minute doc.
5) Her (2013) 3/5
A comment on love in the modern world. This beautifully shot Sci-fi romantic looks at how a computer intelligence could - and probably will - interact with humans. The story follows Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) as he spirals into love with his new operating system. The film explores the new frontiers of human machine relation, even if the narrative did leave you with the feeling of unfulfilled potential.
AI is a theme that’s always going to show up in popular cinema, just how long before its not just a fictitious idea? Soon, as Singularity Or Bust will have you believe.
Words by Leo Taylor
NU caught up with the London based painter Phillip Allen to find out what he has to say about the changing art scene and to hear a bit about his own work too.
Born in 1967, Phillip Allen is a London based abstract painter who was schooled at Kingston University and the Royal College Of Art. He’s had solo shows in The Approach Gallery, London, Xavier Hufkens, Brussels, and the Kerlin Gallery, Dublin. Along with these solo shows, he has also taken part in group shows at Tate Britain, London, PS1, New York and The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle.
After seeing a talk by Phillip Allen hosted by the French painter Claude Temin-Vergez in Camberwell earlier this year I approached the artist in an effort to talk to him about some interesting points he’d made about the changes that he was experiencing in the art scene and to also find out some more about his own work.
Beezerspline (Counter Attack Version), 2003, Oil on board, 182 x 244cm (figure 1)
When I look at Phillip Allen’s paintings I can’t help but see three main periods in his work - something that is quite radical for such a young painter, to change style when he’s doing well in the art world. I say “well”, by which I mean he’s exhibited and had work bought by The Tate and he’s only in his 40’s, so that’s pretty bloody good.
The three periods of work I am talking about are, firstly, his breakthrough style of oil painting on board (figure 1), with strips of thick clumps of paint at the top and bottom of each piece framing an abstract painting seemingly influenced by geometric shapes and patterns. Secondly, between 2009-2011 he moved into a phase of working with abstract forms using more vibrant colours and working on canvas (see above) - he mentioned in his talk that he was unsure what he wanted to do at the time and wanted to experiment with new ideas not just to make paintings because they would sell. Finally, the third period of work can clearly be seen in his more recent paintings where he works on canvas on a much larger scale using less vibrant colours and more hazy compositions (figure 2). You could even say he has two main periods of work and the previously mentioned second phase was just the transition between the two.
(I am only breaking his work down into periods or categories to try to explain how he has grown and changed as an artist, and so I can refer to different groups of paintings more easily within this article.)
Capital P, 2013, Oil on canvas, 182 x 152cm (figure 2)
Throughout his career, Phillip Allen has kept some things constant through his ever-evolving style, such as his love of framing things within the painting and his exciting compositions that seem to be influenced by patterns and design that almost flow in a playful way within each painting. I was interested to ask the painter about the framing and composition of his work before delving into the subject of art fairs and the changing art scene, here’s what he had to say:
NU: When looking at your paintings I can’t help but notice the borders that you include within the composition of your work, do these have any significance other than just aesthetically?
PA: “The borders you talk about appear in a lot of the work. These operate as a skin or marker between the outside and inside spaces of the paintings. They are depicted through aesthetics, for me they have a stringent function.”
NU: How do you come up with the compositions for your paintings, do you take them from life or are they wholly expressive?
PA: “Expressive is a funny word. I make them up.”
NU: There were some interesting points you made when you gave your talk about art fairs taking over as the main money maker for galleries, would you be able to elaborate on that?
PA: “Art Fairs, over the past five years, have become far more curated and the galleries seem to be investing a lot of time and energy in planning their yearly schedules around these events. Art Fairs are a way to cut out all the fuss out of International gallery visiting.”
“In a sense the Art Fair is the art world under a travelling roof and a lot of the younger galleries are happy to make a loss at these events just to be seen on the strip. Ten years ago Art Fairs were less important to the artist and the art world, I saw them literally as trade fairs where the galleries would showcase most of their artists.”
“Now, however the Art Fair has gained an importance and significance beyond most galleries’ own bricks and mortar as it manages to condense the whole gallery, artists and buyers. Not quite a gallery space, not quite a museum space, the Art Fair’s rented booth can both house mini retrospectives, promote new talent or give the gallery an opportunity to curate a mini show of their hottest talent. This is the acid test for the artist too; do well at an Art Fair and your gallery will be pleased, fail to sell and you’ll be at the back of the gallery pecking order for the next event.”
“It is interesting how Frieze Masters has outshone the contemporary wing of Frieze Art Fair and I imagine that eventually Frieze contemporary Art Fair will make way to just Frieze Masters.”
NU: Do you think this shift in the art market will make it harder for new or unknown artists to get into the art scene?
PA: “My studio colleague put this very succinctly… Menudo.”
NU: Do you ever feel that the galleries representing artists are trying to push them to continue to make similar art and not to be too ‘out there’?
PA: “Firstly, ‘out there’ doesn’t really exist. Galleries are happy for you to do what you want, as long as it produces some kind of capital. They do have a business to run and they have overheads. And so, of course, galleries are required to make money. If they didn’t they would soon fold and we would have nowhere to show and sell our stuff.”
NU: Have you ever had any bad experiences with galleries you’ve been associated with because of Art Fairs?
PA: “I’ve been dumped by one gallery for not selling enough work, but I hope I have a good relationship with the other two.”
NU: What’s next for you, any shows you’d like us to plug?
PA: “I’m working towards a show at The Approach Gallery for next year. Myself and my studio colleague have plans to open a space to show a range of very good painting and stuff.”
Talking to Phillip Allen has given me a new perspective on Art Fairs and the way the art scene is changing, it almost seems the game you have to play, if you want to make money as an artist, is changing with these supermarket-like Art Fairs. It begs the question, is this really how art should be sold? Well, it’s a tricky one and I don’t often make statements like this, but to me it seems that an Art Fair is just a temple of capitalism, where people are buying art to improve their status or as an investment not because they are really taken by the work. Come on, surely every upper class person would like a Chagall print in their house? But is that really what Chagall really wanted?
Personally, I am not a fan of art fairs and I vowed to never attend another after attending such an event last year, I found it a very unappealing and unsettling experience that shows art in a way that is all about wealth. After sucking up all the free whisky and eyeing up some very nice Roger Hilton’s I swiftly made my way to the exit unable to stand the pushy gallery booths trying to either sell you something or to move you on.
Before I left I chatted with some people about the event and one such man, in his mid-twenties wearing a suit which he pointed out all too eagerly cost over £2.5k with a watch half the size of my head, spent a long time asking me if he should buy either a Banksy or an Obey painting, insisting that they’d be “worth loads more in the future” and that they were the “next Picasso’s of the art world”. It was a perfect display of the fickleness of Art Fairs but I guess artists need to make money to buy paint and to live. You’ve got to weigh up the question, are you in the game to make money or to make inspiring interesting creative art? I suppose, unless something radically changes within the next few years Art Fairs are going to be the only way to sell or make a name for yourself in the art world. I am just dreading the next, almost inevitable step, where artists and galleries will just sell work over the internet.
Words by Lewis J. Henderson
NU meets: Graham Gussin
I met the British artist Graham Gussin in Camberwell, London last week and he agreed to do an interview with us here at NU.
If you don’t know of Graham Gussin, he’s an artist who’s known for working with a variety of mediums including photography, installation, moving image and conceptual art. He was schooled at Middlesex Polytechnic and Chelsea School Of Art and now lectures at the Slade School Of Fine Art. In Gussin’s work there are often themes linking to science fiction and film, for example his instillation ‘As If’ - a piece made up of a number of separate works which are grouped together - is directly inspired by Wim Wenders’ sci-fi classic ‘The State Of Things’. Part of ‘As If’ is a series of six black and white photographs titled ‘Silver Form’, which were shot in the very same location as the film they were referencing on the Atlantic coast of Portugal.
-‘Silver Form’ Graham Gussin
Personally, I find Gussin’s ‘Silver Form’ very captivating, the series of six photographs of a silver survival blanket being suspended by the wind beside a deserted hotel in Portugal are both beautiful intriguing. The survival sheet becomes an unrecognizable futuristic form that’s being suspended in time and space. To me, it’s reminiscent of Robert Smithson’s ‘Rocks And Mirror Square II’ - a piece that is a simple arrangement of eight back to back mirrors in a square with rocks. That piece gives the impression that the installation is “hugging the ground and levitating at the same time” creating space in the piece, something that I see in ‘Silver Form’ too. Gussin and Smithson both seem to like to juxtapose the manmade - the mirrors or survival blanket - and the natural - the sea and wind and the rocks, this makes for very interactive pieces, as the ‘editing’ becomes part of the art form - Gussin’s choice of photographs and intern choosing the most interesting shapes that the wind has sculpted while the placement and choice of the rocks is key in Smithson’s piece.
-‘Rocks And Mirror Square II’ Robert Smithson
Along with this fascination with the future, Gussin’s work has explored human perception of space, time and size, and another recurring topic in his work is the relationship between the viewer and the exhibition space, this can be seen in such pieces as his installation ‘One Hundred And Ninety-Nine Black Glass Marbles Scattered Across The Floor And Allowed To Move Around The Space And Settle Wherever And For However Long, One For Each Character And Space Of The Title’, or ‘Shift’ where, in 2004, he poured 90 tonnes of sand into a museum and covered the windows with coloured filters as part of the Bienal de Arte de Pontevedra, creating a landscape which belongs to an unidentified future, and turning the museum into “a site which implies a radical shift in time and place.”
-‘Shift’ Graham Gussin
Over Gussin’s career he has been invited to exhibit across the globe, from Pedro Cera Gallery in Lisbon all the way to the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, also taking part in group exhibitions in Tokyo, Paris, Liverpool and London.
I met Graham Gussin after a lecture he’d given in Camberwell this year and he agreed to answer some questions for us, here’s what he had to say:
NU: In your works such as ‘Shift’ and ‘Silver Form’ there are strong sci-fi or futuristic themes, is this a topic that you are trying to address with your work?
GG: “I’m interested in science fiction and it’s ‘territories’. I suppose by this I mean its concern with potentials, ideologies, geographies. It’s a way of shifting our perspective on the present. The concern with utopian/dystopian states is foregrounded in the genre - or at least in the interesting aspects of the genre.”
NU: With ‘Silver Form’ and ‘As If’ being inspired by the film ‘The State Of Things’, are films the main influence for your work or is it just reflective of your life and what you are seeing when you come up with the ideas/concepts?
GG: “They are not the main source or influence, I’m influenced by many things. I’ve always been interested in the relationship between film and reality, the physical aspects of this as well as the conceptual, the way things spill out from one to the other.”
NU: After seeing your piece ‘Silver Form’ I was very taken with the black and white photography, was its use down to the film that inspired the piece or was it just an aesthetic choice?
GG: “Both, I think, yes, definitely both. It made the image simpler while being an echo of the origins, though it’s link to the film is very elliptical, you don’t need to know of it when viewing the work necessarily.”
NU: Were the photographs taken on a film camera or analogue?
GG: “These were taken on digital, I could shoot the subject rapidly and this was necessary, I was on my own, using the wind…”
-‘Illumination Rig’ Graham Gussin
NU: Would you be able to run us through your piece ‘Illumination Rig’ and the different places the piece has travelled to and ideas behind the piece?
GG: “It’s been mounted in five different places, Reculver, Newcastle, Sharjah, Margate and London. Originally the work was based around a simple transformation of money into light. I like the idea of a single thing spilling out into its surroundings. The lights are very sculptural, very physical. Each time the work is made it brings about different experiences and thinking around it, depending on the place, it’s very much about place. Another very important aspect of the work is the way the viewer becomes the subject, as much as the place it’s in.”
-‘Dark Corner’ Graham Gussin
NU: What gave you the idea for ‘Dark Corner’, or did it just come to you?
GG: “I curated a show called ‘Nothing’ in 2000, a number of works I made after that were direct results of thinking about Nothing for over a year, this is one of those. It declares itself directly as what it is but there is some small percentage that remains mysterious. I find that intriguing and funny.”
NU: What does the future hold for Graham Gussin, any shows or projects that will be happening soon?
GG: “I have a show coming up in London in February and I’ve been working on a group of paintings for some time now.”
-‘One Hundred And Ninety-Nine Black Glass Marbles Scattered Across The Floor And Allowed To Move Around The Space And Settle Wherever And For However Long, One For Each Character And Space Of The Title’ Graham Gussin
Graham Gussin has got to be one of the most interesting artists working today making art that works both aesthetically and conceptually. Works like ‘Dark Corner’ and ‘One Hundred And Ninety-Nine Black Glass Marbles Scattered Across The Floor And Allowed To Move Around The Space And Settle Wherever And For However Long, One For Each Character And Space Of The Title’ show that he has a sense of humour with his work and pieces like ‘Illumination Rig’ show the more conceptual side to his work. If you ever get the chance to go to a Graham Gussin exhibition or artist talk you should he’s very interesting and to me quite inspiring.
Words by Lewis J. Henderson
More on Graham Gussin: http://www.grahamgussin.co.uk/
NU meets John Cooper Clarke
NU went to Bestival 2013 to interview punk-poet John Cooper Clarke
Entering the backstage of the REPLAY stage with the heavens well and truly opening above our heads, we saw a sight quite new to NU. Corporate marketing gone mad! In among the sodden bands, stage employees and photographers, there were piles of free jeans that were being pushed into the hands of the most famous of those gathered in the backstage area. Make of this what you will, but I guess it’s not all that bad if they are bankrolling a stage that’ll put John Cooper Clarke top of the bill on Saturday night – but it’s doubtful they had size zero to fit the man himself.
We spied John Cooper Clarke towering above the onlookers who all seemed more interested in Ghostpoet posing in his new jeans rather than the sharp suited word juggler. Before we could work our way over to him he’d taken the stage warmly greeting the audience before delivering new poems and olds classics. I have seen him twice before and he’d been great but this was something else, coming up with quick offhand jokes along with elaborate stories that really made the crowd hum with laughter. Of course, his poems were delivered in his famous machine gun style that was met with roars of appreciation for new material, classics, like ‘TWAT’, and the closing, and my personal favorite, the infamous ‘Chicken Town’. After his set we were ushered into a small cabin to conduct our interview, here’s what he had to say:
NU: What inspires your poems? Is it wholly about England or do you see it as a worldwide thing?
JCC: “Well I just kind of write on the move its kind of where I am now, it’s a kind of early beatnik fashion.”
“My life’s not always been like that. If things go according to plan I lead a very sedentary life, but lately there’s been a lot of activity going on and I think it helps. I’ve been writing a hell of a lot.”
NU: How long does it take you to compose or write a poem?
JCC: “Oh, you know, they’re never finished they’re just abandoned. Recently I had to get a load of old stuff, well, comparatively old stuff together for a new book but every time I write it out so that it’s legible enough for somebody else to type, because I write longhand you know, every time I write it out I always have to start improving them, it’s terrible, you know, but hopefully this year I’ll be able to get the book out.”
NU: How do you choose the set list for a live show?
JCC: “Yeah, I’ve just been talking about that with Johnny Green -tour manager and driver, I’ve never had a set list in my life. It didn’t really matter a long time ago because I didn’t really have that many poems that I’d do on stage but now I write all kinds of things but some of them ain’t really suitable for a showbiz situation, so, I guess, a bit of thought goes into that but I never had a set list, saying that I always used to finish with ‘Chicken Town’, because there’s not really anywhere you can go after that.”
NU: Do you view your poems as an art form? Because we definitely do…
JCC: “Well, yeah, I did, sure. It’s like poetry is a real statement of intent isn’t it? It ain’t anything else, it’s a kind of cool medium writing a poem, you know. You write it in a sort of reflective position. You compose it in a cool way but then how do you deliver it so that it’s hot? How do you make it so it’s a must-have commodity? You know there was no kind of scene for poetry when I started writing and I used to think the way to poetic success was to get published in things so I sent it off and it wasn’t really what was required, for whatever reason, probably because it was shit. But you get better, obviously you get better… I like to think there’s such a thing as human progress. But then I figured the best thing I can do is to read it. I’ve never really been shy about the stuff I write because it’s about everyday things.”
“The first guy that gave me money for doing what I do was the late Bernard Manning (northern comedian and night club owner). He was the only one who would stick his neck out. I can’t stress enough how big an influence he was in my career. I figured I’d have incongruity. I always figured with poetry incongruity is your friend because it never really fits into anything. Poetry is something that’s created in isolation but craves mass adulation, otherwise there’s no point in writing it. You just hope that it will (laughs) benefit mankind. So I thought read it but read it in places like cabaret clubs in Manchester where I lived, because there weren’t any poetry places. I took it to Jerry Harris’s Piccadilly Club but they weren’t interested, I took it to The Luxor Club but they weren’t interested, I took it to the College Theatre but they weren’t interested. I took it to Sinatra’s but they weren’t interested. The only guy that was interested was Bernard Manning at the Embassy Club and that was the first commercial gig I ever had. People say, ‘weren’t you afraid of the punk rock crowds?’ but that was nothing compared to the Embassy Club.”
NU: I know the way you deliver your poems is inspired by The Ramones and many other punk bands…
JCC: “I love The Ramones.”
NU: But do you ever change the way you deliver a poem?
JCC: “Well, I’m slower now than I ever was, but that’s because of the poems I’m writing they don’t call for that rat-a-tat machine gun delivery, or, as it’s been called on many occasions, the machine gun delivery invented by John Cooper Clarke. I still do it, I still employ it when the need arises but the stuff I’m writing now is a bit more languid you know. I didn’t do much of that tonight, admittedly, mainly because this evening they were filming me. I was on automatic but I always like to think there’s a level that, below which, my act never sinks and I can do it automatically. I had to do that tonight because of the music that was going on that the punters could hear, it was putting me off a bit, but people say the crowd went away happy.”
NU: How do the modern pieces you’re writing compare to your older material?
JCC: “I think the more modern times have made me more consciously antique. I’ll give you an example of that, when I was featured on (Plan B’s) ‘Ill Manors’, he hired me to do what I do, but it was on his manor and it was street level and I thought I’m never going to fit into that, I can’t speak like that. So I thought, rather than look three years out of date, I’d rather look 100 years out of date. So I went for that and I wrote the piece ‘Pity The Plight’ which I’m really proud of. It’s something that I wouldn’t have written if I hadn’t had the commission to do it. And, the decision to make it Dickensian was one of the best aesthetic decisions I could ever have made. It’s a great number and it’s not used in its entirety in the film but it’s very poignant. And, every mention of ‘Ill Manors’ has mentioned my tiny part in it. It was definitely a good day’s work.”
NU: Coming to this festival there’s not a lot of spoken word or different approaches happening.
JCC: “It’s a mainstream pop festival, it’s not a leftfield audience at all. But that don’t bother me. I don’t aim and never did aim at a left field crowd. I started at the Embassy Club, I’ve never courted the art crowd. They’re in my pocket anyway. I’ve taken poetry to places it’s never been before, that’s why I got a doctorate from the University Of Salford, it’s a legitimate claim. You know the people who like me aren’t necessarily interested in poetry. Some of the people who come to see me, I’m the only poet they like.”
NU: Maybe you’re a gateway into poetry for people.
JCC: “I’d like to think so, but I don’t mind if I’m the only poet they like. I kinda quite like that. Who wouldn’t?”
We wrapped the interview up so he could get to a photo shoot. As he left he asked what the NU was about, we told him it was a art magazine to which he replied: “I like art, I’m all about merging the boundaries between good art and shit art,” something that stuck in my head and which I’d recite to anyone who’d listen for nearly two weeks. To me John Cooper Clarke is the greatest living poet and he’s making his art for everyone not just the well educated. He’s redefining poetry for the public, in fact he’s been doing it for years. Also he’s just the nicest man you’ll probably ever meet.
Words and Photography by Lewis J. Henderson
Photographs of Bestival 2013, from a giant fish finger to a bearded bride
Check out the Bestival 2013 review: http://nuartzine.tumblr.com/post/61702827075/nu-at-bestival-2013-its-their-10-year
Photographs by Lewis J. Henderson
Picture of the Week: Victor Vasarely’s Zirz: A Tapestry Designed For Tabard Aubusson
About the artist: Victor Vasarely (1906-1997) was a Hungarian–French artist, who is widely accepted as founding member and leader of the short-lived op art movement. Victor Vasarely worked as a graphics designer and a poster artist during the 1930’s combining patterns and organic images with each other. Over the next three decades, Vasarely developed his style of geometric abstract art, working in various materials but using a minimal number of forms and colours. His work entitled Zebra, created in the 1930s, is considered by some to be one of the earliest examples of op art. Vasarely died in Paris in 1997.
Words by Lewis j. Henderson Photo © Victor Vasarely
Kumar Pallana dies at 94, the star of Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Bottle Rocket” died on 10 October 2013 at his home in California.
Other than Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “Bottle Rocket” and “The Dajeeling Limited” Pallana featured in “Another Earth” and “The Terminal” alongside Tom Hanks.
Kumar Pallana was born Dec. 23, 1918, in Indore in central India. He dropped out of high school with the goal of becoming an actor, but he could not get seen at the studios in Bombay. He trained as an acrobat and plate spinner, touring festivals in India and Africa performing balancing acts. In 1946 he went to the U.S. as the act Kumar of India.
Eventually he opened a yoga studio above his son’s Cosmic Cup coffee shop in Dallas where he was discovered by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. He told the Times in a 2004 interview “They were nice kids.” At the time they were working on their breakout movie “Bottle Rocket”, and they cast Pallana as a bumbling safe cracker. His thick accent and diminutive stature earned him parts in more films, including three more directed by Anderson and one by Steven Spielberg. His daughter Sandhya Pallana said “He lived life to the fullest” when talking to The Associated Press.
Kumar Pallana was one of the most interesting actors on the screen in recent times and he will be sadly missed my many. We wish the best to his family and friends.
NU: Elliott Smith 10 years on.
This day 10 years ago the world lost the American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, he was just 34.
Life: Elliott Smith was born August 6, 1969 in Omaha, Nebraska. After playing in the rock band Heatmiser for several years, Smith began his solo career in 1994, with releases on the independent record labels Cavity Search and Kill Rock Stars. In 1997, he signed with DreamWorks Records, following which he rose to mainstream prominence when his song “Miss Misery” was included on the soundtrack of Good Will Hunting and subsequently nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Song category in 1998.
Smith released 5 studio albums including the classic “XO” gaining a cult like following of dedicated fans. In 2001 his song “Needle In The Hay” was included in the film The Royal Tenenbaums, providing a stand out moment in the film that grew his reputation as a musician.
Death: Smith died on October 21, 2003 from two stab wounds to the chest at his home in Echo Park, California where he lived with his girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba. According to Chiba, the two were arguing when she locked herself in the bathroom to take a shower. She heard him scream, and upon opening the door, saw Smith standing with a knife in his chest. She pulled the knife out, after which he collapsed and she called the police. A possible suicide note, written on a Post-it note, read:
"I’m so sorry—love, Elliott. God forgive me."
His death is thought to be a suicide yet no hesitation wounds were found on Smith, a trait typical of self inflicted suicide. The coroner’s report also revealed that no traces of illegal substances or alcohol were found in his system at the time of his death.
10 years on: At the time of his death, Smith was working on his sixth studio album, “From A Basement On The Hill”, which was posthumously completed and released. The album “New Moon” was also released after his death in 2007 and is a compilation of rarities and unreleased music from Smith’s time at the label Kill Rock Stars.
Since Smith’s death, many musical acts have paid him tribute. Songs in tribute to, or about Smith have been released by the likes of Pearl Jam and Grandaddy among many others.
For me as a critic and music fan, I think his work still sounds as fresh today as it ever did and definitely deserves to be remembered. He was truly one of the greatest songwriters of a generation.
Words by Lewis J. Henderson
NU art: Felix Treadwell
Felix Treadwell is a young British painter heavily influenced by Japanese culture. His work reflects a darker, very British take on Takashi Murakami’s super flat movement. Through sharing a studio with Felix, I have seen him countlessly reworking his paintings, slowly making them more gritty and abstract. That’s not to say he doesn’t work quickly, it’s more than likely for Felix to finish almost all of his paintings in a day or less. For example, in such paintings as “Oh no” he would constantly be reworking over what he had previously done, adding layer upon layer of ink washes and pale acrylic abstract figures. By continuously adding layer upon layer the painting creates a sense of mystery where the viewer is intrigued to look deeper into the painting, to understand all of the different layers of the piece.
Felix’s use of ink seems to add an illustrative quality to his work, yet the use of paint in an abstract style is something that takes him quite far from Takashi Murakami’s super flat paintings and to me seems to have drawn influence from painters such as St. Ives abstractionist Roger Hilton or even early Hockney. In more recent works such as “Birthday Party” Felix has started to incorporate more colour into his pieces juxtaposing the harsh black ink of cartoonish figures that are apparent within his work with areas of flat sharp colours. In this piece he paints a scene of chaos at a child’s birthday party, with distorted figures smoking cigarettes and wearing party hats. The figures look almost like ghosts, frantic and excited, and, when speaking to Felix, he described the painting as his experience of primary school, utter chaos.
Felix has now moved to Koyto, Japan on placement, I just wonder what he will bring back to the UK and if he will still think the same way about the art scene both here and there after experiencing them both first hand.
Words by Lewis J. Henderson
Photography by Felix Treadwell
Picture 1, “Oh No”
Picture 2, “Birthday Party”
In The Studio With: Colette Morey De Morand
After seeing a piece of Colette Morey De Morand’s in the RA summer show I was intrigued to find out more about this seemingly amazing artist who’d slipped under my radar for so long. It didn’t take me long to arrange an interview and I was able to find out what she’s all about.
As I entered Colette’s studio on the second floor of a complex near the Latimer Road tube station, being serenaded by the beautiful sounds of classical music and surrounded by her painting I knew I was in for an interesting interview. With a cup of tea warming my cold hands and feeling very welcome within the well-lit room we began to talk. With Colette ushering towards various paintings hanging on the walls, she finally pointed at a small rectangular canvas on her desk (figure 1).
CMDM: “That’s New Zealand work, from when I lived there.”
NU: Do you keep a lot of your old work?
CMDM: “Well, I wish I had but I’ve practically sold everything I ever made, which was good for me then. I only have two pictures that I’d never sell and I also have that one.”
Points at the painting on the desk (figure 1)
“I had some bigger ones but they sold here in England. I have some paper stuff from art school, but you acquire too much and then, when I moved to England, I went for years where I painted a lot but didn’t sell a lot of anything so, after a while, you tend to throw things out.”
The conversation then turned Bridget Riley, the Op-Art painter who also has a studio in the same complex.
CMDM: “They (Riley and her technicians) have a big table the size of this.”
Throwing her arms as wide as the room.
“She has one guy in her Holland Park studio and when she gets an idea, this guy draws it and, if they are doing stripes, they cut paper stripes the exact size they’ll be on the painting and she’ll walk around with her assistants and put them where she wants them. After that, somebody draws it out on the canvas and then they bring it to a technician here (in the complex) and in about one day they paint a 20ft painting, maybe three days tops, because they have to make no decisions. It’s drawn out for them exactly. But Bridget will always mix the colours herself and makes a plan for her technicians to follow so she can get it to look exactly as she wants it to and then a huge van comes and it’s taken away. It’s like another world.”
NU: Do you ever have people helping you make your paintings?
CMDM: “I have. I have been quite ill for a year and I could not do it myself for a while but the funny thing is when I’m feeling up to it I can do it myself because I know how to. I paint flat and it’s a lot of effort, mainly I paint using stools to prop up the painting that’s why I paint onto stretchers. Before I used to put the canvas on the floor and paint them, although quite a few of them were meant to be un-stretched. I really do like the un-stretched ones because they aren’t a big deal and you can just staple them to the wall but I also like them when they are absolutely accurate and that’s best on stretched canvas.”
We then went on to discuss her painting “moving on 2” (figure 2) that was featured in this year’s RA summer show, the very piece that made me want to write this article. I wanted to know specifically about the angular shapes apparent that protrude over the edges of the canvas in places, yet in others they stay in line with the edge of the canvas.
CMDM: “Painting onto the sides is choosing where the frame is. It’s saying that everything counts. We used to say that a painting is like looking into a window, but I think the whole thing is there and you do what you want do with it.”
NU: All of the paintings I have seen of yours are painted in acrylic do you ever use other mediums?
CMDM: “No, but in New Zealand, which was quite a long time ago, they hardly had acrylic, maybe because they were so poor after the war? But they would import about once a year lots of art materials and then the tutors (at our university) would not tell us until they had gone and bought practically everything, so you bought whatever you could find. The only canvas you could buy was for yachts, so what I’d do was get hard board and glue muslin onto it because I didn’t like painting directly onto hardboard.”
NU: When did you first start painting with shapes and patterns?
CMDM: “Well, I went to the triangle workshop in New York, Helen Frankenthaler was there and the critic Clement Greenberg, it was run by Tony Carl, Robert Lobe and Larry Poons. They were kind of bigshots and that was in ‘82 and I was still doing unstretched canvas and working on the floor and in America everything seemed to be so big. Larry Poons went through a stage where he would use, say five litres to twenty litres of paint that he’d throw on a canvas on a wall, that was his style. I was out in the field, so I didn’t have a wall but I would take smaller size paints and throw them and it was really quite fun but when I came back, I thought, well, what am I doing? Because I can’t paint like that here.”
“So that’s when I started painting like this, I would cut out stripes, for example, from big pieces of paper and I’d get on a ladder and look down and I’d then move them around and it wasn’t because of Bridget Riley. I had the idea and Bridget was doing it too at the time. But that’s when I really switched over to computers which doesn’t make it any easer funnily enough. You think it does because it’s physically easier but its not because they won’t look like they do backlit on a computer. But, it gives you an idea, yet it also gives you so many possibilities, so your practice changes because you can so easily change the colour, or the shapes and you have a million possibilities of what you painting could become.”
NU: So you experiment with creating the plan of the painting on the computer?
CMDM: “Yeah, I mainly do. I have been painting for so long and have been painting all the time you know and I get an idea and I’ll get one of my paintings that might have some of that idea and I’ll photograph it and put it on the computer and change it around. So, I suppose the old fashioned people would say it’s cheating. Well I find it actually exciting to use computers.”
NU: When you are thinking of the composition of your pieces are you sometimes influenced by a gallery space where you know your piece will be shown. For example your piece in the RA summer show?
CMDM: “I did that piece before (the show). What I find is that I never get anything in that I want in, I mean, maybe I’m just too sensitive, but in New Zealand I was famous, everything I painted I sold and I was sent by New Zealand to Fuji, Japan to represent them.”
NU: You have had some really big exhibitions, how do you prepare for them?
CMDM: “In the beginning I didn’t think I was good enough and would turn things down and just paint to get better. And because I wasn’t a New Zealander there was a lot of envy and competition, some people thought I shouldn’t show and would do anything to stop me showing. That was really terrible.”
As the conversation wandered through Colette’s career, I noticed a print of Henri Matisse’s The Snail.
CMDM: “I love that Matisse. I love the colours but also that they it’s very clear, not sharp, but clear with no kind of fudging, like this is an impression of something or these are gold fish or this might do you know what. It is not at all abstract expression, it’s exact. There are no areas that are better than others, it works as a whole piece and I find when I’m painting there will be areas that I really like and I’ll be trying to save them but the painting won’t work as a whole unless you take them out and focus on the whole picture.”
NU: When researching you, I kept coming across the phrase ‘Geometric abstractionist’ is this a term you’re happy being related with your work?
CMDM: “Well, that came from the Poussin Gallery and what they were trying to do was get a title that people can easily interpret, so sharp shapes. It worked for that exhibition and I guess it can be applied to my more recent art.”
When Colette moved to England from New Zealand, a new set of influences inspired her work such as living with painter Patrick Caulfield.
CMDM: “I lived in Patrick Caulfield’s house for years, he is dead now and he was just my really good friend.”
There are definitely links between Caulfield’s pieces and Colette’s work. The use of solid block colours and layering share similar emotions. To me, Caulfield’s painting are almost computer generated in style and very flat, just like Colette’s method of painting. She even went as far as relating a painting of his to one of her own.
CMDM: “In one of Patrick’s pieces, you come to a little blue rectangle. The painting was of a hotel foyer, with the doors blocked by a chandelier and right behind there was a circular patch of blue on the floor. When one of our friends was in hospital he died for three minutes. I asked him what it was like and he said that all he could see was blue and I thought about that a lot and at the time of this painting Patrick was very ill and I asked him if he had painted the blue rectangle because it was eternity pulling him in, he replied I just put it down there because I wanted it there. For me, the blue square in my painting (pointing out a blue square in one of her pieces (figure 3)) is eternity, my light pulling you into the painting.”
Sitting on the tube on the way home, staring out of the window vaguely looking into the gardens of people’s houses I came to the realization that Colette Morey De Morand has to be one of the most interesting artists working in London today. She seems to have it all, a unique style, an interesting back story and above all good taste.
To me, it seems that in a post-Duchamp world that’s all you really need, good taste. Well that and a sense of humour.
Colette’s art is about sparseness. It’s not just filling a canvas or painting for the sake of painting, when she leaves areas where you can see the right the way to the hue of the linen weave, she’s showing us she knows when to stop. It’s like, what’s the point of minimalism if you overwork it? And with her large areas of flat block colour and geometric shapes, which are seemingly complex yet at the same time simple, you are drawn in creating a deeper sense of space. That’s good taste, not over the top, not underworked, just right and very beautiful.
There will be a show at City Hall with the London Group later this year to commemorate the centenary of the London Group where Colette will be contributing some works.
Words and Photography by Lewis J. Henderson
More on Colette: http://nuartzine.tumblr.com/cmoreydemorand
NU on Future Grooves: From ghetto house to electronica
The release of the third Future Grooves’ compilation marks a big step for Luke S., a mathematics student from Nottingham and the man behind the label and music blog that’s brought out seven releases in the past year. Luke’s unselfish way of running the label has given unheard artists much needed exposure in this age of computer-generated music. These days, putting your music on websites such as Soundcloud and Youtube just isn’t enough. There’s so much great music online that you’ve got to be really lucky to get people to find it and listen to it, let alone come back to check out other releases.
Future Grooves’ free compilations lets you hear and download a collection of fantastically sourced music ranging from post-dubstep all the way through to juke - a type of “ghetto house” originated in Chicago in the early ‘90s. Along with the free compilations there have been a series of EP’s, some free (or pay what you want) and some for a small fee, which has proved to be another great way for new musicians to get their foot in the door with the backing of a label and the followers of its blog. If you have some spare time, check out Future Grooves and download a release, maybe it’ll open your ears to a new genre of music, or at the very least to some songs you’ve never heard before.
Words by Lewis J. Henderson
Picture of the Week: Malcolm Hughes’s Untitled (1975)
Mediums used: Painted wood relief
Size: 20 x 41 cm
About the artist: Malcolm Hughes (1920-1997) was an English painter and constructive artist who trained at the Regional College Of Art in Manchester and then at the Royal College Of The Arts in London. As a constructive artist he did not seek to represent what can be seen in the visual world, but to construct works from standard elements and rules. Also influenced by post war abstract art of that time, he developed a unique style and by the 1960’s his work was exhibited at the Institute Of Contemporary Arts (London, England) and the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles (Paris, France). His works are in a number of collections, including the Tate, Warwick University, Manchester City Art Gallery, Sussex University and the British Council.
He taught at the Polytechnic Of Central London, Bath Academy Of Art and Chelsea School Of Art and, from 1973, he ran the Slade School Of Art’s graduate program.
Today marks the anniversary of his death, 19 September 1997.
Words by Lewis j. Henderson
Photo © Malcolm Hughes