Sunday, 30 December 2007

Minature moments

I never know what's around the corner when I wander the labyrinthine Victoria and Albert museum.

Set designs. Collaborators: UK Design for Performance 2003 - 2007. All are very tiny, most no more than a foot across, recessed into the wall. It was interesting that most set designers had a need to add the people - the actors. Little frozen vignettes of... whom? Arrested. Haunted. Me and them.

I'll go again soon, and try to take more photographs - the crowds and dimness made it difficult.

  1. Homage to Catalonia (Orwell) - Neil Murray
  2. End Game (Beckett)
  3. Don Giovanni - Katharine Williams
  4. Josephine the Singer (Kafka) - by Micheal Andrzejewski

Cafe - V&A Museum

After the set model exhibition, I found a life size set in the cafe at the V&A...

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Friday, 28 December 2007

Red mist

Journey home. Top deck of bus. Rainy/foggy windows. It's cold and quite miserable.

  1. Brixton High Street.
  2. Bus tail light.

Thursday, 27 December 2007


Until fairly recently, amongst other things, I was a removal man, working for a rather quirky outfit. It was amongst my favourite jobs. Rummaging through peoples lives - weird momentary intimacy and trust. Adventure. Mostly great fun.

But also. On occassion housing associations, who provided affordable homes to 'vulnerable' people, would hire us to clear out houses of those who had died, or were being moved to a 'retirement' home. Usually men. Many were loners, or at least had retreated into themselves. I think often no one talked to them. Disconnected lives. People only seemed to know them through their daily routines outside - trips to the shops, the post office, or a fry up in the local greasy spoon cafe.

Many of these people were obsessive horders, and lived in dark squalor. They hung onto tattered objects, usually paper, of seemingly no value. But they must have evoked some past memories for them; or maybe created some sense of continuity; or perhaps it was just to surround themselves with the familiar. Attempts at orientation.

Usually this stuff was as close as we got to the person. It was all we had to go on to get a sense of who this person was. All we would ever know. On occasion I would save something from being dumped. I wish I did this more often, but... anyway. I would look at these objects, and try to imagine how they had arrived at that state of being. What did they think. What did they feel. What did they think thier futures were to be when they were young.

Collage always perplexed me: but suddenly I found myself doing this one. I constructed it intuitively, with little thought. So it was finished before I thought much about what I had done. The lined paper is a journal page rescued from one of those men. Most pages had a date written in the corner, dozens and dozens of pages. But only a very few had anything else written down of that days events. "The man next door cut down my apple tree". "The woman upstairs spit on my door." This is probably the only thing that exists that showed that he existed.

Then there is an x-ray of a woman's spine from a battered book on radiology. Apparently there is something terribly wrong with her.

And then there is a scrap of newspaper - from 1934. I found sheets of this under some cracked lino in a bedsit. 70 years it had been under peoples feet. There is an article of a mother who had killed her own child, because he was suffering dreadfully from some terminal disease.

Echos of people no longer there. Forgotten, unknowable narratives. Despairing, mostly. This may be all that remains of them. But I don't think it's this unknowability that effects me so, although it was a jarring lesson in mortality, of the fleetingness of life. Rather, it is that thier vitality disappeared sometime before death. Death was a process.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Diebenkorn [Repetition]

"My freedom thus consists in moving within the narrow frame I have defined myself for each one of my undertakings. I shall go even further: my freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful, the more narrowly I limit my field of action, and the more I surround myself with obstacles"

Stravinsky - Poetics of Music

Richard Diebenkorn: Notes to myself on beginning a painting:

  1. Attempt what is not certain, certainty may or may not come later. It may be then a valuable delusion.

  2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued – except as stimulus for further moves.

  3. DO search. But in order to find other that what is searched for.

  4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.

  5. Don’t discover a subject – of any kind.

  6. Somehow don’t be bored – but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.

  7. Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.

  8. Keep thinking about Polyanna [his wife].

  9. Tolerate chaos.

  10. Be careful only in a perverse way.

Monday, 24 December 2007


I mentioned in my last post my photographs and paintings rarely have figures. It's something people have commented on, especially when I created my "house of cards" series. This absence echoes through much of my life. I'm thinking about it now. I use other elements as stand ins: houses, buildings, posts, poles. Are they enough? They are silent, melancholic. Often alone. Rooted to the spot. In terror? Or belonging? Interacting at distance. Gravitation fields. Knots of intense being, radiating outwards, pushing/pulling. In stasis. Life - narrative - as an abstract geometry. Orbits, cycles, epicycles. Lines of force

I found this quote by diebenkorn, whose work I admire.

"As soon as I started using the figure my whole idea of painting changed. Maybe not in the structural sense, but these figures distorted my sense of interior or environment, or the painting itself - in a way that I welcomed. Because you don't have this in abstract painting... in abstract painting one can't deal with... an object or a person, a concentration of psychology which a person is as opposed to where the figure isn't in a painting... And that is one thing that is always missing for me in an abstract painting. I don't have this kind of dialoque between elements that can be ... wildly different and can be at war, or in extreme conflict"


Felt awash in blue. Paper thin.

In California, on telling people I was from London, they often responded: foggy London! Sigh... preconceptions. But s'pose I didn't know Californian glamour was a thin coastal veneer. I liked the interior better - truthful. Or maybe not... metaphor for you.

But it was a foggy day in London - it's fairly rare. And it's rare for there deliberately to be people in my photographs. And even rarer in my paintings. I have anxiety at pointing a camera at someone. The may speak.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Sodium orange

Victoria railway bridge, and tunnel near Tower Bridge

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Near Tower Bridge

Repetition and echoes, old against new.


Walked along from tower bridge towards Rotherhithe. I'm obsessed with: stacked objects - spines. Support: will it topple? Collapse. Balanced upright - vulnerable to tipping over.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Earth shadow

Cliche sunset: still I catch my breath. The dark curved shadow at the top left is the shadow of the earth cast against the clouds and sky. I stood in te shadow too.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007


WWII Russian T-34 Attack Tank. Not what quite what I'd expected to find in a Bermondsey council estate. Ah, the cold war - living under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Halcyon days.

The Stranglers - 1978. Sweet. Still, it kept me sane back then: to a degree.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


The British Library is minutes from where I work. I can escape there at lunch time and cleanse myself, at least for an hour. The Magna Carta, the Gutenberg bible, Leonardo's notebooks, medieval maps, Bach's original scores... I mean, fucking hell: bliss. It's the closest I get to experiencing a feeling of sacredness.

They usually have a special exhibition too: and currently it is "Breaking the Rules: The Printed Face of the European Avant Garde 1900 – 1937"

"Mainly through the medium of print, Breaking the Rules throws new light on Cubism, Expressionism, Futurism, Dadaism, Suprematism, Constructivism, Surrealism and other movements; on the artists who changed the face of modern culture for ever; and on the cities that experienced their work, from Brussels to Budapest, Vienna to Vitebsk.

Star items include Marinetti’s futurist experiment with words, type and visual text, Zang Tumb Tuum; the Burliuk Brothers’ Tango with Cows; and the notebooks and corrected proofs of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake."

The exhibition consists mostly of little artists books and pamphlets and magazines and and and... It's a joy. I become flushed - you can feel the energy coming of those pages. the experimentation, the iconoclasm. And also it feels... almost naive. What now feels charmingly optimistic. Open. Despite the ravages of the first world war, the Russian revolution - or perhaps because of that suffering - the desire to sweep away the imperialitic past, and create anew. It's all very touching. I hate today's jaded cynicism.

I felt a certain ambivalence about some of the work, and I wondered if the srtists did too. The effect of the machine - of mechanisation - were celebrated by the likes of Leger and Marinetti and other futurists. Maybe. The futurists changed their view somewhat after the mechanised slaughter in the trenches. But, no doubt man and machine had merged.

In the end, what I found most enchanting weren't the printed works, but sound and vision. There were a number of recordings of the antics of the Caberet Voltaire, and sound poems, and achromatic music. Miroslav Ponc - where can I get his colour music?

Kurt Schwitters, who I previously only knew for his extraordinary collages, well... his 1932 sound poem ursonate hovers between song and the spoken word.

There were a number of films too. I loved the flock of bowler hats in Hans Richter's "Ghosts before breakfast" (1927)

Yeah, I felt a little lighter.



It's been another strange week. Happiness and numbness. After seeing the aftermath of a shocking accident a week or so ago, I felt on the up a little - that I had surfaced over the weekend. But, a colleague at work has been killed by a truck. She died yesterday. I didn't know her well. All the time this fantasy part of me wants the clock to rewind, to make it all better.

Or am I just mourning for myself?

Wednesday, 12 December 2007


  1. Coney Island, Mar '07
  2. Coney Island, Mar '07
  3. Near Mono Lake, California, Nov '07
  4. Bona Vista, Newfoundland, Nov '06


Find your level
flow into intimacy
Fluidity of emotions,
define shape,
confrontation of self.

embrace - under the flow.
To feel... electric.
Absolute vulnerability.

Emotions - immersion - depths - silence
the sound of ourselves
peace or panic
safe or dangerous...

Out of our depth

Be still.

Here pain is safe - fear is safe.
Bored through terror.

Time to move, then.

Monday, 10 December 2007


Image: Guardian newspaper
Anthony Gormley's Event Horizon - the gaze. Disturbed many people. London supposedly has more CCTV cameras than any other city. We're photographed and filmed several times a day - and yet most shrug, "If you've got nothing to hide..." Surveillance drops under our radar.

Yet, if rather than cameras, there were people with binoculars watching our movements. Photographing, filming. How would that make you feel?

Might make a nice little arty happening. Sit atop a step ladder, and observe passers by with binoculars.

Guardian review
Gormley's website

Sunday, 9 December 2007

River + Swan

Most of the time, the Thames is the closest I get to a horizon. I'm entranced by the river: it's history - flowing through London for 2000 odd years. Staring at the murky sluggish waters I feel that history resonating within me: I feel connected to... I'm not sure what. It feels permanent. Peace. Unlike the slew of toy town "luxury" apartments that have colonised it's banks, inhabited by the battery people, thinking their ikea furniture and laminate flooring is just dandy.

I like the working/derelict stretches: scarred, overgrown, decayed, abandoned. Especially from Greenwich to the Millenium dome. A place that hasn't been framed by some authority as an area of outstanding beauty. Once, at nightfall I took a friend out onto a pier for an urban picnic. I ate a cold pie, and slugged back a few ales and watched the gasworks burning off excess gas, listened to the river sucking at the ancient wooden posts and rubbing barges up against the wharf, groaning occasionally. And watched Canary Wharf opposite light up across the water, looking from one world onto another. He sat swaddled in his coat letting me know just how miserable he was.

Anyway, today I walked that stretch, and here are a few images. Also below I quote Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

And I like that entrance means a point of entry, and to carry away in rapture.

Forthwith a change came over the waters, and the serenity became less brilliant but more profound. The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth. We looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short day that comes and departs for ever, but in the august light of abiding memories. And indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes, "followed the sea" with reverence and affection, that to evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames. The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories of men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea.


The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore. The Chapman light-house, a three-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway -- a great stir of lights going up and going down. And farther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars.

"And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth."


"I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago -- the other day. . . . Light came out of this river since -- you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker -- may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine -- what d'ye call 'em? -- trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries -- a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been, too -- used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here -- the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina -- and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages, -- precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay -- cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death -- death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh, yes -- he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had gone through in his time, perhaps. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by and by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga -- perhaps too much dice, you know -- coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him -- all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination -- you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate."

Saturday, 8 December 2007


My body senses a deep background drone. But there is silence. Pulled outside of yourself, bearings, references, landmarks recede. I can't - may be wont - explain the internal thoughts and feelings of being engulfed by the real.

No one would go near the woman - her body. There was an invisible barrier and no one would venture closer than about 20 feet. Everyone was silent; shock; in the dark glistening wet. While just further back traffic continued on this busiest of intersections: all sealed safely in their vehicles - another world. One man, from a van following the truck that ran her down, took action, may be just to do something. He put on his dayglo jacket and stood blocking the road. His face was confused - white - lost. He fills my eyes with tears. We must have all looked the same. Then police ambulances arrived, and... that moment in time passed. The scene covered and transformed into the official.

Local report

That's probably all the world will know outside of that moment. And there are a million of them everyday, everywhere.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Death on the road

Saw a cyclist run down today. Killed instantly - head run over. A lot of brain and blood on the road. Shock... don't know what to do with myself, so here I am writing. It means nothing. I'm waist deep in sand...

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


"Repetition and recollection are the same movement except in opposite directions; for what is recollected has been, is repeated backwards, whereas genuine repetition is recollected forward. Repetition, therefore, if it is possible, makes a person happy, whereas recollection makes him unhappy - assuming, of course, that he gives himself time to live and does not promptly, at birth, find an excuse to sneak out of life again, for example, under the pretext that he has forgotten something."