I thought you may like to see this, a past article ‘published’ on canongate’s meet at the gate. I hope it all comes up in the blog on Sun Oct 19, 2008 09:00 PM GMT and posted on this blArt about a year ago, when I were ony 62!
I am an artist/writer living in the Essex countryside. I have had 20 exhibitions in Essex since 1978 and one in Burnley, my home town.
My life as an artist began at Todmorden Road Junior school at the bottom of Lyndhurst Road in Burnley when I tried (vainly) to copy the ships, cars & horses that my friends, Steve Hezzlewood and Roy Gidley, drew. Before I left junior school I wrote a piece about the reincarnation of two donkeys which I called Jack & Jenny in respect to my parents whose nicknames were the same- my life as an off-beat writer had started.
Most of my inspirations I feel have that little bit more than surface. They stand scrutiny. When you peel back the layers there’s more and more underneath. I hope you see my work that way too!
Below I shall outline some of the influences that I have taken in over my life of loving art and culture. Although I have always been fiercely independent and earnestly ‘original’ I can now, for my Gatepost, look back and joyously acknowledge a few of my sources of inspiration:
Artists, without whom my life would have been duller.
- Dudley D. Watkins, who created ‘Iron Fish’ ‘Jimmy & his Magic Patch’ and ‘The Horse that Jack built’ plus ‘Oor Wullie’ for D.C. Thompson Publishers in Scotland, had a massive impact on me. He also influenced Robert Crumb big time.
- George Herriman ‘s Krazy Kat is stupendous and he’s supposed to have impacted on e. e. cummings and Philip Guston, also Hunt Emerson. Although I used my own phonetic vocabulary in ‘Apulone’ and ‘Applehead Lives’ I had not seen Herriman then. Now I realise he used phonetics in an ingenious way. I would rate his work as high as any Surrealist, added to which he is just so FUNNY!
- In 1976 Rick Griffin shook my hand saying, “Good strip” when he saw the four page Apulhed comic I drew to run alongside Bryan Talbot’s graphic novel in ‘Brainstorm 2’. I was bowled over as I admired his work on Grateful Dead’s album covers. Later, when I saw his graphic novels, I was stunned. For me he was The Best of the so-called American Underground graphic artists.
- Max Ernst is the daddy of all the Surrealists. He invented his own private symbols and language but his beautiful forest-scapes under strange moons really inspire me. He loved the Hopi people too, as did D.H.Lawrence.
- Chaim Soutine who gave me the skill to lift the paint off the canvas and to twist it around like Auerbach, who must have been influenced by Modigliani’s old mucker as well.
- De Kooning took Soutine as a starting point and then ‘destroyed’ his own images with a great controlled violence, challenging the (unsurpassable) Picasso and his series of incisive images of Dora Maar. I loved his raunchy grinding paintings of the ‘Women’ series which I saw at the Tate in 1969. Their work had a direct influence on my portrait ‘Red Camellia’ done in 1979.
- Philip Guston was an acknowledged Abstract Expressionist but turned his back on it to produce his wonderful late work of massive cartoon-like forms. I’m sure Gaylen Hansen must have liked Guston as I see a kinship between them.
- F.H. Haagensen was an etcher who worked in London and Bradwell in Essex during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. His energetic swirling line was an influence on Bomberg, (known to have visited him in his Chelsea studio converted from a stable), and who in turn taught Auerbach, the greatest living British artist as far as I am concerned. http://lacebyhistory.com/node/72
- Mimmo Paladino is a phenomenal sculptor who mixes colour, gold leaf, clay and bronze. I love his transmogrifications of animals, humans and helmets. He incorporates things like the wind and music in a 3D symbolism which links his work back to the earliest sculptures made by man in pre-history and to Kokopelli the Hopi people’s mischievous flautist. There is a kinship with Picasso’s ‘Man carrying a goat’ and his flute players too.
Music – I lived through the great 50’s & 60’s revolution which coupled with the Blues of an earlier era greatly inspired my work. From it I got that invincible feeling that an artist’s ideas could break the barriers of conformity. You may notice that most of my favourite singers have got unusual voices. Their voices put them above the norm.
- The Beatles and The Stones were a massive inspiration but John Lennon was ‘The man’. He was so original. His version of ‘Stand by me’ is great.
- I used to love Them’s ’60’s pop and a great friend of mine, Trev Cornthwaite, made me listen to this album called ‘Astral Weeks’ by a bloke called Van Morrison. BUMF! I was a Van Fan. Again his sound was so original. ‘Astral Weeks’ is still considered by some to be the best rock album ever. Van Morrison sang on St. Dominic’s Preview, ” You got to climb too high to see my point of view,” yet children and those with open hearts and minds have no difficulty relating to my work.
- When I first visited London as a student I went to some kind of music festival and watched a poor quality film about the whereabouts of Leonard Cohen. I loved his words and his unusual delivery. He went on to be a hero of Glastonbury 2008.
- At college I did a lino cut illustration to biting lyrics from John Prine’s song about Vietnam; “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes”. In 2006 he released ‘Fair & Square’ with this beautiful song about “Some cowboy from Texas (who) starts his own war in Iraq”. He’s not lost his teeth!
- One of my greatest regrets is turning down an opportunity in 1976 to see this American new boy do a gig at Hammersmith Odeon, because he was supposed to be the ‘new Bob Dylan’ and I could only dig one! Much to my chagrin I missed the chance to see Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ tour. I love his writing which I am sure was influenced by Charles Bukowski and Tom Waits, he also liked John Prine.
- I once knew a guy at college in Exeter called John St Field who later formed Doll by Doll. Nowadays he is a very powerfully voiced performer known as Jackie Leven! I adore the track ‘Clay Jug’ on his ‘Mystery of Love’ album with the poet reading on it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SpORcSBMOE
- Kate Bush is phenomenal and I passionately love ‘Hounds of Love’ which was inspired by a book I read by Peter Reich about being the son of Wilhelm Reich the incredible psychologist/thinker.
- Colin Lloyd Tucker is a fantastic musician who has worked with Kate Bush since her youth. He does Beatles better than Beatles did and is very at home sounding similar to early Syd Barrett-based Pink Floyd. He was a member of The The.
- I now love ‘James’. Their music grows on me daily but it’s the lead singer’s dance that really gets me. Move over Michael Stipe!
Authors who have gotten into my head.
- I self-educated myself into literature after leaving the Sixth form. D.H.Lawrence ‘Sons and Lovers ‘ struck chord as I was poor working class and my mum and dad were at loggerheads. That someone from such a background could write so movingly was an early instigator to write.
- Henry Miller . I began reading his ‘Tropics’ books for the sex in my adolescence. However it was his later more philosophical stuff from Big Sur I grew to relate to.
- Kenneth Patchen was a poet whose novel ‘Albion Moonlight’ Henry Miller began reading on a visit, extended because he could not put the book down. I met Miriam Patchen, his widow, at Tate Britain. She loved my drawings of Ferlinghetti with her, and my book ‘Apulone’. In his ‘picture poems’ Patchen gelled “a simultaneous fusion of painting & poetry” reminiscent of William Blake whose ‘illuminated printing’ he greatly admired. He brought his own ironic humour and a 20th century eye with its slashes, dashes & dots. He disliked the typeset word, preferring to scribe by hand so that in his later works his words floated, hung and wandered over his pages enlivened by his fantastical imagery.
- Jack Kerouac was a fan of Patchen too and his work ‘The Subterraneans’ really struck a chord with me. I read it when I was missing a woman I had known and lost; my whole body was torn apart. I loved Kerouac’s stand for liberty with Neal Cassady, but was much warned off from extreme imbibing by his eventual sad end owing to his addictions.
- Richard Brautigan wrote these crisp surreal short stories filled with humour. I liken his writing to the paintings of Gaylen Hansen. I love the one where his gran found the geese dead drunk and plucked their feathers, thinking them dead. Next day they were walking round bare.
- Kurt Vonnegut Junior wrote these surreal stories stained by his experiences in the Second World War at Dresden. I love his ‘Bluebeard’ with its paint-melting then disappearing Abstract Expressionist works.
- Hermann Hesse ‘s little story ‘Journeyers to the East’ inspired my own tribute ‘Journeyers to the West’ which eventually became my ‘Nonogon’ stories. Also his ‘Steppenwolf’ inspired the form of my latest writing called ‘Don’t Give Up’.
- C.G. Jung , a friend of Hesse, wrote wonderfully about the Human Consciousness and other cultures.
- Mervyn Peake was such a stunning graphic artist and every page of his magnificent Gormenghast Trilogy is like a painting. There’s a great film waiting to be made!
Four Films. I don’t take the time to watch that many films but the best have the habit of repeating on you long after you watch them.
- Spirit of the Beehive – WOW, so powerful. I watched it in the late ’70’s in black & white tele. The image of the little girl in the long coat and big boots influenced my character Happy Apulhed.
- Withnail and I – the less said the better. I was there in the ’70’s. I was drunk too. I also demand ‘cake’ now and then.
- Pan’s Labyrinth – yet again WOW. Such astounding characterisation. That thing about repression and standing up to it. I may ask them to do my Nonogon stories? Why not?
- Meetings With Remarkable Men – stars Terence Stamp is a filmic version of the book by the same name written by G. I. Gurdjieff. It starts with an incredible contest to see who can make a note that echoes around an isolated valley. It’s about a Search for Knowledge across Time similar to Hesse’s ‘Journeyers to the East’ both of which influenced my writing and character creation. (Maurice Nicoll says “.. be aware of a great psychological country lying within us invisible to the outer senses … it is this inner country that we see and walk about in, in dreams … All our happiness depends on where we are in this country…. It is where we are inside, not outside that matters.” ‘Psychological Commentaries on the teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky’, p.1690)
I chose to have Nine Nomads in a Nonogon because it fits the Enneagram- an ancient symbol referred to by G. I. Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff’s practical philosophy of going the whole hog “horses and all” has had a big influence on my commitment to get things done once I embark on a task. Equally his excursions into the extra-ordinary influenced my character-creations and my story writing.
My Back story
On leaving my Exeter based college in 1973 with my degree in art & philosophy I couldn’t stop doing my, it engulfed me and became my obsession, a never ending investigation. My time in Exeter in the early 70’s was the basis of my first self-published book, ‘Apulone’
(Apple-one), inspired by the artist-books of Deiter Rot. Compiled from my phonetic writing, and illustrated with black & white drawings and photos in 1975, it featured Apple-Head-Man (Apulhed-man) whom I had invented in 1971. I embarked on ‘writing’ books for conceptual and philosophic reasons. I was not trying to contribute to the literary canon. My work reflects pioneering thinkers in the Philosophy of Art like Max (LopLop) Ernst and Alfred (Ubu Roi) Jarry.
My images and artefacts arise out of my thoughts and actions like a stream creates pebbles and rounds off broken roots. My words and pictures are glimpses into my Mind, then through Jung’s ‘Collective Unconscious’ on to Cosmic Insight.
Therefore my art is an external manifestation of my internal consciousness and I do not claim to understand all that I do. I’ve found that sometimes when you think you are inventing a character, you are tapping into some deep reservoir, maybe ‘cosmic consciousness’, but what’s in a name? In that deep well, which I call IMROI, The Imaginal Realm Of Ideas, there seems to be an intelligence that connects with Time as a circle not a straight line. I created Apulhed, Lighteyes, and other characters. I have 9 characters, ‘The Nonogon Nomads’, who represent a group of beings who have come together on Earth to assist the planet’s living things through a testing time. My Nonogon Story is an allegory about our world and the need for all of us to give credence or tolerance to other cultures and to be watchful to the needs of the world’s flora, fauna and the Environment.
My final Tribute to Ken Campbell who died on 31st August 2008.
Ken is difficult to categorise so I left one of the best ’til last.
I went to see the late, great, Ken Campbell do his ‘Pidgen Macbeth’. Ken triggered my first one-man show at Brentwood theatre. He was like an old wily sorcerer with words and stories, I couldn’t match his experiences, my life having been so normal by comparison to his, I seemed to take so much inspiration and example from watching Ken, I felt an energy come over me which made me want to get up and ‘do’ my thing so I began to tell my stories using my art as my props.
Date: Tue Oct 28, 2008 04:43 PM GMT
I have followed Pete Kennedy’s work and I’m impressed how HE is the art work, by not only producing fantastic paintings but by representing his own life and mind as an exploring artist, in books and theatre. He will become very famous eventually…..
Date: Thu Oct 23, 2008 07:17 PM GMT
A wonderful way to spend 30 minutes! Thank you for sharing your story, inspirations and ‘tips’.
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