I just got back from the Oxford book fair. It was good to see all the bookarts blokes and birds. I won’t bore yez with a blow bi blow report. Just that a handful of real nice folk said wonderful things about my work. Finance wise it was for me a dud as the cost of travel and stopovers far outreached the tenner I got in sales. But, it’s networking and learning I went to do and did. I saw Simon Brett pick up a prize for the second show running. He reminds me of my old mate the late Steve Hezzlewood thought now by some to have been a genius of making those tiny soldiers for war games. IF he hadn’t joined the police and IF he had just been the artist he should have been Steve would have done stuff like Simon. And Martin & Maureen at Extraordinary Editions would have loved his Napoleonic figures. http://vintagewargaming.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/steve-hezzlewood-pax-britannica-rsm-and.html Steve could tell me what colour buttons a soldier would be wearing on a day in the battle of Waterloo. His knowledge was as good as any academic historian but he applied it into his designs as Simon does his. But enuf reminiscings.
So, this blod is meant to place my 2 recent ‘talks’ and my 45 years as an artis where I belong:
I was going to use my word Pantstillon in the title but I didn’t think it fair on the reader who I couldn’t expect to follow my crazy drift. Pantstillon is my play on Pantheon? Nothing to do with me losing my troosers if they wern’t tied on. So, hanging on by the seat of my pants, let’s go…
Way back around 1962 a man arrived at my parent’s house on a motor bike from Anglesey, Bernard Stone, The Silver Statue. Some of you may recall Tony Holland a muscle control man who won Opportunity Knocks several times but won’t know that Bernard was scheduled to be on it first but had to withdraw when his paint dried too dangerously as he awaited the call to go on stage. Holland was the substitute. I think Bernard did get on but everyone thought he was a copyist and he got nowhere on it, but in fact he was the real McCoy. His rippling muscles covered in silver under the spotlight were astounding, the shame is I do not think there is any film footage. It goes to show that the best do not always break through. Which brings me to me. Funny that. But I am not joking because I can say with some conviction I never made it. I am 63 now and I don’t care. I MAY make it before I die or like Bill Blake after I bin dead lotso years, but I never made it in MY lifetime, the one I just lived, the one where I wer pumping and able to work on all cylinders, those days are GONE now, Now I just work on the reserve tank. The work I did over the last 45 vyears was done in a vacuum. Always doing it, never selling, always having to look elsewhere to earn my crust. One sad thing is that success breeds success and if yer not successful then you don’t have no gas fer yer tank. So, take all the greats like Chagall, Miro, Tapies, Hundertwasser, they all reached a point where they could just wake up, do art, sleep wake up do art sleepwakesleep and so onwards and upwards. Me, it was a struggle, I knew it was and I was prepared to but not for 45 years. But I did. And some folk still see me as a novice! No! I am not a beginner. I Am a player. Have been for 45 years. I have this joke, I thought I missed the boat when in fact I was the skipper. Without me the boat went no-where. Now, like Utnapishtim the captain in the Epic of Gilgamesh *, I have been sailing 45 years and I have covered some…water. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/gilgamesh/characters.html Sometimes I invited others on board and not many came but those what did do share a great trip, what with all them artworks and books and prints and sculptures and all. ps- most of the books are still in manuscripforms, but that will change soon enough before I die or like Bill Blake after I bin dead lotso years.
*I read,( as in ‘red’ I think the way the langwige is wrote is stupid cos, like read- I read a book last week is spelt same as I read this blod now) Epic of Gilgamesh as part of my literary self-education when I left the 6th form in 1969. Indeed I was born the day I left the sixth form& school where they hated me , like when I was offered a plaice and chips at St. Luke’s college the head said, ‘I don’y understand why they offered you a plate o chips’thinking to himsen, ‘cos the reference wotti gev wer crap and get those sideboards cut off you working class batsard’ (he didn’t know I cud reed minds) after shaking the shackle off, being ‘schooled’ was a nightmare but I should thank ‘em cos they magnified the need in me to kick against the grain/brain. I think maybe I had ‘guidance’ from another plane cos I red E o G, Finnegan’s Wake, Sons and Lovers and they all awoke the writer/riter in me…
My plate’s in the Pantstilleon part2 (or My Place In the Pantheon)
So, in c.1965 Joseph Beuys‘performed’ his piece about explaining art to a dead hare (he never invited me to stand outside the room when he locked it from the inside cos he knew I would have banged on the door so hard to awaken the dead…hares on the back of his neck) and he covered his face in goldleaf *(which he had often used in his sketch books). His performance involved analogy, metaphor, myth and the dead hare not the stag what he had intended to use but it didn’t turn up cos it wer killed on route. I never had heard of beuys when I did my performance with masks of Apulhed in st Luke’s theatre in 1973 at the end of my course.
The audience were given apulhed masks and a sheet o paper and a banda sheet and a pen. After talking about the paranormal I aksed them to read my mind (like I did the head teachers) and draw what they thought I thought. These were quickly bandad off and each participant got a copy of the book of stapled A4 pages. Some photos were taken of the masked men and women. I suppose that was my, well in fact second artists buk. The first was a ‘catlogue’ for a dance performance at Rolle College which had a photo I had taken of these young women dancing with knitted masks on their heads to look like spiders, choreography lecturer Phil Tushingham didn’t mind when I stipulated as a bind they had to be two of those tags which had metal at the end and green cos my B& W photo was printed dark green. So the apulhed masked event paranormal document was my second artist’s book. And I made my first mask in year 4 way back in 1959 when the teacher said to use up some old art folders we could make animal masks so mine was a lion. I had been brought up on The Lone Ranger and Batman and I went on to do Apulmask-Ins at Sandon (c. 1975, Blue Boar Maldon c. 1978 and Burnley Library in 1981. Then they stopped. But I did some mask things with my Squidgerats in the early 80’s and then in 1999-2000 I did the Nonogon masked show with dancers. As my MA drew to a close I was asked if I would like to do a talk, I think maybe the idea was some sort of description of my ideas in the work I did but I decided to a mask in with music and readings and dance. As the day approached, August 3rd, I realised the first masked show was almost exactkly 40 years to the day/week/month. So this ‘talk’ was a low key event, NOT. The project it ‘celebrated’ was the Clay Pot and its six mystics and mySelf. So, seven masks, my prose poem ‘Inside This Clay Jug’ music for the dance, pre-recorded readings, a camera to film the event and the audience, hats, other props, cameras in the audience, some new artist’s books, a biscuit fired pot, a hammer, a Tibetan yellow hat and an Irish stoat hat, or stawt.
So the talk began with me not talking, which was a spoof on me cos I am reputed in some circles to talk too much. The talk which Colin Lloyd Tucker produced was pre-recorded plus some music some of which which was his, like his wonderful ‘Stay Calm’. The lyrics were carefully chosen to tell the story for me along with some pertinent poems which I played as I stood still or did some basic tai chi moves or a snippet of dance.I played a recital of the prose poem and wore the different mystic’s mask as each of their verses came up and folk in the audience donned their mask to fit the poem’s main character/mystic/hero.
I grabbed a couple of the participant cameras and photod them in the masks which for me was the best bit, seeing someone in my mask of Jung or Gurdzhiev. Then I told them to ask questions, power, and when they refused I suggested questions that I wanted to hear me answer and I made them really hard. Anyway we got through and I went round waking them all up before I did a little dance after one verse finished ‘are we human or are we dancers?’ which was the hardest Q so I danced instead of answeringit. The only difference between mine and Beuys talks was he became very famous and his art generates money and space to be shown in and books , oh sorry I do buks, and he met the Dalai Lama who I can only talk about and photograph when he opens peace gardens but that is wat IS or was.
So, I always knew I am an awkward son-of-a-bitch cos I always challenge the norm, the canon, the what was accepted, expected, & considered essential whilst simultaneously striving to achieve high standards in my outputs. My MA final work was considered by some to hold spiritual aspects which is no accident cos in my notes I showed a connection with William Blake through using a golden thread and his notion that the best in art is spirit.If you read (reed) any of my books it’s obvious I have always been interested in the ‘other’, the ‘out there’, ‘the difference’. I have pursued knowledge of other cultures’ ideas and incorporated them into my art. I deny the accusation of ‘re-iterationismfinement’, ‘copying’ even ‘appropriationism’.NO, I accept that I have been ‘inspired’ by creativity over a wide scope including Warhol (repeat image, use of mundanemoment), barnet newman (fields of colour, zips, philosophy) but I also see inspiration in the work of childers and mentally ‘different’ people.I discovered (wikepedia-on Beuys- Jim Watkins post 19.7.2010):
The prophet is one who embraces /embodies an “alternative consciousness”…[they] serve to criticize in dismantling the dominant consciousness and energize persons & communities by [promoting moves toward another consciousness]. See Walter Brueggemann- the prophetic imagination. Beuys said, “when I speak I try to guide that power’s impulse into a more fully descriptive language, which is the spiritual perception of growth” The intervention of speech and conversation into his visual works plays a meaningful role in ‘How to explain pics to a dead hare’. The hare has symbolic meaning in many cultures, Germanic tribes saw it as a symbol of fertility. The gold mask Beuys wore during his performance saw gold as a symbol for the power of the sun, wisdom, and purity, and honey as a Germanic symbol for rebirth. For Beuys ‘Honey on my head of course has to do with thought. While humans do not have the ability to produce honey, they do have the ability to think, to produce ideas. Honey is an undoubtedly living substance- human thoughts can also become alive, honey was the product of bees who, for Beuys (following Rudolf Steiner), represented an ideal society of warmth and brotherhood. Gold had its importance within alchemy. All of this is from wikid.
‘Gold had its importance within alchemy’ transformation and transcendence which my whole project ‘Inside this clay pot’ is about. I have quoted from these Beuys sources not to gain kudos nor benfit but to help understand that we (creative) all ‘tap’ into ‘stuff’. As a teenager I realised artists like Henry Moore, Matisse, Van Gogh and Soutine, writers like James Joyce and Henry Miller were tapping in to what I later called ‘creative consciousness’ in my unpublished book ‘the Shrewd Iriot’ watti rote tween 1976-81.the possibilities there are enormous. Lennon, Bob Dylan, Bruce Boss, Van Man, Baby Bowie, Ken Campbell, all tap into the source. Lennon said he did not write his songs but acted as a channel through which they came.By tapping into that source I have generated some volume of output myself over the past 45 years, often to no apparent advantage other than knowing that I did it. The art world, those that handed out grants at the art council, the Beeb, and every other institution ignored me and still do.But I am saying here and now that I feel sorry that they overlooked my greatness! I Amn’t saying there that I am ‘great’ i am applying a buddhist mantra to love myself which is something I so often om-mitted. Another buddhist feeling is of sorrow and compassion for them as they ‘know not what they do’. They more often than not ‘Know’ Didderley Squat as they like all of us are conditioned to follow, to follow trends and leaders and all that crap. So, my kick against the grain is an attempt to find MY own way. Trouble is when you do discover new ways or approach things in ways you have discovered outside the norm, trouble is, nobody ‘gets’ it. I have often said, I did my first book, Apul-One and like the Catcher in the Rye I went running off with it in my hands cos I wer free! But then I turned around at the end of Wigan pier and I found I was all alone. This is not a vainglorious cry for help, attention recognition sales success fame fortune and all that. It is just a revelationto those who did not ‘get’ it earlier. And by the way quite a few did see it, like Quentin Bell, and Miriam Patchen. Now I intend to help others to see. By publishing my own back catalogue which is what convinced me that I was already tapped in, entapped not entrapped. Today I Am angry at being ignored and I Am coming out with my fists flying like a fuselier’s muskets shots sho there. Stay Calm And Carry On.
footnote- I find the use of a blodge wonderful because of the (apparent?) freedom it brings. No editorial, no judgement just let my mind go on a run around the experiences I have been lucky to have. Mind you we make our own ‘luck’. Like an old golfer called Arnie once said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”
*In October 2015 I did a skit on Beuy’s Dead Hare piece with my own ‘Explaining Joseph Beuys to a dead woodpecker’ at Firstsite in Colchester. As I had already painted a black Zoro mask on my face I couldn’t use gold to do the Beuys impression so I used the black face paint.