Category Archives: education

Anselm’s alchemy: Books of lead fly in the R.A.

keif bukbird merged

flying lead  books

If you glance upwards as you climb the stairs in the RA you’ll see books made of lead seeming to lift off under wings of lead. That, is, MAGIC! And it continues thru Keifer’s show in which he transforms lead into gold leaf, makes an horrific mantrap look like a spider.

 a trap

[editor’s note- Sorry, that’s the best I can do, I cannot find an image of the painting cos a little SS-Oberaufseherin, Miss ‘More then me job’s Worth’, came and stopped me taking photos and I cannot find it on the web. I detest the policy some galleries have, most in fact, of prohibiting photos, music & theatre do it too. It’s counter-productive. The more folk can see the stuff the more folk are invited to go see it ‘in the flesh’^ see foot o post.]

But she couldn’a prevent me from drawing the damned tings

a mantrap colord

L’Origine du monde, pencil sketch by PK after AK 19.11.14

  a Kiefer pyramid

 In ‘Sand from the Urns’ (from the net) he creates brick monuments from paint and sand on canvas which reminisce pyramidal monumental forms and pays tributes in them to Paul Celan*  & his lover,  Ingeborg Bachman . [* never heard of either, so I still have a lot to learn].

for celan + a jug

For Paul Celan by AK, the picture in the exhibition is a bit better than my sketch but now I have added color it looks more like the real ting (not!). aks me if I care, I don’t like Keifer’s art, I love it! And you may notice I have snuck a jug in too.

Whereas van Gogh drew in ink, Auerbach draws in paint but Keifer does both AND he draws in lead, shellac, latex, wire, sunflower as he transforms form like a magician. His translations of what makes a book are astounding to me.

Now for some images what I took at the conversation he had last Thursday morning peppered with words from Imagine Keifer

 a scales

 The artists I admire most turn out to be ‘thinkers’ like Rauschenberg, Schwitters

keifa 11sm

and of course Keifer who said , ‘Nietzsche said, “You know the philosopher has to stand, we have to dance” The scale of (my work) is the product of the dance.’

 keifa 3sm

This image shows the scale of many of Keifer’s images.

 keifa 5 points sm

Look down there at what that bloke from Burnley (who Hamburg knocked out of the European competition at the quarter finals in the 60s ha ha) has done he’s made a pictorial pun of me balancing different selves, or is that shelves, or am I being a selfish fish?

He’s re-arranging realities, make him an Academicien like what I is.

 keifa 8 balances 2 selves + color sm

‘When you are an artist you know you have to connect things in a different way. This is what artists do, they create a new connection between things’.

{^ another ed’snote, not for you if yer not into football, the beautiful game- One massive example of prohibition going wildly counter to the intent of the prohibitor is my home town football club, Burnley and the reprehensible policy of the then chairman Bob Lord, who was also a big noise on the FA. He thought if he banned the TV cameras from Turf Moor more folk would visit the ground to see live matches on match days. He was wrong. At the time Burnley were one of the top two clubs with Spurs, a fact that remained the case for several years in the early 60’s Burnley were bigger than Man U and Liverpool then! Look what happened. TV cameras do the opposite to what Lord thought, they publicize a club and folk flock to see them. Burnley faded away after Lord, in another of his marvellous decisions, sold local hero Jimmy McIlroy, to lowly second division at that time Stoke. Burnley dropped to the foot of Division 4 and nearly shot out of the league altogether whilst close rivals Man U & The Bill Shankly Pool went on to be European Champs. So if & when you come to any of my shows etc bring yer cameras!}

My blArty Story

Pictures from my pArts.

I just posted my 100th blArt, now it’s time for changes. Many of my previous blArts were very wordy. I noticed by experiment that most folk prefer the shorter versions. That is understandable in our busy busy world. Folks have jobs to do and they wish to make the most of their ‘spare’ time so don’t want to be farting about trying to de-cipher the words of this idiot, especially when he plays with the spellings and the meanings and all. So I decided to do my next phase of blogs as mostly images, of which I have made maybe millions, well, thousands then. All still in my possession cos nobody likes me. (He said tongue in cheek, he hopes, ‘Am I Bovvad? Yep’. But I take pleasure from the fact that many people have liked my works in the past 47 years even tho I rarely persuaded anyone to delve deep enough into their pocket or purse to then bear the heavy weight of the coins and transfer them into my greasy palm d’or, not. Nevertheless, staying poor made me strive more.) I cannot be criticised for not trying, my wife says am rather trying anyway.

So, let’s begin, with some early works.

I used to get bored in lessons when I were 15 so I would draw folk. My Engilsh teacher Mr Dobson seemed on first impression an idiot but in fact he were a very clever man what taught me how to write proper.


My dad was a demolition man, couldn’t afford a camera in 1967 so I drew his handy work

  northern demolition

My first drawing from a photo c.1968, Supreme

supreme sketch

I got my first commission from the head barman at the Sparrow Hawk, Burnley. He told me I would paint a horse. I said I couldn’t do horses but he were an’ard case and I knew I had to turn up with the goods or get a broken dose.

first commission

When I were doing ‘A’ level art I painted the local streets form the art room window. Lowry was an influence but I was well into Fauvism too. That’s Hapton in th’background!

byron street

So by the time  I were in th’upper sixth I saw misen as a artist, destined fer the garret no doubt. (There’s absinthe in them pockets)

self portrait as an artist

to be continued

Tribute to David Clayton (77),

a david Clayton

I hope the Burnley Express don’t mind me appropriating this image and the following words:

‘devoted former Burnley headteacher, who inspired generations of young people by encouraging them to go to university during a career spanning decades, died in September 2014’.

I remember those kindly eyes looking at me as a rather distracted 6th former in his history lessons and 12 years later when I paid a visit to him when he became the Head of the combined Boys &Girls Grammar schools just after he had bought some of my work out of my 1981 Burnley ‘retrospective’. I remember him saying to me that I had done well and that to succeed away from the ‘security’ of your home town was quite an achievement. My memory of his gentle determination in the face of challenging pupils was a constant inspiration and example when I became a teacher. There’s not many of my ex-‘teachers’ I would wish to mention in my blart but ‘Stan’ was one who I treasured, partly because he valued me and my ability, wherever that may take me. He was my history teacher at ‘O’ & ‘A’ level and during the latter introduced me to the skill of essay writing, using a pile of source books rather than relying on just one (text) book. Throughout my 2 years in his A level classes he would consistently give me 16 or 17 out of 20 for my homeworks. He famously confronted me one Monday class saying, ‘Peter, you used to be so focused but recently you seem somewhat bemused.’ I didn’t dare say the reason may have been my having played 3 games of 90 minutes in the Lanc’s mud, and visited the working men’s club on Friday, the Mecca on Saturday after doing a job on the turnstiles at Turf Moor in the afternoon and the pub plus Mecca on Sunday. I was bemused by his comment but I was actually asleep during most of his lesson even though he made history interesting.

Mr Clayton, who was born in Horwich, near Bolton where he went to school with Ian McKellan remained a lifelong friend of his even though he was convinced he was better at acting than Ian, he chose the academic route and graduated from Merton College at Oxford with a degree in history. My interest in research and writing and my self belief all started with his encouragement. In 1981 when I had a big exhibition in Burnley Library David came and bought several pieces. Bless his spirit.

Here is the note from my old pal DW in which I heard of Mr Clayton’s death, Duncan begins with a few observations on this blArt:

A breath of fresh air Pete. It is wonderful to see the budding of an artist and what is so different from someone who may doodle and splash paint for a bit at school  is that a committed artist/creator cannot stop, he is driven to keep going and the insanely artistic shape their life around their arting and oeuvreing.

The Byron Street view from the 3rd floor art room at BGS is stirring for me. I have looked that way many times, the melancholy of those slate roof tops just seeps into me, they seemed to me like a world apart from the BGS world of filtered air a preparing station for leaving our roots. Those houses seem to be edging and crowding up to the gates, but not allowed to cross, they knew we were in a transit station being prepared to forsake our terrace houses. I was in two camps, I felt exhilarated at the prospect of learning the skills needed to leave, and yet, when I looked out of that classroom window I felt a warm glow of association to my home, I felt good walking out of the school gates at the end of the day, into the warm embrace of Byron Street.
Dobo was a teacher that you only appreciate fully when you have left school and grown older, he didn’t teach as much as imbue an aura of learning and also showed how to retain ones true and honest persona.

Oxford town Oxford town am going down to Oxford town

My words letterpressed by David Jury adorned one wall of the gallery upstairs at Whitechapel just like Mel Bochner’s did a couple of years ago the differences being his were mundane and mine profound, his were a blaze of colour mine were just black & white, with shades of grey. And mine were free to view. OK so the next book fair I am going to is Wayzgoose next weekend in Oxford.  ‘Wayzgoose’ means ‘an annual printing house works outing’ altho the Oxford Guild of Printers holds their big wayzgoose bi-annually.

I shall be taking David’s prints to see the reaction of the letterpress folks to his efforts. Then I don’t intend to participate in any more fairs until BABE, Bristol in 2015. So, I shall be able to start working on some backlog books. These are queueing up to be designed and printed from existing material; writing, images and bookforms. I intend to do at least one new one before BABE based on my weird drawings what I have done since the late 1960’s. So below I want to introduce you to ideas on why folk might be interested in the work of this nearly unknown artisbloke.

I had a thought as I was moving wood and compost around ‘You know, I never wish for nor expect any reward for working in my garden, apart from whatever I achieve and the joy of doing it and being there with nature, no ‘reward’, no prize, no pay etc’. Then I thought, ‘I do my art, have done so for 45+ years now. I enjoy doing it, mostly. I often create the idea, the challenge etc.

I ask myself why not develop the one with the helmet, why not add big wings? Either, painted, printed or crafted like those Robert Allsop.’ The very idea to add wings to my BIG images of Michael McKel bare from the waist up with some sort of helmet on his head (it was to represent my ‘character, Knewt Orion, Knut as some would see him, Warrior knight of the Nonomads) is a real shift in my creative thinking.

knewt winged

Not many folk would know or care about that, I do, cos I have watched my progress over the last 63 years 11 months and some days and I know how far I have come. I couldn’t draw fer toffee aged 16, never had an idea in my head aged 17 and now am full of em. I do it cos I cannot stop myself, so why should I expect to be ‘recognized’, given a prize etc for the art I create.

Just creating it is for me a blessed ting.

So then what is my work about? Why do what I do? It’s partly to get you to think outside your box. We all get into ‘deep-rut thinking (see Guy Claxton), its natural cos we have to learn to cope with life from our parents; how to eat, clean, maintain, progress etc and LEARN. Ironically schools begin the formal learn process AND cap it by putting stops on the extents of learning merely by limiting the ‘languages’ they introduce (for example, in some ideologies the language of ‘art’, or the arts,  is not considered a real ‘subject’ like Maths & Science. This is a misconception which I find ludicrously ignorant but it prevails amongst the politicians from public schools who ‘run’ Britain, they have had limited coaching in the depths of insight and knowledge art brings, the ability to ‘see’ from differing angles and to tink outside the challenge to come up with solutions and choose to ferget how much money the arts brings in to the GNP ). And for a more detailed view see

Education, to be thorough, needs to be well rounded with a good grounding across the whole range of human endeavour and ‘subject’ are so interlocked it is moronic to try to rate one as more meritable than another.

See the most watched talk ever on Ted, watched by 28,823,325+1 people. And his follow up Ken talks from the hip, doesn’t plan every bit of his speech, talks from his own knowledge base. He is only saying what folks like myself, my wife and many others from our generation say about education. We were ‘educated’ to educate the individual. And later on in my career I came across the ideas of Carl Rogers who was the mind behind teachers as ‘enablers’. We create the conditions in which the learners flourish!

The art of illustration permeates the veins of every ‘subject’, indeed diagrams in geometry have led to beautiful results in art and language which are encapsulated in M C Escher’s work inspired by Moorish design in the Al Hambra.

enea sign

Symbols are also another form of ‘art’ which permeate through society, by roadsides, in computer technology and in graphic design signs and symbols are valuable. The ability to write words on the page is use of drawing skill. The form of the letters we use whether by hand or by keyboard has been designed. The letters of all alphabets were designed over many years and new fonts move the designs on every day.

Attempting to separate ‘learning’ into subjects is a simplistic nay moronic way to go as knowledge and human development combine such a vast range of skills incorporating movement, mental stimulation and the ability to remember although nowadays, with access to the www we have the possibility to acquire information that once eluded us. The need for rote learning is nullified nowadays, that’s not to say there is no need to develop the skill of ‘memorising’ ideas, groups of facts etc but I know from experience that these skills are better encouraged by creating in the person a love for the things they are studying rather than a fear of being reprimanded if they do not learn a list. So, by example, I learned more French by living with a French family for two weeks than I did in a year in ‘French’ classes. Mental dexterity, the ability to take things in, analyse their relative importance, compute how they may fit into present understandings and how that may change for a new and potentially better state of being are skills to be encouraged. Love of learning and enabling that to happen are, for me, the stanchions which underpin progress. Maths and science are wonderful especially if introduced by enthusiastic and open minds. They are each a universe of interest, neither are set in stone, particularly science. All too often I see these areas introduced with so much baggage that ‘learners’ are scared off. Look at the writings of Feynman on science or if you were lucky to see Shirley Stewart in action teaching teachers how to teach maths in the 1980s and you’ll get examples of experts who know how to make learning interesting. Shirley was Advisor for Maths in Essex and I was uninterested in maths until I heard her speak about giving kids concrete examples to introduce maths. So I became fascinated with things like plastic building blocks & Cuisenaire rods and how they enabled us to compute number lines.  By giving a real understanding of the concepts like adding, subtracting etc we give children a firm basis on which to build maths knowledge and a love of numbers and all that maths relates to. I won’t go on, there are people out there much better equipped to tell you about maths which is much more than learning ‘times tables’ off rote.

So, moving away from systems which cap learning, box it into closed spaces, batter it into accepted shape or norms or canons, moving on, using my experiences. My work has (nearly) always been about questioning the canon & extending the form; the production, the way I do it, the subjects I approach, the mix, the taboos, the unusual, the difference. So quite quickly, like Picasso in the 1900-1910 period, I was looking at ‘other cultures’ (mine were Hopi, koko gn an yelloQuero & Tairona/Kogi).

So my ‘researches’ took me to folk like Gurdjeff, Hermann Hesse, Carl Gustav Jung who extended my own think as well as exemplarising ways of approaching ‘learning & investigation’. These guys may not have been ‘fashionable’ but fashion never overtly dictates to me.


And once on the path of learning the search for knowledge began to open up into new halls of knowledge, new paths to expression (although I avoided drug-propelled investigation, rightly or wrongly, for better or worser). Pretty quickly after leaving the known factors of my home/home town in 1969, (where I was always known as ‘Taffy’s son’), to live in Exeter in a college where I began to write and pursue ideas and practice in art and philosophy and teaching, I soon realised my researches were taking me apart from my previous friends & contemporaries. Part of me always wished to share back my discoveries and part wanted to present my findings in new and ironically, sometimes nearly incomprehensible ways (like in Apulone 1975 ) which subconsciously/deliberately created barriers to be clambered over thus making it difficult for even those who wished to see what I was getting at, and by corollary making my path more difficult.


My new books (Inside This Clay Jug series) are an attempt to re-connect or at least throw a rope to pull folk over the threshold of my now 45 years of searching and finding. Hey, my dad was in air sea rescue, get it, search and find! So communication becomes a feature, how to communicate effectively without being condescending nor belittling my own efforts. A compromise but also a skill. Most of us don’t know what the secret of getting thru or connecting is. Some have it others don’t. It seems my blog is doing it fer some, but not for others.

Latterly I decided to place much of my work into ‘books’. In my future there will follow many books within which shall be the images and ideas am attempting to share, or convey. My bottom line is, we are here on Earth together for a while. Life is a miracle, let’s attempt to share it amicably. Let’s ponder on the joys of life. Wonder at the coincidences of synchronicities. I wish to celebrate more with my books, some being unique one-offs, some limited editions, some may become ebooks and all sorts. But meantime continuing the search and finding more. I want to go to Sarajevo to see the books saved from the war recently. And to see the Nag Hammadi horde wherever that is and the Qumran lot and acrosst th’Atlantic to see the codices of the Mayans and back to wherever I can peruse the Sufi writers of old. Busy boy from Burnley travels like Walt Whitman who never left his leaves of grass.

a walt whitman as apulhed

Finally I shan’t mention the channel 4 newsreader 6.10.2014 what was grovelling round the feet of the infamous ‘professeuse de sketcheeng’ at the RA who cannot draw fer toffee in her new show because it’s beneath my Buddhist dignity to mock the afflicted. Sorry Sogyal!


The walls of my ears

Art filled wid tears

When my eyes see

Her sketches


By someone else

Of course


Watching her oo…oozin

On channel 4 news in

And him floozin

Around her feet

Made my sore eyes bleet


Ooh bitchy! Never mind, Rudyard telt me not to try to change tings what you cannot change, Ghengis can’t said only fools fight a battle they cannot win so let’s just listen to Millie (the woman with balls) Jackson on cheatin’. Don’t watch this if you are easily offended, she’s raunchy and she tells it like it …might be, I don’t know.


See you down in Oxferd town, oxferd town , couldn’t get in cos (bob Dylan said it wer the color of his skin,

I tink it wer cos) he wer too dim.