Category Archives: The New Shrewd Idiot

D. McKean is D. Best!

In the past two weeks I have been to the Imperial War Museum and the House of Illustration in London to watch Simon Armitage then David McKean talk about and show their respective works on WW1 respectively. Armitage in his poem referenced Virgil’s use of the bees and it made me think, ‘Yes, tings like bees would continue to try to survive despite human folly’.

McKean was altogether more comprehensive in his use of insects and birds in his INCREDIBLE graphic-novel-BOOK called Black Dog inspired by the First ‘World’ War and work of Paul Nash. I shall dedicate a full blArt on DMcK later when I have had time to digest all he said and created in the book alongside some great photos of his face and limbs moving thru the discussion of his work.

I must offer that Black Dog by Dave McKean is, for me, the best! It’s such a powerful piece, incorporating such hugh delicacy, that I feel as if I am in the company of a giant in his field who makes the BFG seem tiny. I have had long-standing admiration for the Underground comic art of Rick Griffin since the 1970s but this Black Dog has stolen his place at the top of my thinking. Here’s my rendition of D Mc in a drawing I did of him then played with in PShop.

DMc is D Best image-man
So, here’s me playing with a drawing I done of DMcK at the House of Illustriousness

I am busy working the photos I took into a series of ‘portraits’ which I shall add words I wrote taken from what ‘Dave’ was saying and hope it gives a graphic story of the evening worth looking at. Here’s another image I have worked up. At some time I shall print them off and work into them with other media like pen and paint, but meanwhile this is done in photoshop where I still haven’t worked out how to draw with the natural flair which comes with my years of crafting my turn of hand.

I must tank DMcK fer allowin me to tek snaps and do ma skitches too whilst he tried to consecrate on his words & tings. Here he is troyin to concentrated milk:

d mac + mi werdz
The chance to carve imagery out of the great image carver was amazing for me

Now for someting com-peterly diffrunt:

Latest update on my Shrewd Idiot book:

I have now completed the layouts of my Shrewd Idiot book and in the good feeling that has dawned as a result of the culmination of what amounts to 40 years work I have been self-reflecting. My printman says he can give it his attention come august 22nd which gives me a bit of time to dig out about 40-50 images I am going to add to it in colour, the bulk of it is B&W wid justa modicum of red, on drafting film which wiil add both the images and a palimpsest [The noun palimpsest originally described a document, such as a page from a manuscript written on parchment, that had been rubbed smooth so it could be used again, with traces of the original writing showing through. The word still carries that meaning, but ancient manuscripts are rare these days, so you’re more likely to hear palimpsest used to describe something that has traces of early stages showing through…Vocabulary.com, which seems appropriate for my SI pages in which I am re-using (scans of) typed pages from my 1978 manuscript along with handwritten additions and alterations and a few comments from the older me what is now. In fact only a Stupid Idiot like what I am would bother to ‘publish’ the work in the way I have laid it out. It has indeed been a very arduous process in which I scanned the typing, then cleaned up every page so the cut & paste line didn’t show and dropped in copies of the drawings I used to do in my ‘notes’. It would have been infinitely easier to have had the whole of the words re-typed digitally and then worked into a new layout but I had to suffer for my art! Trouble is it’ll also make the potential reader/buyer suffer too and many will be put off by its form. I have chosen to ignore all those considerations, I’ve always been stubborn with an inbuilt determination to make things hard for myself, in the name of ‘authenticity’. I should really heed the words of Walter Matthieu (born Matuchanskayasky on October 1, 1920, in New York City to impoverished Russian-Jewish immigrants) in one of his final films, Kotch(er) 1971, where he says that sometimes it’s best not to be so honest and that honesty can be and is sometimes too brutal, but, I never learn do I?….Do I ? On the contrary, I am learning all the time; I take things into consideration then eject them for my better plan, which more often than not seems foolhardy, hence the Shrewd Idiot! I am hoping that the beautiful presentation of the book will invite scores of punters to pirchase it, yes that’s pirchase as in pirspire (try doing that without wordcheck killing it!). One of my heroes, Brian Clough, before the demon drink took his judgement, used the same strategy as me when he said he would

  1. listen to his player(s)’ points of view, then
  2. carry on and do what he intended to do before they expressed their differences of opinion.

Hero! He won the Euro-Cup twice with a load of  players most of whom had passed their sell by dates and a few greenhorns at Notts Forest. That was no fluke, Forest never did anything worthwhile after his demise.

So buy my buk you pirfec puntas cos I knows warramonabArt!

Postscript:

Choreographer Rosemary Butcher, who has died recently aged 69, once commented: “I’m not particularly interested in accessibility. Staying easy isn’t going to move anything.”

In 1965 the liberal arts college at Dartington, in Devon, launched a new theatre and dance studies course and she enrolled as its first dance student.

In 1968 she travelled to the US on a two-year scholarship and, studying at the schools of Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, received a thorough immersion in the mainstream of American modern dance. But it was when she returned to New York and began working with members of the radical dance collective Judson Church that she found the aesthetic that inspired her own dance-making.

The Judson philosophy was encapsulated in the opening line of its manifesto “NO to spectacle, no to virtuosity … magic and make believe”. But, just as important to Butcher, the Judson choreographers were closely involved in the experimental strategies of new music, film and visual art, and it was within this crossover culture that she saw her own career taking shape, rather than in the world of pure dance. (Guardian 20 July 2016).

I was fortunate enough to attend a number of classes in the Martha Graham technique run by Molly Penn when I was looking for something to substitute for football at St Luke’s college in Exeter in the summer months of 1972. Molly accepted me in altho I was pretty damned useless. It did lead to her asking me to design the dance production of her take on Catulli Carmina wherein she used the same structure as the Black Mountain college had with 3 people doing the production; a artisbloke (me) a dance person Molly, and a music person whose name I forgits nah (Peter O’Brien you goofball). cf Rauschenburg/Merce Cunningham/John Cage. This event is chronicled in ma Shrewd Idiot buk and this will be one of the big images in it, innit!

cat car poster
my design for the poster created and screen-printed par moi in 1972
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Visit 2 da the New Tate

London dream on

Photo taken of some idiot dreamer as part of a Uniqlo gig at opening days at Switch

Wa doo eye kerno? (That’s ‘What Do I Know?’ in real Englitsch. Not much! I’ve only been making ‘art’ since ’68 now, 48 years later am 65, 66 on 27 Oct!. So I tink I knows a bit about ‘art’.

I visited the Switch (aka New Tate build) twice this week. I LOVE IT!

I got an overwhelmingly positive feel in the place, despite LONG queues, big crowds and the obvious commercial success of art (something which fro 48 years eluded me work & still does, I’m not represented in the Tate butti don’t mind cos am represented in this blArt…I’m in the Tart!

I could already write a book about the value of the New Tate (Tate Modern & Switch). It employs thousands of people, some on a wage, some for free, some just ogle at Great Tate.

I first went to Tate in 1967 and it were a massive part of my Art Education. Now I am working on 3 books about my life & work. Two are already written; The Shrewd Idiot and Genie Ass. Its taking time to lay them out, so you have to be patient cos they’re on the way.

borgeoise switch hse
Enter a caption

a little Bourgeois sculpture from the Tate collection .

bgwmn cleen s
a portrait I done o LB earlier, holding a Tate Member with her best friend on her shoulder

“Louise Bourgeois is the Godhesse!”

https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=louise+boureoise&id=E697774EB2F4FA54F3BFB9C7D852C3EA0677DBFD&FORM=IQFRBA

I thought that as I looked thru the new room dedicated to work she did which Tate now owns! https://www.google.co.uk/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=Louise+Bourgeoise

borgeoise switch hse5
another gem

I’m sad to say Andrew Marr on the BBC2 kept harping on about the £260 million it cost.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07hk12j/new-tate-modern-switched-on?suggid=b07hk12j

borgeoise switch hse3
This is getting to be the Bourgeoise show (they won’t let you snap Mona Hatoum!)

Marr’s underlying take on it was poor but Waldemar Janacek’s was even worse, but I have about as much respect for his views as I do the woman who got up and walked from mher bed when Saint Saatchi told her to get up & walk.

borgeoise switch hse4

This woman who got out of her bed to talk to Marr has been involved in ‘art’ for less time than me (but should be more articulate cos she is paid millions to practice) said a work by Louise Bourgeois is a ‘mindfuck’.

bourgeois bed 1991 get lost sm
I photo’d LB trying to rid the rats from her bed, but to no avail, they stole it!

I think anyone with a ounce of intelligence may see what she was getting at but I’d have thought she could have been more descriptive and constructive about that great artist who actually tolerated her more than I do even though Bedgirl stole many of her ideas and methods.

angel gormley sm
I took this photo of an angel flying over Gatesheed in 2015 when I went up to the Book Fair at BALTIC

Anthony Gormley talked well about a work he did with 5 eyes on it (it’s very good).  He got lucky back in 1981 when Serota at the Whitechapel consented to show his early sculptures. I never had that big a break, yet, well accept it I never will, ‘Never say never’, I just did! Compare my Billy No Breaks to Gormley’s big bits breaking waves near Liverpool, albeit he’s done some good stuff, his angel still flies north  and I saw his 2003 show at Baltic.

http://balticplus.uk/antony-gormley-domain-field-installation-shot-2-c10436/

I still keep making my art, this blArt is pArt of it too.

borgeoise switch hse6
one last bourgeoise

Mona Hatoum’s show is wonderful too.

I posed for these photos in her ‘Corps Etranger 1994’

mona hatoum (2)
good looking pensioner gets inside Mona

I love her utilizing mundane, nay ubiquitous, materials; weaving it into her clever metaphors. I love her glass grenades, her toy soldiers arranged as an infinite loop. Worth seeing. As is the work called (or by) Tarek Atoui in the basement at Switch.

It’s several musicians make sound out of instruments designed to emit sound electronically (or sommat like that!). It’s part of the Tate Live Art stuff. One day I may be able to do ma ting there too cos I am a live artisbloke as you know.

Actually over the years I have performed at Tate in many ways. I first entered as a raw-would-be-artibloke in the 1960s. In the 70s I frequented it as I became a teacher. 80s I took my own audiences in the shape of coach trips from my night classes and i drew Paulozzi. 90s I took my own childers one of whom is now a curator and i drew Miriam Patchen and then Bruce that Scottish fella. Noughties I stood in a massive derelic  buildin and thought ‘they’ll never make it work, then on opening day I saw a surge of folks walking like Pina Bausch dancers into the Turbine Hall. In the 2010s I couldn’t afford the member’s pass until my state pension kicked in this year and I re-joined. Glad that I did, a good year to do it.

‘ere’s a bonus poem:

The Beauty of making my art today

 

The Beauty of making my art

After 50 years of trying to make it

I finally made it, good.

 

How do I do it now?

It’s easy after all these tears

 

I cried many many years

As they ignored me, all ways

Now I come into my own

Do it my own way I do too.

 

 

Finally, here’s a sign i saw on a London Bus as I travelled to the Tate

london farts logo

 

Team of trophies.

 

Real Madrid have eleven European Cups in their trophy cabinet now. (Liverpool have 5, Notts Forest won it twice & Man U av 2.)

That makes Real Madrid (Ray-Al some say) historically the greatest club in Europe, by far. Even back in 1961 when I was ten years old and playing for Tod Road Junior team in the Hartley Cup Final Ray-Al had already won the Cup 5 times, in fact every year since its inception in 1955 and we all fought to be Di Stefano, Puskas or Ghento in kickabouts in Burnley’s backstreets. I go to two finals as a 10 year old and we were joint winners of both. That’s the closest I ever came to winning a cup. Where does that place me in the ‘greats’ of football? About the same place as I am in amongst the greats in everything else- Nowhere Man.

But Don’t Give Up I hear Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush & the Dalai Lama sing. I may never have won a cup but I scored many wonderful goals and had some great achievements. Oh be Thankful!

sennacheribs prism BM image

The Sennacherib Prism 691 BC rests in the British museum for all of us to fascinate over. Their comment is:

‘Hexagonal clay prism, foundation record lists campaigns of (Assyrian king) Sennacherib until the start of his final war against Babylon, and includes a description of the tribute received from Hezekiah, King of Judah in 701 BC’. See this fascinating (despite having subtle leanings toward a biblical bias) article about the prism et al:

http://www.bible-history.com/empires/prism.html

 

I discovered it (The Sennacherib Prism) was there (at the BM) in the final week of my MA in ‘Art & the Book’. I had just about completed a major project in which I had used six men of ideas as the focus for my idea of placing ‘knowledge’ in clay pots. The project pivots around the concept of ‘six’, which in fact was a pragmatic reduction on Gurdjeff’s use of nine, nine would have increased my workload by another 50% and I had enough with six. Luckily six sided shapes tessellate as any bee will tell ya and bees also feature in the ideas of two of my ‘heroes’, Gurdjeff & Beuys.

 

For me the ancient hexagonal prism was and is tantamount to a book and at the time vowed to make a book(s) influenced by it. I love it. I cannot read cuneiform so must rely on the experts to tell me what it records. It seems to me that the view of history which we received in schools was so jaundiced against Assyria & Babylon, for reasons I shall not try to mention nor explain here, suffice to say that the region in which it was made has been at war with itself and others for millennia.  Assyria & Babylon and Persia for that matter had truly great civilisations for their time and those people arose out of a cauldron of activity in which their cultural and technological skills grew exponentially. I just love this prism. For me it represents (not in its words which are about wars and conquests but in its skills of the art of writing and making) a great human achievement. Compare it to an ipad. If in 2,000 years time a being stumbles upon an ipad & this prism I think it will be the prism which would communicate more once that being deciphers the content into its own language. The ipad will communicate little because the waves (of the internet?) which inform it will no longer be around, so it’ll be just a piece of plastic with a few words like ‘ipad’ marked on it.

My first real opportunity to make a book(s) influenced by the prism came recently when I saw an ad in Sarah Bodman’s BAN p49  http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/pdf/newspdfs/103.pdf

‘Call for artists’ books: The Great Silk Road International Artist’s Book project Organiser: International Association “Artist’s Book” Curators: Vasily Vlasov, Mikhail Pogarsky Project theme: Artists’ Books unite the world! The art of communication The international art project “The Great Silk Road” is aimed at the development of communication and cooperation between countries and peoples. Two thousand years ago, the Silk Road united the Far East and Europe and has been the main channel for the exchange of goods, technologies and knowledge. Today we offer to renew the exchange on a new level of art’s message, ideas and images through the artist’s book. The Great Silk Road is primarily a metaphor. We do not limit artists in the methods of the interpretation of this theme. We are open to any bright images and ideas aimed at communication between East and West, North and South, art and society; on building productive dialogue between countries and peoples. If politicians cannot find a common language for each other, they will have the help of the international language of art.’

BANG off I go again. I don’t have time to create any artisbuk right now, but anyroadup am gonna! And I did and I sent it to Moscow and I shall shew it to yez when I get a message from Russia saying they gorrit and they’ll have it in the show. Why did I bother to do it when am so busy working on other books like my long awaited (by at least half a dozen long term suffering friends + one or two masochists) New Shrewd Idiot? Well.

I may win a trophy like Ray-yall Madrid did? [Idjet! there’s no trophies to be won. The real trophy is being able to participate, innit?]

 

The Silk Road is what I DO! It features loud in much of my work since my MA studies in 2013. The Silk Road was much frequented and writ about by my old mate Gurdjeff (Gurdjieff or Gurdzhiev if you like) who talked of the Remarkable wise men he found tucked away in places like Bokhara and Samarkand on the old Silk Road. So I just cracked on and did it.

silk rd buk 2 sm

The result is my first hexagonal prism book. Using binds and words and artefacts together to indicate my fascinations which my bookbinding mentor Mike Sullivan kindly said, ‘…they look very exciting…’.

Everyone who sees them seems to like them. I have made 3 slightly differing versions each of which can be shown in different placements, all of which are reminiscent of ancient stupas built by various peoples moving out of India onto the Old Silk Road trail to China taking one of the most valuable of human commodities with them, ideas. And creative, beneficial, positive notions are, for me, the best.

What else happened this week?

Well I turned up at Firstsite for another impromptu lesson in break-dance from ‘Isaac’. He runs classes there as part of the YAK youth project. He’s so tolerant and patient and I have now nearly ‘got’ the first six steps in the basic break-dance form.

Blu Bella sm

I have installed the Quark2016 package and am working thru some teething issues with one of their engineers. Well I think I am, I hope she didn’t get back over the weekend cos they don’t work over (British) bank hols in India, not cos she’s given up on me as a dead loss. Hopefully once solved I shall rapidly (I hope) put my 1970’s illustrations into the New Shrewd Idiot. I got to get it finished and finally out. I have a new idea for the wrap-over cover. I have a self portrait what I done just before I left my home town for college days.

a self P 1969 v sm

I may use that with three flower picture above it representing three young women who play important parts in the book; a bluebell, a rose and a camellia. It’s wonderful where an unshackled mind takes you innit?

and in tribute to those who drowned at The Battle of Jutland, both sides.

a first poppy 2016 sm

 

Twinkle Toes Walker goes Walken

Chris-Walken

Watch this GREAT dance by Christopher Walken https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6ta5Y3xAhk

“I tink OI’ll do dat dance misen.”

step dancer2

And here’s me old mate Duncan Walker mimicking him.

Twinkle Toes Walker does a Walken.

a tinker sm

Then advises me,

“Nah then lad, tha’s gottu git thar olde buk owt.”

OK 19.4.16

So we all experience self-doubt and of course as I work thru the final prep of the final version for print of the SI sometimes I wonder if it’s worth continuing? My old pal IEPWoolard says, “Yes, you have to Pete”. Another friend, whose opinion I take very highly, talks of the ‘yes to carry on’ but also the need to make sure that when copies are ‘thesis-bound’ that there is also some stitching along the bound end to preserve it for not just 20 years but for 100 years plus when, ‘It’ll be of even more interest (because of its context)’. That’s not to say he’s saying my ‘writing’ is of a great importance, no, it’s the statement/evidence that the work brings with it of a time, a time in the early 1970’s. Now, that time is already gone, it’s history and my ‘book’ is (further evidence) of life then.

19.04.2016

I had a nice little fillip today when a member of the staff at Firstsite said of my Outlaw Pete gig, ‘It was an out of body experience.’ She had not watched my whole gig. Said what she saw was very strange. I retorted, ‘That’s good cos I never want to be perceived as ‘normal’.’

20th April 2016

I just laid page 70 into my Quark* layout for my ‘Shrewd Idiot’ (SI) buk. It happens to be 3 drawings I done back in 1971 (December) of the character I had realised that I had just ‘invented/created’ AppleHeadedMan aka Apulhed. Well in fact two of ‘him’ and one of PearHeadedWoman. The sketches fit nicely over the two pages of the SI manuscript which lay over one page of the new version. There’s lots of different links there, including the visual link of the two intersecting on the page. In fact I never again drew Pearheadgirl, never ever even to today, which is fascinating, cos Applehead could have had a constant ‘fruity’ companion thru the past 40 years. In fact in the notes on that same page I am forlornly saying that my then erstwhile girl-friend was not replying to my letters and that when we were to meet up again, as planned around my 21st birthday, it would only be ‘as friends (not lovers)’. In fact we never were to meet up again, not so far anyway. Maybe the slipping away of Pearheadgirl is a living analogy of that aspect or sequence of things which happened then did not happen in my life? [An analogy is ‘a form of reasoning in which one thing is inferred to be similar to another thing in a certain respect, on the basis of the known similarity between the things in other respects’.] The disappearance of Pearheadgirl is synonymous with the non-re-appearance of ‘Rose’ in ma life.

Quark* is one of the two big packages which offer design strategies for print layout. Although I found them difficult to make contact with I went up to their address in London and did find a human being who was very helpful. So much so I have decided to stay with them and move to their new ‘2016’ version despite the fact that my printman’s company uses a rival design package, which will cause some difficulties because one system is not compatible with the other. I am relatively unschooled in ‘graphic-design’ and have a lot to learn but I always did find ‘learning on the job’ my preferred route to skills and knowledge. Creating this new version of my SI buk is arduous, mostly because I insist on using scans of typed script from the 1980’s manuscript when re-typing it into a modern digi-form would be much much easier. All my life I tended to do things the hard way, as my SI buk still shows. Its form & content show an idiot (idjet) at work but he end result he knows will be, well let’s just say, very different. And ‘all me own original werk’.

Yes Am luckier than I thought

Building up to my next book NewSI.

pk as si smThe Shrewd Idjet c. 1979

This book is about those heady days when the creator of Big ‘Ead (at junior school age 10)

big ed 1st frame 1960Big ‘Ead drawn in year 5 at Tod Road primary school

and dreamed up Apple-Head-Man (in Bournemouth aged 20)

ahed burnley surfer

and whose Celtic name meant Ugly Head odork sheriffwent to college from his 18th to his 22nd year in the very early 1970’s. He began in the 3rd class carriage and by his graduation had scurried into the 2nd class seats. As he watched his fellow travellers he realised that despite his best efforts he was still a complete idiot, so that’s what we’ll call this first part of The New Shrewd Idiot which is going to be released in a series of short sections.

(*I may even call it An Altered Shrewd Idiot ?)

I saw a film the other day o boy, the film being A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence which is about two men who spent their lives going round selling crap artefacts like rubber masks of a one-toothed man. I see this as a parallel to my going around trying to foist the world with an Apple-Headed mask to the sound of the Doors song,

Life is strange when you’re alone

When you’re strange

Faces come out in the rain

When you’re strange

No one remembers your name

People are strange when you’re a stranger

Faces look ugly when you’re alone

When you’re alone

Women seem wicked

When you go walking

You’re unwanted

Streets are alive when you’re alone.

It was interesting talking with Saradha Soobrayen in the Poetry Library at South Bank this weekend and she has this idea about ‘The Long Poem’ which is not a long poem like say Hiawatha but more a lifetime’s effort on the part of the poet, to find the voice and realise the potential. My NewSI ‘book’ is such an effort. It began at the beginning of my self-writing and continued throughout the next forty odd years as I wrote and learned about writers & writing. The resulting work, which is still in process, will be the long poem in the way Saradha is thinking, I think. I am excited by the possibilities. I just need to discipline myself and put them together for real rather than just in my mind’s eye.

And the long poem also includes the artworks and the ‘performances’. They add to the words with a moving feast, oh yes and the dance, which adds the moving feet. I dance because I still can. I LOVE those old films of those ancient blues dancers doing the soft shoe shuffle which prove to me we should shuffle as long as we can. Life is a dance which the words, images and ideas just feed. Two perfect examples of this ‘long-poem’ are the life works of Patti Smith and Leonard Cohen.

And I saw the big show of Joseph Cornell’s work. Cornell influenced a lot of ‘artist’s book’ makers in recent years was himself influenced, like me, by key dada artists like Max Ernst who I believe to have been a greater creative thinker and practitioner than the much vaunted Marcel Duchamp. Another big influential European who taught in the States Moholy-Nagy did his early creative experiments in poetry rather than the visual arts which flags up the cross fertilisation between the arts, so much so that I now see that my own writing, painting, drawing and printing along with performance events are interlocked for the past 40 odd years. Like Moholy-Nagy I was effected by ‘Dada’s irreverence which aimed to offend middle-class notions of good taste which taught Moholy-Nagy [and moi] to refuse to accept the limitations of the traditional definitions of art’.

And my ‘art’ encompasses many media, many ways of saying the thing.

I know we live lives capable of

Belligerence

Underestimation

Misunderstanding

but

Let us find The Lion Inside– (hear Sir Van Morrison on utube).

Inside This Clay Jug– (listen to Jackie Leven Inside This Clay Jug).

Buddha Nature-Tibet

Our True Selves- Hindu

Hidden Essence-Sufi

Matter, Energy, Meaning-Bohm*

Let us avoid Infinite Confusion (My Quagfog^) and live in Peace-Full Earth Together Endlessly.

*See Sogyal Rinpoche on David Bohm pp356-9 in The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying where he’s writing about ’An Unfolding Vision Of Wholeness.’

^ I coined the word Quagfog in my writings t’ward The Shrewd Idiot in the mid1970’s. It means that dark space we inhabit when we are down, lost and unsure where to head. Our feet seem to be bogged down in a quagmire and our heads are seemingly in a fog.