Tag Archives: max ernst

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.

on being an artist, or Not

OK, so I claim to be an artis for sure and a riter too.I propose that Grayson Perry is a craftsman rather than an artist and Damien Hirst is neither artis nor crafsman, more a factory foreman.Both are part of the Establishment & the Artworld, I am part of neither luckily despite my 40 odd years tryoing to be ‘recognized’ accepted and allowed in. Of course a big part of becoming an ‘established artis’ is being offered money and exposure, invited (in) to exhibit or comment or contribute to the ‘canon’.Obviously Hirst & Perry are ‘well in’ despite their being opposite ends of a spectrum of methodologies. Grayson cannot draw for toffee and i wouldn’t be surprised if Hirst uses toffee in one of his mass cabinet displays of stuff created for him by a factory of assistants. I’m not being catty nor bitchy, just observing from the outside. And as Perry observed in the Radio Times the validators are ” peers, teachers, dealers, critics, curators and gallery visitors” ( a motley crew). This despite him observing that, ” people who write about art are often communicating only with each other…”

Whereas GP’s curatorship at British Museum was a breath of fresh air, Hirst at Tate was like sticking yer nose in a sewer. I say that not because of his sometimes foul subject matter and mouth, I sometimes deal with not so pretty stuff, but i do believe that subjects like death are to be treated with more dignity than his conversations on video about victims of car accidents.Perry’s room full of massive tapestries may have been labour for the practitioners what made them but his drawings for me are inadequate or at least idiosyncratic. Hirst’s drawings were not apparent to me from the Tatemark shows but  his wide use of technologies and the elements of shock and distaste are evident(ly his stocking trade).

Of course nowadays you don’t need to be able to draw to be considered an artist. I won’t even bother to mention the present Professor of drawing at Royal Academy. The way you make your artist statement was apparently blown asunder by Duchamp (not Picasso as he was a traditionalist in methodologies). Max Ernst had some truly revolutionary outputs, particularly his sinister seminal collage work and his private alphabet, yet he continued to make some great paintings despite declaring that painting was dead.

So, where does that leave me? Penniless and out in the cold as always where my art is concerned. My art budget perpetually in the red for 40 plus years, supplemented by a teacher’s salary. I no longer hanker to be accepted , ironically my lack of acknowledgement by the various fields and absence of remuneration has left me or led me to be Free. To Be my Self, like a solitary bee, alone again of course. And I am far too old to be bothered about being accepted as a player. i prefer to remain with my brothers (and sisters) in the arts; William Blake, Vincent Van Gogh, B S Johnson and Eva Hesse. The only difference being they did more and better and had more talent … Oh shut it Pete,  while you can!Image