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October 29, 2007

still alive

When I was still young and foolish and at Art College in Liverpool, they would have exhibitions, in the college, by Major International Artists, something you don’t often find these days sadly.

One such exhibition consisted of a series of framed postcards, that had been posted to a gallery curator. All the postcards bore the same inscription:

This puzzled me. Was there some anonymous conceptual artist [for it was almost certainly conceptual art I was dealing with here] who was currently struggling to eke out an existence on a remote island called Kawara? Or what? That’s the problem with conceptual art, you usually need to be told what’s going on.

Lying in bed, in the early hours this morning, as the mill creaked and banged and wheezed its way grumbling into the morning shift, I was pondering eternity, and fractional divisions thereof, when I remembered some paintings in MUMOK, Vienna, by On Kawara.



And I thought “How did this occur?” I mean how come small, almost A4, canvases, painted with a flat colour, usually black, and a date painted on then, usually white, get to be in all the major art galleries of the world?

Leaving aside the wellanyonecouldhavedoneitbutitjusthappenedhedid argument, how do you get into the position whereby you can convince the leading curators of the day that a canvas with a date on it is worthy of inclusion in their collection?

[Perhaps, unknown to us, the dates are the birthdays of the curator's children, ha ha ha.]

Posted by john at 09:46 AM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2007

Some photographs

Last Thursday Adrian Ray, for it was he, came round to take some photographs of me. Here are some of them:




[and when your website's working, Adrian, I'll post a link]

Posted by john at 07:39 PM | Comments (1)

October 26, 2007

Shooting in a desk

The exciting story of the reception desk draws to a close. In this, the final episode, our hero takes the assortment of cut wood, screwed together in a strange upright yet curvy fashion, to the Advertising Agency. Along with a van full of fancy tools


There he proceeds to hammer lead on and around the face and edges. Very satisfying, it has to be said, dressing lead.



Then the whole thing gets slid into place, the tops screwed on, the kicking board fixed and there we are.



coming soon: the photographs the photographer took

Posted by john at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

More on the desk

It’s nearly there,


nearly complete.


All it needs now, apart from the tops screwing on and the kicking board, is the lead cladding fixing to the front.


Six metres of code 3 lead, looks like, well, a roll of lead to be honest, but don’t let that fool you. It almost, but not quite, defies the laws of physics, or more simply: it weighs more than you’d think. It comes in 50kg or 110lbs - that’s nearly eight stone, which is a whole person, in just that roll of lead. Tricky stuff lead.


And trying to cut it square, well, again it challenges the laws of physics, it’s all over the place, stretchy and bendy and warped in odd ways. Still it’ll look smart with the copper clout nails. Mind you it’ll have to be inch-right when I set it up as there’ll be no moving it once I’ve gone.

Posted by john at 12:16 AM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2007

Through the Looking Glass Backwards

The tables were turned, although, it has to be said, tables didn’t really come into it. Today I was photographed by a photographer.



Posh camera.


Posted by john at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)


After a brief poke around in the dark side of Google, we can revel that Mitin in this case doesn't refer to Professor Dimitry Mitin of the rather splendid Research Group in Mathematical Inequalities, Department of Stochastic Process, Institute of Mathematics, National Academy of Sciences Ukraine

Nor does it refer to one Vladimir Mitin, professor. [PhD, 1987 from the Institute of Semiconductors at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences [not to be confused with the National Academy of Sciences Ukraine], Kiev.]

And neither is it Sergey Gerasimovich Mitin, governor of Novgorod Oblast, Russia. It is in fact an insecticide, for dealing with the moth, though paragraph 40 CFR, Subsection 1, Section 152.160, of the Code of Federal Regulations, Chemical Profiles, does seem to suggest that it should have the word DANGER on the tin.

Posted by john at 06:27 PM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2007

Strange drums

The studio here, if you don’t already know, and if such is the case then quite frankly you haven’t been paying attention, is part of a textile mill. Textile mills are exciting places in that they are old and have a lot of interesting old things in them. Which every now and then the mill owners, for reasons known only to themselves, see fit to throw out. Never being one to miss an opportunity, I keep a beady eye on the skip out the back.

This turned up last week:


A cardboard drum with a riveted seam and metal rim and base, marvellous. But what are these strange cabalistic symbols on the side?


Suggestions welcome.

Posted by john at 09:19 PM | Comments (2)

Clamp or Cramp - you decide

Some say clamp others cramp. For this procedure some use clamps and others cramps. But it matters not, for they are both the same device and they both do the same thing, that is: hold two surfaces firmly together under reasonable pressure.

There are clearly distinctions to be had if you look. In the Motoring World and the Medical World for instance. Your car gets clamped not cramped when you are over your allotted time and indeed when your leg muscles seize up, running to get back to the car before the time runs out on the parking metre, you get cramp and not clamp.

Bethatasitmay and whichsoever you prefer, whether you're a clamper or a cramper, this morning I glued up the four laminates for the top of the desk and held the six surfaces firmly together with reasonable pressure:


and an arty shot for Mr Jones:


personally, I say clamp.

Posted by john at 12:23 PM | Comments (2)

October 23, 2007

Sawing wood, hammering nails

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m building a reception desk for an advertising agency. Here’s how it happens

First of all draw some ideas in the note book:



Then draw things a bigger and posher to take to the Advertising Men:



When the Advertising Men decide what they like, draw it to scale with all manner of tricky measurements:


Buy some wood, cut it to suitable lengths and lay it up:


Clamp it up:


Screw it down:


Take it for a fitting:


be sure not to miss the next exciting post: plywood laminates and hand beaten lead.

Posted by john at 08:49 PM | Comments (3)

October 18, 2007

The Evil Bread does.

The thing I hate most, apart from certain schools of thought whose teachings would have us believe that people who are essentially the same are fundamentally different, is bread crumbs. And I make the distinction here between breadcrumbs, which are an entirely different and mostly harmless ingredient making for a delicious contribution to the topping of, say, a lasagne, and bread crumbs - little fiddly itchy dusty things that get everywhere.

They’re bad enough on the kitchen table, getting stuck to your sleeve or onto the bottom of your mug of coffee, but heaven forbid the dire consequences associated with eating toast in bed. Toast Crumbs – the extreme right of the Bread Crumb League – are the worst, taking the fiddly and itchy elements to new heights of annoyance, in bed, a nightmare.

To make matters worst, like some unstoppable threat to the Human Race in a science-fiction film, when you try and pick one up it shatters into a thousand smaller crumbs, each more deadly than the last.

The problem is not helped by the fact that the better the bread the worse the bread crumbs. Cheap and cheerful bread, the sort of pre-sliced confection that comes in a brightly printed plastic bag hinting at some superlative from your female progenitor’s oven, produces no bread crumbs to speak of, largely because it isn’t really bread in the first place.

But get a loaf from your local baker, or even a Pain de Campagne from Johnny Sainsbury, and it’s crumb city. You take it out of the bag and the crumbs all spill out beginning their relentless advance across every the flat surface in the room.


You approach with the bread knife and crumbs are positively leaping about as you slice through the rich crust. Then, dropping the recently sliced bread into the toaster [which, on being placed on the work surface, has itself just delivered fresh recruits for the Crumb Wars] wayward stray crumbs alight on the wiry heating elements and start to burn.

The resulting cloud of blackened smoke sets off the smoke alarms which alert the fire brigade and before you know it you’ve got big fellas in wellies breaking down the door with axes, smashing windows and slooshing gallons of water about, some of which inevitably lands on the toast making it soggy. And the thing I hate nearly as much as bread crumbs is soggy toast.

Posted by john at 01:44 PM | Comments (2)

October 16, 2007

Why photography was invented.

Imagine the scene. It is dark and cold outside, you’re all huddled together round the fire, the bones of the recently eaten lay scattered across the dusty floor, the fire-light flickers across the rough surface of the back wall of the cave.

Billy One-Tooth gets up to relieve himself behind a convenient boulder. However, though he is out of sight of the rest of the gang, he has inadvertently positioned himself twixt fire and wall. The group are presented with the shadow of Billy One-Tooth siphoning the python. They laugh, a dirty guttural primordial laugh, as was their wont.

Billy, hearing the laughter, noticing his shadow and not being one to miss an opportunity, begins to manipulate his pudenda to continued howls of mirth. After some moment's practice he is able, by the shadow cast, to fashion a silhouette of the conveniently absent Chief Bloodaxe with remarkable accuracy.

“Quick” said someone, “get the camera!”

My how times have changed...


he/she, Tim Webster and Sue Noble, currently part of Traum und Trauma at MUMOK, Vienna

Posted by john at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2007

To Wash or Not to Wash?

And I’m not talking decisions concerning personal hygiene here. Rather I’m referring to the recurring dilemma I’m presented with at the end of a day’s painting.

To wit: do I wash out the brushes? The ideal would be to leave everything so that the brushes, charged as they are with their history of today’s painting, would be ready to partake again tomorrow.

And they would be, tomorrow, mainly, with the exception of Burnt Umber which dries in the time it takes to get the brush from the palette to the panel, being a siccative an’ all.

But I might not be painting tomorrow. Tomorrow there may be other demands on my time. And the brushes will get thicker and more unwieldy by the day. This is ok if you earn enough to keep buying new brushes, and it creates those clichéd pots of old dried-up paint brushes we see in every artist’s studio.

But I don’t earn enough to keep buying new brushes, so I wash them out and lose a bit of the painting. And tomorrow or the next day, when I paint again, I will have to spend time getting the brushes up to speed.

Posted by john at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

Splish, Splash, Splosh.

To be perfectly honest I was worried. I was worried that the paints might have dried up. I was worried that the brushes would be solid. I was worried that I wouldn’t know how to paint. Well, that last one’s no stranger – I constantly surprise myself when I step back and see the result of my swordplay twixt brush and panel.

Well, the paint came out of the tubes ok, except the Indian Red, which was on its last squeeze anyway, but I managed to get enough out using a palette knife as a spade. The brushes were hard but they soon became springy when slapped about a bit.


The colours today have been:

Flake White
Indian Red
Titanium Dioxide
Alizarin Crimson
Burnt Umber
Prussian Blue





Posted by john at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

Levels of Painting

1 Painting
2 Mostly painting
3 Almost painting
4 Nearly painting
5 Nearly almost painting
6 Not quite painting
7 About to start painting
8 Not painting

Posted by john at 02:46 PM | Comments (0)

Not Quite Painting

Not Quite Painting is one of the many levels of Not Painting.

Here’s the sum total of yesterday's feverish painting spree:


In case you didn’t spot the vast inroads I made towards the completion of this particular masterpiece, here’s a detail:


Impressive, eh? Now I must rest...

Posted by john at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2007

The Pinter of Painting


Though, in an interview on the radio, just after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I heard Harold declare that he had never intended there to be such long pauses when he famously wrote PAUSE in his plays. He said he since realised that BEAT was more the word he should have used.

Well there you go, another reputation founded on a misunderstanding.

Anyway, beingthatasitmay, I didn’t intend there to be quite such a long pause either and there has indeed been a fair slice of inactivity in the Oil Painting Industry. Not since the beginning of June have the big brushes been slapped in amongst the squishy stuff.

The last pictures to receive some splosh are still on the big wall-easel.


I’ve looked at them on and off for four months, and had neither the time nor the inclination to get stuck in. But looking at the crouching figure this week I thought of an idea where it might go for a while. Then, like a breached dam, stored images from the past months came pouring over into my conscious.


So maybe, just maybe, some paint might find itself upon the palette.

Posted by john at 04:11 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2007

Corollaries from the previous post

A writer should never go to a library.
A musician should never go to a concert.
A plumber should never go to the toilet.

Posted by john at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2007

art galleries



Posted by john at 01:09 PM | Comments (2)

October 08, 2007


If you’ve never been to Vienna you may be forgiven for not knowing that Gustav Klimt was from there.


If you have been to Vienna and still don’t know, you must have been walking round with your eyes wide shut. For, like Howarth and the Bronte’s, Klimt is all over Vienna like a rash. Or rather all over Vienna’s gift shops, cafes, restaurants, advertising campaigns, public transport systems and pretty well every flat space available.

And what painting by Herr Klimt is foremost in the City Fathers’ bid for posterity?

Der Kuss of course.

Mind you they seldom reproduce the entire painting:

(and this isn't all of it either)

Klimt, like his protégé Egon Schiele, was wont to be rather racy at times, but for some reason these pictures never see their way onto the tea-towels.


There are two places in Vienna not saturated with Klimtobelia. One is the Alt Wien coffee house, a wonderful dark dive, full of new posters and old pictures, where moustachioed middle-aged men in long white aprons and serious expressions serve strong coffee.


And the other is the Naschmarkt a permanent outdoor fruit and vegetable market. The translation is Nibble Market because all the stall-holders slice up their produce and offer it to you as you walk through. As well as incredible fruit and vegetables there are nuts and spices and bread and cheeses. So if you plan your walk carefully you can nibble your way through just about any meal of the day. Or you can just sit in a café and stare at the wealth of stuff on sale.


clarification of the foregoing: a Coffee House, or more correctly I suppose Kaffeehaus, has the aforementioned men in long white aprons, is usually large, dimly lit often with huge chandeliers. A Café is, well, just that, small, modern, bright, quick and staffed mainly by young people who don't shave in the morning.

Posted by john at 05:12 PM | Comments (1)

October 05, 2007

Trouble with Cheese

Yesterday they killed a pig in Bavaria. Right here, in the farmyard, at six thirty in the morning.


I won’t go into the details, suffice it to say, in the morning they killed a pig and by the afternoon we had sausages, amongst other things.


Now, they know a thing or two about sausages round here, they have over 1200 types in all shapes and sizes, sausages you fry in pans, sausages you cut up and eat cold, sausages you keep in jars.

Masters of the Mighty Sausage they may be, but they’re still in Kindergarten when it comes to cheese. Go on, name a German cheese (and Bavarian Smoked doesn’t count for it is neither Bavarian nor smoked). Katrin is German and has lived most of her life in Germany. She can name French cheese, Italian cheese, English cheese, Swiss cheese and Dutch cheese, but no German cheese.

The simple fact is there is no German cheese*. Which is odd considering that they are the second biggest producers of cheese in the world. Oh, sure, they have stuff in the supermarket, under the general heading Käse, but something you can fold and tear in half, in my opinion, is not cheese.


*There are German cheeses of course, Handkäse is one of them, also known as Handkäse mit Musik, because it makes you fart, apparently.

Posted by john at 04:07 PM | Comments (1)

October 03, 2007

On the road to Damascus Münchberg

Sometimes, when you’re walking past the window of a gallery in, say, Regensburg, South Bavaria, you see a painting of such stupefying banality it becomes blindingly clear to you, in an instant, that you should enter the gallery, buy the picture, take it outside, burn it, set fire to the ashes, piss on them and wash the whole lot down the drain, then seek out the artist, wherever he is and tell him to STOP IT!

Strangely enough this happened to me only yesterday. Unfortunately the gallery was closed.


Nice spot though, Regensburg, if you like the whole fifteenth century thing. Mind you, as you can see, they still haven’t finished the church - stonemasons, ha! never find one when you need one.

And that river flowing along the bottom of the picture? That's the Danube - romantic or what?

Posted by john at 09:07 PM | Comments (1)

That Damn Spam

If, during a quiet moment, waiting for the lights to turn green, you’ve ever wondered where all the junk e-mail comes from, we can now reveal, after extensive research, that it comes from a small factory in the heart of Vienna, Austria.


Those of you with more than a rudimentary understanding of the German tongue will realise that I’m lügebeutling and this is in fact the establishment that, when enamelling was the done thing, did all the enamelling for the good people of Vienna.

Posted by john at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)


On the wall of the old textile mill in Gmünd:


There was a young man from Darjeeling,
Who boarded a bus bound for Ealing.
It said on the door,
Don’t spit on the floor,
So he stood up and spat on the ceiling.

Posted by john at 10:45 AM | Comments (1)