Wednesday, 30 November 2011

NaBloPoMo day 30 - it's all over!

National Blog Posting Month has contributed to a particularly inspiring November for me. So much other creative activity has been rustling away in the background but this blog project of writing 100 words for art every day set the pace and kept my mind in creative mode. So, it's been time-consuming but has had the usual effect of upping the productivity all round. Best of all, I have discovered some amazing artists whose work might otherwise have passed me by, and been able to share their visual wonders with other people who (like me) aren't able to spend afternoons drifting around London galleries very often.

So, day 30 is a bit of a cheat, as my 100 word drabble today is to go with the photograph that appears at the top of this blog. It's not art, it's not in an exhibition and it never will be, but I get to make the editorial decisions around here! And for once it's based on a true story. I'll be back in December to write about writing,  and probably about art too.


When the sharp brambles blur, when the puffballs turn to clouds between my toes and the horizon tips, it’s not because I’m out of breath. The footprints are invisible but they are yours, pressed here in the night when only a fox could see and we were blind, shrunk by sky. I hardly slept that night and I know why: it was to remember, every star that hurtled by, every glint of the fox’s eye, circling, sniffing for our souls. And we left some traces of them here, for the fox, for me when I trace your footprints through pines.


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

NaBloPoMo day 29 - Jonathan Leaman at Beaux Arts Cork Street

It was hard to pick out one of Jonathan Leaman's paintings; they are all magical. This one suggested a mysterious ritual to me, and I'd love to know where the image came from - folklore or pure imagination. You can see the paintings at Beaux Arts Cork Street until 17th December.

It's All the Same Electricity courtesy of Jonathan Leaman
When it came my year to hang the bells, now I’d turned sixteen, I asked Flora Fletcher along. It was my opportunity. But when I knocked at her door, bag clanging, breath held, she wasn’t there. Gone down the dunes with Bobby, her mum said.
It didn’t ruin it completely. I hung the bells to charm the bees and said the honey prayer. The wind set them chiming and just then a flutter of white whipped up from the beach followed by a giggle on the breeze. It lodged there on the bell bush like a flag: Flora Fletcher’s shirt.

Monday, 28 November 2011

NaBloPoMo day 28 - Suzaane Moxhay in Print and Design Now! at Bearspace

The Print and Design Now! collective exhibition at Bearspace looks like a rich feast - so many wonderful images, but Suzanne Moxhay's appealed to the lover of myth in me. It is impossible to look at this image without conjuring up some epic tale to explain this being rising from the forest. It reminded me of the Mayan structures that poke above the canopy in parts of Mexico and Guatemala, suggesting gods as much as the bloodthirsty people who created them. The show runs until 16th December.

Feralis courtesy of Suzanne Moxhay

They knew their gods, and where they lived, in red-stained temple rooms. They knew how happy they must be, flooded with gifts of blood and grain and flowers. The cry rang out: had they erred, somehow? Surrounded, crowded, forever shaped by trees, had they forgotten a tree god amongst the monstrous throng? The cry rang out again: give all you have in trunk and branch shape, sap and spreading leaf shape. Limbs dropped and slumped in the leaf mould. Blood spattered bark. The shrieks told them the pain of cut trees, and they cut until the forest, sated, fell silent.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

NaBloPoMo day 27 - Michael Wolf's Tokyo Compression at Flowers Kingsland Road

Michael Wolf's photographs of Tokyo are both shocking and beautiful. The images of seemingly edgeless apartment blocks are probably best described as sublime, being beyond comprehension in many ways, impossible to really take in all at once. Somehow he turns photographs of commuters suffering journeys that make the London Underground rush hour seem like a walk in park by comparison into something serene, often bringing to mind religious imagery. His show Tokyo compression is at Flowers Kingsland Road until 7th January 2012.

Tokyo Compression #75 courtesy of Michael Wolf

I have breath, I have patience. I have learned mediation. I have this fantasy, of turning into a snake and sliding between the monsters whose elbows dig into my spine, whose buttocks sweat against mine. I administer silent bites to ankles; one by one they slump, jaws hang, muscles slacken, and I burst from my snake skin, clean and pure. Every day I kill them off like this, then open my eyes as the doors slide for my stop and nod, thank you, thank you, as I slither out­­. Every night I wash it away and become human again.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

NaBloPoMo day 26 - Doreen McPherson in Studio Voltaire's Members Show

I've never seen portraits like Doreen McPherson's before and I found them intriguing. This one gripped me, as did the title, which I used to kick off my 100 word story to go with it. The show continues at Studio Voltaire until 3rd December.

The Man is all Staring at Me courtesy of Doreen McPherson


The man is all staring at me and I think, who looks deeply into my eyes, ever, really? My mother did, searching for lies and the things I liked to hide. A lover, seeking the promises he would not return. The time I told my best friend what I really thought of her tattoo.
What is this one looking for? He’s not giving anything, not taking anything away. His eyes are so open I can look right in and I see a surprising thing, I suppose: peace.
If he sees pain he's not saying anything. Eyes can be deceptive too.

Friday, 25 November 2011

NaBloPoMo day 25 - Thomas Grunfeld's Young Steerer at Hidde van Seggelen

Aside from this art-drabble project for National Blog Posting Month (I'll be glad to write something longer than 100 words in December!) I am currently researching for an article I'm writing on taxidermy in art and literature. So, not surprisingly. this piece of Thomas Grunfeld's caught my eye. It's grotesque but it also made me laugh; the bulldog face looks slightly forlorn in a way that doesn't match its body language. Magnus Mills has written a short story especially for Grunfeld's exhibition catalogue, which is bound to be magnificently dark and hilarious, so my drabble here is second to something greater. The exhibition runs until 3rd December at Hidde van Seggelen.

Misfit (Bulldog/Goat) courtesy of Thomas Grunfeld

I’m mad, me. Game for anything. “Just do it, man!” I yelped. “I wanna be famous!”

My balls were long gone by then anyway, so what was there to lose?

And they do, you know, they keep me in luxury. No more pedigree chum; it’s fillet steak, choccy chews, premium biltong. Dunno why, but it all tastes the same. That’s one thing. A hurtling stick doesn’t do much for me either anymore, but hey, things change.

But what really gets my goat, so to speak, is the clacking racket these new feet make on a parquet floor. Drives me nuts!


Thursday, 24 November 2011

NaBloPoMo day 24 - Lee Maelzer's The Hypnosis of Error at Poppy Sebire

Lee Maelzer's paintings are uneasy, turning the familiar into mournful and sometime spooky views of the world. This one was like the beginning of a modern fairy tale to me, but I turned that on its head somewhat for my 100 word story to go with it. You can see Lee Maelzer's exhibition at Poppy Sebire until 23rd December.

Fright, courtesy of Lee Maelzer

It wasn’t Betty at the window, because she was right behind me with the paraffin lamp. It wasn’t anybody, I realised; just a shred of curtain turning in the breeze.

“Call that spring cleaning?” I asked her, nodding up at it.

“I’ve not been down,” she frowned. “Raccoons, maybe?” Rascals.” Then she dropped the lamp as we both caught sight of the smoke. “Jesus, Mike. Did you come back and fix it?” she said.

I shook my head. “Nope. Still leaking.” We stepped backwards in unison, turned, and as we ran the blast of heat and thunder pounded our backs.


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

NaBloPoMo day 23 - Anthony Abrahams at Pangolin

Writing creatively to complement a sculpture is different from writing to a painting or photograph. Even when the sculpture depicts something recognisable, something about it being in that form changes what the content is doing for the audience - a painting of a rat on a woman's knee would not be remotely similar to this wonderful sculpture by Anthony Abrahams.

Having had a run-in with a mouse that led to a poem myself, that's what came to mind when I wrote this 100 word piece to go with the sculpture for my November series. Anthony Abrahams' work is showing at Pangolin London until 10th December.

Rat by Anthony Abrahams, courtesy of Pangolin

She didn’t look at all surprised. That in itself was enough to make me fall in love. That and the warmth of her thigh.

“I wrote a poem once,” she said, “About a rat,” and she smiled! Smiled! The way they have of baring teeth without saying they want to eat you. It’s adorable.

“Perhaps it was you I wrote about,” she said. I tried to look like a rat in a poem: solemn, nostalgic.
So now we go about together; she bought a jacket with oversized pockets just for me and at readings I poke my nose out poetically.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

NaBloPoMo day 22 - Liza Dracup's Chasing the Gloaming at Guildhall Art Gallery

Liza Dracup has created this series Chasing the Gloaming in response to works by Atkinson Grimshaw, showing concurrently at the Guildhall Art Gallery. I love Grimshaw and was doubly delighted that a show of his paintings led me to Liza Dracup. Her images are magical, mysterious, whispering about myth, secrets and nature in ways that get me all over-excited about that most enticing part of our world.
You can see this and her other works at Guildhall Art Gallery until 15th January 2012.

Mistle Thrush courtesy of Liza Dracup

My song was my soul. What have I now, for pride, for joy? My nest is a bed of light, woven for me, the brightest nest I’ve ever known but it is a gift, of sorts. I did not dash and dart to build it. Its brightness will not be broken by eggshell, the tiny heave of hungry bodies. I did not flit and flash through the air to make it, pausing to pour the highest delight from my throat and celebrate my creation. My song is gone, my throat closed in this stillness, this silver gift, my last nest.


Monday, 21 November 2011

NaBloPoMo day 21 - Massimo Vitali at Brancolini Grimaldi

The sea is the character I like best in Massimo Vitali's photographs of Mediterranean coastline. It dwarfs the people and somehow reminded me of humans being flung about by greater forces in myth, which led to today's 100 word story. Massimo Vitali's photographs are at Brancolini Grimaldi until 28th January 2012.

Courtesy of Massimo Vitali

I went for sunshine, olives and cheap wine, not mythology. Still, Peter spoiled the flight with his copy of the Odyssey, Circe turning men to swine (little effort needed), sea monsters and siren temptresses (for which read cocktail waitresses). But the island tour was included, so later we clambered off the speedboat to picnic on the scorching rock.

Peter was reading pompously from Robert Graves when the first shriek came. We watched the whirlpool suck several swimmers down while Peter screamed, “Charybdis! Chaybdis!”
“Alright then,” I snapped. “What would Odysseus do?”
“It’s this or Scylla!” he cried. In he jumped.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

NaBloPoMo day 20 - Miriam Cahn at the David Roberts Art Foundation

Miriam Cahn's images reminded me of ghosts, or essences of people, somehow showing how they are without depicting them physically, so that's what came out when I wrote this 100 word story. Her exhibition is at the David Roberts Art Foundation until 17th December.

Miriam Cahn's Familie, courtesy of David Roberts Art Foundation


I can do auras no problem, always been that way. His was cold, with red rage patches indicating violence. None of my business. Hers was unusual: all ripe yellow fertility but with a halo. No other way to describe it.
Nice couple, shame about the kids, you might say, because that’s where I got the jitters. Auras like ghosts, like they were outsides but no insides. True, children aren’t fully formed, but they are balls of pure colour, in aura-vision. I began to wonder if the parents had only imagined them. Two little bodies, in place of two little people.