Here’s another “could have been a painting” photograph, taken last November. This is one of the paths to my childhood home, if you were coming from the park or what remained of Sandy’s Farm (long since flattened and buried under a housing estate). Known as ‘the Back Way’ the hedges at either side were rarely cut back, making the path nigh-on impassable to all but the most intrepid. Even on a bright sunny day it was always a dark and foreboding prospect to go down there, a trepidation that fed on my head full of Hammer Horror films, leading me to regard the last house on the terraced row, one where I never saw the tenants come and go from, as a potential location for a haunting.
I took this photograph a couple of years back, on a walk around the village of Hawksbury. I’ve long intended to make a painting of it, but I feel I’ve already done this type of painting before (see ‘The Last Day Of Summer‘ and ‘Shadows In Eden‘) and don’t want to be consciously repeating myself. Most artists do end up obsessively ploughing the same furrow again and again, but that’s OK as long as you’re so far gone into your obsessions that you don’t realise you’re doing it.
“When I’m older I’ll understand” said Lucy. “
“I am older and I don’t think I want to understand”, replied Edmund.
C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia
Another photograph from last month’s visit to Pembrokeshire. It was one of those evenings, in one of those rare places, where everywhere I looked there seemed to be the possibility for a painting. I took dozens of photographs, but it was only later when I looked back over them that I saw how hard it was to capture the light and the unique atmosphere I’d experienced. Walking along this path I got the feeling that if I’d carried on I’d have ended up in Narnia.
I was genuinely shocked when I heard Chris Cornell had died earlier this week. There’s plenty of ageing rockers who you doubt will make it past Christmas, but he wasn’t one of them. The man was only a couple of years older than me, and his death really made me ponder on all the music he’s made over the years. A lot of it was played on the radio in our office this week, and it was a solid reaffirmation of just how good Soundgarden really were. They always stood out from the ‘grunge’ bands of the early 90’s, simply through sheer force of delivery. I remember the Badmotorfinger album took the top of my head off when I first heard it. So many great songs on there – Outshined, Rusty Cage, Slaves & Bulldozers – that it became one of the staple albums we played when we went to the UK Comic Art Conventions in the mid-90’s, along with Temple Of The Dog, where Chris was backed by members of various Seattle bands. Listening to that music now takes me right back, his utterly distinctive voice working like a time machine. I know what I’ll be listening to this weekend. Here’s to Chris:
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore”
Edgar Allan Poe
A new drawing. I wasn’t directly inspired by the Poe poem, but rather my memories of reading William Hjortsberg’s Nevermore. This was back in the mid-1990’s when the book was first published, when Hjortsberg’s name held some cache thanks to his incredible novel 1978 Angel Heart (a book I’ve always suspected could be the inspiration for the “unexpected twist” at the end of Fight Club). The man had a knack for taking the established tropes of a genre and subverting them. For example, in Angel Heart, Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett fall head first into a bubbling vat of dark voodoo gumbo stirred by William Seabrook. Nevermore, meanwhile, melds the worlds of Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to great effect, wherein the ‘ghost’ of Poe appears to Conan Doyle to warn him of a series of gruesome crimes, staged as scenes from his most notoriously gruesome tales such as ‘The Murders In The Rue Morgue’ and ‘The Black Cat’. Conan Doyle is in New York, investigating the murders with the aid of his own ‘Dr Watson’, none other than Harry Houdini. Thrown in a femme fatale reincarnation of the Egyptian Goddess Isis and you’re all set for the full monty of pulp-era mash-ups. Hjortsberg evokes the atmosphere of 1920’s New York well, and it’s all good fun that would, I suspect, have back in the 90’s made for an half-decent film with someone like Christopher Lee as Conan Doyle and Christopher Walken as Houdini. Anyway, William Hjortsberg died last month, so the universe loses another lively imagination.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is Werner Herzog’s 2010 documentary about the Chauvet Cave in southern France, where in the mid-1990’s pristine examples of Paleolithic art were discovered on the cave walls. Studies suggest the art was created well over 30,000 years ago. The images are incredible and, to quote Cormac McCarthy, they “hum with mystery”. For an artist like myself, they’re a deep source of inspiration, as well as a sobering reminder of the transiency of all our efforts today. No-one in 30,000 years time is going to be able to peruse an Instagram gallery. As Herzog himself warns: “beware the internet.”
Watch the documentary here.
My 2014 drawing of Werner Herzog:
Long time readers will know that Mogwai are my favourite band, and have been since the mid-90’s when I heard their first album Young Team. I’ve seen them live more times than any other band, (at one gig in 2005 they played with such overwhelming sonic ferocity that they cured my throat infection) and they’ve been a constant inspiration to me over the years, as I’ve evolved from comix artist to painter. Details of their new album – Every Country’s Sun – have just been announced and while the enigmatic song titles remain a constant, the cover is the best one they’ve had since I don’t know when and judging by the first track released ‘(‘Coolverine’) they’re at the absolute top of their game, consolidating the evolution of their sound as heard on the Atomic and Before The Flood soundtracks. The evidence:
In 2008 when I made the decision to become a painter, it was Mogwai who provided the impetus and the soundtrack to that transition. I looked at their commitment to their art and thought that if I can’t at least try to match that level of commitment and focus then I might as well give up now. Using their song titles I tried to make images that captured what I felt was the mood of each song, and it proved to be the best kind of crash course in learning a new medium. Below are examples from the 20+ paintings and drawings I created as part of ‘Project Mogwai‘, some of which are still available to buy as originals. Email me for more details.