And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
Photograph taken at building works, Lyde Green, October 2017.
I’ll be doing more work this afternoon (Sunday 8th Oct) and given how well it’s all going, I’m hoping to be finished by the end of November. I’ve got reference material for the second painting in the triptych (a landscape) and I’m still considering what to do for the third one. I’m also planning how best to present it and might offer it as a print-on-demand book and free e-book edition, with the three paintings augmented by drawings, sketches and found materials. Stay tuned for further details.
Here’s an interesting piece on on J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine, one of my favourite books, by Barrett Baumgart for The Paris Review. The article is illustrated with a “sample” (see above) of a portion of my mock-up cover for Little Toller Books’ imminent biography of Baker’s life by Hetty Saunders. Here’s the full mock-up:
I’ve never pretended that this is the official cover, and always intended for it to be my own small contribution to the growing interest in Baker’s work. Uncredited it may be, but I never thought I’d see the day when my art gets in The Paris Review.
I’m very intrigued by this. Ghost Stories is the well regarded stage show adapted for cinema by its creators Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman. Dyson, one of the members of The League Of Gentlemen (one of my favourite television series of all time, and recognised by myself as less of a comedy than a warts-and-all documentary about my home town of Morley). Dyson is a fellow Leodian and had his sensibilities formed by the same 1970’s horror-drenched milieu that I experienced. Everything from Hammer horror films late on a Friday night, to Armchair Thriller, to the unapologetic trash horror of prime-era James Herbert, it all went in, to be echoed back out in disparate and unusual ways. In Dyson’s case it’s been the deep current of dread and darkness that sluices through the streets of Royston Vasey in The League of Gentlemen, through to his short story collections and first novel What Happens Now. It clearly informs this film, a homage to the classic portmanteau films of Amicus and Hammer in the early 1970’s. Peter Bradshaw’s review in The Guardian says enough to whet my appetite, suggesting that “a weird world of menace, despair and decay” awaits those who dare to enter. Sounds right up my dark street, and in the (excuse the pun) spirit of the occasion, here’s a couple of my ‘ghost’-themed artworks:
My 2013 painting ‘Ghost Story’ depicting one of the most haunting places I’ve ever been in, down the woods near my childhood home of Morley.
My friend and sometime collaborator Martin Jones is giving a talk later this month at his local library in Retford, Nottinghamshire. Entitled Coast Stories: a Cinematic Trip to England’s Sinister Seaside, it promises to be bracing and windswept Halloween experience as this most dedicated of lifelong British Horror fanatic reels out his years of research and rumination on one of his favourite topics: the darker side of England;s coastal hinterland where the troubled waters of the Atlantic and the North Sea wash up against the suicide cliffs, the desolate promenades and the skeletal ruins of piers. And he should know. Born and raised in deepest, darkest Torbay, he has witnessed at first hand that which lurks in the shadows beyond the arcade lights, the eerie desolation of a beach in winter and the sinister gleam in the children’s eye as they watch glove puppet serial killer Mr Punch up to his old tricks. The talk will feature such classics as the BBC’s eerie 1968 adaptation of M.R. James’ Oh Whistle And I’ll Come To You, My Lad through to more recent efforts like Neil Jordan’s Byzantium (that makes the most of its Hastings location), and those in attendance will leave having their perspective on places like Scarborough, Blackpool and Bognor Regis forever altered.
Look away from the familiar bend in the road,
from the vista to the east at dawn
Take your belongings
Strike the memory from your heart
Strike the name from history
Strike the name and never look back
You can never come home
Never come home
Forget the way windows shone on winter afternoons
Forget the gnarled bark, the width of trees
Forget the number painted on your door;
peeling paint showing layers of what had gone before
Forget how stone held the heat of day until night
Forget catkins promising spring
Forget the colour of hills
For everything will drown
And you can never come home
Never come home
Catherine Baird, Never Come Home
This is the path I used to take when walking home from St Peter’s Infant’s School during the 1970’s. This photograph taken June 2017, and while that particular view of the high hedges flanking the path and the rooftops beyond could still be a scene from my childhood, almost everything else around it has changed. You can never go back, no matter how much you might want to, because it’s not a place or time you wish to return to but a way of feeling, and years of experience and disappointment and frustration has left you as removed from that feeling as the distant moons of Pluto.