Monday, September 19, 2016

Oh, Make It Magnificent

What a week!
Quite apart from the preparations for the new students starting next week (and the previous ones returning, of course), I've spent a lot of time in the workshops - on Tuesday evening as much to avoid violent thunderstorms as anything else - making up work for the Made In The Middle show, work which shows a completely new way of working for me, eschewing applied - illustrative - narrative for a more 'improvised' narrative of material, being braver about allowing the material to do the work. On the selling pieces, this is perhaps not so obvious as they are very similar to the sale pieces I've made before:

Run Of The Mill - 48

Run Of The Mill - 47

The exhibition pieces are much more stripped-down than my usual exhibition work:

Run Of The Mill - 36

Run Of The Mill - 38

Run Of The Mill - 44

In some ways, the key to this is the ring that I always wear made from a corroded nut:

Nuts For Rings!

I made this in 2011 and have worn it ever since. Whenever anyone I meet asks about my work, I show them this as the absolute essence of what I do and I think that the new works for the "Made in the Middle" show are much more 'essential' than anything I've exhibited before. Of course, I have made a host of nut rings for the show too:

Run Of The Mill - 56

Wednesday night saw an astonishing event at Coventry Cathedral, of which I wrote a previous entry here. Mogwai performing their soundtrack to a film by Coventry-born Mark Cousins, "Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise". Mogwai have the power to write film-saving soundtracks and while their soundtracks for the interminably dull "Zidane" and the excruciatingly banal "The Fountain" are the sole saving features of these films, "Atomic" is a film which comes up to the same remarkable standard of intellect and emotion as their music.

Atomic  - 2

Before the performance, in the bombed-out ruins of the original cathedral, there were gigs by local bands and a showing of Cousins' "I Am Belfast", a film of great charm, painting a picture of the human side of a city which is all-to-often stereotyped as a bitter, sectarian ghetto. The soundtrack to this film was by David Holmes, one of my favourite composers of electronic music.

Atomic  - 3

The support bands were particularly well-chosen in view of the main show - though I didn't get their names - I especially enjoyed the first band to perform who sounded rather as early U2 would have sounded if they had found a better singer than Paul David Hewson.

(What is the difference between God and Bono? God doesn't walk about in sunglasses pretending to be Bono.)

After this we all trooped into the Cathedral for the main event. Coventry Cathedral has set itself up as a centre for "reconciliation" and peace and, as such, it is perfect that "Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise" was shown in a setting so innately rooted in the anti-war and anti-nuclear movements, born in the same era as the new Cathedral and there was something very pleasing, symmetrical, about knowing that I was sitting in the same place for which Britten's "War Requiem" was written and performed at the consecration - from the outset, Coventry Cathedral has taken a leftist, pacifist stance.

Atomic  - 6

Atomic  - 8

Mogwai, of course, are loud. Very, very loud and the visceral nature of the sound perfectly matched the visceral nature of the film, which is constructed from "found footage", including the legendary BBC film, "The War Game".

I remember seeing The War Game when I was about 16. It was screened in Hamilton Town Hall as a part of a progressive leftist response to the start of the new cold-war era of Reagan and Thatcher. The film had, at that point, never been screened on television, having been suppressed by government after government and I left that screening with what I now understand to be nuclear angst. This performance of "Atomic" feeling somewhat the same way.

Atomic  - 9

Atomic  - 10

Mogwai were fantastic. The film is quite brilliant and deserves to be shown widely. Coventry Cathedral is to be applauded and encouraged for engaging with something so deeply political - this in the same week that the British government signed an outrageously expensive contract with China to build an unwanted nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Gentler things...

Honey Bees

It was time for the Bearwood Food Festival again this weekend, held in the local Baptist Church, and very good it was too with everything from vegan cakes to organic vegetables and a rather magnificent stall from the local allotment holders, which made me envious:

Bearwood Allotments

After this, Dingo and I took advantage of the very last of the summer weather and headed off to Somerset for a bit of time in the country, ending up in Portishead (alarmingly close to Hinkley Point).

Portishead Sunset

Home-made sourdough pizzas for tea, my own home-grown basil, organic tomatoes from the food festival: a perfect weekend!

Ocimum basilicum var. "Opal"

Relaxing before the students return and it all kicks off at work again.