Monday, 30 December 2013

40 the collier & the foss

december 2013
152mm x 190mm
sewn booklet with painted wrappers
8 pages

This tale has been concocted out of His Grandfather's Bible; A Tale of Furness Fells, a novel written by C. Wareing Bardsley, M.A., Vicar of Ulverston and excerpted in the 1885 edition of Home Words for Heart and Hearth (see also Colva Books 30: Henry Jekyll's Partial Statement of the Case, below), the version on which this current treatment is based. The words are exactly the same as those used in the original; all that has been changed is their order, so what was a pious story of redemption for a prodigal son is now something in the line of a tale of pagan sacrifice and the enduring natural force of life. The vicar would surely not have wanted it so, but his main character, the charcoal burner 'Old Antony', was so vigorously drawn - he was, we are told 'a man who never grows old' and whose face 'had dyes such as were worn by Druid priests in the days of the consecrated mistletoe and the hallowed oak' - that the theme of sacrifice and continuation was to be found not too far beneath the surface. The care that Bardsley took to preserve his characters' robust Lancashire dialect is also apparent; his words have been preserved exactly as originally penned, likewise his idiosyncratic punctuation.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

writers on cylinders - robert walser

The third in the phonograph series pays homage to the Swiss writer Robert Walser, whose exquisitely tortuous playfulness in prose is unmatched. For all of the loneliness and doubt behind his words, their presiding characteristic is good humour and one rarely leaves it not feeling at least a little uplifted. Rambling is a consistent theme in Walser's writing (I've given him a song title of 'How splendid to wander in the bright summer air!' - 'vocal; unaccompanied' of course). His sentences also resemble the act: characteristically they find him striding out, stumbling a little perhaps but then finding something fascinating by the wayside to take his attention; mixing extraordinary expostulation with simple-hearted delight and tremulous uncertainty, he doubles back, heads forward again, turns round and admires the view, exclaims 'how delightful all this is!' - and then ends with a question mark that puts the whole into doubt. There is no-one quite like him. There's a quote of his on the bottom of the phonograph: 'We don't need to see anything out of the ordinary. We already see so much.'

Thursday, 5 September 2013

fireweed silks drift...

I have a number of books on display at The Foundry Studio and Gallery in Bewdley, as part of their book week, from 14th-22nd September, 11am-4pm. I also done some readings which will be available at a listening post (ie: a pair of headphones and maybe even a seat) there. One of the poems is fireweed silks drift... I would have loved to post a reading of it here but unfortunately blogger requires a tortuous workaround to host it. Anyway, pop in to Bewdley if you are in the vicinity, it's there along with some close companions. In the meantime, here's a photograph of some fireweed in the garden, taken yesterday. I used to expend a lot of energy cutting fireweed (or rosebay willow-herb if you prefer) down. Now (and this is not entirely unconnected with the fact that its a good pollen plant for my bees, blue pollen too - take a look), I leave it and love to watch its silks rising and drifting through the air...

fables : 8

And here is another from the series, Fables 8 : Modern Times though, as explained below, you wouldn't know it from the cover. The rather lovely pea green wrappers are made from Ruscombe Mill's Forest Green Wove 180gsm paper.

fables : 6

I have printed up a number of stories, written between 2006 and the present day and linked through their method of composition, as a series of 'fables'. Here is number 6, The Walk. As usual, my ambivalence to titles is plain as the words don't actually appear on the cover, which instead spreads the load between the series, an image - taken, as all the rest in the run, from Wills's 1923 set of Gardening Hints - and the first line of the tale.

writers on cylinders

The first two in a series of homages to various writers, as encapsulated by altered phonograph cylinder packaging. The two writers featured are Algernon Blackwood and Hans Henny Jahhn. Blackwood is a rather overlooked writer these days, whose real subject - despite numerous lurid book jackets trying to persuade us otherwise - is wonder; dreadful wonder at times maybe, but wonder nevertheless, most often of that magical childlike quality that makes the unlikeliest of connections between things which adults seek to reason away. But the children know best. The Blackwood cylinder uses elements of his books The Education of Uncle Paul (1909), The Human Chord (1910) and The Promise of Air (1918). The second cylinder case features the German expressionist writer and organ maker Hans Henny Jahhn, and in particular makes use of his fantastical story, The Night of Lead, published in 1962.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Volume 14: Libido to Mary, Duchess of Burgundy

After all attempts by their original owner to find them a new home failed, the Sidney Nolan Trust was given a set of 1950s Encyclopædia Britannica so that they could turn them into new artworks, all of which can currently be seen (until 6 May 2013) in The Old Foundry Studio & Gallery at Bewdley Museum. I found my way to Volume 14 of the set: Libido to Mary, Duchess of Burgundy. Reading through it I felt smothered by the accumulated dust of knowledge and did a few approximate word counts. They were surprising. Topping the list in the volume were 43,000 words on Logic and Logical Positivism and 38,000 words on Libraries. The entry on Man only merited 16,000 words, while Life Insurance had 8,000 and Lycanthropy over 2,000. Even Lumbago had 175 words. And Love? Not a single word. Not even an entry. I eviscerated the volume and put a few mementos and part of a letter written by a person who can continue what they are doing through the love of another. I found the following definition of ‘Encyclopædia’, from The Encyclopædia Da Costa, helpful: ‘Encyclopædias trouble themselves a great deal about words fallen into disuse, never about words still unknown, burning to be uttered.’

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Offbeat: British Cinema's Curiosities, Obscurities and Forgotten Gems

A post to mark the publication of Julian Upton's Offbeat: British Cinema's Curiosities, Obscurities and Forgotten Gems, which was initially available in a limited edition no-ISBN hardback from Headpress, and is now out in widely available paperback. For anyone interested in the backwaters and byways of British cinema it's highly recommended, not least for Julian's pithily precise and often extremely funny writing. I penned a few extended reviews for it a while ago now - on the films X the Unknown (Leslie Norman, 1956), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (Val Guest, 1961), The Earth Dies Screaming (Terence Fisher, 1964), Herostratus (Don Levy, 1967), Privilege (Peter Watkins, 1967) and No Blade of Grass (Cornel Wilde, 1970). Here's a still of Edward Chapman, William Lucas, Leo McKern and Dean Jagger in one of the films I write about, Hammer's X the Unknown.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

35 the thing is...

july 2012
128mm x 96mm
24 interleaved pages
hand-sewn in Saint-Armand rag paper wrapper

More often than not, what follows the words is anything but, which was the starting point for these twelve short poems (mainly about about the continual flux of weather and land, if anything could be less certain) which take the phrase as their preface. Their emphatic openings are then shaded and contradicted, their initial resolve dissipated. Then all twelve poems are recombined, providing new landscapes that are equally as rich and often as plausible. The booklet is sewn at both sides, the interleaved pages hinting at the possibilities of further recombination.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

32 bestiary

june 2012
132mm x 158mm
hand-sewn booklet or pouch with cards
14 pages

A collection of biographical excerpts inspired by a number of rusting tools found in my shed and a number of cleaned-up tools borrowed from Bernard's odds-and-ends shop in Kington. Subjects range far and wide, from Matsuo Bashō to Somerset Maugham, Hugo Ball to Sir Martin Frobisher and Jacques Tati to Niall MacGinnis (among others). Some of the writing might even be true, but hopefully not the bits you might expect. It comes in two forms: a flapped pouch of separate cards which shows the images of the tools to good effect but was, frankly, laborious to cut and fold, and, hence, also a simpler sewn booklet that features  smaller images printed on its wrapper.

Monday, 11 June 2012

34 'ours was an age of certainties...'

may 2012
85mm x 140mm
hand-sewn booklet with tree bark paper wrapper
10 pages
edition of 10

An anonymous, broken narrative from a displaced time (or vice versa), printed on the blank rear pages of illustrations from a discarded, foxed book, with the words pouched up into a clandestine form inspired by a 'housewife' pocket sewing kit. The wrapper is made from Amate tree bark paper. The book is one of 45 artist's books in a travelling book art exhibition, arranged as a collaboration between The Sidney Nolan Trust, The University of the West of England in Bristol and Warringah Studios in Sydney, Australia. For ease of transportation between venues, the maximum dimensions of the book could be no more than 14cm x 8.5cm. The first two stops on their tour are UWE from 2 July-31 August and then The Rodd (near Presteigne) between 7-16 September, as part of the h.Art exibition there.

Monday, 16 April 2012

colva's aeronautical centenary

100 years ago this coming weekend, in April 1912, four days after the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and three days after Harriet Quimby became the first woman to cross the English Channel by aeroplane, Denys Corbett Wilson - courtesy first of a buffeting wind that caused him to drop his compass overboard, necessitating a night's stay in Almeley, near Hereford, and second of taking advantage of this unscheduled stop to do some maintenance on his engine, filling it when he did so with the wrong grade of castor oil - found himself about half an hour into his flight from Almeley with a badly misfiring engine and in pressing need of a flat spot to make an emergency landing. Unfortunately, at that moment he was flying over the hills of Radnorshire where flat spots are a rarity, but nevertheless managed to touch down in a reasonably level field ('the only level bit of ground for miles, only 120 yards long and about 40 wide') in the remote hamlet of Colva, where the plane stayed for three days, awaiting Corbett Wilson's French engineer, Gaston Vial, to arrive and get it back into flying order. If Corbett Wilson had appeared in the Les aviateurs du monde series of postcards that were produced around this time, this - Corbett Wilson taking off from Colva just after dawn on the 21st, watched by the hundreds of onlookers who had come from far and wide before dawn to see this amazing sight - is what it might have looked like.