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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Late of the Pier

Pure Groove Records, 12th August 2008

Written by Charles Drakeford

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Rolling through the beautiful countryside of Cambridge, advice this pulling over for directions every ten minutes (it’s location is secret after all) with guitars, cialis 40mg fancy dress, snacks and booze covering the laps of my back seated allies, our excitement was hard to contain as good old Bob Marley (there is no control over the drivers choice of tunes from the back seat) tingled our ears.

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The lake by day

After several picturesque wrong turns and about two hours constructing a mansion sized spangly new tent my organised friend had lost the instructions for, we were finally ready “to participate in anything and everything” as instructed by the Secret Garden handbook. Setting up camp on the Thursday, we kept our sensible hats on and opted to keep this the first night of four gentle. Strolling round the grounds we were bombarded by the beauty of the landscape sparkling before our eyes.

Awaking on Friday with a spring in our step, we were ready to indulge in the enticing surreal world. An afternoon stroll took us past Granny’s Gaff. Notorious for their whacky behaviour, these chaps are not to be messed with. Hosting The Granny Prix, my associates and I joined the crowd of onlookers as brave characters tackled the zestful fancy dressed elderly. Ramming their pesky stabilisers and poking with walking sticks as the competitors attempted to dodge to the finish line, we drifted onto the next spectacle having witnessed the lesson never judge a book by its cover.

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The Granny’s Gaff

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The Granny Prix

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On looking Pagoda from the bridge

Tucked away like a magpies treasure chest was the stage on water, Pagoda. Not only was this quite a spectacle but there were some rather top class sets from the likes of Firas and Sugarfoot Stomp, giving an excuse for a rave, even at lunchtime!! When the pace got too much and our dancing feet began to wilt, a dawdle to The Great Stage allowed some seated, cross legged entertainment with Absentee floating across the valley of mayhem.

Revived, a leisurely stroll along the banks led us to some very unstable modes of transport lining up. Having spotted these dodgy vehicles being created earlier, I did have an inkling they may be for a further purpose. My concern however lay in the fact that we were about to witnesses to what looked like a fatal event. Fair enough, grown men can look after themselves but when children began to line up alongside them, the sensible side (20%) of me echoed in my head “where the heck are their parents?” Constructed from reclaimed materials including wheel chairs, children’s toys and prams these bold nippers had created the most eclectic array of wheels. Sure, they looked like beautiful trash sculptures but that menacing slope looked like it may be the end of them, and their passengers!!

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The workshop of reclaimed wheels

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The starting line of the Down Hill Race

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The aftermath of the Mud Olympics

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A spot of hula hooping

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The zebras of Zebra World getting ready to run around their assault course

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Row your boat gently down the stream

After many spectacles we settled in the Fish Seeks Bicycle tent, who served up ska, swing, and disco with a dollop of dirty beats. Offering the likes of The Crafty Rascals to Dan Spinney this tent was certainly the space to remain for any retro kids. If that didn’t rock your boat (pardon the pun) then the Sparkly Nuts tent provided constant crazy vibes with electro and house, as long as you weren’t bothered by being surrounded by what seemed like a mass killing at a teddy bears picnic. Stuffed toys body parts ripped off, replaced with dolls torsos, eyes dangling out with arms and legs falling off were at every angle you glanced. Finishing at one o’clock in the morning, low and behold anyone who was getting sleepy. Night time at the garden is when all the sights become alive. The Playhouse by Joanna Rogers, which had seemed intriguing by day now took on a new character, glowing invitingly with lights wrapped around its bizarre cardboard construction. The perfect place for a cosy chat or time out to admire the views.

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The safe haven of inside the Playhouse

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An evening view on looking the lake from the Playhouse

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A gathering deep in the woods

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Beware of the high in the tree tops

Wrapped up in my sticky tent early on Saturday morning I had the strangest dream, that I was a godparent and it was my nephews christening. Abruptly awaking to my alarm, I realised this was not my imagination, it was true. I won’t bore you with the details. But I made it all the way to Bristol. That was not my final farewell to the garden mind, I just had to come back. Having missed the likes of Esser, Zero 7, Ratatat and the Infadels, there was no way I was gong to miss the finale.

Sunday, the day of rest. Exactly what was needed after my struggle of a journey back. Although excited to return to my associates for the last 24 hours of secret fun, I was keen to stroll around in a calm fashion, to take in what would be my last sights of the Secret Garden 2008. Scrap Shack had caught my eye many a time as I had passed by, and a quiet afternoon without my head punishing me for antics the night before seemed like the perfect chance to go and get creative.

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The Scrap Shack front desk

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Scrap Shacks contributors had made some delightful installations to entice the punters

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My allies for the weekend Helen and Verity getting stuck in

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The girls from Scrap Shack modelling some of the creations of the day

The idea for Scrap Shack was to invite the quirky festival types to get involved, selecting rubbish from cans to cartons and making any item they desired. Once finishing their masterpiece, the inventors either left their work of art behind and moved onto the next attraction or took it with them as fancy dress attire, a must have accessory or simply a memory of their talent in return for a small donation. Any pieces which were left behind would then be sold at the kiosk the following day. From rings made from pill packets to tin can hats, this clever collaborative group Passing Clouds were not only providing a wonderful event for all ages to join in and encouraging recycling but making a few coins here and there for the evenings booze.

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Some beer mugs ready for sale the following day

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Lykke Li the little groover

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Florence and the Machines belting ‘em out

That evening we settled in Where the Wild Things Are to see that adorable little Swede Lykke Li. With such a tone of innocence in her voice it’s a little surprising to hear of her tales of heartache. Yet, how can anyone go wrong with undertones of Bjork and Marissa Nadler? Not only can this girl dab hand with a megaphone on stage, she’s a bit of a mover as well. Following up her act later was Florence and The Machine, or perhaps with the way she can belt out those notes, Florence the machine. A top class vibrant and moving performance was had, with even the chaps of the audience down with her vibes.

From 10 ft tall birds nests and doodle dens, poetry to conspiracy theories; the garden catered for all tastes, ages, passions and levels of quirkiness. Music lovers, artists and party animals were all united and spoilt with persistent entertainment 24 hours a day. The Secret Garden Party of 2008; a modern day scene fit for Adam and Eve, a psychedelic garden of temptation and beauty must be visited atleast once in a lifetime.
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Waiting for friends on Tottenham Court Road the other week, help I was stunned by the power of Critical Mass. This was explained to me by my friend Gilly, healing before I truly understood what it was I was supposed to think, but nonetheless, I am hindsightfully awed.

Critical mass, before you ask, is a bicyclist city movement which started in San Francisco 1992 when those crazy freewheelers rode on mass in possibly the stupidest city to cycle in (how many hills do they need, not to mention fault lines as a sign of solidarity and support for their cycling brethren). There are now around 350 cities in the world where cyclists, on mass, take to the streets for a massive communal cycle on the last Friday of every month. Occasional acts of violence (largely car-pollutering-smog-inducing started) have raised questions as to the value, safety and legality of the events (by the police and those in charge), but generally they have been taken to the hearts of city dwellers worldwide.

So forget your tubes, your buses and your evil evil evil evil cars (did I emphasise that enough), and, in the words of Queen, “Bicycle! Bicycle! Bicycle! Bicycle!”

As a non-cycler myself, you may ask how dare I insight such positive action. Namely, because my own taking to a bike would result in instant death, certainly of myself, and perhaps innocent bystanders (if there are any innocent ones left). Still, I can attest to the marvellous benefits of the cycle:

I still think about the boy who got away (his fault, not mine) who had a shiny bike with honky horn, along with funky socks – God bless him! If my Wizard of Oz knowledge is correct – which it invariably is – riding a bicycle (whilst also causing bouts of dog-knapping) makes you ten times more likely to be a broomstick wielding witch…which I think we’d all enjoy. I want to tell my kid he/she has a new mega cool bike for Christmas, only to bring out, not the latest BMX, chopper or iPod fuelled thingammy, but a fantabulous Penny Farthing (©1870).

Check out CityCycling, they actually have a cycling jackanory – how quaint!
On first glance Twombly‘s pieces could be mistaken as canvases an unruly child has scrawled all over. However, side effects it is this freedom from structure that made the artist who emerged after Abstract Expressionism, order a major mover and shaker in the art world. Even in today’s climate where it seems every boundary in art has been crossed; he still appears fresh and exciting. I checked out his eagerly anticipated ‘Cycles and Seasons‘ to see whether the hype was justified.

The first room presented grayish pieces and early sculptures created from discarded objects such as wooden scraps, health bandages and rusty nails. His stay in Rome from 1957 influenced his work where blanched light dominates the canvas. Spending his time on the island of Procida where his studio perched high on the cliffs overlooked the sea, Twombly commented, ‘The Mediterranean…is always just white, white, white’.

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However the ‘symbolic whiteness’ that inspired him soon subsides in pieces such as ‘Murder of Passion’ where bursts of colour dominate. Scribbles of pencil that describe pubic hair, breasts that merge to form buttocks, smearing; all marks his anxiety and violence in highly erotically charged works.

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The elements of automated response found in Surrealism is utilized in room six where repeated graphic structures such as boxes are repeated. An abrupt change of course in the 60s to Minimalist influences with hard edges and clean lines, makes his works almost unrecognizable.

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Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches and writings on deluges, cataclysms and floods fascinated Twombly. This is seen is his beautiful pieces made from calligraphic lines hinting at failed articulation that is both sad and alludes to frustration. The convulsive surface of water and subtle blues, pinks and yellows made from obsessive marks merge into hypnotic waves of weary dissatisfaction.

I have always been struck by Twombly’s ‘Four Seasons’ where doomed desire, love, loss and time feature. The seasons are both fervently painted with hints of fragile scrawls as if he is grappling at meaning, clutching at a feeling without trying to posses it. Emotional, elegiac, romantic with a dash of dark obsessive compulsive undertones that indicate frustration is evident. Your eyes butterfly across different sections and get utterly lost in the splatters, words, dribbles, dashes and the rainstorm of colour. Phrases such as ‘fovever touching it melts and faints’ remind you that trying to compartmentalize his work is impossible. As soon as you think you’ve worked out a piece a phrase like ‘Ah it goes, it is lost in white horizons’ pops up reminding you his work is as allusive and transitory as the sun setting.

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The last room with vicious attacks or red paint rendered in repeated swirls immediately shocks your senses. Inspired by Bacchus the god of wine, whose rites were celebrated with orgies and animals being torn to pieces signals man’s inner need to attack, savage and repeat the process.

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His works taste of loss, passion, evasion of time, frustration and violence. These are all emotions that aren’t containable as they bleed into one another forming a complex web that cannot be untangled by analysis. The feelings and processes he creates are universal and in some ways repeatable but never predictable. To continually question and inquire but never grasping the answer is frustrating and confusing but this is what life is all about; and that is what ‘Cycles and Seasons’ seeks to illustrate.

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It’s night and the crickets are out. The valley’s humid with ancient air and a mosquito is sucking the above-proof blood out of somebody’s arm. That arm is attached to a hand, visit this site and the hand hits the half-broken red switch – “rec start”. The tapes are rolling. Andy LeMaster, malady some gringo record producer, troche looks up and says, “Whenever you’re ready.” That’s how “Valle Mistico (Ruben’s Song)” begins, seconds before a conch player (Ruben?) blows long, exhilarating notes into the pitch black around them. Or, at least, that’s my best guess. Maybe it was in the middle of the day.

Conor Oberst‘s first solo album in 13 years is the Music From Big Pink for the post-emo generation. It’s certainly his most accomplished collection of songs since 2002′s Lifted, or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, which, predictably, was as inspired and as infuriating as its 14-word title. This time, there is no title. Oberst has, for now, even rid himself of the Bright Eyes band name, preferring to have his press people dig up his teenage cassette albums as points of reference instead of his more recent, high-profile successes. Holing up in a mountain villa in the middle of the Mexican wilderness, Oberst happily frees himself from the baggage of the New Dylan tag, and, perhaps, from regular collaborator Mike Mogis‘s increasingly oppressive production style.

It’s a case of one step backward, two steps forward. The distracting tape-sampling that plagues most Bright Eyes albums is kept to a strict minimum, as is the over-compressed bigness of, say, Cassadaga’s “Hot Knives”. In their place is a relaxed ambience that brings to mind Will Oldham‘s lo-fi Palace doodles or Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes. The informal intimacy of 1997′s scratchy A Collection of Songs… hums in every semi-stoned attack on the guitar strings, and in every tremulous vocal.

Lyrically, Oberst is on top form. Opener “Cape Canaveral” comes to life as the singer watches a “face age backwards, changing shape in my memory”. The Uncle Tupelo-esque stomper “Danny Callahan” flits between casual insight (“Some wander the wilderness / Some drink Cosmopolitans”) to the unflinching story of a boy with cancer. “He lay still / His mother kissed him goodbye / Said come back,” he sings, with a simplicity that is all the more powerful for its uncharacteristic restraint.

The flipside is that no Conor Oberst album, however great, is complete without its moments of failure. Slow songs like “Eagle on a Pole” sag when burdened by their unnecessary portentousness. The Elliott Smith-inspired “Lenders in the Temple” crumbles under the weight of lines like: “So watch your back, the Ides of March / Cut your hair like Joan of Arc”. Its loaded references – to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, to a dead French saint – overwhelm the song with a gravity it simply doesn’t have. Meanwhile, even classics like “Cape Canaveral” are occasionally blighted by the kind of lyrical obfuscation that Dylan outgrew with his first beard: “…the waterfall was pouring crazy symbols of my destiny”.

But these hitches are easy to forgive when the music itself is so inviting. “Get Well Cards” boasts a Bowie chorus in a Skynyrd swirl of polished guitar strings, while “I Don’t Want To Die (in the Hospital)” is the gene-spliced offspring of M. Ward and the Replacements. Despite its often serious themes, Oberst’s self-titled album somehow manages to be an optimistic, shimmering treat. Its attitude can be summed up in the Neil Young-infused refrain at the heart of “Moab”: “There’s nothing that the road cannot heal”.

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I think the most exciting part of being in this industry is when you get the chance to attend a great fashion show. There’s nothing that boosts your ego more than the prospect of mixing with other creative’s in a swanky location while you catch an exclusive sneak preview of a new collection. With these thoughts in mind, try Michelle and I jumped at the chance of attending the Jacob Kimmie Spring/Summer 2009 pre collection show, nurse which promised drinks, generic canapés and a 15-minute catwalk show. What else can you ask for?

As we arrived at the West End location we were pleased to see everything was as we had expected. A warm greeting from an attractive fashion pr was followed by a welcoming glass of Pimms. Tonnes of chic visitors were stood chatting around, what I believe to be, the most inviting table of hors d’oeuvre’s that I’ve ever witnessed.

The actual catwalk show lasted about 15 minutes. I sat back and enjoyed, feeling 100% in my element, while, Michelle, clearly in hers, gave the hired photographer a run for his money as she snapped away with her Canon Digital SLR, right next to him.

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The two words that I would use to describe Jacob Kimmie’s Spring/Summer collection is ‘feminine’ and ‘mature’. His range of elegant clothing includes pleated pencil skirts, tailored coats and jackets and cheer blouses and dresses that I imagine to be ideal for independent, career focussed women in their early thirties. They take you back to an earlier generation when women didn’t wear trousers and sat around looking gracious and polished. As a person who still sees the beauty in a throwing on a pair of skinny jeans with an oversized shirt, I feel the collection is a little too grown up and refined for my own personal taste, but that’s not saying the clothing isn’t nice. Something to look out for are his gorgeous black and white floral prints, which have been used to create a combination of light chiffon blouses and contemporary ruffled dresses.

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After the show Michelle and I sat around for what seemed like hours, just shooting the breeze, as the saying goes. The evening ended with the pr’s switching off the lights in a bid to get us out. I blame the cananpes – I couldn’t get enough, they just tasted so good!

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Just in case you mistake him for a Peeping Tom, that’s the designer in the background

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Check out the guy in the background

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Photography courtesy of Michelle Heimerman
Having received an email by Russell Herron who introduced his new exhibition ‘Irregular pulse’ by telling me I could get a free ‘russell herron’ mug, site I instantly thought, ‘ooo free’ . Unfortunately I wasn’t quick off the mark so missed out on the mug, but the exhibition sounded fun with an assortment of contemporary artists, so team Amelia headed over for the press exhibit.

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us sharing a joke or two

The use of Claes Oldeburg‘s quote on art ‘I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself’ sets the premise for the show. With an eclectic array of artists exploring different media and subject matters, this was sure to be an evening full of fruity, eye catching art. There were even red balloons packing the gallery space. Take a peek at what was in store for us:

Sarah Doyle‘s cutesy art work set with a slightly dark undertone such as ‘if you’re looking for someone to hate-then hate on me’ attracts and unnerves at the same time. Her work reminded us of Stella Vine‘s work especially with the writing on the side of aesthetically pleasing yet unsettling figures.

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Bedwyr Williams‘s simple and colourful posters consisted of portraits. Being a stand up comedian, photographer and an artist he certainly is a jack of all trades.

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James R Ford‘s photos of his cat’s toys shows a child like naivity and sense of play. He is often concerned with childhood, pursuits and obsessions.

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Russel Herron‘s wall splayed in bold with his name is used as a tool to advertise his online blog, email listing service, paintings and performances. His work frequently uses his own name as an intervention in an ever growing series of signs and free collectables. He is also part of the band The Russellettes.

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Stewart Gough‘s sculptures assembles everyday plastic objects implying a new mode of transport. His work is described as ‘positive ironic scupture’.

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Ayling & Conroy‘s bicycle piece plays on audience engagement whereby part of the power of the piece is disseminating the work through discussion and debate. This was one of my favourite pieces as it appeared as a frozen dramatic scene that urged you to wonder what had gone on before the crash. With a script that stood alongside the piece, this heightened the drama without explicitly telling you exactly what happened. It gave you a jigsaw piece of insight into a fragmented and confused scene.

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With balloons plaguing us and getting tangled in our hair we thought it was time to make our exit. ‘Irregular Pulse’ is the type of art that pervades the east end. None the less, tongue in cheek art is fun and you always sense that making this sort of art would be a ball.

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Photo: Gabriel Green

Impromptu songs are always a treat, there and Late of the Pier were kind enough to play three different version of ‘Torch Song’ right at the beginning of their set. The song consisted of 3 seconds of noisy bass outbursts, approved and it was in honor of the gigs lighting system. The shop’s lights had been turned off and small torches had been handed out to the crowd, making the whole gig feel like a sleepover in a tree house where ghost stories were told.

There is so little about this band I dislike that it makes writing about them a bit of a yawn fest. Not that I’m a negative kind of guy who thrives on disappointment or anything. It’s just a bit boring to read. Ever since I heard their zarcorp demo I was delighted by every expenditure of their talents, consistently wowed by their live performances and never bored by repetitive listening. See, told you it would be dull.

What was even more annoying was how they didn’t treat such a small gig as throwaway, putting on a performance that would be less than thrilling. Instead they seemed almost as excited as the most hardened of fans in the tiny crowd – and the tiny crowd were all pretty excited. About as writhing as it’s possible to get at 7pm on a Tuesday, the mass were even willing enough to support lead singer Samuel Eastgate’s crowd surfing adventures.

By the end of the gig I had realised that the whole thing just doesn’t add up. They can fill a set with great songs easier than some bands that have been around for 10 years or more, often with twice the originality and half the ego. It’s probably for the best that i just avoid the solving of this conundrum; I think it might ruin my listening.

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