Monday, 31 March 2014

I'm not sure where my collage is going, it's developing so many layers...perhaps it will end up as a thought provoking tea-towel or a mind-map for absurdist writers.

I think the colour-scheme in this hexagon was subconsciously influenced by David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. I watched it the other day, wishing I had a sketchbook with me to make notes. The cinematography is so elegant; nearly every frame fits naturally into the golden ratio without feeling contrived.

I've been reading the recent biography of J. D. Salinger and it's like unpicking a load of bad stitches to reach the fragment of actual material buried within. If it wasn't a precious library book I'd be tempted to tip-ex out all of the opinions. That would probably amount to 500 blank pages. Sometimes the treasure-hunt is what keeps you going though. The factual parts are worth it once you get closer to them - especially his war years, carrying with him the first 6 pages of Catcher in the Rye during the D-Day landings, meeting Hemingway in the Ritz after the liberation of Paris, being among the first soldiers to liberate a concentration camp.

I think its the same thing I love about his story "Seymour: An Introduction" many critics hate it for its rambling and the ineffectual way in which Buddy tries to describe his dead brother. But to me that's the beauty of it. It's always impossible to describe someone who means the world to you. One of my old art tutors once told me he was haunted by not being able to picture his father's face after he died. But things like that tell you how precious that person was, how close they were, how familiar.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

more collage close-ups

“I speak in a poem of the ancient food of heroes: humiliation, unhappiness, discord. Those things are given to us to transform, so that we may make from the miserable circumstances of our lives things that are eternal, or aspire to be so.”  - Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, 14 March 2014

A watercolour portrait of Dan, painted this morning in a café. A gentle modest sweetheart of many hidden talents. Brewing beer, making bread, growing tomatoes, a storyteller and poet, and the very best at cuddling. When we go for walks, he keeps in his pocket a book of edible plants, and we've made nettle soups, rosehip teas and blackberry crumbles.

(Dan says this is all lies. "I have a book and a pocket, and that is the only bit which is true.")

One of Dan's recent collages, based on the Tamara de Lempika painting Saint Moritz

Thursday, 13 March 2014

“It only takes two facing mirrors to build a labyrinth.” - Borges

“I arrive now at the ineffable core of my story. And here begins my despair as a writer. All language is a set of symbols whose use among its speakers assumes a shared past. How, then, can I translate into words the limitless Aleph, which my floundering mind can scarcely encompass? Mystics, faced with the same problem, fall back on symbols: to signify the godhead, one Persian speaks of a bird that somehow is all birds; Alanus de Insulis, of a sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere; Ezekiel, of a four-faced angel who at one and the same time moves east and west, north and south. (Not in vain do I recall these inconceivable analogies; they bear some relation to the Aleph.) Perhaps the gods might grant me a similar metaphor, but then this account would become contaminated by literature, by fiction. Really, what I want to do is impossible, for any listing of an endless series is doomed to be infinitesimal. In that single gigantic instant I saw millions of acts both delightful and awful; not one of them occupied the same point in space, without overlapping or transparency. What my eyes beheld was simultaneous, but what I shall now write down will be successive, because language is successive. Nonetheless, I'll try to recollect what I can.” 
― Jorge Luis Borges


There's a rather nice link here to audio of Borges 1967/8 Norton lectures on poetry.

UBUWEB: These are the six Norton Lectures that Jorge Luis Borges delivered at Harvard University in the fall of 1967 and spring of 1968. The recordings, only lately discovered in the Harvard University Archives, uniquely capture the cadences, candor, wit, and remarkable erudition of one of the most extraordinary and enduring literary voices of our age. Through a twist of fate that the author of Labyrinths himself would have relished, the lost lectures return to us now in Borges' own voice.

Born in 1899, Borges was by this time almost completely blind (only a single color-- yellow, "the color of the tiger" -- remained for him), and thus addressed his audience without the aid of written notes. Probably the best-read citizen of the globe in his day, he draws on a wealth of examples from literature in modern and medieval English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese, speaking with characteristic eloquence on Plato, the Norse kenningar, Byron, Poe, Chesterton, Joyce, and Frost, as well as on translations of Homer, the Bible, and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Though his avowed topic is poetry, Borges explores subjects ranging from prose forms (especially the novel), literary history, and translation theory, to philosophical aspects of literature in particular and communication in general. Throughout, Borges tells the very personal story of his lifelong love affair with the English language and its literature, ancient and modern. In each lecture, he gives us marvelous insights into his literary sensibility, tastes, preoccupations, and beliefs. 

Whether discussing metaphor, epic poetry, the origins of verse, poetic meaning, or his own "poetic creed," Borges gives a performance as entertaining as it is intellectually engaging. A lesson in the love of literature and language, this is a sustained personal encounter with a literary voice for whom the twentieth century will be long remembered. 

Friday, 7 March 2014

Imaginary Beings from Society6

This Sunday (March 9th 2014) you can save $5 and get free postage worldwide on all items in my Society6 shop using this promo code:

That means my mugs are just £6 (approx).

Thursday, 6 March 2014

"mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of men."

A couple of close-ups of the collage I'm working on at the moment, using open source material from the British Library:

British Library: We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.

The Library of Babel

I had the idea for the hexagon maze as a way of depicting solopsism (the idea that only ones own mind is sure to exist and everything else is a creation of the mind) - I sketched an image of a man in a hexagonal room with each wall as a mirror reflecting endless crowds of other people. 

In "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", Borges also imagines a land with a language which lacks nouns, where things are only understood in their relationship to other things, and events are only recognised as part of a sequence. Lost objects are duplicated with gradually lessening precision, archaeological finds can be brought about by hope or suggestion, tiny items can have the mass of giants, while towers of blood and transparent tigers are hardly worth mentioning. So I experimented with illustrating these ideas across a maze, almost like the panels of a comic. 

It was only more recently, when I was developing the hexagon mazes into collages, that I happened to start reading Borges' The Library of Babel...which to my surprise was set in a huge labyrinth of hexagons. 

(In short, I began illustrating one Borges story and ended up illustrating another I'd not yet read.)