Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The New Eros


An image of 'The New Eros', a piece I showed recently in a group show in London.

The show, 'We Could Not Agree', was in the Q-Park multi storey car park beneath Cavendish Square in London.

The piece was inspired by my having re-read two of J G Ballard's novels, The Atrocity Exhibition and Crash.

Ballard was obsessed with multi storeys. For him they were fetishised places. In The Atrocity Exhibition he writes of 'the mysterious eroticism of the multi storey'. In Crash the anti hero Vaughan is in a multi storey 'his eyes following the canted floors, as if trying to recognise everything that had passed between himself and the dark haired girl'.  In both Crash and The Atrocity Exhibition multi storeys and sex are inextricably linked.

My piece suggested itself within moments of my visiting the Q-Park. Opposite my studio is a tyre warehouse. Piles of tyres on the forecourt are each marked in chalk with the tyre's size and specification. I showed these tyres with, instead of the specifications, the chalked in names and phone numbers of hookers advertising their services. Fictitious names of course!

Writing about Ballard, the novelist Zadie Smith observes 'In Crash the distinction between humans and things has become too small to be meaningful', and these fetishised tyres, worn out, discarded, seemed to me an appropriate metaphor for the joyless car park sex that Ballard describes. 

'The New Eros' is a paragraph heading in The Atrocity Exhibition. In the novel multi storeys are mentioned on average every five pages.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Dylan Thomas centenary neon on Kardomah Cafe in Swansea

I've been so busy of late I haven't had time to write about my Dylan Thomas neon installation which went up on the Kardomah Cafe in Park Street, Swansea on October 19th, a week before the centenary of Dylan's birth.

The installation, which is Locws International's final commission for 2014 as part of the Dylan Thomas centenary, is an upper-case neon text, in white, which reads: 'Michelangelo, ping-pong, ambition, Sibelius, and girls...'

As many will know, the line is taken from Dylan's radio broadcast Return Journey. In the broadcast Dylan returns to Swansea in search of his former self growing up in the town. We find him at one stage in the Kardomah Cafe with his friends, putting the world to rights. They talk about 'music and poetry and painting and politics'. They talk about 'communism, symbolism, Bradman, Braque'. And they talk about 'Michelangelo, ping-pong, ambition, Sibelius, and girls...'.

This last line is the best. It is Dylan at his most exuberant,and I thought it would be a nice touch to run it along the Park Street facade of the Kardomah. Thus, in Dylan's centenary year, Return Journey returns to one of the places that inspired it. I knew the site of the Kardomah had chanaged since Dylan's day, but the important things surely was that the name remained - Kardomah, my 'Home Sweet Homah' as Dylan put it in a letter to his friend Charles Fisher.

As I mentioned in a previous blog about another of my neon installations, you need a lot of support and expertise on a job like this, and it was amply forthcoming in Swansea. To Gordon Dalton at Locws lnternational, to Marcus and Juliet Luporini who own the Kardomah, to Nick Malyon of NeonNeon who made the text, to John Ski who installed it, to Kevin and Tony of KC Electrical (Wales) Ltd who prepared the electrics, and to Jeff Towns of Dylan's Bookstore who provided general advice, a very big thanks indeed.   

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Ignite Night Walthamstow

On June 3rd at 7pm at Walthamstow Library, there will be an 'Ignite Night', part of the E17 Art Trail, in which 12 speakers will talk for 5 minutes about things they love.  Coordinated by Street Gallery, the event is a response to my neon installation I'M IN LOVE WITH THE MODERN WORLD.

For further details on Ignite Night, please visit:

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Thank yous

A number of people have asked me who made my neon piece 'I'M IN LOVE WITH THE MODERN WORLD'.  It was NeonNeon of Farnham, Surrey 
( NeonNeon is run by Nick Malyon. Nick has worked with, among others, Mona Hatoum, Cerith Wyn Evans and Tracey Emin, and did a superb job on my piece. Thanks too to the technician Stuart Harte, who positioned it inch perfect on the 99p Stores pediment (working on a very wobbly monkey tower, with much wisecracking from pavement level).

One of the things you learn when involved with any public installation is that a lot of expertise, help and favours need to be called in. So there are plenty of people I want to thank. One of them is James Brooks, who alerted me to the Street Gallery project which is responsible for the programme of art interventions in Cleveland Park Avenue. Another is the photographer Charlie Milligan. The week the installation was switched on Charlie was particularly busy. Even so he crossed London on a very cold evening , at very short notice, and took endless trouble over the photographs.

Again, Ashley McCormick, curator of the Street Gallery project, has put in far more time than she was required to, both before and during the installation, coming up with any number of helpful and creative suggestions. Sam Neal, programme manager, physical regeneration, with the London Borough of Waltham Forest, has been a consistently positive presence - and thanks of course to 99p Stores who have made their building available for all the Street Gallery projects.

There are many others - and they all contributed to making the project great fun - and doable! 

Saturday, 1 March 2014


January 14th saw the installation of my neon text piece 'I'M IN LOVE WITH THE MODERN WORLD' on the pediment of the 99p Stores in Cleveland Park Avenue, Walthamstow, London E17.

It's the latest installation for Street Gallery, the Waltham Forest Council's funded programme of art interventions.
The illuminated artwork, which is 26 ft long, takes a line from 'Modern World', a song by the American singer/songwriter Jonathan Richman, a song described by the Guardian journalist Laura Barton as 'one of the most magical in existence, a pean to the modern world, to the urban landscape'. I agree.

In another of his songs, 'Roadrunner', Richman sings 'Gonna drive past the Stop 'n' Shop/With the radio on/I'm in love with Ma**achusetts/And the neon when it's cold outside/And the highway when it's late at night/Got the radio on'. Richman's urban, everyday world of highways and bright lights and shopping malls is a world I respond to very powerfully, and neon was the obvious medium for my piece. Then Cleveland Park Avenue site in Walthamstow was perfect too.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Small is Beautiful XXXI

Just a reminder that Small is Beautiful XXX1 at Flowers Kingsland Road has only four more days to run. The show, in which I am showing a book drawing, has been a great success. Visit the show before it closes.