Sunday, 20 June 2021

Archi-Techno Excursion 001.3-exp: (Central Coventry, April 2021)


All Images: Digital Photo-Manipulation, June 2021

An evolving series of fairly rough-and-ready digital experiments - using source imagery collected on my spontaneous photo-derive around Coventry, a few weeks ago (as mentioned in recent posts).  In each case, Photoshop has been allowed to make at least as many decisions as I have myself (far more, in actuality).

Monday, 7 June 2021

The Labelled Land


All Images: West Leicester, May 2021

...Where geometry prevails (an underlining).

...Where the bowsers are aligned (to what ends?).

...Where the rampart abuts (vertical face adjoins inclined plane).


...Where travellers no longer alight ( the ghost-line remains).

...Where text and place intersect (location labelled)

...Where new meaning is applied (change of use)

...Where new edifices emerge (a conjuring of density)

...Where the skyline is re-engineered (the prospect/the overlook)

...Where occupancy expands into new cells (leveraging of space)

...Where a reversal might occur (what lies behind all this?)

...Where points of view are exchanged (transmit/receive)

...Where the fixings are revealed (the physicality of text)

...Where recession operates (against hospitality).

...Where perspective is gained (against the oblique).

...Where angles tighten (against the format).

This is the place.  

Is this the place?  

Is the place this?

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Archi-Techno Excursion 001.1 (Central Coventry, April 2021)


All Outdoor Images: Central Coventry, April 2021

It's normally the case that my art distills itself, in a fairly gradual manner, from some specific stimulus, out there in the physical world.  However abstracted, formalised or theme-laden things may become, the starting point is nearly always something recognised (and photographed) in the urban environment.  But, these images represent a kind of reverse-engineering of that process - relating to my recent, paper-based 'Techno Studies'.

'Techno Study 001', Mixed Media on Paper, 300 mm x 300 mm, 2021

'Techno Study 003', Mixed Media on Paper, 300 mm x 300 mm, 2021

As mentioned elsewhere, the primary trigger for those little improvisations was audio in nature - reflecting my relatively deep-dive into some of the more rigorous strands of Techno music, over  the last couple of months.  They continue to appear, largely intuitively, with no specific subject attached.  However, on reflection, there definitely appears to be an emergent architectonic quality to the imagery too.  Most of the studies do actually incorporate certain fragments of recycled, architectural imagery from unrelated printing ventures (nothing is ever wasted).  Therefore, whilst these have been primarily grabbed for formal reasons, a vestigial reference to the physical environment is probably inevitable.

Thinking about that, and also, in passing, about Owen Hatherley's books, 'Militant Modernism' [1.], and 'A Guide To The New Ruins Of Great Britain' [2.], I started to hanker after some immersion in slightly less familiar, hard-edged urban geometries than those I regularly encounter.  The most easily-achieved solution was to grab my camera and zoom up the M69 for an impromptu stroll around the glories of central Coventry, on a pleasingly clement Saturday afternoon in late April.

Hatherley, along with numerous other commentators (John Grindrod being an obvious candidate [3.]), often wax nostalgic about the rapidly disappearing Modernist environment of Britain's Post-War/Pre Thatcher years.  Indeed, Hatherley himself makes no attempt to disguise his own socio-political bias in mourning the lost opportunities of the period, and is often entertainingly scathing about the newer replacement buildings which increasingly dominate many British cities.

Whilst he may not dwell on Coventry specifically, it's impossible not to recognise that the city was, in many ways, an archetype of mid-century experimental redevelopment - having been heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe during World War II.  As in so many other places, the often neglected, or all-too-glibly despised buildings of the period are rapidly being demolished or remodelled (usually code for being painted or cheaply clad) - regardless of whether they fit the category of good, bad, or indifferent.  As ever, it seems the British prove themselves more than adept at chucking out the baby with the bathwater, culturally speaking.  It would certainly seem to be Hatherley's contention that what often replaces them is generally blander, more dispiritingly expedient, or quite simply -  philosophically/economically pernicious.

I can't pretend I don't share at least some of his prejudices - be they ideological or aesthetic.  I'm far more likely to be found savouring the bleak ambience of some dank multi-storey car park, or photographing the grubby interstices of a stubbornly lingering Brutalist 'masterpiece', as contemplating arcadian landscapes.  And my shelves hold just as many examples of more or less left-leaning literature and nominally Hauntological music as the next disillusioned 50-something, white male.  Every new pile of reinforced concrete rubble, and freshly cordoned-off 'development opportunity', skirted around in some Midlands city, can be all-too-easily read as yet another triumph of market Capitalism over yesterday's vague attempts at Social Democracy - I find.

And yet, I'm equally aware that nostalgia can also be a pretty self-defeating trap for the unwary  the ageing, or the politically bereft).  All that hankering after lost futures and failed Utopias can certainly be a pretty seductive alternative to actually engaging with the future (be it societal or personal) in any more constructive manner.  Melancholy or despondency can become pretty comfortable refuges.  Let's face it, a relish for some eroding facade or generally entropic locus, is an unmistakable trope in my own work - just as it is in that of many others.  And I occasionally wonder if we might not be enjoying all that dystopian collapse a bit more than is necessarily healthy.  Owen Hatherley might use the term 'Ruins' to disparage a paucity of Promethean vision or economic sustainability in contemporary architecture, but let's not pretend that the decay of many of the edifices he might champion doesn't often make for a thrillingly catastrophic spectacle all of its own.  We must also recognise (however reluctantly) that many folks may genuinely prefer the superficially shiny, homogenised and new, over some forbidding monument to rueful decline, where matters of architectural taste, or preferred lifestyle, are concerned. 

Any good (Post) Marxist will tell you Capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction.  However true (or desirable) that might seem - surely the ideologies of the Left also contain more than enough potentially fatal flaws of their own.  If, (as history surely demonstrates), it is the fate of all Revolutions to implode, or all Utopias to disappoint - must not a palpable and perpetual sense of loss not actually become the inevitable default?  Might a sense of 'failure' not become just as much of a delectable addiction, as all that hankering after unsupportable 'success' ? (I'm not sure anyone really believes in 'progress' any more - do they?)  Could it be that the futuristic thrill that once attached itself to Coventry's more daring Post-War buildings, during my family's occasional visits in my 1970s childhood, has been replaced by a different (if no less delusional) one - now that they await re-cladding or total erasure, like  the decaying relics of some recently-departed alien civilisation?

Ultimately, I'm not sure if my current run of modest little studies (or the relative spontaneity with which they have so far emerged) can really support the weight of so much cod-philosophising.  An unrelenting 4-4 beat and a few concrete facades can only get you so far - surely?  So perhaps it's much simpler to just focus on the aesthetics instead.  Whatever strands of thought may (or may not) have been spooling through my brain as I limped around Cov. - there can be no doubt that the images I harvested do reflect my perennial enthusiasm for formal geometry and compositional rigour in their own right.  And clearly, not everything glimpsed here is strictly 'of the period'.  The crisp new lineaments of a re-modelled tower block can supply just as many potentially imitable repeating grids as some crumbling old concrete fortress - it should be noted.  On the day, that (along with the Surgeon album I played loudly on the drive home [4]) was probably more than enough to be going on with.

[1.]:  Owen Hatherley, 'Militant Modernism', Ropely, Hants, Zero Books, 2008.

[2.]:  Owen Hatherley, 'A Guide To The New Ruins of Great Britain', London & New York, Verso, 2010

[3.]:  John Grindrod, 'Concretopia: A Journey Around The Rebuilding of Postwar Britain' London, Old Street Publishing, 2013.

[4.]:  Surgeon, 'Basictonalvocabulary', Tresor, 1997.  Re-released, as part of the box-set: Surgeon, 'Tresor 1997-99', Tresor, 2015. 

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Completed Studies: 'Techno 005 - 008'


'Techno Study 005', Mixed Media on Paper, 300 mm x 300 mm, April 2021

Here's a second batch of recently-completed, small-scale 'Techno Studies'.  There's not too much to say about them that wasn't covered last time.  They're still providing a bit of creative R & R - possibly because, as purely improvised responses to electronic music, they're largely  unburdened by much other thematic baggage.

I suspect there'll be a few more of these to come (at least until mere repetition replaces invention).  Beyond that, it's certainly not out of the question that  something in this vein might get worked up in a more substantial format.  But for now, I'm mostly content to just keep fiddling around like this, in the small parcels of time between other endeavours.

'Techno Study 006', Mixed Media on Paper, 300 mm x 300 mm, April 2021

'Techno Study 007', Mixed Media on Paper, 300 mm x 300 mm, May 2021

'Techno Study 008', Mixed Media on Paper, 300 mm x 300 mm, May 2021