Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Times and Measures - An Introduction

Life is a chaotic mess. Whatever I believe to be true, mine will be the only system of its kind, because everyone has different standards, priorities and aspirations. Two black boys with different ideals to mine showed me a knife and I gave them what they asked for. For me, there is a universe to explore, for them, perhaps only the dark warren of the ghetto in which to run and hide, not that I should judge them, nor they me.

I want only to think about art, that which is not necessarily painting or installation, but that which makes my solar plexus glow in praise of God, whichever form it takes. I want to see, hear and feel beautiful things when I close my eyes, and by means of some technique, manifest them. If there is such a thing as art, it is to be found within the concepts, processes and finished works of artists, those who explore their original ideas, thereby imparting such knowledge as is free of trivia, prompting those at the initial stage of new thinking to act further.

I do not know whether I can call myself an artist or not – must I be a painter, draughtsman, sculptor, performance artist, filmmaker or photographer, to qualify as an artist? Must I have attended Slade, St. Martin’s, RCA, Goldsmiths or Chelsea? In conceptual art, a work is judged as such because an artist conceived it. If I include myself as an artist, where would it stop? Could anyone become an artist? Could any project manager or entrepreneur, who devises a plan and follows a process to completion, win the Turner Prize?

Roger Hiorns displayed a four-cylinder, sixteen-valve car engine at Frieze, probably from a long-since scrapped mid-range family car such as a Ford Sierra from the late 1980s. The government are encouraging people to scrap their old cars and buy brand new at a discount. That sixteen-valve engine has been immortalised as a symbol of memory, nostalgia, and an out-with-the-old attitude. There was no neon light shaft to make it look prettier, or set it within a multi-dimensional time frame. It was simply a banal, mass-produced product, displayed as art, but one that the artist deemed worthy to represent his idea.

Perhaps, unwittingly, I engineered my own mugging, to teach myself a lesson. In future, I want, consciously, to be in control.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Calm Rain

Is there really any such thing as art, or are there only artists, as Ernst Gombrich said? What makes a great artist – media coverage, popularity, sales success, the lack of competition? Is British art any good? Should I be paying any attention whatsoever to the likes of the Turner Prize?

I have been branded an art critic, after writing silly notes on a couple of shows that made a couple of people smile, but I’m nothing of the sort. I am a writer trying to find something to write about. Nay, I am a person trying to find something to do, and something to look at that reflects my mental images, that are in turn remnants of things I have seen before. For me, adulthood is an exercise in recreating childhood, whilst maintaining my responsibility to the world.

I neither want to be the sort of art critic who tries to explain everything he sees in a painting, thereby ruining its mystique for others, nor the sort who strides through a gallery self-importantly, declaring everything to be shit. I want to look at art and discover something in it for myself that I can then go home and write about. I cannot afford to collect art, but I can own any painting in any museum, mentally and emotionally.

I felt that I myself discovered Marcel Proust, as I read In Search of Lost Time, and that I discovered the object of life, merely to position oneself truly, viewing Auguste Rodin’s The Gates of Hell. The pain with which Joy Division’s music is suffused caused me spontaneously to dance, and Donald Judd’s orderliness has encouraged me to get organised in a way that doesn’t mean I have to tidy my room.

Today I took in Tate Britain, the Haunch of Venison and the ICA, before watching Sin Nombre at Prince Charles Cinema. At Tate Britain I paid £15 to see both Turner and the Masters and the Turner Prize 2009 exhibitions. Turner and the Masters might have been a good name for a future Arctic Monkeys side-project band, but the exhibition itself lives in the past, and seemed relevant only to show up the unfortunate inferiority of Turner next to the masters he hoped to emulate, in particular Rembrandt, Canaletto and Poussin. Turner’s paintings appeared to be deliberately pitted against those of his rough contemporaries, and time and again he came off worst, his misjudged angles, vulgar shapes and muddy colours strikingly at odds with his fabulous reputation as the most esteemed of British painters. By the time the procession moves to Philip James de Loutherbourg’s The Glorious First of June 1794, a truly arresting sight for one’s eyes to fall upon, Turner, the tiring lightweight, is most tenuously on the ropes. De Loutherbourg’s sea is green, like that of the Death Horse of Revelation, and appears to swallow men who are resigned to their fate, or hanging on the edge of hope. The clouds of the foreboding sky and blasting cannons are interchangeable, as if the battle portrayed is being fought in mid-Heaven, the hopes of nations, and worn, torn sails, strung up on a sublime web of black threads that lend a further dimension of jutting, swaying movement and action to the scene. Compare the murky, static Battle of Trafalgar, commissioned as an accompaniment to de Loutherbourg’s masterpiece, and Turner appears finally impotent. His best paintings are to be found elsewhere in the permanent collection, and are grey, abstract fragments that pre-empt Impressionism and Rothko, a departure from the nature and pastoral painting that is scarcely relevant today.

At least I felt involved in this show, unlike that of the Turner Prize, the real reason for my trek to the Tate. Having read so much about Roger Hiorns’ Seizure, I was expecting something remarkable, but met something impenetrable, or worse, uninspiring; perhaps I am being unfair, and the dialogue between moulded brain matter and the dust of an atomised jet engine will whisper in my ear at a later date. Richard Wright’s gold wall painting changed in the light and looked very pretty, but my gold Converse do that too. More interesting was the smell of Lucy Skaer’s sperm whale skull, borrowed from a museum collection, but Enrico David’s homoerotic stage display, with a man in the mind and in the back of the throat, reminded me of the less glamorous aspects of the cruising game, such as gonorrhoea.

I had planned a second visit to the Haunch of Venison to pay more attention to the relationship between the works of Donald Judd and Dan Flavin, two contemporaries and friends (such that Judd named his son Flavin Starbuck), and to buy a book by or on Judd from the gallery bookshop. Judd would often insert coloured Perspex panels into the tops and bottoms of box frames, invariably made of cheap, easily obtained metal, that would allow light to do what it wanted, casting shapes and shades. Dan Flavin used light itself as the subject, creating shrines with a strong sense of divinity. Within the work of both artists is a dedication to symmetry, order and interchangeability, the appropriation of found and ready-made household/industrial objects anticipating our current stresses on sustainability and recycling. It has been said that adept artists use the materials around them to their advantage, and the works of this pair centre at the junction between art, product design and architecture, the main tenet of which is surely the best use of a space for its intended purpose.

How can neither the Haunch of Venison nor the Institute of Contemporary Arts stock a single book between them by or even on Donald Judd, one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century (according to Charles Saatchi)?

Monday, 5 October 2009

Revision

It is autumn, and although summer only ended a couple of days ago, it already feels like a distant memory as I sit in a tracksuit on my bed, scarf around my neck, dog-ears hat on my head, computer on my lap, with the smell of my clean washing in the tumble-dryer wafting down from upstairs, or hanging to dry on my bedroom walls, from the picture rail.

Winter is coming. I don’t want it to be like last year again, when the cold froze me quite to the marrow as I sat at my desk in two jumpers, scarf, fingerless gloves, dog-ears hat and two pairs of socks in shoes, as I tried to write, every so often checking the thermometer by the kitchen door to see if the interior temperature had crept above nine degrees.

The difference between this year and last is money. This time last year I was about to quit my full-time job. Currently I’m easing myself into a new one, the concentration and dedication required for which has been responsible for my literary hiatus. It pays well, but detracts greatly from my mental energy, menial and creative efforts seemingly unable to dovetail in my attention, and I collapse into bed at night with a brain full of visual fragments for which I lack the techniques to realise – a writer surely deals in words, not pictures. The inspirations behind these visual fragments include Beverley Bennett (line, repetition), James Tuitt (colour), Donald Judd (compartmentalisation), Dan Flavin (light), Anish Kapoor (carnal dirt), Cy Twombly (grids and collage) and many others whose details aren’t at hand.

I seem to be striving towards the emergence of a totality, in which all my influences and experiences converge into a lifestyle and line of production. As with Gilbert and George, everything should be just so – my life and work should be the same thing. I should treat my personal life with the same respect as I do my job, professionally, with a healthy fear of failure, studying aptly and putting what I learn into practice.

This evening Donald Judd and the idea I have attached to him, of compartmentalisation, have inspired me. Earlier this year I wrote a semi-automatic splurge on mess and clutter called ‘The Box’, in which one box contains everything belonging to its inhabitant, including such unlikely items as sheep noses and matted moose hair. ‘The Box’ and the work of Donald Judd oppose one another. In ‘The Box’ there is no order, the inhabitant consumed in trying vainly to organise his mind and time, at the expense of either creativity or quotidian efficiency; one cannot create art when there are so many other things to take care of, especially with authority figures scrutinising and waiting for an implosion. If the inhabitant were to see the work of Donald Judd, for example, at the Haunch of Venison gallery, he might be inspired to reorganise and clarify his mind and environment, by shelving and boxing everything that exists in his world.

But there is something wonderful in mess, wallowing in one’s own shit, trapped under the rubble, alone and unreachable. That may sound insensitive, but only in chaos can I retreat into pure creativity. Destruction is pleasing to look at. Wrecked buildings and dead landscapes are warming. Dark, dirty holes are comely, flesh and blood, tasty. Our entire world is a trash can, the contents of which can all be sorted and recycled, but let us have a little play in it first.

There has to be found a balance. I have a job in which I have to present myself as an unwavering professional, through fear of losing it. I must operate cleanly and precisely as a robot. At work, my environment must be spotless and free of intrusion; every task must be completed promptly and any appliance used cleaned immediately after use, otherwise I cannot work, and therefore, as I am a cog within the machine, the café cannot work. I have a space in which to work, to complete random tasks within a set framework, and the more time I spend in that space working automatically, the better the results. My smoothies are uniformly thick and creamy, and look how smoothies should, yet I use no instruments for measurement, as my mind and actions are automatic.

In contrast, I have a hobby in which I can do whatever I want, and wallow in my own shit. At home, where I spend very little time, I throw things down and go straight to bed at 1am, only to jolt awake at 5.30 at the buzz of my alarm, pick what I need out of the rubble (shower gel, face wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, a towel and a bathmat), before going over a mental checklist upon leaving the house (keys, phone, money, fags, travelcard, lighter, lip balm). When I find myself at home for half an hour or more, I am not thinking about order and the expedient completion of tasks, I am sinking into the warmth of my chaos and daydreaming. Home is where my ass sinks into the sofa and I become part of my own environment, participating in the visual manifestation of my own mental chaos.

If I am to become a writer, however, I must find the space, somehow, where these boxes overlap. I must be able to glean from the joy of wallowing in my own shit, yet produce efficiently and regularly, work of fine quality.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Gilbert & George - Jack Freak Pictures

For the first time in months, I called my mother. She asked me if I was yet attending meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses again. I giggled a little, then stopped and wondered for a second whether the Witnesses might miraculously have leaned back from their traditional stance on homosexuality, in line with some other Christian denominations, in which case I would have gone back like a shot, if only for the sake of belonging. If it’s good enough for Prince…

She graciously offered to put a little money into my account to tide me over while I searched for a job. A couple of days later I was due to complete a trial shift at a small American-style diner in Soho, but had a couple of hours in hand, so I walked to White Cube Mason’s Yard to browse the Gilbert & George show, an ideal way, I thought, for an amateur yet earnest art critic to fill negative time, viewing work that is more an entertaining spectacle than profound comment, as the artists traditionally purport, with nudity and exposure of bodily functions in bright colours on large-format, to attack us with a statement of the now, a pop manifesto.

‘Jack Freak Pictures’, retains the pair's cheeky signature ‘look’, with succinct titles prominent in the style of the streetsigns of their beloved East London, but it seems that everywhere I look there are vaginas, perhaps a delusion of my mother’s spiritual presence around me. Four-and-a-half years after me she gave birth to dizygotic twin girls. There is almost perfect symmetry in these kaleidoscopic works, but not quite. The artists, a little-and-large couple who dress in tweeds and brogues and finish each other's sentences, are almost the same, but not quite.

The show juxtaposes medals of honour and sporting achievement with the ageing physique, and furthermore, the celebration of the physical prime presages the anticipated hybridisation of the human body. Allusions to viscera abound with the wiry branches of winter trees resembling nerves and veins, and with the repeated icons of holly and ivy. The artists even find time to hang with the dying Christ and baulk with serpentine tongues, as Morrissey once did, that ‘the Church, all they want is your money (the Queen is dead, boys…)’

Having said that, their next comment is against Islam, in line with the tit-for-tat Zeitgeist (I liked it all so much I jumped on the bus to White Cube Hoxton Square). In ‘Sunni’, only the artists’ eyes are shown. A tribute is made to a martyred young Muslim homosexual, or so I understood it. Homosexuality and religion – despite the small crack in the dam that has allowed through a small trickle of gay marriages and promotions within the clergy – still scarcely mix, so we are urged to ‘Stuff Religion’ and shun belonging, appropriating instead ourselves as idols of worship. The exhortation is to make the most of oneself. Sorry mum, I have to disappoint you again.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Box

The box contains a rope, some stickers, some scissors, a tissue packet, some gum, a teddy bear, a shark in a vitrine, cotton wool, magazines on architecture, brochures, holiday snaps, metal rings, freezer bags, horse manure, Liverpool Football Club memorabilia, underwear, an umbrella, a horseshoe, condoms, a rainbow, matted moose hair, French toast, beans, cauliflower, ant spray, headache pills, giant tea tree oil sachets, milk teeth, sheep noses, car spray paint, bulrushes, wire, tomato puree, gothic medicines, indigo parchment, and is stuffed under the bed, with shoes, books, CDs, telephones, cars, buildings, shrines, clothes, coats, daggers, guns, condoms, cum-stuck tissues, banana skins, orange peel, apple cores, trees, weeds, cats, birds, spiders and flies, in a room which is shaped like a box, and contains a bed, a desk, a chair, a sofa, a TV/DVD, a stereo, a computer, a bay window, a net curtain, a pair of curtains, a rail, on which there are clothes, shoes and underwear, books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, posters mostly of naked people, paintings mostly of flat, bold colours, food packaging, paints, brushes, newsprint, white-and-green Waitrose bags, orange Sainsbury’s bags, white, blue and red Tesco bags, yellow Morrisons bags, white-and-blue Boots bags, toiletries especially for hair, fingernails, spider and fly carcasses, bits of loose change and discarded food, dust, mites, mouse shit, candles, cum-stained towels, cum-soaked sheets, a cum-filled mattress, mouse traps, forks, spoons, glasses, spectacles, sunglasses, electric shavers, blunt Bic razors, dead Bic biros, papers, mostly with unsent love-letters written on, papers, for smoking, papers, in which there used to be fish and chips, papers, issued by debt management companies threatening legal action, papers, detailing pay and taxes, leaves, blowing in through the front window from the street in which he lives, with about two hundred other people, some families, some couples, some loners, some old people, some young people, some people not born yet, some dead people not found yet, and some cats, waiting at the door to be fed, and when they are not waiting to be fed, they are sleeping under BMWs, Fords, Volkswagens, Saabs, Volvos, Transit vans, Renault vans, or bushes, or running across the road in fear of a harmless pedestrian.

Suburban Husband

It was almost ten o’clock, and Tabby still wouldn’t settle. Nick tried to hold her but she merely squirmed free, screaming higher, elbowing him in the face. As he stood he knocked his head on the mobile, which tinkled and jangled, throwing anamorphic shadows on the walls and ceiling and Tabby’s red face. Gently, indignantly, spitefully, exasperatedly then resignedly, with hot chocolate, a cuddle and a bedtime story, Nick decided to leave his daughter to her own reason, and curtly shut her door behind him. Immediately her screams began to desist, to his relief; at least Trish could return home now, unconcerned, and see to him without distraction.

Downstairs, he poured a glass of whisky, and resting his forearm on the cool mantelpiece, retired briefly to the thoughtful existence he’d pictured after voluntary severance, leaving Trish, who had always been the higher earner, the sole working partner. With only one income, the retention of a nanny and cleaner would have appeared profligate; his friends teased him, calling him ‘a fifties housewife with a dick’.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Run

I imagine I can hear them all inside me,
individual voices, dissonant synths
performing the music of Purgatory,
their histories evinced
by a slow liquidation in the boiling crud –
feet first, struggle for air –
furiously telling me what I should
do or dare
to....

Supplications

Celeste
So far removed, Beauty rises remorselessly through cadaverous skies only to shrink from her own reflection, but her grace and power gild her faith, for she is strong.

Love In A Void
Somewhere in the flat, black fabric, illuminated by divine light, can be found the remains of love, knowledge and wisdom, having long departed the uninhabitable.

Black Douleur
If a million people told me the sun was black, I would believe them, because, firstly, looking at the sun myself might cause me to go blind, and secondly, of the conditioning effect of such a compelling number. Is that faith?

The Reader, Reclined
My soul is most satisfied when given to contemplation, but knowledge alone cannot keep my body.
Servitude to strangers facilitates my own pleasure; the division of time between immediate pain and graft, and quiet contemplation of the future and the past, between them contrive stability.
My father told me I would sleep through Armageddon. For now, I must get up.

The Thinker
My life could have gone one of two ways, down the broad and spacious road to everlasting life or the narrow and treacherous road to destruction. I presume, hope, that I am on the latter, and that I am not suffering to no end.
It has been a long time that I have been away from you, and have little to show for it but a few scars, neuroses and ruined friendships. I have experienced lust, infatuation, brotherhood, collusion, but not love.
I was in love with the idea of you, but you seemed so far removed that I felt I should concentrate on what was closer. Some people seemed to hold you so close that they almost made up for my lack of faith, whereas others, a far greater number, denied your existence outright. That is one of the countless paradoxes about the world in which you have posted me on loan to learn my trade – why must we believe in what we cannot see when the actions of your hand contradict you so readily?

Je Vous En Prie
I come to you today because I don’t know where else to turn; I have turned my back on you so often I now find myself facing you once more. I pray you, please direct me, make something of me; give me something to do. I cannot act upon my own self-will.
I know that you know me better than I know myself, and that because I know your name you punish me harder than the ignorant. I live every day as if you are watching me, judging me. My existence is unpretentious, uncontrived; when you penetrate my heart you see no lie.

I live to praise you, even though my work is thankless. I must look only to increase my knowledge, and maintain my beauty, so that the strength and quality of my soul might one day hang in your gallery.

You Will See It As I Walk, And As I Sit
I have used this instrument to make supplication to you, my Lord, but now I must sell it. It has bought me wealth, and happiness; yet, as you have conspired, my fortune has waned, and I am forced to merchandise the icons I used to praise you.
It is spring, and as though you have taken from me to fertilise the soil, but I am not foolish. Your garden may be lush and green but whites and yellows crack; browns and blacks crystallise and spectral hues fade.
This instrument has faded with time yet plays more beautifully than ever. I shall use it once again to praise you, and hope you will change your mind.

Redundant Atlas
Who removed the burden of Earth from the shoulders of Atlas? If an angel rebuked you and became Satan, the marauding Lord over all the Earth, why did you not execute him immediately, you who are all-powerful, before he could rise up and supplant you as the dominant force of this universe?
In conceding your throne, you have precipitated your entire creation to the lip of a black hole. If you wished to put us to the test, to find how few of us deserve to be saved from ruin, congratulations – you have been incisive.

Martyrs
Baudelaire suffered to bleed the words for which he was persecuted, only to receive whispers of praise on his deathbed that he could not answer, for his late ailments rendered him mute.
Often those endowed with the purest minds died in pain and mediocrity, only for their gravestones to receive the flowers and glory, having faced only penury, disease, censorship, accusations of heresy, madness and blasphemy, in lives destined never to achieve their promised brilliance.

A Change Is Coming
The waters rise, and the walls grind their teeth in distress, but should have faith, for they are strong. The rich will enclave themselves in the mountains, leaving the poor to drown, but faith parted the Red Sea, moved mountains, and grew a tree into the heavens from a tiny mustard grain.

Interior
My house is one in which there is space for me, and only me, to study, reflect and create, designed with the objects of simplicity, functionality and sensuality.
The walls will not collapse under the cries of the gods.
The light is brightest when I am in the dark.






Monday, 1 June 2009

Selfish Lover

I reached Heathrow, looking good to travel. At check-in, a handsome young clerk informed me of the current hand-luggage policy; I thought the hysteria following the foiled liquid bomb plot would have died down, but not so. Upstairs I sat people watching with a glass of shiraz. A glass collector endeared himself to no one by stalking the bar draped in a giant Australian flag, his country having freshly whitewashed England. My phone rang – Christos told me not to eat, for he was cooking. The time came to go to my gate before I could finish my glass of wine.

Immediately I was told to put my bum bag in my rucksack. Removing from it my passport and boarding pass, I assented. The young black tabard trailed me with a sympathetic smile as my hand luggage was checked for unauthorised products. The female attendant informed me that my bottle of water, from which I had taken but a sip, was prohibited, but available on the plane. The half-empty jar of Body Butter was a no-no. Agonisingly, my moisturiser, though unused, was twenty-five-millilitres over the limit. Having disposed of toiletries worth twenty pounds or more, I joined the queue to show my boarding pass.

Take off jackets and remove laptops from their cases, the sign read. Passengers were being checked like sheep for their markings, so the queue was moving almost at walking pace as I tried to take off my jacket, taking care to remove my laptop from my rucksack without dropping it, whilst maintaining my place in line. The lady behind me clipped my heel but was too exasperated to notice. 'This is ridiculous,' she snapped; her husband winked, shrugged and smiled an apology. Soon, an impatient female attendant took my passport, and satisfied, shoved it back.

'Take off your belt and remove your thing,' ordered the next attendant. I removed the iPod shuffle attached to the collar of my jumper, and it dawned on me how overdressed I was, with a vest, T-shirt, shirt and jumper all tucked into my jeans, fastened tightly with a belt, the wire of my iPod fed through the layers of the outfit, for security. Moreover the queues were long and fast moving, and I didn't want to hold anyone up. I put all my things in three trays and progressed through the X-ray frame, which remained silent.

Nevertheless, a meaty, moustachioed security guard, poised like a cowboy, compelled me to raise my arms. He groped, squeezed and poked, to the seeming entertainment of a guy across the way, who had either enjoyed the same treatment or was jealous of the security guard.

The latter took a step back into his cowboy stance and, tapping my left thigh, said, 'What's in the pocket?'

'My Oyster Card and a comb,' I replied.

His eyes narrowed. 'Collect your things.' He tracked me in the corners of his eyes, unconvinced.

I gathered all my things against my chest like a pile of dirty laundry, and dumped them next to myself on a waiting couch, deciding for a minute to watch other passengers being searched.

Next was a handsome, suited, city-type blond guy of about thirty. 'Good afternoon, sir,' smiled the security guard. The blond gentleman raised his arms and received a mere couple of flutters down his flanks. 'Just a routine check, you know how it's been. Thank you sir, and enjoy your flight.'

On the plane I sat next to the window, but it was already dark. There were two pretty blonde girls sitting behind. A slightly overweight, bearded Greek man sat next to me and took out his book and spectacles. He reminded me a little of the security guard. All flight long all I wanted to do was squeeze the erect nipples visible in his shirt and caress his packet. Otherwise the flight was routine.

A tension headache had crept across my forehead by the time I alighted the plane. Christos and I spotted each other immediately at Arrivals.

'Ciao Bello.' We kissed each other's cheeks. 'How was your flight?'

'Fine thanks. Crap food but, as you'd expect.'

Mamma mia, I told you not to eat!’

'I only had a nibble, I was hungry. Anyway, you know me. I'll eat anything you put in front of me, hungry or not, unless it's liver, which I hate. You didn't cook liver, did you?'

Christos lit up the moment we were outside. There were several blue and yellow taxis waiting. The plane had been full but the Arrivals area seemed relatively quiet. He noticed me glaring longingly at his cigarette and cheerfully offered. ‘I had such a nightmare at Heathrow,’ I told him, accepting.

'Why?' he asked.

'The security must've thought I looked like a suicide bomber.'

'No, why these problems in Heathrow?'

'Well, you must of heard of the plot to blow up transatlantic planes using liquid bombs in drinks bottles. And apparently one of the suspects was Jamaican, so I do understand.'

I'd barely got into my cigarette when Christos stubbed his out and commanded something to one of the stewards in Greek. Instantly a typical blue and yellow Mercedes E-Class pulled up. The driver stepped out and opened up the boot and rear passenger door. 'Efaristo', I nodded, stepping into the rear compartment. 'Parakolor', he smiled back.

Christos sat staring out of the window in silence. 'So how are you?' I finally asked.

'Ah,' he sighed. 'I am okay, but I am tired. I have many things to do.'

'Really? Like what?'

He turned down the corners of his mouth and raised his shoulders and palms like a Mafioso. 'Just some things.'

'Your hair looks good,' I remarked instead.

'Ah, thank you, ah,' he replied, running his fingers through.

'It's grown a lot. You'll be like Jimi Hendrix next time I see you.'

'Yes, but I want to go again to have this done,' he replied, pointing to the little remaining thinness at the corners of his hairline, that a prouder man might have called a 'widow's peak'.

'Wow. How much did it cost?'

'The first time, about five thousand Euros. This time, maybe it will be two thousand.'

I laughed. 'You have a lot of money, Christos.'

'I don't have a lot of money,' he replied, retaining the Mafioso affectation. His emphasis was on the of as if he would normally have said I don't have a lot money. 'I have money, yes, but I enjoy my money.'

He'd always been a little thin on top, but I thought it distinguished him. I thought to ask where the hairs were from but instead watched the texture of his face change under the streetlights as we approached central Athens.

Exhausted, I retired to staring out of the window while Christos engaged himself in conversation with the driver. As it was dark, I couldn’t see much of the scenery but remembered it as being replete with sandy, dusty rocks, palm trees and scrubby bushes; in any case, sightseeing had always come second to sex. Every so often I looked up into the interior mirror, catching the driver's eyes and mine behind them. His had shades of a young Marlon Brando; mine could have contained my luggage. As he caught me under a street lamp I averted my gaze back to the passing closed department stores and buzzing restaurants. It was January, but still warm enough for people to eat outdoors at almost ten pm.

Finally we pulled up in Christos' street, almost the centre-point of the city. The driver leapt out of his seat to open my door before I could. He was around five-nine and smoothly defined, with cropped hair and perfect teeth. 'Efaristo,' I smiled.

'Parakolor.' I watched him pull away. He bipped his horn.

'So, what do you think?' asked Christos as we stepped into his newly finished apartment. As my eyes adjusted from the dimly lit street to the bright interior, it was revealed to me an open space of kitchen, dining room and lounge, with large doors leading out onto a terrace. To the right was a corridor leading to the bedroom and bathroom. With its finely grained hard floor tiles throughout it had the Spartan feel of a Mediterranean holiday villa. Furthermore, it was an empty shell into which a person with expensive taste had emptied various wish-list items from John Lewis, or its Athenian equivalent – the curtain poles and chandeliers were by Swarovski, distinguished by conspicuous logos. Nothing yet seemed to have found its right place, however, except for obvious items such as the rug beneath the coffee table.

'Yes it's nice,' I said. 'Is that a real zebra?'

'Of course,' he shrugged, turning down the corners of his mouth. 'That's nothing. I have a lion in my other house.'

'Wow.’ The next obvious talking point was of the three ornaments gracing the mahogany dresser, sat behind the matching dining table and chairs, all in contrast with the teak kitchen. One was a raw, unfinished tusk, the other two were intricately carved into colonial fishing scenes and polished like marble. ‘Are they real ivory?’ I asked. Almost indignantly, he spun to face me. 'Of course they are real. I am Christos; I don't take fake things. I have my things taken specially, from Africa.'

I'd met Christos via my website. One weekend every couple of months he'd fly to London, to stay at the apartment of his friend Michaelis. I'd never met anyone before without first seeing his picture, but was desperate for cash, and we agreed two-fifty for the night. I was five minutes late in knocking the door, and before me stood a greying, balding, bespectacled, hairy-armed, deeply tanned gentleman with whom, it so happened, it was rather nice to cuddle up. The first time was always easy.

However, the first time became a fourth and fifth. He was warm, articulate (describing London as a 'mosaic of civilisation'), and a fine cook ('I have cooked for a hundred people in one night. People come from all around to taste the cooking of Christos'). He'd lived his life to the full, he'd said, and now wanted to look to his own interests, thus spending hundreds at a canter on designer clothes, favouring Armani and Versace. He'd describe his relationships with handsome black men in seemingly every major European city, so it wasn't difficult to imagine him being friends with a young Congolese in Amsterdam, with links to poachers.

Dinner was lamb chops with salad and chips, the chips being of the American variety, i.e. crisps, and a bottle of St. Emilion. I used the dinner to explain that I was quitting escort work and that this was my last ever job, in fact, that I'd come out of retirement for a one-off, but that we could still be friends when he came to London. The evening having been a pleasant catch-up, I became increasingly tired and bloated, and so made my excuses and headed for bed. When he came to join me, my eyes already glazed with the first film of sleep, I asked whether he could please save his advances until the morning, a request to which he acquiesced.

As the sun came up, Christos nuzzled my cheek and opened my thighs. Encouraged by my regular morning erection, he raised his hand to my jaw and pushed his tongue into my mouth. We sucked each other off, after which he got up and started his day. I went back to sleep.

After a breakfast of eggs and coffee, we decided to walk into town, and ended up first at Attica, the Harrods of Athens, where I sought to buy a moisturiser to replace those I'd had to leave behind at Heathrow. He remembered I'd liked the one he'd used last time we'd seen each other in London, so we went to the Biotherm Homme counter. He paid thirty-nine Euros for seventy-five millilitres. Finding nothing else either of us wanted, it was time to eat.

The top-floor restaurant at Attica looked chic but was packed and far too noisy. People sitting opposite one another at table were forced to shout over the nightclub-loud jazz soundtrack. Instead we found ourselves taking aperitifs at the bar of a chic new restaurant five minutes’ walk away, part of a beautiful, marbled, Israeli-owned construction. It was clearly the new place to be seen, so the management had packed the tables in, such that even my slim frame struggled to slalom through the tiny gaps in between for fear of tripping over the giant Prada and Hermès handbags slung like hammocks over chair backs. Although not as loud as the restaurant at Attica, the atmosphere was a fusion of clashing pots and pans, shrill laughter and Tiffany bracelets jangling, with the smells of grilled meat and fish and designer perfumes and colognes. 'If they are too frou-frou, they don't have money,' Christos remarked.

Beyond this, he was quite silent, but people watching just as I was. I wasn't used to being taken out for dinner by clients; I suppose I wasn't the type; our meetings were usually a one-hour shag or an overnight with plenty of alcohol and/or drugs. The waiter eventually led us to our table. The décor was very elegant, the walls painted the shade of grey most synonymous with high fashion shoots, proving the perfect backdrop for his tan.

I thanked him for my moisturiser. 'Ah, it is nothing,' he replied, as fresh faces came through the door.

'This is a really nice place,' I observed, straining the last of my gin and tonic. 'Hope the food matches up.' At almost every table was a middle-aged man and his younger wife or girlfriend, who wore giant Gucci or Chanel shades, their blonde hair tucked behind their ears so as to show off the big double-G or double-C. The plates Christos selected were excellent, with fresh salad vegetables that tasted just as they should.

We walked home. I felt sluggish, and unfashionable in the clothes I wore. The streets were thronged with beautiful Greek boys and their girlfriends. Male couples would notice Christos and I and nod knowingly. I wished I could have been there alone and free to play, employing Christos solely as a tour guide and interpreter. On returning to the apartment I took out my laptop and tried to look busy, but still ended up in the bedroom, where I thought of all the faces, pecs, packets and arses of all the men I’d seen all day as I fucked him.

As the second of my two nights fell, we walked into the old city, always veering away from the Acropolis, but through narrow streets where young West African men sold fake Louis Vuitton bags, shades and trinkets. Stray dogs littered the area the way pigeons do in central London. I felt slightly aggrieved by Christos’ insistence on walking a few steps behind me, particularly as I didn't know where I was going. Eventually I led him out onto a main road, and he directed me left, past the government buildings and university campus. Further up was Athens' best hotel, where we had booked to have dinner at the top-floor restaurant. We had been there before, and the food and atmosphere were wonderful, overlooking the floodlit Parthenon, which was much more impressive by night than by day, as I was greeted with a dusty, cordoned-off shell rather than the revelation its iconic status suggested. But once again Christos and I ate in silence, my increasing boredom checked only by the spectacle of fun and frivolity displayed by the resident singer and party of pensioners sat behind me. Why wouldn't he talk? What things did he have to take care of? Was he really a Mafioso? Did I even know his real name?

'You're quiet,' I said. 'In fact, you have been all weekend.'

He didn't look up. I wasn't sure if he was even going to answer but finally he replied, 'I am tired.'

'Come on, how can you be tired? We've done nothing. We went to Attica, then for lunch, then home, walking like two old snails – hardly strenuous activity. You didn’t even have to move your ass.'

'I have many things to think about.'

'Like what?'

'Don't think. Just eat your meal.'

I put down my fork. 'I knew I shouldn't have come here. I've always known you've no respect for me at all. Just because you flew me out here and you're paying for everything doesn't mean you own me. This is Athens; I should be having the best time in the world but I’m miserable!'

'Ah, la la la la la! I have cancer. I have no children or partner to leave my interests. There. Now please, let me enjoy my meal.'

I was stunned silent. I tried to apologise for my selfishness, and to ask where he had been affected by it, but he 'didn't know in English', and wouldn't be drawn to demonstrate where in his body he was ill. I drank to try to dissipate the solid mass of guilt in the pit of my belly. He paid, and we took a silent taxi home, lulled by alcohol and regret. Back at the apartment I brushed my teeth and went straight to bed. The next morning I got up first, and prepared to show my remorse and ask for his forgiveness. I brewed coffee, and poured him a cup as soon as he emerged. I had been watching TV, and the video for Mariah Carey's 'Say Something', featuring Pharrell Williams, set in Paris and featuring a Rolls Royce Phantom and lots of Louis Vuitton, presumably authentic, came on. He switched the channel. I thought to protest, but had already said too much.

'Christos,' I began, sitting next to him on the sofa and putting my hand on his knee, 'I'm deeply sorry about what I said to you last night. If you'll forgive me I hope we can reprise our friendship back in London, health permitting.'

He stood up and walked out onto the balcony, smoking a cigarette. Soon he came back inside and took his wallet from beneath the tusks on the dresser. ‘Thank you,' he replied, politely and economically, but finally, placing on the coffee table the wad of notes as we'd arranged. It wasn't until I was safely on the plane home, having this time remembered to check my toiletries in, that I realised I had lost my best client.


Thursday, 21 May 2009

TextFields @ The Corridor 07-21.05.09






‘Must not the structure have a genesis, and must not the origin, the point of genesis, be already structured, in order to be the genesis of something?’ - Jacques Derrida

The Corridor is a narrow, tight space one feels comfortable in alone, but claustrophobic and guilty in when accompanied. It is like being a child playing under his bed, pretending that, with the sheets hanging down, he is camping, or a soldier in a trench, before a grown-up comes and ruins the fun by lifting up the sheet. When he is alone, he can dream, in images and sensations unencumbered by over-bearing words. The space takes on a sense of prohibition; the human within it feels let in on a secret, and seeks to spend as much time within as he dares.

As soon as another being appears in the space, the dream is dead. The consciousness, which has by means of entering such a space, found a narrow structure in which to point and bleed, is blocked off by the presence of another. It is not the done thing to stand still in a corridor, nor is it usual behaviour to play under the bed. What happens when one is caught rooting around in their mother’s wardrobe? What happens when the spermatozoa meets the egg?

Certainly, consideration of the ideas of deconstruction does not seem possible in this space. The voyeur is constantly concerned of an imminent interruption in his intellectual flow, and of missing a crucial step in the differentiation. It is a personal space each person should be allowed to spend time in alone, particularly when installed there is a site-specific piece, such as TF002, that distorts the space, and makes the voyeur ever more aware of where he walks, and with its accompanying soundtrack, how he talks, even thinks. One stops thinking to breathe in as another person crosses his intellectual path.

In Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, where does the nude start and the staircase end? TF002, despite comprising 358 parts, moves as one. Languages are exceptionally complex, yet move like clouds, constantly shifting and reforming.

The voyeur walks tenuously through the space, guided by the geometric shapes of deconstructed language. What lies beneath the words he writes? What are they built upon? His language is received; it is incapable of pinpointing his chemical, fluid ideas. Those ideas are, within a split second of coming to his mind, processed according to the status of his personal vernacular, his individual lexicon, which isn’t unique in any case; it finds its entire genetics, as is the case with all native speakers, in any old English Dictionary.

On which point, TF002 is decoded in English. If words can be reduced to characters and differentiated further into ‘strings’ or ‘particles’, then would the piece look different in Arabic? Russian? Greek?

The soundtrack, recorded in the key of the heartbeat, with its vibrations, crashes and white noise, shifts the entire universe known to the walls of The Corridor, back to its own genesis. Whatever is deconstructed had first to have been constructed, and whatever is constructed has to be the sum of one or more parts. Disparate strands of information converge and enter through the front door; the final ‘characters’ of TF002 point the way upstairs, where the holders of such information then collect within the walls of the salon and integrate, before differentiating again.

We can only understand the origins of what exists through our present knowledge, whereas the language of those origins existed only in light and sound. A simple, perfect, intangible idea is given bones, flesh and skin by communicable language.

TextFields 'is an investigation into the metaphysical worlds between text and space', originated by Amita Kulkarni, Vikrant Tike, Rajat Sodhi and Jerome Rigaud.

For more information visit the TextFields site.

Links:

The Corridor

Adam Nathaniel Furman's corresponding essay at LifeBin

Pictures by Paul Mendez

Part II:

‘It is a beautiful thing, the destruction of words’, George Orwell wrote in Nineteen-Eighty-Four. ‘TF002’, the result of a research project by the newly-formed multidisciplinary research and design group TextFields, is a double-explosion of the two words, in upper- and lower-case, that signify the space in which the sculpture is circumscribed – The Corridor. An uncomfortable, uncommonly narrow field for the consciousness to infiltrate, it is by design a means for conveyance rather than settlement; the tight space, and the prominence of the piece within it, combine with Vikrant Tike’s dissonant ‘white noise/white heat’ soundtrack, ‘recorded in the key of the heartbeat’, to almost trick the voyeur into experiencing the space internally, making sure not to have out an eye on a laser-cut element on passing through.
To slightly adjust a phrase of Roland Barthes’, the sculpture is both in appearance and concept a floating chain of signifiers – or at least their component parts – its existence owed to an investigation into the boundaries of text and fonts within a specific field, by three architects and a typographer. Recalling Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase, TF002, despite comprising 358 parts, moves as one, like a language, with exquisite economy, constantly shifting and reforming.
TF003, the ‘dislocation’ of TF002, was announced as an installation in itself, each part to be sold and archived, the sculpture thereby freeing itself of its circumscription to acquire more breathing space. It remains to be seen the beauty of the geometric pattern inscribed on a map, as the piece explodes further into new homes all over London, and beyond.


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Whole Exhibition @ The Rag Factory 15.05.09






The ‘displaced New Yorker’, Lisa Bradley, here showing her interactive piece ‘Studio’, is surprised at the lack of politics in her fellow students’ work.  ‘I’m surprised, because there is so much in American art right now, but nothing here, even concerning the world outside,’ she says.  It is true, that on face value, there seems to be very little preoccupation with current affairs in this exhibition, an interim show of MA and Research works from the University of Middlesex art faculty, but if one digs a little deeper, the political, social and personal awareness is clear.

Perhaps in the States, where a shiny new President has just taken seat, there is more inspiration.  Indeed, the last several presidents have provided so much theatre that fresh waves of creativity have whipped up cyclones around them.  Even in the UK, a change of Prime Minister, especially when that regime brings fresh hope, has coincided with surges in creative activity.  Think Tony Blair and the YBAs; Margaret Thatcher and the writers Martin Amis, Jeanette Winterson, Hanif Kureishi and Ian McEwan.

Alas, Gordon Brown doesn’t quite elicit the same sense of euphoria on his global travels as Obama; David Cameron’s gloss has diminished with time and context, and in a society where everyone is trying to fight for their own individuality in the face of inexorable change, it seems that artists, in London at least, are comfortable to remain in their own box, exploring mental illness, sex, landscape, religious iconography and symbolism, amongst other things; it also seems that Britain is a little jealous of the new American face, and has turned away into the mirror, to concentrate on its own.

There may not be much to smile about or devote concerted thought to in the farce that is current British politics, but further afield, Helin Anahit, an Istanbul-born Armenian, explores memory and imagination through a video installation, captured in a garish picture frame that parodies Western painting.  Islam has traditionally prohibited painting, so here an Islamic film ironically presented as a classic European landscape.  In it, the sea is separated into three parts, with nothing seen to cross the no-man’s land in the middle; the viewer’s eye is channelled through a crescent icon on the roof of a mosque, redolent of the logo on the bonnet of a Mercedes S-Class; the viewer sees as if from the rear passenger seat – one can imagine himself to be a Western diplomat travelling across for critical talks to try to diffuse the deepening political angst between the EU and this Islamic state.  Indeed, Anahit parodies this tension further through the introduction of a cruise ship with both European and Arab flags positioned relatively on its front and rear.

Rebwar Rashed presents his political views in the form of a diary, with twelve rolled up acrylics on canvas.  Here, the symbols we normally associate with colours are altered.  On Iraqi mornings, a blue sky came to be associated with air raids, imminent death and destruction; grey therefore gains a peaceful, life-retaining element.  In Iraq as in Britain, black is a funereal colour, whereas in India white takes on that same role.  As it is, the canvases are rolled up so as not to reveal the true compositions of the twelve paintings, and so essentially we are looking at mere snippets of Rebwar’s diary; the effect, with figures from different canvases appearing to dance with each other across the face of all twelve, is redolent of a Guernica in full colour.

In the Christian corner, Ginette Fiandanca depicts the Cathedrale de Chartres, most easily seen through the representation of its famous labyrinth in one leaf and dolmenic crypt in another.  Time and history are amalgamated into the triptych; a hopscotch image painted over the top of all three leaves both connects and desecrates them, whilst symbolising the Holy Trinity.  It appears that the Son has turned the tables, but this time on the entire Christian Church with the power of an earthquake, churning up the archaeology of the land and displacing history into the present, revealing its secrets, riches, jewels, and perhaps Michael Petry’s delicately-blown libation dishes (Petry dishes?), which have landed safely in the next room, retaining their honey and wine.  The Holy Spirit, seen departing towards heaven in the top right-hand corner, having seemingly launched itself via the hopscotch, has freed itself from once-thought eternal imprisonment by the Church.

More literally apocalyptic is Christopher Ghussar’s response with another triptych, in which the fight between Good and Evil takes place in mid-heaven to protect purity and divinity, captured in a young girl redolent of Snow White – whose dress appears to be made of silky labial folds – from the threat of Evil, a skull-bearing phallic female.  Here Ghussar is successful in attempting to strip mythology of its imagery, dispensing first with colour; these etchings ask questions of the viewer, who is unlikely to have escaped the myths and fairy tales of childhood that help to shape his perception of the world therein.

This view of colour as being ‘too loaded’ is shared with Beverley Bennett, who plays with the drawing line and its language, with gestural marks on paper, by turns gentle and violent, inspired by Foucault’s ‘Madness and Civilisation’.  Melancholy, the state Foucault suggested ‘black bile’ to describe, is associated with inertia, whilst the gestural marks indicate violence and dynamism; the two states opposed and in one evoke a split consciousness, or schizophrenia, resulting in a conflict between the piece and its title.  The piece in situ, hung with sewing pins, with some components pressed to the wall and some ‘floating’, gains a sculptural aspect, resembling a shattered windscreen, outside which is superimposed the scratchy, fraught state of mind visible in one living with mental illness.

This play on visual language and its different means of speaking is shared with Alexander Tzallas, whose wall-mounted Braille message can be read only by a few.  If only the rest of us could see that it is an instruction not to touch the model of a deadly poison-dart frog sat on a pillar before it.  One is led to ask, ‘how does contemporary art cater for those with impaired of one or more senses?’

Philip Weiner, who presents several pieces that act in situ as one, deals further with this preoccupation with the human condition, illustrating strongly the common need to look to the self rather than the charismatic politician for guidance and succour. Here, Weiner expands upon a Freudian idea, suggesting the male to be more troubled by his lack of a womb than the female is by her lack of a penis.  A dismembered phallic structure is positioned upon two empty hyacinth glasses; a vaginal structure is troubled only by an, albeit thick, finger; a deflated football acts as a fist; an athlete’s hand positioned as if on a starting grid is redolent of a stiletto heel.  The image of masculinity is not concerned with the truth of male vulnerability and insecurity; it is all about strength and performance, with the result that men are frequently anxious about the role they are expected to play, as men. 

Furthermore, Antonia Pilgrim Ward reduces text and photography to a brutal, beautiful, simple painting, in which, it appears, a demonic male character of somewhat feral, prehistoric origins, frothing at the mouth, attacks and penetrates the female with what could be a dinosaur bone.  ‘Non ti nascondere’, says the female – or at least the text is tilted in her favour, armouring her with knowledge, and therefore power; nothing that this fiendish animal can perpetrate against her can hurt her, to her soul.  It is interesting that the piece was traced initially from a somewhat more benign photograph of her two young daughters playing.

Children can be cruel, of course, and Nikos Tsiaparas explores identity and personality through childhood play.  Each child appears to retain a toy or object that he or she is reluctant to share with the viewer/voyeur, despite teasing with Mona Lisa smiles and beseeching eyes.  These are amongst the most unsettling images of the exhibition, for as adults we tend to forget that children can be, whether they are conscious of it or not, sexual.  Tsiaparas presents these children as line drawings with only the visible flesh of the faces and hands treated to more than rudimentary colour and detail.  The eyes of the five children are so vivid as to stare back at the voyeur such that the latter feels the subject of scrutiny; there are shades of a horror film in the slightly sinister way the children brandish their toys.  A boy bears a toy gun pointing outwards from the canvas but such that its length is displayed in all its phallic pride, as he grins nonchalantly.  Contemporary themes of control, being controlled, sexualisation of children and even child prostitution can be read in the eyes and smiles of these strangely guilty innocents.

Tsiaparas’ study into childhood nostalgia from an adult perspective is shared by both Tom Geogheon and Michael Petry.  Petry’s glass balls on a rope are strongly interactive in that each ‘new owner’ is encouraged to post a momentous memory or details of an important event, such as the birth of a child or a highly optimistic ‘windfall’.  The title is proposed to change as each new owner adds a memory to the work, encouraging not only the retention of memories but also the act of regeneration, as the work will not lose its relevance if used as a memory storage device – as it moves from owner to owner, gallery to gallery, it essentially ‘draws’ its way around.  Beneath it sit Rachel Cheung’s exquisite porcelain ornaments, tensely juxtaposed with ordinary items of trash such as loo-roll holders and plastic drinks cups, that force us to rethink the way we look at the items that we every day find discarded in the street. 

There is an equal sense of regeneration in Geogheon’s sepia-lit light-box bearing old x-ray slides of spinal and pelvic injuries, some of which would have been recovered from, including, hopefully, the twenty-seven year old woman whose personal details are captured in one of the slides.  Both the light-box and the slides were saved from an old hospital where the artist had been treated as a child, now primed for demolition – one can hear the wrecking balls in the distance but it is in fact Paula Lucido’s black-belt kick-boxers striking out at one another to a slowed-down Steve Reich soundtrack – and used to create a beautiful piece of machinery that whilst dealing with a sombre subject, testifies to the hope of recovery.

Geogheon has in common with Susannah King the idea of finding and exposing abandoned spaces, whether that be the pelvic cavity of an old lady long since dead, or a dying common landscape in the case of King, whose three pieces, one stand-alone and the other a sort-of diptych, refer to the control and manipulation of a space, such that one could imagine walking into a pitch-dark forest with all its intangible ghouls and Ian Curtis whispering the lines of the first verse of ‘Disorder’ in one’s ear, the unknown whooshes and reverberations haunting one’s immutable progress.  Much of the visual energy of these pieces is suppressed; one almost has to feel for the atmosphere they create, and watch one’s hot breath rise up in a small cloud in the still, cold air.

Instead of seeking out abandoned spaces, Jeong Eun Kim creates them.  Her photographs of two books on the late nineteenth-century exploration of Southern Africa, bought from a charity shop and shot in a state of being opened or closed, dispense with their own histories – the artist has digitally removed all the text and defaced the books such that the photographed explorers seem to have taken all their hard work and gained knowledge to the grave.  Here is a rare political statement – history is written by the victors, and here, the vengeful Korean is removing the evidence of Western victory.  Time is in transition, as is evoked in the large-scale presentation of the books in a semi state of closure.  All the science fiction of the past 100 years suggests that the future has already been written; the past is obliterated.  Very Veronica Bailey.

More original is the return to the aforementioned Lisa Bradley, and her piece ‘Studio’.  Here, she attempts, literally, to capture the essence of her studio in a bottle, for the pleasure of the viewer, or voyeur, such that one can even get close enough to smell it.  Medicine bottles positioned on a shelf contain distilled scents meant to represent the smells of the studio, whilst each also contains a series of tattoo transfers on which, printed backwards, are a set of mantras from Bradley’s favourite and most inspiring artists – the quotes are only revealed when the tattoo is transferred.  It proves to be one of the most popular attractions of what is a mostly successful show, and whereas the bottles appeared perfectly neat and tidy at the beginning of the Private View, by the end, the tattoo plastics were scattered everywhere, tops of medicine bottles having rolled across to the other end of the room, plastic cups formerly of red wine stacked up on the shelf, much more redolent of the average artist’s studio.

ARTISTS: Helin Anahit; Beverley Bennett; Lisa Bradley; Robert Xue Bo Chen; Rachel Cheung; Jeong Eun Kim; Ginette Fiandanca; Laura Fiorio; Charlotte Gallon; Tom Geogheon; Christopher Ghussar; Tina Gverovic; Mark Hancock; Susannah King; Nina Krylova; Paula Lucido; Michael Petry; Zoe Pithers; Rebwar Rashed; Antonia Pilgrim Ward; Nikos Tsiaparas; Alexander Tzallas; Philip Weiner.