Paradise Lost

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‘For all the immediate impact of this created space, it is curiously, and perceptively on Richardson’s part, the question of time that justifies the ghostly nature of the exhibition’s title. The size and hyper-real accuracy of the work impress, but left simply at that and Mariner 9 would be a science-centre spectacle or a modern version of the Victorian attraction to camera obscura and magic lanterns. In itself, that would be interesting, of course, but there is real conceptual and philosophical depth to Richardson’s piece. It reveals itself when we notice the age of technology scattered around the landscape. These are future ruins.’ Continue reading

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Beyond good and evil

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There’s a tendency among certain literary critics to misleadingly label certain types of writing as ‘transgressive’. This involves throwing a wide range of books (essentially those which don’t fit a narrow bourgeois remit) in together like cats in a sack. So you get shock for shocks-sake camp mixed in with genuine greatness. Extracting the brilliance from the bullshit can be difficult and the results are invariably subjective; for me Hamsun, Burroughs, Céline, Levy, Nabokov, Quin and Henry Miller are wonderful liberating writers for all their faults. Troochi, Bukowski, Brett Easton Ellis, Derek Raymond and Houellebecq I waver with, book by book. Acker and Palahnuik I’ve little time for, which is more my problem than theirs. This is, however, to accept that there is such a thing as transgressive writing, which feels like a concession too far. It seems another example of the herding impulse of critics, an impulse which is crucial to their existence as gatekeepers to the canon. We should be the barbarians at these gates. Continue reading

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Shape Shifting

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‘Understanding and making shape of the past can surely give us more choice in the present, but I am also fascinated by the concept of ‘hungry ghosts’. I saw my mother become haunted by her past during her long drawn out years of dementia and since then I have felt it really important to feed my own ghosts, in the hope that they will rest in some kind of peace and let me do the same.’ Continue reading

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Silent Music

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‘Allied to her evident fascination with Islamic and Modernist buildings, Mohamedi’s works could be said to have been unconventional blueprints. The worlds she hinted at could never be built, yet she demonstrated that they had echoes in our natural world. It was a question of how deep and how far we look. Continue reading

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Arghhhhh Melody

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I think I forgot to go to my book-launch, if there was one (my fault not Bloomsbury’s), but I will make it to something resembling my book’s crash-landing, in Rough Trade, off Brick Lane in London this Thursday at 7pm. I’ll be reading there from the 33 1/3 book on Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson alongside mighty fellow 33 1/3 authors Pete Astor and Alex Niven. There’ll also be a Q&A hosted by Bloomsbury’s finest Ally Jane Grossan, during which I intend to launch into a drunken foul-mouthed tirade before setting fire to a fiver and then performing a reggae version of La Marseillaise to a chorus of boos and death threats. Seriously though, come along, it’ll be fun. That’s a picture of Gainsbourg, with Birkin, dressed as Proust by the way, apropos of nothing.

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Windows to the universe

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‘I listened to a play by David Pownall, Hard Frosts in Florence. In it, Michelangelo says: “All God has ever done is to create space between things. The things were always the property of death and the Devil.” I’m not entirely sure what he means, but it seems to speak to the idea that space is paramount. If artworks don’t attend to or understand their relationship with the spaces immediately outside of them, or in a broader sense the world around them, they can be utterly deadening. If I’m having a good time at an exhibition, I’ll spend almost as long moving between works, taking something in or maybe looking at the way works meet or don’t meet each other, as I will spend with discrete works. The best video or film works need multiple viewings so you can afford to mentally drift off and miss bits that you’ll catch again. I like shows that make me feel as if I’m in slow motion.’

An interview with the artist Isabel Nolan, whose exhibition The weakened eye of day is currently showing at the IMMA, Dublin.

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Hip to be square

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‘At its best, Mondrian’s work acts as celestial order to counter Mark Rothko’s void. It ranges from the atomically small processes suggested in Composition in Colour B (1917) to the vast but similarly binary interactions of ocean and sky. It is all very Zen; calming more than revelatory. To his claims of utopianism, it is hard not to feel Mondrian the self-professed anarchist boxed himself in with Hegel the logician. Having stripped art to its building blocks, where could the artist go next? The elemental code that Mondrian painted in, and regarded as the beginning of art, was just as much the end.’

Dropped into Flatland to review Mondrian and his studios show at Tate Liverpool.

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