The Blue Pavillion


The Independent have published a feature here on the exceptionally-talented artist, writer & publisher Christiana Spens, focusing on her design work for her 3:AM Press book & chapbook series. Continue reading

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“Speak nothing, know nothing, know nobody”


‘In his ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, Walter Benjamin turned his attention to Paul Klee’s 1920 print Angelus Novus, which he interpreted as the angel of history. “His face is turned toward the past,” Benjamin wrote, “Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet [...] This storm is what we call progress.” Continue reading

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Homage to Michael Spens


The painting above is the late great John Bellany’s ‘Homage to Michael Spens’. An architect, writer, editor, soldier and Finnish Knight, Michael Spens was also one of the kindest gentlemen I have ever met. Continue reading

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The last poète maudit


I was asked to write this piece on ten of my favourite Gainsbourg lyrics for a music site but it fell off their radar and mine. Given Gainsbourg was born 86 years ago today, it seems an opportune time to post it. Enjoy…

PS I’ll be reading and doing a Q & A on Gainsbourg & 33 1/3 books with Pete Astor (The Loft, The Weather Prophets and Ellis Island Sound) and Alex Niven (Folk Opposition) at Rough Trade East, Brick Lane, London on the 26th of June. Come along.

The last poète maudit

Over the past twenty years, there’s been a growing appreciation of the music of Serge Gainsbourg outside France, particularly his masterpiece Histoire de Melody Nelson. This has come about largely through tributes by musicians (Portishead, Beck, Air and so on), word of mouth amongst record collectors and the quality of his work. Despite nods from the likes of Momus, Mick Harvey and Jarvis Cocker, Gainsbourg’s genius as a lyricist however has largely been lost in translation and goes relatively unacknowledged in Anglocentric music circles. Whilst the melodies and orchestration of Histoire de Melody Nelson are central to its magic, one of my aims in writing the 33 1/3 book on the album was to explore this overlooked lyrical side and place the album in its literary context; for, as well as being an exceptional songwriter and provocateur, Serge Gainsbourg was a poet. Continue reading

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Leaving Eden

robert adams

‘We have erected drive-in cafes where the buffalo once roamed, to say nothing of the dinosaurs. In a confession, to ourselves primarily… we might say: “Well, we’re human, what else could we do?” [...] Here, the purpose was not art or communication with some celestial being, but straightforward brute commerce. Adams cannot help but capture the beauty of the scenes of destruction because, worryingly for us, they are beautiful.’ Continue reading

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Kill your darlings


‘The assumption that Jack Kerouac was a conservative or a radical is mistaken; he was both, and is a consequence of the either/or viewpoint that has cursed Western thought since Aristotle. We’re much more complex and contradictory creatures than we like to think. “We contain multitudes” as Whitman rightly claimed; the key is coming to terms with how fucked up we are, which Kerouac never did, fleeing into company, solitude and drink with a manic intensity and inertia that finally killed him. The journey narrative that we, and perhaps he, superimpose (the young libertine turning into bitter drink-sodden puritan) is a falsehood. The reason Beckett, Kafka and their like are seen as particularly bleak writers is because they show us the unpalatable possibility that there are no journeys.’ Continue reading

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Image Space Light


‘The closest Patrick Scott came to disrupting his unfailing sense of harmony was with his Devices series. Created in an age when the nuclear obliteration of the human race was a distinct possibility, Scott’s paintings were notably detached works, all the more eerie because of their circuitous route to protest. The term “terrible beauty” has been much overused since Yeats coined it, but there is something both disturbing and alluring about Scott’s renderings of atomic explosions. It is not simply the realisation that the aesthetics of the sublime exist in the apocalyptic; this was known and explored aeons before physicists split the atom. It is the strange divinity involved; the idea that we are uncovering the secrets of the universe and we are seeing too much in the process. Continue reading

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