Saturday, February 24, 2007

EXHIBITION REVIEW - Luminous by Brian Eno

Until this installation, I’d only seen one other installation of Eno’s, in London sometime in the 1980’s. Then, he was exploring the capacity of video to produce colour, texture and a slow shifting sense of form, in conjunction with one of his ambient pieces of music. This current exhibition continues his fondness for creating self–generating systems. Here he’s created a catalogue of images, textures and colours that a computer randomises, changing the combinations, overlapping and slowly transforming. Apparently this system can generate 77 million paintings. The pace is gentle, the mix of colours - rich and startling. So beautiful sometimes, you achingly regret there passing. This is accompanied by an Eno soundscape, which sounds as if it too was generated from a number of set elements. The over all effect was meditative or hypnotic, a restful sense of calm in the midst of a frenetic department store. You watch your mind holding onto one moment and having to let it go, as it gradually evaporates and reconfigures itself.

Eno has rarely been interested in making emotiveness a primary route for his self-expression. His work visually or audible experiments with forms, processes by which things can be made, uses random elements and interventions to subvert any fixedness that might be creeping into the creative evolution of a piece. If anything the less present he is in a work the better. He is a man of ideas, and tackles making music or art in an idiosyncratic but fascinating manner. The end product might be cool in tone, or grating and unnerving, sometimes a bit edgy. Whatever the effect it is rarely preconceived or intended, that’s just the way the ideas led it.

Musically, at least, he’s been hugely influential, though he’s never been trendy or cutting edge enough to gain a place in the higher echelons of the rock hierarchy. He’s always been too quirky and unpredictable to be fashionable. He’s appeared to be happy twiddling in the background behind Bowie, Talking Heads or U2, and letting them take the major credit. Generally music has caught up with his earlier enthusiasms and innovations, so his more recent output has refined his processes and, as a result become more predictable.

His visual installation work has been rarely seen in this country. It extends his preoccupations with form and process into new areas, using up to date technological advances in image making. Don’t expect to be bowled over; it’s too subtle for that. Like his ambient music, you can either notice it or not, engage or disengage, like it or hate it. To give up the centre stage in this way, to a randomised computer process however pre-configured, requires the letting go creative of authority and the demands of an ego to be in total control of the result. I find this approach quite inspiring from a spiritual, as well as a creative point of view.


I’ve been on holiday for the last week and enjoying a bit of time to myself. Mostly I’ve been writing. David’s feedback on my ‘Binding one’s self without a rope’ article was that it was too short, raising interesting ideas and but not always fully exploring them. So I’ve focused on that, so far I’ve doubled the articles size. I’ve become more aware lately that my writing process has very similar characteristics to my painting process; slow in evolution, methodical, detailed and thorough in its execution. Where it differs for me is that I enjoy the evolving nature of a writing project, though occasionally I do lose confidence out of, an unfounded, fear that I might be rambling incoherently. Painting, however, I sometimes find tedious in the extreme in just getting the level of detail and precision I want. Though I may not always know what I need to do next, I am happy to let the process take as long as it needs. This confidence has grown over years of experience, learning to trust my own working style. My writing process has not yet reached this level of trust and confidence, though it is developing. Writing longer articles, and steering the flow of thoughts and narrative effectively, is still a concern.

Last Saturday I went to London with my friend Paco. He wanted me to introduce him to Modern Art. So we went to the Tate Modern. We covered only a quarter of the collection, in an exhibition called Surrealism and beyond. After visiting the Tate so often when I lived in London, the works on show were very familiar. At Art College I was particular fond of Dada, and by association Surrealism, so I was able to talk reasonable coherently about it. Having to talk about, and to some extent explain the artistic processes at work, renewed my interest in the paintings and sculptures. Modern Art is incoherent if you don’t understand the influences, ideas and processes involved; the social, political and psychological zeitgeist that fed into the artistic trends of the time. For the first time, how it came to be made, became more important than the end result. For the Surrealists letting unconscious, random, chance elements surface, removed the presence of rational logic from the final result. After viewing this we were a bit pooped mentally. The Gilbert & George retrospective, which has just opened, looked tantalising from the foyer, but alas not this time. I did come away with two large postcards of their colourful photomontages called ‘Life’ and ‘Death’, which now adorn my shrine. After this we went to Oxford Street, trying to find somewhere decent to eat - not easy I can tell you. Then went to Selfridges to see an installation by Brian Eno ( review to be posted )

Since my encounter with Ato Rinpoche, I seem generally to be in a more positive frame of mind. I’ve meditated every day since. I’m beginning to believe that my lack of enthusiasm for meditation in recent years, results from lack of inspiration. Ato Rinpoche was just a very inspiring human being. I was quite surprised when my friend Saddharaja said Ato Rinpoche was his first Buddhist Teacher when he first came to Cambridge. He told me quite a bit more about him too. What a small world.

This last week, I’ve been unwinding from a highly stressed physical state, most of my bodily tensions have lessened. I went swimming for the first time in months, which was hard, but benefited my sense of well-being. I know doing this more regularly would help me cope better with the stress at work. I just need to get better organised. I think that is another thing that has changed. I am now up for getting things sorted. I’m going to see an acupuncturist next week, to see if he can help with my back, hip, foot and shoulder pain. I’m not falling apart, honest just creaking a little.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


In recent weeks I appear to be having nightmares with greater frequency. David has had to avoid being kicked or elbowed. I know that they are dark chase dreams. In the last one I was being pursued by a black rabid dog. Without wanting to over analyse this, it feels as if I'm being menaced by my mortality. It has certainly been on my mind a lot lately. My work obviously feeds into this in a big way. Please don't talk to me about Cremation Grounds, I work in one.

This week there were two services for men in their early fifties who had died suddenly. One was diagnosed with a brain tumour in November and died in January. The other was visiting a friend, complained about not feeling well, drifted off and died before their eyes. As the big 50 is looming ( 4 months away ) this is sort of rubbing it in a bit.

On Friday there was a Buddhist Service, the first one I've been on. It was for an English man, led by a Tibetan called Ato Rinpoche. The moment I saw him I was struck by his demeanour, quiet, gracious and considerate. He was so concerned that any Christian minister present didn't feel left out. He was prepared to give them time in the service. Something ,I can assure you, most Christian ministers would not countenance, or be so generous. At the end of what was a very simple service composed of periods of silence, an address and chanting in Tibetan ( Refuges & Precepts, Amitabha Mantra & Rejoicing in Merits ), I was left feeling grounded and unperturbed. The heavy internal debate and conflict of recent weeks appeared lifted. Before the service he just smiled at me, and said 'what an important service I was giving to people'. This simple statement feels to have more meaning than the words alone convey. Perhaps consciously cultivating an attitude of service is a way forward from the 'wasted life' syndrome, that appears to be cyclical and unresolvable on its own terms.

My favorite music, what I'm listening to and hearing in my head constantly, are tracks from CD's by 'The Gotan Project'. A recent discovery for me, but they've been around for six years or so. The music is an inventive mix of Tango, Dub and Electro, whirling around in brilliant swirls and sweeps of fusion. If you haven't heard of them I heartily recommend the CD's ' La Revancha del Tango' and 'Lunatico'.