Friday, February 18, 2011

WORK IN PROGRESS - Show Of Hands Project Finished

After three months, 100+hours of work, including back strain and fatigue, the Show Of Hands project is finally finished. Here's a quick resume of the painting process as documented in photographs. If you miss the auto-play click on Show Of Hands in the bottom left corner and then click play.

Here it is installed in all its glory at the entrance to the warehouse. It's relief to have finally finished this project, one that has dragged on for considerably longer than I'd originally envisaged. But still, it is good to see it up there, loud and proud.

What ever next. Well, I'm already turning my mind to celebrations for Buddha Day/Wesak in May. I also have projects to develop our photo archive, improve the aesthetics of the Stupa Area, the end of the warehouse nearest the offices where the hanging is, plus ideas for future collective based projects, either in terms of subject matter or involvement. In other words, more ideas than I have either the time nor energy to carry out.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

POEM - The Unbeknown


Who knows

are there jungle birds not yet documented?

are there mountains no boots have stepped upon?

are there caves and oceans left unexplored?

are there bulls that never rage?

are there shackled limbs yet to be liberated?

are there wars that achieve their stated aim?

are there hearts that will never break?

are there things still unseen by human eyes
thought by human minds
or felt by human hearts?

higher states of consciousness

or are such things
just taunts
the cultivation of a hope
to jolly ourselves along with

are we simply lost
in the exploration
of our own mystery

whilst our persistent irritable bowels
punctuate with farts
a string of poorly drawn metaphors
that fist fight with death

we remain
to the point
that our pain weeps for itself

we capture our emptiness
hold it high
and vaingloriously cheer
at a dark green beer bottle

it's such a languid hold
we have on life

as if we already know
we're done for

what our real legacy
will be

most of us
will live

below our potential.

Written 12/2/2011 by

BOOK REVIEW - Patti Smith - Just KIds

You could call this a combined autobiography and a biography. Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe seem, at least from her re-telling, to have become joined at the hip from almost from the first moment they met. Both in New York, both trying to become the artists they feel themselves to be, each inspired and encouraged the other to be bold, to go further. Their early love and relationship, found them living in and out of each others rather thinly financed pockets. This life together began shaping their own unique talents.

Patti Smith appears to have been very muse like, willingly devoting herself to Mapplethorpe's talent, sometimes at a great cost to her own. She seemed to lack confidence, not quite knowing where to focus her effort, in comparison to Mapplethorpe who's impulsive instinctive temperament was somehow sure he was on the right track. Ironically it was Smith who achieved her fame first, melding her poetry with rock music, in one of the most distinctive debut albums in popular music history - Horses. With Mapplethorpe providing the iconic photo of Smith on the cover.

Mapplethorpe becomes more on the outer fringes of Smith's life as the book progresses as her fame arrives, he gradually discovers his real sexual predilections, and simultaneously the subject matter for much of his classic photography. Here Smith cannot follow him, she can seem touchingly naive and unsullied for a rock n roller. The subject matter of his photography -often sexually graphic was and still is controversial, combining classical beauty with explicitness.

Smith's writing can sometimes be sparse, sometimes richly detailed, or poetically refined,but always evocative. She captures the feeling of the times, whether its the late sixties or early seventies New York. The days of Woodstock, of Max's Kansas City, and CBGB's jump off the pages, the eccentrics. the trannies, the druggies, and the bands. Its pages are colourfully peopled with the late, and often great, Smith and Mapplethorpe seemingly colliding with many stars on either their ascendancy or decline. Whilst they lived in the Chelsea Hotel, people, now of note, but struggling then to make their name, lived literally on the same floor as them.

At times it can sound like Smith is name dropping constantly, or leaves the impression that she was some sort of guide or seminal influence on the people she met. There is a token amount of self-mythologising and reshaping of the past to more accurately predict or prefigure the present. I lost count of the number of times in the early chapters, she tells Mapplethorpe he should try photography. But, that's often the case, one refines what ones life, and the lives of others, are about through the process of retelling them. I can see why this book has garnered critical awards. She has a flair for conjuring up the zeitgeist of a period, its visual motifs , its times and places. Her verbal fluency is subtle and well crafted, avoiding the overwrought. The result has a unique beauty, a truthfulness that, though often quirky, is very grounded. A bit like Patti Smith.

FEATURE 72 - Don't be a drag, Just be a queen

Well, she's trying very very very hard to write an anthem here, and there is no doubt that this will be a real dance floor filler in the gay clubs. It's disco sound is rather old hat, but it is a very polished and superior gay stomp all the same. Lady Gaga is never going to be ground breaking musically, if anything she's rather predictable, being both on trend and retro at the same time. You could be kind and say this is an homage to that 'Material Woman', but really, no. Gaga's strategy for pop stardom is starting to look like it's been entirely modeled on Madonna's. She should be had up for career plagiarism.

God knows she can write an addictive tune though, and seeds them with plenty of lyrical catch phrases to hook onto, and chant them loudly as you dance - 'Don't be a drag, Just be a queen'. This invocation to be yourself usually ends up as - don't be a drudge, just copy me - because most of us don't have a clue who we really want to be, so we begin by borrowing or imitating. That said, Born this way's tone of defiance seems dated, as if she's picking an easy fight, one that's already been won - by someone else (the Big M). There is heaps of Lady Gaga self-mythologising going on here, where being yourself is equated with an extravagant dress sense, how long will it be before it all becomes self-parody, we wonder.

Still, this stomps along rather nicely with its glitter ball and platform boots in tow - 'Just put your paws up' she urges. I can already see the cat clawing at the curtains dance routine. Lets just hope the video is an improvement on the dire one she did for Alejandro, which was another Madonna retread. Gaga has to visually be a feast of style innovation, because the music rarely is.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


We try not to have opinions about things we cannot affect


Friday, February 04, 2011

FEATURE 71 - Adele

Oh, I can't find enough superlatives, to match the feeling she's conjuring up in me, so I wont try. Here's three of the best live recordings, always a good test of real talent.

DIARY 136 - Saying 'No' More Often

I've started swimming regularly since January swept in. Only once a week as yet, but I'm planning to up it to twice a week by the end of this month. This has generally been helping my back and Osteo-arthritis. It can make my joints ache more the day after, but the rest of the week is generally characterised by less joint pain and stiffness. So far so good.

This week I've had an underlying feeling of irritation, quite what about
remained spectacularly unspecific. I can take a guess at what I think is the right ball park. I believe it comes down to time on the Show of Hands project getting squeezed by other commitments I've made. Its another of my intentions for this year to give more consideration to what I agree to being involved in, to say 'No' more often. Until this current project is finished I can't really begin in earnest with newer projects such as :improvements to the Stupa Area; gathering a group together to organise and pool ideas for this years Windhorse Wesak.

My parents gave me a cheque for Christmas, quite a substantial one, which surprised me. It's some sort ofhanding on money so the tax man can't get his mittens on it. Anyway, this has prompted me to set up a savings Cash ISA and make a Standing Order to set aside a regular amount per month. Being able to save money is something that's very new for me. Most of my life I've just got by on whatever I have, and making it last till the end of the month. Saving obviously will require me to reduce my weekly spending a bit, which is probably no bad thing. I'll have to learn to say 'No' more often.

However, Jnanasalin and I are planning a long weekend away in Oxford at the end of the month, which I'm saving for, and looking forward to. I went there last year with Saddharaja, but we barely scratched the surface of what there is to see. I think there will be as much focus on good food as good places to visit. Usually we are quite lucky with weather on our early breaks, so fingers crossed it stays true to form.

I'm listening to Patti Smith's seminal album Horses, Birdland is playing in the background as I write. I'm reacquainting myself with how radical, earthy and really really out there she actually is. I've also bought her book Just Kids about her love for and creative relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. I'm barely a third of the way through, but it is colourfully evocative re-telling and extremely well written, as you'd expect from a poet.

One down side of my Osteo-arthritis is I'm experiencing periods of waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning. My major joints becoming so tender they say 'No' to slumber. I end up tossing and turning fitfully for my remaining hours in bed. When Jnansalin is away, as he is at the moment, I tend to put the light on , or get up. Today I was up drinking coffee and having breakfast at 3.30am, watched a couple of Time Team episodes consecutively and found some great videos of my new fave rave singer Adele, of whom there will no doubt be more later. Sometimes one can find simple compensations for everything.

WORK IN PROGRESS - Show of Hands - Stages 7+8+9

Though I haven't written about it since I resumed painting at the end of December,I have been plugging away at the Show of Hands hanging, ever since. Week on week it gets closer to completion. I estimate I'm about a fortnight away from finishing.

I have one more hand to collect, and I know whose that will be. Since the New Year I've struggled to maintain my enthusiasm for the project. The methodical pace and meticulously followed sequencing my painting always entails, does eventually drive me potty. I just want to get it finished! I want to be free of thinking about it, to be able to follow up new ideas. As it is I'm spending every moment of project time devoted to it.

The painting sequence is by this stage so hard wired, it has to be followed rigorously. After I finished painting the background stripes - I was painting all the hands white - then painting them alternating gold and iridescent gold - then outlining the gold hand squares in dark blue -then varnishing the background with matt varnish - then varnishing the hands in gloss varnish, then outlining the iridescent gold hand squares in gold framing paint - all the while touching up the bits where paint still flakes off - drat it!

There's still quite a bit to do, but what remains is not as labour intensive,and hence less time consuming. The final hand needs collecting, painting white, then iridescent white, then background matt varnished, the hand gloss varnished and gold outlined - The green border needs re-painting - Thin battening needs buying, priming, painting white and fastening to the canvas. - The squares need to be re-numbered, and decide whether the names should go on there as well. - I need to produce a 'legend' of whose hand is where - the title and explanation of what it is needs painting on the bottom - Finally I need to figure out how to move it without cracking the surface, and how to get it high up on the end of a warehouse aisle. Then of course to carry these manoeuvres out. Once hung, then, as Quentin Crisp phrased it, it will most probably hang there 'until its dead.'