Sunday, October 28, 2007

Siouxsie at Astoria II

The support act was utterly derivative of lots of things. The vocals were also very very Siouxsie. As Owen mused on his blog: Was somebody having a cruel laugh? Putting the imitative children on before the Grande Dame? Her vocals were watered down Banshees, but without substance, delivered in a blonde bob and mummy's shoes. I kept turning round and asking our friend Geoff 'Ooooh is it me or is this on Kaleidoscope?'...and 'Oh... i know this!... it's off JuJu!'... Actually, delving deeper, if that were possible but you know what I mean, they sounded more like they were doing a bad impression of Hazel O'Connor fronting Death Cult (yes, it IS an inspiring thought but that's ALL). F*cking Fantasy 80's. Let's play SOUNDALIKE. Not pleased... Anyway, thankfully, The Point of the evening arrived soon enough.

I expected the new album, plus a couple of extra things 'in progress', and maybe an encore of recent single 'Into a Swan' and a sparse Banshees b-side or Miss the Girl, as probably were most people. Well, of course she didn't do that but took to the stage and launched into Israel instead, which was thrilling but mildly outrageous without Severin and/or other Banshees.

Sadly it took a while for her voice to warm up but by the second tune Arabian Nights (Swoon! Gush!... *Stephen turns to PUTTY*!) it was fine. She looked great, and by and large sounded great; and she was really haughty and throwing old-school Banshee 'shapes' all over the shop. She even got her bells out. Fantastic.

The show was to promote Mantaray, and I knew the new songs already from listening to them while painting. My favourite is Here Comes That Day which is sad but gently furious at the same time. The new stuff belongs to the same 'sound world' as Classic Banshees but it's more polished. The songs don't have that edge of having been recorded through the night on drugs. For example, I can't imagine Robert Smith looking 'completely gone' wearing Raybans and feeling his way along a wall in
Venice to them if you get me. Actually talking about that video (the best video of the 80's in my opinion, that and View to a Kill), she did a great version of Dear Prudence that was pure psychedelia just as it should be.

Nightshift was sinister enough, and Hong Kong Garden during the encore, which isn't normally a fave of mine, was tremendous. The band were expert. In a way they played the songs 'better' than the Banshees ever did but I know a few people didn't go because they couldn't bear to hear session musicians murder Banshee classics. They weren't murdered, they just weren't quite the same but it still felt mildly wrong, morally speaking, for a gang of imposters to be tinkering with sacred history. On the other hand, I think Siouxsie should be allowed the chance... and what a back catalogue to plunder. I did feel howver that she could have been a bit less obvious once or twice: I'd rather hear Pulled to Bits or Coal Mind than Spellbound (that really is a bit 'SingalongaSiouxsie'), but I s'pose a girl's gotta sell tickets!

Siouxsie's on again at the Roundhouse next month. I can't wait, and I'm pleased she's finding a new lease of life going it alone as a glamorous divorcee. I like her better now. Living in France surrounded by cats always felt a bit cosy for Siouxsie who really should be out there exploring dangerous territories and kicking against the pricks. Talking of new leases of life all I need now is The Glove to reform (in a blast of bad acid!)... to really line up my formative heros! God I'd kill for a ticket to THAT comeback gig !

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Art Weekend

Went for a troll round Zoo Art Fair last Saturday, the smaller, once so-called 'edgier' sibling of Frieze. But it's no longer at London Zoo, where it started, having relocated to the former Museum of Mankind in Burlington Gardens, now part of the RA building or perhaps it always was. And it's got bigger and more international (which is probably a good thing), but doesn't quite feel as vital as it did two years ago. And you can't go off cooing at Meercats afterwards. Anyway, as regards the art I thought the best stands or 'booths' belonged to out of towners. Of the London contingent shamefully two London galleries that share the same building in Vyner Street looked as though they had merely unpacked the same work as last year and most of the others were not much better. But no matter... onto the good stuff...

The marvellous Workplace from Newcastle were showing one of Marcus Coates' madcap shamanistic investigations and also 26-year old artist Laura Lancaster. Laura makes paintings lifted from random anonymous photos found in junk-shops, and has built up a battalion of painted memory belonging to others. Laura showed a wall of white canvases, painted (or rather lightly sprayed or 'touched' as they're hardly there at all) with ghostly impressions of faces in silvery grey taken from a school photo. The canvases were all different dimensions, some stapled some pinned in up the sides, but all whitewashed to uniform funereal effect. It's one work. But in the crowded small space it didn't look like that. I could only see them separately, but I'd love to see it in a big sympathetic room. The gallery showed me more of Laura's work, secretly stored in a draw behind the scenes. In colour this time, on small tablets and MDF boards, forgotten holidays and beaches, dead family scenes unearthed. The drawer felt fitting for such sensitive stuff. The assistant should really have been wearing autopsy gloves, lifting out memory tablets with hushed reverence: 'and here are two more forgotten lives, from, we think, Weymouth, but one cannot be sure...' . I'd like to know Laura's intent in this work, whether it's a removal of long-forgotten people from their dusty junk-shop homes for a new lease of life and a second chance or whether the work assists Laura in an examination of her own origins and place in the world. Or perhaps both.

I also enjoyed the 'The Happy Lion' from Los Angeles who were showing Tabitha Morris, an LA artist who paints sylvan glades and rolling landscape in pleasing greens and pastels, with just a touch of acidic yellow and lime, crowded with roaming maniacs with gurning faces and lolling tongues raving or drugged like they're on the run from the local asylum. The pictures are made in sensitive watercolours or inks and painstakingly detailed on paper sheets, and from ten feet look like the trad landscapes your Mother likes, but take a step nearer and its bedlam with an injection of Otto Dix. I enjoyed the view. But my God, those colours! Like dropping an acid tab in a Lovehearts factory. 'The Happy Lion' were also showing Thaddeus Strode's works on paper, similarly peopled with strange beings and fantastical imaginings. My favourite was an evil pumpkin perched on a post called 'The Haunted Mailbox'. I'd like to see his larger mixed media pieces.

After that I dropped in on the 'Pop Art Portrait', at the National Portrait Gallery, worth the £9 entry alone to see Ray Johnson's 'Oedipus' : a treated magazine page of Elvis crying blood. Also worth the dollars are Warhol's 'Screen Tests' playing continuously and opposite Peter Gidal's 'Heads' in a darkened middle chamber. I also enjoyed two great Rauschenbergs, and a Warhol 'Double Elvis'. I simply MELT in front of Warhols.

On Sunday we went to Freize, having giving it a wide berth in previous years. Freize was huge, and overwhelming. We did it in three hours. When you arrive you take in a massive amount very quickly, but after an hour and a half of seemingly endless 'high-end' international galleries you start to get a kind of art-induced selective fadeout, and instead of taking in as much as you can with wide-ranging parameters you just start looking for punchy things that grab and missing out on sensitive quieter things. Or at least that was my experience. At Zoo I found it easy to find things that interested me and that I still remember but Freize was serious overdose. Although I've got a list of scribbled galleries, I can barely remember what I liked about them.

The Doctor Who Project

Show opened on Thursday. I forgot to take any photos, or commandeer someone else to, so i've got no pouting pv pics. Thank goodness I hear you cry! Anyway, it was a great night, busy all evening, although the gallery gets a bit hot with that many people as it's small with a low ceiling so it's not ideal for openings, but I'm pleased with the exhibition. It's on until 6th November at Nancy Victor, 36 Charlotte St, W1. Tel: 020 7813 0373, Mon-Fri 10-6, it's also open on Sat afternoons but call first.

Friday, October 05, 2007


The photo is four of my Dalek drawings, on the table at Five Years as part of 'Peer Esteem': a project that brought together submissions by 104 artists. Each artist provided four A3 flat works on paper, and initially each set of papers were shown in the order they were received. Thereafter, and during ordinary opening hours at the gallery, it was up to the viewer to choose which piece they wanted to view on the gallery wall. The invigilator then slotted the four papers into a group of frames and hung them. The entire process was filmed by video camera with a microphone recording the conversations between the viewer and the invilator. You were not warned at the door that your requests and observations were being evidenced for posterity and quite right too. I'm all for ambushing. Unfortunately however I'm two weeks late posting this so it's finished now... but cos i've been busy.

The drawings are studies for my 'Doctor Who Project', initially mooted on this very blog as a side-project back in August. I've been on Gallifrey ever since. Hence no posts for ages. You can see the results in Charlotte Street from October 12th. Details to follow.