Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fairy Tales of John D Batten 1

The fact that I have not been able to chuck out this absolutely knackered copy of English Fairy Tales (1911) is in large part due to these illustrations by John D Batten. Batten appears to have been a minor but busy illustrator at the turn of the last century, including through the 1890s. He bears more of a debt to the 'movement' of the 1860s than to Beardsley and the 1890s set, although of course, their influence can't be entirely absent. Batten seems to have specialised in myth, legend and religion.

The last illustration below bears a striking, but I'm sure entirely coincidental, resmeblance to the way in the guardians of the castle of Dream are represented in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series - if I get a moment I will dig out a picture to blog for comparison.

Fairy Tales of John D Batten 2

Samuel R Delany Quote

I have been reading the article by SRD which I bought the SF Review fanzine for, blogged below. SRD absolutely shines when he is writing about writing and this article is about the process of writing and about the place and purpose of criticism. In the course of it I came across this wonderful quote:

"The General Public is a statistical fiction created by a few exceptional men to make the loneliness of being exceptional a little easier to bear"


Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Antiques Roadshow

Both R and I have been feeling a little under the weather recently with horrible colds, but we put all that aside yesterday to go tootling off in the sunshine to Ascot where they were filming The Antiques Roadshow. We've never been before and, have to say, we had a really good day. Everyone talks about the queueing and we did indeed have to queue for nearly two hours to have our first lot of objects seen. That said, the queueing itself is great fun, with loads of people-watching to be done and lots of rubbernecking at the things sticking out of other people's bags and so on. Also, because the queue is a ready source of people they make sure that it winds around behind where they do the filming of various segments so you can't really help but be in the background of shot.

We took a selection of R's collection of pots, a representative sample of the work of the manufacturer that he collects and were directed towards Fergus Gambon (son of Michael 'Dumbledore' Gambon) as our expert. So R came away from that very buzzy having been told that his collection was probably unique and important, that he should write a book and should leave the collection in his will to the National Pottery Museum in Stoke! The valuations given on some of the pieces were more than we had thought too which is always nice. In the afternoon we decided to brave the queues again and got from the back of the car our second lot of goodies which were two pastel landscapes and an oil painting. Again it was gratifying that the expert thought the pastels in particular were strong (and beautifully framed!!) but neither expert on the table was able to tell us who the artist might have been, which is really the reason we took them - a shame. However, the two pastels R picked up for £10 each in a junk shop were valued at about £150 each.

As a day out, it was a great bit of fun.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Grace Darling's Dad

Found in a forgotten drawer at the back of a shop. William Darling was the father of Grace Darling, a Victorian national hero. Of particular interest in this case is that the CDV has an inscription on the verso from Thomasin Darling, Grace's mother and William's wife, giving the card just a month or so after his death. It is said that even in these early days of celebrity, Grace eventually found the whole business of being famous rather trying.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Derek Jarman: Exhibition

A while ago I told you about my latest trip into the steam and darkness of London's bath houses. It was there that I picked up a flier for the Jarman exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery. I didn't get to the exhibition myself so I wil try not to pass too much judgement but it does seem that it was not well received by the critics.

A friend of a friend took their 11 year old neice to see it. The little girl came out of the gallery saying, "so, they guy was gay... he needs to get over it."

It seems to me that can only be the fault of the curator. It would be a little like coming out of an exhibition about the suffragettes and hearing someone say, 'so they were women...'

So, regardless of the possible merits or otherwise of the exhibition at the Serpentince I'd decided a long time ago to do something more on Jarman here this year and so here is my own little exhibition for your purusal.

I give you Derek Jarman, renaissence man, film-maker, painter, writer of achingly beautiful prose and photogenic gay saint.

Derek Jarman: Images #1

Isaac Julien and Tilda Swinton at Jarman's grave
Still from Jubilee, 1978

Stills from Jordan's Dance, 1977

Derek Jarman: Images #2

Stills from early Super 8 films:
Gerald's Film, 1975
Journey to Avebury, 1971
Fire Island, 1974

Derek Jarman: Chroma

"Blue light. A Spectral light. Leni's full mooon falling through a crystal grotto in the High Dolomites. The villagers draw their curtains against this blue. Blue brings night with it. Once in a blue moon...

Tacitus tells us of a spectral tattooed army, the Pictish Britons nude in the colour of the Ethiopians, Caeruleus. Dark blue, not the sharp blue from the paint tube."

Chroma (Century, London, 1994)

Derek Jarman: At Your Own Risk

"5th November 1991

Last night it was very cold, fireworks and rockets flaring in the sky. I went up to the Heath early because I was fed up getting in so late, I would be back before midnight which makes it easier to get up in the morning.

Two men had built a bonfire, others were standing round keeping warm. A young man stopped me. He very much liked Edward II. I thanked him and he introduced me to his friend.

'What are you doing up here?'

'Oh, I'm being shown the sights. I moved to London two months ago and my friend's showing me the sights.'

He seemed happy to meet me. We talked about film and then he told me his story.

'I'm a miner's son. It's been difficult coming down from the north to London.'

'Well, I know a bit about that. People are less friendly down here, aren't they?'

'Yes, that's certain.'

'What was life like up there?'

He laughed: 'I fucked all the boys in my school, every single one of them. They are all married now except for me - my father joined in! Isn't life strange?'

We talked for half an hour and then he said, 'I want to tell you a terrible story... I've got a boyfriend back home.'

'Yes, everyone up here has got a boyfriend. Who doesn't have a boyfriend?' I joked.

'Three years ago he was diagnosed HIV+. His doctor, who knew he was gay, organised a test for him. when he went back two weeks later for the results, he was told he had the virus. The doctor was a born-again Christian and he said my friend should give up his homosexuality and become a Christian. He didn't do that and we coped for three years. A month agohe was called up and asked to go and have further tests by the hospital. He was tested and then re-tested and called back to be told he never had the virus. They had been investigating the doctor, who had been giving young men who he knew were gay false positive results."

At Your Own Risk. A Saint's Testament (Hutchinson, London, 1992)

Derek Jarman: Smiling in Slow Motion

"Friday 24th May (1991)

There is not a breath of wind this morning, a bright redstart hops over my stones. Wallflowers and sea thrift, yellow and pink, patches of fluttering white sea campion, wilnd mignonette flowering at the roadside

Washed clothes and the kitchen floor, and watered my fennel seedlings.

Saturday 25

Mist closed in at dawn - the foghorn's incessant boom woke me. The sun made a brave attempt to break the gloom, slight blush in the clouds. A jetliner ruled two lines across the sky, before the mist closed over everything. Raked the fire. It's an English summer - still very cold. my bees arrived at 9.30, to greet them the weather cheered up."

Smiling in Slow Motion (Century, London, 2000)

Derek Jarman: Modern Nature

"Saturday 3rd June [1989]

Dungeness bathes in a pool of clear sunglight ringed by dark purple thunder clouds. Heat shimmers off the stones - there is no wind today. Breathless the bees' lazy flight through the foxglove spires.

My blue columbine is in flower, and last year's seedlings are thriving. The columbine - aquilegia, the eagle's foot - a wild flower, has crept into my garden, one of the herbs used against the Black Death in the 14th century.

The thunder clouds move closer - a hawk hovers so high it is almost invisible. Down here on the stones blue damselflies and butterflies mate. Gold cinquefoil and bacon-and-eggs catch the last rays.

The sun is overtaken by clouds; distant boom of thunder.

Cinquefoil boiled with the fat of children made the witches' ointment, spell flower for love potions."
Modern Nature (Century, London, 1991)

Derek Jarman: The Last of England

"That night started on the star-shaped, glass dance flor of The Sombrero in Kensington; afterwards we dropped acid in the cab. The bars of the late 60s and early 70s were no longer as closeted. The Continental Baths in New York, the most exciting club of the lot, were host to the social register on Fridays. The Baths were on the West side above Columbus Circle, in an old building: eleven dollars entry. The dance floor was alongside a very large swimming pool with fountains, surrounded by beach chairs. Off to the side was a labyrinthine white-tiled Turkish bath whose corridors ended in pitch black. The scalding steam took your breath away; in the darkest recesses a continuous orgy was under way, but the heat was so searing that only the most intrepid could get it up.

Besides the Turkish bath, there were saunas, a hundred bedrooms, a restaurant, a bar, a games room, and a hairdresser's, backrooms with bunks, pitch-black orgy rooms and a sunroof; on a weekend it would be packed. It was possible to live there and at 11 dollars a night cheaper than an hotel, or apartment. I met one young man who had lived there for three months; he had only left the building a couple of times.

Like the desert, though, the Baths played disturbing tricks, down there where time dissolved you in the shadows. The handsomest were the drug dealers, sprawled out on their bunks, gently masturbating, their doors slightly ajar to trap the unwary, and if you swallowed their bait, inhibitions cast aside, you'd be making love in that swimming pool, packed with naked bodies. Later, in an apartment crawling with cockroaches, staring at the ravaged features of some Adonis whose caked make-up had cracked like mud a the bottom of a dried-up lake, not all the fountains could restore the dream. This life could become as wearying as the treadmill of the rodent's cage; round and round we went in the land of Cockaigne."

The Last of England (Constable, London, 1987)

Derek Jarman: Painter

From top to bottom:
- Self Portrait, 1961?
- 2nd Potters Bar Fete, 1961
- Landscape, June 1992
- Fuck Me Blind, June 1993
- Dizzy Bitch, October 1993

Derek Jarman in Pictures #1

Derek Jarman in Pictures #2

Ephemera Day 1

I imagine - well actually I hope - that all dealers in ephemeral material and photographs and the like will have, as I do, several large boxes around the place stuffed full of 'stuff' that they have largely forgotten about. Much of it will be the result of bulk buys from which the good stuff has already been creamed off, some of it will be the result of bad judgement moments, some of it will be much more interesting. Things which, even if they have little or no monetary value have inspired that dealer to squirrel it away because of some undefinable, ephemeral something that it has.

I had to go through one of my boxes of this sort today and from the dross I pulled a few goodies to share.

Ephemera Day 2

I can see exactly why I kept this. It's the colours - isn't it vibrant. It's cut from a double page of the boys' comic The Eagle from the 1950s

Ephemera Day 3

A single large page torn from a 1963 edition of The London Illustrated News with these two photos taking up the whole page and certainly also worthy of the Ethnic Men Flickr Set.

Ephemera Day 4

This somewhat macabre etching (scanned in two parts hence the line in the middle) was simply lying in the box and neither R nor I can be sure how we came by it but we think probably it was in amongst a lot of other stuff we might have bought. There is no signature, no title, no nothing.

Ephemera Day 5

As part of my recent National Geographic fetish I spent a little time liberating the special pull-out maps and supplements included in the NG during the 10s and 20s. This one is a wonderful technicolour 'rendering' of Washington which, at the time, was still being built to a 1901 plan which 'created' a national capital in an incredibly ambitious way.

Ephemera Day 6

These three things almost define the notion of ephemera. They are Scripture Union tracts from 1899 printed on a single folded sheet of the most ridiculously thin, flimsy and cheap paper. Their survival alone ought to be enough to inspire belief in the God they proclaim!

Ephemera Day 7

A rather nice little photo this which was just floating loose in the box. Of course, it has now been added to my Ethnic Men Flickr Set
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