The Jumble Book

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I wrote The Jumble Book as an attempt to make sense of my almost life-long obsession/habit of collecting stuff - some would call it junk. For the purpose of the book I was content to go with that term. It was published in 1999 by Minerva Press who have now gone out of business. I have not shown an image of the book cover as I wasn't pleased with it at the time, it was a poor attempt. I wanted to design it myself but that was not an option. As can be seen from the blurb, the book is about more than collecting so I would like to give a summary here incorporating a brief description of the contents with some quotes.


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THE ART OF JEAN  PIERRE GARRIGUE

Ceret is a beautiful town in southern France which has earned a reputation as a location where artists flocked to in the early twentieth-century. Whilst browsing in an antique shop there a few years ago I came across a painting which seemed of particularly high quality. The owner told me that it was by a local artist called Jean Pierre Garrigue, he also said that he was not well known. This surprised me since I thought it was an exceptional piece which would have looked at home in the Gallery of Modern Art just around the corner. As an art historian, I wanted to know more. The owner, Alain Ribes, showed me a book of Jean Pierre's paintings (around 500 were found after Jean Pierre sadly took his life after being traumatised while serving in the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence) Jean Pierre was only 25 at the time. I would like to share here some images of his paintings which show what a talented young man he was, the landscape was painted when he was only 11 years old. I hope that others will share my view of this, I exhibit these painting while showing the utmost respect to Jean Pierre's memory.

Soon after I came across Jean Pierre's paintings I wrote an article which can be read below.

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THE REBEL STARRING TONY HANCOCK

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For a course I did on cinema (Cinema and Society in Britain in the 1950's & 1960's) I chose to write an extended essay on the film The Rebel  (1961) starring Tony Hancock. I decided to analyse  it in comparison to The Horses Mouth (1959) starring Alex Guinness since I regarded this to be an interesting juxtaposition; my theory was that The Rebel paved the way for the post-modernist artist. In the course of the two year that separates the films there seemed to have taken place a significant shift regarding ideas about what it meant to be an artist in the modern day (at that time, the late 1950's/early 1960's). It could be argued that this theory is giving too much credit to the films (especially The Rebel) which was considered in the course material as "low-brow". The difference between the two artists interested me, whereas Gully Jimson (Guinness' character was considered competent (a genius by some), Hancock's work was considered as rubbish. My aim was to refute this dismissal of Hancock the artist and achieve some credibility for him by way of art historical and cultural analysis. I entitled my piece PROVINCIAL MODERNIST POSTURING MEETS POST-MODERN REBELLION.

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In my essay I considered the idea that Anthony Hancock is more akin to a figure like Andy Warhol. His ability to gather unorthodox characters around him echoes Warhol's Factory in New York which came into being only a few years  after The Rebel was made. Warhol made his first Pop Art piece in 1961 the same year as The Rebel was released, his famous Campbell's soup cans date from 1962. Whether Galton, Simpson and Hancock realised they were predicting the "shape-ist things to come" I am not sure. However, it would seem that much of Hancock's experience in Paris can be mirrored with what took place during the following years which saw the arrival of Pop Art. Even before this artists such as Salvador Dali were shamelessly promoting themselves, his confidence knew no bounds. Hancock also has unwavering confidence in his ability (some would say foolishly), it is this confidence that propels him into the Parisian art world where he becomes  a celebrity and guru. Dali is quoted as saying "a true artist is not one who is inspired, but one who inspires others". In this respect, Hancock lives up to Dali's assessment. Of course, there is the question of his artistic ability. This is a taking point which needs to be addressed. I intend to look into this further in my re-assessment of The Rebel which will take the form of a new shorter essay.

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My original essay was formed from five chapters.

Chapter one dealt with establishing a more credible status for The Rebel. I attempted to do this by an analysis of the contribution the two actors (Hancock & Guinness ) made to the films, original source material for each film and contemporary critical reaction.

Chapter two considered both the differences and similarities between the films.

Chapter 3 looked at attitudes, prior to and during the period, towards modern art in Britain and examine "cannons of taste".

Chapter 4 Examined what kind of artist each of the characters were in order to place them as modernist (Jimson) and post-modernist (Hancock).

Chapter 5 suggested a need for an updated evaluation of The Rebel in the light of subsequent art movements and the cultural revolution which took place during the 1960's. Also, the nature of contemporary art in the closing years of the twentieth-century.

I intend to write a new piece this time focusing on The Rebel. The Horse's Mouth was useful at the time, however, it is enough to note the main purpose it serves is to illustrate how culture changed so drastically over the course of two years (1959-1961). Therefore, my intention is to closely analyse The Rebel in order to create a convincing discussion to back up my theory that it was a ground breaking film which foretold the nature of what was to come in the following years with regard to visual art.


The new essay entitled THE REBEL REVISITED can be read here.   


 
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BOOT LOOT

A situation comedy based on two main families:

The Hughes family, Jim and Sheena are two aging Hippies who sell at car boot sales. They sell anything they can get their hands on that will make a profit and they are really up on modern collectibles, however, they are also antique experts. They are quite well- off and have bought a house next to a middle-class couple who run a small antique shop. The irony is that although the other couple (the Robertson's) think they have a superior knowledge of antiques to the Hughes' this is not the case. The Hughes' actually have more expertise and are street-wise too.

So, situations arise where McKinley Robertson (owner of Kinsman Antiques) thinks he is putting one over on Jim Hughes (nicknamed Boots) when he is actually putting himself on the receiving end of a scam set up by the Hughes family (one member of the family in particular)! 

To add to the comedy potential, both families have grown up children (kind of grown up anyway) The Hughes' have a son called Jimi (named after Jimi Hendrix) and a daughter called Yoko (after Yoko Ono obviously)!

Jimi, who is a bit crazy, is into retro and kitsch and often appears with over the top objects. His appearance has comedy potential as he looks like a 1970's throw-back, he has an afro-type hairstyle and wears things like platform shoes, an identity bracelet, a sovereign ring and star-shaped tinted glasses. But, even though he looks a bit stupid (and acts it most of the time) he is really smart . McKinley Robertson thinks he is a moron but Jimi is much smarter than him as it usually turns out.

Yoko is a real 21st-century girl who thinks her brother is a bit of a fool for being retro. She exists exclusively in the time period of "now". She has absolutely no time for anything from the past - even yesterday is too long ago for her. She dresses up-to-the minute and is always on the look out for the next big craze. She has no time for the Robertson family, she regard them as dinosaurs, especially their son Rex who is a younger version of McKinley in a way. Rex has a big crush on Yoko, however, she thinks Rex is an old-fashioned bore.

Therefore, the Hughes' are a tuned-in family who are slightly common and down to earth. Whereas the Robertson's, in the nicest possible way, think they are a cut above everyone (especially the Hughes) 

Sheena and Kirsty are the respective wives of Boots and McKinley;

Sheena is a smart cookie - maybe the smartest of them all. She stays in the background most of the time but when she speaks it's usually to deliver a witty (and often cutting) retort at the expense of McKinley.

Kirsty is just a silly woman, she thinks McKinley is wonderful. Her son Rex is her pride and joy. She does not say much but when she does it is usually to agree with McKinley or say something really silly. She might have hidden depths though which would become apparent through her woman to woman relationship with Sheena.

Rex Robertson is a kind of baffoon (a bit like his father but more affable and not so pompous). He is at university doing a maths degree, he thinks he's quite cool but he often does and says things that suggest he is not. It is usually Yoko that find him out which is ironic since it is Yoko he is always trying to impress.

There is another subsidiary family called the Wemyss' (pronounced Weems). They are a family of obsessive collectors. They have three small children who are always referred to as the "wee Wemyss' (pronounced (the wee Weemsies'). The parents are Angus and Wilma, they are a bit freakish as a family. The children always push a pram around which is full of beanie babies. All Angus and Wilma ever think and talk about is their collections which they amass on a grand scale. They buy things at car boot sales and now and again even pop in to Kinsman Antiques if they get wind of anything. 

I wrote this back in the late 1990's. Having read over it, I think it is worth recounting it again. An edited version of BOOT LOOT can be read below. This shortened version is intended to convey a taster of the whole piece by following the narrative with selected sections of dialogue. Since it was written in the late 1990's that is the time it is set. The Hughes' family dialogue is written in vernacular Scottish.

 

HENRI MATISSE

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The Royal Academy in London is currently showing an exhibition entitled Matisse in the Studio (5th August-12th November 2017) which explores Henri Matisse’s relationship with a collection of objects he used in his paintings. The actual objects are on display alongside works they feature in. There has been mixed critical response to the exhibition, some critics are taken by the idea, for example, one likens a large Spanish vase to “a tough Andalusian woman”. Others believe that Matisse’s artistry has been swallowed up by bric-a-brac, wondering unfairly why in 1942 he was more interested in a Venetian chair than he was in the war going on around him. This forgets the fact that during this time Matisse was recovering from a serious illness, the critic does have a point, however, when they suggest that the theme explored “is at best a footnote in the history of art”.
During the time of his recovery Matisse made the acquaintance of a young woman called Monique Bourgeois who became his nurse. They became close friends, it was this genuine friendship that was the catalyst for the creation of the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence located in a small town in southern France. Matisse stayed in the town while he convalesced, it is where he and Monique’s paths crossed over a number of years. Their friendship was tested when Monique became a nun much to the disappointment of Matisse, he was not a religious man and had misgivings about Monique’s decision. However, their friendship was strong enough so when Sister Jacques Marie (as she became known) was staying across the street from him in a Dominican rest home they continued to see one another.
A moving film directed by Barbara Freer shows Sister Jacques Marie in her later years discussing her relationship with Matisse and recounting how the chapel came to be built. She reveals that she showed the artist a small sketch she had designed to one day hopefully become a stained glass window in a much needed chapel, at the time they were using an old garage. This idea stayed with Matisse and became the nucleus for the creation of the chapel which would be designed entirely by him. The project was not without controversy with objections coming from some of those inside the church, Matisse was not considered a suitable choice to create a holy building, he was a non-believer and his art was suspect in their eyes. Nevertheless, the Chapelle du Rosaire was consecrated in 1951, according to Matisse it was a “shared project” between himself and Sister Jacques Marie. Visiting the chapel one wonders, therefore, why Sister Jacques Marie’s window was never included, Matisse has been quoted as saying that the chapel had “imperfections”, perhaps this is one of them? However, it is clear that Matisse broke new ground in his art in the chapel. He designed stained glass windows, three minimal murals and an altar, he used the colour reflected in the glass from the windows to create coloured patterns of light on the plain white tiled walls. It has been described as a project in which art and faith connect and there is no doubt that, even if not driven by religious piety, it was a labour of love by Matisse. The artist has declared the chapel to be his masterpiece and there seems no reason to disagree.
This brings me back to the exhibition at the RA which could be viewed as misleading regarding what Matisse left behind in terms of an art historical legacy. As already stated, Matisse considered the chapel as his masterpiece, therefore, in the artist’s opinion, this was his best work. It would seem that with the chapel in Vence Matisse started anew from a different standpoint, he seems to have obliterated all previous desire to depict objects, this is a work devoid of materialist concerns, this is a spiritual leap into a world without extraneous things. That is why the RA exhibition seems unnecessary, by lionising “mere props” with curatorial zeal they are making something out of nothing. Matisse it would seem, at the end of his life, wanted to keep things simple so why distort art historical principles by drawing attention to the objectified world he seemed to want to leave behind, how can you make a blockbuster exhibition out of a footnote in art history?

o
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