Review: The Painter of Modern Life

The Painter of Modern Life
The Painter of Modern Life by Charles Baudelaire

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I struggled to decide whether this should be 3 or 4 stars, but given that I didn’t enjoy reading a vast chunk I’ve knocked it down to 3. It was an interesting style of writing, and what drew me in particular to this book (aside from Baudelaire being recommended to me on several occasions at uni), was that it was part of a series ‘dedicated to those writings that changed the way people thought about the world’ or something… To be honest, I probably could do with re-reading the beginning, or reading it solidly over a few days rather than sporadically over a few months, as I really can’t remember much from the first part. some of it clearly struck a chord with me, as I’ve underlined and highlighted several passages, but the swathes of praise for Delacroix sort of fell on deaf ears, as I’m not that familiar with his work (and to be fair, nothing in the passages made me think ‘oh I should go look him up’). The final passage on photography and how it should not be considered art, and should remain low-brow was fairly amusing to me, not least because it was referred to as mechanical; as are certain types of printmaking, but he lauds that earlier in the book.
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Bout of Books round up

Aka, days 5-7..

So I didn’t do all that badly, I don’t think. I definitely made good progress particularly in finishing a couple of lurkers on my currently reading list.

Saturday I finished off The Stranger by Albert Camus, made all the more easier once I realised I had a physical copy to read lurking on a dark shelf, as the e-book version was just not very e-book friendly. Next up was a photography book that had a couple of essays in it – oh and a great quote from Henri Cartier-Bresson:

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Sunday I got less reading done, as I had signed up to run the Oxford Town and Gown 10K Sunday morning (1hr 15m if you were wondering). Afterwards though in a very hot bath, i finished A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy. The last few chapters were interesting enough giving me more ideas on what to read, but the thing that really bugged me about it was that for the first 30% of so of the book, the author kept heavily suggesting you read several other texts, which to me, misses the point of this series… but anyway, done with.

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I now have the rather ominous task of writing a piece of criticism on a literary text for my evening class, that is due in about 10 days, which wouldn’t be half as ominous if I wasn’t away visiting family the entire weekend. Wish me luck!

Bout of Books Day 3-4

So my week of reading is not going quite as planned, I’ve been really busy as well as trying to fight off a stinking cold that is threatening to ruin my long standing plans to run a 10K this weekend. But I managed to find time to do the day 3 challenge for Bout of Books “5 Favourites” and with that I present 5 of my favourite book covers. I would say that a good cover design is definitely something that will make a book stand out – particularly when in a physical store (especially if the cover is embossed and made of a nice feeling paper), although buying online can be a visual game as well I guess.

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Don DeLillo – is one of the newer, sexy Penguin Modern Classics covers that come in silver and white. I have loads of these actually, but this is a favourite because of the stereotypical images of Americana on the front. Top right is Tom Perrotta’s the Abstinence Teacher, not entirely sure what it was about this, perhaps the white border that complements the white trim of the shorts so well?

Road to nowhere – this was a Goodreads giveaway win, I’ve taken so many photos myself of this nature, roads with vanishing points, empty expanses. Also the cover is made with this really unusual matt paper, it feels very nice to hold, I think I liked the cover more than the story. The final two I bought together, they were on display at Daunt books in London, which many other lovely designed books. the Camus one is almost booklet ish, being around 30 pages in total, the Baudelaire cover attacked me because of the letterpress style type face, and the cover is slightly embossed, I have no idea whether it was traditionally printed by letterpress or whether it’s printed modernly to look vintage in style, either way I love it, unfortunately though the cover does not have any sort of protective film and therefore porous which means it’s already getting grubby from being in bag to and from work!

Day 4 of the readathon I didn’t get too much done again, I have my Critical Reading class on Thursday nights, so I spent my day checking out some poetry for a mini assignment. I went with Maya Angelou’s Women Work as we had to say what made the poem poetic, thinking about structure and language. I don’t really know much poetry thanks to school not managing to make it engaging (sorry, War Poetry was not interesting to this girl at 14), so it’s only in the last year (after going to a poetry reading) that I’ve had an interest. I feel like a complete novice as I don’t really know what a lot of the terms mean and keep having to look things up, but at least I’m learning something.

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More on That Iceland…

More on That Iceland…

Shameless plug klaxon!

One of the photographs I’m exhibiting as part of Oxford Artweeks’ in May is this image of Lómagnúpur. It’s definitely one of my personal favourites as it shows the rich colours of the Icelandic landscape, draped in black, green and gold.

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An additional opportunity to exhibit at Oxford Town Hall is through a competition being run by the Poseytude Gallery entitled ‘Change The World’ which asks for works that reflects changes in the world today:

We live in a changing and ever more challenging world. Our environment and resources are being depleted and nature with the elements of air, wind, fire and water is testing us. Our countryside is being reduced due to meet rising population and seaside being eroded due to rising sea levels and changing weather patterns….What would you want to remind people of the beauty of our planet? Tell us through your art medium and briefly in your words how we can use or be inspired by it to make a change.

The top 8 artworks in each category through voting on social media will be exhibited, with judges decided the top three and there are prizes for those but honestly, just the thought of exhibiting in such an amazing venue would be prize enough. So I’m asking my lovely followers to consider voting for my photo (and you can re-vote every 24 hours!), I’m currently in 12th position, overall but no idea how I’m doing in my category, voting ends on the 24th April.

We also had to provide a blurb to go with our artwork (see below). I decided to submit one of my Icelandic landscapes partly because I’ve been following with interest the ongoing  subject of the Icelandic Highlands. If you’re a fan of Iceland or Bjork you can’t fail to have missed the events to promote awareness of the potential destruction of some of Iceland’s unspoilt nature in favour of power plants, there is now a campaign to turn the highlands into a national park.

Lómagnúpur
Iceland is famous for its outstanding natural beauty which attracts hundreds of thousands visitors each year. However this doesn’t stop the threat of destruction to nature, in particular the Icelandic highlands which have limited protection, the government has plans to build power plants and erect power lines, potentially destroying large areas of nature. Here is Lómagnúpur, part of a protected national heritage site in Iceland, an example of the nature that could be destroyed.
So if you feel like giving my photo a vote the link is here* and if you want to find out more about the Icelandic Highlands click here and sign the petition   here !**
*although the competition takes you to facebook, you don’t need facebook to enter, just a valid email address
** Google chrome recommended for translating stuff

Decision time

I’ve been busy this week trying to select between 4-6 images to get printed for Oxford Artweeks in May. I’m exhibiting with a group of 9 other photographers who know each other through the Oxford Flickr Group (anyone remember when Flickr group meets used to attract upwards of thirty photographers of a wide range of knowledge and skill?) and we’re privileged to be exhibiting in the Mathematical Institute aka the Andrew Wiles Building, part of the University of Oxford.

One of the main challenges for everyone involved is that the hanging space is fixed to a size of A0 in a portrait dimension. This means that we either have to: present portrait images in a large scale format, present multiple landscape images within the the same frame, still at a fairly large scale or become creative with our presentation methods and present multiple images of varying sizes within the frame.

 

Lómagnúpur

So far I haven’t moved much past the point of selecting images, and I need to get a move on because my regular, tried and tested printing company currently have an offer on large scale prints which means I can do some test images without breaking the bank too much.

I’ve included a couple here for perusal, in case you hadn’t guessed I’m choosing to display some images from my road trip in Iceland that I blogged about many months ago.



On the road

I’ve been asked many a time why Iceland? I’m not sure I know myself yet. What I do know is that I’ve met physically and in the realm of the internet many people who become self confessed ‘Icelandophiles’ falling instantly in love with the island, it’s culture, landscape, people and particularly the music. For me it was definitely more of a slow burner, I’ve always been much more of a city gal. Prior to visiting Iceland some of my favourite places were New York, Prague, Paris. Cities full of people, places full of bustle, sensory overload where I could find my inner calm and joy at the same time.
But then until this last visit, I’d not experienced the same ‘small fish in huge pond’ sensation that excites me being in a city, in a barren and empty landscape before. Because that’s how it is to me, I’m still the outsider, sitting there quietly observing, even is that something is not ‘doing’ very much.

Now I feel its time for bed, to sleep and think some more about this.

Adios.

The Act of Writing

I really enjoy the act of writing, I don’t mean typing away on a keyboard or writing to be published or blogging, I mean putting pen (or pencil) to paper and actually writing. It doesn’t matter what I’m writing, whether it’s an article about something I care about or an address on an envelope as long as I’m writing for me. Iit doesn’t matter how many (incredibly useful) apps I have for making lists to organise my life, nothing beats the feeling of writing a list and putting a satisfying strike through each item. The same goes for diaries and calendars, flipping forward through the pages to mark down upcoming events such as a cool trip away or some special event, they’re not exactly something you find lying around a few years later, have a good old thumb through and reminisce over, in fact I can only think of one occasion I’ve used a digital calendar to backdate something and it was incredibly tedious, like they don’t want you looking back.
Maybe it’s the physicality of the written word that appeals to me? I’m really enjoy artists who incorporate text such as Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg and Kurt Schwitters to name a few, and I’m also (probably) overly critical of my own writing and have tormented myself over using text in my own art work, that fear of exposure and harsh critique too overwhelming to contemplate.

REVIEW IT LOOK IT OVER AND WHAT EVER © Edward Ruscha

My love of writing started early on, I can clearly remember the frustration at being unable to actually write real words, but I would still spend afternoons making lines of swirling patterns in a vague attempt to mimic what other people did when writing – especially the super flouncy joined up fancy writing. So what followed was disappointment that my writing never looked as neat and swirly as any grown up I knew (I still have unattractive handwriting) and then a teenage identity crises when I tried to copy my peers as their handwriting styles were so much cooler than mine.
Of course there were periods when I detested writing, such as exam time when I had to write pages and pages in response to questions about the setting and atmosphere of Macbeth in under a couple of hours, to the point where it feels like you hand is going to fall off and the almost neat handwriting makes away for barely legible scrawl, much like what happened when I first drafted this post in my notebook, late at night, the tight cramping feeling inching further up my forearm to my elbow.
We make many excuses why it’s not the right time to write (as artists, the perfect time to create in whatever medium), and I’m no exception. I have my optimum conditions for writing, which include: with a soft bound A5 (ish) size notebook, and a good black ballpoint pen (I have some favourites that write well, most seem to come from medical reps). If I’m typing for my blog / the web, then I really struggle unless I’m sat at my pc with a full size keyboard (although at a laptop with a full size keyboard will do), this can halt my creativity as I get a lot of inspiration whilst travelling, especially on trains and although I have a tablet I just cannot type fast enough on a touch screen device to keep pace with my thoughts
I am interested to know how other people overcome these type of writing problems?

3 Music Inspired Exhibitions in Manchester

This week I took in no less than 3 exhibitions with a musical inspiration. First up was Manchester Marauders at 2022NQ, a fantastic exhibition dedicated to Manchester’s Hip Hop scene by photographer & DJ Air Adam. 20 years after the release of A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, whose eponymous album cover paid respect to fellow artists on the scene, Adam’s exhibition centrepiece is of his very own Manchester Marauders. A cleverly crafted homage to the original,  featuring people who’ve inspired Adam within Manchester’s thriving scene,  over the years since he moved to Manchester in the mid 90’s. I really enjoyed this exhibition because if you’ve ever been to any club night with a hint of Hip Hop on the bill over the past 15 years or so, you’re bound to recognise at least one of the names, if not faces from this collection. For me the exhibition as a whole acts as a celebration of Manchester’ s music scene that doesn’t seem to get recognition outside of the guitar bands and Hacienda nights.

Manchester Marauders © Air Adam 2013

The exhibition features shots from various club nights within Manchester (the only exception are some photos of Tribe themselves, earlier this year at Wireless Festival in London) but it’s not all about the Dj’s & performers though, the audience participation at various events are equally represented in Adam’s shots  which are a mix of crisp black & white shots with some atmospheric silhouettes against the ambient light. This exhibition runs until 26th October 2013 – prints are available to purchase here.

Next up was the ‘Defining Me: Musical Adventures in Manchester’  in the oft forgotten or at least not well publicised ‘side gallery’ of the Lowry, the exhibition is an impressive array of photographs, posters, and artefacts from personal collections of people who’ve been involved in the Manchester music scene who you might not recognise alongside some extremely familiar names such as Kevin Cummins.

Denise, Joan and Jodie © Kevin Cummins 1977

Personal highlights were a ticket stub for LL Cool J from 1987 and a poster for a Grand Central album launch mid 90’s.  It’s an exhibition I intend to revisit and have a really good nosy into, there was a lot to soak up and it was unusually busy when I visited.  Exhibition runs until 23rd Feb 2014.

The third exhibition I visited was the highly anticipated Alison Goldfrapp: Performer as Curator http://www.thelowry.com/exhibitions/microsites/performer-as-curator-alison-goldfrapp/home/ which has seen a massive amount of hype. I can honestly say I’ve never heard so much buzz about an exhibition at the Lowry before.  The exhibition is the first in a series of Performer as Curator, with this exhibition being a collection of works that inspire Goldfrapp’s whole artistic vision not just the music. The exhibition is an eclectic array of books, paintings, photographs and objects from Goldfrapp’s home, despite all this the exhibition left me cold, in fact my favourite part of the show was the promotional black on gold silhouetted image of a girl with  deer. I don’t know whether it was the layout of the gallery or the poor lighting but I just didn’t feel compelled to linger and explore.

There were some books of beautifully illustrated books of fairy tales, but the lighting above them made it difficult to see detail properly, with parts obstructed by shadows and reflections on the glass and the name plates of all the exhibits were white lettering on gold-coloured background which again made it difficult to read. This coupled with the lack of an exhibition pamphlet left me feeling that someone thought the objects & imagery alone, would be strong enough, but without some sort of explanation or dialogue, this exhibition felt seriously lacking something (I do not consider the brief notations from the curator on a couple of the walls a good enough explanation or reason to tie all the loose ends together) and I felt there wasn’t enough information to put everything together into a coherent context, for example the photographs from Francesca Woodman were presented without explanation.  I have no idea why or how this series of photographs influence Goldfrapp or why they were important enough to be included in the exhibition? maybe this mysterious element was intentional, but I’m afraid that if it was, it was just too mysterious for me to fathom and impeded my enjoyment. Exhibition runs until 2nd March 2014.

Art in Salford at Christmas

I know, I know, it’s only the middle of November, but with the Christmas Markets in Manchester open and Zippy Claus sat proudly outside the town hall it means that time of year is well and truly upon us. I’ve noticed that as we’ve settled firmly into the recession there has been a marked return to handmade, individual items and an increase of interest in various arts & craft style fairs. It seems I get a couple of emails about various events selling art/craft/design/prints along side regular vintage fairs each month. With, it seems quality prevailing and you only have to spend 10 minutes (well if you can get away that fast) on Etsy or Folksy to see that there’s a thriving market for people who want something unique or limited, something a bit different.

Christmas Markets

So as I mentioned it’s the middle of November and I’ve already had no less than 3 invites to Christmas fairs/sales in Salford, all within spitting distance of each other. First up is The Casket Works Open Studios event atCow Lane, Salford, M5 4NB on this weekend Friday 23rd (6-9pm) & Saturday 24th November (11am-5pm). Featuring Hot Bed Press with their annual Under The Bed Sale of prints between £3 – £50, and the launch of this years 20:20 Print Exchange, Cow Lane Studios and Suite Studios, there’s bound to be something to tickle your fancy, I hear there might even be a mince pie and some vino too…
Next up is Islington Mill‘s annual Christmas At The Mill Thursday 29th November from 4-9pm, just across the way from The Casket Works,  on James Street, Salford M3 5HW. “The Mill’s residents will be offering range of beautiful, limited edition pieces, from ceramics and jewellery, to photography and printmaking. As well as the wide range of crafts on sale, there will also be a feast of festive favourite for you to enjoy. Mulled wine, homemade soup and mince pies are all on the menu, plus enchanting sounds from members of the BBC Philharmonic. Making Christmas at The Mill the perfect winter evening warmer”.
I really enjoyed the Mill’s Christmas Fair last year, sampling some tasty food as well as picking up some awesome Pantone flavoured Christmas cards made by Raw.

Christmas By Colour – by Raw

Last but not least Salford Museum & Gallery, on Salford Crescent right next to the University is having a Victorian Christmas with Father Christmas, a craft fair full of handmade gifts,  Music, craft activities to name a few – Saturday 1st & Sunday 2nd December 1-4pm. Their cafe also has some very, very fine cakes to sample if you get the chance.

Hour Manchester

Hour Manchester started off to me one in a long line of photography competitions that are so readily used by various organisations for marketing (everyone from post hotels to local councils are on it these days it seems) that I see so frequently on flickr, twitter & facebook, I can’t remember what it was that made me look at this one more than all the others as it was several weeks ago and at the moment with my new job role everything seems to whiz by me at the speed of light, but something persuaded me to enter a couple. The premise of the competition was to create a book capturing the spirit of Manchester by documenting 24 hours of a day in Manchester in 15 minute segments (equaling 96 photos) to raise money for the Prince’s Trust. Out of the 96 in the book, a ‘Super 9’ were chosen by the judges – Mancunian world renowned photographer Kevin Cummins and Helen Weworia from the Arts Council. These would be printed onto canvas and sold/auctioned at the event to raise even more money for the Princes Trust. A few days before the competition deadline it was posted that they were looking for more during the wee hours, and I thought, well I must have something, so off I went to dig through my photos and entered a few more.

So off I went on my holiday to Prague and whilst there I still had access to emails and such and was delighted to get an email telling me my photo had been chosen for the book! It didn’t say which one but this didn’t quell the excitement, on logging onto flickr once i got back in the country I discovered a couple of friends also had been chosen, so the launch night at Kraak would be that little bit more fun.

Zombie Chippy (aka Zombie Apoccochips) © Karen Morecroft – Chosen for the Super 9

So when I arrived I found out that I had not one but five! photos in the book (more than any other photographer) and one of those was in the Super 9! Exciting or what? I won a meal for 2 at Simple in the Northern Quarter which the husband is looking forward to immensely. I have to say my Zombie Chippy photo picked for the Super 9 is one of my all time favourite photos I’ve taken, ever. And I’ve taken a lot of photos. The other four are below

Holy Fuck © Karen Morecroft
Spinning © Karen Morecroft
At the Bar – Pin Up Bowling © Karen Morecroft
Early Morning in Salford © Karen Morecroft

As I mentioned a couple of friends were also in the book, below Sue Langford’s gorgeous Cherry Tree at night taken in Moss Side – you can check out more of Sue’s photos by clicking here or clicking through the photo

Cherry Tree © Sue Langford

You can check out some more of the finalists on the Hour Manchester website or even better BUY THE BOOK!

Contemporary Art & Karlstejn Castle

So it seems my foray into NaBloPoMo is going poorly, as in I was too drunk to post Saturday and to exhausted Sunday, so it’s catch up time.

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Saturday we had a huge lie in, as the hotel only had room for ‘brunch’  11am-12pm  left, so after a hearty meal of eggs,  bacon, cheese etc we set off into the Old Town where we’d found out we could get a free bus at 1pm to Dox Centre for Contemporary Art in Holesovice. Here there was no less than four exhibitions on, AMOR PSYCHE ACTION – VIENNA. The Feminine in Viennese Actionism we were told was quite unpleasant and had an 18+ rating. It had photos a lot from the 70’s of things such as castration, and performance art / actionism whereby people looked like they were covered in intestines of animals and blood and paint etc until they looked like they were injured/dying. Maybe I’ve seen too much but it wasn’t particularly shocking, or new… a lot of it felt very..contrived. But hey, onwards and upwards to the tower with Jan Jakub Kotík – Forces of Resistanceover 4 floors. It didn’t really make much of an impression on me, so not much to report. The most interesting exhibition was the Hidden River, an exhibition from students at the Studio of Photography of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (AAAD) in Prague which just felt a bit more fresh and alive than the other stuff we’d seen.

Prague Old Town Markets

After this we headed back into the Old Town where we perused the not-yet-christmas-markets, which were very similar to the Christmas European Markets about to descend on Manchester in a matter of weeks. Shopping for wooden gifts can only amuse for so long so then it was time to head back to the hotel to drop our heavy bags before heading out for dinner, we went back to somewhere we’d failed to get in on Friday night due to crowds, Jiny Stav – a restaurant we enjoyed so much on our last Prague trip we probably ate there most evenings. However, it would seem that the menu has changed considerably since last time and we weren’t as spoilt for choice as much as previously, so whilst we both had really nice meals we probably won’t be rushing back this trip.

We then headed back to our room where we decided unwisely to drink a few Czech vodkas that gave us the hangover of a lifetime on Sunday!

On Sunday we didn’t do too much – apart from getting a train out of Prague to Karlstejn to visit the castle.

Karlstein Castle
Karlstejn Castle

then getting back to our hotel, having food then reading until bed time. rock n roll.