Joined Up: Contemporary Collaborative Drawing — The Vault Gallery

Reviewed by Kev McVeigh

[Collaboration] kind of runs counter to the auteur theory but you have to look at it case by case” — William Gibson (1)

Case by case what is obvious in Joined Up is just how many ways of collaboration there are.  I am struck first of all that it is something odd in fine art.  Collaboration is he norm in music, theatre and not uncommon in literary forms but rare in fine arts, which leads to a concern that an exhibition themed this way may become more about the act of collaboration than about the results.  Fortunately the results here are more than good enough to overcome this fear.

The work of Alex Lowman & Adam Tadeusiak exemplifies an organic strand of this show whereby there is no strict delineation of styles between collaborators.  Although working in contrasts, with pencil/ink, and precise cutouts and raw backdrops they acheive a coherence that works well.

Similarly Esther van Dijk who normally works in purely abstract forms and figurative artist Vena Naskrecka acheive a symbiosis of form that is impressive.

I am unfamiliar with the solo work of most of these artists but I would guess that Kathy Wray and Charlotte Williams might normally work in similar ways.  Their bold blank spaces and shades of grey created distorted perspectives and subliminal palimpsests that offer uncertainties in repeated views.

Most collaborations are pairs, (and there are a raft of pseudo-Freudian theories about that if you care to look) but four artists come together in the shape of Maryclare Foa, Jane Grisewood, Birgitta Hosea and Carali McCall.  Their work, four ‘fragments’ in their words, is the most disparate on the surface and the work that offers most digression on structural format.  Four sets of four pieces are overlaid making for a confusing, intriguing presentation that I remain unsure about.

Certainly the foursome had a plan behind their collaboration and the same is also explicit in the pictures produced by Leslie Forbes, Bettina Reiba & Andrew Thomas based ona cornish landscape.  The combination of straight landscape imagery and topgraphical contour mapping produced my favourite individual work in the show.

Philip Elbourne & Jo Marsh also look to have planned out and constructed their surreal cartoon-like works in advance.  They talk of two crows duelling in flight, a dance trading roles, a metaphor that is apt when regarding their stark lines, solid blocks of black and absurdist captions.  ‘Part Owl, Part Fuhrer, All Bastard’ received its share of approving comment, whilst I alos liked ‘Insides Are Yum.’

Lisa Letch on the other hand set no rules in her collaboration with her 13 year old son Sam.  The results comprise what may well be typical teenage male visions of dark, violent events with rhorshack-like science fictional settings and fantasia.  Four drawings not directly linked, based on the artists intuitive responses to each other, sharing a  common identity.

“One of the great things about a collaboration isd that it frees me up to like [my work].” — William Gibson.

Several of the artists involved in Joined Up talk about the difficulties of working with or against a different style but equally of the fresh prespective this grants on their own work.  It’s not damning to say that artists of all kinds can be protective, precious even, about their own work given the intensity of their emotional and often physical engagement with it.  Collaboration in giving a new freedom and fresh inspiration as it has here must be applauded.

As I said initially though, what ultimately counts is not process but product once it goes on display, and in their myriad ways these 17 individuals have risen to a challenge and acheived much.  So much so that when the exhibition closes I may be tempted to buy at least one piece.  )Not saying which one though…)

(1) William Gibson interviewed for Vector 159, 1991 by Kev McVeigh

Mikey Kenney Speaks

Mikey photo by Mike Armitage

Mikey–Is it true you only play in tune on your own recordings……. and a bit out of tune on everyone else’s? 

Surely you of all people, Dan Haywood, should know the answer to that one; when did I begin recording ‘New Hawks’ with you? It’s been a long time; it’s been like a 5000 piece jigsaw to me. I’m guessing the total instrument parts on the 3-piece suite amount to more than that though! The most memorable session I recorded on was for ‘How’s My Pop?’. I wasn’t very well at the time Andy ‘The Rav’ Raven sent me the demo files and the scores I made for them I signed with my own snot. When I turned up to Paul Walmsley’s house to record the fiddle parts my face was so swollen (I had an allergic reaction to the flu) that I struggled to read them. It was obvious that I wasn’t well at all and I was in and out as fast as a present-day Cliff Richard chart entry. Sounded okay though, I hope?

You mentioned producer Paul Walmsley, who mastered your Ottersgear album. He sleeps in Williamson Park. But where does Ottersgear lie?

Well firstly there is Ottergear, without the ‘S’, which is a bridge at the foot of Clougha Pike just outside of Lancaster and that’s where the name comes from. Then there’s “Ottersgear”, the name I gave to a kind of imaginary sanctuary I like to retreat to every now and then. If you’ve ever been hypnotised or led into entrancement then you’ll probably have been led to imagine yourself in a place of solitude and peace, it’s the same thing. My place is Ottersgear and that’s where I catch my songs. That’s the climax of a ‘Quest for Rest’; A Red Balloon.

That reminds me of the Soggy Desert, which was a place of One Chip Potato folklore. I’d heard that place-name in the songs and later found it referred to Aldcliffe Marsh! Have you always written around psycho-geographical bases?

No, I haven’t; Soggy Desert was my first real stab at it and I learnt a lot from it. I’ve learnt that landscapes make great teachers. If you go out to these  places alone, forget your fears and your worries, they can become powerful allies. It’s not hard to tap into the impressions they make and use them for creative purposes but it’s understanding their personalities that matter most of all. These ‘allies’ have helped me through some tough times. I’m expressing my gratitude, that’s what I’m doing.

You’ve had a lot of human allies too. Par example– In the One Chip Potato and the Transcendental Watermusicians days you always had a partner in crime. You seemed inseparable from Andy Ranallo, then Johnny Swift was your henchman, both on stage and off. Apart from a few mainstays, the OCP band was a revolving door. Not a place to tie one’s laces.
What cemented those evil alliances and set them apart from passing friendships?
Well first of all I’m still very much in frequent contact with all of these guys. Part of the trouble has always been that I recruited OCP members who were members of the University so there’d always be that time when they’d have to pack up and go home. OCP still exists, we’re just waiting for that moment when we can all afford to be in one place again. Usually it’d begin with us being drinking partners and playing together at parties or at the Blades Street basement where we hosted regular do’s. We’d be writing all these daft songs such as ‘Rainbow Ladder’ or ‘Imitatin’ Lou Reed’ and then it’d be happening on stage too. Nobody was ever really officially invited to play in OCP it was always more of a case of ‘up you get’ wherever we were playing at the time. It was more like an institution I reckon. More like being in an institution!!! You’re right though, there was always a strong bond between henchmen. A lot of it due to the fact that we’d created an adventure for ourselves, floating aboard the leviathan Muwonkey over the Sunflower Ocean and having the Sunflower Man give us his blessing y’know?

Drinking pardners….A lot of great OCP shows were kinda alcodelic, blurry…. reeking of grog. In the story of the Ottersgear tunes booze plays a key role.
What are the pros and cons of alcohol in your creative life?
Reeking of grog indeed. For me, music is a very spiritual thing, especially ceilidh music. I’ve always been fascinated by ecstatic dance, by non-electronic trance-inducing music which is exactly what ceilidh music is. I know OCP and Ottersgear aren’t exactly ceilidh bands but they are both massively influenced by it because, as a fiddler, I’ve been playing the Irish dance music as long as I can remember. When in session, alcohol is a trance-inducing tool, it becomes part of the faith. I’m not saying you can’t be a session-player if you’re not drinking, I’ve played many a session sober and floated away into the music, it’s just a part of the tradition. There’s a good reason there’s always booze near the sessions y’know?
Then you have “The Quest for Rest” which is all about steering clear of the booze. The truth is it was more about taming it. With OCP I was going too far, I needed to calm down and so I quit for six months. It was a breath of fresh air being off it, but the sessions became less fun. The deeper undercurrent had run dry. It felt less of a communion. I’m not talking about being drunk, just a pint or two. Before Ottersgear, OCP was all about seeing how much of the drink we could consume before getting up to play. Alcodelic is a good choice of word because yes, it was about having a trip and trip we did. I wouldn’t dare go that far these days. Lessons, lessons, lessons.  

Does that mean that the vacuum cleaner won’t reappear in your sets?

Hopefully it won’t but who knows where the future of music might take us?!
Your gigging-rate impresses. You do gig after gig, often in a penniless state. You’ve played many impromptu guerilla gigs, there have been many strange engagements and seemingly hostile settings. Why do you rush in where most musos fear to tread?
The way I see it we are born into trades with our personalities and I was born into music. I’ll play anywhere so long as I have an excuse to be playing. I vowed to myself two years ago never to let my life be used for anything that wasn’t musical. I veered off course for a while but nature has it’s own way of punishing people who break vows, especially the ones they make with themselves. If Charlie Chaplin played the fiddle…
Tell us about your recent trip to the London.
Well Dave Rybka’s girlfriend Eleni is part of a professional dance troupe (or duo rather) and they asked me and Dave if we’d let them use our tracks to dance to at a production they were putting on at the Barbican. They were using ‘Quest for Rest’ and it was all going to be a really special evening so I just had to go down to see it. They were amazing. It was something else seeing top dancers dancing to your music in front of a sold-out audience. They had drapes hanging from the rafters and they were swinging and climbing, twisting and whirling. It was magic. We’d smuggled a few bottles of wine and a bottle of whiskey in too. Charley was going up to the bar and flirting with the barman from S. Africa, asking him for a corkscrew (that’s not an innuendo). It was a cracking do! After the show we staggered ‘round the streets of London searching for my missing wallet and train tickets.

This one’s for the true fans, Mikey– have you got the time on you?

Twenty past ten.

La Decision Doypack — Paul Rooney at The Storey Gallery

Reviewed by Kev McVeigh

La Decision Doypack is a 27 minute film presentation by Paul Rooney.  Prior to the showing viewers are shown into a waiting area, the resource room it is called.  There they can sit and wait or peruse books by Rooney or volumes by other writers and artists.  It seems a selection deliberately chosen and so it transpires as the film itself references most if not all these works.

At this point it is necessary to use the P word.  Post-modernism.  Rooney’s recursive, multiple images and referential texts attempt a dialogue within itself.  The plot, as such, involves a salesman attempting to negotiate a deal for the packaging innovation Doypack but he arrives in Paris during the 1968 student riots.  He is also a would be actor, and the film basically contrasts his acting tutor’s demand for naturalism with the heightened language of marketing.  As the riots develop and are then stifled (surrealistically by the descent of cling film and vacuum packaging over the city) all becomes a performance, the life, the marketing, the protest.

To say then, that I enjoyed La Decision Doypack would be correct, it has moments of great humour, and some of us do gain pleasure from reference spotting: Warhol, Wordsworth, Barthes, Stanislavski, Thunderbirds?  At the same time it is a confused, confusing piece, of charm but also perhaps a touch overlong and repetitive.   This is I realise deliberate, but it is incompletely effective. 

La Decision Doypack shows daily at 6, 7 and 8 pm until December 18th.  I may go back to watch it again, which perhaps reveals my feelings.  I liked it, I wasn’t totally convinced, I felt I got some of it and I missed some of it.

Richard Davis — An Apology

By Kev McVeigh

Having spoken to Richard Davis it appears that I may have conflated conversations I had with him and Joseph Glen initially, and subsequently misinterpreted my memory of those conversations to attribute remarks to Mr Davis that I accept he did not say.  

I have no desire to offend Mr Davis, whose work and ceaseless energy to promote the work of others I admire immensely, along with his willingness to engage in the discussion of local art that is going on. 


Volcano The Bear

Local Artist Supported – A Reprise

Posted by Norman Hadley

In the summer, the Lunecy Review hosted some…er…. lively debate on the alacrity or otherwise with which big chains support local artists. What did the debate achieve? Well, it brought a torrent of traffic to the site, quadrupling advertising revenues from zero to zilch and that’s got to be good. But, even though discussion focussed entirely on music, it set me thinking about approaching a large chain to distribute self-published books.

Waterstones seemed the best place to start, so a lonely David took up his slingshot and tiptoed across King Street, only to find that the giant of Gath was actually quite friendly. Negotiations were slightly complicated by changes of personnel but, this autumn, the shop finally came under the control of branch manager, Gemma Barry.

So my experience is positive, but you do have to be persistent. Here’s a traditional, local-paper-style picture of the proud poet handing over his works to bemused bookseller Edith Newby.

Waterstones Handover

You can now saunter into Waterstones and ask for Stinging the Sepia and Perspectives by name. No obligation to buy, you understand, but it’d be nice if the shop heard enquiries. If any other Lunecy readers have had experiences of getting work into big shops, click on that shiny link below that says “Leave a comment” .

Spotlight Club November at The Storey

Reviewed by Kev McVeigh

November’s Spotlight was the busiest for some time, in part due to active promotion by one performer at least, and partly I think due to the consistent strength of the bill in recent months. It is obviously great to see new faces come to support a friend, and the hope is always that some will return on subsequent occasions. Unfortunately too many depart as soon as their favourite has performed, often missing a large part of the event.

Compere Simon Baker compared tonight’s line-up favourably to ITV’s competition, claiming more celebrities and none of them wanted ‘out of here!’ First up however was the usual assorted open-mic’ers, at least two making their Spotlight debuts. These slots often lead to full sets at later events but are also used by artists developing or experimenting with new ideas. This time around there were opportunities for the impressive stand-up of Sid (‘Blackpool, it’s like Morecambe without the dungarees and banjos’) and the weirdo character comedy of Reginald Winters. The latter clearly a work in progress, the former confident and assured, but both generating plenty of laughter. In between came Spotlight regular Mark Charlesworth’s broodier poems, dark reflections on life, the picaresque opener Angela Martin and the snappier verses of Lynette McKone. As ever Spotlight gave a warm response to all, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see any of them on that stage again soon.

Mollie Baxter will hopefully excuse me referring to her as a veteran, a point demonstrated by her resurrecting a 10 year old song. It was two newer songs that most impressed, particularly opener ‘She is Dragon.’ Wordy literate lyricists such as Mollie often fail to receive due credit for their musicianship. So let’s be clear, Mollie Baxter is as talented a guitar player as she is a wordsmith, and ‘She Is Dragon’ demonstrates this with delicate melody and powerful chording.

Lunecy contributor Carla Scarano D’Antonio was next up and charmed with her evocative use of her second language to convey life in Rome and Lancaster in poetic forms. Her richly accented voice adds to the emotional depth she achieves from apparent simplicity.

A few seemed to anticipate a break next, thus missing part of Tony Walsh’s set. If you’ve seen Tony before (such as at his barnstorming Totally Wired appearance) you’ll know to expect rapid, flowing, beat delivery of sharp yet tender looks at lifes less celebrated areas. His poems are packed with clever wordplay, quickfire alliteration, assonance and rhyme combined with a dream like quality of consecutive non-sequiturs (a Walsh-like phrase in itself.)

Suitably refreshed from this, Jim Turner led us up a mountain or two. Many of his poems take inspiration and setting from trips to the far north of Scotland, but whilst maintaining a descriptive integrity Turner achieves the happy knack of humanizing the landscape. So wild terrain echoes emotion, each metaphorically commenting on the other without obvious contrivance.

Brindley Hallam Dennis stepped to the mic and became Kowalski. An outspoken, crotchety, New Yorker with a fund of tales of escapades with Miriam ‘she’s my old lady’. Dennis’ glorious performance brought Kowalski truly and uproariously alive, and I’d love to hear more.

Finally music once more, Orchestre DC Dancette’s Steve Lewis performing solo. Over the course of half a dozen songs with ‘found lyrics’ he revealed a fine vocal range, though he mainly worked in a breathy deeper tone. The songs were gently humorous and well played, though I’d have liked more of the ‘oomph’ an 8 piece band provides on a couple of them.

Lewis rounded off another good night at Spotlight, topping off a well-balanced bill (something that hasn’t always been the case). And those who stayed the distance surely had an excellent evening’s entertainment.

There are another thirty or more clips from the night to be seen at Norman Hadley’s youtube channel.