Thursday, 17 November 2016

Art Censorship, Body Censorship, and Facebook Friendly


Art censorship is about controlling and limiting access to your creative work, and limiting access for others to see that work. By controlling public access to contemporary artwork by labelling it as anything from 'uncomfortable' to 'porn' and then banning it and the artist from the public, one small section of the community is making judgements and decisions that affect the larger whole, and more importantly, that affect their freedom to view or not view aspects of the contemporary art world. They are no longer responsible adults with free choice, but commodified children, whose access to the world is blinkered and controlled.

Body censorship is about limiting access to aspects of the human body. Our ownership of our sexuality, one of the driving engines of humanity, is consistently removed by elements of social media. We are then in many ways, made to feel emasculated, we are made prepubescent. Denying us our sexuality, and more importantly the full range of our sexuality, is denying us a healthy understanding of that sexuality. Remove sexuality from the equation of who we are, and you foster a warped sense of what to be human really is.

Facebook Friendly is not a term limited to facebook, but is a generic term used by those who are uncomfortable with freedom of expression. These are the people who pretend to be liberal, pretend to have a healthy understanding of body and sexuality, but are instead deeply dysfunctional. They are prone to aggressive censorship of self, and more disturbingly, censorship of others. These are the people who usually start a conversation with "I am not a ---, but...", and we all know where that leads.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

William Burroughs and Words


Seminal artists always serve a valuable place in our lives. They shift our perspective, get us to question the way we see, the way we feel, the way we value. Whether it is rearranging our ideas of the past, understanding the way we travel around the present, or indeed how we face the future.

Seminal artists are also personal. Yes, there are generalities and specifics that we can all agree upon, but there are also many aspects of a seminal artist that are personalised to the individual. We all see what we want to see, because we all get what we want and need from that artist.

To me, the writer William Burroughs gave me the space to question, and more specifically, to question words. All the words that ever were, all the words that are, and all the words that ever will be.

Burroughs taught me how important words are, how they can be used and reused, how they can be manipulated and stretched in order to serve good and ill, sometimes both at the same time. He taught me that words have power, much more than their sounds or letters.

Words definitely have a power and a resonance. Words were there long before this lifetime, just as they are there long after. Words are not truly immortal, written or spoken words die just like everything else dies, Personal immortality is an illusion, check out any bulldozed cemetery to experience that illusion up close. 

A writer of words cannot outlast the life of the physical world, nor should they want to. All books eventually crumble to dust, all cities dissolve, all planets are eventually embraced by their star. However, different words spoken by different people across a thousand, or a thousand thousand years, will resonate with new people, new lives, different perspectives. 

So just as I resonate with something that William Burroughs thought and wrote in my lifetime, a different William Burroughs may well write something similar, or something entirely different in a hundred lifetimes, and that is the beauty of words. 

They are always with us, they are always vibrating in the ether, always making us think, or unthink, making us understand, or overstand, making us question the wordsmith, or making us compliant to the wordsmith. Good and bad. Words are just words, it is how they are used that is important, and how we react to them, even more important. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Believed/Unbelieved


Always the explainer, Never the explained
Always the sympathiser, Never the sympathised
Always the enthusiast, Never the enthused
Always the "I'm fine", Never the "I'm not ok"
Always the conditional, Never the condition
Always the selfish, Never the circumstance
Always the "pull yourself together", Never the "here's my hand"
Always the "wow, you're crazy!", Never the "why are you crazy?"
Always the spot on the canvas, Never the run
Always the rain, Never the motion
Always the rain, Never the plate
Always the title, Never the acknowledged actor
Always the tough, Never the vulnerable
Always the listener, Never the listened
Always the artist, Always the unheard

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

So Are You Happy?


"So are you happy?"
Puzzled expression, thoughtful expression, small exhale.
"Too long. You probably aren't then."
"I didn't say that. I was just thinking."
"Thinking means hesitation, thinking means you have no gut emotion, no yes or no."
"No it doesn't. It means I'm giving your question due care and consideration."
"Due care and consideration? What the hell kind of phrase is that?"
"A thoughtful one."
"Cold as ice baby, cold as ice."

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Old Work

John Hopper: Sleep Disorder 1

Old work, and is it worth keeping? I was chatting away with a friend the other evening, as you do, and the subject of old work came up. Now my policy has always been to empty my artwork portfolios into the nearest skip/bin when I'm finished with them. He seemed horrified, but assumed that I had at least recorded everything, whoops!

I tend not to record, document, photograph, I never saw the point, it was just stuff that would soon become old stuff, then lose its meaning. Just like I used to write a journal and at the end of every month I would delete it, it had served its purpose. 

John Hopper: Sleep Disorder 1-4

So anyway, it got me to thinking, maybe I'm wrong, perhaps old work does serve a purpose, does have value for the self. So I dug high and low, and I did find some sketch books, and I did find a buried folder on my pc.

So I looked through my work that hadn't ended up in the bottom of a bin, and I thought to myself, hey you really used to enjoy this. No, this really consumed you, you lived it and loved it. Of course, me being me, I start wondering how this work survived and others didn't. Why did this work get filed away in the back of a bookcase, whilst other work got upended into the bin? Haven't reached a conclusion over that one yet.

John Hopper: Matrix 2

Perhaps it connected with something fundamental in me, perhaps I had a hunch that it might need to be dug out again at some future point, or perhaps it became so well hidden that it was just forgotten. Not a great believer in accidents and coincidences though - everything is for a reason.

So, These are some of the many pieces of work that I produced a handful of years ago, before I got disillusioned, distracted, disconnected. 

John Hopper: Obsessive 5

Looping around and back to the reference to the conversation that I started with, which I love to do, who doesn't love looping back! Anyway, yes, I might play around with some new ideas, some old ideas, some cross-references, might even get the scissors and pritt stick out, do love old school sometimes. Thanks for listening. X

ps. most of this work was done about five or so years ago.

John Hopper: Stigmata of Degeneration 3

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Pride and Celebration


Every time I post an article about a contemporary artist, every time I promote an exhibition, every time I publish another issue of Inspirational, is another reason to be proud, another reason to celebrate. So that is what this post is about, pride and celebration.

The illustration shows a mosaic of 23 of the artists that will be featured in the upcoming Inspirational 12, but it could easily have been of any of the artists that I have featured over the months and years, though it seemed fitting somehow to connect with the latest part of the inspirational project. I hope they don't mind being in a mosaic, and being part of this post, I am sure they won't, they are such a great and genuine bunch of people.

To me art has never been recreational. It isn't a hobby, or a spare-time filler, it is a destiny, a one-stop meeting with the fates. This community is awash with poets and angels, they just don't always recognise themselves. It's a special community, one that is often denigrated and misunderstood by outsiders. There is within the creative mind, a natural depth of understanding, and a sensitivity to what really matters in life, something that is rarely found in the day to day running of the norm. Artists and the artistic community, play a vital role in what it is to be human, they help shape our view of the world, and of ourselves.

The health of this community reflects the health of us all. That is why it is so important that this community flourishes and thrives. For every artist that has to give up their dream of living for their work, the community loses a spark, a pulse, a beat of the heart, but for every individual who makes the jump into the community, whether they are 18 or 80, to take that leap into being something more, the art community gains immeasurably. It doesn't matter what they do creatively, or what they don't do. It is not for us to criticise, it is for us to celebrate, and celebration for the act of being or becoming an artist seems to be something we rarely do as a community. 

We need to make more of ourselves and our community, we need to be prouder and more celebratory, less self-deprecating and certainly less apologetic. We need to form stronger connections between ourselves, we need interconnecting practical support and platforms, as well as genuine understanding and compassion. We shouldn't see ourselves as standing alone. Whether we are successful or struggling, whether we are a student or an established artist, whether we are inner city or rural, we all owe it to each other to hold out a helping hand.

Personally, I feel privileged and proud to have been able to support and promote this community in my small way. I now want to do that in a much bigger capacity, I just haven't figured out how yet, but I will, don't worry. I have good friends and connections that will help me I am sure, and for that I am truly grateful.

I love this eclectic community of individuals, oddballs, weirdos, upside-downers, wrong-way rounders. It is my home, my tribe, my community. 

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Brian Eno - Ambient 1


Brian Eno is one of my gods. I don't have many, but I have some, and he is definitely up there in the pantheon. Brian Eno, to me at least, will always be associated with the landscapes of the ambient, and no more so than the small series of Ambient recordings that he made in the late 1970s and very early 1980s. This, the first one was released in 1978.

Ambient 1: Music For Airports is never very far from me, particularly track one. The first track is always my fall to music. Whenever I am about, walking, in town, working, very often I will start humming the first track of this album. It is minimal, repeatable, slow, calm, tethering. It helps to take out the wrinkles of my day. It lowers the hills, raises the valleys, giving me a more level plateau in which to glide through the day.

There are a lot of versions of this album now, Brian Eno has always been keen for others to compliment, change, engineer his music. It is others variations of his music that adds, rather than detracts from the whole, something that the more litigious-minded musicians often fail to understand.

Anyway, there are now a lot of versions out there from the 1978 original. There are slower versions, faster versions, even backward versions of this 1978 seminal piece of work, much of which I have listened to, and much of which I admire. However, it is the cool, calm placidity of the original that still manages to get me every time, and I mean every time.

Anyway, well worth a listen to if you haven't before. You can find it and variations across the net, though this youtube original is a good start

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A Wall of Quotes


I'm going to give over this post to my Wall of Quotes. These are scattered quotes that I have in front of me whilst I work. They are words of encouragement, words of wisdom, words of advice and inspiration, as well as laughter. There are words that are old, words that are new, some make me sad, some make me smile, some make me burst out laughing. There are words by the living, and words by the dead, by the famous, and the not so. You don't have to have famous quotes. You don't have to dump "I think it was --- who once said" into conversations. They can be remembered quotes from friends, those who wish you well in life, just as much as those who are famous and admired. To me, they all have equal value and equal comfort, and I treasure them, which is why they are on my wall in front of me, every day.

As to the intermittent visuals, they are also there for a reason. The Mark Rothko because it reminds me of landscapes beyond ours; William Burroughs in the jungle because I have just had the photo for decades; the David Hockney for the same reason; the Buddha head and Gary Snyder because they go so well together, and Gary is so cool; the concentric circle painting by Justin Roseveare, which I picked out of many cards just happened to be called 'Transformation', and that is exactly where my life is at the moment; the Dalai Lama because he's the Dalai Lama; the four leafed clover is my friend and life-changer Stiofan; the mosaic of David Bowie album covers because he set me on the path that finds me here; and the Brian Eno album cover 'Before and After Science' because I adore Eno, and I adore the name of that album.

So, to the quotes:

"Everything is everywhere" - Jack Kerouac

"Okay world, I'll love ya" - Jack Kerouac

"He was sweet. He was just unhappy" - Allen Ginsberg

"Question: Tell us about your dream project.
Answer: Francis Bacon and I go ballroom dancing together in heaven, or hell. Wherever he is I'm sure it's grand" - Andrew Salgado

"He let a corner of his lip turn up, just to be polite. The result was a fourth cousin to a smile" - J. Paul Drew

To "enlighten the world and wake it from its sad mistaken dream of rue and rage" - Jack Kerouac

"Our business in living is to become fluent with the life we are living, and art can help this" - John Cage

"To learn how to explore yourself, that's life" - Bradley Theodore

"All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author. There is no authoritative voice. There are only multiple readings" - David Bowie

"Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and will never be again." - Pau Casals

"As cool as the underside of the pillow" - Mr Sakninsh

"You and your wonderful hear/mind/passion writings" - Stiofan O'Ceallaigh

"I'm not painting, I'm exploring my existence" - Bradley Theodore

"One thing that you have that nobody else has, is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can" - Neil Gaiman

"Each of us is all the sums he has not counted" - Thomas Wolfe

"Why do customers say: "Bet you wish you were outside in this weather!" Like yes, obviously I do, but I'm here serving you Barbara, you cow" - The Boy Melancholy


Thursday, 18 August 2016

Soon


“So when you coming up?”

“Soon.”

“Soon.” He repeated none too convincingly.

“Yes, soon.”

He smiled, shifted his gaze to something just off camera, something indistinct, vague, just out of vision, then looked back again.

“So when’s soon?”

I moved a little in my chair. His gaze was steady, placid, yet at the same time it had an intensity to it that, although not meant to be unsettling, had me unsettled nevertheless. I was nervous, with no reason to be, but when does your body take any notice of what should and shouldn’t be?

“I can’t say for sure. You know how it is. There’s this and there’s that…”

“…and there’s that and there’s this.” He added in a sing song voice.

“Exactly!” I said with more relief than I had meant.

“You know that’s just being evasive don’t you?”

“It’s not evasion, it’s just…”

“What?”

“I’ve just got so much on, commitments, deadlines. I can’t just drop everything.”

“Yes you can.”

“I can’t. I really can’t!”

I could hear my voice rise and begin to wail ever so slightly. I was beginning to panic. I could feel the perspiration damp behind my knees. I checked my calendar on the wall to my right. What was I looking for? Dates? Free time? I looked back at the screen, he was still gazing and smiling, gazing and smiling.

I looked over to my left, checked my phone for new messages. Something, but really nothing. I looked back at the screen again. Still gazing and smiling, gazing and smiling. I smiled back timidly and then exhaled deeply.

“What’s up?”

“Nothing.”

“OK.” He said matter-of-factly, knowing full well that there were geological plates of pressure tied to my “nothing.” He waited as I hoped he would.

“Soon then” he grinned.

“Yes, soon” I brightened.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

David Bowie Low


David Bowie's Low to a lot of people is just that, low. They see it as anything from melancholic to dull, and all points in between. To me, it suits my temperament, at least in part, as it is both stripped down and bare, as well as being built up and multilayered, I am nothing if not consistently contradictory, but I am willing to admit that. This is an album made up of hard edges and soft curves, of focused sharp, short beats, and flowing electronic scapes of land and dream. It is an album of two sides of who we are and where we are.

When albums had sides, the first side of Low had lyrics and the voice of David Bowie. The songs were short, stripped down, bleak pop songs for a bleak period in cultural history. The second side was devoid of lyrics and nearly devoid of vocals. There were long tracks of rich ambient scapes, more mystical than pop. Many who bought or listened to the album took the first side and dismissed the second. Me, I fell in love with the painterly constructed ambience of side two.

I used to listen to this album while reading and rereading the stories of H P Lovecraft. To me the music seemed a perfect match to the alien and isolated landscapes, and the alien and isolated individuals that pepper Lovecraft's work. A large part of what appealed to me about the stories of Lovecraft was the bleak alien landscapes, the expanses of bleakness that rolled out and swallowed many of the characters, sometimes literally. 

The cover of Low has David Bowie in the persona of Thomas Jerome Newton, the tragic figure from the 1976 Nicholas Roeg movie The Man Who Fell To Earth, Low was released in the following year, 1977. Thomas Jerome Newton was a literal alien, an individual isolated in his alienness on a planet full of humanity. 

Although the reference to The Man Who Fell To Earth is obvious, to me the individual on the Low cover, set within an abstracted indistinct and remote landscape, could easily have been a character from the works of H P Lovecraft, and it made perfect sense to connect the two, Bowie and Lovecraft, at least in my world. 

I grew up in West Cornwall, at the end of a long rocky peninsula, one that stuck out like a crooked finger deep into the Atlantic Ocean. I lived amongst open rough moorland, often devoid of trees and comfy meadows, it was all granite and heather. It was a harsh and certainly unrelenting landscape, buffeted by near constant Atlantic winds, sheets of rain, and sea fog that would rise up and slowly creep in from the ocean, folding the landscape in muffled isolation. 

The landscape of your early years is often the landscape that you are most comfortable with, it is the one that sits in the back of your head, the one that comes out and lays itself out in your dreams, the landscape of connection. 

I am sure that the element of stripped down bleakness from Low, connects with those early landscapes of mine, just as the built up mystical ambience of Low connects with another part of me, perhaps a connection with my inner landscape. It is all part of who we are, our memories, our living landscape, and our sleeping dreamscape, all meshed together to give us the projection of who we are to ourselves, and who we are to others.

This Bowie album was probably the most brutal to his fans, many of whom had never got beyond the created Ziggy persona. It was as far removed from the glamour of Ziggy as it was possible to go, deliberately I would have guessed. There seemed nothing that Bowie loathed more than sameness, to be creatively stuck in a rut, stuck in the one project, looping and relooping. Whilst many of his fans would have been more than happy with Bowie basing his whole career on that one Ziggy project, he was obviously not going to stay there. 

A large slice of the Low project was the work of the ambient meister Brian Eno, one of the founders of modern ambient music. In some respects, you could say that this was as much an Eno project as it was a Bowie one, but Bowie the alienated alien, Bowie the searching artist, the misunderstood, and the deliberately misunderstanding, was all there, so it would be wrong, as some would have it, that Bowie was led astray from his rock/pop roots by Eno. Low was where Bowie wanted and needed to be at that moment in time, and Eno was there to facilitate that moment, but the moment was still Bowies. 

Although Low was seen by many at the time as some form of deliberate artistic and creative suicide, what they really meant was that it was commercial suicide. It didn't turn out to be so of course, but that line between the artistic and the commercial is always a difficult one for any artist to tread, particularly if you have had a commercial success. What do you do? Do you keep to the commercial formula that has worked for you, reproduce the same record, book, or artwork, over and over, with only slight variations, or do you head out for vistas new?

I am aware that a lot of the factors that go to make up a project like Low are in the personal orbit of the artist, many of the factors of course will never be known. However, interpretation is also the remit of the audience, and that is always, on one level at least, subjective, it has to be as we are all at the centre of our own perceptions. So my interpretation of Low is valid, because it is personal to me. It is part of my journey, and therefore threaded into my life pattern, to serve me and my purpose, and that can and probably should be true of all artwork, whatever the discipline.

To end with a small but significant fact, the original Low album was meant by Bowie not to have a track listing, but the record company insisted, they were struggling with the Low concept as it was. A compromise was reached whereby the track listings were put on a removeable sticker on the back of the album. If you wished, you could remove it in order to experience the full ambience of the Low experience. I of course removed it, cause I'm that kind of guy.