Dubliners

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Woman walking past a stationery shop on O’Connell (Sackville) Street. Photo by JJ Clarke.

This year is the centenary of James Joyce’s short-story collection, Dubliners, so the book provides a predominant theme for this year’s Bloomsday. Not a great departure when both Dubliners and Ulysses concern the inhabitants of the same city. Dubliners would have been published before 1914 but the book was refused by several publishers and printers who objected to Joyce’s brand of realism.

The picture above is from a selection of photos of Dublin’s citizens by JJ Clarke, all of which were taken during the time depicted in Dubliners and Ulysses. Elsewhere:

• In honour of the Dubliners centenary 15 writers were asked to create new stories as a response to Joyce’s originals. Eimear McBride is one of the contributors. The Guardian posted her response to Ivy Day in the Committee Room, and she writes about Dubliners here.

• An introduction to Dubliners by Anthony Burgess, written in 1986 then never published, with illustrations by Louis le Brocquy.

James Longenbach reviews The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ by Kevin Birmingham.

Richard Hamilton‘s series of drawings and prints based on Ulysses are on display at the British Museum.

• Stefany Anne Golberg on the old people, young people, and priests of Dubliners.

• Illustrations by Robert Berry for Dubliners‘ final story, The Dead.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Covering Joyce
James Joyce in Reverbstorm
Joyce in Time
Happy Bloomsday
Passages from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake
Books for Bloomsday

Eduardo Paolozzi at New Worlds

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I was working on this book throughout the autumn, and it could hardly be more different to some of the visual extravagance that came before and after. Eduardo Paolozzi at New Worlds is published by Savoy Books this month. Predominantly an examination by David Brittain (no relation to David Britton) of the connections between artists such as Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton with New Worlds magazine in the 1960s, the book is also a rare study of the science fiction magazine when it was making its greatest impact in the late 60s and early 70s.

Brittain highlights many examples of Paolozzi’s sf-influenced art of the period, and examines the development of the magazine under Michael Moorcock’s editorship during which time New Worlds evolved from being a slightly moribund sf title in the early 60s to what JG Ballard later called “one of the most exciting magazines of any kind in this country”. An appendix features interviews with some of the key creators and contributors: editor Moorcock, designer Charles Platt, art editor Christopher Finch, contributor Michael Butterworth, and critic John Clute. Writer and illustrator Pamela Zoline created some original artwork for the endpapers. The introduction is by Rick Poynor.

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Despite being pressured for time I was very pleased to be designing this book. I’d liked Paolozzi’s work since I first encountered it in the Tate Gallery in the 1970s; a couple of years later I was buying up anthologies featuring New Worlds stories (I was too young for the 60s magazine), so discovering that Moorcock had made Paolozzi the magazine’s “Aeronautics Advisor” made perfect sense. In the past I’ve said that New Worlds ruined my taste for hard sf but that’s not really true since I never really liked the stuff beyond a few Arthur C. Clarke books. Too much bad writing, too many cardboard characters shuffling around between chunks of explanation about made-up technology. The discovery of New Worlds merely demonstrated that there were other ways of approaching sf, and you didn’t have to put up with the rubbish.

I also enjoyed the magazine’s bolshy attitude, a quality shared by Harlan Ellison in his Dangerous Visions anthologies. Moorcock says in Brittain’s interview that NW sympathised with the Underground of the late 60s but also tried to be more disciplined in its approach, especially where the design was concerned. You couldn’t have treated fiction to the semi-legible printing that Oz and Frendz often deployed. But the radical attitudes of the Underground can be discerned in the stance NW adopted. Some of the reviews and polemical articles by Moorcock (often under his “James Colvin” pseudonym), M. John Harrison and John Clute are bracingly vitriolic to a degree which if delivered today would probably see them ostracised for life.

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With the design the main intention was to present the information clearly and let the visuals speak for themselves. The book is heavily illustrated throughout, with many examples of Paolozzi’s marvellous prints. The layout nods obliquely to the period; before getting started I spent some time looking at the work of Erik Nitsche. I like the way Nitsche laid out the books he designed in the 1960s, and there’s also a connection in his work as a designer for the General Dynamics corporation: one of Paolozzi’s print series of the period is entitled General Dynamics F.U.N.

Being full-colour throughout, the print run for this book is smaller than usual so anyone interested is advised to move swiftly. Official publication is December 16th but it’s on sale now at Savoy and at Amazon.

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Continue reading “Eduardo Paolozzi at New Worlds”

Richard Hamilton, 1922–2011

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The Beatles aka The White Album (1968) by The Beatles. Design by Richard Hamilton.

Hamilton admires Hunger but he has little time for the other Young British Artists. He can’t imagine a conversation with Tracey Emin lasting more than five minutes – too tedious! – and though he was quite interested in Hirst’s sharks, his paintings bore him half to death. He believes that this generation is “ignorant… they have no understanding of art history. [Their work] is a waste of time. So much of what they’re doing has already been done, and not only by Duchamp, even. You think: you’re 50 years too late, mate.” Don’t even get him started on Sarah Lucas and her antics with cigarettes.

Richard Hamilton: A masterclass from the father of pop art

A few words to note the passing of British artist Richard Hamilton whose death was announced this week. I’ve retained an affection for Hamilton’s work over the years for a couple of reasons. As the creator of the 1956 collage Just What is it that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? he inadvertently gave a name to the emerging Pop Art movement with which he was to be indelibly connected, and I’ve written a few times here about my teenage enthusiasm for Pop Art and Surrealism. Hamilton’s work was more familiar to me at the age of 13 than that of many other artists. I responded to the immediacy of Pop Art even though it was over by the 1970s, just as I responded to the inherent weirdness of Surrealism which at that time was back in fashion. On my first visit to London in the mid-70s I rushed to the Tate Gallery (as Tate Britain was then known) to see some of the paintings and sculptures I’d been reading about in art books, and it was one of Hamilton’s works that stood out on that first visit, Swingeing London 67 (f), his painting of Mick Jagger’s drug arrest which I knew from photos although I hadn’t seen it in colour before. Most surprising—and something which reproductions still don’t quite convey—was seeing the pieces of metal stuck onto the canvas to form the handcuffs on the wrists of Jagger and Robert Fraser. It was already a shock that day being in one of the world’s major art galleries; it was even more of a shock to see this painting whose metal elements gave it a vivid presence beyond the pictorial surface as though it was caught halfway between painting and sculpture. It’s a presence which brings to the fore the “aura” which Walter Benjamin discusses in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936), an atmosphere possessed by an original work which will always be absent from a reproduction.

Another work I was fascinated by that day was the 1966 version of Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (aka The Large Glass) which Hamilton had meticulously copied from the original at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Hamilton made copies of a number of Duchamp’s works with the artist’s permission, and while his painting of Mick Jagger may have its own substantial aura, his Duchamp copy also has an aura of its own despite being a reproduction. What would Walter have made of that, I wonder? Duchamp is the first conceptual artist, and some trace of his inspiration can be found in Hamilton’s design two years later for The White Album, the 1968 release by The Beatles whose blank sleeve with its embossed name and unique serial number made it the first conceptual album cover. Hamilton has never received the same credit for this as Peter Blake receives for his Sgt. Pepper sleeve. On the packaging for the recent White Album CD acknowledgement was given to the designers who put the reissue together but the only mention of Hamilton was in the tiny list of thanks from the original printing. It’s a small detail from a long career but we can at least remember his contribution to music history today.

Guardian obituary | Richard Hamilton in pictures | Richard Hamilton’s altered images

Weekend links 46

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The Final Programme (1973). Philip Castle’s poster art implied the androgynous finale of Moorcock’s novel which the film itself evaded.

They were musty-smelling 10p messages from the futuristic past, complete with cover designs (and content) that were unlike anything I’d seen before. I’m fairly certain that this was how I first came across Michael Moorcock, in an early-70s Mayflower paperback, with a psychedelic cover by Bob Haberfield.

(…)

Moorcock steered New Worlds towards a set of concerns that chimed with the times; this was the period ruled by Marshal McLuhan and RD Laing, and the exploration of “inner space” seemed just as interesting as the “outer space” of satellites and moonshots. This turn was controversial, not just with die-hard pulp fans, but, surprisingly, with people such as the pop artist Richard Hamilton, another denizen of the London scene. “He thought we were turning science fiction into something namby-pamby, losing its roots,” Moorcock says. “He wanted explosions and spaceships and robots.”

When Hari Kunzru met Michael Moorcock, a major feature on a great writer and cultural catalyst. Kunzru posted the full transcript of their conversation here. Jovike’s Moorcock Flickr set has many of the lurid Mayflower covers.

• Moorcock is among the contributors to the forthcoming Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiositities. io9 posted a list of contents (and one of my pics) while co-editor Jeff VanderMeer added some detail.

• So long to The White Stripes whose dissolution was announced earlier in the week. We know they’ll be back one day. Jay Babcock gave them their first major interview for the LA Weekly in 2000 which he’s reposted here.

Mister Blues (1962) by Lasry-Baschet aka Structures Sonores, a rare 7″ single showcasing the unique glass-and-metal sounds of the Cristal Baschet. Young Teddy Lasry on clarinet was playing in prog-jazz outfit Magma a few years later. Related: John Payne on Magma and The Mars Volta.

Here’s one thing that changed me: a close reading of Flannery O’Connor’s Mysteries and Manners. In it, she says that, “it is the business of fiction to embody mystery through manners,” manners being those concrete details — depictions of the real — in story. “Mystery through manners…” I had never heard a modern author seeking deep metaphysical mystery through realism before. Well, sure, Robert Musil, Bruno Schulz, Robert Walser, and a handful of other personal faves. By deep mystery I mean, mystery about our relationship with the planet, not anthropocentric mystery. I get sick of thinking about humans quickly, as we only constitute about 1% of what’s happening in our universe, if that much, and it was refreshing to me to hear O’Connor critiquing Henry James’ idea that modern people should aspire to know nothing of mystery, to be completely rooted in humanity. That notion makes me feel like hurling myself off a cliff. In her opinion, great literature seeks to embrace and express mystery through its mimicry of actual mannerisms. Mystery — fantasy — through the real. And with that, the borders between fantasy and realism were completely transgressed in my brain. Suddenly, I saw them as two good means to the same end. This made me excited to write real human situations again.

Trinie Dalton is interviewed here.

• And speaking of mystery through the real, there’s London Intrusion, a sequence of metropolitan adumbrations by China Miéville. Am I the only person to spot an intrusion of a different kind in the presence there of one of Eugène Atget’s Parisian views? There’s a doorway to Viriconium in that curious wedge of buildings but nobody can tell you where.

Rupert Murdoch—A Portrait of Satan. Adam Curtis on top form looking at the Dirty Digger’s career and a reminder of why some of us have always called one of his rags The Scum. A key point for me: Murdoch’s insecure railing against “elites”, a favourite term of aspersion on his Fox News network.

• Rick Poynor asks What Does JG Ballard Look Like? Related: “…only two people in Bucharest are going to read this.” Eduardo Paolozzi in conversation with JG Ballard and Frank Whitford, 1971.

How many days does Bill Murray’s character really spend reliving Groundhog Day?

• Silent Porn Star explores The Translucent Beauty of Androgyny.

Ballets Russes brought back to life on film, and also here.

Dewanatron Electronic Music Instruments.

RIP Tura Satana. Remember her this way.

Warm Leatherette (1978) by The Normal | Warm Leatherette (1982) by Grace Jones | Warm Leatherette (1998) by Chicks On Speed.

The Metamorphoses of Don José

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Las Meninas (1656) by Diego Velázquez.

The sight of one of Picasso’s many versions of Las Meninas (The Maids of Honour) by Velázquez earlier this week prompts this post. An endlessly fascinating painting whose influence runs through three hundred years of art history. That influence isn’t so surprising if you consider this as a painter’s painting; it certainly never seems to figure in the canon of favourite works among the wider public. But artists are beguiled by the games it plays with our ways of seeing: a self-portrait of the artist painting a subject (the royal couple) standing where the viewer would be, with the couple seen in reflection in the mirror on the back wall. We are the watchers and the watched. Wikimedia Commons has a decently large copy of the painting.

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I’ve long been fascinated by the detail of the queen’s chamberlain, Don José Nieto Velázquez, standing on the steps at the back of the picture. Lines of perspective draw our attention to his figure, not only the perspective of the room but also the line which can be drawn across the heads of the three figures in the foreground right. I always look to see how Don José is treated in subsequent variations, some of which appear below.

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Las Meninas, after Velázquez (c. 1778) by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes.

One of the commonplaces of contemporary art is artworks about other artworks. Goya’s etching shows that this idea is by no means a new one. Goya was apparently dissatisfied with his attempt, and its main interest is the degree to which he distorts various parts of the picture.

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The Facts in the Case of M Valdemar (1919) by Harry Clarke.

Harry Clarke scholar Nicola Gordon Bowe proposed in The Life and Work of Harry Clarke (1989) that the figure in the background of this Poe illustration was a version of Don José. Clarke’s picture also has a similar grouping of foreground figures which adds to the speculation. The division of space in the Velázquez painting would have held considerable appeal for an artist used to dealing with similar divisions in his stained glass window designs. Will at A Journey Round My Skull recently uploaded a set of high-resolution scans of Clarke’s Poe drawings and paintings.

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Las Meninas (after Velazquez) (1957) by Pablo Picasso.

In the 1950s Picasso took to producing a series of variations on favourite paintings. There are 44 versions of Las Meninas, some more abstract than others. This one reminds me of Guernica and I like the humour of presenting Velázquez’s dog—one of the great dogs of art history—as though it’s been drawn by Nicolas Pertusato, the child who attempts to rouse the animal with his foot. Velázquez here has a head surmounting a spindly body comprised of the Order of Santiago cross.

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Las Meninas (1960) by Salvador Dalí.

Salvador Dalí venerated Velázquez and he happily quoted other artists throughout his career so it’s no surprise to find variations of Las Meninas. This wins the award for the most eccentric, with the figures reduced to numerals. Closer examination shows it to be quite clever the way each number corresponds to a different figure. The use of the number 7 for the artist and for Don José makes sense when you consider that they share the same surname. Don José turns up alone is another painting the same year, a work entitled Maelstrom: Portrait of Juan de Pareja fixing a string of his mandolin.

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Picasso’s Meninas (1973) by Richard Hamilton.

Richard Hamilton’s aquatint is equally playful, substituting Velázquez with Picasso and his works.

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The Haunter of the Dark (1986).

I seem to have referred to my own work quite a lot recently, and here’s some more of it. The panel on the right quotes from Harry Clarke’s Poe illustration and so can be considered as continuing a trace element of the shadowy Don.

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Las Meninas (Self Portrait) (1987) by Joel-Peter Witkin.

Joel-Peter Witkin has quoted Picasso’s works frequently in his photo-tableaux so the Picasso-esque figure on the right is perhaps inevitable. Witkin also has a considerable fondness for dead things so it’s quite likely that the dog in this photograph isn’t sleeping.

I’ll be surprised if there haven’t been a lot more variations during the past twenty years. If anyone knows of any which are better than this item by Antonio Guijarro Morales, please leave a comment.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Picasso-esque
Reflections of Narcissus
My pastiches
Guernica, seventy years on
The art of Harry Clarke, 1889–1931