Month: May 2013

Looking Upwards

One of the lovely things about Spring is looking upwards from the base of trees at the new leaves shining bright green in the sun and the contrast with the trunk and branches. Today I took just a couple of shots as I was walking into Tunstall on a bright cloudy day, cool wind but mild. When I was getting them ready for this blog I looked at them in black and white as well, so I have put them in here as well.

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Sunday Photographs

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The top photo was taken at about 10.15am, the dandelions have gone through their first phase. The middle  is the wall by my kitchen. It is the only place in the ‘garden’ where anything grows as the remains of the potbank that makes up the garden are so bad. Around now either my neighbour or I start to clear this area on the top of the wall. This was taken on a sunny cool morning which should be getting warmer at 9.15am.  The bottom another taken at 10am and more bark!

Leek School of Art – memories revived

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Yesterday afternoon I went to Leek and stopped outside my old college Leek School of Art, where I went in 1970 at the age of 16, and spent probably the most influential three years in my life. I stopped just to take a photograph outside, when I saw they had some of the plaster casts that inhabited the School in the foyer, I moved closer.

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One of the current staff kindly suggested I go in and we had a chat about why I was there and my time there. I couldn’t stay long, so just took a few shots.

It was a quite overwhelming feeling, not of nostalgia, but of memory. I have previously written about the smell of oil paint which filled the senses when I first entered the corridor, that wasn’t there, but the quality of light in the old life room was.

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ImageThis was late afternoon and looking at what I took there is a sense of pervasive calm and timelessness. In my time the cherub strangling the swan was next to the entrance door and in what I thought an amusing act of defiance I used to tie my scarf on it each day. I took little notice of these casts, they were left over from another era, and yet are still there overseeing the struggles of potential artists.

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Leek School of Art was built in the bowels of The Nicholson Institute an Art Nouveau influenced building as can be seen on the gate of an attached building. The town was famous for textiles so design and arts skills very important. When I went most people were beginning a career in design or craft skills, fine art was less common then. The staff possessed very high quality technical skills and these they tried to pass on, I was not greatly receptive, I wanted a freedom of action, maybe not realising at the time that you can’t really have the freedom without learning the skills first, just look now at Damien Hurst.

I am reasonably pleased with these photographs and I asked to return to make more considered photographs. They will soon move and nearly 150 years of history will cease. But I hope the architects of the new building retain the qualities of light available to the students, it is so important, the large north facing windows offer a true light hard to find in new buildings.

The photographs were taken at 4.30 on a blustery bright afternoon.

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These double gates were taken at a disused factory in Tunstall yesterday at about 7pm, the light was going but was adding to the colour. It reminded me of an abstract expressionist painting.

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It also had a musical feel. It could be a score or stage set from the days when Cage and Rauschenberg were experimenting with Merce Cunningham. But it is just a 10ft tall rusting gate losing its paint but adding so much more!

Teasmade

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Most days I wake up between 4.30 and 5am. I switch on the radio, if I haven’t gone to sleep with it on, listen to the World Service which then changes to Radio 4 at around 5.15. I follow the Shipping Forecast (no Sailing By in the morning!), then there is a News Briefing with a feature on what happened this day (today happens to be the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters raid in WW2), Prayer for the Day then Farming Today. Recently there has been a tiny programme on birdsong just before 6am, Tweet of the Day.

All this is seemingly useless to me:

  • I live around 100 miles from the sea
  • I have listened to news on WS or read it on a phone app by then
  • I have no religious belief or spiritual interest except for my characters
  • I live in the middle of a city
  • I hear very few birds around here

It is however a good accompaniment to my first cup of tea if I have bothered to get up and make one (note to self must get a Teasmade one day).

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But it all gives very useful information which can be used later for writing, taking photographs or just improving my mind.

Today I was struck with today’s Prayer for the Day, as it felt so relevant to the way I think of how I write and photograph – the importance of seeing the ordinary. The photos on my blog are nearly all taken within half a mile of my flat. They are the things one walks past each day, the familiar. When I visit another place I am sometimes overwhelmed by the newness and end up taking what are not much more than the postcard view. But this idea to take photographs every day has made me look even more closely.

Rachel who I know from Renegades came and interviewed me on Tuesday, she is doing some research at Keele University, and when we were talking I said that I look at things as an artist, I see patterns, compositions, colour forms, lines. I try and reflect that in my photographs, I am not so arrogant to think of them as works of art, perhaps sketches at very best. But they are planned, I will often walk past places and wait for the best light or time of day.

It is may be the role of the artist in whatever form they work to look at the world in a critical and analytical manner, offering the viewer their view so they can look and maybe not see in the same way, but to question what they see, feel, hear.

Today’s photographs are of clouds again. Britain often has some remarkable cloudscapes, even here the sea and it’s weather does effect us, the sky is always there and we see it every day, admire its beauty, note its power, it is a remarkable part of being alive. Perhaps Japan is the same, look at the wonderful skies that appear in Miyazaki’s animations. We have big storms happening even snow in some parts. These were taken as I walked my dog Oskar at about 10.30am.

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I have included today’s Prayer for the Day below, I do not share the belief but include it.

Today’s Prayer from Glenn Jordan

I was afforded a rare privilege the other day as I walked with my dog along the shore.  I saw the familiar with first time eyes.
It was sunset as I headed towards home, and the sky was a tangle of pinks and reds and purples while all around me were the familiar sights. Belfast Lough, stained with sky colours, opening to the Irish Sea and the coast of Scotland. Cave Hill and Black Mountain brooding over Belfast. The church-spired skyline of my home town, back-lit by the declining sun. Carrickfergus stretching to Kilroot Power Station and the shore by Whitehead, where my wife and I walked and grew to know and love one another. And I perceived it all and knew it as if for the first time.
I long for the innocence and excitement of my dog Tobey, who is ceaselessly delighted by the familiar sights and smells of our regular walk, and who frequently, daily in fact, seems to rejoice in the commonplace and everyday. Without that capacity I risk falling into cynicism and negativity and miss the glorious possibilities in the seemingly inconsequential.
TS Eliot writes,
We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

God of the surprising and the run-of-the-mill. God of the unforeseen and the undistinguished, make us mindful today of the beautiful in the ordinary. Amen.