(yes I know Big Ben is actually the name of the bell, and not the clock tower) Anyway
A rainy night for a commission, I was glad the streets were wet and brought up such interesting reflections to play with, even though my assistant and I got soaked battling the wind with an umbrella and keeping the tripod steady on a traffic filled bridge…
I used exposure bracketing to ensure the illuminated clock face wasn’t blown out, and set long exposures to capture light trails from passing buses and the movement of people to add to the bustling feel. I then layered images of festive lights taken at home as the iconic lamp posts lining the bridge were actually out of action and being repaired, necessitating a generous dollop of festive artistic license.
The finished Christmas card designs were used for the UK Houses of Parliament, in their MP print on demand system to send to constituents.
The launch event for a charity book I designed was held in a church hall in Liverpool. Many members of the local community including Ethiopian elders and community leaders, and some special guests got together to celebrate with those involved with the book’s creation. A highlight of the evening was a haunting live singing performance in Amharic. We feasted on some festive Ethiopian fare, such as delicious Lamb Wot stew and Iab cottage cheese and yogurt, with flat Injera bread.
An evocative tale of love, hardship and success, with universal appeal, coloured with traditional detail set against the rich cultural backdrop of Ethiopia.
The book ‘Tell Out My Soul’ is a story for children of a Black saint. The boy, Yared, turns his life around from a tale of failure to self-belief and astounding success as a role model for future generations. The book’s theme was underscored by the fact the illustrations were created by a former prison inmate as part of his rehabilitation. The author is a theologian who specialises in ‘Community Spirit’ courses for the workplace to raise awareness of various cultural traditions and religious practices from all over the world.
I designed and put the book together ready for print as a pro bono project. although I am not religious, it was gratifying to be involved in a project with a great role model for young people, and positive messages that reach beyond the notion of religion. This book was created for schools and community groups in the UK, however it is available for anyone to order through Blurb, as a hardback book or e-book. Here’s a little preview:
These images are of some murals I did for a ‘multicultural centre’ during a residency in a school in the UK. On the staircase you would encounter sculpture from Ghana and Nigeria, and as you climbed you were introduced to Wayang Kulit shadow puppets and various other cultural ambassadors in silhouette. These were punctuated by full colour acrylic pieces such as this one based on a sculpture from the ‘Africa Explores’ exhibition at Tate Gallery Liverpool.
During the residency I also created a site-specific sculpture for the school library. Working with books destined for the skip, I photocopied and enlarged pertinent passages from literary sources and pasted them inside the books, their jackets painted bright colours. I fixed the pages open at various states and attached tiger-tail nylon thread. I then hung a shelf and arranged the books so the ideas therein would ‘take flight’ from the shelves to inspire young minds. Voila! a little installation hanging above the heads of readers hopefully too engrossed in a book to notice…
Viva el Dia de los Muertos! In LA, the Mexican Day of the Dead festival is celebrated with a large cultural event each year in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The tombs and graves of the rich and famous are interspersed with altars draped with colour-drenched floral garlands, evocative framed portraits and creative flourishes with little battery operated candles and fairy lights twinkling into the night.
I was first introduced to the tradition when I saw an exhibit in London’s Museum of Mankind, displaying altars with ofrendas (offerings) and explaining the significance of elements as as memento mori – but to be part of the event really brought the tradition to life, if you excuse the pun. The festival which originated in Mexico has such a unique aesthetic and exciting atmosphere – one of the worldwide traditions recognising the cycle of life, honouring and celebrating ancestors and the lives of those who have passed away, with music, dancing and specially created altars. Replete with skull and skeleton motifs the spirit is anything but morbid, rather, flamboyant – with a sense of humour and reverence at the same time. Some common elements of the altar construction are explained by this excerpt from the Hollywood Forever website:
* Earth is represented by the crop: The soul is fed by the various earthly aromas. Placing fruit or favorite family dishes on the altar provides nourishment for the beloved souls.
* Wind is represented by a moving object: Paper- Mache is commonly utilized to represent the echoes of the wind.
* Water is placed in a container for the soul to quench its thirst after the long awaited journey to the altar. Water is also used for the means of purification.
* Fire is represented by a wax candle: Each lit candle represents a loving soul, and an extra one is placed for the forgotten soul.
* Copal – Incense burned to commemorate Pre-Columbian history.
* The Cempasuchitl-Marigold known as “The flower of the dead” blossoms in the valleys of Mexico during the months of October and November with a bright yellow color and is central to altar decorating. This flower aids the spirits to wander back.
* Pictures are widely used in honor of the individual you are paying homage to.
* The Skull – The common symbol of the holiday is the skull which is celebrated and represented by decorative masks called calacas. In addition sugar skulls are also tastefully created and inscribed with the names of both the honored and living recipients on the forehead as a means to remind us of our own mortality.
In Hollywood Forever, community altars are constructed and awarded prizes, aside from family altars, this year some displays were constructed to honour famous figures such as Bela Lugosi or artists like Frida Kahlo. Everyone participating, and many visitors dress in Mexican, often vintage-inspired attire and paints their faces in intricate patterns with darkened skull-like eye sockets.
We got into the spirit of the occasion as I brought my family over to join in, With a pineapple cocktail in one hand, I painted our faces, and our costumes also served the Halloween party we were attending that night. I carried some dead flowers in a bouquet, and donned a veil to become the familiar Calaca Bride character, with glitter, face paint and a vivid coloured wig.
The event included a parade, dance and music performances on a decorated stage, and stalls selling traditional crafts such as sugar skulls, glittery ceramic skeleton figures and painted skulls, and variations on the theme from hair slides, to handbags and paintings. Delicious food stalls were dotted around, the scents mingling with the wafting incense.
On this night the belief is that the ‘veil’ is lifted between the realms of the living and the dead – it is easy to imagine the entombed stars of yesteryear revelling again, celebrating into the night under the palm trees, in view of the Hollywood sign.
‘Shoot Liverpool’ photography scavenger hunt project at Tate Gallery Liverpool – four hours, nine themes. The cryptic questions were responded to in the form of photographic images by teams of artists. These were judged by a panel and presented to our peers at the end of the day.
The day was hectic and fun as we ran around the city spotting locations, coming up with concepts, gathering props and shooting our images.
Our group ‘Trashbat’ (in an homage to Nathan Barley) won ‘Best Image’ for ‘This street tastes citric.’ This dada-inspired series depicts one of our group flinging himself into a ‘Happening’ in the street. His face contorted, dressed in a locally sourced, delightfully acid green dancer’s apparel/chav-wear velour ensemble. The image we chose to display included the bemused car park attendant from across the road, who ambled over to us to investigate the strange activity occurring. Little did he know that he would end up being exhibited at the Tate Gallery, as I persuaded him to join in by throwing limes at the performer, his citrus-hued jacket adding to the urban spectacle.
The resulting group exhibition private view was held at Tate Liverpool, with the exhibition of images running in the Gallery for five days.
Clues were as follows:
Q1. This tower presides over the city in both sound and sight.
Q2. The big birds on this building have beady eyes, be it to see the sailors coming in from sea or glimpse the glint of the pint glass.
Q3. This street tastes citric.
Q4. Keep your eyes open for this gallery.
Q5. This street is music to the ears of Beatles fans.
Q6. Taste minus ‘s’ gives us a feast for all the senses this weekend.
A. Tate (not pictured)
Q7. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil
Q8. Out of sight, out of mind.
A. (not pictured)
Q9. What’s your sixth sense?
A. Ladbrokes bookmakers (not pictured)
Below is a gallery of images from the day, the private view and exhibition.
A composite image made from several photos of the Cascades d’Ouzoud, a couple of hours away from Marrakech, Morocco. The waterfalls created a beautiful rainbow, way below you can see the tiny pedal boats we sat in to draw near to the waterfall and catch the mist on our faces…
My apartment in Liverpool has an interesting claim to fame – as recording studio! The peculiar acoustics of the high ceilings and large windows of the old converted brick structure added a unique quality to the sound, as a specially commissioned new soundtrack was recorded in my living room.
Stan Ambrose is a lovely gentleman and accomplished musician, also known for playing harp in local bohemian cafés in Liverpool such as the Green Fish and Egg Café & Gallery. Quite the cinephile, he was delighted when approached to create a new interpretation of the 1926 silent classic ‘Faust’ from F.W. Murnau. The beautiful improvised soundtrack he created in response to the film was featured in Masters of Cinema’s DVD release as a special feature.
Watching him play reminded me that the concept of ‘Silent movies’ really is interesting, as the films in their day were always shown with evocative live music – and were anything but silent!
The photos I took of Stan during his performance were published in the booklet inside the DVD packaging.