Sunday, 30 November 2014

Pattern


The final look at Moonstrips here is at the pattern-rich picture prints, six of them below:

 
It would be difficult to overrate the value of pattern in artistic practice.  It enables the creation of visual harmonies, symmetry and rhythms.  These can be highly instrumental in manipulating the viewer’s mood, (usually towards calmness), as well as their visual experience.  And, where a pattern is interrupted/disturbed, a sense of unease can be evoked.

Pattern helps establish order and solidity – in traditional painting think for example of how Vermeer’s tiled floors underpin the 3D effect of his interiors.  In modern art, where there is no concern with perspective, pattern has often been used to ground and integrate disparate imagery within a single painting/print – this is a technique of Paolozzi’s.  His chequers and squares and stripes slosh about on a print like the stock of a soup in which the diverse chunks of pictures/words can be seen and appreciated as part of something which overall is more appealing than the individual ingredients. 

Whilst the use of pattern for integrating purposes is so notable in prints such as A formula that can shatter into a million glass bullets in the Universal Electronic Vacuum suite:


 

that portfolio also included continuous pattern images such as Memory Matrix, (below), similar to those seen in Moonstrips.
 
 

Paolozzi collected patterns as raw materials for his collages – as he did all sorts of images/objects – from a vast range of sources:  food boxes, sweet wrappers, crochet patterns, engineering drawings, etc.  It is pleasing to see that these often mundane visual devices live on beyond their original context in some of the very best artworks of the mid-Twentieth Century.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Monkey Business


Monkeys and apes figured across the years in Paolozzi’s ‘image vocabulary’, for example: a chimp in The Dynamics of Biology, (Bunk!), 1952; another in uniform in Gina Lollobrigida, (General Dynamic F.U.N.), 1970; a pair in Pop Art Redefined, 1971. 

Among the unsigned picture prints of Moonstrips one of the most striking is ea 782 King Kong King Kongking Kong:

 

Here is Paolozzi’s expertise in deriving and combining patterns deployed to great effect.  As for this specific ape, I can’t help but wonder if there’s an echo here of ‘Tortured Life’ from As Is When – the poor old misunderstood creature; persecuted and apparently unpleasant, but, as Hollywood showed us, also capable of the most tender feelings! 

That tenderness is perhaps evident in ea 763 The Windmills, he murmured, . . .
 
 

Paolozzi had first used this image in an early Bunk! Collage.  Here it is below as featured in the facsimile series printed in 1972 and published by Snail Chemicals:
 
 

And, it’s the words that indicate an unseen, but possibly lurking ape in ea 750 My Pal the Gorilla Gargantua:
 
 

How’s that for colour vibrancy!
 
For more on 60s prints, please have a look at http://davidbuckden.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Elephant in the modernised room and some secrets


Formica was a key material for DIY dads, (mine especially), in the Fifties and Sixties; whapped over old table tops, shelves etc., its groovy patterns helped turned Edwardian homes like ours into spaces fit to watch Juke Box Jury in on a Saturday evening.  Invented as far back as 1912, it was a laminate made from kraft paper with a melamine top surface.  Formica-Formikel is the seventh signed print:
 


 
Final signed print is Secrets of the Internal Combustion Engine.  Paolozzi was fascinated by engineering and loved related imagery.  Back in the Fifties/Sixties understanding of technology was limited outside specialist communities.  When cutaway drawings of cars and aeroplanes began to appear more frequently in comics/general interest magazines, it really was like letting light in on magic.
 
 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Obscure and Obvious

The fifth and sixth signed prints are Ernie and T.T. at St Louis Airport and Donald Duck meets Mondrian:


 

I suspect that Ernie . . .is to be viewed just as the very pleasing composition of images and pattern it is – I have been unable to deduce to whom/what ‘Ernie’ or ‘T.T’ refer: any suggestions welcome.

Donald . . . is clearly straightforward in terms of external reference and a good example of Paolozzi’s love of combining ‘high’ with ‘low’ brow imagery.  As for the iconography, it’s notable that both Donald Duck and the painting style of Mondrian are instantly recognisable however apparently artlessly they are represented.  That must be a good test of how deeply ingrained into our consciousness a 'brand' has become, something I was exploring in my own painting back in 2003 - see example below, Turkish Delight:



In 1987 Paolozzi said: It is now acceptable to talk seriously about Mickey Mouse as an icon, and even to mention Mickey Mouse and Jesus in the same breath; (Quoted in Eduardo Paolozzi; Writings and Interviews, edited by Robin Spencer; ISBN 0-19-817412-8).

Friday, 17 October 2014

Cover for a Journal, 1967, and current values

This is the fourth of the signed sheets, EA 483:

 
 

Single sheets from Moonstrips are offered on ebay currently as follows:

Text sheets - £15 - £45

Text with pictures - £30 - £95

Visuals - £95  - £100

Signed visuals - £595 - £675
 

Phillips, New York, sold a Moonstrips Empire News Portfolio in 2008 for $6,250, described as follows: 

The complete set of 100 photo-lithographs and screenprints in colours plus justification, on various wove papers and acetate, the full sheets,

15 3/4 x 11 in. (40 x 27.9 cm) (box) all sheets 15 x 10 in. (38.1 x 25.4 cm).  Eight signed and numbered 69/100 in pencil (the total edition was 500 plus 50 artist’s proofs), published by Editions Alecto, London (all with their inkstamp on the reverse), a few with minor creasing in places at the sheet edges, one with pale foxing at the lower sheet, otherwise all in very good condition, original Formed Acrylic magenta box (with large crack on the front and one side detatched). Estimate $3,000 - 4,000. 

Compare this from the same sale: 

Damien Hirst

The Last Supper: Steak and Kidney, 1999.  Screenprint in colors, on Somerset Tub-Sized Satin paper, the full sheet,  S. 60 x 40 in. (152.4 x 101.6 cm).  Signed in pencil, from the edition of 150 (there were also a small number of artist's proofs), published by Paragon Press, London, in very good condition, framed.  Estimate $5,000 - 8,000.  Sold for $5,625

 
So, one image - have a look at for yourself: http://www.phillips.com/detail/DAMIEN-HIRST/NY030208/110 for £3,343, or, alternatively, more brilliant images than you’ve got wall space enough for at £69 each, (and the text images free).

Monday, 13 October 2014

High Life

High Life is the third signed print.  It is one of Paolozzi’s images which is to me about layers of visibility/reality; it rewards contemplation without any reference to anything outside itself.

 
 

But . . . here are some cues to the outside world:
 
High Life is a pilsner beer brand of Millers, the American brewers.  It is very fizzy – could that account for all those black ‘bubbles’-like strata of carbonated beer in a glass which form the background of the print? 
 
 

‘High Life’ could also refer to ‘substances’ – it’s 1967 after all.  Those fuzzy horizontal lines in the centre rectangle could suggest weed-affected vision.  And, maybe, those sharp, brightly coloured diagonals are channelling us through those gates of perception apparently unlocked by Lysergic acid diethylamide.
 
 
http://laramide-orogeny.deviantart.com/

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Silken World of Michelangelo

This is the second of the signed prints, EA#481.

 

Paolozzi’s assiduous collecting of images and objects from very diverse sources and their use as components in collages was a central theme of his artistic practice.  In the mid-Sixties this approach was very much of the time.  In music, for example, the same approach was evident in the work of The Beatles.  In his magnificent book, Revolution in the Head, Ian Macdonald wrote:
 
The Beatles liked to surround themselves with a continuous low-level media babble of loosely scattered newspapers and magazines and permanently murmuring radios and tvs.  Apart from the fact that it amused them to live like this – relishing the coincidences and clashes of high and low style that it entailed – they valued simultaneity for its random cross-references which suggested ideas that might otherwise not have occurred to them. 

What really matters of course is not the process of creativity but its outputs.  The superb quality of such as Day in the Life or The Silken World is enduring.

The juxtaposition of the head of Michelangelo’s David – one of the very best known icons of high art – with a picture to the left of Mickey Mouse and the three curiously clumsily rendered figures above, is an illogical, dissonant concept, yet brings about a visually harmonious image.  The surrounding patterns and their saturated colours complement the figurative elements, creating a level of eye-candy indulgence appropriate for the cultural world’s sculpted superstar.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Memory Core Units


This is the first of the signed prints, #480 in the total Editions Alecto catalogue.

 
 

I imagine that this composition was prompted by the general look of mainframe cabinets in the Sixties- as in this ’64 Univac set-up:


 

Paolozzi’s skill is readily evident in the way in which the two upper circles – tape reels? – have the look/feel of rotating objects.  I take the collection of shapes in the left hand circle to be analogous to a variety of stored data objects. 

The lower, rectilinear sections of the print also embody an uncanny kinetic effect with the suggestion of multiple, winking mini-lamps and larger panels of light coming and going, as information is processed. 

Paolozzi’s fascination with computer technology is apparent here as it was in Universal Electronic Vacuum.  Although it’s often said that Paolozzi became less enamoured of the US and its culture of the mid-Sixties, he encountered inspirational technologies there which were not yet prevalent in England.
 
However, whether or not this a relatively straightforward representational image as I’ve suggested, it is a beautifully composed picture with a most sumptuous, colour scheme.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Moonstrips Empire News - introduction

The quality of Bob Dylan’s creativity and his productivity were outstanding in the mid-Sixties.  The three LPs, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, ’65-’66, constitute his very best work.  Compare Eduardo Paolozzi and his printmaking, ’64-’67:  As Is When, Moonstrips Empire News and Universal Electronic Vacuum – masterworks all, embodying quality and quantity. 

Moonstrips is a portfolio of 98 screenprints- 8 of which are signed/numbered – presented in a Perspex box.  The prints are 380mm x 254mm.  Additional sheets included in the box are a title page, colophon and introduction by Christopher Finch.  Printing was by Kelpra Studio and the box was made by Herault Studios.  The Portfolio was published in 1967 in an edition of 500 by Editions Alecto. 
 
In As Is When Paolozzi invited the viewer to make both visual and linguistic connections, based on their own unique experience and knowledge, between many disparate component images and text.  Here Paolozzi was developing the ideas of Marcel Duchamp, an early pioneer of shifting the balance of activity from the artist towards the viewer.  Duchamp classified most art as being intended only to please the eye (‘retinal art’); his mission was to ‘put art back in the service of the mind’.  In Moonstrips we can enjoy this latter objective being achieved whilst being fully indulged retinally at the same time. 

In Duchamp’s Green Box - 1934 – notes about his Large Glass and other related experimental works are presented in a box, unbound – leaving it to the viewer to determine the order of their consideration:
 
 

 

Moonstrips follows the same principle, constituting what Paolozzi thought of as a ‘terrestrial image bank’.
 
 
 
 

Regarding language and its relationship to thinking, Paolozzi’s writing activity developed in summary as follows: 

In notes from a lecture at the ICA, 1958, he used words as units in a verbal collage 

Metafisikal Translations (1962) – words/phrases were strung together to create a meaning larger than the component parts.  Spellings were played with and typefaces varied in order to enhance ambiguities 

Wild Track for Ludwig- a text included in As Is When –is characterised by the use of found fragments of writing and its composition/editing by a semi-spontaneous method 

Kex (1966) collage novel.  In this Paolozzi ceded control of the final output by delegating editing and layout to Richard Hamilton 

Mnemonic Weltschmerz with probability transformations – the text in Universal Electronic Vacuum – was rendered with no sections/paragraphs 

Moonstrips – words were used as units in themselves, often as a self-sufficient idea-image.  Moonstrips was much more experimental with typography and layout.  Material was derived from a vast number of sources 

However, in this blog I want to concentrate on the visual image sheets - there are no less than 55 of them to enjoy!

Monday, 15 September 2014

As Is When?

Why is 'As Is When' called 'As Is When'?

This is something that puzzled me for decades.  Recently, as I learned more about Wittgenstein and his ideas, I became confident that the title referred to an aspect of the Philosopher’s thinking regarding identity.  I thought I’d moved a step on to confirming this when I found the following in the Philosophical Investigations, Part II, ii:  The words ‘the rose is red’ are meaningless if the word ‘is’ has the meaning ‘is identical with’. – Does this mean: if you say this sentence and mean the ‘is’ as the sign of identity, the sense disintegrates? 

My search for further confirmation of this theory was suddenly interrupted in an appropriately Wittgensteinian manner, echoing the ‘throw away the ladder’ dictum.  One of the Editions Alecto team kindly phoned me after I’d made contact to clarify a couple of points about the original publication of the Suite.  He told me that Paolozzi had chosen the title, 'As and When': The EA man suggested 'As Is When' as being more intriguing/distinctive.
 
It’s tempting to think that Paolozzi’s original title, 'As and When' utilised that phrase as an idiomatic indication of a free-flow, unstructured, ad hoc situation – the context in which the later Wittgenstein would have contemplated matters; (rather than within a pre-defined process of logic).  However, I’m sure that EA’s suggestion provided just the right further enigmatic  layer to the Suite’s inherently arcane nature.

And finally . . .

Here is Paolozzi in the Shad Thames area with a companion who is surely not hugely unlike a certain Austrian philosopher:

 
When? 1956.
 
This is a still from a film called Together, made by Lorenze Mazzetti - for more details see Jez Winship's blog: http://sparksinelectricaljelly.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/lorenza-mazzettis-together.html

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Portfolio box and an interpretation summary

This is the box in which the portfolio was presented:
 
 

Within her catalogue for the 1977 V&A exhibition, ‘The Complete Prints of Eduardo Paolozzi: Prints, Drawing, Collages 1944-77’ Rosemary Miles wrote: 

In the philosophy itself Paolozzi discovered ideas which directly related to the visual arts.  In the Tractatus, his only philosophical book published in his lifetime, Wittgenstein dealt with the nature of language.  One of its central doctrines is the ‘Picture’ theory of meaning.  He discussed the spatial (in writing) and temporal (in speech) relationships between words and how they literally alter the sense, or pictorial image, of propositions (the difference between ‘My knife is to the left of my fork’ and ‘My fork is to left of my knife’ can be demonstrated pictorially).  He claimed that if some sentences did not at first look like pictures this was because language disguised them beyond all recognition.  A proposition is often composed of a more complex set of propositions which can be broken down or ‘atomised’. 

Paolozzi arranges and rearranges ‘Propositions’ which in turn often seem to be ‘atomised’ into more abstract patterns, symbolizing a greater complexity and abstraction of thought.  It is evident from Wittgenstein’s writing that a picture, to him, was not only the ‘painting, drawing or photograph . . . but also maps, sculptures, models and even such things as musical scores and gramophone records’.  Paolozzi’s use of such materials as crochet patterns, engineering diagrams and wrapping paper in the collages seems to reiterate this. 

Although Wittgenstein was not able to say exactly what constituted a ‘thought’, he could say that it is related to its expression in ordinary language by extremely complicated rules which we operate from moment to moment without knowing what they are.  In Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein proposes that that in language we play games with words.  To understand the meaning of a word we must study it through the rules of the game to which it belongs.  Fascinated by toys and games himself, Paolozzi applied this theory to the use of ‘pictorial’ language, analysing and reorganising the juxtaposition or ‘syntax’ of the ‘vocabulary’ or pictorial elements and by doing so he attended to the nuances of pictorial composition in the same way that Wittgenstein attended to the nuances of speech.  As the ‘syntax’ varies or different rules of the ‘game’ are applied so the total image changes.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Back to New York


Back to New York
 
As I’m preparing to move on to Paolozzi’s next print series after Universal Electronic Vacuum, Moonstrips Empire News, I’m taking stock again of Marcel Duchamp’s works and influence.  The concept of presenting a ‘viewer’ with material in a non-prescribed format or sequence is a major feature of Duchamp’s Green Box which complements his ‘Large Glass’.  Moonstrips certainly follows Duchamp’s lead, though it has a much larger frame of reference.
 
Duchamp’s influence is also signalled in Wittgenstein in New York – by the circle/spiral forms which refer to Duchamp’s 1920 Rotary Glass Plates, kinetic works which he developed whilst, like Wittgenstein, temporarily in New York.
 
The image also features a rotary aircraft engine, referencing Wittgenstein’s involvement with aeronautic engineering whilst at Manchester University, initially with kites, then an unconventional heat engine and finally with an innovative design for a propeller.

 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Posters


The initial (190 copies) limited edition version was not varied in colour rendition:
 
                                     

A slightly smaller version of this was printed in an edition of 140 for an exhibition at Editions Alecto’s Holland Street, Kensington ‘Print Centre’.  The text on this is reduced to: Eduardo Paolozzi; Editions Alecto London May 1965. 

The image used on the Suite’s box was also reproduced as a black & white poster:
 
 

Here is a 1966 US version, based on Tortured Life:

 

 


 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

OOOh Betty, I’ve got a bit of a problem!


Wittgenstein at the Cinema Admires Betty Grable 
 
 

This is the final print in the Suite and the third ‘biographical’ image. 

On this latter aspect, I’ve been wondering if Paolozzi overlooked an incident for which I’m sure he would have created another great image.  I’m thinking of Wittgenstein’s apparently ‘miraculous’ repair of a steam engine during his time teaching at Trattenbach in the Twenties.  It was reported that Wittgenstein achieved this by orchestrating the application of nothing more than hammer taps to the machine by four men!  Given the attractiveness of the mystical aspects of Wittgenstein’s thinking, and Paolozzi’s love of engineering imagery, this would be a very appropriate example of something being shown which cannot be explained verbally. Here, below is my interpretation of 'The Miracle at Trattenbach':


 

In the The Duty of Genius, Ray Monk writes: 

. . . the Western was Wittgenstein’s favourite genre.  By the later 1930s, however, his taste had broadened to include musicals.  His favourite actresses, he told Malcolm, were Carmen Miranda and Betty Hutton.  Exhausted and disgusted by his lectures, he would invariably go to see a ‘flick’ after them, accompanied by Malcolm, Smythies or one of his other friends from the class.  He would always sit at the front of the cinema, where he could be totally immersed in the picture.  He described the experience to Malcolm as ‘like a shower bath’, washing away his thoughts of the lecture. 

The ability to become completely absorbed in a performance was not new:  while at Manchester, he had liked to attend concerts given by the Halle Orchestra with Jim Bamber, a laboratory assistant with whom he worked at the University.  Bamber reported that Wittgenstein would concentrate intensely on the music, never speaking to or in any way interacting with his companion. 

Wittgenstein liked his movies to be slick in style rather than deep in meaning – and American.  He was of the view that no good British film had ever been made. 
 
And here’s another mystery.  In his correspondence with Norman Malcolm concerning Wittgenstein’s proposed trip to Ithaca, he said he wanted to be introduced to his favourite film star, Betty Hutton.  Given this, it’s not obvious why Paolozzi used Betty Grable rather than Betty Hutton in the print’s title.  Did: 
  • Paolozzi himself prefer Betty Grable?
  • Paolozzi think that Grable was more well known outside the US?
  • Malcolm get it wrong in reporting Wittgenstein’s preference?
  • Wittgenstein himself muddle up the two actress’s names? 
Not the final point, I trust; Wittgenstein’s last writing, just before his death, was published under the title: On Certainty.  Taking the book’s theme – that some things just have to be accepted as they are – it’s probably as well to simply enjoy the title, without analysis, as a jokey reference to Wittgenstein’s liking of the cinema as a relaxing antidote to the rigours of his thinking and lecturing.
 

 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Health & Safety won’t approve of this!

He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder

 

The text on this print – from 6.54 of the Tractatus – is rendered in fragments in the left hand margin, in English, (and, in German, in the right): 

My propositions serve as elucidation in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them – as steps – to climb up beyond them.  (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)  He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.  What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence. 

This is the penultimate statement of the Tractatus.  Especially at the time of publication, this has been seen as a contradiction in terms – the sort of thing that causes much consternation about Wittgenstein’s writing.  It seems to me, however, to be completely consistent with his idea that philosophy – including relatively mundane personal reflection/contemplation - should be an activity not an abstract/aloof pursuit.  Further, that an understanding of the world will be achieved not through a logical step by step process, but by intuition at a level which can, however, only be reached by having experienced such a process; it’s the experience, rather than any accumulation of outcomes of logic which allows access to the intuition.  This is one of the most distinctive aspects of Wittgenstein – the comfortable accommodation of concerns with logic/analysis/the rational together with recognition and respect for the mystical, and with no compunction to try to explain the latter. 

As has been observed elsewhere, this print is the most abstract in the Suite.  This further reflects Paolozzi’s empathy with Wittgenstein.  The Philosopher’s early work was much concerned with the representative aspects of language: in the later Philosophical Investigations the focus is on allusion.  In like fashion Paolozzi began his artistic career in an academic, figurative mode.  He broke free from the conventions imposed by this kind of working practice when he went to live in Paris and absorbed the influence of surrealism - from then on metaphor would be much more significant than ‘likeness’ in his imagery.