Peter and Clive and the exquisite corpse: Messaging 1

Peter Lloyd kick-started the Exquisite Corpse project just before Christmas during a first visit with his family to Ty Isaf. We’d hatched a plan to get together to swop some work. (More about that in a forthcoming post.) From the moment he and his wife Sharon arrived here, together with their children Theo and Rowan, everybody got on famously. Jack soon had Theo and Rown engaged in games of throw-and-fetch and hide-and-seek, and conversations between the adults were breathtakingly lively and diverse!

I have no idea whether Peter had been considering a papercut project for a while, but then decided while he was here that we might collaborate, or whether he dreamed up the idea at 5 am in our kitchen as we sat talking over tea. But after the weekend, it certainly wasn’t long before he messaged me with his plan for the project.

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05/10/15

Peter Lloyd
Hi Clive:) Are you in North or South Wales? Love your work, I’d swap in a heart-beat if you fancied:)

Clive Hicks-Jenkins
West Wales, Peter, just outside Aberystwyth. Big old house in four acres.
The notion of a swop is heart-stopping (in a good way) so YES YES YES. Thank you. That’s a ‘yes’, in case you were wondering!

11/12/15

Peter L
Hello Clive:) I am just planning the Lloyd decampment to Liverpool for the festive period and wondered if we might be able to stitch a Hitch-Jenkins sleepover onto the end of the itinerary? Just to say hello and swap some lovely pictures. If you’re both willing and available then we could arrive on 27th then leave on the 28th Dec? No pressure at all Clive

Clive H-J
Oh Fuckbuckets!!! We’re away those dates, staying over Christmas at Lincoln with an old friend. I am sick sick sick at this. We would have LOVED having you. Oh FUCK!!!!!!

Peter L
Hold on to your fuckbuckets Clive… what about if we arrived on the 20th and left 21st Dec?

Clive H-J
That’s a deal!
GREAT!!!!

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15/12/15

Clive H-J
I’m in a complete quandary about the print I’d like. I have a number of favourites. Might it be possible to bring these four, for us to select from?
a) Lord Muck
b) Weekend Warrior
c) Natural Disaster
d Stocks and Shares

The very last sat nav instruction will tell you to take the left fork off, but ignore it and continue along the lane.

Peter L
I’ve been forked off in much graver circumstances:) We’re wellied up and really looking forward to visiting! Very good choices, I’ll delve into the studio and see what I can channel from the plan chests. Really looking forward to meeting the three of you.

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21/12/15

Peter L
Arrived home, safe and sound:) We had a brilliant time and we’re really grateful for the beautiful prints and the opportunity to spend some time with Peter and yourself. Thank you X

Clive H-J
We loved having you, Sharon, Theo and Rowan here, and we had a wonderful time. (Jack too!) I’m feeling buzzed by our conversations and the ideas we shared. And I REALLY want to do that papercut/’Exquisite Corpse’ thing with you. We love our Mexican wrestler prints and I’m going to be STRAIGHT down to the framer with them after the holiday!

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24/12/15

Clive H-J
I keep looking at the wrestler prints in the dining room, and smiling with pleasure!!!
You and I SO have to do a book together. That Exquisite Corpse idea is nudging away in my grey cells!
Have a GREAT Christmas. Love to all. xxx

Peter L
Ha ha, I am so glad to hear that:) I never wake up early Clive, but something clicked that night and I just had to be up and about on the off chance that we might ‘make’. I’ve got an idea for a theme, I’ll run it by you later.
The Ty Isaf effect didn’t just rattle my creative cage, Rowan has constantly drawn since she left the house; in a way that she’s never drawn before?? You, Peter, Jack, the collection or the house is/are magic and have had a very welcome and profound effect on us all! X

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28/12/15

Peter L
I’ve been thinking about our exquisite corpses. Papercut would be ideal because it’s accessible, easy to post and will look unified when we slot them together or print them or laser cut them or whatever we end up doing with them. You okay with Papercut as a process?

Clive H-J
You bet!

Peter L
In terms of a theme I wondered if we might invent a series of contemporary Folkloric characters? Beasts or people in ritualistic dress. I noticed that you had a copy of Arcadia Britannica, these are fantastic images but, as with a lot of Folklore, it harks to the past and relates to the countryside. Could we create a folklore for the city that deals with contemporary concerns and first world problems?

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Starting points for our creations could include…
The Mobile phone (it’s a God. We talk to it everyday, we invest and entrust our closest secrets to it and with faith and patience it solves our problems and helps us find our way in life. Amen to that.
Online dating (a wonderful minefield full of pathos, happy endings and lunatics)
The Proliferation of screens (smart phone, iPad, iWatch, desktop, laptop sat Nav, TV etc. Too many screens or not enough eyes? We could fix that…)
Connectivity through Satellites (we can connect directly from our front room to the celestial heavens and how do we harness this gift? we use it to order Chinese, buy off eBay and find the nearest cash point or greasy spoon)
Time (or the lack of it in our busy lives)
Social Media (it’s a many headed beast; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc.)
Sexting (our folkloric menagerie wouldn’t be complete without a bit of how’s your father)

Clive H-J
HA HA HA!!!!!
Well haven’t YOU the fertile imagination!!!!
Yeah, I’m up for all of that. I don’t have smart phone… though I know I should have… and will get around to it. My little Orange pay-as-you-go, that doesn’t even have a camera, is OK for letting Peter know where I am, or calling for help when the car breaks down, but I ache for something that’s less stone-age.
Interestingly, social media has been where some of my most interesting collaborations have begun. I LOVE it. Have a fantastic thing going with the American dancer and film-maker, Jordan Morley. We got very creative in ways I hadn’t at all expected. He was the model in all the Dark Movements images, and a damned enterprising one, too!
So, bring it on!
You’ve kick-started something here. It all sounds right up my street.
Juicy!

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To be continued

Spoiler Alert

 

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If you haven’t read the wonderful poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and intend to do so, then read no further, because this post contains spoilers.

I’m having a series of really interesting exchanges about Sir Gawain and his green nemesis, with my friend Aleksy in Poland. At the beginning of the narrative, the Green Knight appears to be a thing of flesh… albeit green… and blood. However, quite quickly everyone present witnesses the event that reveals him to be ‘not as other men’. People don’t usually go around being able to pick up their own severed heads, as this one does, and then ride off on horseback into a winter night.

That supernatural tone of our first encounter with the Knight, permeates the poem with wonder and dread. Gawain, on his quest, knows that he must submit, for honour’s sake, to the Green Knight’s blade, as the Green Knight has submitted to him. And at the end of the poem he does. Sort of.

Moreover, he survives the eventual encounter, though he flinches beneath the axe. But then the mystery is swiftly stripped away, and the ‘Green Knight’ reveals his true, human identity. He claims that the enchantress Morgan le Fey persuaded him to help her trick Arthur and his knights, to test their mettle, and that it was by use of her magic that the ‘Green Knight’ was conjured from the aristocrat, Bertilak de Hautdesert.

This ‘explanation’ has never worked for me. The extraordinary, visceral encounter that leads to Gawain’s year-long quest to find the ‘Green Knight’, feels real in every aspect. It’s violent, bloody, and spine-tinglingly ‘supernatural’. It is not some stage-illusion in a nightclub, but takes place in the middle of the Christmas Court. Moreover, it’s as though at the end of the tale, the writer doesn’t believe the explanation either, because it’s delivered briefly, without much conviction. It feels to me as though the supernatural is being waved aside, with Gawain being told that it was all just flim-flam, smoke and mirrors, just as a parent will reassure a child that ogres and witches don’t exist, so that sleep will come unattended by nightmares!

I like to think that perhaps a supernatural world protects itself by such deceits, pretending that its enchantments are just trickery, so that humans are misled into believing their eyes have deceived them. I think on the Anne Rice novel Interview with a Vampire, in which the undead hide in plain sight on the stage of a fashionable Grand Guignol theatre, presenting their bloody appetites as entertainments for the city’s beau monde.

And so in my head, I add a scene to the poem, in which Gawain, having said farewell to the Green Knight/Bertilak at the Green Knight’s ‘Chapel’, has a change of heart about returning immediately to Camelot, and decides instead to call at the fair Castle de Hautdesert, perhaps to see Bertilak’s beautiful tease-of-a-wife for the last time. But when he arrives, he finds an ancient, crumbling ruin overtaken by woodland, where only days before he’d lodged in splendour. Nothing is what you think in the world of faerie!

I am a little in love with that Green Knight, walking stoically to his horse while carrying his own head! There is a moment in the poem that I always come back to. When the Green Knight’s head falls to the ground under Gawain’s blow, it rolls along the floor, and the bystanders kick out at it. Here are the lines in a translation by Paul Deane.

‘Gawain held the ax high overhead,
his left foot set before him on the floor,
swung swiftly at the soft flesh
so the bit of the blade broke through the bones,
crashed through the clear fat and cut it in two,
and the brightly burnished edge bit into the earth.
The handsome head fell, hit the ground,
and rolled forward; they fended it off with their feet.’

Brave actions in this Court of Chivalry, to make a game of football of a decapitation. Little wonder Camelot later came undone!

Colourised

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As Peter Lloyd and I produce paper-cut elements toward our Exquisite Corpse project, Peter has been playing with a digital colouring app. The image above is of three cuts made by me (head, text and fetish-boot), put together as a part of the process of trying different juxtapositions. The images below are the results of Peter playing with the image.

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This is all still at a stage of experimentation and development, and although we have ideas as to how we might take things forward, we remain pretty free-flowing while in the the process of creating the paper-cut building-blocks. Usually on projects I have very clear ideas of where I’m going, but because Peter and I have no expectations or deadlines with this, there is a wonderful lack of pressure, and an exhilarating sense of creativity and fun.

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Here’s a ‘colourisation’ of a couple of Peter’s cuts.

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Project status: ongoing

 

Winter Knight Redux

While surfing Pinterest for reference material on armour as I progress with my Gawain print series with the Penfold Press, I chanced upon this version of my 2014 painting, Winter Knight. I have no idea who made it, but I rather like the vibrant green/red combo, and the collaged wooly beard! I like, too, the fine, squiggly marks on the fur collar, which look as though they might be sgrafitto. (Marks made by scratching through wet paint to the underlying colour/surface.)

Here’s the original, for comparison. Have to say that I feel rather flattered that someone wanted to make their own version, and I really like it!

The Green Knight and the Perfect Pose

There is a pose I’ve loved ever since I was a child. It appears throughout the history of the arts, from ancient Greek vases to the age of photography, and I’ve explored it in many forms in my work as a choreographer, and as a painter. As far as I can remember, I noticed it first in the statue by Rodin, pictured below. Here the hand is raised to a head turned to offer its profile to the viewer. There’s something about the containment of the profile within that triangular space, and the sense of an interior landscape dreamed behind shuttered eyes.

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A variation of the pose can be seen in a poster depicting Vaslav Nijinsky as he appeared in Le Spectre de la Rose for the Ballet Russe. Here the arm is draped across the top of the head, so that it tenderly cradles it. The mood is drenched in erotically charged languor.

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Much later the Nijinsky pose was recreated by choreographer Mathew Bourne, and the effect is less languid than in the Nijinsky image, emphasising instead a fierce, proud energy and dynamic.

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Adam Cooper in Matthew Bourne’s reinvention of Swan Lake, with a male dancer in the role of the Swan that until then had been danced only by ballerinas.

The pose appeared in some of my earliest works. Here it is in a study for the figure beneath the sheet of a Mari Lwyd (a Welsh mumming tradition) made in 1999.

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Saint Hervé, made in 2011. Everywhere there are triangles, forming both positive and negative spaces.

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Right now I’m working on the next print in my Gawain series for the Penfold Press: The Green Knight Arrives.

The image is a close-up, and is intended to show the moment before the Green Knight pounds on the door of King Arthur’s Christmas court. Here in icy silence, he wipes his brow and prepares for the trial ahead. After this night of wonders, lives will be changed and stories will be told. I wanted a close-up so that I could show the Green Knight’s weariness and wariness, and the dark inkiness of his foliate-tattooed arm. He is the actor waiting in the shadows of the stage-wings, tense and anxious. But when he steps into the limelight, all will be blazing energy and power and magic. The gesture is tender, solipsistic, self-comforting and unexpected. In the spaces around him will be a landscape. Possibly holly leaves, or the snowy pollarded trees that didn’t make it into Christmas at Camelot. For me, this is the playtime, before the hard work of bringing the print into the world.

Vojtěch Kubašta’s Hansel and Gretel

I’ve long wanted Vojtěch Kubašta’s pop-up book of Hansel & Gretel, and now, with the excuse of ‘It’s research for my own Hansel & Gretel project’, I’ve finally found and acquired a pristine copy. Here it is in all its glory.

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In the Forest.

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The Witch beckons Hansel and Gretel into the gingerbread cottage.

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A clever slider-mechanism removes Hansel & Gretel from the corner of the cottage, shutters the left-hand window, opens the door to reveal the Witch, and has the children, now inside, waving from the right-hand window.

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There are lovely details in the picturesque interior.

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Hansel caged.

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Cage door up …

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… and down!

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The children slide the Witch into the oven on a wooden baking paddle.

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They escape, crossing a river on the back of a friendly swan.

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This edition published in 1976 by Artia, Prague.

Vojtěch Kubašta, genius of pop-up books, 1914 -1992

Storytelling

StoryMag cover

This image, made by me long ago as a paper-engineered Christmas card, was picked up at Pinterest and thereafter requested for the cover for a magazine published in the US. I received a PDF of the cover today. Magazine due out shortly.

It’s fascinating how images travel around the globe these days. In 1989, when this card was made, I was working as the relief custodian at Tretower Court and Castle. My ‘office’ was a temporary wooden hut erected in the courtyard of the monument. In the summers I cooked and in the winters I all but froze. But I liked the winters particularly, because cold notwithstanding, my time was my own as there were few visitors once I’d done my duties. As a consequence I spent some of the long hours making my Christmas cards.

The Punch Booth card began as a series of pen and ink drawings that I then photocopied in multiple onto thin cards. Then I hand-coloured each set, cut them up and assembled them. I can’t pretend they were quickly made, but I enjoyed the process.

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