Monday, 20 June 2011

The Joni Mitchell Project

The Joni Mitchell Project played at the David Hall in South Petherton on Saturday night and, having narrowly missed them a couple of weeks ago when the Coffinswell gig was cancelled, we went along to check them out. The Hall itself is a converted church with good acoustics and there was a full turnout of around 50 people in the audience.

The Project consists of Sally Barker - founder member of the all-girl folk group the Poozies - and Glenn Hughes on keyboards and dulcimer. As it says in the advertising, this is not a tribute band - Sally does her own distinctive interpretations of her favourite Joni Mitchell numbers and in-between she talks about Joni's life and songs. Like Joni she has a wide vocal range, and Glenn's jazz-influenced keyboard style and dulcimer playing complements this well.


Their full set list was drawn from a number of Joni's albums - particularly Blue -  and included: Coyote, Conversation, Raised on Robbery, California, Blue, Chelsea Morning, A Case of You, You Turn Me on - I'm a Radio, Free Man in Paris, For Free, Help Me, Dry Cleaner from Des Moines, All I Want, Carey, with encores of Big Yellow Taxi and River. Here is a snatch from All I Want (apologies for the quality):

The Joni Mitchell Project's versions of 11 Joni Mitchell songs are now available on a CD - Conversation: The Joni Tapes - Audio samples are available here. There are more videos of the JMP on YouTube - although the quality is variable.

Here is a link to Joni Mitchell herself playing For Free live at the BBC in 1970.

Douglas Adams ... And thanks for all the fish

When I started this blog I was worried that I may not have enough to write about. The reality is that, despite regular blogging, I’ve struggled to keep up with events  - a sign of scraping the barrel bottom, perhaps?

Which is why I am only now writing about Towel Day. This day, the 25th May, marks the untimely death in 2001 at 49 of Douglas Adams, best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The name "Towel Day" comes from the Guide, which defines the towel as the most important item a hitchhiker can have and then goes on for a page or so extolling the virtues of the towel and all the uses to which it can be put. The Towel Day website shows how widely Adams is read and, incidentally, shows people celebrating with their towels ...

Douglas was in my year at school and, although I did not know him at all well, he seemed a nice enough guy – although he was on a different intellectual plane to me and most of my classmates. At a careers fair he was the one earnestly discussing a career at the BBC, while I was meandering aimlessly from stand to stand, picking up bits of promotional stuff and wondering what job two mediocre A levels would equip me for.

I haven't read much of Hitchhiker’s Guide recently. I did watch the 1981 BBC adaption (Douglas’s overtures to the BBC had paid off) with some admiration – more for the cleverness of his constructed alternative world than anything else. I’ve only seen snippets of it since, but it does feel a bit dated – which is generally not good for a piece of science fiction, even a humorous one.

The film in 2005 still appeared dated but also lacked the warmth of the TV production.

But I did enjoy the adaption of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency that the BBC showed last year. Critics said that this wasn't very close to the original and I'm sure that the cast - Stephen Mangan, Helen Baxendale, and Darren Boyd - contributed much to its success. Nevertheless, I'm glad to say that the BBC is now filming a further three episodes, and these will appear on BBC4 later this year. Here's a link to the BBC preview to the pilot episode.

Incidentally, other luminaries from my year at school included Charlie Thomson of the Stuckists - who was in my class but I don’t recall being very ‘arty’; and Griff Rhys Jones (actually in the year below, although we probably overlapped in the sixth form) – who I don’t recall being especially 'funny'.

Tracey Emin, Charlie Thomson and Billy Childish
(before they fell out and Tracey became rich and famous)
Both seemed nice enough guys then, and they haven't done badly since. Griff got a share of £62m when he sold Hat Trick Productions, and Charlie is a fairly (in)famous artist - although he seems more than a little nerdy in this video on the Stuckists website.

Anyway, to get back to Douglas Adams: Although he achieved a lot in his life, the biggest impact on me was to make me think – pretty much for the first time – that we are all getting older and are all mortal. Heavy, man ...

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Surfin' Safari: A Deeper Shade of Blue

Paul McCartney has just re-released his solo albums McCartney I and II, and included on one of the bonus CDs is the previously unreleased 'Blue Sway'. The track is fairly unremarkable but the accompanying video is more interesting.

The video is from the movie A Deeper Shade of Blue by Jack McCoy. This is a film about surfing with some awesome sequences, which also explores the origins of the sport in Hawaii. The movie opened earlier this year in Santa Barbara and was premiered in Maui earlier this month.

Unfortunately it is unlikely to get a general release in this country, but you can get a taste of it on the Deeper Shade of Blue website. Here are links to a preview of the movie and to the second trailer.

The movie has a rock soundtrack which includes Sheila Chandra, Powder Finger, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney & Youth, Coldplay, Iggy Pop, Children Collide and many others. Here is a link to the excellent Chosen Armies by Children Collide.

The classic surfing movie is, of course, Point Break directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze and the always-watchable Gary Busey.

Finally, here is some great vintage footage of  Miki 'Da Cat' Dora at Malibu, California:

See more cool footage and photos at the SecretForts site.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Print! at the Exchange, Penzance

Since April the Exchange Gallery in Penzance has been showing an exhibition of contemporary &  historic prints, and alongside has been running print workshops and holding demonstrations of printing techniques.

The Exchange is a large T-shaped space and, for the duration of the exhibition, the area on the left of the room is devoted to printing. There is a press in the corner, paraphernalia needed to produce works of art, and rows of draft prints drying across the wall - the results of the workshops so far.

The exhibition itself draws upon a wide range of print examples. There is work by Terry Frost and Barbara Hepworth, but also work by street art/comic book artists such as Faile, and older material from the archives of Falmouth Art Gallery and other Cornish collections.

The prints are of all types - monoprints, collographs, woodcuts, screen prints and more. They are laid out in imaginative ways across the length of the gallery walls but, unfortunately, they are not individually labelled. Instead it's necessary to refer to the maps provided to identify what's what. This is a shame because what might have been fun and educational can turn into a bit of a chore.

Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy here and you can easily spend an hour or more just investigating the wide range of techniques on display. Print! finishes on July 2nd.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Westcotts Gallery, St Ives

Since this was written Wescotts Gallery has sadly closed but has in mid 2012 reopened as an exhibition space for the Porthminster Gallery. Jonathan Grimble Modern Art & the Sandra Blow Estate are now based at Bullans Court, Bullans Lane, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1RB. Sandra Blow's paintings and prints can be bought from there and studio tours are available by arrangement. See the website for further details.

Sandra Blow
St Ives is stuffed full of galleries. One of the best is Westcotts, which features modern British art and is owned and run by Jonathan Grimble and Denny Long.

The gallery is a great space which is packed with art and ceramics plus a few books etc. Jon is an executor for the Sandra Blow estate and does tours by appointment around her former studio which is nearby.

When I visted the gallery a couple of weeks ago the highlights included a number of works by Sandra Blow and some by Breon O'Casey.  O'Casey, who sadly died at the end of May, was one of the last of the St Ives school - an artist who was versatile in several media and, incidentally, was the son of playwright Sean O'Casey.

The gallery features a mixture of established artists: Sandra Blow, Terry Frost, Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson and others, but also newer ones too. Works by the big names are mainly priced in thousands but other stuff is more affordable. Amongst these are some fine retro-style linocuts by Laura Weston, a print artist from the Wirral:

Since doing a printing taster course at Double Elephant in Exeter last year I've become more interested in linocuts and I have invested in one of Laura Weston's artist's proofs (not this one).

The Wescott gallery occasionally also has prints by Joe Tilson, pop art veteran and contemporary of Peter Blake. I didn't see any of his prints the last time I was there but I've recently shelled out for, and am now the proud owner of, a small Tilson print of my own:

Westcott's is just along from the harbour, opposite the Arts Club.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Peter Blake (again), Joe Tilson, Laurie Anderson

The Guardian's 'My Week in Pictures' feature this week is by Peter Blake. One of the pictures shows the great Joe Tilson, 'the forgotten king of British pop art', still going strong at 83:

In the same series is 'A Week in Photos' for the always-interesting Laurie Anderson:

Anderson is famous outside of the art world for her 1981 hit single 'O Superman', but it was a revelation for me to find out that she is the long-term partner/wife of Lou Reed (follow above link to see pictures) - How great would a night on the town with these two be?

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Jamaica Inn

Often on the way down to Cornwell we've thought about calling in at Jamaica Inn at Bolventor, and last week we finally did.

Today's Inn seems a million miles away from the dark and mysterious building portrayed in the book by Daphne Du Maurier and in the postcard below.

The sunshine of a Cornish summer day, combined with the picnic tables, the cheery yellow-jacketed car park man and the constant motor noise from the passing A30, all conspire to debunk any illusion of the 1820s and the wreckers of North Cornwall.

However, Jamaica Inn is not without interest. Apart from being the focus of the Du Maurier novel, the potted history - The Inn on the Moor by Rose Mullins - describes how in 1988 the collection of Walter Potter's stuffed animals was bought by the then landlord and put on display. Items exhibited included tableaux of kittens, rabbits, guinea pigs and more, acting like humans - playing croquet, taking tea, having lessons etc.

The collection was an attraction for the next 15 years, until the taxidermist who maintained it died in 2003 and then it was auctioned off.

Some of the collection ended up with Peter Blake (and has been on display at the Holburne as part of the Museum for Myself exhibition - now finished). Other parts were on show at The Museum of Everything exhibition 3 (now closed). Exhibition 4 ran at Selfridges from 2nd September to 25th October (also now closed). All that is left of Potter's collection at Jamaica Inn are a few photographs like these.

On the way out through the Inn shop I picked up a copy of Jamaica Inn and read the first half in a single sitting - It's a thumping good read and recommended for anyone exploring the area around Bolventor and Bodmin.