Childlike not childish 

June 24, 2017

Well, happy birthday to me! I just came back from my birthday lunch and I’m stuffed! I actually got given a plant! I’m staring at it in mild bemusement and hoping I don’t kill the poor thing.  I took a photo of the rest of my presents earlier, all bought for me, by me and you could be forgiven for thinking that the haul of geekery was intended for someone half my age, possibly younger. I do wonder sometimes if there is a version of me in a parallel universe somewhere, one who wasn’t dragged about as an afterthought as a child who went into the family business as a plumber, all arsenal tattoos and Saturday afternoons full of beer and football. I wonder what he got for his birthday, pants and socks off the teenage children and maybe some grudging birthday sex from his wife. 

I wonder what that Chris would make of what I got myself? Probably not much. But then again, that’s exactly what I’d think of his gifts. Mind you, sex would be nice. A birthday is always nicer for having a bit of howsyerfather in it somewhere. It may not seem like it, but there is a logical explanation for everything I bought myself. T shirts are always handy and don’t need ironing, the Japanese model kits are like mindfulness colouring but much cooler and the murakami art book is excellent reference, plus it gives me something to aspire to. Although to be fair, I have no excuse for Mario Amiibo , although it has unlocked a rather snazzy new outfit for my Nintendo avatar. 

I feel that there is an important distinction between people who are childlike and people would are childish and I am always warey that when new people come into my world and see all the things with big eyes, the robots and brightly coloured stuff, that they make the distinction between the two.

Childish people are a nightmare, they are jealous, they tell lies and they do things with little concern for the consequences of their actions. They do things on the spur of the moment regardless of what will happen in the long run and they will happily tell numerous people exactly what they want to hear regardless of the damage it will cause because there is only that very moment and nothing beyond it. Childish people have a desperate need for attention and to be liked, they do anything they can to make themselves popular, all it achieves in the end is that you get liked by those you are useful to in the shallowest of terms and everyone else thinks that you are a bit of a saddo. Childish people leave a trail of chaos behind them as they try and juggle all the whims they have and all the promises that they have made. Eventually , all their nonsense catches up with them and everyone suffers. Childish people make no one happy, not even themselves.

Being childlike is totally different, you retain a sense of wonder in the world around you, be it rainbows, shapes in clouds,the way sunlight hits water or simply a cool breeze of a hot day. Childlike is endless fascination, wanting to know the reasons for things, an endless stream of whys and what ifs. Being childlike is being honest and having a defined sense of what is right and what is wrong, what is fair and unfair and the inabilty to accept any of the murky crap that comes with having to make compromises and tolerate shitty people. Childlike is a thing of the essential rightness of things whereas  childish is petty and nasty, sneaky and wrong.

So now I shall spend the rest of the anniversary of my forty seventh year on this wonderful planet watching Netflix, looking through my posh picture book and making one of my master grade gundam models while the world outside gets on with its nasty petty crap. 

Happy birthday to me! 

Big eyes and cultural misappropriation 

February 24, 2017

I had an interesting conversation with my nephew the other day, he was telling me how over the years he has learned to read bits of Thai and Kanji and how often he has read the most offensive things tattooed on to the skin of European tourists. A lot of people, in many countries around the world don’t take kindly to their cultural heritage being trivialised for the sake of other people’s amusement and when drunk tourists turn up trying to get inked with something that is considered sacred to their culture, they may not like what they walk out with if they could actually read what it says. As the world has become more connected and a greater level of respect has been fostered for other cultures and their beliefs, it is becoming less acceptable to run off with big lumps of other people’s heritage and use them for disrespectful purposes. I’m very attuned to this for a number of reasons, the first being that I spent two years sleeping in the same room as a shrine.

My sister in law is from Cuba and her faith is an interesting one, it’s called Santeria and its beliefs come from West Africa via the Spanish slave trade. The shrine consisted of a large rock, with cowrie shell eyes, covered in bead necklaces and surrounded by iron objects and various offerings. The offerings caused merry hell as they were often sweets and kinder egg toys which my then three year old nephew would constantly run off with which would in turn cause disrespect to “her people” who were the spirits she believes in. Santeria bares a great deal of similarity to voodoo, hoodoo, vodon and all the other variation of African religions imported via slavery. The original West African religions would often get mixed up Catholicism or the various aspects would be represent by catholic symbols such as saints and the Virgin Mary, the most common being Saint Peter, the bouncer at the pearly gates of heaven becoming Papa Legba, guardian of the underworld. I know enough about all this stuff to show it a healthy level of respect and not to piss about with it. This unfortunately means that the last week of February in Hastings where I live is now like chewing tin foil with the bastardisation and import of the Fat Tuesday festival where the New Orleans Mardi Gras has been dragged some six thousand miles east to fill the pubs with punters whilst underpaying the local musicians. 

I guess most people regard me as an old fart but I regard stealing the bits you want of someone’s historically based festival whilst leaving out all the boring religious bits is highly offensive and ignorant. To me, you might as well make crucifix dildos or star of David frisbees or maybe start serving ground beef vishnu burgers in McDonald’s. As far as I’m concerned its wholesale cultural theft and should be treated as such.

I’ve  struggled with this issue on a number of occasions as a lot of what I do is heavily influenced by Japanese culture. Fortunately the area of things big eyed and kawaii, which is my primary area of influence has developed as a conversation of influences between the east and the west, from Bambi to Astro boy, from Margaret kean to marine boy, from dalek to murakami, the eyes have got bigger and bigger and the knowing combination of wide eyed innocence with a much darker undertone to the creation of guro or guro kawaii (grotesquely cute). I doubt whether one in three hundred people truly understand the reasoning behind why I do what I do but it is part of something that, though still obscure, is a much larger phenomenon. There are side issues though with my desire to do something long term relating to Chinese tales regarding Sun wukong, the monkey King, but as Takahashi Murakami is currently working on a version on of Francis Bacon’s Screaming Popes series I figure it’s all just variations of the same conversation. Providing it’s done with respect for the original material it shouldn’t be a problem. 

That is the key word though, respect, and sadly, when booze enters into an equation there isn’t much of that left. 

Feeling Miffed

February 17, 2017

Dick Bruna died today aged 89.

I’m trying to wrap my head around this. He died in his sleep after a very successful and full life. I guess in a way I should be concentrating on the success aspect but I’m mostly concentrating on the age, 89. A year older than my frail, leukaemia ridden mum. The one that I moan about constantly. Some things are a bit sobering.

Miffy was something I came to late, a byproduct of my fascination with hello kitty in my late teens and beyond. Like a lot of people of what was called Generation X I became fascinated with everything cute and gaudy as a rejection of that eighties design ethic. It’s hard to imagine now but Hello Kitty and other Sanrio products were expensive and as rare as rocking horse poo. Hamleys had some Hello Kitty and a few shops in Chinatown but it was all super expensive. In the post goth, pre club kids, circles I used to knock about in it was as much a status symbol as yeezys or the latest Supreme collaboration would be today. Now it’s common enough to be disposable, an important thing to remember. Miffy was easier to get and considerably  cheaper. Looking back on it now, you have to appreciate the beauty and deceptive simplicity of the lines. This was pre photoshop and illustrator you have to remember, you couldn’t just chuck a couple of extra nodes in a line and pull round a perfect curve, a human being did that and it’s a lot harder than it looks. 

There was always something comforting and solid about Miffy, like Lego was once before it started to go in for all that licensed  character stuff in the nineties. It will carry on of course, like the moomins and the mr men and it will always charm children as it always has, but for a generation of grown up knocking fifty, there will be a lot of deep sadness today. 

Man / Child

September 17, 2016

I bloody hate name dropping so recounting this little story is going to make me cringe. A long while ago  I helped write a book about the goth band The Cure, I never had my name on the book as the obsessive nature of Cure fans at the time meant that they have an annoying habit of turning up on the doorstep of anyone even remotely connected with them and I like my privacy. It was the early 90’s and I was pretty sick of the goth lifestyle back then, I liked the sunshine too much for a start. Plus I loved bright colours, there was more to life than black, purple and the occasional polka dot pattern. 

So somewhere near the end of my goth years,for want of a better phrase, I started doing the unthinkable, I started turning up at goth gigs in bright colours. It was at one of these, back stage at a cure concert after party, that I bumped into the then ultra famous comedian Rob Newman, one of the first comedians ever to play arena gigs. What was strange was that he had started making the same sartorial choices. To the point where we had both been shopping in the same shops, most notably Daniel Poole at the end of Neal Street Soho. It was one of the first clothes shops with a resident dj and I had been drawn in by their use of Japanese anime and in particular the really edgy stuff that is now described as hentai. I was fascinated by the ultraviolet reactive inks and the use of super reflective prints and fabrics, elements which would later morph into cyberpunk. Things were still new then, the endless stream of irony, post modernism, pluralism and mass produced, commodified, watered down, crap had yet to creep into every aspect of modern culture as it has now. But then it was new and exciting and mr famous person must have thought so too. We chatted about our outfits, like a couple of spotty teenagers in the changing room at top shop, amidst a sea of black and velvet.

Things in my life started getting messy around then, the all night parties, the weekend long parties and things that helped one stay up, alert and dancing for all that time were having nasty effects on me. The false feelings caused by substances that altered seratonin levels would mean that the skeezyiest of people would get under my radar particularly if I thought they were holding. 

I haven’t got many pictures from around that time, it was before the days of digital cameras and so photos cost money and involved effort and organisation and what little of either of those commodities that were about were better spent at the next party or getting over the last one. Strangely enough this meant that in nearly every photo of me from the messiest time of mine and many of my friends lives consisted of my holding a child and being taken by a family member. It is safe to say that in every photo I look a complete mess, pale, pallid, skin in all and a haunted look in most. Other friends came a cropper too, mental health problems, neurological problems, bad decisions, bad association. The strangest thing was the chum of mine who ended up with a strange condition where everything she touched constantly felt wet, she was a mess long before this and I knew all too well that trying to get any sense out of her on a Monday or a Tuesday was never going to happen due to her constant weekend partying habits. 

There were many casualties of that time, the rave years I guess you’d call them, but I don’t think I was one of them, whatever was going on wtih me was already in the post courtesy of genetics and a messed up upbringing. 

I’ve been reminded of this all recently by a combination of things, post rave ambient band The Orb were playing on the pier tonight just up the road  and the predictable photos started popping up on my Facebook feed and by coincidence there was some acid house themed nonsense lurching about Hastings last night. 

I’ve been trying to fathom out what had been going on with the people of my age locally. It’s as if everyone has decided to have their midlife crisis all at once and in public. Time was that the occasional middle age man would scandalise the neighbourhood by leaving his wife, getting a leather jacket, a pierced ear, a motorbike and a daft teenage girlfriend, nowadays this seems mundane as the endless attempts to recreate a youth that they probably never had, because they were too busy getting on the property ladder and feathering their family nests, get more and more bizarre. 

I have been scratching my head wondering why all this nostalgia crap and attention seeking behaviour leaves me cold and I think that I have finally worked out the answer, I have been having a mid life crisis of my own for so long that I can’t tell the difference anymore. It makes sense, well sort of, as I was a carer from an early age and had experienced extreme poverty and degradation at the hands of Thatcher’s policies. I had grown up far too fast and hit my own What’s it all about? years at the same time that my peers were still in their partying phase. Through countless years of poor mental health, poverty and vulnerability I sought to find myself, create a more fullfilling life for myself and work out just who and what I am. I guess I’m still doing it, a forty six year old man with a house full of toys and a wardrobe of T-shirts, jeans and trainers. Maybe I find all the local sillyness so hard to fathom not so much because of all the embarrassing behaviour but because everyone is such a rank amateur at it. 

The truth is that I really don’t know.

The next thing

September 2, 2016

Somewhere, out there, the world is going on and in Hastings and St Leonards that world is all about seeking attention and doing bizz. It’s the official start of the coastal currents arts festival and everyone but me it seems is out there celebrating  and getting noticed and, let’s face it, in all likelihood getting off their face in some way or other. It’s strange though, the weather has turned on a six pence and whereas a few days ago I was sitting on a beach, now the cold bites and the rain blatters against the windows and here I sit, at 8.30 on a Friday night, in my pyjamas after a hot bath, waiting to go to bed. 

I have long ceased going to private views and long ceased having my own. In a world that thrives on fleeting celebrity and instant gratification, I am cursed it seems with an old fashioned notion of meritocracy, that a person should gain attention and recognition by attaining a level of excellence in their field rather than by playing to the lowest common denominator or jumping up and down and shouting louder and more offensively that anyone else. I suspect, should I leave the house tonight I would be proved very wrong indeed. 

I have never wanted attention, I have never seen the value in it but then it’s always been about the work for me and to be honest, once a thing is finished, it holds no more interest to me as I’m on to the next thing whatever that may be. I am very concious that I am in that position right now, looking for the next thing. 

That’s another reason I’m staying in tonight, the cyclical nature of the town I live in depresses me greatly and the arts festival is just another gaudily painted horse on the merrygoround with the same old riders on its back. I am quite aware that I am yet again biting the fingers of the hands that feed me off at the knuckles but I am showing this year in a way that puts me at as much distance from the punters as possible. I hope that doesn’t come off as rude but whilst everything I have done over the last six months has great meaning to me, I am done with it and I want to do the next thing. 

Last time I put this amount of effort into a solo show, the crash was exhausting. I spent a week lying in bed, barely moving. I feel old right now, my whole body aches and I feel like collapsing, it’s  hard to tell though, just how much of this is post show malaise and how much is my illness and the side affects of the medication. I am running an illustration workshop tomorrow which I am both dreading and looking forward to in equal measures the dread comes from it being in Hastings and having to engage with parts of humanity that leave me cold. I must note that the bulk of people anywhere are usually quite lovely but the ones who aren’t are like wasps trapped in a car that is speeding down a motorway, making way more trouble than they should do. It will be nice to engage with a few kids though and anyone else who genuinely wants to try something new. But when the clock hits four tomorrow I know that I have two choices, either hit the motherlode of cortisol  come downs or start the next thing sharpish and change down a gear into steady work and research. 

You see I want to do some scroll paintings based on the classic Chinese folk tales centred around monkey, a chinese mythical figure. Many of my age will remember a rather camp Japanese show back in the 1970s but the stories go back many hundreds of years and liken the Chinese heaven to a sort of demented civil service full of sniping and back biting gods. I know nothing of scroll painting and that is the point, it’s the new thing, the next thing and I shall be well outside my comfort zone and I will feel alive. 

But in the meantime, the show goes on and whilst it is all in the past to me, hopefully some less jaded eyes shall see something new.

You can see my new work at the love cafe, Norman road, , st leonards on sea, throughout September. 

What’s it all about? Part 13

July 28, 2014
The Mad Hatter's Evidence

The Mad Hatter’s Evidence

This is the last part of my series explaining the ideas and images behind my interpretation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrations. The last four pictures tell the story around the goings on in the courthouse. It begins with The Mad Hatter giving his evidence, dripping tea and  jam. His hat has flourished into a creation inspired by Mad King Ludvig of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein castle. Ludvig bankrupted his country with his grandiose programme of castle building and it is strongly believed that he was murdered by his own people in an effort to save their country from disaster.


The Jury Box

The Jury Box

The Kings Hears Evidence

The Kings Hears Evidence

In The Jury Box Alice suddenly undergoes another growth spurt, catapulting her fellow jurors into the air. The birds based on cult Japanese Anime Science Ninja Gatchaman (G-force) make another appearance as they do in the penultimate panel, The King Hears The Evidence where a bored king, mimicking a pose struck by Alex in the Korova Moloko Bar at the beginning of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. His costume is a reference to a magical mystical Dweebling I used in show some year’s back who was in turn based of a Japanese Shinto priest. There is a direct reference to Nintendo’s Mario games in the Knave of Hearts of ball and chain which is a game character know as a chomp. The Final illustration of the book is Why, You’re Just a pack of cards. Where Alice is back to her normal size and all the characters in the book are just common or garden animals again. The cards spiral out of the picture with a Vietnam War version of an ace of spades death card in prominent position.


You’re Just a pack of cards!

Jellyfish eyes and the quest for the holy bowl.

April 10, 2014

Ok, I admit it, I’m an idiot!

There! I said it.

So now that I have established my stupidity, I shall explain why.

It started yesterday morning. I made the foolish mistake of getting up early and compounded this stupidity by trying to break the habit of a lifetime and doing the washing up.  Wrong! In a series of events reminiscent of the board game “Mousetrap” I managed to catapult my wok into the air and  knock over a Whittard’s pasta bowl with the sleeve of my dressing gown. The bowl would have safely bounced on carpet covered linoleum but for the wok crashing into it like a downed U.F.O.

illy_htmlNow I have major issues when it comes to kitchenware, I have something akin to an allergic reaction to ugly crockery. Take Illy coffee cups for instance,(or rather don’t) they are one of the most hideous pieces of design on the planet. They have this little round handle that is impossible to get your fingers through unless you are of lilliputian proportions. So now I had a sum total of one, very lovely, bowl left and a dilemma at hand. My girlfriend was coming ’round for dinner that night and I had precisely one wobbly (pasta, stir fry etc.) food receptacle.

So the dilemma was… I needed two bowls, two aesthetically pleasing bowls. How hard could that be?
It turned out that the answer was… Very.
My first plan was to head for T.K Maxx, which is on the outskirts of nowhere rather than the middle but a pain to get to none-the-less. On the way, I passed my favourite little Chinese food store and made a mental note that they had some quite decorative knick-knacks on show. When I arrived at my destination I discovered precisely… nothing. Well, not quite nothing, but the wares on show were so nauseatingly tasteful as to bring me out in a rash. The queasy feeling in my stomach was telling me that I had made a bit of a cock up and I should have walked into town, which was now a four mile walk in the other direction. Loath to do this, I trudged in that direction, pondering the thought of rummaging about in the St Leonards charity shops for something suitable. I balked at this as, and I suspect I will get into trouble with this, I am totally sick to death with anything vintage. When I hear the word ‘vintage crockery’ my brain instantly translates the phrase to ‘smelly old tat’ and I think of all the meals some wee smelling, cat collecting, old lady had ate from them before finally using them to serve up wobbly horse and kangaroo offal to her darling moggies, before she died alone and they ate her.
P1010583It was then that I hit upon the idea of checking out the bits and bobs on sale in the Chinese food store. Jackpot! Gathering dust in the corner were some rather delightful blue and white bowls, not the usual willow pattern but a slightly fuzzy transfer print of a koi carp at the tempting price of £4.75 eat. Result!
Although…. But…
A niggling thought started to take hold when I got home and soon promoted itself to a fully fledged gnaw. Chinese restaurant bowls are all well and good for stir fries and the like but would look plain daft for serving up pasta. So I sat on my sofa, staring at the half finished painting that I was supposed to be doing and felt myself gravitate to my computer and then to eBay. My initial search for pasta bowls had 8000 results, reduced to around 2000 by adding ‘new’ to criteria. After trawling through the first twenty pages of assorted bowls before spotting a pattern… Debenhams outlet store kept popping up whenever anything took my fancy. I almost bought a couple online there and then but the delivery details said ‘other courier’ which means some poor sod would be trailing up and down the road for an age before taking it back to the depot for some other poor sod to look up on google maps as my home is totally hidden from sight to all but the most persistent delivery person. Basically, I  wanted pasta bowls and I wanted them NOW! (THEN! ???)

So here were the the facts as I saw them. The nice bowls were all on the Debenhams eBay store, the Debenhams delivery was a pain, there was a Debenham’s in Hastings a twenty minute walk away. So although I already had jelly legs from that morning’s outing, I figured that I would just end up stewing, thinking of what ceramic wonders I was missing out on by staying at home and actually doing something useful, like painting.

P1010585So off I went again! a swift walk down a hill, knowing that would be followed by a long trudge up a hill back home again. And low and behold, there was a sale on, woohoo! The Hastings Debenhams is a bit of a higgledy piggledey old department store type affair, not quite Grace Brothers but going that way. I eventually found the tableware section tucked away down a maze of labyrinthine aisle and located the crockery. Things suddenly got very complicated as all the bowls looked vastly different from their online photos and the ones I liked on-line looked hideous in real life. Plus some bright spark had left two Point-of-Sale video displays chuntering away to themselves right next to each other. Being dyspraxic, one of these on its own would be hard enough to cope with but two together is a nightmare. So I stared at bowls while video A tried to sell me on the virtues of some new non stick pans and video B tried to sell me a magic choppy uppy things machine and all I could hear was an amalgamation of the two, magic choppy uppy pans that wouldn’t stick to your smoothies and soups. Well I eventually got them, avoiding all the chef and designer branded crap (Since when did Jamie, self righteous git, Oliver do pottery?) some gorgeous Denby stoneware with a deep blue glaze. Mmmmmm. And did the walk/climb home again. So mission accomplished, two pairs of lovely bowls and a day totally wasted. I am an idiot!

And if you needed further proof…

jellyfish-eyes-takashi-murakami-yatzer-10A couple of years ago Japanese art behemoth Takashi Murakami made a film, Mememe no Kurage or, in English, Jellyfish Eyes. The plot of which was totally lost on me, even after watching the trailer which, strangely enough for a Japanese film, was in Japanese. After a couple of years, during which its existence bugged me from time to time, it became apparent that it would not be getting a uk release. But whenever I looked on the net, the cheapest option was £27 for a dvd, about five times what I’d usually pay for a dvd. How on earth can I justify that?

Well… My thinking was this. A few years before Murakami released dvd animated shorts starring his characters Kaikai and Kiki. That dvd now sells for around £100. So… I’m saving money. Honest guv! So I bought it and it got stuck in customs, costing me another £13. So in the end it cost me £40, for a dvd with neither a english audio track or english audio subtitles but it did have stickers so,erm, yay!

So in case you are interested the plot is roughly this, Pokemon type Murakami creatures that unknowingly draw energy from their owners to help create a really big monster which gets squished by all the little monsters working as a team. It cost me forty quid to find that out so yup! I’m a total idiot!


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