Category Archives: The Golden Country

Rear Window

The sizzling summer heat forces people to open up their windows and extend their living space outdoors. From my study window, a tapestry of real life drama plays out amongst my neighbours. Debbie Harry claims that the apartment block where she lives in New York City was the building that the writer of Rear Window – Cornell Woolrich – lived. The view from his residence worked his imagination into drafting a short story that went on to become one of Alfred Hitchcock’s cinematic classics.

The rotund master of film had a deep understanding of human behaviour. He stated,

Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.

I recently had the pleasure of watching Rear Window on the big screen at Fact Liverpool and I was once again captivated.

RearWindow Movie poster

A wheelchair-bound photographer, L. B. Jefferies played by James Stewart, spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. It is a treat for the eye to watch Grace Kelly, in all of her sensual elegance as Lisa Carol Fremont, on the big screen.

rear-window-first-outfit-sitting-down-2

Jefferies finds himself in a conundrum. He is frightened of committing to Lisa. As he works through this problem, he sees a variety of his neighbours at different stages in their relationship, the newlyweds, the bickering couple and the one that kills his wife. The human trait of voyeurism is explored in the film and is still as rampant as it was then, today. Perhaps the windows have just changed?

Take the television for example, Big Brother, which is essentially a room of people interacting, clashing and, in some cases, screwing. Is watching this no different to peeping out of a window? The obsession with watching others is intrinsic to our society, whereas once there were known curtain twitchers in a street, now it’s a little bit more advanced. Facebook and other social media allow people to look without the other person really knowing. I often hear things like,’Oh, I haven’t seen her in ages but I am friends with her on Facebook.’ This translates as, ‘I am watching what she gets up to, looking at her photographs and reading her status updates.’ A socially acceptable type of stalking, perhaps?

We all know what curiosity did to the cat.

As I sat watching Rear Window, I was struck by the cinematic cleverness; as the bamboo blinds go up to reveal the view from the window, the audience immediately made the voyeurs. The watcher watching.

We’ve become a nation of peeping Toms,

complains Nurse, Thelma Ritter, condemning James Stewart’s character, before merrily joining in.

rear_window grace

A very telling comment!

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Hot Reads Part Deux!

I haven’t been away this year, but I have found John Maguire’s mantra of ‘Read, Reflect, Recharge’ to be a sound one, even if applied at home. I have tried to cram in as much quality reading time as possible, made easier as it has almost been too hot to move. Here are a few of the books that found their way into my hands this summer.

kurt vonnegut a man without a country

A Man Without A Country by Kurt Vonnegut

This could be the perfect holiday read as it is a very slender volume. Although that does mean you will read it quickly, there is so much of interest that you will find yourself leafing back through the pages. Part memoir, part ‘state of the world’ treatise, this is Mr Vonnegut at his finest.

I replied that what made being alive almost worthwhile for me, besides music, was all the saints I met, who could be anywhere. By saints I meant people who behaved decently in a strikingly indecent society.

road home

The Road Home by Rose Tremain

There was so much to enjoy in this tale of Lev’s journey from an undefined part of Eastern Europe via homelessness and a celebrity chef’s kitchen in London, to the asparagus fields of Lincolnshire and back again. He is also moving from heartbreak over his wife’s death and the subsequent parting from his small daughter, we hope to something better. The tale was absorbing and the writing beautiful at times.

However, this is let down by the clichés of some of the characters Lev meets – the Irish landlord who’s a drunk with a heart of gold, a terribly represented gay couple – along with the situations that he easily swerves which must surely sink the precarious finances of most economic migrants. I was also stunned by a glossed-over incident between Lev and his estranged girlfriend. It is left ambiguous as to whether it is rape, but it is horribly uncomfortable to read. Despite this, Lev retains his status as a character we are meant to root for. While I wouldn’t regret taking this with me, I would probably leave it behind in the hotel.

our game

Our Game by John le Carré

It is always a dangerous endeavour to begin reading John le Carré before bed as ‘just one more chapter’ soon turns into 1:00 a.m. But it is the holidays, so why not stay up late reading? Twists and turns abound as the Soviet Empire unravels and with it the relationship of two Cold War warriors. There are also some choice views on the futures of ‘The Office’ and the KGB, which le Carré must have been aiming at any critics preparing to cast him as a dinosaur in this new era. Recent events have made this story seem even more prescient, as the author once more leaves the rest of the airport bookshop looking pale by comparison.

under fire

Under Fire by Henri Barbusse

The anniversary of World War I prompted me to pick up this account of a French soldier’s experience of the trenches. Published in 1916, it had the distinction of being one of the first war books and the only one to appear while the conflict remained unresolved. Barbusse was a student of literature before he signed up and it shows in the wildly abstract opening and a scene where his scribbling of notes during a lull attracts the attention of his fellows.

Beset by the constant horrors of attacks, shelling and deaths, the French perspective adds extra weight as many of the men are fighting close to home. A search by the author and a friend of the ruins of the friend’s former village is particularly poignant. There is no better way to mark this dark anniversary than with the words of those who fought and who recognised its futility even as they did.

Don’t forget to tell us about your favourite holiday reads in the comments below!

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Hot Reads!

As the holiday season looms, I find a simple mantra helps me focus on what I am going to do during my two weeks away: Read, Reflect, Recharge. My suitcase is packed for a trip to Rome and now all I need to do is choose the books to read while I am there. Here are four titles that may keep you entertained wherever you are spending your vacation.

& sons

& Sons by David Gilbert

An autopsy of rivalry and emotional pride between a father and son, as well as the son’s relationships with his siblings. You can taste the atmosphere of New York City, the poisons and fluidity of the electric jungle. Gilbert’s tale has been marinated in Philip Roth and Paul Auster, but this is no copycat of the greats. Gilbert’s version of New York City is contemporary and insightful. The American novel continues to evolve!

Dr. Sleep

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Imagine an ice-cube being placed at the top of your back and melting down, a chill right along your spine, that is the overall effect that King has managed to achieve with this crafted tale of horror. This impressive sequel to The Shining ties up lots of loose ends left in the iconic classic.

I fell out of love with Stephen King’s writing at the end of my teenage years. I felt the excellent writing that had petrified me (The Dark Half, Carrie, Salem’s Lot and Misery) had become somewhat diluted, with throwaway novels like The Tommyknockers. Unbeknown to me, King was battling with his own demons, the white worm of cocaine and alcohol addiction.

I was suitably impressed with his pure honesty in the book/biography, On Writing. I was unsure about this sequel, but a testimonial by acclaimed writer Margaret Atwood on the cover prompted me to buy the book. I was not let down. His writing in this story is punchy, superbly edited and so terrifying that the only safe place to read it is on a beach or a sun lounger. Don’t have daymares!

revenge

Revenge by Martina Cole

A symphony of violent gangland shenanigans. I was keen to read this author as her books are bestsellers, but then again McDonald’s is also extremely popular. I did enjoy the book, but I think like McDonald’s, it is best enjoyed every now and then. An ideal easy read with a good pace. There is a lot of repetition of metaphors, but it is a great peep into criminal activity. Although I am so glad I am not a gangster…

Maggie-and-Me-

Maggie and Me by Damian Barr

This is the biography of a gay boy growing up in Scotland in the 1980s. Barr had a tempestuous childhood, which he details in this memoir with a dry sardonic wit.

Anyone in their mid-thirties will instantaneously feel nostalgic throughout, remembering the references to popular culture. (He-man, Dynasty, Artex wall decoration) It also chronicles what life was like in the industrial areas of Britain enduring the changes wrought by Thatcherism. This book was so entertaining and emotionally charged that I read it in one sitting!

Tell us about your favourite beach-side reads in the comments below. And do be careful not to get sunscreen on the pages!

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Grayson Perry’s ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’

Have a look around your current living space. Open up a few of the drawers and cupboards. Are they crammed with things, crammed with stuff? We all manage to accumulate things and, even if you de-clutter, if left for a few months the stuff accumulates again. What we accumulate is all a matter of taste.

The current exhibition at The Walker Art Gallery by Grayson Perry,
‘The Vanity of Small Differences’, presents a series of tapestries that are littered with things. A body of work that displays an impressive attention to detail and telling commentary on society today. The exhibition was created during the filming of the artist’s Channel 4 documentary, All in the Best Possible Taste (2012).

Perry was inspired by Hogarth’s 1733 work, A Rake’s Progress, which tells the tale of a young man who inherits a fortune, tries to integrate himself into high society – with all its pompous airs and graces – squanders his wealth and ends up dying in a madhouse. Perry’s tapestries chart the life and ‘class journey’ made by the fictional Tim Rakewell from working-class origins to fame and fortune.

GP360_Expulsion-From-Number-8-Eden-Close_2012-FULL

The pieces are bold tableaus, woven Polaroids. Perry has put the mirror up to society and reproduced what he has seen. This exploration of British taste is impressive. ‘It is all part of life’s rich tapestry’, words that I often cite when explaining the insanity of life and the varied things that can occur. It is all here: from the politics of consumerism, mobile technology, to celebrity culture. At the core is Perry’s belief that

Class is something bred into us like a religious faith.

Each tapestry is littered with objects that can evoke memories, a 70s horse ornament, fake fire and industrial portraiture. The action that takes place is subtly thought-provoking, tattooed and toned cage fighters presenting gifts to a new-born baby, while in another, a suburbanite is rapidly vacuuming the Astroturf lawn.

the-adoration-of-the-cage-fighters

As Hogarth captured the Britain of his day, so Perry has ‘gone on a safari’ around the country to identify its ‘taste tribes’. His findings resonate through his work. The gym now as one of the last strands of community, replacing the pride of working industry. The business of football as a tribal industry, where winning a trophy is like bringing a stag back from the hunt and club shirts are like a talisman, a marked indication of the tribe you belong to. Females use makeup to create a persona, a tribal mask that is constructed to indicate a degree of artifice. This alter ego comes out to play at the weekend, but who is it for?

The Guardian reader, cultivating an organic life of sustainability, filled with chickens, vegetables and cupcakes. The old aristocracy, an endangered species. In contemporary society, the aristocratic family coat of arms is now made up with corporate logos. Idols are now more I.T.ols, with the Gods of I.T. being worshipped. Bow down to Steve Jobs, genuflect to Bill Gates, please. Or salute the god of social mobility, Jamie Oliver, and his quest to feed us properly.

Perry’s work is both parody and celebration. What I like is the way he looks at his subject matter with an accurate critical eye, but never ridicules or patronises them. This is in complete contrast to the work of photographer Martin Parr. I find Parr’s work has a lack of humility or compassion towards the people he shoots.

My favourite image was the final tapestry that illustrates a horrific car crash. Once again the detail is symbolic, a shattered mobile phone, a shredded cover of a Hello-style magazine that has the protagonist’s wedding snaps on the cover. An onlooker takes pictures on a mobile phone to send out to the net, to make the tragedy go viral. The retail logos that shine in the background give off a subliminal message, Dreams/To Let/ Toys’R’ Us.

favourite Grayson Perry

We are all but toys, perhaps with dreams to rent.

The exhibition is on at The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool until 10 August.

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That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick by Ellin Stein

If they say the best books are like a conversation with the author, then ‘That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick – The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream’ by (disclosure: friend of ten minutes hate) Ellin Stein goes one better. A conversation where the author allows you to eavesdrop on some of the funniest men and women America produced in the at times quite dour latter half of the last century.

That's Not Funny That's Sick Ellin Stein

How the Lampooners went from Harvard grads to kings and queens of Hollywood via a steady conquering of print, radio, stand-up comedy, improv theatre, TV and movies, wielding an influence far beyond the things they actually created themselves, is a heck of a tale. Crafted by Ellin Stein and including one-on-one interviews conducted over many years, it is fair to say it crackles off the page, with all the intrigue and derring-do, deal-making and double-crossing you would expect from such a talented gang.

While it seems safe to say that The National Lampoon’s reputation for counter-culture activity was perhaps over-stated – mostly by themselves – the book doesn’t shy away from calling them out on it, quoting one contributing editor’s view that,

It was a commercial venture from the start, and subversion was the product being sold.

The parallels with the music industry are clear and Stein’s narrative is adept at placing the magazine in the context of the politics and culture as the idealistic late ’60s becomes the cynical ’70s and block-busting ’80s. I was reminded of Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, lamenting of the money men:

…they will ruin rock ‘n’ roll and strangle everything we love about it.

It is not always clear if the right subjects were being lampooned, with certain editors claiming that anything and anyone was a legitimate target and still others stating their attempts to work from a ‘base of integrity’. That base was still so firmly rooted in the white, male, college frat-dwelling mindset that the guys had a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that non-male, non-white, non-Ivy League types could also produce humour. (In case you wondered where present-day Hollywood gets it from…)

In the UK, writers tend to work alone and the teams that are locked in a room until the hilarity is honed are largely unknown to us. Perhaps this adds to the Lampoon mythology and brings it closer to the legendary sporting teams we love to laud. It is clear that what Stein calls the Lampoon’s ‘gym of the intellect’ fostered a competitiveness that spurred some individuals into levels of fame that can be difficult for such sensitive types to contend with. The push and pull between the mercurial types and the ones who have to manage their ‘output’ is painfully and truthfully detailed.

There are some books where the epilogues are to be skipped or glanced at, but not here. As the roll of honour lists, there is not an element of the media that remains untouched by an NL alumni. Not all have remained in comedy, with everything from serious drama to children’s cookery books making use of their talents. Given their starting point in satire it is perhaps strange that so much of mainstream American cultural life wouldn’t exist without them – although perhaps it takes more to erase that Ivy League destiny than growing one’s hair long and lighting a joint…

A fascinating snapshot of the era and a kick up the bum, or ass as our American cousins would say, for creative readers from what must be one of the most prolific groupings of writers and performers ever gathered. They would probably make faces at any use of the word ‘inspirational’, but tough. It is both an inspiration and a real pleasure to listen in on their tales.

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Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

I will rise but I will not shine

This line from a Tennessee Williams play came into my head as my alarm buzzed annoyingly at 5am. I awoke to full-on birdsong outside the bed and breakfast we were staying at. It resembled a rural Yorkshire version of the Overlook Hotel from the horror novel, The Shining. Self-served breakfast in an empty dining area was decidedly surreal.

To complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge involves reaching the summits of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, usually in this order and in under 12 hours. The peaks encircle the head of the valley of the River Ribble and form part of the Pennines range, situated in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The start of the route was a test of fitness and although I was gym-ready (training with yoga, weights and rowing machine), it suddenly bit me viciously. This is no three-hour walk followed by a Sunday lunch and stodgy pudding with custard, oh no. If this was a power aid type of drink, it would be called ‘triple intensity’.

The top of the first peak revealed a skyline devoid of human mistouch. The pink red sky brow drew a line across the clouds, emphasising the storm-filled heavens. Marching on through sheets of green in several different shades, the landscape was sparse.

A notable landmark is a lone viaduct, engineering elegance. After the first peak, you tend to see it from different angles, walking alongside it, up close and eventually a 360-degree manoeuvre around it.

Whernside

Whernside

The limestone viewed from a certain height is like nature’s dandruff. Crumbling farm buildings are beautiful in their degradation. There was a scent of deep heat, sweat and wine gums – if this was a fragrance like Terre d’Hermes, it would be known as ‘Rambler Number 7′.

The knees felt like they were going to burst open, omitting a spray of pistons and springs. We are so used to a barrage of sounds, ever blasting, demanding space in our ear drums. The stillness is a significant silence. No mobile phone signals, an enforced digital detox. No means to check in, hashtag or update status. You confront the natural world, instead of living in a self-indulgent bubble.

The final push up the cracked crag stairwell, a vertical slate path. Reaching the last peak is a kind of metaphor for life; it is difficult and seems at times unclimbable, but with perseverance and commitment it eventually gets smooth.

Almost at the top of Ingleborough

Almost at the top of Ingleborough

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Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society

It’s an electric lapis lazuli sky, sitting in The Bluecoat gardens. A classical music score floats out of a window, splattering its notes onto the pavement floor. The sun blushes, batting her eyelashes, flirting with the people sitting in her rays. How many beautiful compositions do we take in on a daily basis? The eye is the ultimate camera, to snap pictures, to capture the moment.

When a collective of creatives come together with a shared interest in a particular discipline; like writing groups, photography clubs and arts associations, the results can be remarkable. A snapshot of a community and an important way to archive, celebrate and document an ever-evolving culture. One such organisation is the Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society.

In the autumn of 2011, a few friends who share an interest in photography agreed that they could develop their photographic interests and skills by exchanging knowledge and ideas. The first meeting was held on 8th November after Nick Liu, Tommy Wong and Wing W Wong invited their friends to Chilli Chilli Restaurant in Liverpool Chinatown. As a result of that initial gathering, Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society was born.

Stranded by Wing W Wong

Stranded by Wing W Wong

ten minutes hate caught up with Pak H Chan and Nick Liu to discuss their work and that of the group.

10mh: What inspires you?

Pak H Chan: Many things inspire me: the weather, nature, architecture, Liverpool’s waterfront, people on the streets, light and shadow.

Nick Lau: Capturing the moment of memory and appreciation.

10mh: Which artists have influenced you?

PHC: The photographers who have influenced me are Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bert Hardy and Don McCullin. I also admire the work of the Impressionist painter Renoir, though not sure if he has influenced me in any way.

NL: Bruce Lee (martial art/body movement).

10mh: Describe the work of the group in five words?

NL: Sharing interest, skills and views
PHC: Unique, diverse, personal, eye-catching, passion.

Ribbon Dancer by Nick Liu

Ribbon Dancer by Nick Liu

10mh: What plans do you have for the future?

NL: The Society is to be open to all with interests in: Chinatowns, photography, Chinese-ness as a feature…

PHC: I just hope to continue to take good photos, perhaps travelling more outside of Merseyside. I plan to photograph York as it has been recommended to me by a few people.

10mh: What advice would you give to people who want to take up photography?

NL: Have a passion for photography.

PHC: Learn the basics, like aperture, shutter speed and just go out there and enjoy photographing anything that looks interesting.

10mh: What most recently impressed you?

NL: Smartphone photography – user friendly, versatile and quality. A lot to be learned by users and more to be developed by the designers. Photography is getting more and more popular and diverse.

PHC: I took some photographs of stick-insects last week which impressed me. I learnt that nature has a lot to offer and maybe I will shoot more subjects from the natural world in future.

Anyone interested in photography is welcome to join the Society, whether amateur or professional, young or old, regardless of experience, knowledge or background. All that is needed is a passion for photography.

Chinese New Year by Pak Hung Chan

Chinese New Year by Pak Hung Chan

The LCPS meets once a month in Liverpool Chinatown, with various activities hosted in-between meetings. For more information, please see their ‘contact us’ page.

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Heroine

Heroine Zine is a platform to showcase the talents of creative women in the North-West of England and beyond. The zine originated last summer in Brighton and is now onto its third edition.

heroine mag

There is a current resurgence in this form of expression, originally championed by Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and later H.P Lovecraft and riot grrrl. A zine – an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine – is most commonly a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier. Generally circulated in editions of less than 100, profit is not the primary intent of publication. They are informed by anarchopunk, raw creativity and DIY ethos. (Let us not forget the Whaaat? zine, which gave rise to this very site.)

ten minutes hate had an audience with Heroine in FACT, Liverpool, to discuss their origins, their missive and future plans.

The zine?

The magazine celebrates women as they are, not constructed. We have a listed manifesto.

heroine manifesto

Inspiration?

Inspired by the 90s zine culture, riot grrrl.

Self-publishing gives a sense of complete control.

Jet the Cat?

The cat, our mascot, is taken from the suffragettes. When jailed for activity, the activists would go on hunger strike, which would make them so weak that they could no longer have the energy to protest and were sent out of the prisons, no longer a threat. They would then re-energise, eat and be ready to campaign again and then land themselves back in prison. A cat and mouse type of game.

jet the cat

Heroines?

People to admire include Caitlin Moran and Laura Bates. And we also have great admiration for Madeline Heneghan, creator of the acclaimed Liverpool writing festival, Writing on the Wall. A business heroine. We admire women in day-to-day life, the ‘real people’.

Ambition?

World domination. We have a busy summer ahead, including a Heroine Fest with an event in Chevasse Park on 27 July, event parties, open-mic poetry events.

Talent?

We are looking all the time for any distinctive poets, artists and photographers.

We are always open for submissions to the zine, no themes, just your ideas. Pitch something to us at heroinemagazine – at – hotmail.com or through the submissions page and we’ll let you know what we think.

Thanks to Becki Currie for the image of Jet the Cat

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Thought Crimes

Today, Wednesday 25 June, was George Orwell’s birthday. While always unlikely that someone with a love of such strong tobacco would make it to the age of 100 – never mind 111 – we at ten minutes hate see no reason not to mark the occasion.

Make an incredibly intense pot of tea, or pour out a dram or three of Jura and join us in saying, ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. Orwell!’

TokyoRich:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I feel the same way about George Orwell as I do about Tony Benn. Both are posh gits done well. They really set an example for anyone that has a conscience. A lot of the time, class conflict, north vs south, developed world vs. emerging economies and the like are painted as issues that have rigid boundaries, which creates unnecessary prejudices. Going back to Marx, one of the cheapest shots at him is that he was funded by Engels who enjoyed the fruits of capitalism because of his businesses. What Orwell, Benn and Engels show though, is that if you have the right attitude — a conscience about global injustices — and are willing to take the time to create a critical framework through which to view the world, your background doesn’t, and shouldn’t, matter.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

In nonfiction, Homage to Catalonia really tore away the romanticism of the Spanish Civil War for me, which was important.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying was a great piece of fiction. Perhaps it isn’t a masterpiece, but the way it deals with armchair socialism is entertaining and still makes me feel guilty.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

No favourite image.

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

My desk at work.

public relations

Our Man in Abiko:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I can’t remember now whether it was Orwell or Mark Twain that turned me on to the possibilities of writing, I often confuse the two. Both were at heart journalists, both armed with a keen eye for hypocrisy and a matter-of-fact style that targeted pretension as much as injustice. When I read Orwell, I think “I want to write like this.” And yet I can’t, at least not as well. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

I like his essays the most. Why I Write should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the written word and adding a few of their own.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

He wasn’t the most photogenic. When I try to picture his face, all I can see are the tea-ring stained white and orange covers of the ’60s Penguin paperback editions on my Dad’s shelf. That’s what he looks like to me.

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“As I write, highly civilised human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.” (The opening line of The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius.)

John Maguire:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I admire the fact that Orwell was a master craftsman who loved his work. He wrote with conviction, passion and authenticity. His writing questions, provokes and encourages the reader to think.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

Keep the Aspidistra Flying, a socially critical exploration of opting out of the system. I think this really resonated with me because at the time I was working in a bookstore and writing poetry like the main protagonist Gordon Comstock. I also had a somewhat romantic vision of the writing life, I still have rose-tinted glasses but prefer contact lenses these days.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

A photograph taken in 1946 by Veina Richards. I love the way he is looking at his son with such pride.

George Orwell

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

J. C. Greenway:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I think, following on from what Rich said above, it is the way he broke free of his upbringing. Men of Orwell’s class weren’t meant to speak out about the injustices of the world and give the unheard a voice, they were bred to do a job and to keep quiet about any unsavory aspects of it. He recalls in his essays being quite taken with Kipling’s tales of Empire-building as a child and in The Lion and The Unicorn muses that in more peaceful times he might have been a vicar.

Yet he was transformed by Burma, Wigan and Spain into something far beyond the imaginings of the average Old Etonian. He actively sought out situations and people that he wasn’t familiar or comfortable with to broaden his view of the world and to inform his writing. I think that is why he has remained so relevant today.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

The Road to Wigan Pier. Although they were a few miles up the road from Wigan, the book echoes the stories my family told of the ‘Hungry Thirties': terrified of the sack, hiding from the rent man, unable to afford the doctor for anything that wasn’t imminently life-threatening. My own grandfather and his brother walked from Liverpool to London and the South Coast to find work. And yet theirs was a world unknown to most outside the Northern industrial centres.

Orwell’s gift is to take the myths created to keep the system running – miners keeping coal in their baths, the Dole being so high it encouraged the poor to marry – and destroy them with calm analysis and journalistic style, while never losing his compassion for those trapped within.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

Having attempted to make tea according to the steps laid down in ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’, it has to be this one.

george-orwell-drinking-tea

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Mark Woff:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

Orwell taking a bullet in the neck for anti-fascism is a source of inspiration. I also admire his understated, dry humour.

For balance,  I am not so keen on the ex-policeman’s liking for lists of wrongdoers. I suppose I can understand where he was coming from, but still.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

Inside the Whale and other essays… tied with 1984, of course!

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

orwellcigtea

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style.” (Politics and the English Language)

 

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Alejandro Monge, ‘Spanish Pavilion’ at Fallout Factory

alejandro

Fallout Factory, 1 June – 31 July | Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm

Alejandro Monge has achieved a brilliant career in a very short time, creating a handful of images that define it: powerful and disturbing faces, inscribed on a black background. The work suggests baroque influences and approaches a hyper-realism that does not exclude the gloomy.
Specially commissioned as part of the International Festival for Business, Fallout Factory is currently playing host to ‘Spanish Pavilion’, a new and exciting collaboration between Fallout Factory and overseas Spanish galleries. ten minutes hate caught up with the maverick Spanish artist on the eve of his Liverpool exhibition.

10mh: Alejandro, what inspires you?

Inspiration comes day by day, but I have better inspirations the bad days than the good ones, makes me feel more, I can go deeper in my creativity.

10mh:  Which artists have influenced you?

I think that Caravaggio is my favourite.

10mh: Describe your work in five words?

Very, very, very, very dark.

10mh: What do you want the viewer to feel about your work?

I’d like that people feel my works as something real, in three dimensions.

10mh: Do you have a favourite piece?

Always it is the last one. Because in there are my last feelings.

10mh: What advice would you give young artists?

Work, work and more work, because the more you work the better paintings you get. But at the same time you have to train your mind as well, because the ability of art is in your mind not in your hand. The good inspiration will come after 999 bad ideas.

Exceptional pieces of art take the everyday, the mundane and forces you to look at it again. It lifts the subject to another plain. We all look at each other, daily in cafés, bars, even at home with reality rubbish on the TV. Alejandro’s canvases make you really appreciate the subtle beauty of the human being. Blonde beard, shadow silhouettes of facial features, always with a warmth and deep affection for the sitter.

alejandro monge
The collection has a distinctive style in the way you can immediately identify it as his work, like Lucien Freud, Tamara De Lempicka and Francis Bacon. When you see the work you know it is the artists’ distinctive style.

I’ve seen quite a few exhibitions in my 36 years, I’ve encountered self-proclaimed artists who do not follow the Stanislavski dictum which is essential for any creative,

One must love art and not the concept of oneself in art.

Alejandro clearly loves his work, passion and authenticity splash right off his canvas.

alejandro euro

I have always loved Spain and her cultural exports, Pedro Almodóvar and tapas. Now I have another thing to admire about this great country. I am exceptionally excited about this artist’s future creative projects, please watch this space, one day Alejandro Monge is going to paint his way into the history sketch book of contemporary art.

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