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Picture Stories

A few picture stories ‘& essays
Scroll Recent Posts‘ and ‘Categories‘ for more words & pictures combinations.

 

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Picasso: Challenging the Spin

A ‘combative encounter’ with Picasso and groveling art-speak.

I’m not Picasso’s greatest admirer and I went to the National Gallery’s Picasso  exhibition armed with my usual misgivings about the nature of Pablo Picasso’s so-called ‘genius’. Whilst I haven’t previously seen many of Picasso’s paintings in the raw, the ones I did make efforts to view, including Guernica, didn’t exactly scorch the depths of my being.
Anyhow, it was a once in a lifetime  opportunity and for that reason was not to be missed.

It is a cliché that Picasso was one of the (if not THE) most influential artists of the 20th century. But how you see his influence on the world of art depends on your understanding of what the true essence, purpose and pinnacle of art actually is.
For the sake of my own simple mind, I sometimes imagine art through the ages as being one long tapestry through time, on which the (varying shades of) genius of each generation has left its indelible mark. When we get to the beginning of the last century, much of the tapestry starts to get cloudy, as can be seen in Claude Monet’s ‘Water-Lillies’ in Tate Modern. Brush strokes then fragment as isms and ists spring up like ‘toadstools after a rain’, and art’s tapestry is blurred by murky footnotes and textual spin. Judging purely from Picasso’s paintings in The National Gallery exhibition, he was quick to seize upon deconstruction and what unfolded through the six rooms was less like a painter eagerly ‘responding’ to the past’s rich tapestry, as one ripping out the threads and re-weaving them to suit his own ends. And whilst the styles may flutter, the hub of the work on the walls was unchanging.

Two defining facets of genius are these:
Firstly, that it rarely (if ever) comes via a committee’s approval, and secondly, that compromise makes an uneasy bedfellow. Continue reading Picasso: Challenging the Spin

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Andre Agassi

Ode to Andre: An essay, which grew out of a review of Andre Agassi’s Autobiography, ‘Open’.

I first saw Andre Agassi play live at the French Open, in 1987. I was keen on becoming a tennis coach in those days, and I already knew about Andre. So when I saw he was scheduled to play Peruvian Pablo Arraya, I was first on the scene on one of Roland Garros’ outside courts. Another débutante was a tiny ball boy with red hair and a broad batch of freckles. The kid was full of energy and enthusiasm, but he looked nervous. It was a nice touch that Agassi put the youngster at ease and I immediately liked him for his consideration. Continue reading Andre Agassi

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Everton Goodison Park

Goodison Park Everton

The brother of a friend tells a good story about Everton’s football ground.

In the days when he worked for a Spanish bank, he decided to take one of the bank’s bigwigs to a European night match against one of the Spanish sides. The fact that it was November 5th and bonfires were raging across the city didn’t raise any alarm bells, until they drove through one of the rougher parts of the city that now resembled a war zone.
Continue reading Everton Goodison Park

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Northern Soul: A Top Ten

Ten all-time great Northern Soul records.

A personal Northern Soul top ten.

I haven’t listened to some of these Northern Soul tunes since I was in my teenage spots, preferring as I did to keep moving, though it’s good to hear them again.
There were so many truly great Northern Soul tunes (many of them ushered in by Ian Levine in his 1973 and ’74 batch), that a definitive ‘best’ list is nigh-on impossible.
Anyhow, these few stand tall against the onslaught of time.
What measure have I used to judge ten of my favourites?
Most Northern Soul tracks were (under) three minutes of pure adrenaline, with a great intro designed to grab your attention from the off (or, more precisely,  the attentions of those who compile radio station play-lists).

As I did more of my dancing at Blackpool Mecca’s Highland Room than at Wigan Casino (where I did more ‘talking’), I suppose a good yardstick was how quickly I would sprint down the corridor of the Highland Room – and onto the dance floor – when I heard the first few notes.
Here are my corridor sprinters in reverse order. Continue reading Northern Soul: A Top Ten

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Goya

Francisco de Goya

I’m tempted to state that anyone even remotely inclined towards artistic expression will know the pain of compromise, particularly if working with (and in) the media or on commercial commissions.
But this is perhaps less true now than it ever was, and here are two of the reasons why: Continue reading Goya

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Doctor Jack & Calcutta Rescue

Doctor Jack Preger and  Calcutta Rescue remembered.

Doctor Jack Preger has a slightly twisted sense of humour and I hadn’t been in Calcutta long before I was on the receiving end. Driving through the city in what was then a twenty six year old Jeep (and for all I know, Jack’s original four-wheeler is still on the road over two decades later), Jack kept pointing out the signage on Calcutta shop fronts for me to photograph, asking if I’d later send them to his favourite satirical organ, Private Eye: ‘Big Belly Bras’ is one shop sign etched in my memory. Continue reading Doctor Jack & Calcutta Rescue

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Missionaries of Charity Calcutta

Shishu Bhavan and Mother House in Calcutta / Kolkata remembered

Like many others, it was Malcolm Muggeridge’s book about Mother Teresa, Something Beautiful for God, that inspired the first of my two visits to Calcutta, and on the first visit I booked a flight to Delhi because it was a cheaper option than flying direct. Continue reading Missionaries of Charity Calcutta

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Central Library

Manchester Central Library and Library Walk
Manchester Central Library and Library Walk

When I first went to the British Library in London, two of of the most impressive details were:

1: two power points at each desk for library users
2: Comfortable desk & seating, presumably based on an understanding of how humans are supposed to sit. 
Continue reading Central Library