Monday 20 May 2024

ST LEONARDS MEETS THE WORLD

 

ST LEONARDS MEETS THE WORLD



Electro Studios, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, 17-27 May 2024

Hermione Allsopp, Blue Curry; Colin Booth, Koushna Navabi; Joe Packer, Robyn Litchfield; Toby Tatum, Tereza Bušková; Geraldine Swayne, Miho Sato; Alice Walter, Kristian Evju.

Curated by Paul Carey-Kent

For ‘St Leonards meets The World’, curator Paul Carey-Kent – whose home town is St Leonards – has matched six artists based there with six UK-based artists who bring an international dimension. Pairings are founded on the idea that the works have enough in common that a conversation between them will prove interesting.  It is to be celebrated that, despite Brexit and the way Britain is run, there are still plenty of artists from across the world who are based in the UK.

Hermione Allsopp and Blue Curry (originally from the Bahamas) are sculptors who exploit how found objects encode meaning, and here those meanings relate to the nature of tourism - in two rather different coastal locations. The installations of Colin Booth and Koushna Navabi (Iran) incorporate chairs - but neither sets them up for comfortable rest, so much as an anatomisation of the world’s problems. Joe Packer and Robyn Litchfield (New Zealand) are both atmospherically bosky painters who can be read in formal or environmental terms, yet their perspectives are not so similar. Geraldine Swayne and Miho Sato (Japan) paint people – the former with highly diverse media and scale, the latter much more consistently – but both withhold enough to make the emotional tenor of their not-quite-portraits fascinatingly ambiguous. Toby Tatum and Tereza Bušková (Czech Republic) make films celebrating and elevating the everyday – in nature and in human tradition - to highlight its beauty and suggest an underlying significance. Alice Walter and Kristian Evju (Norway) both collage together disparate sources and materials to make paintings with mythic resonances, but there is – apparently - a sharp difference in the control they bring to those combinations.

Beyond those paired conversations, there are points of connection across the show as a whole. One might, for example, consider the unexpectedly rich and pointed implications the quotidian can have; the interface between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultures, between tradition and modernity, between natural and constructed, between different nations; or the importance of materials – including the site-appropriate use of sand – all as St Leonards meets the world.





Hermione Allsopp: 'Memory Hole', 2024

Hermione Allsopp makes sculptural work by turning found objects – frequently furniture - into new forms or compositions.  These are familiar, known, domestic items that have been discarded in charity or junk shops – not, inert materials, but ones that carry collective attachments, memories and meanings. She sees that as ‘raising questions about the value and material nature of everyday objects’. That may turn a desirable item into something repulsive, or introduce questions of taste. ‘Sandhole’ uses an inflatable ring to reference the conventions of local tourism: holidaying, the beach, swimming, ice cream, sticky food - and the fact that we’re on the site of the impressive lido that stood in front of the gallery’s building from 1933-86. We might ask, though, what such rings are for: this one seems to have been rendered insufficiently buoyant to aid a swimmer or effect a rescue. It’s not much of a stretch to think of peril at sea, and then of small boats full of migrants…



Blue Curry: 'Rent-a-dread', 2010

Blue Curry grew up in The Bahamas - but came to the UK in 1997, aged 23. Since then he has been living a ‘life between islands’, bouncing back and forth, making work in both the UK and the Caribbean. He has spent time working throughout the islands and takes an interest in how the whole region is viewed and consumed. Utilising that background, he stacks up and compounds ideas of the exotic, the native and the tropical, facilitating their critical examination. He does that by combining found objects that speak of such issues. ‘Rent-a-dread’, for example, references the common occurrence in Caribbean tourism of mostly white Western tourists fulfilling certain fantasies by paying to be with a usually-dreadlocked Rastafarian-styled man to spend time with them on their vacation. The form matters, but – noting satisfying tourist expectations can be ‘like living in a deafening echo chamber of clichés and stereotypes’, Curry is interested in ‘the fantasy and the reality of the Caribbean, and how one replaces the other.’

 

Colin Booth: 'Tilt' 2024

Colin Booth combines, alters and re-contextualises found elements – of material, history and language – to form resonant new constellations of meaning. He moves things out of their utilitarian origins into a new being as objects of contemplation, and in so doing connects social and cultural aspects of past and present. His themes are often heavyweight - he has, for example, installed the shortest sentence in the Bible – ‘Jesus Wept’ – as an imposing neon sign in a socially disadvantaged neighbourhood, so relating an ancient phrase to modern conditions using current technology. Booth’s appealingly cheerful installation of sun-yellow chairs appears lighter in mood. But something is wrong with them: none is quite true, though each arrives slightly differently at its point of impending imbalance - like a comic version of one of Sol Lewitt’ s conceptual series of variations on a form. One imagines sitting and toppling. Would that be just to clown around, or is the world out of tilt? Matters could be serious, after all.

 

Koushna Navabi: 'Female Trait', 2021-24

In 2022, Tehran-born Koushna Navabi founded the campaign ‘Artists for Women Life Freedom’, giving a clue to the political charge behind how her work explores the constant rub of the familiar and domestic against the surreal and the strange. She works in mixed media with a strong emphasis on textile, embroidery and knitting to present a variety of deformed, transformed and reformed objects: a female body, dismembered and rendered from rough wood fused with a rug from home; a ring for the finger, its intimacy disrupted by a tiny political monument. ‘Female Trait’ looks like two outsized ovaries on a pair of 1950’s school chairs, complete with fallopian tube and what might be hair sprouting from follicles seen through a microscope. It combines the bodily with a disruption of the sacred, for Navabi has cut into two Persian kilim carpets, which she says is ‘sacrilegious for an Iranian: however old they are, you are supposed to mend them’.  The combination reads as a critique of the role of women being linked to reproduction, rather than education.  



Joe Packer: ‘Nashgumbrooke III’, 2020

Joe Packer grew up close to English woodland, and this experience is part of what informs his current paintings. That said, his landscapes almost give way to abstraction – he describes the idea of painting landscape as ‘an armature to hang the painting on’ rather than the primary subject. His works are dense with form and colour, and rarely feature the horizon. Consequently, they feel closed-in and subterranean, and it’s hard to judge scale: are we in the microscopic undergrowth or looking down at the patterns of a forest? Is that a tree or a leaf? That generates an ambiguity, aided by his preference for framing the paintings internally as well as externally. As Packer explains: ‘I don’t like the abruptness of the edge whereby a painting ‘just stops’, so I often break up the edge with a frame which is part of the painting yet also ends it.’ The result is a psychologically charged space in which to engage with the visible drama of how a painting is made.


               

Robyn Litchfield: ‘Canoe Cove’, 2024

Robyn Litchfield returns regularly to the South Island of her native New Zealand to find the inspiration for her atmospheric forest landscapes. Originally, she used old photographs as a source, finding that she liked how their black and white framed the world and freed up colour for her own decision-making, allowing her to develop the landscape as a ‘psychologically transcendent space that produces heightened self-awareness’ and led to the somewhat other-worldly monochromatic aura of her interpretations. Much of the unspoiled, never-logged area is fertile swamp forest, so Litchfield has to travel by kayak to find the best views. Most of the trees are Kahikatea or White Pine which grow up to 65 metres high with a lifespan of 600 years. ‘You feel’, she says, ‘in the presence of beings’.  Viewpoints are obscured much of the time, and Litchfield mimics that effect by using stencilled shapes as portals within the landscapes.  Recently, she has floated those shapes free of the backdrop to float against swirling cloudiness, as in ‘Fragment 1’.


Geraldine Swayne: ‘Girl smoking in W11’

Geraldine Swayne has worked as a special effects designer and musician, and made experimental films… all of which one might trace into the lively vibe of her paintings. They range from miniatures on glass to sweeping larger-than-life acrylics, though various types of enamel on aluminium might be her most characteristic medium: that yields a ‘glassy surface’ she likes, allowing the effect of light coming through, of material revelation rather than mere image. Are they speaking of another place?  Swayne’s sources are disparate – from her own photographs to found caches of vintage material to  pornographic magazines – but the effect tends to be filmic, as if they are stills preceding an action, or there’s something going on off-screen. The subtext, then, may be narrative or revelatory: we are invited to speculate, but matters remain mysterious. Swayne’s apparently more straightforward pictures pick up some that charge from her wider practice. What is the text that Suzanne is reading? How come the simple act of plaiting seems to be leaking into the painting’s background?  What has so drawn the smoker’s attention out of frame?

 

Mihi Sato: 'First Step', 2023 

Miho Sato trained as a graphic designer in Japan, but has been painting in London for three decades. She hoards images – mostly of people - she finds in magazines, postcards, or reproductions of other artworks. So, popular culture meets the history of painting - but once something appeals to her, all is absorbed equally into her treatment. She reworks the sources in rapid and muted acrylic, simplifying them, freeing them from any specific setting, omitting shadows, hiding any facial detail – so denying the viewer the usual point of engagement. The result is a curious combination of clarity and vagueness, as if her subjects are floating up from memory – an effect heightened when the subjects, as here, appear to be children. That yields a haunting resonance, but the emotional tenor is hard to pin down.  Is ‘First Step’ a charming reminiscence of achievement, or is the inexperienced skater about to fall? Is the washing out of detail a means of focussing on the emotional core, or is Sato criticising anonymity and blankness in modern society?


 Toby Tatum: still from ;'The Garden' 2019

Toby Tatum writes illuminatingly about his own films, so over to him on ‘The Garden’, 2019. It’s composed of ‘only two extended shots, both showing variations on a manufactured garden of outsized plants and rock formations, which are subject to a prismatic incursion of shimmering lights. The film’s title seems simply descriptive, and it does describe the film - the garden being a bordered, organised outdoors, set apart from the riotous, inhuman sprawl of nature - but it also brings to mind the Biblical garden, the prelapsarian space where the serpent lurked. Perhaps the first of the film’s two gardens might represent some sort of elevated spiritual realm whereas the succeeding space, emerging from the river of serpentine lights, suggests a more sensual realm, perhaps even a fallen world. At the time, I was making The Garden, I considered it representative of what I liked to call Psychedelic Romanticism… not only in its streams of colours, but also in its emphasising of flowers and plants and in the open-ended, ambient time-space that it occupies.’

 


Tereza Bušková: still from 'The Little Queens', 2022

Originally from Prague, Tereza Bušková came to my attention for short films made in Bohemia, presenting living tableaux - more like a linked succession of moving paintings than a story - in which traditional rituals are seamlessly merged with artistic reinterpretations and interventions with haunting, cello-heavy soundtracks. They can be taken to assert the resilience of rituals that outlasted communism. Bušková has recently made her films here, in collaboration with people.   ‘The Little Queens’ is an ancient Moravian festival: on the cusp of spring and summer, rural communities used to celebrate their daughters in order to strengthen their own connection with nature and ensure a bountiful harvest. The people of West Bromwich revisited it for a 21st Century audience. ‘Surrounded by their attendants clad in festive raiments’, explains Bušková, ‘the King and the Queen walked under an ornate canopy and gave blessings to all... The ultimate creation was a richer, more cohesive community, one that can weather the relentless waves of anti-immigration sentiment, misogyny and xenophobia.




 

Alice Water: 'Demise of Sunflower', 2024

Alice Walter builds her endearingly ramshackle paintings from small sections of sawn plywood, frayed odds and ends of previously used canvases and oddments that have fed themselves from the locality into the decidedly functional mess of her St Leonards studio. If that sounds abstract, it is – until the textures and colours suggest some sort of figuration – then she goes with that, adding in some recurring tropes, such as a ‘blockhead’ that might be a self-portrait of sorts – she likes ‘the idea of the cartoon bringing things down to earth in a humorous way’. Out of all that something of the medieval, the folksy and the surreal coheres in a peculiarly Walterish way, topped off by riddling titles. Where is the sunflower in ‘Demise of Sunflower’? Ah, of course… Then we go back and forth between the material reality, the ambiguous space and scale, and the compelling presence of her small worlds.

 

Kristian Evju tends towards the enigmatic. His characters – whether in a play or dream – are a mixed bunch, but then Evju explains that he ‘doesn’t want to know anything about’ the figures he draws from a vast range of historical archives. ‘I look at paintings like arguments about whatever I’m trying to explore’, says Evju, ‘but who knows what that is?’ Scenes and characters are inspired by found imagery, fragments of the past merged with an imaginary present. Moreover, he adds in equally mysterious patterns, such as the op-art styled bodies in the ‘Interventions’ series, and often places the figures in geometrically and materially elaborate settings – here a geometric structure of poplar, aluminium and Perspex. Yet what sounds as if it will jar is executed with manic precision, so that the implausible becomes illogically convincing. Yet that still leaves us unsure of time, place or the degree of reality - and of the mood: are these surreal japes, or dystopic dissections of the post-truth world?

 


NEW ENQUIRIES DAILY 2024




In order of composition, newest at the top. 

Photographs from Ashurst, New Forest unless indicated otherwise.




‘Water logic’?

Sounds sophisticated...

Actually, it's just an awkwardly high and pointlessly elaborate 

table on which to put the jugs of water.

 

(Conquest Hospital, St Leonards)

 

A large portion

of peace, please,

preferably worldwide -

and could I have that with chips?


(World Peace Shop, Bexhill)


 


Let us not get carried away

Plenty of shops have closed their doors,

many more important than a picture framer –

but that's just my perspective.

(Bexhill)

 

 


This isn't abstract art

says the gallery text, but it is attempting

‘to represent the unrepresentable’,

which looks like having the same result…


(Manuel Mathieu: 'The End of Figuration' at the De La Warr PAvilion, Bexhill) 


 


It's a shame

the wall has a broken its necklace,

though it still exudes

a scattered glamour.

 

(Bexhill)

 

 


This is the most

commendably restrained

‘No Parking’ notice I can recall.

Several cars are parked in front of it.

 

(Sign almost fully overpainted, St Leonards)



The way the world is

I'd expect to find this toilet

dirty and malfunctional,

but I'm not playing along. 


(Hackney, London)




When the sun rose

in the daisies

I knew the day was going

to be good. 


(St Leonards)

 


These days, I guess

the video’s sound is silence –

and not because

there’s been a return to silent movies.

 

(St Leonards)

 


Compromise

is not the same as failure:

the practice of accommodation

is a large part of success.

 

(St Leonards)


 


THE CYST



There’s plenty in the world

one would rather didn’t exist

I’m certainly keen that the lump on my arm

should become an ex-cyst.


(12 May 2024)



Either my gown

is mortally wounded,

or else I can't deny the charge 

of making it rather bloody.


(Southampton General Hospital, just after having the cyst in my arm excised and drained - ie surgically lanced - on 14 May. A surprisingly full tray of blood and puss resulted, plus overspill)



‘This is Lancing’

says the announcer.

I can’t help feeling ‘That was lancing’

would have been more to the point.


(Lancing Railway Station, 15 May)



This is all the existence 

an ex-cyst can aspire to. 

I can't see why it bothers:

perhaps it won't, for long.


(St Leonards, 17 May)

___________________________________



Mind you don't slip 

on the sign that's enacting 

exactly the fate

that it warns you against.

 

(Southampton General Hospital)


  

You can't trust buttercups

to reveal affection:

they’ll always claim you’re loved, five petals on.

Better to take your chances with a daisy.

 

(Minstead. ‘He loves me, he loves me not’ / ‘She loves me, she loves me not’ is a game in which a person alternately speaks the phrases  while picking one petal off a flower - usually a daisy - for each phrase. The phrase they speak on picking off the last petal supposedly represents the truth between the object of their affection loving them or not.)


 

 

A ball of hedge

makes little sense. It's hard to kick it

anywhere, let alone as far as the docks,

to a big enough structure to act as a goal.


(The docks begin just four miles from Ashurst, but still… )


 

The sun's own rays

cause the sun's zone.

But the sun is not a zone of itself:

 it's just the sun.

 

 


I’ve heard the jokes

about gnome sweet gnome

and I still find gnomes

more crass than sweet.


(Houndsdown)


 


See how the dandelion

wears the plan

for its own eternity

as if it were a skirt.





You could map every visible star

onto this constellation of daisies,

the only question being

which daisies to omit.

 (Nottingham)


 


Beware of crocodiles

next time you’re looking

to snap up a bargain

on the High Street…

 (Nottingham)


 

Here's where the barber sign

asks the Post Office Tower

‘what makes you think

it’s such a big deal to revolve?’ 


(Fitzrovia, London)


 


This is how

you mark the place of a market stand.

It makes sense to patrol your claim

with a pigeon.

 

(Chapel Street Market, Islington, London)


 


Where buttercups

are yellow, straight, because they love the sun,

bluebells are a shade of blue 

because they love the shade.


(Lyndhurst) 





Edward Square may seem a little dull

to those who've crossed swords with Pete Point,

or traced the curves of Lucy Round.

Yet worthiness is worthy, after all. 

 

(Edward Square, Barnsbury – one of London’s first public gardens when opened to all in 1888. Who, by the way, put the word into swords?)

 


See how gently he sands the paintwork down

as if it were the tooth

of one of the patients who've defected

from Rough Work Dental down the road. 

 

(Alton)


 


The Germans love their big blue pipes

I reckon that’s because it is

the love of big blue pipes itself

that all those big blue pipes pump round.

 

(Berlin)

 


The case for having hair of grass

is clear enough - winter is a doddle.

How about a lawn of hair?

No reasons come to mind…

 

(Cornelia Schleime: ‘Wenn der Ostwind weht’ (When the East Wind Blows),  2016  -  Acrylic, asphalt varnish and shellac on canvas,  220 × 360 cm at Galerie Judin, Berlin)


 


The feathered nettle

is all about lure and contrast.

Can I feel the former,

Without edging into the latter?

 

(Berlin)

 


That moment when

you notice that you’re sinking

then realise that the lifebuoy is stuck between the rails

and, anyway, is made of bronze…

(Berlin – that’s Norbert Radermache’s ‘The Ring’, 1985, on Potsdamer Brücke)

 


This looks like pool that I can play…

too rough for skill to count for much,

and no pockets, besides, to benefit those

who know how to hold a cue.

 

(Berlin)

 

 


A rose is a rose is

some sort of monstrosity

in what appears to be cement.

Its sweetness must be its scent.

(Berlin)

 

 


I can't see the photographer 

but can tell that the pose

is not for me.  

Am I entitled to take my own picture?


(Berlin)


 


Have I discovered a new form

of discrimination? Or should I ask

‘Habe ich eine neue Form

der Diskriminierung entdeckt?’

 

(Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin)


 


Don a green hat

from a green situation

to banish the blues

and keep your thoughts spring-fresh.

 

(Berlin)




What is slightly out of kilter?

The construction

of the U-Bahn system

or how I line up my phone?


(U-Bahnhof Konstanzer Straße, Berlin)

 


The sun is out

The bath’s in place.

The Germans love to be naked.

What can explain their failure to wash here?

 

(Berlin)

 


What an achievement

I don't think it is

to be the first bus that I see in Berlin

when it’s not even one that I wanted to catch.

 

(Berlin)

 

 


What would you sooner suspend?

The laws of gravity

or that lot,

over your head? 

 

(Clapham Junction, London)



Tables dancing?

It doesn't seem likely 

even at the peak of Soho's 

reputation for the disreputable.

 

(Soho, London)


 


You know that summer is coming

when the blossom falls from the wall

leaving the bulk of it

greyer than before.

 

(Deptford, London)

 


 

Do Not Disturb!

For I am getting 

ready 

to unfurl...

 

(lily, Camberwell, London)



They’re thoughtful round here

cutting a section

out of the cover-board

in case you want to see the wall.

(Deptford, London)


This is the place

to bring a clapped-out bike

if you can’t be bothered

to take it down the tip.

 

(Mayfair, London)


 


How much simpler it would be

to remove any bicycles

chained to the railings

were they not chained to the railings!

 

(Bloomsbury, London - less favourable than Mayfair, it seems, if you want the bike removed)


 

That's enough

of the mottling drizzle, drip and mist –

now's the time

for the bolder strikes of proper rain.

(Bermondsey, London) 



One would be an incident

Two is a tendency.

Three would amount to

a suspiciously unlikely trend.

 

(straws in Holborn. London)

 


The Baselitz bike is an awkward ride

It isn’t so much the free-spinning wheels

Getting you nowhere

As the scraping of the head as you try.

 

(Bloomsbury, London - Georg Baselitz is known for paintings that appear the wrong way up)


 


What you want

is buffers worth hitting –

not so much physically as metaphorically.

The railways pull the trick off all the time.

 

(Waterloo Station, London)


 


The tipping point for ferns

is rather literal:

when the tips

unfurl to a point.

 

(Furzey Gardens, Minstead)

 

A Zalean Colour Chart

may not have room for every hue

but for garden beauty purposes

it will do.

 

(Azaleas in Furzey Gardens, Minstead)


 

I can't believe

that easel was used to paint the wall -

but if it was,

that was quite some canvas it supported!

 

(Shoreditch, London)


 

How do you sleep 

on a train? 

With quite a lot of snuffle noise,

that I have spared you here.

 

(Between Winchester and Woking)


 

If you can see the world

in a grain of sand,

why not the cosmos

in the cracking of a pane?

 

(St James’s, London)

 

You never know…

If you sleep outside Pret,

you may wake up to breakfast

or, more likely, brunch…

 

(Oxford Circus, London)

 


I like the moment

when speckles of rain

complement or cover or even seem to merge

with speckles on the stone.

 

(Southampton)


 


I’ve been cut back

in what I'd call my prime

were it not so easy

to end it.

 

(Southampton)

 


Does this really

throw light

on the mechanics of a street lamp?

I’m baffled by the spring…

 

(Charing Cross, London)



 

The sign of the cross

is such a barrier here!

Do they want to stop the unconverted

climbing up to ecstasy?

 

(St Anne’s Church, Soho, London)



Given the exposure to the elements

it’s hard to be surprised

that almost every hairdresser

has given up on grass

 

(Hillier’s Arboretum, Hampshire)

 


This much tape 

suggests an invisible reason -

if only that someone's keen that we

should wonder what that is.

 

(Canada Water, London)

 


Living in a parallel world

would suit me fine

if I just knew 

whether I was in the real one.

 

(Finchley Road, London)

 


Kiss the hippo

massage the rhino

kick the kanga 

tickle the tiger…

 

(Covent Garden, London. It sounds dangerous, but according to the chain’s founder, Joshua Tarlo, the name 'Kiss the Hippo Coffee' is merely ‘a playful expression of the company's respect for nature’ – it was the first coffee company in the industry to be certified as a carbon negative.)

 


I’m not convinced

that this is a man looking out of the window -

but I concede

he’s something of a star.

 

(Mayfair, London)

 

Daisies, dandelions, primroses, buttercups…

All I'm saying is:

I've never seen a cowslip

bloom along this way.


(Totton)


You can't expect these trees to swim

Even if they did have lessons,

it would take a million years of evolution

to give them any chance.


(Totton)

 



Is that all philosophy tells us?

That there's really no chance

of reeling in seeming

as far as the really real real?

(The image - at least on 5 April 2024, was the first to come up from a Google image search for 'reeling in seeming')  



Spring brings a surfeit

of helio-yellows.

Which grabs the glory?

Pick your fix… 

 

 


Blowsy is

as blowsy does

but the essence of blowsy

must be what it was.

 

(You can describe lush, overblown flowers that are a bit past their peak bloom as ‘blowsy’)

 


I guess I wouldn’t mind

too much

were it full of my shit –

but I wouldn’t like anyone else’s.

 

(Deptford, London)

 


The urban cow is glossy pink 

and either has no lust for grass, 

or else has learned to channel it

into cinnamon buns and lattes.

 

(Farringdon, London)


 


Who doesn’t favour natural light?

Well, this must be as natural,

albeit short of lumen-power,

as artificial light can get.

 

(Deptford, London)

 

 


Has a feather escaped

from a pillow in disguise,

or is it here

by sleep-tickling happenstance?

 

(Farringdon, London)

 

 


12 across

Four letters that

‘will smell as sweet

if you get this answer wrong’.

 

(Train, Basingstoke)

 


You never know

when there might be two fires

and only one alarm –

and then where would we be?

 

(Mayfair, London)



Eat pizza and save the world

Walk backwards in red shoes and save the world. 

Write poems about photographs and save the world.

Stop the sun exploding and save the world...


(West Brompton, London)


 


The simple allure of complexity

is evident here:

the complex allure of simplicity

may be harder to pin down.


(Piccadilly, London)

 



Why would you dump ice down a drain?

Let us say to protest global warning…

Either that, or there’s a lot of whisky

being readied for the rocks down below.

 

(St James’s, London)



Last year the primroses

rose rather modestly -

primly, even.

Now they’re on the rise.

 

Ah, the eternal question

of how to define the temporary!

This machine’s rejected notes for over five years,

but that’s less than a blip in the universe’s timespan. 



Let us assume them

mother and daughter:

that hereditary pink hair

seems to fade a little over time.

(Portsmouth)



I like

a good yard sale.

How much

if I take the lot?


(Portsmouth)



All I can say is

if Boris tried to seduce me,

I’m pretty sure

I wouldn’t fuck him.


(Portsmouth)


 

Portsmouth is looking at me

eyelash-branches in its eye.

I'm not sure I want to look

at Portsmouth.


 

What is the effect of causes?

To make matters other

than they would have been.

But what is the cause of effects?


(Portsmouth)


 It was a squeeze

to get through, we won't deny it,

but you can't tell us where we’ll fit in,

nor what we're meant to do.

(Portsmouth) 

 


Why did the couple next to me

spend the whole hour down to Portsmouth

wordless, bookless – phoneless, even

in favour of staring at places like this?

(Fratton) 


 


Why must magnolia move

just as one is snapping it?

It looks too late

to be part of the process of blooming.

 

(Oxford)

 


‘How many greats’

asks the clock of the sun,

‘do I need, to get back to 

you being my parent?’


 

Its job

is to illumine, and yet it reflects.

But reflection

can throw light on matters, too.


(Whitechapel, London) 



Halfway up

is surely better than halfway down,

even conceding

that they’re the same place.


(Edgeware, London)

 

 

The law of diminishing rocks

States that size is proportional to distance.

I’d be tempted to increase the size by corresponding increments

were it not for the view from the other end.


(Whitechapel, London) 



Death’s on its way

I know it you know it

I just hope I don't look

this scared or surprised.



 

Dead flowers

may seem a bad omen,

but when there are seven

the summer is going to be good.




I like the way a celandine 

spreads. No holding back,

no fear of looking daft if the sun stays in -

even though it probably will.




I've never got off the train

at Millbrook.

Nor it is obvious

why I should...


(Southampton)



It makes little sense

that something so common as daffodils

can retain the power to enchant.

Yet there they are.

 


I like this picture

enough to include it,

even though

I have no words.


(Southampton)


 

If walls have feelings

the same as some rocks,

this one must be suffering

quite a bit of pain.


(Southampton)

 


Would you want to live in a house

that backs onto death quite as directly as these?

Even if it made your last journey

that little bit quicker?


(Southampton)


 


Why do cars have ears?

To help,

of course,

their drivers to see. 


(Southampton)



Even 

in the pebble kingdom,

single parent families 

are on the rise.

 

(Broadstairs)

 

 


On Broadstairs Beach 

I can connect nothing 

to Eliot.

I need to get to Margate, fast.

 

(Broadstairs. In 1921 TS Eliot, recuperating from a nervous breakdown, had sat in a shelter on Margate’s seafront while writing Part III of The Waste Land.‘On Margate Sands / I can connect / Nothing with nothing. / The broken fingernails of dirty hands. / My people humble people who expect / Nothing.’)

 


Here everyone is keen to please

They serve with smiles,

stop to let us cross the road,

accommodate guests who can’t spell.

 

(Broadstairs: photo of sign spotted by Steph)





Alder was felled

Berry had no time to ripen; Pollard 

was cut back; White went into the dark.

Everyone was grateful to them.

 

(Broadstairs)

 


They like their puns in Thanet

‘Max Headroom’ was already one,

so ‘Matt's Headroom’ is a pun

as squared as the back of a haircut.

 

(Broadstairs)


 


‘You won't be planting that in me

unless you use a

very, very powerful

anaes…. ‘

 

(Broadstairs)


 

How long was it? 

Probably not as long as it seemed.

The air was tossing, turning, shifting,

never could quite settle in its bag.

 

(Broadstairs)

 

 


Follow the line past the bin

and just beyond infinity

you'll find him cleaning windows 

in a never-ending cycle…

 

(Margate)


 


What may seem

a difficult project

is seamlessly achieved here:

the gridding of sand.

 

(Margate)

  


I guess I shouldn’t be surprised

that the ‘Rose in June’ is closed in March

Business must be a struggle 

on just one month a year 

 

(Margate)

 


We’re proud to live here

up to a point: a point 

that was tested in 2011 and tipped in ‘22.

Can we move to Princess Anne?  

 

(Broadstairs: there is a ‘Princess Anne Road’ nearby. Accusations about sexual abuse by the already-less-than-popular Prince Andrew, Duke of York, arose in 2011, in the context of his association with the convicted sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein. In 2022 he made a multi-million pound settlement to prevent the matter reaching court. That was widely seen as a tacit admission of guilt, and the royal family obliged Andrew to withdraw from public life.)


 


This will be

the national hub

when the Barbie Revolution 

skateboards into town. 

 

(Broadstairs)


 


Do I detect

a certain determination

to stop anybody getting under

Westover Road?

 

(Broadstairs)


              

This is a seat

worth sitting on:

I may not even need

to need the loo.

 

(Margate)

 


Two up two down

in Cliftonville:

they don't make wildernesses

the way they used to.

 

(Margate)


 

Spoiler alert

The winner is revealed,

and he doesn't look surprised…

or even happy.

 

(New Milton)

 


I expect 

to find things pretty disgusting, 

that being the state of the country these days. 

Does that mean I should mess the place up?


(Café, New Milton)

 

This is the shape

of the boundary

between 40 and 100 % gravel -

with gravel roughly equal on either side.

 

(New Milton. The typical concrete mix is made up of roughly 10% cement, 20% air and water, 30% sand, and 40% gravel)

  


That must have been

one hell of a closing party,

a night on which the usual old customs

seemed so cool they might have been new.

 

(the former Old's Cool Occasions and Old's Cool Customs, New Milton)



Ignoring the rain

I combed the streets 

for items of interest - 

and all I found was this.


 (New Milton)



Why is it called

Old Milton?

You don't say Old York or Old Amsterdam. 

Let the usurpers carry the burden of distinction!

 

(Old Milton)

     

I was puzzled for a moment 

Why would the Evening Standard

 list the contents of The Independent?

Then I realised my mistake – or theirs...

 

(Northern Line, London)




The problem is

if you’ve laid down

you won’t be able to reach

the top of the box to open it.

 

Stute

should be a word

for an intelligent person.

Who wouldn’t want to be a stute?

 

(If you put ‘intelligent person’ into an online image search, the first page is dominated by Einstein)

       


Are Sotheby’s moving

with the trans times?

I guess not, that’s probably an old-fashioned jacket,

not a short skirt.

 

(Sotheby’s, Mayfair, London)

 


This looks like

a dangerously drippy place to stand.

But what is life

if you never take a risk?

 

(Waterloo, London)


I didn't know that Arb

had been canonized:

who'd have thought that making coffee

could get you so far?

 

(Warren Street, London. Kerning is the typographical process of adjusting the spacing between characters. Sometimes there are restrictions.)  


                     

What I like

about the 440 page

‘Fish Hooks of the Pacific Islands’

is that it's Volume Two.

 

(Thomas Heneage booksshop, Piccadilly, London)

  


Here is the puddle zone

well on the way –

stop right now, rain! –

to becoming a flood.



Hose-woman bows

her nozzle head:

I’m flattered,

and slightly surprised.

 

(Burgh House, Hampstead, London)

 


‘Where’, I'm inclined to ask grass

‘is your backbone?’

And what kind of excuse is

'not needing one’?

 

(Windy riverside, Greenwich, London)



The already-pleasure 

of parking for free 

is nudged a touch higher

by knowing that there used to be a charge.


(Lymington New Forest Hospital)

  

Rampant kingdomism

continues to deny plantae

the decent depth of burial

routinely afforded animalia.

 

(Hiller’s Arboretum, Hampshire: who can doubt the bias in how we treat the five kingdoms, with Animalia, Plantae and Fungi respected in that order, followed by Monera and Protista)

 

It’s one thing

to grow up as the odd one out,

another to be odd

without the prospect of change.

 

(Public convenience, Lymington)


 


This strikes me as a pipe worth smoking

Until the chance arises

I shall stick with abnegation:

even vapes have yet to tempt me.

 

(Farringdon, London)

 

 

This is how you walk the path

Ignore the night.

Follow the instructions.

Reach the gated distance and you're done.



The ivy’s flowered

brighter and sooner, and faded faster,

than I have ever seen before -

and I’ve known sixty springs…



I have my doubts

Is scrubbing away the yellow line

really sufficient

to free up your parking?


(Paddington, London)

 


It's a long-established trick

Dash in, take the credit,

turn round sharp

and walk straight out.


 (Walpole Park, Ealing, London)



The longest snake I've ever seen

 is writhing here.

You need to be careful:

the head could be anywhere.


(Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing, London)

 


It’s hard to say

if the hat is flattering

or simply a practical means

of shutting out the world of delay.

(Southampton-London train: this passenger appeared dozily unfazed by our running 50 minutes late)


 

People prefer to go

over a bridge.

Water is happy enough

going under.



It's easier to catch rain

in a bucket then in a photo:

it needs to be pretty-much bucketing down

to make enough pictorial impression.

 

(Southampton)

 


Are we paying for holes?

Or is that rendered immaterial

by how much space is always present

at the subatomic level?

 

(Sourdough bread is certainly prone to gaps. That said, nearly everything is emptiness: if you take account of the space between the electrons of an atom, 99.9999999% of us – or bread – is space)


 

X marks the spots

though it’s fair to point out

that everywhere else

is also recording the rain.

 

(Peckham, London)

 


Hang on a second!

That may be

a bit too slow. 

Moments also have their limits.

 

(Closed coffee shop enjoining us to slow down - Peckham, London)

 

Don't fuss!

Just get your head down.

What does gratitude

cost you, after all?

 

(Deptford, London)


 


AND

is only part of a word

from which little can be deduced

about what came next and

 

(Peckham, London)

 

This is how

the solar system looks from Peckham:

the substance of the sun

having been eaten.

 

(Peckham, London)

  


Here you might buy

your vibrato or masturbat,

yr lub, yr sxy unds.

But I wdn’t trust their condos.

 

(Southampton)




If plastic bottles were plastic flowers

and plastic flowers were allowed by the rules

this wouldn’t get far, nevertheless,

in a gardening competition.

 

(Southampton)





Is it the same transitional thing?

From larva to flight mode,

from feudal to capital 

from dry to wet?


(Pavement as rain begins, Bermondsey, London)


   

‘At the moment

ATMs are useless, sorry,

and the more I spend, the less I have.

Ask tomorrow, maybe I'll get paid.’

 

(Automated Teller Machine, Clerkenwell, London. Not to mention the heater...)

 

 


Life isn't simple

You can't expect

an automatic fit:

this is as close as you’re likely to get.

 

(Mayfair, London)

 


Why should I trust that man at all?

For all I know 

he's fallen rather gravely ill

since they put the advert up.

 

(Kensington, London: David Gady is considered perhaps the leading male fashion ‘supermodel’, though I admit I hadn’t heard of him before I saw him stating in this advert how he's 'always trusted Wellman')

 


The splashbird

leaves a distinctive track -

consistent with dragging its well-webbed feet,

reluctant to accept that they’re not in water.

 

(Mayfair, London)

 

 

 

This may not be shit creek

this may not quite be a paddle,

but there may be a comparable problem

unless it has been cast aside by a one-legged cyclist.

 

(Kensington, London)

 

 


This is an unfiltered view

of Exhibition Road:

you can't call a phone box up-to-date technology

in the context of an edit.

 

(Kensington, London)


The Dutch

seem to favour stickerfiti:

spraycans are going

a little too far…


(Amsterdam)





 You won’t find a world

without grit.

The academic question being 

Whether you would want one…

 

(Schiedam)

 

I worry

that my worry lines

have started to outweigh my smile –

and then I worry that that will make them worse.

 

(Rotterdam)

 


You can tell the time

from the groundlights here – 

or you could,

were any of them set correctly. 

 

(Rotterdam)

 


The fundamental error here -

climbing on the outside of the building –

made worse by the fact that

there are only four proper footholds.

 

 (Rotterdam: work by Daan Botlek – ‘Make it Happen’, 2017)



How did this work?

Why would you lay a pavement

that doesn't fit? Or build a wall  

that squashes the pavement up?

 

(Rotterdam)

                          

There comes a point

when the only purpose of light bulbs

seems to be to light up themselves.

That's when you turn them off. 

 

(Den Haag Centraal Train Station)



Now that I'm old

I see the new as nothing more

than age in the waiting room.

It won't be all that long.

 

(Schiedam)

 


I don’t want to seem ungrateful

but who needs eight pillows,

especially when they’re all too fat?

Maybe I do want to seem ungrateful…

 

(Bilderberg Parkhotel, Rotterdam)


 


Can it really be

that the paper,

not the act

is the focus of attention here?


(Stedelijk Museum Schiedam)

 




Has this street got above itsel?

What justified the elevation

from brick-plain Scots

to the fluted  fantoosheries of Ancient Greece?

 

(Euston, London: 'Drummond' is a habitational name from several Scots towns. ‘Itsel’ and ‘fantoosherie’ (flashiness / pretentiousness) are Scots words. ‘Doric’ is ‘the ancient Greek dialect of the Dorians’ as well as ‘relating to or denoting a classical order of architecture characterized by a sturdy fluted column and a thick square abacus resting on a rounded moulding’)

 

Help me please!

My walls are crumbling, the roof is overloaded,

I fear the log fire is out of control -

and I have no funds to put disaster right!

 

(Mayfair, London)

 


We may have found our winner

in the contest for maximum drippage.

I just hope

no message was intended.

 

(Victoria, London)




The Box Bird’s nests

appear in April –

sometimes early, sometimes late,

I’ve often wondered why…

 

(Since Easter happens on the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon (i.e. the ecclesiastical full moon of the northern spring), it can fall on any date between March 22 and April 25)

 

 


Christmas is over

The only presents to be given now

are trees to the streets

who may not even want them.


(London / Brussels, late January 2024) 



            

 

It's all very well

to say they're out of date round here,

but how many current Belgian bands

get to play in London, after all?


(Brussels, 2024: both The Human League and UB40 had their hits in the early 1980's)




The birds of Brussels

just about scrape by,

dodging the rubbish to nest in plant pots.

It’s surprising they grow to such sizes.


(Vanderkindere, Brussels) 




The Belgians

love their dogs

but do the dogs

love Belgium?


(Brussels) 



Blue people to the left

Red people to the right.

Surrealists,

carry right on.

(Brussels - the city of Magritte - is strongly associated with the convention-defying surrealist movement) 


      


Call yourself

a tree,

you twig-weak failure to take up space?

At least your father could stand up for himself.


(Brussels) 



Beware

of leaving your car boot open:

who knows who’ll steal a photo

or even a bottle of water…


(Brussels) 



Love can be

as delicate as a feather.

Love can be

as base as a drain.

 (Brussels)



Behind the eyes

behind the windows

behind the trees…

Thoughts.


 (Brussels)



I don't see windows

I see lives made visible

by the lack of visibility

that means they need extra light.

(Brussels)



 

The concrete fence

that pretended to be wood

didn’t even think about how hard it would be

for a wooden fence to pretend to be concrete. 


(Brussels)

That’s quite a contraption!

I’m hoping

to be strobed to sleep

but it doesn’t quite happen.

 

(Belgrove Hotel, London)


People think she's tardy

but it's merely that her units need converting:

‘in a second’ is a minute, ‘a minute’ is five,

‘ten minutes’ is half an hour, and so on.

 

(Actually, she is Tardy – golfer Bailey Tardy, presumably the buck of jokes if she is late. I meant to post this earlier.)


  


This looks too vulnerable

to be out in public - 

doesn't the pinkness

belong on the inside?

 

(Bethnal Green, London)

 

 


The Imposter Syndrome 

can rear its head anywhere.

But I say: 

let's make  difference our friend.

 

(Cambridge Heath. London)



 

       


It’s not itself the biggest news

but I went in here to buy a paper,

believing logic on my side -

and found they didn't sell them.


(Bishopsgate, London)

      

Don't get me wrong   

Trees have their merits

but lamp posts, they light up the world

and know the right way to behave around pavements.

 

(Cambridge Heath, London)



 I love the practicality!

The daily puzzling

over which foot is which

made so much easier!

 

(Whitechapel Underground Station, London)



I’m touched

by how tenderly –

even though down to a less-than-stump slice -

the big tree cradles its diminutive friend.

 

(Clissold Park, London)



It was a matter of honour 

to abandon this book 

in public disgrace. 

I swear I didn’t read a single word.

 

(Manor House, London)

  


At least it's dark 

But how would you like 

to have your inners exposed 

to any passing fetishist of circuits? 


(Manor House, London)

 


 

‘Bollocks to bullocks’

reads the  360°

feedback from their neighbours,

understandably provoked by the noise and smell.

 

(Fitzrovia, London)

 


The winter sun

is low enough to make me wonder:

is it really

93 million miles up? 


(Redbridge, Southampton)

 

        

I remember 

when it would have mattered 

that a telephone box had been smashed up

and you couldn't call in to report it.

 

(Manor House, London)


 

This isn’t the sort of handbag

that’s worth more than its contents.

What I’d take for a grin

becomes a grimace.

(Manor House, London)



 

The X’s

act as indicators,

just in case you fail to spot

that the pavement’s been repaired. 


(Mayfair, London)

 


        


Where to walk?  

Unable to reach the ceiling,

I pondered the balance required for the handrail.

Then I saw the footmarks and all was clear.


(South Kensington Tube Station, London)






Want to stack a tower block

on a van

on a car?

I suggest you cheat.

 

(Redbridge, Southampton)


 


Here is normality

reflecting normality to such an extent

that I’m starting to think

it's abnormal.

 

(Southampton)


 

Having complained about getting no bin bags

I was almost disappointed, when they arrived,

to find that all our neighbours

had been given some too.

 

(I say ‘almost’, because - of course – the good fortune of others should not diminish our own. Consider, for example, the parable of Jesus and the vineyard workers… Matthew 20: 1–16)





 

I didn't expect

to be brought the wrong order

and maybe I wasn't

but I did have the thought.

 

(Trusty Servant Inn, Minstead)



Christmas in the countryside

appears pretty gloomy:

look how down in the tinsel mouth

this Landrover seems to be!


(Minstead)




This curtain of light

is a trick of just that. 

And makes it no easier

To peek through and in...

 

(Mayfair, London)


 


Barrier post 

is not a bad job

apart from the meaningless waiting around

for the meaningful waiting around to begin.


(Saatchi Gallery, London)


    

Even if

you wrap yourself against the world

and stand as still as possible,

time will not stop passing.


(Sloane Square, London)


 


Pickpockets swear by them

Nimble fingers multiplied

beyond the dreams of even

the most mephistophelian pianist.


(Saatchi Gallery, London)


            


Were I not only naked

but suffering from excess shine

and a really bad case of Slice’s Disease

I'd be sweating, too.


(Statue, South Bank Centre, London - Klaus Weber: 'Peacock')


                 


This is no Christmas tree!

We must not give the clandar

precedence

over the species…


(Waterloo, London)

 

 

What's the difference

between a fuck and a shag?

A shag is rather like a cormorant,

whereas a fuck is rather like a shag.

 

(that’s a shag on the left, a cormorant on the right. What led me to this? I'm sorry, I haven't a clue.)

About Me

My photo
Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09) and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.

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