Archives for category: Art

The waxed moustache of Surrealist painter Salvador Dali has been voted the most famous, according to a survey of 14,144 British men, conducted by MSN HIM.

Hulk Hogan’s handlebar moustache came second, and Albert Einstein’s whiskers third.

Of his moustache, Dali once wrote:

“Since I don’t smoke, I decided to grow a moustache – it’s better for the health. However, I always carried a jewel-studded cigarette case in which, instead of cigarettes, were carefully placed several moustaches, Adolphe Menjou style. I offered them politely to my friends:

‘Moustache? Moustache? Moustache?’

“Nobody dared touch them. This was my test regarding the sacred aspect of moustaches.”

The top 10 Most Famous Moustaches are:

Salvador Dali (24 per cent)
Hulk Hogan (18 per cent)
Albert Einstein (13 per cent)
Friedrich Nietzsche (12 per cent)
Charlie Chaplin (11 per cent)
Freddie Mercury (11 per cent)
Daley Thompson (4 per cent)
Bruce Forsyth (3 per cent)
Jimi Hendrix (3 per cent)
Ian Botham (1 per cent)


Gaspar Noé was high on magic mushrooms when he came up with the style for his latest film ‘Enter the Void’.  He was watching Robert Montgomery‘s ‘Lady in the Lake‘, based on Raymond Chandler‘s brilliant novel.  In the film, Montgomery, who also starred as Philip Marlowe, used the camera as a first person Point Of View, to tell the story, something which had been seen briefly before, in the opening sequence of Rouben Mamoulian‘s ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde‘.  The tripped-out Noé saw in Montgomery’s vision a way to make the ultimate filmic sensory experience.  The result is ‘Enter the Void‘.

Noé’s tale may have been inspired by Montgomery’s clever approach to film-making, but it is more reminiscent of Jonas Åkerlund‘s banned, ground-breaking promo ‘Smack My Bitch Up‘ made in 1997 for The Prodigy, where a night of drink, drugs, sex and violence is seen from the POV of the central character.  Indeed there is some similarity between Åkerlund’s genius originality and Noe’s breath-taking style in his latest film.

Enter the Void‘ is a psychedelic head trip that follows the life and death of Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), a American small time drug dealer adrift in Tokyo, who is fatally shot in a police raid.  The camera then becomes Oscar’s POV as his spirit/memory/soul, recalling key events in his life and death, as he comforts his sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta).

The film is a visual feast, akin to Kenneth Anger‘s ‘Inauguration of the Pleasuredom‘, Stanley Kubrick‘s ‘2001‘ and promos directed by Åkerlund and Jonathan Glazer. However, its mix of beauty and horror (a car crash and an abortion feature prominently), has divided critics.  This is unlikely to trouble Noé, whose last film, the shockingly brutal ‘Irrevérsible‘, was described as “one of the most disturbing and controversial films of 2002”, that took “an adolescent pride in its own ugliness”, with its depiction of rape and murder.

Noé is an exceptional film-maker, and ‘Enter the Void‘ will further establish his reputation as a director who can infect the mind and imagination with his disturbing, and shockingly original vision.

On his Facebook page, the writer Steve Duffy “isn’t quite sure what’s scarier: that this Tumblr thread exists in the first place, or that over a thousand people are fans of it.”

Hold that thought, for there are 1,000 fans (and counting) of Pinup RDJ, which is run by Lisa aka Saxifragious Personette, who writes:

“Vintage pinups are the pinnacle of art. Robert Downey jnr. is the pinnacle of sexy. It’s not rocket science.”

You know, she may have something here.  This is one we’re going to have to ponder.  Answers please, on a postcard.  In the meantime, enjoy Lisa’s incredible handiwork.

With thanks to Steve Duffy

Lena Gieseke‘s 3-D animation examines the details of Pablo Picasso‘s giant black and white painting ‘Guernica’.

Picasso painted ‘Guernica‘ in response to the German Luftwaffe’s and the Italian Fascist Aviazione Legionaria’s aerial bombing of the Basque town, Guernica, during the Spanish Civil War in April 1937.  Between 200 and 400 innocent civillians were slaughtered in the attack, which led to the Fascists, under Genral Franco, to defeat the Republicans, and seize control of Spain.

Originally commissioned by the Spanish Republican government for the ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques la Vie Moderne‘ in Paris, ‘Guernica’ became a symbol of the harrowing tragedies and suffering the Civil War inflicted on the innocent.  As he worked on the mural, Picasso was quoted as saying:

“The Spanish struggle is the fight of reaction against the people, against freedom. My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. How could anybody think for a moment that I could be in agreement with reaction and death? … In the panel on which I am working, which I shall callGuernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death.”

After the ‘Exposition’, Picasso refused to allow the painting to return to Spain, until the country was  a Republic once again.  Between 1939 and the late 1950s ‘Guernica’ toured the world as a symbol against war.  At Picasso’s request the painting was then exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, where it remained until Franco’s death in 1975, and negotiations began to have ‘Guernica’ returned to home, which eventually happened in 1981.

There is a story that while Picasso was in Nazi-occupied Paris, during World War II, he was asked by a member of the Gestapo, upon seeing a postcard of ‘Guernica’ in the artist’s studio, ‘”Did you do that?” To which Picasso responded, “No, you did.”

In 2001, Channel 4 television, in the UK, broadcast a 20-part sci-fi short animation series called ‘Workgroup Alpha’.  It starred Ed Bishop and dealt with a team of inter-dimensional consultants, lost on an intergalactic space mission. Bishop, with his association as Commander Straker from Gerry Anderson’s cult TV hit ‘UFO’, was ideally cast as Aquarius, the Enterprise Class Visionary, who with his fellow travellers explored “a whole new dimension in universal solutions”.

Though there is the passing hint of Frederick Pohl’s satirical sci-fi classic ‘The Space Merchants’, which imagined a world run by ad agencies, ‘Workgroup Alpha’ offered an intelligent and witty critique of the growing cultural obsession with corporate speak, focus groups, PR consultants, and all those other anemic constructs that have depersonalized our world.

The end credit to the series was attributed to the Butler Brothers, the name by which John and Paul Butler operate.  Paul is the co-producer, writer and conceptual consultant.  John is writer, designer, animator, composer, co-producer, and director.

I first heard about the Butler Brothers through friends, though it was always John Butler who attracted the most attention.  His name was mentioned with that hushed reverential tone and nodding head of respect that said we had touched on some sacred matter.  It made Butler seem almost mythical – a great creative artist who lived somewhere (no one seemed quite sure where, or if they did, didn’t say), a garret most likely, where he created, with help from his brother, these incredible digital animations, of such intelligence and imagination.

I thought at the time, this is how the locals of Montmartre and Montparnasse must have behaved, when they whispered to each other about the artists creating works of art in their Parisian, attic studios, at the turn of the last century.

When I speak with John, the analogy chimes closely, as he states his ambition is  “To paint a picture of the world.”  And then adds his fear is, “Running out of paint.”

It’s a statement that best sums Butler up – he’s artistic, ambitious, intense, honest, imaginative, genuine, creative and witty.  He’s a real talent, which in these cloned days is a rare and precious thing – something John is aware.

“As an artist, I suppose my philosophy is composed of what interests me.   I’m interested in what happens in the world and why.   I’m not really interested in making art from or about art.

“I’m interested in human utility in the drone age.  Human redundancy in the unmanned economy.  I’m interested in the war between Finance and Humans.

“I’m interested in the Universal Transaction Space we all now inhabit.”

Hearing these clipped, bold, statements, it comes as no surprise that John’s favoured tomes are J. K. Galbraith’s ‘New Industrial State’ and Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle – that brutal novel of life in the meat packing industry.

John also has a penchant for French Literature and Michael Hudson, the economic historian, who he regards as: “one of the best guides to the way things are” while from the French, he claims, Balzac “tells you how much it costs.”

The Butler Brothers’ work is speculative science fiction that deals with the here and now.  It is like a video of the horrors of Guantanamo Bay filmed in a shopping mall.

“Speculative fiction is important because the future seems to be behind us, and nothing lies ahead. We’re just waiting for the next upgrade.

“That is the essence of contemporary culture.  It’s designed to disable the imagination.”

He describes himself as an “electronic artist” – someone who makes sound and vision using computers.  Butler is like the John Carpenter of the Digital Animation World – writing, producing, directing, designing, animating, and composing the music for all of the Brothers’ computer graphic videos.

“I do these things all at once, as I tend to feel my way through a project. This is a typical writer / painter mode of working.  I only figure out where it’s going half way through. This approach is not much use if you are commanding resources and directing people, so I prefer to do it myself.

“The advantage is that doing the wrong thing leads to discovery.”

“I make computer graphic videos rather than animations.  They are narrative but are more like Power Point writ large than CGI films.  I’m trying to make something like the Chamber of Commerce propaganda cartoons John Sutherland made in the fifties. It’s about pushing CGI sideways rather than forward.”

John originally studied drawing and painting at Art College, but he always wanted to move into something that could include music and, later on, narrative. It seemed inevitable that he would move towards animation.

The subject of his college thesis was Edgard Varèse, the pioneering composer who used a tape recorder as a compositional tool. He also made what was probably the first multimedia installation, the ‘Poem Electronique’ in 1958, the seminal collaboration with Le Corbusier and Philips Electric (they supplied the 225 loudspeakers).

This idea of synthesis between form and medium is key to Butler’s work, something he was introduced to in childhood.  His father was an industrial cameraman and film-maker for Ferranti, the electrical engineering and avionics firm that had factories in Edinburgh and Manchester.

Through his father, John had access to magazines such as ‘Aviation Week’, ‘Space Technology’ and ‘American Cinematographer’, which has given him a language that has seeped into his work.  It is akin to J. G. Ballard’s “invisible literature” – those scientific and medical journals that informed Ballard’s writing, or the way Thomas Pynchon wrote manuals for the BOMARC anti-aircraft missile that later shaped ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’.

More recently, Butler has used the language of commerce and economics, in particular ‘Forbes Magazine’.  He cites a recent example:

“Delcath’s chief executive, Eamonn Hobbs, and chief medical officer, Krishna Kandarpa, said in an interview that the study was designed around a written agreement with the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of New Drugs, and that the lack of a survival benefit occurred because patients who failed in the control group got Delcath’s therapy.”

He pauses.

“I like the term ‘lack of a survival benefit’. It means they died.”

Then adds.

“Can you really believe there’s a company called Delcath? It’s pure Philip K. Dick.

“It’s those euphemisms that create the secret language of business, which I like so much. That’s why my dialogue is so stylised, I’m not trying to show how people really talk, I’m trying to channel the argot of commerce through them.

“I think that in about twenty years, we will all talk presentational English.”

His other childhood influences include Don Lawrence’s illustrations for Mike Butterworth’s ‘Trigan Empire’, which he read when it was first serialized in Look and Learn’ – the weekly educational magazine for kids.  And understandably, for someone growing up in the sixties, the early Dr. Who, Star Trek and all of Gerry Anderson’s work, from ‘Stingray’ via ‘Thunderbirds’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’ through to ‘UFO’.  It was as much the originality of these programmes as their subject matter that appealed, “There was no such thing as remakes or postmodernism. It was all brand new.”

Splice in a little Philip K. Dick, J. G. Ballard, and Frederick Pohl, John Carpenter, ‘This Island Earth’ and Nigel Kneale’s ‘Quatermass’, and you’ll start to see the genetic material of John’s DNA.

However, it was a more recent work of science fiction that had an epihanic effect on Butler, namely Ed Neumeier’s work with Paul Verhoeven on the films ‘Robocop’ and the ‘Starship Troopers’.

“‘Robocop’ showed me that art could include everything. Politics, humour, experiment, excitement, beauty.  That’s where the Butler Brothers brand comes from, they were a games company in that film.”

John works with seven computers on two desks in the spare room of his West End flat.

“It’s more of a render allotment than render farm,” he says.

“I always thought that was the point of having personal computer systems and home studios. You can create your own work independently rather than seek authorization to command resources. You can also improvise and explore freely.

“The disadvantage is that you’ll never achieve the production values that are so important today, but I’m happy to do without.

“I’ve never really been one to draw up a detailed plan / storyboard and then execute it exactly, though I do script things like motion capture and voice recording sessions.

“I don’t use live video at all, which I would compare to sampling. I prefer 3D, which I think of as synthesis.”

The Butler Brothers’ most recent work is a sequel to their excellent, yet disturbing, ‘Darkness Seed’. Called ‘Children of the Null’ it limns uncanny parallels between our current obsessions with technology and social networks, and their hidden costs on individual freedom.  In the Butler Brothers’ world our modern technology has a more sinister purpose, it is used to “reaggregate” children as food for an alien parasite.

John describes the outcome as “quite horrific”, but though his view may be dystopian, he thinks it a fair assessment of our world.

“I was thinking of the way that, after 30 years of desocialisation, social media is reaggregating us into a more useful form via Facebook and its ilk.  I’m convinced social media has been designed to kill off the peer to peer movement.”

For John the need to critically examine the world we live in is a given, and it is one way to tell the truth of what is really going on.

It was the same for those artists of Montmartre and Montparnasse, for once they had shown the world ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’, it would never be the same.  Similarly, once you have watched a Butler Brothers film, you will never view the world in the same way again.

Images copyright © Butler Brothers 2010, used with kind permission

Happy Birthday Ken Russell

Happy Birthday Ken Russell.

Few British directors have been as successful or as controversial as Ken Russell.

With the exception of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, few directors have managed to produce a body of work that has appealed to mass audiences across such diverse genres as science-fiction (‘Altered States‘), espionage (‘The Billion Dollar Brain‘), musicals (‘The Boyfriend‘,’Tommy‘, ‘Listzomania‘), biography (‘The Music Lovers‘, ‘Savage Messiah‘, ‘Mahler‘, ‘Valentino‘), drama (‘Whore‘), comedy (‘French Dressing‘), horror (‘Lair of the White Worm‘, ‘Gothic‘), historical drama (‘The Devils‘), and literary (‘Women in Love‘, ‘The Rainbow‘, ‘Salome’s Last Dance‘).

Like the greatest of cinematic auteurs, Russell has created his own distinctive visual language that makes his work instantly recognisable, unforgettable and artistically important.

If this weren’t enough, Russell produced an outstanding body of television films, which has yet to be equalled for their intelligence (‘Delius – The Song of Summer‘), artistry (‘The Debussy Film‘) and controversy (‘Dance of the Seven Veils‘). Indeed it was Russell who devised the bio-pic or drama doc with his BBC film ‘Elgar‘, a form that has been relentlessly copied since.

Today Russell turns 83, and as we wish him a very Happy Birthday, we hope that he is encouraged and supported to produce more of his wonderful, inspiring and idiosyncratic films.

'Love And Sorrow' (2010)

The artist, Edward C. Zacharewicz has a large collection of antique paintings and religious prints.  The collection is a reminder of the images from his childhood that inspired him to start painting.

‘I was kid and going to Catholic Church with my parents and sitting there and just looking at the paintings and murals and how beautiful they were.’

It was the colours of the paintings – the bright flame of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the royal blue of the dress of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the scourged body, the pierced side, the hues and textures of the crucified Messiah.

Colours were important even then. His parents bought him painting-by-number sets and Edward filled them diligently.

‘I always enjoyed coloring, still do. I actually didn’t start to draw until I was 8 or 9 years old.  I think it was working with color that led me to paint in the style I do.

‘Color can show much emotion without being in a physical form.’

Zacharewicz’s paintings are amongst the most powerful Abstract paintings of the past twenty-five years.  He distills experience, thought and emotion into his art.

When you look at a Zacharewicz, you can understand why his favourite painter is William Turner, the man he describes as ‘the master’.

Turner was the ‘painter of light’.  His work anticipated Impressionism, and his use of brush on canvas suggested elements of Abstract Art.

Like Turner, Zacharewicz creates layered puzzles that use colour to show power and emotion.

‘All my paintings have to do with something from my life, a situation, a feeling, a thought, a person or place. I never decide, it just happens. I have a title for the work before I start.

‘I really don’t have a routine….sometimes I go weeks without painting, then all of a sudden I get this burst of wanting to paint…it might be a situation, it might be a spoken word.’

One of his most recent paintings was inspired this way.

‘‘It’s Not That Kind Of Party’ came from a conversation I was having with my friend Jessica Paris, who is the singer for Honey Spot Blvd.

'It's Not That Kind Of Party' (2010)

‘I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but somehow that was said in the conversation and I told her I was going to use it as a title for a painting. The colors I used were based on her – bright, happy colors that work well with others.’

‘Sometimes, it takes me days to finish a painting, when there has been times were I have finished one in a few hours. It depends on the colours, if I want to blend them, layer them, or drag them.

‘I basically paint with acrylics, sometimes I do add oils to a painting because I love the texture it can give. Also on some I have used oil pastel crayons for a different look.

‘There are times when I look at a painting for a few hours figuring out if it is done or not. But, I always know when it is finished.’

While he is now incredibly prolific, there was a time when Edward stopped painting for nearly twenty years – an event he is still unable to answer.

Why did you stop painting?

‘I really don’t have a true answer for that, it just kind of happened. I went from painting then to drawing in a sketchpad, then to writing poems and lyrics. Also, I was working a lot so I actually didn’t have a fair amount of time to really concentrate on my art. But, I always kept notes about paintings that I would want to do when I did start again.’

Now that he has returned to his first love, it is unlikely that he will stop. Zacharewicz’s work is in great demand.   He is being exhibited in New York and there are plans for shows in Europe next year.  His work is also to be used on the cover of the next Honey Spot Blvd CD – ‘They are a very talented band of musicians as well as wonderful friends and always very supportive of my art.’

‘I recently finished a photo/painting project with an amazing photographer Kristine Diven.  We chose one of her self-portraits and I attached it to the canvas and did a painting around it. It really is a wonderful piece.’

Zacharewicz is also working on a year-long project with West Coast artist Jeremy Guffey.

‘Jeremy wrote a poem and sent it to me, we are each doing 6 different paintings inspired by the poem and not letting each other see them until the series is done, and that will be in finished in late October. Finally, I am trying my hand at using pastels and doing abstract landscape drawings and well as doing some photography.’

All paintings © Edward C. Zacharewicz 2010 – used with permission of the artist