Well, not quite. More downloaded into my
itunes. But somehow it doesn’t sound quite so romantic. Anyway I have been
slightly obsessed with these three albums…
Thanks to Verity Sharp - the delectably knowledgeable
presenter of BBC Radio 3’s very excellent Late Junction - I was introduce to Thomas Feiner ...
– who coincidentally is a
graphic designer - one time vocalist with Swedish collective Anywhen.Back in 2001 they released The Opiates, their third and final
album. Few copies were made available and so it disappeared without trace. Until
now. David Sylvian (yes, that one) unearthed and rereleased it with additional reworking
with vocalist Feiner. What we have is a wonderfully brooding collection of
songs. Melancholic at their extremes with rich vocals from Feiner, who at time
sounds like a fusion of Scott Walker, Tom Waits and Nick Cave. But what did it
for me was the sensual string arrangements provide by the Warsaw Radio Symphony
Orchestra, achieving at times an epic cinematic landscape. It is a truly
remarkable work. Check it out for yourself re the link to Thomas above, in particular listen to the
sublime Betty Caine.
I have long been a fan of Craig Armstrong,
and indeed the arrangements on The
Opiates above are akin to Armstrong’s own work, which is probably why I
liked it so much. But Memory Takes My
Hand is Armstrong’s most mature yet and is his début classical work. Recorded
with the BBC Symphony Orchestra it was premiered last year on Radio Three. It included
Immer, a violin concerto that
Armstrong wrote for Coli Gould. A stunningly sensitive piece that resonates
with the work of Arvo
Pärt and Henryk Górecki. Lay in a Alexander position, close your eyes and
slip away into another world.
My third favorite is the beautifully
enigmatic duo Susanna Karolina Wallumrød...
And Morten Qvenild. They formed Susanna & The Magical Orchestra back
in 2002. This highly original indie group have two albums Melody Mountain and List of
Lights and Bouys. If you are a fan of Björk or Sigur
Rós then I think you’ll like this little duo. They play
around with range of interesting and unconventional instruments and sounds.
There is a terrific cover of Joy Division’s Love
Will Tear Us Apart. But check out the track Stay, truly magical.
He was one of America’s favorite artists. His work was, and still is,
full of inventiveness, wit and beauty. It graced the pages of the New Yorker for nearly sixty years and he
was an inspiration to manyof the twentieth century’s
designers and illustrators.Steinberg took his lines to
places where few other illustrators would dare to venture…
You can catch some of his work in Saul
Steinberg: Illuminations at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London until
The telephone has always featured
heavily in movies. But as a sex aid? Well, you might be sceptical. But hold on, let me
The NFT in London is currently screening a season of Ingrid Bergman films.
I went to see her in this...
Hitchcock’s 1946 cracker Notorious. Along with Bergman
is the immaculate Cary Grant.
It is a wonderful
experience to sit among an attentive audience who appreciate film as
an art form, following every frame with the keenness of a philatelist. And with the
added beauty of a scratch free print, projected at the very intimate Academy screen ratio, is a real pleasure
on in the film there is a highly erotic telephone scene between Bergman and the
Grant – you can see the scene here by spooling forward to 5:06. It
reminded me of an equally highly charged scene from It’s a wonderful Life...
see the scene here by spooling forward to 0:58. Compare the two.
an age where everything and anything goes up on our cinema screens, it is
fascinating to see just how sexual two fully clothed people can be, with the
aid of a telephone. And here is the lovely Donna Reed who starts with
Jimmy Stewart in that good old seasonal stalwart.
He was the co creator the award winning satirical series ‘Spitting Image’ back in 1984. ..
At its height it attracted
15 million viewers a week. But in 1996 it all ended when the programme aired for the last time after a run of twelve years.
With little Interest in continuing with latex puppet making Law upped sticks
and took himself off to Australia to start afresh. And from there he discovered China...
where he now makes these beautiful urns with a band of crafts people. And here are some finished peices...
I caught up
with him in London where we talked about the ensuing years, his love of ceramics
and how his creative life started in post war Britain. You can hear my interview with him by going to RDInsights and clicking onto the Roger Law
interview. And if you like what you hear Law has written a hilarious
autobiography, ‘Still Spitting at Sixty’ available from Amazon. And to see an
example of what made him famous over two decades ago click here.
A New Year with some old graphics. Only by studying the past can we fathom present and future trends in design. So here is another of the interviews I carried out for Design Week under the banner of 'Heroes'. This one is from 2001 with the graphic designer Raymond Hawkey.
Banner head for Daily Express, 1958
The always immaculately turned out Raymond Hawkey
I was first introduced to Raymond Hawkey's work at an evening class on a November evening in 1961. Our teacher - who during the day worked in the design department of the Daily Express - showed us examples of work produced there. This was a series of illustrated banner heads, an innovation that had been pioneered by Hawkey. These mini graphic triggers helped to direct readers towards a particular feature. They were produced using a simple photographic line technique, ideal for crude letterpress printing. They looked startling within the context of the paper's conventional layout.
Fast-forward 40 years, and I am heading for the lift in an 18-floor, 1960s tower block that looms over London's fashionable Notting Hill. This is where Hawkey has lived for over 30 years and I am about to meet him for the first time. As he welcomes me into his flat, I am taken aback by the view from its panoramic window. It is quite breathtaking to see London looking magical on this particularly clear night with a stream of jewel-like twinkling lights from the constantly moving traffic below.
The first thing I notice about Hawkey is that he is immaculately turned out. So much so that I became a little self-conscious about the state of my rather scuffed boat shoes and crumpled corduroy jacket. This attention to his appearance was just as evident in the presentation of his home. It reflected his vision and farsightedness in selecting Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen and Hille furniture when he first took on the flat. All looked remarkably current and orderly in this classic late 1960s setting.
Most of the walls were taken up with Hawkey's passion for all things nautical; a ship's wheel, compass, figurehead, prints, photographs and paintings of tall ships, all beautifully arranged. As a boy Hawkey had lived by the sea, which he loved. I suspect this was his way of keeping that connection going in the heart of a throbbing city.
Hawkey was born in Plymouth in 1930, an only child. His father worked as a commercial traveller. Neither of Hawkey's parents had any creative leanings. Indeed, his father had decided that he wanted his son to become an accountant, something he himself had hankered after. But the young Hawkey developed a natural gift for drawing, which must have been a genetic throwback to a creative ancestor. He was happiest with a pencil and paper, escaping into a fantasy world drawn from his fertile imagination. Hawkey was a bright boy and won a scholarship to grammar school.
It was here that he was singled out by the headmaster--a man with artistic interests himself--who recognised Hawkey's creative ability. He greatly encouraged the young Hawkey and directed him towards a course in general arts at the Plymouth School of Art. From the ages of 16 to 20, Hawkey immersed himself in what had become an all-consuming passion. He achieved a National Diploma in Design and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art to study illustration.
But Hawkey found the RCA illustration course in 1950 very dull, punctuated with endless life drawing classes and a distinctly nostalgic approach to the craft. He managed to persuade his tutor to let him switch to the graphics course.
He quickly secured a post on the RCA magazine ARK as assistant art director. A little later he became its art director. He saw this as an opportunity to push the visual presentation of the magazine forward, which, until that point, had a rather classical dusty feel. He outraged the rector Robin Darwin by introducing illustration and photography to ARK's covers. To supplement his small grant, he took on illustration commissions from the Central Office of Information. He also helped out the picture editor of The Sunday Graphic--a long since defunct title.
Towards the end of his time at the RCA he was increasingly moving in publishing and editorial circles. One evening when helping out at a literary launch party, a colleague noticed that a young man had gatecrashed the proceedings and he asked Hawkey to politely, but firmly show him the door. Hawkey, however, struck up a conversation with this eager young man - who as it turned out was also attending the RCA, was also studying design, was also an Aquarian, had the same fanatical love of detail, shared the same dry sense of humour and also the contempt for a lot of the pomposity evident at the RCA. A rare meeting of hearts and minds had taken place and there, amid the clinking wine glasses and literary banter, a life-long friendship was formed.
As it turned out, this literary backdrop was going to have a dramatic effect on both of their lives. In particular the young gatecrasher's. His name was Len Deighton.
Prior to graduating from the RCA, Hawkey entered a design talent competition organised by Vogue magazine. He not only won, but was offered a job by the magazine's parent company Conde Nast. Here he became art director of magazine promotion and he quickly familiarised himself with the editorial world. He spent three happy years there. There was a short period with the ad agency Colman Prentis and Varley as an art director. In 1959 he was offered a position with Beaverbrook Newspapers to art direct a new magazine that was set to rival the great American title Fortune. Alas, it never saw the light of day, but Hawkey's talents had not gone unnoticed and he was made design director of the Daily Express.
It was here that he quickly introduced graphic devices into the editorial pages. He trail-blazed the use of diagrams to help demystify complex news items. He often teamed up with a reporter and went on assignments to crime scenes. It was in this context that his work contributed to the arrest of a rapist and murderer through his accurate reconstruction of the attacker's likeness as described by a witness, before identikit pictures were the norm. Hawkey's graphic use of banner heads revolutionised the look of newspaper features and very quickly other major papers followed suit.
While Hawkey was at The Daily Express, Deighton had established a career in advertising as an art director. This was a love/hate relationship for him as he found the profession overrun by ex-public school types, whom he found tiresome. However, he redirected this irritation into writing. Hawkey remembers being handed a draft manuscript by Deighton in 1960. It was called The lpcress File. On reading it, Hawkey realised that Deighton could afford to turn his back on the advertising world. Because, there on the page was Harry Palmer the bespectacled sophisticated working class antihero who enjoyed cooking and worked as an intelligence officer. Although very capable himself, Deighton asked Hawkey to design the cover of The lpcress File...
Jacket for the first edition of The Ipcress File designed by Hawkey in 1962
What Hawkey did with it was one of the key moments in design history. It is important to view this piece of work within the context of the period. Hawkey's photographic use of inanimate objects to give a narrative dimension to the cover was startlingly new and made a dramatic impact on the publishing scene. The publisher, Hodder, found the design too spartan with its black and white photography, plain background and small undifferentiated typography, but both Deighton and Hawkey held firm. They were right, because on publication in 1962, The lpcress File sold out within 24 hours.
A few years later, Michael Caine...
Michael Caine as Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File 1965 directed by Sidney J. Furie
was to make Harry Palmer his own in the film version of the book. The image, so perfectly captured by David Bailey in his classic 1965 Caine portrait...
Photo copyright by David Bailey
still inspires many a young designer to emulate the look today. In 1964, Hawkey became presentation director of the Observer and its colour magazine, concentrating on enhancing layout and improving the quality of the magazine's covers. In parallel with this, he became a much sought-after book cover designer. He was always linked with Deighton's work...
but was also the favoured designer for the work of Kingsley Amis, Jane Gaskill, Ian Fleming, Thomas Hinde, Gavin Lyall, Frederick Forsyth and many others.
Hawkey's dramatic influence and modern approach to book cover design spawned imitators that turned his simple graphic approach into a design cliche. To a certain extent Hawkey became a victim of his own success. The clarity and inventiveness of his later cover work was often defused by over-large typography brought about, I suspect, by the increasingly aggressive publishing sales departments who have always managed to dilute creative work.
One of Hawkeys most memorable pieces came about once again through Deighton, who had formed a film production company. He had written the film script for Oh! What a Lovely War. It was to be Richard Attenborough's directorial debut and Deighton commissioned Hawkey to design the film's titles. He approached this with the perfectionism that had become his trademark. To convey the tragedy of the First World War, he used carefully chosen objects, sensitively photographed by David Cripps to create a building narrative over the sequence...
Above the front title sequence for Oh! What a Lovely War directed by Richard Attenborough 1969
Starting with items reflecting the jingoistic flag-waving, King and Country mentality, the images move on to symbolise the ultimate result of war. Death is represented by a skull and, in the last frame, a lone red poppy. Although a simple series of still images with the titles superimposed, the sequence retains its tragic impact. In another designer's hands it could have easily slipped into a nostalgic pastiche. In 1974 Hawkey turned the tables on the publishing world by becoming a thriller writer himself. Encouraged greatly by Deighton, over a ten-year period he has produced three novels, Wild Card, Side Effect and It. All have received glowing reviews and an option has been taken up on It for a possible feature film. Now into his seventies, Hawkey understandably takes things a little easier these days, but in addition to writing a new novel, he still occasionally acts as an editorial consultant. Having a bolthole in Brighton has enabled him to enjoy the lure of the sea with his charming wife Mary, whom he married 12 years ago.