Fernando Gutiérrez brought Spanish designer Cruz Noveillo to my attention.
The series of posters featured below were all produced in 1975, although they would fit comfortably into a decade earlier. They seem quintessentially sixties to me.
They were not designed as the ‘official’ movie posters for public consumption, generally produced by the large film distributors, but were created for the film festivals of San Sebastian, Cannes, and Berlin. Novillo was not restricted by the normal crass commercial requirements but was very much left to reflect a more personal graphic and intelligent feel, resulting in a surprising freshness in the genre.
Last Saturday was a beautifully bright autumnal morning. I strolled from my home in Clerkenwell to Sir John Soane’s Museum at Lincoln’s Inn Fields to see what turned out to be a delightful little exhibition of engravings, etchings, screen prints and lithographs called Face to Face. It is a collection on the development of portraiture by British printmakers from the mid-20th century to the present.
If you have never been to Sir John Soane’s Museum, it is a wonderful, labyrinthine collection of artefacts curated by Soane during the 19th century. It is packed floor to ceiling with classical casts, models, books, paintings and room settings with furniture for every mood.
Above some of the treasures collected by Sir John Soane
Tracey Emin at the White Cube Galley in front of one of her extreem blow ups
Having absorbed the portraits in the exhibition, I thought about a review that I had read the day before in TheGuardian. It was about Tracey Emin’s new show at the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey, where she has an array of work from sculpture and neon to embroidery and drawing. In the glowing, five-star review, art critic Jonathan Jones linked Emin’s understanding of drawing with that of Michelangelo. I had to read that line twice. Why?
Well, this is a drawing by Michelangelo…
And this is a drawing by Emin…
Either Jones should have gone to Specsavers or he needs to be certified – or perhaps both. Emin’s drawing ability is frankly laughable. However, Jones went on and on to say that Emin’s drawing skills are “a master class in how to use traditional artistic skills in the 21st century”. He added that her nudes “have a real sense of observation”.
And three more descriptions I couldn’t resist sharing: “Framed blue meditations on the human body”, “Flowing and pooling lines of gouache define form with real authority” and “The rough, unfinished suggestiveness of her style evokes pain, suffering, and solitude”. I agree with the pain and suffering.
I have loved the skill of artists who draw beautifully ever since I was a small boy. In my professional life, I have had the pleasure of commissioning very many great people. So, it was baffling for me when Emin was appointed ‘Professor’ of Drawing at the Royal Academy a few years back. Emin has said she’d never learnt to draw. But the RA still went ahead with the appointment. In a recent Guardian web chat, she said: “They sacked me.” I wonder why?
Imagine the Royal Academy of Music employing a violin teacher who could barely play the instrument. Or a film school appointing an editor who couldn’t edit or a cinematographer who had never used a camera – you get my drift. It just wouldn’t happen. But, in the world of ‘fine’ art, it’s okay; you can appoint a Professor of Drawing who frankly can’t. But at the time of Emin’s appointment, the RA produced a postcard of one of her drawings to sell in its shop…
Going along to the White Cube Gallery did not change my view. If you have a pristine, white gallery space with perfect frames hung and aligned beautifully and the works printed with great craft onto exquisitely textured watercolour paper, virtually anything will look good. In fact, the metal and skeletal plinths that hold Emin’s dreadfully lumpy bronzes are far more interesting than the works they support. It is often the artist fabricators who are the unsung heroes, whose behind-the-scenes work transforms the ideas of artists into reality.
White Cube. The perfect gallery space.
One of Emin's sculptural works.
The tables were very nice.
The Soane exhibition is an example of a collection of artists who have the ability to draw. Emin gets by with extreme blow-ups of her crude drawings. We all know that enlargements, with their accidental textures and imperfections, help make works look far more interesting than they actually are. Emin has now reached such heightened celebrity that she could even wipe her bottom on a piece of the best Fabriano handmade paper and have it framed and hung in the White Cube and it would be lauded by Jones as “The height of truthful autobiographical artistic expression” or some similar claptrap.
Anyway, here are some of my favourite artists/illustrators in no particular order. They all have one thing in common: they can draw…
Glynn Boyd Harte
Sara Fanelli Justin Todd
I could have gone on and on. My point is all the above are widely different in style and technique, but they all have something the Tracey Emin lacks in drawing, supreme ability.
In the 21st century, an artist’s celebrity is as, if not more, important as the work they produce.
It is the most comprehensive book on VW advertising to date. It outshines anything on the subject that has gone before, and is a must for any graphic designer who cares about ideas and the economy of beautiful writing. It is a real pleasure.
It was lovingly put together by advertising stalwarts Alfredo Marcantonio, John O’Driscoll and the late great David Abbott who I had the pleasure of knowing and working with over many years. And if this book were a shoe, it would fit David perfectly.
Every creative spirit should have a copy of this book. It is truly inspiring.
And if you'd like to know more about David Abbott click here.
In between directing commercials, my twin sons Ben and Joe have made a charming (well, I would say that, but it is) short film on a shoestring. One Way to Osaka. It is about a young Japanese girl travelling across the world to find her grandparents and the sense of wonder she encounters on the way. Take a look here.
Back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, students at the Royal College of Art’s Graphic Design Department produced a stream of posters for the various College societies. The work was always exciting, refreshing, and innovative when compared with what was generally going on in the working graphic scene in London at the time. Here are just a few of the gems…
Poster for the RCA Film Society designed by Barrie Bates (later Billy Apple) 1962.
Poster for the RCA Film Society designed by Anthony Guy 1957
Poster for the RCA magazine Ark designed by Gordon Moore 1957
Poster for the RCA Jazz Society designed byJohn Fenton Brown 1962 Poster for the RCA Galleries designed by Stephen Abis and Peter Blake 1963
I had the great pleasure of joining Michael for his 80th birthday celebration last year, and in this letter, he describes his thoughts and feelings about the gains and losses of reaching this lofty landmark.
Having eclipsed 70 myself I am having simlar thoughts, but that’s for another time. Here’s Michael...
As I celebrated my 80th with family and friends in the Wolseley restaurant in London last November, I knew that 8o was just a number, but surprisingly, unlike the previous 79 birthday numbers in my life this particular one seemed unusual. It felt like an irreversible marker that can only be turned back in memory.
Can people still turn back the milometers in second hand cars? Somehow I doubt it, and in any case, just as you usually can with a human body, you could nearly always tell this had happened as the many signs of wear and tear inevitably showed up.
I used to enjoy it when in my seventies people would say “You don’t look 70, you can’t possibly be 70”, but now it doesn’t give me the same illusion of reassurance. I’d rather be my age and look my age to people in general, and enjoy most, but not all of the realities of it. Except, when it comes to the opposite sex. I'll write about that later.
My eighth birthday, my first memorable encounter with the number eight, was not a happy one for me. I was an evacuee in a boarding school run by ‘the Two Witches of Fulbrook’, near Burford in the Cotswolds. All I can remember of my time under the jurisdiction of these terrible two Thompson sisters, I feared and dreaded, is walking in fields of cowslips and cowpats, stepping into a wasps nest and getting 26 stings – I remember counting them. I was told that bravery meant not showing and if possible not even feeling pain – a mad British lesson in suppression. Eighteen wasn’t bad, except I looked fourteen and so when I went to dances at the local tennis club to try to start some kind of a ‘something’ with one of the many dazzling and attractive young women there, they usually thought I was the owner’s son. They would pat me on the head or blow me a kiss and so I never got anywhere at all with my early, but later than average, sexual ambitions.
From the age of twenty-eight, fortunately, looking much younger was ceasing to be a serious problem at work. By that time neither age nor birthdays meant much. Thirty, forty, fifty, sixty and seventy slipped by with all the normal dramas and ups and downs of life filling my time and using up all my capacities to think and feel. But eighty seemed somehow to be different – a cause for a pause. And during that pause, which I realise will be a brief one because I’ve so much more to accomplish, all sorts of thoughts and feelings are now vying for my attention.
The first thought is that even since my recent 80th, several close friends and creative giants have died and so I may be now approaching what many refer to as ‘the end of life’. These giants were people that I’d always counted on for inspiration and collaboration and now, suddenly, they’re no longer there. It’s a sad feeling of irretrievable loss.
The second thought I find myself having is about the many repressive regimes in our world and particularly the ones that flourished during our time, like Pinochet’s Chile, Hitler’s Germany and many others in which the closest of relatives and best of friends could suddenly not be there and disappear for good. I thank God that life in the UK for many, but not all of us, isn’t as dangerous, although I realise that in India, and worse still in Pakistan, particularly for women, the threat of rape is terrifying and every single Indian man, and all men in general should feel profound shame.
Third, I’m assuming I’m relatively fit because various doctors and consultants to whom parts of my body have to say thank you, tell me that I am, but maybe that’s what they tell all their octogenarian patients. Maybe just like an old car, signs of wear and tear will continue to appear without warning and bits and pieces will need repair or replacement. Come to think of it, little by little, I notice I seem to need more and more little pills. I have to struggle to remind myself to take them on time.
Luckily, I’ve found devices that help me not to miss any. But, and I find this perplexing and even scary, a few moments after taking them, I can’t remember whether I did or didn’t, and I’m too absent-minded, stubborn and stupid to mark the packets as I take the pills. What else, I wonder, am I forgetting, and how often do I use procrastination or acceptance of a less than perfect memory as an excuse.
After this brief pause for reflection and acceptance of my four score years, I decided to do something about the many of what I thought were flutters or palpitations in my heart. I’d known for years I had irregularities in my heartbeat, many of us do, and it was one of those things that, along with a few others, I’d been scared to raise with my doctor. When I eventually did, I was referred to a brilliant cardiologist. I had a whole variety of tests and was reassured about how well my heart was performing for me and how, whatever it was that would end my life one day, it wouldn’t be my heart. We shall see, I thought.
And then, after another test, he advised me to have a pacemaker inserted close to my heart. I was shocked. I fell into a series of hypochondriac’s illusions, and started to contemplate my demise and how soon it would be. But it was an easy two-hour operation for me, most likely not so easy for the Cardiologist, and a night in a stuffy, gloomy hospital to gain the reassurance that my heart won’t stop beating on its own, because the pacemaker won’t let it.
So now, as I’ve passed the 80 marker, and my mind and body continue running smoothly, let me conclude this tale with the bit I left out, the subject of sex and dealing with the many attractions, fantasies, thoughts and feelings that I still encounter every single day.
Recently I posted my thoughts about love and relationships on Facebook. I’d thought long and hard about them and I'll continue with them in a moment. But first, a quote by Gabriel Garcia Marquez who’s book, ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, I’ve read many times and will again. He always makes me feel good, normal, fortunate and complete.
In a way it’s a very sad quote and a comment on our ultimate desire for both love and isolation. A wonderful and unusually perceptive doctor called Tony Ryle once likened it to two porcupines trying to get together. In my view Marquez is describing a kind of holding back; a limitation; a shrivelling of the heart.
“She knew that he loved her above all else, more than anything in the world, but only for his own sake.”
That inclination to isolation seems to me to beckon as we age. As early as the age of sixty, I started to become convinced that the beautiful women to whom I felt superficially attracted, saw, if they noticed me at all, an old man with little to offer them. It’s a curse, and sometimes, a relief, I thought, to be so easily attracted to all the subtle nuances of beauty and to allow them to raise desires that will more often than not remain unrequited. Although I admit, I still live in hope. It’s probably much better, at my age now to see and enjoy these beautiful creations as flowers and to enjoy them with less compulsion to pick them.
But it does make me stop and wonder about the typical social environments of older adults living on their own as well as the relatively isolated life older people are offered in many of our care homes. I’d enjoy writing to you about that one day.
So, now, to finish this letter, here are some exceptional words of guidance about relationships. I’ve always known these wise words intuitively but have never seen them so well expressed. I think these words by Khalil Gibran are among the most beautiful and useful descriptions of a relationship, a relationship that can be created and experienced by anyone at any age.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”