Part one of Michael's appearance on BBC Radio York in conversation with the writer, broadcaster, environmentalist and DJ, Dr Rock. Michael discusses the music that has inspired different aspects of his eight decades on this little planet of ours. Listen HERE.
Very sad news that Alan Aldridge has died following a debilitating illness.
He was a major influence on the British design and illustration scene in the 1960's. It started with his controversial post as fiction art director of Penguin Books in 1965 where he challenged the status quo, upsetting many on the way. He left and formed INK studio and embraced the world of pop, most notably with his collaborations with The Beatles and Elton John.
He produced a number of successful books including The Butterfly Ball which was turned into and animated film.
Later he moved to Los Angeles where he became a movie script doctor. But he always maintained his love of illustration. In 2008 the was a retrospective of his work 'The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes' at the London Design Museum. I interviewed him at the time and will post that here in a few days.
I stumbled on this charming collection of books in a local charity shop.
They were published by William Collins during the second world war when paper was rationed.
The first one I opened was published in 1944, the very same year I was born. I held in my hand thinking we are the same age. I love these coincidences Even with the paper shortages Collins managed to publish 50 odd titles in the series called, Britain in Pictures. I love their directness and one colour simplicity.
Of the many things I’ve seen and heard this year, the following, in my view, are the best, with a few of the worst that really infuriated me.
The Icelandic noir crime series Trapped was one of the better crime productions, not only for its creepy storyline but also for the wonderful, relentless, snow-swept locations.
Happy Valley. Series 2 was as magnificent as the first series, with consistently outstanding writing from Sally Wainwright and wonderful performances from the entire cast, especially Sarah Lancashire.
Fleabag. An amazingly revealing and original series from writer and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge. It is funny, edgy and very moving.
Going Forward. Another outstanding writer/comedian is Jo Brand, and Going Forward was funny and touching in equal measures.
Joachim Lafosse’s, L'Économie du Couple (After Love). An intense observation of a marriage breakdown performed with utter commitment by the film’s two leads Bérénice Bejo and Cédric Kahn. More
20th Century Women is set in Santa Barbara in the late ’70s and focuses on Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening), a wonderfully eccentric single mother and divorcée living in a dilapidated but charmingly eclectic house where she lets two rooms to help make ends meet in order to bring up her son as a decent human being, with much angst and hilarity on the way. Written and directed by ex-graphic designer Mike Mills, whose earlier film Beginners was a delight too. More
I, Daniel Blake is Ken Loach’s precisely targeted indictment of our welfare state. It is Loach at his very best. More
Following A Single Man, director Tom Ford follows up with Nocturnal Animals and proves that he is to be taken seriously in this nearly perfect thriller. More
Manchester by the Sea. An incredibly powerful and moving story of loss, with an Oscar-deserving performance from lead Casey Affleck.
Ethel and Ernest. The story of Raymond Briggs’ young life. Despite it being an animated film, it pulls no punches. Humorous, beautiful, moving and tragic. Watch it
Yerma. The Young Vic restaging of Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1934 tragic masterpiece ‘Yerma’, reset in 21st-century hip London society. With two standout performances from Billie Piper (in the main role as ‘Yerma’) and Brendan Cowell as her husband. More
The Almeida’s stunningly brilliant production of Uncle Vanya. Imaginatively staged and directed by Robert Icke, with a wonderful cast headed by Paul Rhys.
The Switch House Tate. One of the most inhospitable, dismal architectural experiences of 2016. Bleak and cold, with no attempt to create an uplifting experience for the visitor. More
Two diabolical rebrands appeared on the scene. First was the hideous Addison Lee courier and car service. It could have been so good in the right hands.
British Steel introduced a shamefully embarrassing new identity, as opposed to reintroducing David Gentleman’s perfectly thought-out original.
But there was a welcomed and brave move in accepting that an earlier logo from the 1960s still works perfectly. Sean Perkins at North resurrected the baby from the bathwater of the ill-judged Co-operative rebrand of a few years ago.
Nat West's so-called "gentle evolution" of their logo by making what was originally simple complicated. It will be hardly noticed by most but will cost many millions to implement. Such is the insulting disregard that banks have for the public's view of them. More
This is graphic design at its very best: simple, meaningful, intelligent and witty. Created by Paula Scher at Pentagram NYC for The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada.
2016 saw another group of inept ‘fine art’ collection of posters, this time for the Rio Olympics. Repeating the dreadful mistake of the 2012 UK Olympics with equally dreadful posters, again headed by Tracey Emin. An insult to all serious poster designers. More
A Life in Letterpress. Alan Kitching’s life work in print. A doorstopper of a book, beautifully illustrated.
Nobrow has published the graphic novel, Audubon that centres on explorer John James Audubon’s ornithological quest across America during the 19th century. Written by Fabien Grolleau and sensitively illustrated by Jérémie Royer.
Wales’ Christmas drink-driving campaign, by the Cardiff- based agency Bluegg, underlines the tragic loss of a loved one on Christmas Day.
The Royal Academy of Arts, Abstract Expressionism exhibition was an absolute joy but rather too crowded.
Agatha Christie: An intriguing series of six stamps designed by Jim Sutherland and Neil Webb, complete with hidden clues.
The wonderfully pure Wes Anderson envisioned Christmas train trip for H&M. Watch it
Florian Zeller’s award-winning stage play The Father, translated by Christopher Hampton for BBC Radio 3. Centred on a man disappearing into the world of dementia. With a moving performance from Kenneth Cranham.
Wall panel 1971 designed by Alexander Girard RDI (1907 – 1993). Known as Sandro, he was an architect, interior designer, furniture designer, industrial designer, textile designer and gave great joy to all.
Barney Rosset, creator of the Evergreen Review in 1957 (right) with Samual Beckett in the 70's.
In its original paperback form.
The Evergreen Review was a US based literary magazine founded by Barney Rosset, publisher of the Grove Press. It first appeared in 1957, as a quarterly trade paperback, a little like Britain's Granta. Over the early period, Evergreen featured notables like Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
This cover from 1965 clearly inspired Annie Leibovitz with her 1981 Lennon Ono Rolling Stone cover.
During the sixties, Evergreen blossomed and was often ahead of the pack in featuring features writers like Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman and continuing the regular association with Kerouac, Mailer, Beckett, and Burroughs.
Sex and art were recurring themes in Evergreen and by the late 1960's it change to a large, glossy magazine format and switched from a quarterly to bimonthly eventually attaining a circulation of 1000,000. The Evergreen Review ceased publication in 1973.
As can be seen by the covers featured above, all from the 60's, the graphic style is very much of the period with lots of exposed flesh, as always mostly women. But there were also illustration commissions by some notable illustrators among them Paul Davies, Robert Crumb and Tomi Ungerer. In the late 1960's the masthead and editorial layout were redesigned, followed by another revamp in the 70's when the overall production became more sophisticated.
Although the original Evergreen Review ceased publication in 1973, the magazine was revived in 1998 in an online edition edited by founder Barney Rosset and Astrid Rosset.
I have put off visiting the Switch House, Tate Modern's new extension, until now. Actually, I should have put it off longer as the experience was deeply underwhelming for me.
The perfect place to sit and contemplate suicide.
Above the Switch House basement space, looking more like a design by Ken Adam for a Bond movie.
Once again the Tate chose Herzog and de Meuron to design this new building and internal galleries from scratch. It sits on the footprint of the old Bankside power station oil tank space. And that is where Herzog and de Meuron have clearly taken their inspiration for the internal areas of the upper floors of the new building. One needs to understand that the original tanks were housed in a harsh reinforced concrete underground space, with little in the way of the comfort or aesthetic quality.
Just a small sampling of the many depressing stairways.
Architects have fallen in love with concrete all over again and lust after the many disastrous buildings of the 1960's. All of the internal spaces at Switch House are built in raw moulded concrete reminiscent of wartime German bunkers and gun emplacements. Perfect for those uses but not to bring joy and to lift the spirits of the many visitors that pass through this building.
Above mean, claustrophobic stairways all clinically lit with bright white LED tubes, making everyone look like they are going down with the flu.
The grim widows and horrid detailing.
The light through the windows is reduced by 50% by the outer airbrick style arrangement coating the exterior of the building, making the common flow areas really gloomy. I would have thought a prerequisite of a gallery space is to create excitement not to depress it, something that Herzog and de Meuron has effortlessly managed to achieve. And then there were lifts. The slowest and erratic ever. In the end, I opted to climb the 10 floors.
Those bloody lifts.
I was in Venice earlier this year and visited the Punta della Dogana design by Tadao Ando it was an absolutely uplifting and beautiful architectural experience.
He also works extensively with concrete but he handles is with such confidence and elegance plus his detailing down to the smallest item. Something greatly lacking in the Switch House.
Tadao Ando's concrete is beautiful and sparing.
Tadao Ando can really lift the spirits as here at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas
An amusing side issue is the problems caused by the Switch House's 10th-floor external viewing terrace. This looks onto the surrounding London cityscape. But on one side it looks directly into block Neo Bankside, where the luxury flats go for £4.5m a pop.
How the other half live.
But viewing across to these immaculately furnished apartments I was unaware of any sign of life. Apparently many are just London flats for the international jet set. On the street, 12 floors below there were people sleeping in doorways inside cardboard boxes.
Vitsoe, makers of Dieter Rames uniquely timeless 606 universal shelving system, every designer's desire, has announced that his home in Kronberg, Germany has been listed. Needless to say, it is decked out top to toe with Dieter's own creations. You can read the full story on the Vitsoe website Here.Photography by Ingeborg Kracht-Rams