I know I sometimes tend to have the occasional rant. But banks really do it for me. Over the past year, many of the British ones have been, so called, 'refreshing' their brands.
The latest to do this is Nat West. Call me cynical but I can't be alone in thinking that all this is just a strategy to divert us from the fact that they have all been abusing their customers for years. Most are downright criminals, but will never see the inside of a prison. Suddenly we are all expected to believe their new slogans like "We are here for you", they now want to be our best friends. Barclays refer to themselves as 'Your Bank'.
Lloyds say " Because your family matters", RBS, "The bank that earns you trust". And back to Nat West, they are saying "We'll help you along the way" and "We know a helping hand is always nice". Just wait until there is an economic downturn. Where will your new friends be then?
How can the people that write this stuff look themselves in the mirror? It is unbelievable.
The new (not really) Nat West logo has three interlocking cubes. How original.
Hang on a mo, I walked around my neighbourhood in Clerkenwell yesterday and noticed this in a tile shop window. Pretty naff yes, and they are also using multi-coloured boxes.
And then there's the blocky multi coloured typeface.
Actually a bit like this.
Apparently, the idea is “... a gentle evolution of the brand rather than a reinvention.” With no doubt, a great deal of money behind the project, a little more research wouldn't have gone amiss.
And to support this Nat West rebrand they have produced the above commercial, get the box of tissues ready, hereit is.
Not so long ago we had Barclays feeding us with Loachian-style commercials centring on the loyalty of good old British football supporters in a variety of scenarios showing ordinary people cheering on Barclays-sponsored teams. “Thank you – you are football,”says Barclays as 86-year-old Everton supporter Billy Ingham sets off to see his beloved team play. Utter sentimentality to pull at the heart strings to make you feel all warm and cuddly about Barclays.
Meanwhile, behind the scene, banks have been cutting tens of 1000's of staff and closing 100's of local branches, all due to the crisis created by their criminal activity of miss-selling of protection insurance and all the other scams and schemes going back decades.
But of course, the banking top dogs (and they are always mostly dogs) continually increase their annual salaries and perks to engorge their already obscene amounts. And even if they are occasionally fired, they walk away with a mini lottery win in their pockets due to their watertight contracts concocted by top lawyers and accountants.
Hearing Teresa May on Wednesday telling us she is going to clamp down on this kind of greed is just pure waffle. We all know that absolutely nothing will happen. Yet more vacuous PR for a few sound bites in the media.
Now that the banks can no longer rob us under the radar, they are going to do it directly. Those of you with bank business accounts will soon receive letters informing you that you will have to pay for having your money in the bank. So not only will you receive no interest on your deposits, but you will now find yourself having to pay for every transaction and many other services that were historically free. Well, they need to pay for all this brand refreshing and topping up the top dog bonuses. But actually we, the gullible customer, will be paying for all that. What suckers we all are.
The greed and deception are so well ingrained in the banking fraternity that it is still filtering through and there are many more skeletons in the safe.
And they say we should stop bashing the bankers. I say get out the baseball bats. They are shameless. One also has to question the morality of our creative community in colluding in this kind of cynical subterfuge. Not a single bank has run a press campaign to say SORRY.
Meanwhile, across the pond, there is a fearless woman (my current heroine) Elizabeth Warren (above) who is taking the US bank robbers to task at the Banking committee Hearings. Just watchher dismantle the CEO of Wells Fargo, John Stumpf, she is truly amazing.
Last night saw the opening of the late Keith Cunningham's show at Hoxton Gallery. After 5 decades his unseen paintings have seen the light of day. And the reaction has been terrific. I am personally delight having written about him 15 years ago about his contribution to the graphic world. In the process, I managed to get this deeply private man to talk about his never seen paintings.
Born in Sydney in 1929, Cunningham arrived in post-war London in 1949, where he attended Central St Martins. Following on, he was offered a place at the Royal College of Art along with a bursary and, at the suggestion of tutor Abram Games, he went to see Rodrigo Moynihan, then the head of painting. Moynihan offered him a place on the fine art course. Here, he worked alongside fellow students and new friends Joe Tilson, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff and David Methuen-Campbell. He worked furiously in this heady atmosphere of creativity at the RCA.
The results impressed a clutch of Royal Academicians, including Sir Roger de Grey, Carel Weight and John Minton, with the latter stating that Cunningham was “one of the most gifted painters to have been at the Royal College”. Cunningham left the RCA with an impressive First, along with a travelling and continuation scholarship. He opted to explore Spain, after which he returned to London to complete his scholarship. During his RCA period, he exhibited at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, the Beaux Arts Gallery and, for two consecutive years, the prestigious London Group show; this culminated in Cunningham being asked to submit work for full membership to the group –he declined.
"... he was always a bit quiet and mysterious,
but I was very interested in him
and had a respect for his outstanding talent."
Frank Auerbach on Keith Cunningham, August 2016
He then made the extraordinary decision to withdraw completely from any further public exhibition of his paintings. Instead, he worked in the solitary atmosphere of his studio in Battersea, where he would travel each day to work on his canvases. It was here, with eternal smoking Gauloises in hand, that he would pour out his emotions, striking, stabbing and scraping the canvases into life.
The sheer physicality of his work is very evident in the layers of manipulated paint and texture, creating a visceral, brooding intensity that vibrates the longer you gaze. Whatever was going through Cunningham’s mind in that lonely studio, it is encapsulated in this small selection of paintings from the impressive body of work that he has left behind.
Keith Cunningham: Unseen paintings 1954 - 1960continues until 13th October. 11am to 6 pm Monday to Saturday
The British Steel is one the great UK symbols. It was designed by David Gentleman in 1969 and was in use for 30 years.
Three years before, in 1966, this book was published...
It was part of a wonderful series of books published by Studio Vista. This one was written and designed by Peter Wildbur and a forerunner to the many logo books produced in recent years at an ever increasing rate. Simple clean and logical it still shines 50 years on.
"Beauty itself doth of itself persuade, The eyes of men without an orator".
In this the 400th anniversary year of the death of William Shakespeare, I thought it fitting to feature some of Milton Glaser's extremely delicate illustrated covers for the Signet books Shakespeare series from the early 1960s.
Glaser's fine line ink drawings still look wonderful, and every bit as distinctive as the British Penguin series designed and illustrated by David Gentleman, also produced in the 1960’s. Both are not only evocative of their period but have remarkably transcended time and style.
And even the back covers are typographically sensitive.
French cinema can be so rewarding because of it's well, Frenchness. Moreover, there is something about the honesty of many French actors to not care about showing their age and deteriorating physicality unlike many of their American movie star counterparts.
Valley Of Love is one such film starring the wonderful Isabelle Huppert and an extraordinary bear like Gerard Depardieu who is carrying a lot of weight these days but is not afraid to let it all hang out.
The action takes place entirely in the sweltering heat of California’s Death Valley and the kitchness of American pseudo ranches like hotels and their dreadful interiors and endless country and western music.
Ex-married couple Huppert and Depardieu, who also happen to be called Isabelle and Gerard in the film and both are actors to boot, are brought together following the suicide of their 25-year-old son who left them each a letter. In it, he tells them that on a specific day and time he will reappear for just a short time to meet them, but they must follow the precise set of instructions set out in the letter. We follow them each day on their arduous trips to various locations in Death Valley during the midday sun. They spend their evenings running over why their son killed himself with much recrimination of their own behaviour and some painful realisations. As the film progresses director Guillaume Nicloux manages to create an increasingly surreal and disturbing atmosphere. I won't spoil the ending, save to say, that it has a classic French exit and the whole thing was a pleasure to experience.
As a regular theatre-goer, there are times when you experience a good play, a moving play, a funny play, a dramatic play or an utterly downright boring play. And then there are those rare occasions when you witness a truly brilliant play. I had that very pleasure last night at the Young Vic here in London.
Based on Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1934 tragic masterpiece Yerma, reset in 21st-century hip London society. Yerma is a devastating story centred on a successful blog writer who reveals her daily life in every detail to a growing audience. The main topic of the play is her increasing obsessional desire to have a child. Over the one hour 40 minutes (with no intermission) we witness Yerma's marriage and life spiral out of control to the depths of despair.
The audience views the actors encapsulated in a glass box, taking up the entire width of the stage, in a series of cinematic jump cuts spanning several years. Each scene appears out of total blackness punctuated with projected captions and increasingly heightened music and sound design.
The two standout performances are from Billie Piper, in the main role as Yerma and Brendan Cowell as her husband. The pair work in perfect unison in their endless, brilliantly written, verbal battles, culminating in Piper's frighteningly out of control, utterly spent human force. If you have ever witnessed a husband or a wife in this catastrophic state you will recognise the truthfulness of Piper's wonderful performance dredged up from her emotional centre. It is and astonishing piece of visceral work.
This is one play where the collaborative talents of writing, directing, stage design, lighting, music and sound, plus the astonishing performances, all come together like a perfect symphony orchestra. Catch it if you can.