I first came across Billy Jenkins as part of Burlesque, a band playing support to the Kursaal Flyers.They were the most anarchic and surprising rock act I’d ever seen, and Billy was the focus of the most bizarre aspects of a fairly weird outfit!Sadly neither of their albums could properly capture the live act.But some years later I came across his early jazz recordings, the first I purchased wasUncommerciality vol. 1and I became an occasional follower though being both busy and out of London observed live performances were very few.No matter…Billy’s work has always been brilliant, full of character and joy, sometimes more ‘difficult’ for some but never dull or unforgettable.I’ve been catching up with the more recent stuff over the past few days including those episodes of The Billy Jenkins Listening Club I hadn’t got round to.These ‘snapcasts’ are excellent giving both a flavour of the man and the music.I also went online to pick up his most recent outing Ghost Music by BUYING IT.I say this loudly as I’m firmly of the view that artists should be properly paid for their work!I don’t know Billy personally of course but I’m pretty sure he’d like (or maybe it was his doing) that when I put the downloads into iTunes his album came up as ‘Unknown Genre’.Magnificent!I’m thinking my artwork (if it ever sees the light of day again, postviral) should be tagged with the same epithet!
“He always maintained that you’ve got to be able to play straight to really play wonky”
A sadly departed pal used to be quite grumpy about what he called ‘festive jollities’ and though I tried to look more sanguine when he said it I tended secretly to feel the same. In my dotage I’m taking a more relaxed view of it and, as I believe the young folk say, ‘going with the flow’ In fact giving the festive music full rein in the house I’m rather taken with this track that somehow I’d hitherto never come across – I offer it as seasons greetings…
I can’t really explain why this seems important right now but it does. So I’m reading a good deal, mainly poetry (of which I have a pretty decent, if rather ancient for the most part, collection). When a fragment takes my fancy and fits with the emerging form of the painting I’m working on (as usual there are several on the go) then it is plucked from it’s context and put to work around the edges.
How the originator might feel I do not know, but for the most part, so far, those chosen have shuffled off this mortal coil. In Tomas Tranströmer‘s case some four years back but I like to think he wouldn’t have minded too much…
Me, not him, of course (though who knows). So three days away under big big skies in Lincolnshire between Louth and the Coast at Theddlethorpe with weather that, though cold (and nowhere near as its sometimes been) behaved itself well enough.
And no painting going on. But Saturday was Record Store Day and being near Louth I thought to go to Off The Beaten Tracks – that would have been fun…except for the big queue awaiting me! So not the only vinyl junkie around then.
With wife and friend and Mindy dog patiently waiting my return I decided to give it a miss. Instead we took to the coast with good results until we hit Chapel St. Leonards where the dark clouds gathered and we head back in land to Alford. Being Saturday afternoon most of the shops here (independent traders) had closed up but Lee’s Music Store was open. Oh deep joy, no lengthy queue outside or in (only one other customer looking for DVDs. Picked up this one, alongside a Joan Armatrading & Dexys, the former the first one of hers I’d never purchased, the latter one I had but disappeared down the ages. I know its not one of his best but its one I never owned on vinyl (I bought quite a few through the late 70’s to 90’s on cassette or CD) and the condition is excellent. So got a fix and at very good prices. Tip top trip!
Some ways back (around 2006/7) I began making very small pictures by making the odd mark on tiny shop bought stretchers and having them lie around the studio whilst I got on with bigger jobbies. A little triptych of them sold on our expedition to the ‘Supermarket’ in Sweden in 2010, you can see me pontificating at the event here. Over the past two years all my other series have rather overwhelmed these but I’m now enjoying ‘tickling up’ a few more. Its a good way of freeing yourself up whilst in the studio when things don’t seem quite ‘right’. I took to giving them names of tracks on my iPod beginning with ‘I’.
People are crazy and times are strange I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range I used to care, but things have changed
So his Royal Bobness fetched up in Nottingham for the first time (I think) since 1966…opening up his set with these particularly pertinent lyrics – at least for yours truly. Maybe (mostly) its a consequence of my age but they seem to sum up our ridiculous and crazy world. How we can be sleep walking towards totalitarianism across the western world I really don’t know – just shows how seventy plus years of stability makes people (or rather a lot of them) complacent I guess. We can only hope that once things start getting seriously askew they may wake up.
And Bob has also changed everything, not least the tempo, tone and even the melodies of some of his best known songs alongside those many more recent and less well known ditties (a solid bunch off the Tempest album). But it was a decent show, house lights down on the dot of eight pm. and an hour and forty minutes of non-stop boogie, hard rock and some alarming crooning! But Bob always goes his own way and as one of these standards said ‘Why Try To Change Me Now’? So I kind of appreciate this bobbing and weaving to keep the audiences guessing.
I’m flitting between bodies of work in my painting too. As is by now well known to any followers of these ramblings I don’t do a ‘signature’ style but address each set of pictures in whatever manner seems to me to suit the occasion. Its especially messy right now. In one corner sits the canvas pieces for the Lavanderia series, in another the lumps and bumps of my Paintings Standing Up. Over on one wall another in the extending series of Very Like Jazz whilst right here is another of the twenty five or so small oils in the Charnwood series Playground Of The Midlands. Up on the balcony are the Water paintings (the second part of the Wood, Water & Rock pictures that take their cue from Schama’s Landscape & Memory). And somewhere at the back a small panel collection provisionally titled The Rigged Deck. Of course there’s also the painting of maps, the Wonky Geometries and the RagBags that just chug along forever. So who am I to call the world crazy!
and Dat Dere, as seen above. Another in the Very Like Jazz series. Oddly enough over fifteen or more years back I titled another painting the same (one of a series called Blue Note 45’s). This time around its taken directly from dear old Cannonball Adderley rather than chosen, fairly randomly from a couple of Blue Note singles compilations. I’m nearly out of panels for these now…so with two larger, and one 30 x 30 (as this is) that will be it for a while. The penultimate 30 x 30 is this one…titled after the first track on Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus an album from 1963 by – surprisingly enough – old Charles Mingus. II BS is titled thus because the man was finding it hard to choose a suitable title ( so two b.s. it was!). I’m getting to the point where I can empathise with him…
it (the making) is something I’ve not thought about for, oh, about thirty five years or more. I do recall being concerned that it might be happening to the large paper panel pieces I was making in 1980 as I was also fretting over the use of fibre glass to back them (it was the coughing up blood that finally persuaded me to abandon that idea!). But earlier today I was working on my Paintings Standing Up (still far too early to post here yet) and realised that I had put several vocal performance albums to accompany the activity. I’ve written before that when painting I normally only listen to instrumental music and it got me to thinking why did moving into 3D suggest I could make the change? Did I value the work less, did it require less focus?, is it a different order of thinking? Sitting making some more components for these new pieces it struck me that perhaps my ongoing feeling of dissatisfaction with much of my recent painting process (rather than the pictures themselves) comes from over thinking them. As a young painter I’d just crack on with the work but over the years I’ve taken to thinking hard about each stage of the process – even those parts of it that are intuitive or seemingly random have gone through a deal of soul searching. Enough already methinks…from now on I’ll put on whatever tunes I damn well like and try to actually enjoy painting!
In any event, as is my habituation, I’m stepping away from the Geo series for a bit. The two above are the most recent, whilst three of the earlier pieces are slated for exhibition at The Crypt in Marylebone soonish. Invite below, get along there if you get the chance.
It’s another of those grey, damp mornings that seem to be characterising our winter (so far) but best not to grumble. Not cold or waist deep in snow (eh, Stephen!) and my investment in the Daylight Slimline Table Lamp means I can work comfortably on the small Jazz paintings at the (warm) kitchen table. As is my habit I’m listening to jazz as I work (today it’s fifties and early sixties fare from the great Charles Mingus, a perennial favourite). But wait what’s this? Vocal music is usually a no – no when painting but here’s dear old Michael Chapman. He was prescient when he wrote Fully Qualified Survivor wasn’t he? Then 30 now 76 but in good voice on a beautiful album- 50 that is rich and full, a mix of older material re-recorded and three new songs. What a lucky lad am I sitting here in the warm working away to lovely music with Mindy the dog to keep pleasant (and placid) company.
The daylight lamp helps me with colour in the compositions, always a tricky one for me, and gets me thinking about the exquisite colour combinations in my friend John Holden’s paintings. Besides being roughly the same age Michael & John share other characteristics I reckon. The jazz/folk tinged singer songwriter went out of fashion ways back as did hard edge abstraction and in terms of commercial success neither tide has come back in that much since. But both have real heft and solid quality for me (a generation or so after them) and its good to see both of them still giving it their all and turning out such great material. I saw John last week and am hoping there will soon be an opportunity hereabouts for his work to be enjoyed by others.