Friday, May 26, 2006

Kilroys woz ere

Funny, but I always thought taking pictures of two fine dogs was reward in itself. This week, it transpires that you can also get paid for this...

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Tale from the Crypt

I could a tale unfold, of murder most foul, most horrid. Last week, our little house was graced by three excellent furry friends, the most innocent, the most trusting, the most loving of all the creatures that are undreamt of in your imaginations. I talk not of spirits - though spirits they could as easily be for the characteristic selflessness with which they treat one another and, indeed, all those in need of friendship - but of creatures known as Fimbles.

Fran and I played in the garden all day with these curious Fimbles, and, by evening, as we ate dainty cakes and drank delicious cordial, they each regaled our company with the most excellent stories and song. And, when the sun finally set, they reminded us that they had much to do and would be taking their leave before any of us were awake the next morning, and then they went to sleep, curled up in a fluffy heap beneath the stars.

That night, my sleep was broken by disturbing dreams. I dreamt of a phantom, with eyes of fire, and long, foot-long knitting needles for fingers. "Soft," the phantom hissed, in a voice that was petrifying to hear, "sssso ssssoft. And what beautiful, beautiful colourssss..." I dreamt I saw her hover over the fimbles, sleeping in the darkness, oblivious to the danger that faced them. In vain, I tried to cry out but by no sound came from my throat... And then, as the clouds parted, allowing a moonbeam to fall onto the midnight garden, I saw a glint, of a blade - a knife? no, it was scissors!

It was at this point that I awoke, feverish with fear. Whether the scream that rang in my ears was my own, or that of the dream-phantom's hapless victim, I know not. I climbed out of my bed and looked out into the garden. There were no fimbles to be seen. I returned to my bed, thinking they must be have already set off. But wait! From the corner of my eye - what was it that hung over the radiator? a sodden mass: a yellow and green bag, recently felted. Surely a coincidence, I thought, and thought myself foolish for even entertaining that idea that anyone should kill a fimble to make a bag. But, as I chastised myself for my silliness and paranoia, I turned the bag around. Oh horror, dear reader, it winked...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Kitten at the Window

There is something tremulous, something slightly eerie about windows and the people who have a predeliction towards hovering round them all the time. I reckon it's something to do with Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (1847) in which the eponymous heroine's irrepressibly passionate nature manifests, in childhood, in her fondness for bay windows, 'clear panes of glass, protecting but not separating me from the dreary November day'.

And why do windows inspire such strangeness? Because they are at once inside and outside, because they form the glassy boundaries between a reined-in, measured domesticity and boundless, stormy, unmediated forces of nature. A child of passion like Jane Eyre gravitates towards windows because they're not made for domestic life.

Bronte gives us a viewpoint from the insider: we read about Jane Eyre looking outwards. But, sometimes, in art and literature, we see such figures from the outside, and they still invoke a sense of uncertainty and unknowableness. This happens most famously in Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) in which the figure of a woman at a window signals to us that everything is not quite as it seems...

Fran, whose core identity turns on the central contradiction of being a once-feral kitten who now has owners, explores the fragile ambiguity of windows in this, the third of her series of self-portraits,'Kitten at the Window' (named, incidentally, after T.S.Eliot's similarly named poem). She's such a thoughtful bundle at times.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sleeping with loose change

This week, Fran heard news from Ute (pictured below, far right), that her fellow kitten friend, Dixie, had swallowed a 5p piece - an act of frivolity and silliness that cost £500 in vet's bills to correct. Bolstered by much talk of the Hull School of Art and Design's enf-of-year exhibition last night, Fran woke us all up at 6.30am, to demand, not only food, but an audience for her own pontifications about kittens and coins. For all the gusto with which Gustav Klimt depicts the kitteny Danaë, being seduced by Zeus in a shower of golden coins (ouch!),

it is, decidely, far better to not be pelted by money that one might inadvertently swallow as one sleeps.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The other the day, the Guardian - or one of the other weekend newspapers - ran a little photoessay all about how wonders of inadvertent multiple exposures, done either in-camera or during laboratory processing. With the rapidly declining use of film cameras, the article lamented, such accidents were never going to play a part in our photographic lives again. Well, yes, but there are plenty of other happy accidents to be had, this odd flash picture being one of them. I can't quite work out what happened - I think my flash wasn't charged and then decided, during an awfully long exposure, that it was charged after all and fired, a bit like slow-sync flash but completely unpremeditated...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Winnie Bear

It's been a while since she moved in, but this is Winnie Bear's first hello. She's a beautiful 16-inch mohair bear made by the sorceress who makes all the other Bears of Eastwood, with the most scratchable nose and the cutest little hat with holes in them for her furry little ears. Because of her penchant for hats with holes in, she's proving to be a great help on Project Paddington, the working title of an ambitious new film project by yours truly... (More on that later...)

It's taken a while to settle in, but Winnie's finally decided that she lives on top of the laser printer and has figured out how to sit on it "just so", so she can watch the paper come out and not tread on it in any way...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Through rose-tinted spectacles...

This week, as AltitudeZero and Book-of-Lee embarked on their little ‘Red’-themed photo competition, I just so happened to stumble across – would you believe it? – a red dandelion! Yes, it was red! As red as a red, red rose; as red as an ebullient reindeer’s nose; as red as a … Lancastrian’s waistcoat.

Okay, okay, I’m telling porky pies – the whole thing’s a mammoth piece of Photoshop trickery – but Andy already photographed J’s red car and made his head look all Zaphod Beeblebrox in it - and all I could find in the garden that was red was guttering – and who wants a photo of guttering? So, until I come up with something better, this is my offering ☺

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tyger tyger burning bright...

Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Like pretty much all of his poems from the time of the French Revolution, William Blake's 'Tyger' is about, well, revolution.

Whether he'd ever admit to it or not, Blake was a reformist deep down, rather than a revolutionary. Human progress was, for him, all about people coming up with different ideas, and sorting out a path through them together: clods of soil sorting things out with pebbles, that kind of thing. 'Without contraries, there is no progression'.

His tyger, the twin-brother of the revolutionary spirit that swept through every corner of Europe during the 1790s, is a different beast entirely. Rather than being a dualistic force (clod and soil; innocence and experience; black and white), Blake's Tyger is unreadable, preternaturally symmetrical. It is, perhaps, an unnatural, devilish creation forged in the furnaces of hell. Alternatively it is a divine creation, akin to a fearsome angel, the loyal servant of a vengeful, angry, and jealous God. Blake doesn't know, can't see, can't tell, and that he finds rather worrying.

The spirit of the French Revolution was awesome, a law unto itself, a strict ultiamtuum with no room for negotiation or compromise. By the nineteenth century, it was also apparent that it could never quite deliver what it promised. Rather than lighting the way to a truly egalitarian paradise, the revolution revealed, in the misery and bloodshed it caused, the darker side of humanity. For all its strength and bravado, the revolution was never in control of itself. Behind its brave face of intimidating, single-minded resolve lay a sinking feeling that, actually, it didn't have a clue what was going on...

A hundred years later, Henri Rousseau would refigure Blake's almost mythological tyger in his painting, 'Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!)' (1891). The title, with its 'tropical' setting and its vernacular 'surprised!', gives us a clue as to what he's up to: he wants to show what mythological tygers, revolutions, are really like, in their natural habitat, beneath the propaganda or political spin. And, what he finds, is that even the bravest-looking creature cowers like a terrified kitten.

This week, Fran wanted to complicate this centuries-old dialogue still further in her self-portrait, 'Kitten, kitten burning bright' (2006). Here, in this exciting new work, Fran explores the possibility that, actually. kittens have the capacity to - and, indeed often look - defiantly unterrified. Oh, she can, by the way, behead worms faster than a guillotine can behead aristocrats.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Remembrance of Cows Past

...Bank Holiday weekend draws to an end and the butcher's isn't open for another nine hours... Sigh... Such is the life of a carnivore pup...
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