why is there no gallery devoted to william blake in london?

i am firmly of the conviction that whatever the work  it should enhance the space. maybe even rebuild the space. the space it is exhibited…

the space represented – inspirational space? in blakes terminology imagination or vision.

the space needed – the ‘frame’.

the environ. the architectural frame or perhaps the organic frame. the space is the place. no. the place is the space.

this comes from the ongoing search for exhibition spaces.

a few years back i went to the musee rodin and found myself wondering where the ‘house of blake’ is (or even the house of gaudier breszka – though there is kettles yard).

(the musee rodin is a fantastic venue full of light. natural light. a beautiful place to look at his work – similarly; kettles yard –

i went to the print room in the british museum to read an original print of jerusalem. i couldn’t help but think there should be a space set asside for exhibiting william blake with a reading room attached. it is a fantastic experience to read something created by the artist himself.

blake lived for most of his life in and around london but you would be hard pushed to find him exhibited here. the tate britain seems to drop the room he is in at every available opportunity

[what was the exhibition on slavery about? was blake really relevant? why were tate & lyle claiming that they took no part in slavery? even if true was it relevant? this was an exhibition a few years back in the room usually set a side for blake – ‘ blake and slavery’ – sponsored by ‘tate & lyle’. (the room is currently devoted to early francis bacon).]

who could be trusted to do this right & where? what would be the space to house william blake? surely he needs some sort of (non-dominational obviously) chapel. not a strip lit supermarket style museum.

he is the great insurrectionary artist poet – a republican who loathed church and privilege.

i think this maybe a contributing factor why would the state or people with money stump up for a house devoted to a man who hated them.

london needs a place to go and draw and contemplate william blake.

i did the drawings ‘specially today. another time i will bring more colour to the job. blakes’ colour is second to none.

‘blake and antiquity’ by kathleen raine is a good start in getting to grips with william blake. as is the ‘marriage of heaven and hell’ oxford paperbacks do an illuminated version – well annotated.


“Simplicity is not an end in art, but one arrives at simplicity in spite of oneself, in approaching the real sense of things. Simplicity is complexity itself, and one has to be nourished by its essence in order to understand its value.”

Constantin Brancusi (‘Constantin Brancusi; The Essence of Things’ ed. C. Gimenez & M. Gale, Guggenheim museum).


i draw myself. quite frequently. the one above is from the middle of last year. the one below last week.

the oil painting i did in 2007 i think.

it is an incredible thing to attempt to understand the face. especially trying to step outside of yourself to look at yourself as another might see you.

too much thinking gets in the way. drawing / painting / sculpting helps to switch off all the static.  and this is where the real discipline has to come in because achieving that state of mind requires a hell of a lot of practise.


this is a project very close to the essence of what i am doing. the images come from my study of arcane artifacts and ancient art forms – i have various sketch books devoted to these things – the most direct influence are misericords: medieval sculptures for elderly monks to park their creaky, syphilitic (only joking) posteriors.

the subject matter is often rude. which was appealing.

i read a book called ‘the world turned upside down’ by christopher hill: it covers the many revolutionary peasant sects which flourished about and fuelled the english revolution before cromwell stamped down on them. many of the philosophies had lived on to inform wiliam blake. anarchy, mysticism and republicanism. it is a wonderful book.

a book on misericords caught my eye; called ‘the world upside down, english misericords’ by christa grossinger and that is when i took to the scatology and peculiar fables. i started to sketch from them and cut them down to basic shapes and let other influences trickle in – celtic and Scandinavian line drawing (pre-christian) / cave paintings / medieval islamic scrolls.

i think a regular life drawing session i have been doing seeped in there as well.

the shapes and texture suggested to me by the sculpture were the starting point – the humour and the links to other folk imagery (no matter how tenuous) provided a sort of fuel.

the paper behind the etchings is hand made and the frames themselves are painted. all twelve / fourteen of them. i think the next group along these lines will be related to graphics from alchemy. alchemy is a very valid explication of the creation of an art piece.


the ‘daffs’ were painted in my room – the first touches were boring so i just lathered on the paint. what i lost in form i gained in colour. the second two were painted in the garden. my only interest was to keep the immediacy of the first brushes strokes.

Cousin Teresa, a short story by Saki [H H Munro] from the collection of short stories: ‘Beasts and Super-Beasts’.

“If you are a businessman you are in the endless pursuit of novelty – that’s fair enough.”

Mark E. Smith of the fall, on the tube, channel 4.

“Bassett Harrowcluff returned to the home of his fathers, after an absence of four years, distinctly well pleased with himself. He was only thirty-one, but he had put in some useful service in an out-of-the-way, though not unimportant, corner of the world. He had quieted a province, kept open a trade route, enforced the tradition of respect which is worth the ransom of many kings in out-of-the-way regions, and done the whole business on rather less expenditure than would be requisite for organising a charity in the home country. In Whitehall and places where they think, they doubtless thought well of him. It was not inconceivable, his father allowed himself to imagine, that Basset’s name might figure in the next list of Honours.

Basset was inclined to be rather contemptuous of his half-brother, Lucas, whom he found feverishly engrossed in the same medley of elaborate futilities that had claimed his whole time and energies, such as they were, four years ago, and almost as far back before that as he could remember. It was the contempt of the man of action for the man of activities, and it was probably reciprocated. Lucas was an over-well nourished individual, some nine years Basset’s senior, with a colouring that would have been accepted as a sign of intensive culture in an asparagus, but probably meant in this case mere abstention from exercise. His hair and forehead furnished a recessional note in a personality that was in all other respects obtrusive and assertive. There was certainly no Semitic blood in Lucas’s parentage, but his appearance contrived to convey at least a suggestion of Jewish extraction. Clovis Sangrail, who knew most of his associates by sight, said it was undoubtedly a case of protective mimicry.

Two days after Basset’s return, Lucas frisked in to lunch in a state of twittering excitement that could not be restrained even for the immediate consideration of soup, but had to be verbally discharged in spluttering competition with mouthfuls of vermicelli.

“I’ve got hold of an idea for something immense,” he babbled, “something that is simply It.”

Basset gave a short laugh that would have done equally well as a snort, if one had wanted to make the exchange. His half-brother was in the habit of discovering futilities that were “simply It” at frequently recurring intervals. The discovery generally meant that he flew up to town, preceded by glowingly-worded telegrams, to see some one connected with the stage or the publishing world, got together one or two momentous luncheon parties, flitted in and out of “Gambrinus” for one or two evenings, and returned home with an air of subdued importance and the asparagus tint slightly intensified. The great idea was generally forgotten a few weeks later in the excitement of some new discovery.

“The inspiration came to me whilst I was dressing,” announced Lucas; “it will be THE thing in the next music-hall REVUE. All London will go mad over it. It’s just a couplet; of course there will be other words, but they won’t matter. Listen:
Cousin Teresa takes out Caesar, Fido, Jock, and the big borzoi.
A lifting, catchy sort of refrain, you see, and big- drum business on the two syllables of bor-zoi. It’s immense. And I’ve thought out all the business of it; the singer will sing the first verse alone, then during the second verse Cousin Teresa will walk through, followed by four wooden dogs on wheels; Caesar will be an Irish terrier, Fido a black poodle, Jock a fox-terrier, and the borzoi, of course, will be a borzoi. During the third verse Cousin Teresa will come on alone, and the dogs will be drawn across by themselves from the opposite wing; then Cousin Teresa will catch on to the singer and go off-stage in one direction, while the dogs’ procession goes off in the other, crossing en route, which is always very effective. There’ll be a lot of applause there, and for the fourth verse Cousin Teresa will come on in sables and the dogs will all have coats on. Then I’ve got a great idea for the fifth verse; each of the dogs will be led on by a Nut, and Cousin Teresa will come on from the opposite side, crossing en route, always effective, and then she turns round and leads the whole lot of them off on a string, and all the time every one singing like mad:
‘Cousin Teresa takes out Caesar, Fido, Jock, and the big borzoi.’
Tum-Tum! Drum business on the two last syllables. I’m so excited, I shan’t sleep a wink to-night. I’m off to-morrow by the ten-fifteen. I’ve wired to Hermanova to lunch with me.”

If any of the rest of the family felt any excitement over the creation of Cousin Teresa, they were signally successful in concealing the fact.

“Poor Lucas does take his silly little ideas seriously,” said Colonel Harrowcluff afterwards in the smoking-room.

“Yes,” said his younger son, in a slightly less tolerant tone, “in a day or two he’ll come back and tell us that his sensational masterpiece is above the heads of the public, and in about three weeks’ time he’ll be wild with enthusiasm over a scheme to dramatise the poems of Herrick or something equally promising.”

And then an extraordinary thing befell. In defiance of all precedent Lucas’s glowing anticipations were justified and endorsed by the course of events. If Cousin Teresa was above the heads of the public, the public heroically adapted itself to her altitude. Introduced as an experiment at a dull moment in a new REVUE, the success of the item was unmistakable; the calls were so insistent and uproarious that even Lucas’ ample devisings of additional “business” scarcely sufficed to keep pace with the demand. Packed houses on successive evenings confirmed the verdict of the first night audience, stalls and boxes filled significantly just before the turn came on, and emptied significantly after the last ENCORE had been given. The manager tearfully acknowledged that Cousin Teresa was It. Stage hands and supers and programme sellers acknowledged it to one another without the least reservation. The name of the REVUE dwindled to secondary importance, and vast letters of electric blue blazoned the words “Cousin Teresa” from the front of the great palace of pleasure. And, of course, the magic of the famous refrain laid its spell all over the Metropolis. Restaurant proprietors were obliged to provide the members of their orchestras with painted wooden dogs on wheels, in order that the much-demanded and always conceded melody should be rendered with the necessary spectacular effects, and the crash of bottles and forks on the tables at the mention of the big borzoi usually drowned the sincerest efforts of drum or cymbals. Nowhere and at no time could one get away from the double thump that brought up the rear of the refrain; revellers reeling home at night banged it on doors and hoardings, milkmen clashed their cans to its cadence, messenger boys hit smaller messenger boys resounding double smacks on the same principle. And the more thoughtful circles of the great city were not deaf to the claims and significance of the popular melody. An enterprising and emancipated preacher discoursed from his pulpit on the inner meaning of “Cousin Teresa,” and Lucas Harrowcluff was invited to lecture on the subject of his great achievement to members of the Young Mens’ Endeavour League, the Nine Arts Club, and other learned and willing-to-learn bodies. In Society it seemed to be the one thing people really cared to talk about; men and women of middle age and average education might be seen together in corners earnestly discussing, not the question whether Servia should have an outlet on the Adriatic, or the possibilities of a British success in international polo contests, but the more absorbing topic of the problematic Aztec or Nilotic origin of the Teresa MOTIV.

“Politics and patriotism are so boring and so out of date,” said a revered lady who had some pretensions to oracular utterance; “we are too cosmopolitan nowadays to be really moved by them. That is why one welcomes an intelligible production like ‘Cousin Teresa,’ that has a genuine message for one. One can’t understand the message all at once, of course, but one felt from the very first that it was there. I’ve been to see it eighteen times and I’m going again to-morrow and on Thursday. One can’t see it often enough.”

* * * *

“It would be rather a popular move if we gave this Harrowcluff person a knighthood or something of the sort,” said the Minister reflectively.

“Which Harrowcluff?”asked his secretary.

“Which? There is only one, isn’t there?” said the Minister; “the ‘Cousin Teresa’ man, of course. I think every one would be pleased if we knighted him. Yes, you can put him down on the list of certainties – under the letter L.”

“The letter L,” said the secretary, who was new to his job; “does that stand for Liberalism or liberality?”

Most of the recipients of Ministerial favour were expected to qualify in both of those subjects.

“Literature,” explained the Minister.

And thus, after a fashion, Colonel Harrowcluff’s expectation of seeing his son’s name in the list of Honours was gratified.”


uh it’s in the public domain. by all means let me know of a reason i shouldn’t use it and i will remove it.


this will be an occasional – maybe even frequent series. ‘stuff from sketch books’. if i were honest i would include an entire sketch book – warts an all so to speak. but i am not so i won’t.

sketching from other peoples work has really forced me to understand their methods and let the paintings / sculptures / whatever penetrate the mind; it opens up all sorts of parts of the brain to the painting (+). i have learnt a lot from this.

of course i will draw whatever is in front of me.

this was from around four years a go – drawn in the national gallery from a painting by velasquez on a5. i might devote another blog to this sketch book or at least another scrap from it – i seem to have learnt quickly that year. i include it for perspective.

the rest are from a sketch book i was using between december 2009 and march 2010 – a5 in size.

the first is one of my nephews,  and i have no idea what the second is… possibly either a rodin or degas from the coutauld… ? the third is vincent van goph from the self portrait in the coutauld gallery in london.

below is a skull drawn in my home – make of that what you will – beneath that is from a painting (currently on tour apparently); possibly of william shakespeare; as hung in the national portrait gallery, i particularly like it because he looks like a pirate. he will make another appearance.


“I understand in a new way a very old phenomenon. How can I explain it? Have you noticed that the truer a work is, the more style is has?

“This is strange, because style is not the truth of appearances; and yet, the heads which seem to me to look most like the heads of people I see in the streets at random are the least realistic heads. Egyptian, Chinese, or Greek archaic, or Chaldean heads.

I would say that styles are visions stopped in time and space.”

Alberto Giacometti (‘Alberto Giacometti’ by Charles Juliet pg.73)

giacometti is probably the first artist i responded to – i was looking through a book of his drawings & i felt something in me move.
in particular – his obsession with the face. how mysterious the face is; how difficult to see; how implacable in essence but constantly changing and responding to inner needs (frequently unknown) and outer elements.
also that recognition that a drawing can have a peculiar relationship with time…

the majority of portrait artists hold no interest for me since they either wish to do the job perfectly well done by photography or they function within the individuals personal iconography (whether it be country gentleman or philosopher or commentater or rock n roller). a face stripped of the aspirations of time and place is compelling and alienating and mundane all at once.

the drawing above comes from work i have done in a workshop i run in the lewisham arthouse: we run along loose term times on tuesday evenings. all abilities / interests welcome.


this is a piece worked on recently – probably finished.

it is stretched over something (made out of cardboard) given me by a friend of mine,  pim conradi,  you can find him at:

the surface is shaped giving it  a physicality; forcing the shape of the space around it to change with it. i like the idea of creating large ones to really play with the structure of internal architecture.

the spaces we live in – to quote pim are – as a rule ‘penitentiary’ style. we live in boxes.