Monday, 5 November 2018

HR Giger: Skizzen

10 years ago I was lucky enough visit the home of fellow HR Giger fan and avid collector; Dave Julian. Subsequently I was lucky enough to call this wonderfully hospitable and welcoming man my friend and reunite with him earlier this year in Gruyeres. When visiting Dave's house I marvelled at his amazing collection ranging from posters, prints and books to jewellery, albums and photos and everything in between. At the time I was a fresh faced college student desperate to get to the HR Giger Museum, but unequipped financially, logistically and lacking a lot of of the necessary knowledge to make my pilgrimage. I appealed to Les Barany, Gigers agent, for help, and he kindly put me in touch with some wonderful folks a little closer to home who were willing, most kindly, to share their personal collections with me. After having my eyes well and truly opened by Dave's collection all those years ago I have actively added to my own collection bit by bit over the years. But for one reason of another there has always been certain pieces which stuck with me and I am always dreaming of owning. The film design book with the fold out Alien 3 design, wonderfully crafted pieces of jewellery (one of which I am now lucky enough to call my own), the NYC portfolio (yeah I can dream!) and of course, Skizzen.

As they say good things come in small packages and for me Skizzen was just that. By no means a flash statement, this unassuming little grey book totally and utterly captivated me. It was utterly charming and a format rarely seen in a commercial book. Each page features one of Giger's sketches. Pure, raw, honest. A brief glimpse into the mind of a genius. His thought processes, the development of his ideas, what made the great man tick. His sketchbook laid bare in every detail. I found it mesmerizing and nothing short of incredible.

Since seeing Dave's copy of Skizzen all those years ago I think of that little book often and what for me is utterly unrivalled beauty. Perhaps the signs of a truly obsessive book collector. For many years I have hoped some how one day I would have a Skizzen of my own, though knowing it is a very rare book which can command a high price I never expected to get my hands on one, not really.

Then suddenly just under a month ago I received an email. It was an alert from eBay which I had set up to inform me of anything appearing relating to 'Giger Skizzen'. I set up the alert so long ago I had honestly forgotten all about it. For the first time I had found a copy at a price I could afford. I thought about it for around 5 minutes (probably less) and in the end with the words 'you might never see another one' and 'how long have you waited for this?' ringing in my ears I pressed the buy it now button and waited what felt like the longest week for it to arrive from Germany. I was fearful it was too good to be true, would something be wrong? Damage? Missing pages? A fake? Or it just not arrive.

Upon Skizzen's eventual arriva,l I checked it all over, to my relief everything was as it should have been. And finally, after all those years, all that searching through book shops and stalls for countless hours, all that hope that if I looked long enough one would be there waiting. Skizzen was mine. And boy was it worth waiting 10 years for. Never lose hope.










Monday, 29 October 2018

Scriptum Oxford

On a recent visit to Oxford for my birthday I discovered an utter gem of a shop. From outside this small shop housed down a quiet street hints at the treasure which waits within. As an avid fountain pen collector the instant I saw a quill in the window I was heading for the door.

Inside an utter treasure trove of glorious things awaited. Italian quills and dip pens in all sorts of shapes and sizes lay delicately on a table as you walked in. The brass of hand shaped clips, letter openers and magnifying glass rims twinkled in the light as I surveyed the scene of a pen lovers dream. Sealing wax and seals sat neatly in rows waiting to be adored. Halloween eyeball marbles displayed in a miniature bath, what could be finer?

I caught sight of what is always the greatest temptation in life; the glass cabinet. With lines of beautiful pens standing to attention and given an exotic flair by the addition of ornate oriental fans I searched to see what was on offer. Much to my joy my favourite pen manufacturer Kaweco took pride of place in centre front.

Upstairs the walls were lined with notebooks, parchment and everything you could want to accompany your favourite pen. Marbled paper, papyrus and illuminated manuscripts sat waiting for a keen owner to give them a lease of life. Puppets and prints lined the staircase in a colourful display of character and fun, ensuring every available inch is packed with sights guaranteed to stir the senses. The entire place was a cornucopia of everything I love, ancient looking globes, phrenology heads, beautiful binding, an eclectic array of objects which largely exist in times gone by only.

The shop was nothing short of incredible and a real credit to its owner who has on offer some of the finest selection of objects, both useful and ornamental I have seen in a shop for a long time. If like me you somehow seem to find you live your life almost in another century to the majority of other people don't hesitate to visit Scriptum next time you're near by, its nothing short of delightful and utterly glorious. Or if your a little more 21st century check out their wares online: https://www.scriptum.co.uk/



Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Le Palais Idéal

When researching some places to visit off the beaten track on our European Roadrip I stumbled upon the Le Palais Idéal on Atlas Obscura and it was instantly added to the must see list of weird and wonderful places.

Upon leaving Lyon to head for Marseillan we took a minor detour to the village of Hauterives to find this magnificent marvel, where 139 years ago a French Postman started on his lifes mission to create the place of his dreams. What Ferdinand Cheval created was a temple to imagination, nature and the wonders of the world. It stands today as an incredible testament to the hard work and determination of one man over the course of 33 years.

The Palais is truly a wonder to behold. It rises from the ground like some eruption of organic mass. Like the ultimate life size sandcastle this mammoth monument is a feast for the eyes. Everywhere can be see plants, coral, animals, people all merging, growing and flowing. The Palais is not the typical structure you would expect to find in the middle of a rural French village. It has clear exotic influences from a variety of different cultures. And this was no accident. On his postal rounds Cheval saw the wonders of the world outside his home through publications magazines and postcards he was delivering. All of these elements fed into the aesthetics and final design of of the Le Palais Idéal.

As utterly awe inspiring and breath taking as the structure is, equally moving was the story of Ferdinand Cheval himself. A modest, hard working man who one day was inspired in the most unlikely of ways; by a stone. He looked at this strange stone shaped by nature and felt compelled to build. He collected stones to build with on his postal rounds, initially in his pockets, then a basket and finally his famous wheelbarrow, which gives an idea of the growth of his ideas and the development of the scale of the project. Chevals building took on a life of its own as he poured dreams, inspiration and determination into its building. He faced great ridicule and was mocked for his venture, yet he persevered and completed the incredible monument we see today. I felt incredibly moved by the idea that if you work long and hard enough your dreams can come true. It was a very sobering, moving experience.

Nothing can quite prepare you for the experience of seeing this incredible sculptured structure. If you are ever in the region I urge you to visit this incredible testament to one mans vision. For more information please visit: http://www.facteurcheval.com/en/index.html










Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The Alchemy Series

Recently I have been hard at work on the sometimes painfully detailed Alchemy series. While I think quite easily I could keep on going with this series and dreaming up more weird and wacky designs and picking even more of my favourite creatures to feature I decided to call a halt on it at 6, as its a nice round number and a number of different eco-systems and creatures have been covered.

Originally the Alchemy series was born out of the twisted take on the idea of being a creator. My idea of some ancient fellow using mysterious magic and methods long lost to modern man to create these curious creatures prevailed throughout the series and often led me to pursue some of the more bizarre creations nature has to offer. Each creature sits inert in the bottle of their birth, surveying their surroundings and place in the world. This mere man, a magician or a deity depending on your perspective, has unleashed these curious creatures upon us through the power of his alchemic practice. Does his ancient practice make him a god? Or are all those whose imagination knows no bounds capable of creation?

The series was a truly mammoth undertaking with over 130 hours work creating the final pieces and countless hours of photoshop work preparing them for print.

The Alchemy series is available to buy as a set of A4 prints, or individually, to check them out Click here!







Monday, 24 September 2018

The Wellcome Collection - Medical marvels, morbidity and more

For a long time I've heard only good things about the Wellcome Collection in London and have long been intending to visit and never quite gotten round to it, so I thought it was about time I corrected this. During a trip to London earlier in the year, I made a point of making my first stop fresh off the train an early evening visit to the Wellcome Collection.

The collection can be easily divided into 2 clear categories; the more modern, scientific area of the white rooms, featuring cross sections of human bodies, nerve and muscle specimen and modern art commenting on modern science and the human body. The other, a temple to all things once cutting edge and scientifically sound. The red room is full of fascinating objects from our medical and personal past.

Prosthetic limbs, saws, syringes, diorama, dildos, models, mummies, good luck charms, skulls, secret pornography, shrunken heads, artwork, masks, ex voto. The room is full of strange decadent items from a whole host of civilizations. The Egyptian, Roman, Chinese, Japanese and everything in between contribute to the collection.

The pieces on display are truly fascinating and I have never seen a collection of medical and morbid memorabilia quite like it. The criteria for inclusion in the collection seems to favour anything featuring a skull (which I wholly approve of of course); candle sticks, paintings, wax works, statues, walking sticks, models and of course, actual skulls. On the whole the collection certainly does justice to our predisposed obsession with death, morbidity and darkness, especially in times past. Many of the exhibits reflect our fascination with decay and the contrast between life and death. While these are sometimes medical, sometimes spiritual, they are nearly always hauntingly beautiful.

One of my favourite pieces, a memento mori waxwork model reminding people of the inescapable inevitability of death stares hauntingly out at passers by as a serpent snakes into an empty eye socket while insects take hold of the decaying corpse. In its time this would have been a grizzly but potent reminder of the inevitable fate of us all, regardless of power or wealth.

Scientifically the collection shows just how much progress we've made since medicine was in its infancy. It showcases some extraordinary examples which remind us just how far we've come in the way of prosthesis, surgery and even mindset in the last 100 years alone.
The collection is a fascinating chance to truly see our understanding and comprehension of disease, death and decay develop over the centuries.

If you have an interest in relics from medical history or are a little morbidly inclined be sure to check out the Wellcome collection on your next visit to the big smoke. More more info visit: https://wellcomecollection.org/ I can highly recommend the gift shop, some fantastic books and gifts!














Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Wightwick Manor: A Pre-Raphaelite Dream

Last Christmas I was lucky enough to be gifted something utterly glorious by one of my oldest, kindest friends, National Trust membership.

Ever since we have endeavoured to visit as many places as possible, and I’m always on the look out for anywhere in striking distance that poses a potential day out. Looking through the guide book I spotted something which looked incredibly appealing; Wightwick Manor and as soon as I read the words ‘Pre-Raphaelite Art Collection’ I knew it was a must.

As soon as I walked around the exterior I immediately knew this was it; my favourite property to date. I felt something deep within me stir. The exterior was yet another example of Victorian perfection. With its Tudoresque timbered structure marrying brick, wood and render in perfect harmony. The details across the exterior were nothing short of perfection. Exquisite brick chimneys dotted the roof line adding splashes of red amongst the black and white and complimenting the block base. The once jet black fumed oak now aged hint of brown and silver with time, twisting and turning forming almost mesmerizing patterns against the white lime render. Intricate carvings lurk here and there, faces looking for a viewer, barge boards with impossibly delicate detailing and layered window frames nothing short of exquisite. The house was no vast mansion, no lavish pile, but its aesthetics were what I consider the pinnacle of British architecture and style. In that uniquely Victorian way the Manor marries the medieval, Gothic and Tudor in a way which is utterly believable, totally respectful and considered and entirely perfect.

Once inside it felt as if someone had looked deep within me and created my ultimate Pre-Raphaelite dream. The interior felt dark and gloomy, with an incredible atmosphere that weighed heavy. The lower ceilings of the the entrance hall, study and corridors gave the building a cosy feeling which I felt was utterly unique of any building this size I'd ever visited. The endless wealth of textiles, Morris wallpaper, rugs, paintings, stained glass and so many beautiful objects gave the Manor a homely feeling which instantly warmed my heart. It's eclectic nature struck a chord with my own excessive, magpiesque traits and indulged them to the nth degree.

The entire Manor was a feast for the senses from beginning to end. Dante Gabriel Rosetti paintings and drawings hang here and there, above piano's, in dark hidden corners, against deep wood panelling which only serve to accentuate the decadent nature of this glorious place. I wander down the dull corridor and beams of light strike out at the giant potted plants which give a pleasant scent of foliage. All of this is a prelude to the great hall, where a woman plays the piano filling the house with a dreamy lull that easily transports you back to the Victorian heyday of the home. Blue and white china glint out from the dressers and shelves while vases of wildflowers give the impression that Morris's furnishings have come to life and taken over the room in which they sit. A Pre-Raphaelite beauty waters her plants by the piano in a large painting by George Fredrick Watts. Illustrations of Ravens, Hares and Lions linger in the shadows and a Burne-Jones painting waits for you at the end of the grand double height space, beckoning you forth to the rest of the house. 

The entire Manor is a temple to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Arts and Crafts movement. Paintings from the great names of the movement including; Millais, Rossetti, Ford Maddox Brown, but also lesser known artists, including the more prolific females within the group; Lizzie Siddal, Evelyn De Morgan, Emma Sandys all grace every nook and cranny of this utterly unique place. No detail or object feels unimportant in this Victorian wonderland where everything has its place and even the tiniest trinket would be missed in the gloriously eclectic ambiance of this honest, comfortable home.

Wightwick Manor is a must see for all obsessive Victorian enthusiasts like myself, especially if the Pre-Raphaelites is your passion. I confess the place thoroughly bewitched me, and the moment I left I began pondering my return. Only the most special places in the world leave you feeling that way. I've been more lucky than most to have found just a few of them in my life so far. Until next time Wightwick.