PROB(e)JECT – New Works In Paint By foster-m

On Friday evening I attended a private viewing of PROB(e)JECT, an exhibition of new works in paint by Sheffield artist foster-m at the Snig Hill Gallery in Sheffield (here). This is the third exhibition featuring paintings by foster-m that I’ve attended and yet this does nothing to diminish the impact that his work has when entering a room in which his large canvases are displayed. Gallery owner Oliver Dempsey has made use of every available space across two floors to display these forty unseen works, all of which dwarf the viewer in both scale and execution.

foster-m Painting Window

These are paintings which assault the senses, the feeling of disorientation is exhilarating. Each piece presents itself initially as a chaotic tangle which then quickly gains structural resolution with surgical precision. The canvasses are scored with meshes of paint, layer upon layer is applied to achieve a texture which makes you want to reach out and run your fingers over the strokes. Colour and geometry collide and connect. Human anatomy is a recurring figure running through the majority of these paintings. Naked bodies with distorted appendages are flayed of their skin, rib cages explode and spill out their contents, empty eye sockets and mouths gape at the viewer.

foster-m Paintings 1

I visited foster-m in his studio last year prior to his first solo exhibition in preparation for an article I was writing but we ended up spending most of the time talking about a shared passion for music. The finished article was more about sound than art and I think foster was happy that it had turned out that way. Music resonates through his paintings like Marshall stacks.

foster-m Gallery Shot 1

But these are all just inadequate words and descriptions based on my own personal interpretations. When I sat down to write this piece, I promised myself that I wouldn’t let it get bogged down in unnecessary adjectives and metaphor but look what’s happened.

foster-m Gallery Shot 2

It’s difficult not to sound utterly pretentious or throw around meaningless, lazy clichés when discussing art on any level. I suppose this is an inherent problem with attempting to write about visual media though. The viewer looks for meaning, a back story, something that provides a connection of sorts. There is a powerful back story at work here and plenty of meaning behind each canvas but without experiencing the paintings, they are only words.

You need to see this exhibition for yourself, it’s truly that important.

PROB(e)JECT, an exhibition of new works in paint by foster-m is now open to the public and runs until the end of October.

The Snig Hill Gallery is at 24-26 Snig Hill in Sheffield, opening times are 10am – 3pm Tuesday to Saturday.


A William Tenn Reader

I got my first taste of William Tenn through a short story called Null-P which came highly recommended by my fellow vintage paperback obsessive Teece. He had read this story in an anthology many years ago and I was pleased to discover that it also appeared in a recently acquired SF collection by August Derleth. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to find out what else Tenn had written and turned to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (here) to undertake a little research.

William Tenn mainly wrote short stories, the ISFDB lists no fewer than sixty titles to his credit although he did pen one longform novel called Of Men And Monsters, a rather good review of which can be found on this excellent blog. After spending a while browsing through the list of published works I discovered that five collections of shorts and his sole novel had been issued as a uniform edition in 1968. My hunt began immediately.

A few weeks later, I had been lucky enough to track down five of the books without much trouble but the sixth eluded me. I eventually found a single copy being offered for sale by a US dealer but the price was far too high and he was unwilling to negotiate. It seemed that I had yet another incomplete series on my bookshelves. After learning of this predicament during a conversation about our latest finds, my friend kindly donated his copy to me and the circle was finally complete. This piece is therefore dedicated to Teece with thanks for being a constant source of literary inspiration… amongst many other things!

All the following books were published in 1968 by Ballantine, the artist responsible for the brilliantly psychedelic covers is sadly uncredited.

William Tenn Wooden Star

William Tenn Men And Monsters

William Tenn Seven Sexes

William Tenn Human Angle

William Tenn Square Root Of Man

William Tenn Possible Worlds

Poul Anderson Cover Confusion

Anyone who has ever stumbled across this blog and taken the time to read my somewhat disjointed ramblings will probably guess that I’m a sucker for a good cover. The shelves of my library are crammed with books which feature stunning designs ranging from the impossibly lurid to the sublime and all points between.  Amongst the many gems however are a few titles which belong in a section labelled ‘questionable’ – designs which I like but can’t adequately describe why. The following uniform edition of four Poul Anderson books published by Coronet in 1972 most definitely belongs in this category.

I came across three of the titles on eBay a few months ago and spent several days trying to make my mind up whether or not I should buy them. I think that a part of me was almost willing someone else to grab them in the meantime and rescue me from my indecisiveness. I finally cracked and hit the ‘Buy It Now’ button knowing that I had consigned myself to the inevitable task of searching for the final book to complete the series. This objective was achieved last week when my surly postman dropped the latest consignment of vintage paperbacks through my letterbox.

So, what is it about these covers that I find so appealing? I’m still at a loss to come up with a suitable explanation to be honest. The typography is atrocious, particularly the rather amateurish font used for Anderson’s name. The uncredited artwork is… well, I’m still not entirely sure. Maybe this sense of confusion is part of the reason why I picked up the series in the first place. Whatever my thoughts, I’ll leave the final judgement of their artistic merit up to you.

Poul Anderson Rebel Worlds

Poul Anderson Byworlder

Poul Anderson Enemy Stars

Poul Anderson Tau Zero

Eight Clifford D. Simak Covers

I have been enjoying the work of Mr Clifford Donald Simak immensely of late. Whilst browsing through Simak’s books in my library a few days ago, I was struck by how many of them had great covers, some of which were created by my favourite designers and so I thought I’d share a few of them here;

Time And Again – 1967, Penguin
A rather psychedelic piece by Alan Aldridge who would later produce LP covers and illustrations for a variety of bands amongst his other design work.

Simak Time and Again

Cosmic Engineers – 1969, Paperback Library
Although uncredited in the book, this rather striking cover has been identified as the work of Richard Powers.

Simak Cosmic Engineers

All The Traps Of Earth And Other Stories – 1963, Macfadden
Another uncredited Richard Powers cover although his signature can just be seen in the top right hand corner of the black & white panel illustration.

Simak Traps of Earth

Why Call Them Back From Heaven? – 1970, Ace
Once again, the artwork is not credited in the book. This is however an expanded version of 1968 cover which is credited to Leo and Diane Dillon.

Simak Call Back Heaven

Way Station – 1969, Macfadden
A great little oddity which is credited to Jack Faragasso on the back cover.

Simak Way Station

Destiny Doll – 1973, Sidgwick & Jackson
Wonderfully strange wraparound art which is uncredited but has been identified as the work of Lucinda Cowell.

Simak Destiny Doll

The artists responsible for these last two covers are sadly unidentified but they are so brilliant that I couldn’t finish this piece without including them.

The Werewolf Principle – 1971, Pan
Any book that manages to combine anatomical and geometric designs deserves a place in my library.

Simak Werewolf Principle

The Night Of The Puudly – 1964, Four Square
This is possibly my favourite cover in this series and looks for all the world like a Gilbert and George piece.

Simak Puudly

A Compendium Of Ian Miller Covers (Abridged)

My good friend and fellow paperback obsessive Teece first introduced me to the cover art of Ian Miller. He owns a particularly fine set of three H.P. Lovecraft anthologies which where published by Panther in the early 70s, each volume has a suitably odd jacket design by Miller. I have tried in vain for some time to obtain these books but they are extremely scarce and sell for ridiculously high prices.

I have however been able to assemble a small collection of other titles featuring wonderful examples of Ian Miller’s artwork which, in most cases continues across the spine and onto the back cover. I’m afraid I’m not willing to flatten these rather delicate books to photograph them so you’ll have to take my word for it. Here are eight of my favourites;

The House On The Borderland – William Hope Hodgson. 1972, Panther.

Hodgson Borderland

Beyond Tomorrow – Edited by Damon Knight. 1973, Pan.

Damon Knight Beyond Tomorrow

The Sucking Pit – Guy Smith. 1983, New English Library.

Guy Smith Sucking Pit

Tiltangle – R.W. Mackelworth. 1975, New English Library.

Mackelworth Tiltangle

R Is For Rocket – Ray Bradbury. 1972, Pan.

Bradbury Rocket

S Is For Space – Ray Bradbury. 1972, Pan.

Bradbury Space

The Eyes Of Heisenberg – Frank Herbert. 1975, New English Library.

Herbert Heisenberg

The Golden Apples Of The Sun – Ray Bradbury. 1979, Bantam.

Bradbury Golden Apples

Thirteen David Pelham Covers

Putting together a collection of anything can be a frustrating and disheartening endeavour before indulging in the pleasure afforded by it’s eventual completion. I’ve spent many years tracking down records and books which I still haven’t managed to obtain despite having an endless list of internet resources to draw upon. Personally speaking, when a collection is left in a state of incompleteness for an extended period of time it becomes a monument to compromise – I am an owner of fractions but never of the whole.

When I began picking up books belonging to this series, they seemed to be both plentiful and reasonably priced. I was lulled into a false sense of achievement by these early acquisitions and rapidly obtained the first eight titles without much effort. The next four were a much tougher proposition, availability was extremely limited and the prices noticeably higher. After several more months of searching I required just a single volume, this is when the problem became apparent. The elusive book was The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick. Not only is PKD a highly collectable author but Stigmata is undoubtedly one of his best works therefore making my task of finding a copy twice as difficult.

A few months ago however, I stumbled on a US bookseller with a copy up for sale, the price he wanted almost made me pass it up but I decided to contact him anyway. After making a few sensible offers, the dealer declined to negotiate his price and I returned to thinking that my collection would remain at a round dozen. It therefore came as quite a surprise when the dealer contacted me again a few weeks ago and accepted my previous best offer.

When the book arrived safely yesterday, I could hardly believe it. I had finally managed to assemble a complete set. Here are all thirteen covers from this fine series of books published by Penguin in 1972-73. Each title boasts a stunning David Pelham cover, the whole series is unified by a number of thematic design and typography cues.

Dick Three StigmataStapledon SiriusPohl Space MerchantsVonnegut Cats CradlePenguin SF OmnibusFarmer Night of LightBlish Black easterMoorcock Cure for CancerApeman SpacemanHenderson The PeopleStapledon Last MenStapledon StarmakerPohl Plague of Pythons

Dedicated to Frederik George Pohl Jr.
(November 26, 1919 – September 2, 2013)

Violators Of The English Language

Fifty years ago last week, Philips introduced the compact cassette at the Berlin Radio Show and changed the audio landscape for ever. Being of a certain vintage, these little plastic boxes of tape were as important to me as the vinyl I began to accumulate and soon I had hundreds of them. Over the years I’ve spent many happy hours carefully piecing together mixtapes for myself and friends. A well sequenced compilation was a work of art in those days and required a great deal of judgement and effort to get right. These things were cheap to buy and easy to use but truly meant something to us. Time passed and eventually we were all converting our record collections to MP3 files which were far more flexible than the humble cassette could ever hope to be.

It would seem however that these arcane conveyors of sound are making something of a comeback of late. I’ve previously written about tape only releases by Pye Corner Audio (here) and Demdike Stare (here), both of which were issued this year. Adding these to the half dozen I picked up last year and I’ve probably bought more cassettes over the last 18 months than I have for around fifteen years!

And now the esteemed Mr Andy Votel under his Violators Of The English Language guise has added to that number with his rather excellent Diabolical Melodix Beat Tape. I found out about this via Twitter a few weeks ago and was quick to snag a copy when it appeared – no audio previews are required when it comes to anything connected to with this man, believe me.

Violators Case

The cassette is housed in a black clamshell case, almost like a miniature VHS tape box and features gorgeous artwork by Edan, the humble magnificent himself.

Violators Cover

The rear cover also features the following explanatory text;

Hip-Hop beats made by V.O.T.E.L using original old records.

Open cuts unmastered / pre-noised.

I’ve now arrived at the part where I should write something about how this release sounds except I can’t, it would be like describing the shape of clouds or the taste of water. It’s Andy Votel playing some of his impossibly obscure records, what else is there to say really? Ok, it’s brimming with great beats and contains the odd sample of an MC or a bit of scratching. It’s funky but psychedelic too and sometimes sounds like the score from a lost European art film circa 1971. It occasionally veers into prog rock territory but never once loses its percussive thread, this is a beat tape after all. Is it Hip-Hop though? Yes and no. Maybe.

This isn’t really a review as such, I feel that I haven’t written enough of an accurate description to qualify for such a title. Then there’s the fact that this is a limited edition cassette only release which is now completely sold out so getting a copy is likely to involve some detective work. So why did I feel the need to sit here at my keyboard and write these words? Because it’s utterly brilliant and I’ve played this mix constantly since it first arrived, that’s why. If you’re unfamiliar with Andy Votel or his Finders Keepers label then I urge you to seek them out as you don’t know what you’re missing. If you are acquainted with any of his previous work then you really do need to track this one down by any means necessary.

Happy 50th birthday Mr Cassette, we still love you!