Midsummer.

Sunset seen from Crystal Palace. © David Secombe.

Peadar O’Donaghue:

I wish to die on

A Summer Solstice night with a fish and chip sky,
death kissing me slow and taking me quick
under salty stars speckling the seaside malty dome.
Fuck winter when nothing more can be said
to make saccharine of what’s gone before,
I’ll quit while I’m ahead,
not washed out, wasted,
wistful for lost wishes, words and cadaverous dreams.

Let the tolling bells be
drop dead gorgeous midsummer night dead-ringer brunettes
or doppelganger blondes, light-headed in rosy oblivion.
May my life be lost in space, and earth’s other worlds,
let all meaning be beeps and dots and dashes and x and o’s.
I’ll check cheques and balances on the tightrope
of unequal parallels like comet tails in midnight flight
flashing listless lights bright across the beauty of barren skies.

Shooting words like fish in a barrel
sending messages of blood shaped craft
in drunken elevation of life and quantum delight,
as heady giddy twirling unborn space-age masses might
shift the warm succulent truculent air
in the shifting drifting shape of yourself,
as you are, as you were, as you will be,
in a world without end or beginning.

You who are not alone, are all alone.
You who know well that
those who are dead are gone, and not gone.
All that is, was.

The ghosts are the breeze that push you,
through the darkness they guide you,
their warm voices cannot forget you,
shouting loud while the lost world sleeps.
Tonight the cosmos ponders large
on everything in nothing
‘til the yawning chasm claims life,
in sweet embrace, leaving death alone,
soft surrendering as day to night in the
licentious vicissitudes of inexorable desire.

© Peadar O’Donaghue 2017.


Wild Camden.

img_3061-1

Natalia Zagórska-Thomas wearing Julia Schrader. Photo © Jens Schaumann.

 

DS:  Well, we managed to negotiate our way out of 2016 only to find 2017 looming before us like a rogue ice shelf. Yet although the festive season was full of foreboding there were occasional moments of optimism amidst the gloom; one of the most enjoyable events in my pre-Christmas calendar was the private view of Call of the Wild at Studio Ex Purgamento in Camden.

 

img_2947

Antlers © Julia Schrader.

Visitors to the gallery are often wrong-footed by the address; it is located in a second-floor extension in a private home, a flat that belongs to artist and conservator Natalia Zagórska-Thomas and her husband Simon. If there was ever an enterprise that demonstrated devotion to an ideal of what art can and should be, Studio Ex Purgamento is it.

Natalia: We built the gallery in 2012, and our first show was that year. The idea is to provide a space which is a bridge between commercial galleries with all their financial restraints and museums which are major state institutions. In both cases there are strings and considerations beyond the art itself. I can do what I like.  It’s a not for profit space where I can choose work solely on the basis of what I want to show and the artists do not need to be famous names nor be sellable. Though they can be both. It’s about the theme, the concept of the show of which I am the only and a subjective arbiter.

 

img_3109

Going into the Thing Seriously; or These Influences Have Been Exerted for Good. © Natalia Zagórska-Thomas (alternative titles provided for the artist by Diane Williams).

 

Profit, apart from a tiny percentage above a certain price to try to recover some costs, goes to artists directly. Some years we sell a lot; others, not at all. I want to show established names alongside lesser known artists whose work interests me, and to mix visual art forms with text, design, performance, architecture, design, music and science. I show many Polish artists to promote their profile and contribution to the culture of the city. 

As to the current show, Natalia describes it thus: This is not a tidy show. This is not a tidy subject. What I wanted is what I think I always want: a contemporary version of the cabinet of curiosities, a camera obscura, an idiosyncratic collection of specimens picked up along the way. It feels like life: messy, chaotic, undisciplined, joyous, violent and confusing.

 

 

ds-p1250826a-copy

Pale Blue Hexapod © Danuta Sołowiej.

 

Somehow, Natalia has managed to fit work by 25 artists into her small gallery; these include sculptures by Almuth Tebbenhof, Danuta Sołowiej, and Andrzej Maria Borkowski, wearable art by Julia Schrader, photographs by Jens Schaumann, Marzena Pogorzały (whose images of massive Antarctic ice sheets are elegant visual tokens of the strangled metaphor I opened with) and your own correspondent. The show also features an extraordinary ‘biological’ installation by Heather Barnett, and poems by such luminaries (and friends of The London Column) as Roisin Tierney, Christopher Reid and Katy Evans Bush.

 

Ice 3

Ice 3. © Marzena Pogorzaly.

 

hungry

© Andrzej Maria Borkowski.

 

You hardly need me to tell you that the London art scene is full of bullshit, any more than you need me to tell you that 2017 could be a rough year. We will need all the optimism we can get our hands on; and any blows against philistinism or the dead weight of cultural conformity are as welcome as they are necessary.  As Katy Evans-Bush writes in Call of the Wild‘s exhibition catalogue: ‘At the time of going to print no one knows what’s going to happen next. Old ways of being uncivilised are being exhumed and new ones invented. The one thing we do know is that we will need to call on all our most civilised impulses – as well as our deepest, wildest aardvark’. Or, to put it another way, if you think the world is going to end tomorrow, plant a tree today. (Who said that? Answers on a postcard to …)

 

Pig mask worn in snowdrift, Ruan Minor, Cornwall, December 1978.

Ruan Minor, Cornwall, 1978. © David Secombe.

Gallery photos by Natalia.

Call of the Wild runs at Studio Ex Purgamento until 15 January; open weekends from 11 am — 6 pm. To visit during the week, call  for an appointment. (132D Camden Street, London NW1 0HY; 07799 495549; info@studioexpurgamento.com. http://www.studioexpurgamento.com.)

 


Welcome to Britain …

Croydon(c)DavidSecombe

South Croydon. © David Secombe 2010.


Ten imperatives.

Nuisance(c)DavidSecombeBorough. © David Secombe 2010.

Camden Lock 1980sCamden Lock. © David Secombe 1985.

Protestor at the trial of Peter Sutcliffe, Old Bailey, 1981Protestor outside the Old Bailey on the final day of the Peter Sutcliffe trial. © David Secombe 1981.

boroughcdavidsecombe1Banksy stencil, Borough Market. © David Secombe 2003.

Props outside the Old Vic, London, 1988 Props outside the stage door, Old Vic. © David Secombe 1988.

Pet shop sign, Brockley, 2003Pet shop, Brockley. © David Secombe 2003.

Items-of-valueAbandoned pub, Bermondsey. © David Secombe, 2010.

Toilet, WaterlooPub toilet, Waterloo. © David Secombe 2008.

Eat Eternal JerkSign outside a cafe, Brockley. © David Secombe 2010.

Sign in Abney Park Cemetery, London N16Abney Park Cemetery, N16. © David Secombe 2010.


Up My Street. Photo: Dylan Collard (3/5)

The Archway Cafe. © Dylan Collard.

David Secombe writes:

The genius of photography is the commemoration of the ephemeral; this is the reason why some of us are beady on the subject of digital photography, as it represents the commemoration of the ephemeral by means of the even-more-ephemeral. No such qualms arise from this week’s images by Dylan Collard, which were made using defiantly old-school methods. For his photos documenting the Holloway Road, Dylan lugged his massive Gandolfi ‘field’ camera (a device the size of a large hatbox, bolted to a hefty tripod) up and down that windswept, Stalinist boulevard to record scenes as quotidian as one could imagine.

In today’s photo, the proprietor (it can be no-one else) of the Archway Cafe poses for the camera in a way that we believe – we know – to be characteristic. Of course, he is having us on; he is playing the part of a surly cafe owner for our benefit, he knows that he is being memorialised for posterity – and Dylan’s limpid image preserves the shrewd glance of this short-order chef as if in amber.

Yet, if current trends continue, this commonplace scene is likely to disappear within a few years. The formica and the plastic condiment bottles already look like period pieces in this context, where they are employed as functional items rather than archly retro decor.  This is not a cafe for budding screenwriters with their MacBook Pros, or middle-class mums with Range Rover-sized prams and Orla Kiely infants, but it can only be a matter of time. The hipster-friendly make-over of the Holloway Road is upon us with the inevitability of a melting ice shelf. And perhaps that is why our man in the Archway Cafe is so watchful, he might be keeping an eye out for the wrecking hordes: the girls with oversized glasses, cut-off shorts and day-glo leggings, the thin young men with buttoned-up plaid shirts, skinny jeans and implausibly bushy boybeards … an army of destruction as potent as any in history.

… for The London Column. 

Up My Street is Dylan Collard‘s project documenting shops between Kentish Town and Archway. His exhibition The Twelfth Man is currently showing at Exposure Gallery, 22-23 Little Portland Street, London W1. Dylan is represented by the Vue agency. 


Up My Street. Photo: Dylan Collard. (1/5)

Elizabeth Sullivan, Beautiful, Holloway Road. © Dylan Collard.

From Born and Bred – Stories of Holloway Road:

Elizabeth Sullivan was born in Hackney in 1991. She moved to Liverpool Road until she was 6 and then moved to Penn Road just off Holloway Road where she has lived since 1997. She has worked as a Beauty Therapist at Beautiful at 639 Holloway Road since 2010.

“I’m always over in Holloway shopping. Even now I’m like ‘I’m just gonna pop over to Holloway’ and I’m over there for hours. I do love it as a little shopping place, you can get a right bargain and if I don’t get my nails done in here there are always the little nail bars. I’ll always meet up with a friend over there and we’ll go for a bit of lunch and have a little shop around.”

“I do waxing, tanning, nails, tinting, facials, massages, a bit of everything really. I really like it here, it’s lovely. The people that come in are lovely. I get on with the staff here hence why I’ve been here two and a half years already and I haven’t planned to move on. I get regular clients who come in and come back to me. With this kind of profession you do build up a clientele just because either they like the way you do certain things or they like coming to see you. You do get a lot of requests. I do think the salon is really good for the area. Everyone that comes in says it’s so nice to have a salon like this locally.”

The above interview is taken from Born and Bred, an oral history project by Rowan Arts documenting the life of the Holloway Road. You can hear more at www.storiesofhollowayroad.com. Up My Street is Dylan Collard‘s own project documenting shops between Kentish Town and Archway. His exhibition The Twelfth Man is currently showing at Exposure Gallery, 22-23 Little Portland Street, London W1. Dylan is represented by the Vue agency. 


V2 Woolworths disaster, New Cross, 25 November 1944.

Air raid shelter sign, Jerningham Road, New Cross, SE14. Photo © David Secombe 2010.

Today marks the 67th anniversary of the worst single bombing incident of the 2nd World War – when a V2 rocket scored a direct hit on a Woolworths store in New Cross. The V2 hit Woolworths when it was crowded with Saturday morning shoppers:  the official death toll was 168, but it was often said that the real figure was much higher – although it seems unlikely that a significantly higher casualty number could have been withheld until now.

The V2 was unlike the earlier ‘Vengeance Weapon’, the V1 (A.K.A. ‘doodlebug’, a cruise missile) in that it was impossible to detect – let alone intercept – before it exploded. The first impact in Chiswick in September 1944 was first thought to have been caused by a gas explosion. Their sudden deployment was a source of grave concern to Churchill, and prompted the construction of deep-level air raid shelters in Bloomsbury, Clapham and Stockwell. South and east London received a disproportionately high number of V-strikes, largely because of a British intelligence coup: the double agent Eddie Chapman managed to convince his Nazi ‘handlers’ that V1s were overshooting the centre of London (they weren’t),  hence the rocket launchers recalibrated and bombs began falling on Brockley, Woolwich, Deptford, Catford, Barking, Ilford, etc., and across Kent and Surrey.

The literal impact of these weapons may still be seen in London, where pockets of undeveloped bombsites remain – like the dead spot on Tottenham Court Road opposite Heals, final destination of a V2. South London is peppered with anomalous green spaces or abrupt changes in architectural style on a residential street, characteristic traces of Vengeance weapons. Perhaps the most bizarre legacy of the V2 campaign was the subsequent career of the project’s architect, Werner von Braun. The majestic Saturn V rocket which took Neil Armstrong towards the Moon was von Braun’s creation, the end result of his wartime experiments in rocketry and ballistics. As for Woolworths, they’ve put up a plaque. There is an Iceland store there now.

(The Londonist has a fascinating map of V2 bombsites on London; and further information may be found on the site flyingbombsandrockets.com.)

David Secombe.