Sunday, 13 December 2009

This shape might be a good base for the glass maquette of the camouflaged bunker/ house work I'd like to make, based around a German plan for a WW2 fairly common casemate in Guernsey.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Entranced by Jeremy Millar's "Projector" at the Ikon Gallery. The work is in part from a Borges story 'The Mirror of Ink' (1933), which in turn relates a story by Richard Francis Burton in 'The Lake Regions of Equatorial Guinea' (1859) detailing a mirror of ink poured into the palm of the right hand.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Passing cranes

Visited the Channel show, Southampton to look at my photos. Maybe some framing issues?Visited the Solent photography department too. Also, went to Artsway and had a sneak preview of their open show, which looks rather good for an open. Glimpsed a lovely conglomeration of cranes on the docks on the journey there, but only from the speedy road. On the way back I picked up another 7 films in for processing, including a rather nice shot of cranes loading the cargo boat in Alderney. The buoy looks beautifully fluorescent against the greyness of the weather.

Monday, 26 October 2009

I read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" whilst on Alderney - not much concrete in the book, but The Guernsey Press said it had increased American tourist numbers to Guernsey.
I also dipped into "Festung Alderney" by Trevor Davenport and compared the diagrams to the actual sites I visited when at times the visibility was down to shrouded-under-a-white-cloth distance - not like the sky in this postcard. The book is pretty comprehensive, if rather niche.

Monday, 19 October 2009

I finally tracked this observation tower down to a field in Guernsey on my research trip. I've been drawing it from a small, old photo for a couple of years, what a difference to see it in a straw-coloured field sprouting satellite dishes and (radio?) masts. It seems to be masquerading as some utility resource for the Guernsey States.

Shell-shrine, bunker, Guernsey. Perhaps a sort of obsessive internal-space camouflage like the WWII domestication of other Channel Island German defence interiors with pictures and ornaments, while hours were wittled away waiting.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Observation post

This charming place is the Nicolle Tower, Jersey (a different branch of the Nicolles from my family). The 1940's Germans came along and added an extra floor to the existing tower, filling in crenellations with concrete and adding rubber roof tiles to camouflage their observation post. The bedroom (top floor) has a compass painted on the ceiling and as would be expected, far-reaching views on all sides of the coast and hills. It's also an interesting place to have a bath.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


An island three and a half miles by one and a half and so many fortifications:Napoleonic, Victorian and German WWII, all jammed on top of each other and around each other. Houses turned into defence fortifications then back into houses. Bunkers built on granite forts and camouflaged to look like stone and great angry-looking concrete slits knocked through the Victorian walls. Winding trenches breached by brambles. Anti-tank walls deluged under banks of sand. A very, very long breakwater with rusting railway tracks disappearing off the end. Organisation Todt on overdrive and the misery of the 'slave-workers' embedded in the wood-shuttered cement. The sense of watching and waiting, of being watched by countless, dank, dark gun embrasures, is immense and so often it is the sense of staring out over the sea to something invisible or perhaps about to appear through the fog.
All this and some stunning seafood too.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Navigation towers and bunkers

Clear skies and sharp shadows on the concrete blocks of the coastal defence installations. I saw one of the towers I've been sketching this year, in a field with some pumpkins nearby. I think it's being used for water or power and was buzzing loudly. Also a casemate with carpet lined plywood doors, a tangle of ropes and a whole heap of tyres - dark and damp. One defence structure has a refurbished shell shrine in it, statues, music and green lights - photos to follow.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Jersey bus timetable

Apart from losing my phone, I've been rounding off the travel arrangements for the research trip - 6 flights in total, all in tiny prop planes in which you can sit in the back and almost touch the pilot on the shoulder to offer him/her a mint. I think I've missed the boat so to speak in getting a Jersey bus timetable and a Guernsey Perry's Guide before departure. The trip makes me think of the whole journey as container for this research period. My thinking threads seem to trail through many distinct places and to physically take me to quite some destinations, albeit fairly close to home at this point. This map of Thomas Browne's environment, once he'd settled in Norfolk, captures this idea. It's from a leaflet about Browne in St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich, where (most of) Browne is buried. I cannot remember if his skull came back or not, it does tell you in the leaflet. Just checked, and it was re-interred in 1922 aged 317 years. The translation of the latin skull memorial begins, "O noble head lie safe in Peter's keeping,"
I might have an old bus timetable.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Arabesque & Honeycomb

I'm re-reading 'Arabesque & Honeycomb' at the moment by Sacheverell Sitwell, another mid 20th century (1957) travelogue of Iran and thereabouts. Naturally, some comparisons to "the Road to Oxiana". He talks disparagingly of Shirazi gardens visited but is more complementary of past Persian gardens, ," water-filled canals, orchards and cypress were the mainstay, and the favourite flower the rose". There's a lovely image of Seljuq Shahs giving audience next to fountains filled with floating red apples, "under a plane tree encased in silver, an image beautiful in itself as poetry."

Chatted to a friend just back from Damascus and Beirut yesterday, then read Mr Sitwell's account of his Damascene journey - somewhat different.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I've now met with the Garden of Cyrus photographer again, Pete, and we've finalised the photos for the DVD and leaflet. Pete's studio smelt a little of the dark room at Pemberton Rd, which was a strange transportation back in time. This image isn't one of Pete's. The writing (from Urne Burial) was part of Simon Raven's performance at the event, linking neatly to the "An Invisible Sun" show I curated in 2008.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Reviewed the publicity text for the 'Channel' show, which made me ponder further the implied position (as in role) of the viewer within the photographs. I had thought that the ambiguity of the framing structure within the image might suggest a more voyeuristic and passive but less aggressive or defensive perspective. Not sure.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

WWII - 1940 invasion of the Channel Islands

Lots in the news on the 70th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland and it remains an emotive subject. I thought about the German invasion of the Channel Islands on June the 30th 1940 and the bombing of the Guernsey St Peter Port pier whilst my Grandpa, a stevedore, was among many working there.
In the photograph you can see the big boat cranes behind the bomb smoke - are they the same ones I snapped in the 1970's and still like to photograph now?

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Keeling's 'Pictures from Persia'

I've been reading "Pictures from Persia" today by Cecil Keeling, an old tome from Much Ado Books. I'm not sure when it was published, judging from the tone perhaps shortly after WW2 ended, but there is an inscription in it from 1949. Also a stamp showing it resided at some point in 'Alfie's Bookstore, Abadan'. There are some gorgeous 1940's illustrations from the somewhat colonial perspective of a British soldier - several pipe-smoking officers, some interesting caricatures and a whole heap of impoverished Persians. A bit of a time capsule.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Unpacking the studio today, looking inside The House.

Satellite studio visit

Satellite studio visit to Jo Chapman's temporary studio in Downham Market. Jo's done some beautiful drawings of personality-filled apple trees. Four of the Satellite group visited and we discussed ancient orchards. It reminded me of the Garden of Cyrus line about trees in rows and grids, Cyrus, " disposing his trees like his armies in regular ordination ..... brought the treasures of the field into rule and circumspection". I visited a gnarly old orchard in Alfriston some days ago, all propped up branches and rapidly ripening fruit. I had black mulberries off a tree there - the first time since being horribly sick after eating mulberries in a Chaikhaneh / teahouse in the mountains outside Tehran. These ones were explosively juicy and I had some more a couple of days later off the grand tree at Great Dixter.

Persian textile pattern detail on House.