Friday, 24 June 2011

Quay brothers at Manchester International Festival

Won't be missing this one:

Within the atmospheric spaces of Chetham’s School of Music, violinist Alina Ibragimova will perform a programme of musically connected works given a beguiling new visual context by legendary filmmakers and stage designers the Quay brothers. The performance will lead audiences of just 100 around the building and will feature a newly commissioned stop-motion animated film as a counterpoint to Bartok’s masterpiece, Solo Violin Sonata.

The Quays have long been favourites of mine, and I can't recommend their short films collection highly enough. The accompanying booklet includes a "Quay Brothers Dictionary" of their obsessions and influences, through which I discovered Polish posters, Bruno Schulz (who wrote Street of Crocodiles, on which the Quays based an astonishing short), Robert Walser (author of Jakob Von Gunten, a novel they adapted as the live action feature Institute Benjamenta), and the puppet films of Jiří Trnka.

Originally from a town near Philadelphia, the brothers moved to London in 1969 to study illustration at the RCA, and they worked as illustrators for a while before moving into animation. Their work from this time is hard to track down, but you can see some of their designs for Italo Calvino covers at feuilleton (1, 2). According to Wikipedia, they also did covers for Louis-Ferdinand Céline, a book on Andrei Tarkovsky by Mark le Fanu (this one?), and the Simon & Schuster edition of Stockhausen: Conversations with the Composer (possibly this one), as well as a series of drawings for an Anthony Burgess novel. And from the catalogue for the recent exhibition Uncanny: Graphic Design and Surrealism, below is their poster for a 1983 album by Duet Emmo (Wire's Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert plus Daniel Miller). It appears to have been at least partly inspired by this poster by Roman Cieślewicz. You can order the Uncanny catalogue here, if you don't mind paying through the nose for postage.

Finally, there's a new book on the Quays by Suzanne Buchan, which Sight and Sound describes as a "bold but doomed attempt to decode [their] work."

Monday, 20 June 2011

Interview with Penny Davenport (Part 2)

You seem to allow your imagination free reign in your art. Would you consider creating less personal (or more conventional or “accessible”) work if you thought a commission was worthwhile? Or would you see that as a compromise?

In the past I have been asked to create a drawing for a job. The employer had specific ideas in mind of how it should look, I find the combination of other peoples expectations and my own inability to create under another persons set of rules or guidelines very annoying. I definitely feel more comfortable when I'm doing what i want. I suppose if you can afford not compromise then why would you want to? I think it would depend on the job. I'm not very good at what I think you mean by "accessible".

In an interview in File magazine last year you said you were working on a book of stories and poems to accompany your drawings. How is that progressing? And do you have any other projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

The stories I have been writing are not complete and although I enjoy the process I'm not very keen on showing them. I think in the beginning I really wanted to make a book, I like the idea of books sitting on a shelf full of treasure, so eventually, ideally I would like to see my drawings displayed in this way with some stories and poems, very short poems and stories not too dissimilar to the captions you see in old silent films. I have a new website thats taking far too long to launch, and i have about 14 new drawings almost finished. I have just started to paint again, good to dip your toe in other mediums from time to time. Hopefully I will be exhibiting some prints soon in different locations. Unfortunately I'm a lot more comfortable sat in my room drawing than chasing commissions and furthering my career!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Poisoning my brain again

Drawings by Roland Topor from various issues of Graphis. Previous posts on Topor: 1, 2, 3.

Monday, 6 June 2011

A Scanner Darkly: the "Polish" version

Always nice to have your work featured on one of your favourite sites: my (rather hastily-assembled) "Polish" cover for Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly is up at 50 Watts (thanks Will!). Here's a slightly reworked version.

The winning entry is by Ben Jones, who left Stockport College two years before I started, it seems.