Friday, 30 June 2017

Master of Photography (S2, E6)

This week on Sky Arts Master of Photography judges Darcy Padilla, Caroline Hunter and Olivero Toscani, sent our intrepid photographers on to the mean streets of London for Fashion Week.

The twelve have become six and they get to submit themselves to ever more stinging criticism. Don't get me wrong. I love criticism. I enjoy the competition format too, but this is perhaps why this show is a little off the mark for me. Cast your mind back to Portrait Artist of the Year and you'll recall perhaps that the best pictures are given a mixture of praise and criticism while the worst pictures are simply overlooked with no comment at all. How would I have felt about that show if the competitors had to suffer the indignity of being told ... what? That those eyes are a bit wonky? Well, if nothing else this show is at least making me think again about what constitutes useful criticism.

This week guest mentor Martin Parr got to help the contestants chose their set of three pictures to present to the judges. Here they all are

Souvid Datta
Souvid Datta
Comewell Puplampu
Comewell Puplampu
Olympe Tits
Olympe Tits
Max Brucker
Max Brucker
Wojciech Grzedzinski
Wojciech Grzedzinski

Gillian Allard
Gillian Allard

So Wojciech got the old heave-ho out of the competition. He was caught out by this task being the very opposite of his preferred subject. That being war and conflict. Shame he couldn't have arranged a fight between fashionistas, although he did manage to create a conflict with Gillian. She hasn't made the most sympathetic competitor but due to the quality of her recent shots I'm rapidly becoming a fan. Her shot is my favourite but Olympe's red doors shot is pretty fantastic too. It's a surprise to see Max struggling. Comewell is for the chop next week I fear. He's another one I've grown to like over the course of the tasks, but who knows? Maybe Souvid has run his race! Tune in next week to find out. I know I will.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Tease Me Tease Me

I know you're all waiting for the good stuff. All three of you! It's not quite ready yet though. I'm distracted by paying work, although these are progressing and I'm seven for seven! Number eight has gone a bit awry though. I'll have to do something drastic with number eight. Soon. Soon.

Valerie Gearon

Naturally, I followed Nigel Barton into the second of Dennis Potter's groundbreaking BBC tele-plays from 1965 Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton and looking for more pictures online of co-star Valerie Gearon came up with very little. I thought I'd put that to rights with these screen grabs. I think that hairstyle is really working for her because without it she looks strangely bland. She sports it again in cheapo sci-fi romp Invasion just a year later. That's Keith Barron above. That's Edward Judd below!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Vickery Turner

I was watching Dennis Potter's Stand Up, Nigel Barton last night and couldn't help noticing Vickery Turner as Nigel's 'stuck-up bitch' girlfriend. And now here she is again in Kenneth's classic. Next you'll be telling me she was in The Likely Lads too. Wait? What!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Blade on the Feather

Jolly boating weather, And a hay harvest breeze, Blade on the feather, Shade off the trees, Swing swing together, With your bodies between your knees, Swing swing together, With your bodies between your knees.

Well, it's free (for now) and you'll feel the better for it old boy, honestly.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Following the money again

Or rather, running towards it at speed with a gun to my head. Paid work has taken hold again and so, as soul-destroying as it is, I'd better give chase. Otherwise, the art making continues slowly in the background and so far I'm three for three so things are looking up. At least now I'll be able to pay for all the materials I've just bought and perhaps even some of the ones I wanted to buy but daren't. Praise the Lord and pass me the paycheck. Hell, at least I work my own hours. I am blessed.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Master of Photography (S2, E5)

Well, I'm beginning to not like this programme so much. There's a lot of contradictory criticism, useless advice and wild opinion slinging going on and I'm beginning to doubt the competency of those involved -- the judges that is -- not to take photographs obviously, but to host a show like this and make it enjoyable and entertaining. Those competitors still left number seven and the mentor to help with editing was Ezra Shaw, not that half the competitors ever listen.

Anyway, this week all the photographers get flown to different cities to meet some incredible people - paralympians. So at least we get to meet these exceptional athletes. The actual photography was frankly not up to much as it was an incredibly difficult task and once again the photographers were asked to present five images as a series. Did anyone tell a story, get to the heart of their inspirational subjects, or even just take just one decent photo!

Well Molly Keane went this week. And I was having a bad week already! She drew a blank and only managed to present four pictures and in none of them described what her allotted paralympian could actually do -- which would have been to move very very quickly. (Correction: Molly only wanted to present four pictures as the task was to present between three and five pictures. Apologies for my clothears.)

Comewell Puplampu's series was quite good as a series! Gillian Allard struggled, but only as much as everyone else. Souvid Datta struggled to find anything. Olympe Tits grabbed one shot that wasn't great but was at least good. It had the kernel of an idea that could have been taken further, but wasn't.

Surprisingly front-runner Max Brucker didn't find a lot that wasn't obvious either. Reportage specialist Wojciech Grzedzinski also failed to completely convince the judges.

So basically everyone got a roasting and a tearful Molly had to leave. So, yeah, I fail to see where the entertainment and enjoyment came from. What a bust!

So here's a picture that sums up my feelings ...

Yeah, Judges, don't feel so big now, right?

Thursday, 22 June 2017

It's too hot for art

It's too hot for art. It's true I do find it easier to make stuff in the winter but I don't have the luxury of relaxing. I have to progress things somehow so I've spent the day buying materials, paper, card, foam board, paint, brushes and some kind person even gave me an A1 sized portfolio! But still, it's too hot for art.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


I have some art underway and nearing critical mass -- that is to say it's coming along nicely and will be ready to show here soon. So don't give up on me just yet!

Meanwhile I have three pieces showing at the Cank Street Open Exhibition Summer 2017. There's at least two hanging now, though I can't guarantee that they've found space for this one yet. Have a look here, here and here.

I'm also working on being able to show all my pieces in a different way. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Darling

The Darling (1999) by Russell Banks I read last year, or was it the year before? (Alright, this review was written a few years ago, it's blog filler okay!) Whatever, whenever, it has stayed in my memory as a convincing thriller for mature readers. It’s not the kind of thriller which involves any dashing about or unbelievable stunts involving helicopters or hovercraft thankfully, but it thrills the mind and the conscience, and takes us to many places, many uncomfortable situations and asks a good many awkward questions.

What I like most of all about this book is that structurally it satisfies a few basic conventions of what I consider a good read. First of all it has some pace. That’s not to say stupidity or meaningless running from one situation to the next, but it it utilises a flashback structure which means you’ve always got to read through a chapter to find out what you really want to know. The crucial piece of the puzzle you know will always be either only at the end of this chapter or the beginning of the next. This writer is certainly a good tease if nothing else.

Fortunately he is something else. The book switches between America and Africa and asks a few questions not only political, but also social and moral in nature. Secondly a trick not easy to pull off is when a male writer tries to write for a female lead and narrator. Well, easy to do, but not easy to do convincingly I suggest. Here I am so totally convinced by the central character that I have to check and see if Russell is still a boy’s name! Dismissing even that, Hannah Musgrave is one of the most compelling characters I have ever read about. Utterly self-absorbed, objectionable, immoral, cold and yet the reader roots for her to learn something, to change. It’s hard enough to make characters plainly sympathetic, but to take a woman like this and still have the reader ‘on side’ for her journey is quite something.

Thirdly the writer chances you knowing everything except a few key pieces of information from the outset. Told in flashback we know what has happened to our rather dubious heroine. Or at least what has not happened. She doesn’t get killed. In fact I feel able to go so far as to tell you that nothing unlikely happens whatsoever. That doesn’t stop any of the excitement frankly. A really good writer doesn’t need too many tricks. He doesn’t need to keep your mind occupied elsewhere to avoid being caught out. He just needs to write about interesting things, convincing characters, situations and places we can easily imagine to be real despite having not been there.

Finally, and this is my favourite device of all time, he saves the title of the book for the last page, the last line. I always feel that gives a book a sense of completeness – the title having been the first thing you read.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Canwr Y Byd Caerdydd 2017 (Final)

Catriona Morison
Louise Adler

So in the end Catriona won the main prize and Louise won the audience prize. The guys didn't get a look in. I did like the two winners very much, especially Catriona, but I thought Anthony had it in the bag from the off, Kang came up with the goods on the night and Ariunbaatar was also strong. It could have been anyone to be honest. At least I have my reward that will stay with me forever - The Steppes of Mongolia!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Cardiff Singer of the World 2017 (Song Prize)

Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar

In the Song Prize for Cardiff Singer of the World 2017 the orchestra is replaced by a piano and the finalists of this prize (we don't get to see it all) get to sing Lieder or Art Song. This final, even though it featured one of my favourites for the main prize, left me cold. All that gloomy singing in German was thoroughly miserable and why anyone would be moved by any of it remains a mystery to me.

Except. That thing that I was waiting for throughout the competition as a whole. That finally happened. A truly madly deeply moving song. Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar sang The Steppes of Mongolia by Sharav Byambasuren. The regular guest could barely speak through her tears at the end. I'd pretty much given up  on the show and was concentrating on something else completely, but by the end of the song my head and my heart were in different places. That was the reason I keep listening through all the uninteresting stuff. I listen for rewards like this.

In the end the prize was given jointly to Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar and I can't help thinking primarily to Catriona Morison, both of whom are in the main final.

Here's a different version of the song, a duet with orchestra, featuring Ariunbaatar, equally impressive. Cuts straight through me every time. I have it on repeat. Another one added to my 'Lump in Throat Time' list.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Cardiff Singer of the World 2017 (R4)

Kang Wang
So this is the morning after the night before and the last round before the Song Prize tonight and the final tomorrow.

Soprano Anush Hovhannisyan (30) from Armenia, bass Dominic Barberi (28) from England, mezzo soprano Catriona Morison (31) from Scotland, tenor Kang Wang (29) from Australia and soprano Barnokhon Ismatullaeva (25) from Uzbekistan all fought it out for the last place in the final. Or was it? No, because there was also a spot  for a wild card chosen by the judges David Pountney, Grace Bumbry, Sumi Jo, Wolfgang Holzmair, Anu Tali, John Gilhooly, Ailish Tynan and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Catriona Morison
Personally all the ladies stood out for me, the gentlemen less so, but nevertheless Kang Wang it was who won it. However the jury did see fit to put through Catriona as the wild card so all was not lost. I also voted in the audience prize for 'my man' Anthony Clark Evans, but there's a part of me that will be willing Catriona on too. I think the judges will go for the Mongolian, Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar.

Friday, 16 June 2017


To make up for the lack of eroticism in this week's Master of Photography here's Tommy Cash with Winaloto from those nice people at It's Nice That.

Master of Photography (S2, E4)

Last night's task on Master of Photography was all about telling an erotic story in three pictures. Hard enough to take one photo with your take on the subject, but to take three and call them a sequence really tested the photographers to their limit. Which is probably why most of them failed. Well, failure is a strong word but I think most of them struggled this week. Most just didn't know what to do, some backed off the subject and some just didn't know what the subject meant.

The judges (Olivero Toscani, Caroline Hunter and Darcy Padilla) were all over the place too, And as for the expert mentor Donna Ferrato--- she came across like someone in the early stages of recovery. From what we can only guess!

I think the very nature of the task threw everyone involved. Maybe it threw the audience too because by the end of the show I was really annoyed also!

Let's all agree not to do that again! As judge Toscani said "I find this stupid!" He wasn't wrong either.

I'm not going to dwell on this task but I just wanted to say that Sonja Thoms got another undeserved kicking from the judges, especially considering some of the truly awful scenarios presented by some others. Admittedly she didn't quite give herself to the task, but who did? You might have considered her work to be reinforcing certain stereotypes, but again, who didn't? Seriously, there were much worse pictures there. Even Comewell's pictures weren't as bad as some others. Anyway, Sonja got the (kinky) boot out of the competition this week. I felt bad for her, even though it was not unexpected.

Anyway, this blog is about nothing if not quality dear reader and one thing, the only thing, that the judges got right this week was giving Gillian Allard proper credit for her shot (shown below). I didn't mind the sequence of three shots to be honest but this single shot makes up for everything else that was bad about the show. Colour me impressed! I'm not looking back at all the other episodes but this must be the shot of the series so far.

Canwr Y Byd Caerdydd 2017 (R3)

Louise Adler

Round 3 already and I pick another winner. Well two out of three ain't bad considering my tone-deaf ear. Last night baritone John Chest (31) from the USA, soprano Louise Alder (30) from dear old England, baritone Iurii Samoilov (28) from Ukraine, mezzo soprano Ezgi Karakaya (28) from Turkey and tenor Lukhanyo Moyake (30) from South Africa all had their chance to snatch a place in the final.

I can't say much about this round except that Louise just edged it for me. Nothing to do with national pride. I watch their faces while they sing and I want to see just a bit of appropriate character and emotion during the performance. It takes a bit of concentration to watch this kind of material so if I drift off that's not a good sign.

Unless there's a stand-out performance tonight in round four I think we've seen the winner already! All my hard-earned money is on the American Anthony Clark Evans.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Cardiff Singer of the World 2017 (R2)

My winner Konstantin Lee
Round two sees another five contestants singing their little hearts out in front of a discerning Welsh audience and a ruthless panel of judges. It's not at all like a talent show on any other other channel. Really, it's not. It's deadly serious and the only laughter is nervous.

Last night we had another Mongolian singer (Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar (29) Baritone) to prove that having a Mongolian singer is nothing unusual at all. You wait all year for one ...

Then we had mezzo soprano Miriam Albano (26) from Italy, baritone Ivan Thirion (27) from Belgium, and mezzo soprano Sioned Gwen Davies (30) from Wales.

Bringing up the rear from South Korea was 28 year old tenor Konstantin Lee. And he saved the evening for me. I liked the Mongolian gentleman who was put through by the judges but I much preferred our man from South Korea. He was much more expressive and really livened things up after what was a pretty dull evening. Perhaps that's because of my limited knowledge of the repertoire chosen. I'm not that much of a buff apparently. I just like to see someone with a bit of charisma give it a bit of welly. Go on my son!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Canwr Y Byd Caerdydd 2017 (R1)

Anthony Clark Evans
It's that time of year again where I try to not miss completely the BBCs coverage of their own Cardiff Singer of the World competition.I'll have you know that I'm not a complete ignoramus. I've been known to tickle the (double) chin of high culture now and then. I know that it's not over until the fat lady sings. I know my Gluck from my Donizetti.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, we had a fine lineup of fat men and slim ladies, so bucking the trend there already. First up was Roberto Lorenzi, a bass baritone from Italy - 27 years old. He wasn't fat at all but he wasn't taking any risks. He stuck to some pretty familiar territory and played it very safe. There were two ladies in this first round of five, both well-dressed and attractive warblers there is no doubt. They were mezzo sopranos Nadezhda Karyazina (30) from Russia and Norwegian Lilly Jørstad (31). There also appeared an impressive Mongolian, Batjargal Bayarsaikhan, a tenor - 27 years old who had a pretty good stab at winning over the audience and judges, but who remained most notable for simply being Mongolian.

In this round though there could be only one winner. Even my thick ear could recognise that Anthony Clark Evans, the ex-car salesman who had never previously set foot outside the USA, was the runaway winner, almost from the moment he opened his mouth.

There are twenty contestants in all, from all over the globe, most of them very early on in their careers but no spring chickens either. I hope the rounds to come over the next few days are less clear cut so we can have a bit of controversy. I don;'t want to spend the next few nights watching a procession and writing up the bleeding obvious!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Everything wrong

Every mark and every decision I've made today has been completely wrong. There's no getting away from the fact that today has been a bad day. The only good thing about today is that it is coming to an end shortly. Had I an axe, a garden and some pleasant weather I'd happily take all the garbage I've made today outside and vent my fury upon it. However, my situation is somewhat different, so I'll just scream endlessly into my pillow and hope for a better tomorrow.

Sunday, 11 June 2017


I need paint. I believe I need paint. All these collages I'm making kinda feel right, but there's something missing. I think paint might be it. I certainly think it might speed things up a bit if nothing else. The pieces I'm working on need a bit more urgency, a bit more slap and a little more dash. I'm feeling a bit robotic about them at the moment. I thinking that making these things ought to be a bit more like gambling. Gamble small, win small. Gamble big, win big. I guess there is an alternative to that, but like real gambling best not to think too hard about that.

Also I can't believe I didn't get anything in for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition this year! How stupid was that. Next year is a dead cert. And by that I mean applying is a dead cert. Getting hung is another thing entirely.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Mad Mike: Furious Film Critic

I'd heard some good things about Mad Max: Fury Road and requiring a bit of dumb violence in my otherwise sedate life I thought I'd give it a go. It was a real piece of shit as it turned out. I'm going to have to stop listening to that idiot who does the film reviews on the BBC. I feel sure he mentioned some feminist subtext or something. Not only was there no subtext, there was no dialogue, plot, acting, excitement or even interest. Further, it was lazy, repulsive, illogical and just plain idiotic in parts. Easily the worst film I've seen since The Martian. Though not quite that bad since I wasn't trapped in a cinema with it. The Martian was I think the worst film I'd seen since the awful Spectre. Ridley Scott accidentally made a great film once. It was called Alien. And that was it from him. How many bad films does a man have to make before people realise the man isn't any kind of artist.

I'll always fall prey to really dumb film no matter how hard I try, because I am a sucker when it comes to cheap thrills. Here's my thoughts on Pacific Rim from a while back. (I know you've forgotten that was ever thought of.)

I realise the inherent limitations of a film about giant robots beating the CGI out of giant alien monsters but there is a limit to my patience. Of all the dumb stories you could imagine to allow the robots to fight the monsters this has to be the dumbest. It seems Mr Del Toro has run out of any promise he showed with his early work as this could have been made by any hack. The beautiful special effects are wasted on an insupportable story that makes no sense whatsoever from one scene to the next. In fact the film would have been much better had no actor appeared in it all! Just an hour long movie of robots fighting monsters to no purpose and with no narrative arc would have been infinitely preferable. Idris Elba gives a performance so bad it has to be his worst to date. The robots and monsters give suitably better performances. I don’t think I can stomach any more films like this. It made the Dark Knight films look almost reasonable. My recommendation would be not to watch this and just to spend a minute imagining a better film. I know you can do it. If you try.

That's right. I don't like the Batman films either. I won't watch any Lord of Rings or the Hobbit films on principle. I made an effort to watch Peter Jackson's King Kong more than once but I don't believe anyone has ever made it through.

As cheap stupid thills go I was heartened by indie horror hit It Follows which was in all senses ridiculous but managed it with some considerable style. At least it had style. I don't ask for much!
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