The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern: Brilliantly diverse, brilliantly representative of female artists

Tate Modern’s autumn show The World Goes Pop is super good for many reasons, some clear, some unspoken.

It shows what should be obvious: art movements and moments exist beyond the known and celebrated.

Most of the work is unknown, at least not to my eyes. Its curators have been bold in not including any of the obvious.

Unspoken in any of the wall texts is that the show gives natural space to women artists.

I bumped into someone from the Tate who said it was pretty much a 50/50 split.

Much of the best work is by women.

If only all group shows were as natural in their selection.

Here’s some of the works.

Without Rebellion by Jerzy Ryszard ‘Jurry’ Zieliński.

It is from 1970. 

About repression and censorship in Poland.

Accident at the Game by Antonio Dias.

From 1964, the early years of military dictatorship in Brazil.

Office (Ethnography) by Eulália Grau.

Chicks and Cops (Ethnography) by Eulália Grau.

Her work used photomontage to show how during Franco’s dictatorship, capitalism and consumption was meant to be fulfilling and liberating.


Vacuum Cleaner (Ethnography) by Eulália Grau.

The big revelation of the show for me is the work of Marta Minujín.

She is totally new to me.

In Argentina, she is rightly celebrated.

This work is called Mattress.

It’s next to two other amazing works by female artists relating to the body.

Woman Sofa by Nicola L from 1968.


Man Chair by Ruth Francken, from 1971.

Across the gallery, Dorothée Selz was stood in front of her work.


The works are from 1973.

She said it was her in one of the images.

Top right.


“Do I want to be a pin-up,” she said, “or do I reject the image?”

She said she liked the contradiction.

“I have all my clothes on today.”

Next to her work was Hanging by Kiki Kogelnik.

From 1970.


Little TV Woman by Nicola L.

Made in 1969, it was first displayed in the window of jeweller Alfred Van Cleef.

Breathing Out by Ángela García, from 1973.

The Great Vagina by Mari Choardà, 1966, addressing the oppression of women in Spanish society.


A whole room dedicated to Kandarya-Mahadeva by Jana Zelibska, from 1969.

One of the two works I know is Concentration by Equipo Cronica.

I have no idea why I know this work.

But I do.

It is about the possibility of mass crowds solidifying as resistance to Franco’s regime.


The other works I know are three car hoods by Judy Chicago. Judy was there being interviewed in front of one them. 

Here’s the other two.

Flight Hood and Birth Hood.


You get the picture right?

Super rewarding.

Much to discover.

So much that is unknown, the question throughout is both: what is the work, and do I like the work?

Even when the answer to the latter is no, it is always interesting.

One more.

Study for Gates 4 by Chryssa Vardea.

She was one of the first artists to appropriate neon.


The show opens Thursday – click here for more info etcetcetcetc

Facebook and Instagram don’t like our Chapter 10/Anal House Meltdown images, so here they are…

We’re so excited by our next CHAPTER 10 party.

It’s going to be in collaboration with ANAL HOUSE MELTDOWN.

ie the most amazing people in London EVER.

It’s going to be on the Saturday of Frieze – October 17.

At Corsica Studios in Elephant and Castle.

Two rooms, 10pm-6am.

We can’t wait.

And so we’ve made some teasers.

Using imagery created by the collective of Anal House Meltdown.

Eddie Peake

George Henry Longly

Prem Sahib

and their friends.

But oh no!

Facebook doesn’t like them.

Instagram doesn’t like them (well it’s still letting me post a photo of a poster of the butts, but I’m not holding my breath).

So here they are!


Ticket details and stuff soon!




Sharing an Oprah moment with the men of the Honey Soundsystem. Actually it’s more Sally Jesse Raphael

Aah Oprah.

Who doesn’t love an Oprah moment?

Here’s an Oprah moment with Celine.

A 41 minute 41 seconds moment.

Let’s share an Oprah moment with Barbra.

A fifteen minute long moment.

“Is it Princess Diana?”

Aaaah Oprah!

Let’s share an Oprah moment with the men of the Honey Soundsystem!

Jacob Sperber. Jason Kendig. Robert Yang. Josh Cheon.

From San Francisco.


A recent collective mix, with an inevitable pic of them in front of oversized honeycomb.

Aren’t they honeys?

(L-R for your viewing pleasure: Robert Yang aka Bezier; Jacob Sperber aka Jackie House; Josh Cheon; Jason Kendig)

The delectable, covetable men of the Honey Soundsystem are playing at our next Chapter 10 this Sunday.

Chapter 10.

Gay Rave.

Hackney Wick.

The FIRST TIME EVER said men of the Honey Soundsystem have appeared together in London!


And so let us get all Oprah with them.

Well, lets email them a Q&A anyway.


The four men of the Honey Soundsystem were sent the same Q&A in a group email, and asked to respond individually.

And from there things evolved.

We join them at the beginning, as Jason has first crack… (for full authenticity and also because my grammar’s terrible anyway I’ll keep their answers as they typed them)…

“Who in Honey Soundsystem has the best hair, and why?

JK: Currently robert/ bezier because he just went blond and it looks fierce!

Who has the best body hair and why?

JK: i vote josh because other than myself he’s the hairiest and i like the hirsute fellas.

What is your preferred use of an avocado?

JK: in a scramble. and no, that’s not a euphemism.

Describe in great detail your favourite dark entry? [Note for concerned readers: Dark Entries is the name of Josh’s record label for out-of-print or newly recorded synthesiser music] 

 JK: a club? an orifice? or a release? all of the above?

tell us something that makes us jealous of you living in San Francisco

JK: we don’t have to experience winter like you guys in the uk.

what’s the dirtiest thing that’s ever happened to you in a DJ booth?

JK: nothing fit to print. 😉

what’s your Grindr profile? Or if you don’t have one, what would it be?

JK: i’m more of a real world interaction type of guy.

who’s your secret DJ crush?

JK: a 3 way with murat tepali, hunee and steffi. and i’m envious of marcel dettman’s hair.

how many dick pics are on your phone right now?

JK: sadly none as i just replaced my old phone yesterday.

[And on that dick pic bombshell, the questioning of Jason is over.

Next to answer is Josh Cheon…]

Who in Honey Soundsystem has the best hair, and why?

JC: Robert, he just bleached his hair blonde and then this week went full white witch.

Who has the best body hair and why?

JC: Well assuming Robert aslo bleached his pubes, then there is really no contest.

What is your preferred use of an avocado?

JC: I like to cut it in half, remove the pit, and sprinkle some salt, before eating with a spoon.

Describe in great detail your favourite dark entry

JC: When I was a kid I used to turn a table in my kitchen into a secret lair. I hang a blanket over one edge and boom, it was completely dark. I’d also spend a fair amount of time hiding in the pantry waiting to scare any family member I could.

Tell us something that makes us jealous of you living in San Francisco

JC: I can bike to some of the most beautiful coastline in America in less than 20 minutes from my house.

What’s the dirtiest thing that’s ever happened to you in a DJ booth?

JC: The DJ booth at Holy Cow [a club in San Francisco] was notorious for sticky surfaces, slip mats and equipment, not sure what from.

What’s your Grindr profile? Or if you don’t have one, what would it be?

JC: djslutboi202

Who’s your secret DJ crush?

JC: too many to name, my tastes know no bounds, but most recently Jennifer Cardini.

How many dick pics are on your phone right now?

JC: 3

[This causes Jason to chip back in]

JK: 3 dickpics seems modest josh.

[Josh responds]

JC: They are all mine… You can add that if you want. I don’t save others dudes dicks anymore

[Jason replies]

JK: hahaha.

and yes, the dj booth at the holy cow WAS the stickiest ever!

[Robert enters the fray to restore some order. It is his turn to answer the challenging not-really-Oprah Q&A]

RY: I’m going to take a slight departure from ‘The Oprah’ Q&A format, bring the high brow down a notch and put on my Maury Povich hat. Or if you prefer Sally Jessy Raphael.

While they don’t hold a flame to the great all-encompassing lifetime achievements of ‘The Oprah’, they were well loved by America in the mid to late 90s. I feel they would be the most suitable channel for this discussion.

[Oooooh! Sally Jesse Raphael! Let’s watch some Sally Jesse Raphael!]

[OK OK OK back to Robert – GO ROBERT]

Who in Honey Soundsystem has the best hair, and why?

RY: After reading the responses so far I have to say “Oh, you guys!” Firstly, this hair ‘phase’ is quickly fading and I already have my eye on the NEXT BEST TREND. But the one whose hair has persisted and endured the ravages of time (and the stench of weeks old beer spilled lovingly on wooden floors) – I would have to say Jackie House because her hair is OG for real. It’s a natural, platinum blond (I think imported from Scandinavian hair farms – free trade, if she’s lucky). It’s long and luxurious, comes in different styles and paired with matching accessories (optional). AND, contrary to popular belief the curtains do match the drapes – no bleaching required.

Who has the best body hair and why?

RY: I would say it is a tie between Josh and Jason because the hirsute pursuit is real with these two. Before any Honey party opens you can already see outside a parade of admirers lining up for blocks upon blocks just itching to breathe the same air as them.

What is your preferred use of an avocado?  

RY: As a cooling mask because while a babyface don’t crack – it’s nice to maintain that youthful, yet natural, moisturized look.

Describe in great detail your favourite dark entry. 

RY: My favorite dark entry must have been my latest excursions in a blackout trying to count the door cash and not remembering what amounts we were accounting for at all. $10? $100? $1 bills? It’s all a wash!

Tell us something that makes us jealous of you living in San Francisco

RY: Lots of holes – watering holes, swimming holes, fishing holes, cake holes.

What’s the dirtiest thing that’s ever happened to you in a DJ booth?

RY: One time at a “White Party” themed party at Burning Man I peed myself while performing at the decks. But in my defense, I was rolling REALLY HARD and so was everyone around me. I didn’t say a word, and no one noticed – pressing on…

What’s your Grindr profile? Or if you don’t have one, what would it be?

RY: I’ve always imagined I would (and probably should) go extreme twink and only respond when someone calls out ‘boitoy69’

Who’s your secret DJ crush?

RY: Anthony Parasole – I meeean can I get a wüf?!

How many dick pics are on your phone right now? 

RY: As of late I’ve taken a fancy to collecting and screen-grabbing bag pics. Not designer bags mind you with their tacky logo prints distributed ironically all over the thing (some people really have no self-control with such obscene displays of wealth) – but handbags, purses, lady-about-town tote bags, artisanal bags and bags filled with things: kittens, puppies, diamonds and jewelry and, of course, the ever-elusive bags chock full of dicks. Here I’ve enlisted some friends to help me articulate this better: 👜🐱🎒🐣👝💎💊👛🍆🍆🍆✊🍆💦😭😎.

[Now it is the turn of Jacob Sperber…]

Who in Honey Soundsystem has the best hair, and why?

JS: I mean, how about my favorite Honey Soundsystem hairdressers… Shout outs to some all-stars Miss Jay and Sylvie (Population Salon), Alder (at Orange), Joshzilla (People’s Barber), Scott Moore (Mystic), Rudy (Hair of the Gods), that really hot cub that used to work at Glamorama but moved to China or something.

At one point, during our weekly run, you could probably make your appointment for a fade or color treatment at the bar… Probably pay for it in drinks too…

And of course how could we forget Robert’s hairdresser Mr. Anthony – a club legend in his own right who has housed many a drag queen’s daytime career at his Ginger Rubio salon in the Mission. When I first moved to SF I thought he was a drug dealer because he was always in the right place at the right time, always flanked by club royalty and has this 80s Miami vibe meets Hells Angel vibe about him. Nobody ruin it for me, but I am pretty sure he is a top too.

Who has the best body hair and why?

JS: Josh blocked me on Scruff, but I assume he is the hairiest. OMG Roberts response to the question is so yes god.

What is your preferred use of an avocado?

JS: I don’t cook. I am just terrible at it. My boyfriend basically keeps me alive and loves to top meals with his signature “bear cut” avocado halves. Food is his job and he gets access to the DJ Promo equivalent of produce. When he pops open an avocado it’s like someone take a picture and thank Allah on Instagram for mailing over the “fierce test pressing” shit. A++ Will be using in my main room dinner-sets this weekend. Peek time produce! Prefer the A side cause the B side went a bit brown.

Describe in great detail your favourite dark entry

JS: It’s called Blow Buddies. You can check beer at the coat-check after 2am (cut off time here in SF), they give you these lil’ tickets for each beer and you just come back and cash them in whenever you need one. They have what I have dubbed the “cock” coloseum – a 360 – – two story glory hole – where gladiators compete over who can finish off an array of eager spectators (no bending necessary- great for grandpa). Aside from the darkest entries, there is an oldschool “chill out lounge” with a giant barrel of peanuts and this classic Cali-style back patio. The patio is all wood, designed I’m sure by some former Grateful Dead groupie. I have had many a night chilling out there hanging with some of the most psychedelic queers or just sipping a cold one cruising zombies. Find it in your Zagat guide obv.

Tell us something that makes us jealous of you living in San Francisco.

JS: YaMo. Coconut Broth Chicken and Noodle Soup. I’m Dead.

What’s the dirtiest thing that’s ever happened to you in a DJ booth?

JS: Rather then traumatize Robert by telling the preferred anecdote which he might have witnessed (sorry boo) – I will choose my second favorite of which I was an innocent bystander. The booth at this party was high off the ground and basically built atop these large wooden stage pieces. Propped on their side these stage pieces created a large wall on one side but concurrently these 3 walled storage areas on the backend where the dj stood. Needless to say this made for a convenient back room for those in the know… About halfway during my set I looked down into the boxes below and saw this rugged hair ball of a baby-daddy scene. Two studs, amateur porn worthy, one of which I kinda had a crush on. I was dickmatized, taking in my private show unbeknownst to a crowd of 500 dancers, one thin wooden board away from the humping. Record to record I started soundtracking their hook-up. Eventually they realized I was multitasking between mixes and dad let me shake hands with his giant jelly cock. It was quite inspirational.

What’s your Grindr profile? Or if you don’t have one, what would it be?

JS: It was only until recently I started using Grindr. As a self proclaimed bear whisperer it really hasn’t been my scene. Although recently I have had a real taste for chicken. I’ve only hooked once using it though, it’s more for field research. It’s always a nice boost to be checking out a real basic bro and find out he was a gay ’cause he is flagging on Grindr. Keeps me feeling connected to the youth being in there and let’s me know if my gaydar is up to date. Dudes on Scruff always think they’re so sophisticated, it’s a turn off. Grindr is where real nerds and sex offenders hangout, it’s way more edgy… Growlr is the go to – I get a bill for that once a month from Apple.

Who’s your secret DJ crush?

JS: Secret? They all know, bitch can’t keep her mouth shut. I think my current T is Skatebard in the sunhat. I mean if we’re talking fantasies then I wouldn’t mind a weekend in one of those beach huts with Virginia – we can just rub coconut oil on each other’s backs and take turns running into the water to cool down. Oh and something tells me DJ Sneak eats mean butt – you know “House Gangster” style. Oh and Ellen Alien – anything she needs, just kinda wanna be her pool boy.

How many dick pics are on your phone right now?

JS: I was just backing up files and thinking to myself, “conscience or convenience – can’t pick both…” When you die in a freak accident when a LED panel falls on you at Awakenings festival and you’re looking down from EDM heaven at your mom flipping through your hard drives… You will have wished you just deleted those pics even though it was easier to just keep ’em on there…

[Jason chips in]

JK: trying to eat a burrito here and dying. hahaha

[And then Robert]

RY: of course we’re all here just for the set-up. the ultimate yes gawd always goes to jackie.

And so they leave us.


This is what to expect on Sunday at Chapter 10.

Cock Colosseum.

Cake Holes.

Coconut Broth and Noodle Soup.

Bleached Pubes.

Hirsute Queue.


Come party with us!

We’re running 11pm-6am!

At Bloc! 39 Autumn Street! E3 2TT!

Details on the fancy Facebook page are here.

Tickets are here.

Dan Beaumont will also be playing records.

I’ll be pretending to play records.


Oooh lets watch some more Sally Jesse Raphael.

British Royal Watchers Dish About Charles And Diana!!!!

Oooh what’s Oprah going on about?

Julia Roberts Arranges Makeover For Best Friend, Paige!

Ooooh the interview where Oprah’s “really frickin mean” to Toni Braxton!

Where were we?






In this weekend’s FT, I wrote about the AIDS crisis, and the effect on menswear in New York. Some more thoughts on why

In this weekend’s FT, I wrote about the menswear shows in New York.

It was the first time in a while that the city had attempted to stage its own shows, and I tried to account for why menswear was coming from a diminished position.

The piece is, I think, behind a paywall, but here’s a couple of photos.


It was one of those pieces where there was too much to say in 800 words.

I wanted an appendix.

Particularly on the point about AIDS crisis.

I wrote the following: “Personally, I wonder if the city ever recovered from the 1980s, when AIDS claimed the lives of name designers (including Perry Ellis and Willie Smith) and many other creative men in the fashion industry.”

It’s something I also think applied to menswear in London, but since 2005 or so there’s been a process here of altruistic rehabilitation.

Menswear in London has returned to the state it should always have been in.

I don’t think the same has occurred in New York.

The thinking is this: AIDS killed off not just name designers like Perry Ellis, Willie Smith and the now forgotten Bill Robinson.

Untold unknown others died: behind-the-scenes designers, stylists, creative directors, shop assistants, window dressers.


A generation of creativity, decimated.

It also breaks a link, since creativity can not then be passed on.

There is an absence of creativity.

I’m 41, and from the from the first generation of gay men who didn’t have to face the death of friends as a monthly reality.

For most it’s been a case of, that’s over, let’s carry on.

I don’t think there’s ever really been an acknowledgement of the creativity lost, and the effect it’s had on the following decades.

I told this theory to a couple of people, and they looked at me like, just move on.

I find this really interesting. 

In fashion, we’re always encouraged to engage in the past.

I was thinking about the most recent Raf Simons show, and how he used the soundtrack of Mark Leckey’s Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore to stand for the link between generations of subcultures.

It’s perfectly acceptable to talk about the influence of 80s rave culture on fashion.

If it’s a positive and from the past, you can talk about it.

But if its a negative, oh no.

Don’t dwell on it, don’t weigh things down.

And so we can talk about the effect of 80s rave culture, but not the effect of 80s AIDS crisis.

It’s important to acknowledge, not just to remember those lost, but to point to a way forwards.

Later in the FT piece, I wrote about the need for altruistic support of the new.

That word ‘altruistic’ is vital.

Creativity needs to be allowed to flourish, whether the work is immediately understood or not, even if it has no immediate commercial viability.

Altruism doesn’t ask for any payback, or need for immediate results.

It just allows things to happen.

New York has always been good with awards – last week the ten latest nominees for the CFDA awards were announced, of which six were menswear, including David Hart and Gypsy Sport.

Laudable and important.

But what about those that are just out of college? What about this year’s new graduates? 

Altruistic support could help nurture something radical and new.

Something as yet unknown, not following the well trodden paths of tailoring or sportswear.

And restore a broken link to pure creativity.

Something that could then help define a new idea of menswear in New York.

Jenny Holzer has a new show at Hauser & Wirth Somerset. It’s amazing. She was there. I can’t cope. Some words and pix

I’m down at Hauser & Wirth in Bruton, Somerset, for a preview of a new show by Jenny Holzer.

And Jenny Holzer is here.

I can’t even explain how important this is for me. 

The show is of new work, alongside pieces from the past 30 years.

New work like Move.

It is a column of LED held at the ceiling, which moves responding to people in the room.

The text is all redacted US military documents.

The particular spelling, or misspelling kept intact.

Jenny said the proof reading for the misspelling is more difficult than for normal text – she wanted everything to be as it was written.

I just wrote a paragraph about talking with Jenny Holzer.

It was the most extraordinary experience to be with the work with Jenny herself.

It was almost like being in a work by Tino Seghal. She would come and stand by your side, engage in the most extraordinary conversation, and when it was done, she would move on.

I was stood staring at another work, Floor, and she came and stood by me, and we talked about the AIDS crisis and who was lost.

She talked of “unnecessary death”.

Unnecessary death is present throughout the show, in works about conflict, in works about AIDS.

On display from 1994 is Lustmord Table, a table of human bones with engraved silver bands. 

She said it reminded a friend of someone they knew who was dying from AIDS-related illness. It reminded her of her own mother.

Here are some images of Floor.

 It runs for twenty hours.

When we first walked into the room, Jenny said “welcome to the disco”.

Jenny said that every single LED needed to be programmed, including the background images, as well as a new font created.

She said she never used lower case, always upper.

We talked, we finished talking, she moved on.

In the same room as Floor are works where nearly all is redacted apart from the word Waterboard.


This new work is titled “young adult female”.

She stood beside us as we read the text, which hopefully you can make out.

As we walked away, she said something like, it really makes us all safer that she’s incarcerated.

Throughout are carved benches or sarcophagus.

Here is one from Laments from 1989, which begins “The new disease came…”

I hope you can make some of it out.


All around are benches.

This one begins “Blood goes in the tube…”

We sat outside and had lunch.

I managed to hold my fanboy in for as long as I could.
And actually she brought up Helmut Lang first.

They collaborated together for his fragrance launch, and Helmut had Jenny’s works in his New York store.

At the end, she talked about her shyness. 

It is not natural for her to talk about her work.

But why should anyone be expected to explain what they do?

We all dispersed. She went back to check emails.

And I went back to spend as much time as I could with the work.

Can you see what suddenly appeared on Floor?



Go go go see.

If you’re an obsessive like me, give yourself a few hours to spend with the works.

It’s on until 1 November.

To spend time with her here has been a total honour.

Rotting bread. White worms. Chukka boots. A preview of the extraordinary new show at Studio Voltaire by Aaron Angell

Aaron Angell is an artist who works in ceramics as well as other stuff. He’s young, born in 87, from Kent. His new show opening this evening at Studio Voltaire is titled Grotwork. He’s not a ceramicist, in that he has no interest in creating vessels – cups, bowls, vases etc. His production methods and knowledge and manipulation of glazes is intense. But he believes in using ceramics and glazes as a medium to make work beyond the constraints and assumptions of craft and design.


Aaron runs the amazing not-for-profit Troy Town Pottery at Open School East, where artists get two week residencies to experiment with ceramics in their practice – the only rule being that the work has to be non-vessel based. Kiln space in London is dwindling. Troy Town allows Aaron and the artists in residence to experiment and push ceramics on.

And then for his own practice he also makes work from other things.

I went down to Studio Voltaire on Monday afternoon while Aaron was still installing his show. I was four hours off the Eurostar after the Paris men’s shows, and very happy to talk about something, anything that wasn’t fashion.

Rotting bread!

On a specially made plant stands, Aaron has arranged some hygrothermographs, those things you see in old museums to measure the air conditions.

Aaron has put within them damp slices of bread to see what happens to them.


The bread in this one has only been there for two weeks, kept in dark conditions.



Love mould.

Aaargh my amazing technical abilities are so amazing that um my machine didn’t record when Aaron was talking about the bread.


Obsessed with his rotting bread.

You’ll just have to think about it for yourself.


We join Aaron as he’s talking about the install… We were both knackered so sometimes the conversation might not make sense, but these are the words that were said, why try and tidy?

AARON ANGELL: I’m just tired.

ME: How long have you been here?

AA: Installing? Since last Monday? A week, without the weekend. It always takes longer than you think. Everything’s always a decision.

ME: Tell me stuff.

AA: Ask me stuff.

ME: When you were asked to do the show, did you know what you wanted to do?

AA: it was quite a while ago. I had an early plan involving a central greenhouse structure, which has now become these plant stand things instead. I guess that’s something that’s been there from the start. The awnings were a later thing [the ceramics are arranged on wooden shelves that are covered with awnings], and I feel like as soon as I made that decision I had to plow on with it to get all the embroideries done and work out the images [here’s one of the embroideries].


So it feels like that idea’s always been there, but it hasn’t, that was kind of a late thing. I think it was thinking of ways to use the height, because there’s a lot more height in this space than decent wall. You’ve got these columns and down beams all over the place. It’s difficult to do something that’s not just banging portrait mode paintings in between those spaces if you want to use those walls like that. Saying that there are four paintings in the show [here’s one, up high – excuse the amazing quality of the image – that’s the windows of Studio Voltaire reflected in it]


It’s quite funny, it’s a bit Imagist. Like the Chicago Imagists, they’re quite flat, quite spray painty, quite graphic design kind of surfaces, but then the images are somehow slightly vaguer. There are a lot of ceramics. I think there’s twenty but there’ll be less when we open the show. I know a couple I’m taking out already.

ME: How do you make that decision?

AA: It’s which ones I like more. Sometimes there’ll be a ceramic that’s not great but it works better in conjunction with another one, there’s one or two ceramics that are too close to existing paintings, and I didn’t want that doubling. Rejecting ceramics doesn’t happen very often, because most that are rejected are those that are cracked or unexpected, even though I pretend to know what I’m doing.

ME: They reject themselves.

AA: It’s the ones that are really falling apart, or that the glaze didn’t just go wrong, I used the wrong glaze, or something like that. Or just ones that don’t work with the show. If it’s made specifically for an exhibition and it doesn’t go in, it’s just held back.

ME: Did you make the ceramics specifically for here?

AA: Yeah. All the works are new. The ceramics I made over the last three months, I don’t think any were made before that. There’s a couple that were finished three months ago, I probably started working on them a little bit before that. I picked some up on Friday out the kilm, which are the last ones. I ran over with my firing schedule. I was still making some cork sculpture last night, which are new, I hadn’t done those before.


ME: It’s interesting that your mind is on what the work is made of than what the work is.

AA: But I think that ceramics are such a specific material that when you’re working with it primarily, and then you move away from it, you actually feel the other works are defined in relation to it… [AAARGH THIS IS WHERE THE MACHINE CUT OUT… SORRY… I realised it had turned off when we stopped for a gossip a couple of minutes later. Once we’d done, I turned it back on.]

ME: What are the shoes?

AA: They’re based on those dog chews shaped like shoes.


They’re rawhide. I’ve got quite a collection of them theres a few slight variations, some have differnet colour laces. They’re weirdly ambidexteous, almost like baby booties, shoes that are designed for people who can’t actually walk or don’t need to walk. And they’re edible. I think there’s lots going on with them. There’s this whole thing of the nonhuman mind of a dog in that it doesn’t recognise it as a shoe, maybe people think this will distract him from eating my slippers, but that’s not what’s really going on, and it doesn’t need to be a shoe but it is, it’s a joke. It’s like the dog chews that are squeezy newspapers, it’s a joke for humans, disguised as a joke for dogs. Also the way that they’re kind of the chukka shape, near enough, the whole story with the chukka shoe and the desert boot, it’s the origin of the “he drew it on a napkin and brought it home” kind of a myth, but it’s actually true with that one. They were being made, I don’t know if you know the history of that shoe, you being in fashion…

ME: I know fuck all.

AA: So they were made in like Cairo by bazaar cobblers imitating English brogues, but from a distance and from rawhide. They didn’t have the tech to make it shiny or the polishes and stuff. It was this weird half-glimpsed object that became the generic shoe shape which it is, but there’s something nice in that focus, a Cairo bazaar cobbler seeing a brogue shoe or the bottom of a boot and translating it, and getting it just right. It has no excess information whatsoever, it’s three parts. It’s the same as the shoe chews. Its three parts.

ME: what are they made of?

AA: Steel. Then they’re coated, they’ve got iron paste on them to give them a nice finish. It’s what you use to do old fire places. I have this blacksmith in Arbroath and I send him really bad drawings and and he sends me back really beautiful drawings of how he’s going to do it. You can see the hammer marks and everything. They’re really ridiculously macho sculpture by my ridiculously macho, actually he’s not ridiculously macho. The works are very very heavy. [We start to look at the sculptures on the shelf above]

ME: Are these made brick by brick?

AA: Yeah they’re made brick by brick.


ME: Is that a nightmare?

AA: My assistant makes the bricks. I made all the bricks for this one. And actually I had to make most fo the bricks for that one because it collapsed down to that point. I ws there and had to rebuild it up. It’s brick by brick. You can’t really fake that texture otherwise. You can sort of do it but then it would be too uniform. They have a lot of internal structure too. That’s the secret. This one didn’t do and that’s why it collapsed. I just picked it up like that and it [he claps his hands] it wasn’t even dry, it couldn’t hold it.

[We move over to some other works].

This is super lo-fi, these only came out at the end of last week, but I’m really fond of it.


It’s like barely cooked glazes where you just have some of the colour coming through, but the glass formers haven’t started to work yet. This has only been to about 1000c, which is really low for ceramics. You get to work a lot more matte with it. This is a two part, this [he picks up the bell part – notice it’s shinier] has been to 1300c, it has to be two parts becaue there’s no way they could exist in the same firing.

There’s lots of ways of making things matte, but the most reliable way is not really firing it very well. I don’t know if you see how glazes look when you paint them on, they might be powdery and there might be a hint of some colour in there, but usually it has no relation to the finish.

This is part of the same deal except this was taken quite high.


I got this gold working so it’s gone to 1280c, 1250c but still keeping some matte here. Again these are made to look like glazes when you paint them on, but fixed like that.

ME: how do you do the paintings, what are they?

AA: They’re reverse painted glass. All the paint’s on the back. I work slightly blind with them. It’s hard to turn them over and check halfway through, especially the big ones where its quite heavy. It takes two people to flip them. It’s basically masking tape and a toothbrush. Cutting board and some knives and the cheapest acrylic paints because they’re the only ones that splatter right.

ME: Oh so toothbrush as in flicking the brush.

AA: Yeah yeah yeah. Just flicked like that. They’re kind of like printed, digital looking, but they’re actually quite messy and provisional and cheap, they take me a day each, almost like a set. Like for a reason almost. I make sure they take a day each. I don’t like coming back to them. I don’t like editing them.  Generally you can’t work back into them at all. Not only working with the reverse of the composition, working with the reverse of the colour throw meanings they almost end up being in false colour. The last colour I see when I’m working on the back will always end up being the least important colour from the front if you see what I mean, that’s the colour that’ll be coming through the least. It’s trying to reconcile something that’s flat and that goes on the walls with the way that ceramics works which is amenable to chance. You can put intention into it and you can vaguely get what you want, but you can’t be disappointed, because you’ve set up a situation where yo ucan’t be disappointed, it’s always going to.

ME: Again, you’re talking about process rather than the work.

AA: I was reading the Lair Of the White Worm, which is a really bad book by Bram Stoker.


But I always liked the Ken Russell film from the 80s, it’s got Hugh Grant in it, playing a policeman. It’s really camp, it’s really good [here’s the trailer]

[Oh, you want to see the whole film with Greek subtitles, right?]

AA: Bram Stoker’s a really boring writer, but the book’s really bad, he started writing it, and then returned to it after 10 years. It was his last book. When he came back to it, which is about halfway through the narrative, it’s like he’d forgotten who all the characters were. But it was just at this point where they discovered there was this giant worm living in the well. Even though it’s really bad and almost unreadable, it does this really interesting structural thing where the figure of the worm seems to genuinely negatively affect the prose and the outcome of the book at a structural level.


[Aaron has to get on, and I start to take pictures, but I’m still recording, and Aaron continues to talk]

I’ve only just got a studio that’s not my ceramics studio, so I’m quite enjoying having a work space where I’m not bound by certain materials. Weirdly the materials are more expensive than ceramics. Ceramic is one of those materials where it has virtually no value except that that the person puts on it. Like it’s free, almost. With this I had to buy sheet brass and cork, which is either a noble or not noble material, it’s not noble when its reduced to conglomerate cork board but when its bark it’s quite expensive.


AA: I want to carry on with Troy Town for ages. If we move somewhere bigger I’d like to have both, but maybe just for me. The problem is that everything gets covered in dust in about three minutes. A ceramic studio is only good as a ceramic studio. Its super specific, even down to the type of work space. It’s a shared studio as well, it’s a group situation, it’s not private.

This is the first solo show I’ve done in quite a while. And the way I’ve done ceramics has changed a lot in the last year. I’ve become kind of self-sufficient. It makes it both easier and harder to make ceramics. I used to work in batches because I’d do some for a set amount of time, book studio time, they’d have to be out of the kiln, but now I can just work on them. Apart from this show, which was mental I was working on 100 at once, half of them didn’t make it, which sounds sadder than it is.

ME: Because they don’t survive the kiln.

AA: The way I work, I had to make about a third more. But now being able to work on one thing at once is a totally strange thing. Because I was making so many at once, pieces could swap between each other while the clay was so wet. Now I don’t have places for these other pieces to go. I’ve started to getting over that, I’ll roll up a base, I make a lot of miniatures now, unique glazed testers, almost like wasters that people did in the olden days. I have a miniature, it’s to test all the glazes to check I can get them as right as each other next to each other in the same firing, and to see also what happens when one runs into another. But that’s been quite enjoyable. And they make really good gifts, like for someone who helped me move my sofa. That’s a real example. I gave one to Richard Healy.

Aaaah, lovely Richard Healy!

The place where we shall end.

Grotwork is super complex, super layered, super involved, super rewarding.

It opens tonight at Studio Voltaire, then runs til 30 August.

Go go go go go.


Rob Tufnell has works from Troy Town Pottery artists in his current amazing show Potteries Thinkbelt – on for a couple more weeks – go see go see.

Paranoia, disco, hell, vomit – Donald Urquhart on his amazing new show ‘1978’ at Maureen Paley – a preview

I’m obsessed with the work of Donald Urquhart. He has such a particular way with line, with comment, with yearning and affection and spite.

Donald has a new show opening this week at Maureen Paley in London. I popped down the end of last week as he was finishing the installation.

Here’s his words, and new work…

DH: It’s called 1978 but it’s not all about 1978. That’s just an element of it. It’s about the past, as most of my work is. It’s about time. But I can’t call a show ‘The Past’ or ‘Time’. I called it 1978. All I listen to is disco from 1978. Other things get on my nerves.


[Due to my extraordinary journalistic powers, I forgot to take a photo of the black crepe paper chains hanging in the gallery, but you can see them in the reflection behind me].

DH: Black crepe paper chains are great for a funeral, a birthday, a wedding, I think everyone should have a box of black crepe paper chains. If you feel depressed. If you kill your dog because it’s been naughty, you put your black crepe paper chains up.

I like the idea that the black crepe paper chains get worse as time goes on. They get dusty and droopy and stained. They’re not durable. When I was making them, I was staying at my friend Jane’s house in Islington, because I couldn’t make them in Scotland and bring them down, it would be ridiculous. I had them in a great big bag, and it was a day and a half’s work, and she’s got this little poodle, and the poodle decided what a lovely comfy pillow that looked like. So it laid on the bag and crushed them all flat. I had to remake all those chains. The foil ones are alright. You can uncrush them. My friend used a pound coin and a cigarette packet. And went over them all to get the metal ones back.

CP: So you only listen to music from ’78?

DH: 78 with some from ’76 and ’77. And I do allow maybe 10 or 20 tracks from ’79. When you think about people who brought out records in 79 they probably recorded them in 78. And it really is pre-1980, because that’s when they started using computerised drumming. I think ’79 is the cut-off for getting live drums in a studio and recording the beat. I think you can hear the difference. Even things, when you listen to Blondie’s Heart of Glass, none of that’s from a computer, that’s somebody drumming. And now everybody is all about boom boom boom, on a loop and repeat, and I can’t stand things to repeat. And also they invented some kind of a woofer for a speaker that made all the bass much bigger. When you listen to ’78 music, it really sounds a lot fuller and rounder.

One of my favourite record is Over and Over by Sylvester

I love that, yeah.

That speeds up, slows down

Yeah, that does go everywhere. My favourite is the Beautiful Bend. A record from 1978. The album.

Which is That’s the Trouble.

That’s the feeling. That’s the Meaning!

Oh That’s The Trouble is Grace!

That’s a Grace Jones one.

[It’s on my mind because one of Donald’s works in the show is of Grace]


Because you had the night Beautiful Bend [it was a party Donald ran with Sheila Tequila and DJ Harvey].


Which I wish I’d gone to.

I don’t know. You might have regrets [Click here to see Donald’s extraordinary series of posters for the Beautiful Bend].

How long did it last for?

Well it was so sporadic. I think first time it was about a year and a half, then we were doing it in all different places, Freedom café as well as Central Station in King’s Cross. We did it weekly for a while and then we fell out. So that was the end of that.

What year was that?
I think it started in 93-95. And then it was end of 99 to about 2001. Somehow.

So how did you come up with the show?

I don’t know. All this stuff, I wanted to do quite a lot of collage. And I started off with a Beano comic from about 1982 or 3.


I cut it up and made this Tower of Babel and it’s got Diana in it, so that’s really got its own period and got its own story.


And then I thought right I’m going to make another one but it’s all going to be from history. When I did this, I thought this is like that scene in Close Encounters where Richard Dreyfuss is making a mountain out of mashed potato really obsessively.

And I thought what if I did do actual pictures of the Devil’s Tower from Close Encounters, but did it with the whole history of language and printing. This is from when I used to be a journalist for QX magazine. It’s things I wrote in about 2000, maybe 1999. I thought well I’ll just pick some choice phrases.


What was the ‘Land of Cockaigne’ [look close, you can see it bottom left of the tower]?

There is a picture called the Land of Cockaigne. There was a thing on in Brighton called Carnivalesque, and it had all these old woodcuts and etchings, like the Land of Cockaigne, where everybody lies around doing nothing.

How do you work? Do you work circularly, or one thing then one thing?

I can really only do one thing at a time. I’m not good at jugglng things. Things get left. Things get started. And then they don’t get finished for months. I’m full of half-finished drawings, and things that I’d like to get round to doing but can’t really see the point of. It’s a bit of a miracle when I do get artwork done.

I love this one. Paranoia was so much more a thing then.

I think paranoia was a way of life in 78.

IMG_8347 (1)

In 79 there was the anti-disco movement. Do you know about that? Disco sucks. Then punk is dead in 79. Disco’s dead. What else can be dead?


When you work like this do you write it before or is it instinctive on the work?

Yeah it’s loads of scribbling on envelopes when I’m drunk. There’s lots of notes, then I’ll go through all these bits of paper and put things together from that.

Who are these two boys?

I think they’re just actors from a film. They’re nobody in particular.


Where are the eyes from?

When I moved back to Scotland, where I live it’s really freaky because there’s thousands of starlings in the sky making these big shapes all the time. I thought this is like another planet. Even in the winter, the ones that don’t fly to Africa or wherever they go, some stay behind and make all these shapes. It’s just this constant display that never ever stops. I thought I’d draw them as that. There’s a lot more eye drawings than this. I started to get a bit obsessive.


Do you actually draw the pattern of the starlings?

Well I’m trying to get the pattern that they make, like this is, you can see this to be one of the clusters because then they break up into little bits, then they all come back together, and then they all go.


I’m obsessed with eyes.

Well I’m not [he laughs]. Yeah I think I am a bit too.

Do you find your work is different in different places?

Well I think my work looks different all the time. I’m still doing the same thing in Dumfries as I was in Paris. I’m getting involved in theatrical work in Dumfries. I did the scenery for a production of Snow White, which was really fun, and it’s all really young kids. They had to do a play about sectarianism. They’re really dark these kids. I said to them what’s the play about, they said we need a graveyard, and we’ve got to be children sat around in our pyjamas because we’ve been burned in a fire. And on the stage we need to have a prison with a prisoner in his cell writing his confession before he commits suicide. And I was like OK. And they were like it’s got to tour around four different venues so it’s all got to fit in the back of a minibus. And I was like, fine. So I made them a graveyard, real flowers, and I got twenty pounds of dry ice delivered to each venue so it was all dry ice, then the black crepe paper chains on once side for the prison and it all folded up, and that was such a fun thing to do. I don’t know if I’d ever get the chance to do anything like that in London.

And it was kids acting in a graveyard?

It was kids they were like 7 to 12 year old kids with pyjamas and burnt faces. I’m going to do more with that theatre company. I love working with dry ice. You don’t get much more fun than that.

And the lightning?

It was kind of a thing in the 70s to have lightning bolts as décor.

IMG_8360There was a gay disco called Bolts and I think it was at a place called Lasers on Green Lanes. Then there was Bang, and there was the David Bowie stripe on the Aladdin Sane cover, but it’s not as elongated as the disco lightning bolt that really is a lot narrower and more spikey.

What was Bolts on Green Lanes?

It was only on Saturday nights. It was a regular disco all the other nights. It was just mental. I’d be about 21 when I went there. Leigh Bowery used to go with Trojan, and really not wearing normal gay disco wear. It was all these queens who wore everything perfectly ironed, that kind of queen, and clones. You don’t really see clones like you used to see them. Real clones that had to have Levi’s rather than Wranglers, and all this stuff going on in their heads. I used to get spectacularly drunk and then go there and get even more spectacularly drunk. I remember always being sick on the dancefloor there. Puke and fag ends.

Actually sick on the dancefloor or tried to go to the edge?

On the dancefloor. Keep going. Keep dancing. Bleuugh. I often wonder if these places are still there or venues or

Luxury flats

Yeah luxury flats. It’s all gone.

Who’s this?

Quite often I just want to make up a feeling. She’s not actually anybody, its just the pose and the expression to express “How big is hell”, because sometimes it looks very big.


That was part of some illustrations I did for Stephen Jones. I did four drawings. It was called Turbulence, Torpor and Turbans. This was from Turbulence.


What were the turbans?

Edith Sitwell and Edith Beale.

It’s all so good.

I’m pleased with it. I think my shows are all the same but they’re not. Some of them are really miserable. Some of them are really sarcastic. I like the balance of this show.

Hey so go go go. The private view is this eve if you fancy a beer, then the show is on until 12 July, click here etcetc.

Agnes Martin at Tate Modern is an extraordinary show about the purpose of work. A preview

Tate Modern is previewing it’s new Agnes Martin show, the first full retrospective ever dedicated to the artist.

It’s immediate achievement is to reveal the human behind the grid, wash and line.

The usual experience of Martin is of work where her hand can barely be seen, the line and colour so faint. The effect is of distance, as if Martin did not want you to know her, or her output.

At Tate Modern, her work is substantiated, heightened and personalised by highlighting variation, and showing the breadth of her career.

It shows that her intention wasn’t mystery or evasion, but specific communication of her feelings, and understanding of the world.

An early work, from around 1954, titled Mid-Winter.

Untitled, from 1958.

The room of sculptures made from found objects is a revelation.

This is Burning Tree from 1961.

She was living in a sailmakers loft in lower Manhattan at the time. 

The Laws, made from boat spikes, from 1958.


Islands No4, from 1961.


Friendship, made with gold leaf, in 1963, as her grid evolved.

It’s at this point that the curators Francis Morris, Tiffany Bell and Lena Fritsch note in the wall text that Martin suffered from schizophrenia.

It is done with reason, to explain these grids as an expression of the processes of the mind.

Morning, from 1965.


And then Martin disappeared.

She sold all her possessions, went on a road trip, and gave up art for five years.

She reemerged in New Mexico, where the work took on rigour but also exploration – of colour, form, or absence of both.

An untitled work from the 70s.


The Islands II from 1979, one of a series of twelve, all presented together.

One of the most powerful rooms is of her later work, where more message is revealed.

Homage To Life, from 2003.


Untitled, from 2002.

Untitled, from 2004, the year of her death.
She was 91.


The show is deeply inspirational, about the purpose of work. 

Not for market, or public display, but the purpose of work to help explain and understand the self.

Go go go go see.

It opens tomorrow, 3 June, until 11 October at Tate Modern