Monday, August 30, 2010

Vernon Hill - The Arcadian Calendar for 1910

Vernon Hill's illustrations for the Arcadian Calendar for 1910 accurately describe the progression of the months and seasons here in our part of the northern hemisphere. His two characters, male and female, seem fairly at ease with the sometimes terrifying appearance of the presiding deity. It has been suggested that the presentation of the child in January is somehow blasphemous or peculiar but I would have thought that this is not a depiction of the Christ child but merely of the New Year, as an aged figure turns up in December being led away upon what seems to be a donkey. (hmm, maybe this isn't helping)

One of the things that I like is that there is the depiction of much sound in the illustrations. The deity plays bagpipes and other forms of wind instruments which the couple sometimes respond to by dancing. In another we can almost see the sound of a gun going off and in August the deity seems to be regaling the couple with stories of some sort. We can hear the sound of the wind screaming in many of the others.

The deity also appears affected by the weather, as in June he lays under a tree to rest in the shade from the hot sun and in October he blows upon his hands to warm them up against the weather. He often wears bells so that a tinkling sound would accompany him, though in March the bells become apples, windblown and then spiked upon his pointed garb. In January his mouth forms the sound of surprise. The two figures have been described as being stock characters but there is nothing stock about his depiction of the deity which seems to be a figure of singular invention.

Born in Halifax in 1887 Vernon Hill's career in illustration seems to last only about two years. The Arcadian Calendar of 1910, The New Inferno and Ballads Weird and Wonderful is all there is to see of it, although there are other later drawings. In this short period of time his style changes from these linear and decorative post Beardsley pictures into something that seem to me much less powerful and more like designs for woodcarvings, which is appropriate, as he appears to have spent the rest of his life working on carvings for the churches and cathedrals across England, so that from this slightly unusual beginning he went on to find a place for himself in the structure of the orthodox Christian church in England.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

unreal city

“Like a man travelling in foggy weather, those at some distance before him on the road he sees wrapped up in the fog, as well as those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side, but near him all appears clear, though in truth he is as much in the fog as any of them.”

The summer cools and the west wind brings back the moist air again. A pattern seems to have formed here over the last few years: a dry and hot early summer followed by a cloudy and rainy August - just in time to slightly spoil the school holidays for the children who will be back at school in September when the weather clears again for a nice bit of Indian summer. You get two months of pretty much unbroken sunlight and then people complain when the rain comes again, as if we don't need the rain. Weather predictions are rarely accurate so all rights are reserved etc.

English people are fairly obsessed with the weather and any small conversation can at first involve a few straightforward remarks about the weather of the day, as people are unthreatened by this comforting cliche. Anything you say beyond that is your own lookout. As someone once pointed out, the english always complain about the weather but no-one does a damn thing about it.

Flow time flow, a river of perpetual now, our dreams of the future like leaves that are carried away and disappear under the bridge.

All the things you could be by now if Sigmund Freud's wife was your mother. I don't know about being obsessed with the weather, it's songs that always seem to be on this brain and any phrase spoken or image observed might remind me of a song lyric. What is all this garbage that swirls around the brain? Lyrics from the should-be long forgotten Netherlandic entry into the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest. I haven't seen TV for a few years now but I can still find myself humming the tunes from adverts of the 1970's and it's doubtful I'll be able to shake them off now. I do actually notice what's going on around me when I'm out walking but it's strange what else enters the thoughts at these random moments.

A mental map of the area I lived in 25 years ago, most of the geography in reality now probably changed beyond all recognition. The exact placing of about 10,000 items in a supermarket of the past. Round and round in the fog it all swirls. There's too much information. There's too much dis/mis-information and there's also a lot of seemingly useless information.

How the world became plastic. How to win friends. How to fool most of the people. How to make a reality that falls apart after a few days. So out again now, and cloaking myself in the beautiful fog.