Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Monkeys on Bicycles

I would like to draw your attention to this short film report from British Pathé News from October 1957 (who now allow embedding via YouTube!).

You will notice that it's our friend artist William Green again. What's not to like about this? - jazzy soundtrack, nonsensical RP narrator, Green's green beatnik jumper, wooly socks and Hush Puppies, and a sit-up-and-beg bicycle. Let's all have a jolly good laugh at the crazy artist.

I particularly like his pal who wanders in (enter, stage rear) at 1.42 - a real artist sporting neat beard and proper palette, whom I like to imagine dispenses some platitudes and goes back to puffing his pipe at his easel again thinking "Poor old Greeny, what a loony!"

And there's more here at 1.39:
Green's bicycle made a big impression in the often cynical British media and became symbolic of all that was silly about modern art. Sadly, British attitudes remain largely unchanged. The bike was recycled a few years later in a scene from The Rebel (1961), Tony Hancock's masterpiece which says so many serious things about art and life by the funniest means possible.

Everyone should see this film, particularly all artists. I saw it first while I was at art school and it had a great impact as l could recall many of the scenes for years after, especially that bicycle.

Slip, slop...
I attended a lecture on Danish artist Asgar Jorn a few weeks ago and was presented with this image of the artist creating a gigantic ceramic sculpture with a Lambretta in Italy in 1959 (27 meters long and three meters high), which immediately made my think of Hancock.
Could Jorn have been the inspiration for Galton and Simpson?

Possibly, but reading Art & The 60s the image of Green and his bike leapt out as being a more likely candidate; no fancy continental scooters here, thank you - the Mods were still a few years away - just a good old bicycle, mundane, domestic, a quotidian approach to revolutionising modern art. How very British.

Green was first filmed some months earlier by a young Ken Russell for BBC's Tonight programme in a short film called 'How to Make an Action Painting'. As an admirer of Russell's early black and white photography I would dearly love to see this but have not been able to locate it online. Let's enjoy the classic film from the BBC's Monitor series 'Pop Goes the Easel' instead:

Russell points his camera at the 'gang of four' of the British Pop Art scene: Peter Blake, Pauline Boty, Peter Phillips and Derek Boshier. This seems a slightly artificial grouping and I doubt they were much of a gang in reality, perhaps more social than intellectual.

If you don't have time to watch the whole piece do please have a peep at the magnificent closing party sequence at 36.42, if not to admire the delectable Pauline Boty then at least to see that Peter Blake was once surprisingly nimble at the Twist. The 60s had begun to swing, daddio.

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