Friday, 30 May 2014


Ian Nairn - Words in Place
Gillian Darley and David McKie
Five Leaves, Nottingham, 2013

Architecture critic and polemicist Ian Nairn seems to have finally been deemed worthy of reappraisal by the academy that he never wanted to be part of. The past year has seen a few press features, a nice BBC documentary and even the reprint of some of his books.

Words is Place is an introduction to Nairn's life and career, not quite as fulfilling as its subject's own writing but certainly of interest to anyone new to Nairn. His prose is usually engaging and informative; those that write about him are more varied in their abilities.
Young and angry

Old and bitter

If you cannot get hold of any of his books, the films he made for television just as good, better in some respects as the viewer really gets to see and hear the apoplectic rage and outpourings of love he had for buildings and places. 'Passion' is a much abused word. Nairn had real passion, which combined with his own private demons and eventually tore him apart.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Pedagogical Sketchbook

Pegagogical Sketchbook
Paul Klee
Frederick A. Praeger, NY, 1953

Originally published as Pädogogisches Skizzenbuch, no. 2 in the series Bauhausbücher (Bauhaus books) during Paul Klee's tenure as professor at the school. Translated by Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, the book derived from the basic design course, where the approach taken in the 43 lessons was scientific rather than abstract, as Klee dedicates himself to the task of helping students to learn to see. A cornerstone of visual education, though not perhaps the most entertaining read.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Keartons on Kilda

With Nature and A Camera
Richard Kearton / Cherry Kearton (photographer)
Cassell, London, 1911

Being the Adventures and Observations of a Field Naturalist and an Animal Photographer

Richard and Cherry Kearton were team of brother naturalists; Richard provided the writing and scientific knowledge and Cherry took care of the photography and some of the text. Cherry was one of the first wildlife photographers, and in 1896 the pair undertook a mission to document the life on the remote Hebridean island of St Kilda, an almost barren mountain of rock thrusting up from the Atlantic where a small settlement scratched a living from fish and seabirds. Cherry's photographs provide a fascinating record of the lives of the island's human inhabitants, and some unintended laughs for those who share my childish sense of humour.

Spot the difference (clue the figure on the right may be a man)

Foul behaviour
No sniggering
With the growth of cinema the brothers parted company and Cherry moved into wildlife documentaries. 

The seabirds remain on St Kilda. The island no longer has human inhabitants, following the famous evacuation of 1930.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Desk Jockey

Jean Prouvé
Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona, 2007

Architect and designer Jean Prouvé (1901-1984) created some wonderfully spare and elegant furniture for industrial clients and municipal commissions in his native France during the middle decades of the last century, a time when égalité and the aesthetics of the visual environment were still respected concepts. Particular favourites are his educational furniture for schools and colleges.
Prove it: dapper neckwear

Also of interest is this design for an open-worked steel panel (1946-52) used in Prouvé's and other architects' building designs. Possible inspiration for the interior of the TARDIS?

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Burn Baby Burn

A Burnt-Out Case 
Graham Greene
1966 edition, Penguin Books
Harmondsworth, Middx.

Cover photograph by Americn photographer Ronald Traeger, best known for his Swinging London fashion photography (lots of Twiggy), whose brief career sadly ended in 1968 at the age of only 32.
Vogue fashion shoot, 1968 (clothes by The Fool)
Apple Boutique, mural and clothes by The Fool, 1968

Friday, 23 May 2014


John Lyons
Fontana/Collins, Glasgow, 1975

Cover painting by Oliver Bevan.

I do love the Fontana Modern Masters series, more for their colourful geometric cover designs than the worthy philosophical content. It's nice to remember that these were proper *paintings* rather than something dashed off in 5 minutes using Photoshop. 

I was going to write a bit about them but quickly discovered the uber-resource, so I will direct you here instead.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

New Worlds Order

Eduardo Paolozzi - At New Worlds. Science Fiction And Art In The Sixties
David Brittain 
Savoy Books, 2013

This is a most enlightening and well researched book about New Worlds magazine, the UK's most progressive SF periodical in the 60s and 70s. Under the stewardship of Michael Moorcock, authors such as J.G. Ballard and artists including Eduardo Paolozzi were brought together in a publication with a mission to push SF inspired art and literature into speculative experimental futures.

The book is generously illustrated and benefits from John Coulthard's fine design and layout, but there was one image missing. In Rick Poynor's introduction there is a description of the cover design of a Nebula Short Stories anthology that sounded familiar but was not reproduced, so here is my copy for your entertainment, more than just another example of the questionable genre of fantasy art. 

"It's like a warped dystopian remix of Robbie the Robot tenderly cradling the unconscious woman, except that the woman is wide awake, bleeding and angry. This dark and peculiar fantasy, a kind of sado-erotic space crash, somehow meshes Surrealism, science fiction, the Independent Group, the New Worlds' ethos, Paolozzi's mechanomorphs, the emerging sense of 'crash-culture', and Ballard's soon to be formulated claim that 'Sex times technology equals the future'." 

Cover: Giannetto Coppola
Eduardo Paolozzi, Zero Energy Experimental Pile (Z.E.E.P): Pacific Standard Time (1970)

New Worlds featured artwork by Mal Dean including his cartoon illustrations for the jacket of  Moorcock's 'No Cure for Cancer'

Issues 178 (1967) and 199 (1970): SF smut

Six Polaroids documenting the first meeting of Moorcock, Ballard, Paolozzi (and Ballard's partner Claire Walsh)

Real desktop publishing: the Portobello Road flat where designer Charles Platt laid out issues of New Worlds

Cover design by Mervyn Peake

Eduardo Paolozzi, Zero Energy Experimental Pile (Z.E.E.P.): Hollywood Wax Museum (1970)

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Dark Side - Colour Me Badd

Methuen Handbook of Colour
A. Kornerup and J.H. Wanscher
Methuen, London, 1963

Charts, dictionary, harmony, contrast, names and samples - all in living colour. This was the colour reference book of the period and it's usefulness continued for many years until usurped by Pantone, RAL and others. Originally a Danish publication (think Denmark's famous Modernist designers), now quite collectible with dustjacket. It is still an fascinating reference and object of beauty. (Sorry to disappoint Pink Floyd fans).