Monthly Archives: March 2012


This is a postcard from a series of paintings that my grandmother, Faith Harris, did for a book on Potatoes: The Story of The Potato through Illustrated Varieties by Alan Wilson (privately published 1993). Wilson was her neighbour in Long Sutton, and was the potato buyer for Waitrose. She produced 74 paintings for the book. Image

This is the Arran Victory, very popular in Northern Island and Scotland, but declining after the 1950’s and, as the time of writing (1993) was quite rare. My grandmother painted beautifully, and I love these cards (I’m assuming Wilson has the actual paintings), and this is a book that wonderfully predates the current interest in varietal vegetables and ‘heirloom’ brands. Of course, also, nowadays, all this is on the internet.

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Athena Che

And here’s an old one. Che Guevara by Alberto Korda (1960), interpreted by Jim Fitzpatrick (1968), as re-intepreted by Athena (1986). This was a 20th birthday card from my school friend Phil; he doesn’t have my address at college. How does he get hold of me? I don’t have a phone in my room (in fact I only remember maybe four payphones in the whole college) How did we stay in contact in those days? It’s really easy to forget what it was like before mobile phones and internet.

Here Che’s started to go a little Madchester, in preparation for the second summer of love, 1988. My favourite Che image is the one from Scott King, Cher Guevara (2000). This was produced for the (now defunct) Institute of Visual Culture space in Cambridge, ran by the redoubtable Stefan Kalmar (now presiding over Artists Space in NYC) and the poster for the show was on my wall for a long time. Sleazenation was our bible for a time in the late ’90’s. That seems a long time ago too, now.

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This a really rare image: I can’t find it anywhere else. It comes from a cache of b/w photographs that I was given when I worked at the slide library at the old Courtauld Institute in Home House, Portland Sq. I’ve always hoped that they were taken by someone really cool, like Willbald Sauerlander or Kurt Weitzmann…and one of these days I’ll try and research them; they’re all noted on the rear in pencil, and seem to have been produced for a conference paper in Germany.

Bibloteque Nationale fr 2186 Le Roman da la Poire f2v ca.1250

It’s an illumination on the reverse of the second page of a C13th manuscript of a secular french romance, Le Roman De La Poire (The Romance of the Pear), and it’s a beautiful illustration of the Wheel of Fortune. The Rota Fortunae was a very common and important medieval literary device, first made developed and popularised in Boethius’ ‘The Consolation of Philosophy’, written by the Roman aristocrat, politician and scholar Boethius as he awaited execution by Theoderic the Ostragoth in 525 CE. “I know how Fortune is ever most friendly and alluring to those whom she strives to deceive, until she overwhelms them with grief beyond bearing, by deserting them when least expected. … Are you trying to stay the force of her turning wheel? Ah! dull-witted mortal, if Fortune begin to stay still, she is no longer Fortune.”

Fortune, staring us directly in the face, a slight smile on her lips, turns her wheel, and the mighty are laid low, the humble raised up…and so it goes. It’s a great book of ideas, and very affecting; the last gasp of classicism echoing down to Alfred the Great, Carl Orff and Merv Griffin.

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Jo’s Knickers

At last for March 1st, here’s an horizontal image. We’re gradually working through my obsessions (er…obviously, since this my blog), so next up, Doctor Who, the greatest TV show ever devised. And here’s an image of the greatest Doctor Who of all, Jon Pertwee, with his lovely assistant Josephine Grant, as played by Katy Manning. Your first Doctor is your favourite, it’s said, and I first saw Jo and the Doctor in action against the Sea Devils in a Christmas Omnibus edition of 27th December 1972. So good; next was The Three Doctors and I was hooked 4 life, as Jeremy Deller might say.

The Doctor and Jo in the TARDIS control room, Slowdazzle Worldwide 1998

This card was given to me as a 4th Anniversary present (along with something else, I’m sure) by my wife, so I’m dating it to 1998. It’s number 19 from a series of 32 and I’m sure she got it at Forbidden Planet when the store was in New Oxford St. As any fule kno this is a shot from The Time Monster (also 1972) since Jo is wielding her impressive TARDIS-sniffer-outer.

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View from the bridge

This is a combination of a 35mm slide that I took for recording purposes and a postcard that I received from a friend Beccy Jones for a dinner party or whatever, back in the early ’90’s.  A nice combination of the personal and political.

Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Project for the River Medlock 1998, bullet proof glass, audio, Oxford Road Bridge, Manchester

I used this image in lectures to demonstrate what I believed (and still do believe) is the most central and key role of the artist in public space; the other with the ability to see what cannot be seen by the everyday. When Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, two artists based in Manchester, were approached by Arts Transpennine 98 for a project in central Manchester they proposed one of this most simple and effective urban project. The brief was to reconnect the City with the rivers than run in gunnels beneath Manchester; and they did in the most elegant way possible; they cut into the steel bridge, and installed glass panels so that instead of craning over these 5 foot high panels to see the river, one could just look through. Perfect, simple, elegant, and had the advantage of placing them and the work directly within all that Iain Sinclair/Alan Moore/Patrick Keiller psychogeography that was so big at the time. Beautiful.

Adolphe Vallette, The Irwell 1913 Whitworth Art Gallery

…and here’s a river in Manchester from the City’s glorious heyday, smokey in an impressionist sunset. This is in the Whitworth, I think, and of the River Irwell, of which there was an Arts Lottery funded sculpture trail (more on that later). Nick Crowe was the project manager for Rita McBride’s Arena sculpture in Salford. My father was from Manchester and this the City that he would have known, just 10 years before his birth. I’ve always had a strange attraction to the city, though I’ve spent very little time there. It’s changed a lot, but then so have most things.

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A kick up the Eighties

This one always made me laugh. This was up all through college and several places since, hence the coffee stains.

Part of the point of this blog is to post images that don’t seem to be available anywhere else. This postcard was purchased from one of those small second-hand bookshops in the Covered Market. Does that kind of shop even exist anymore? Last time I was in the Covered Market it was all souvenir shops for coach parties.

Anyway, this was the era of Biff and Daisy Pulls It Off, and for me the card perfectly captured the sense of entitlement to past and present that was the hallmark of the Thatcher government. We’re all supposed to admire what the chemist from Somerville did for us all now, but the smug suburban self-satisfaction of the Thatcher gang was what stuck in my throat, and made them so unbearably English. Maybe it had to be done; but why did they all have sound so pleased to have to do it?

The Boyhood of Norman Tebbit, recycled images, Oxford Covered Market 1986

The reference is to Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit’s response to the 1981 riots that he “grew up in the ’30s with an unemployed father. He didn’t riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking ’til he found it”.

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