Tag Archives: painting


WILJA by Faith Harris

WILJA by Faith Harris

Another of my Grandmother‘s potato images from Alan Wilson’s book, The Story of the Potato I just wanted to get this one up. The Wilja is good for boiling and mashing, apparently.

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Spitfire Parade

Paul Nash (1889-1946)
Battle of Britain, 1941
Oil on Canvas
(c) Imperial War Museums (art.IWM ART LD 1550)

So here’s a thing.  My grandmother was a painter, and both my parents were architects and also painted, and the tradition of mid-century English painting and design was present in my early life to such an extent that, for me as a child, it seemed that that was how painting was done…which was why my discovery of Pop or Abstract Expressionism at school such a mind-blowing revelation. Because Spencer, Nash, Moore, Ravilious, Baynes, Piper, Sutherland, Hale; that mid-century aesthetic, forged in two world wars, but coloured with the gentility of the middle class, created the way that I, we, perceive visual culture: the Home Counties Apocalypse of John Wyndam, or John Christopher, souring into the nihilistic rationalist psychedelia of Aldis and Ballard.

So it is hard for me to name this work or even see this as art, since this is a baseline from which all art (by definition, deviation) deviates. I’ve come to love it, but it is a love of nostalgia, not of knowledge. Living in the US, this work is unavailable to any real extent, in the same why that Turner, the antecedent of this work, is also a virtual unknown.  Nash’s painting as war artist of WW2 shows the conflict as a sometime surreal dream, a dream where the details, the shine of water, the tilt of the horizon from the cockpit, are more present than actual visceral realities of conflict. What strikes in this image is not the clash of man and machine, but sheer vastness of the space in which that conflict takes place.  Testimony from fighter and bomber pilots from the war are not about close contact, but about the distance between objects; the size of the canvas on which they played. And of course, for a boy (man) my age, the Battle of Britain is one of the heroic definitions of our generation. This painting makes real the revelation that the war in the air was not about ideology, men or machine, but about space (so back to Ballard and the surreal again).

We had a Nash on the wall in the JCR at college; a painting of tanks on exercise on Salisbury plain (where I was at school); though oddly I can’t find a reference for the painting online. I also knew Nash’s nephew, Peter-Paul Nash, the composer, for a while; he married a good friend of mine.

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Airbrush tempera, 1977. 36″ x 24″
Collection Tony May (Francis Kyle Gallery, London)

Did Any of You Guys See That? by Phillip Castle (1977) was one of the reasons that I picked on this particular method of generating blog posts. I love this image and have always thought it awesome, and, again bought this card from the little bookshop in the Covered Market in Oxford. Three McDonell-Douglas F15s soar though a cloud-bank, ready to engage a radar signal that is…is actually a giant topless angel, who looks like she’s really enjoying her new jeans…er…jeans that are actually Soviet jeans made of…aluminium? Aircraft fusilage? Something airbourne and awesome, anyway.

However try and find it on the internet: it’s not there…but now it is! Inspired by my friends at ROLU, one of the hopes for this blog (if I keep at it) is to present a resource of images that are not currently available via the WWW. The resource of the WWW only exists because we create it…it’s ours to make.

Castle was a prolific and successful commercial artist; one of the airbrush pioneers in the UK. He published two books Airflow (1980; introduction by Stephen Bayley, no less) and (confusingly) Airshow (1990). He taught at the Royal College and designed classic album covers for Wings, Bowie (Aladdin Sane 1973) and Pulp (His’n’Hers 1994). Working with pop artist Alan Jones he created the poster for the film adaptation of Michael Moorcocks’ The Final Programme (Robert Fuest 1973). (Fuest directed another of my favourite movies, The Abominable Doctor Phibes, perhaps the best slice of retro 1970’s film design). He’s perhaps most famous for art direction and poster design for A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick 1971); the ‘1970’s of the future’ look of Alex and his droogs is largely that of Castle. He’d work with Kubrick again on the poster for Barry Lyndon (1975) and for Full Metal Jacket (1987), another movie set to the devastating effect of men and institutionalised violence (set in 1967-8, just 3 years before A Clockwork Orange). Castle (it says here) is still working, had a gallery show back in 2000 (damn, missed that), and designed the covers for the Fairford (Glos) Air Tattoo, where, at last, his mad 1970’s airbrush skills designs start to look authentically dated…

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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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