May 31 2011: British Petroleum Touring Service: Austria (Printed Sound Flexidisc, 1960s)

“The BP Touring Service has been designed to make touring abroad easier, more interesting, more enjoyable. BP’s choice of service stations covers almost all Europe and wherever you see the famous green and yellow shield, you can rely on automotive products and service of international repute. We hope that with the help of the BP … Continue reading

Ian Breakwell’s The Elusive State of Happiness (QUAD Gallery, 2010)

There has been some confusion about this exhibition, which was initially billed as Breakwell’s first solo retrospective, then later re-branded as the first since his death in 2005, at the relatively young age of 62, but whichever it might be, it’s definitely his biggest showing to date in his home city of Derby, and one … Continue reading

May 29 2011: Paper Anatomical Model from Virtue’s Household Physician (1924)

On Saturday morning, with Robert Holcombe‘s constant need for materials of a certain vintage in mind, I was lucky enough to pick up a battered single volume from a larger set published in 1924 under the title Virtue’s Household Physician, and find in its pages one of those fascinating engraved paper fold-outs that progressively strips layers from … Continue reading

May 28 2011: Flyleaf Design (Little Owl Books, 1960s)

The graphic identity of Penguin Books (created by a 21 year-old named Edward Young in 1936) was so successful in design terms that it inspired not only the many offshoots of the press itself – with such bird-themed imprints as Puffin, Peregrine and Pelican – but clearly led others to think of their own imprints in … Continue reading

Towards A Post-War Aesthetic: The Design Research Unit and This Is Tomorrow (NVA, 2011)

“In other words, what is required as a preliminary to any practical solution of the division existing between art and industry is a clear understanding, not only of the processes of modern production, but also of the nature of art. Not until we have reduced the work of art to its essentials, stripped it of … Continue reading

Diane Arbus and Gert & Uwe Tobias at Nottingham Contemporary (NVA, 2010)

In C.J.S. Thompson’s The History and Lore of Freaks (1930) the author begins with a blunt statement of fact: “From the earliest period of the world’s history abnormal creatures or monstrosities, both human and animal, have existed…and excited the wonder of mankind”. These two exhibitions demonstrate that the ancient interest outlined by Thompson’s survey remains … Continue reading

Uneven Geographies: Art & Globalisation (Nottingham Contemporary, 2010)

One advantage of waiting until a few weeks into an exhibition’s run before writing a review of it is that you’ll get to hear a range of opinions about its contents before having to commit your views to print: in the case of Nottingham Contemporary’s ‘difficult third’ exhibition, looking at responses to issues around Globalisation, … Continue reading

May 24 2011: Twins of Evil by Essjay (DJM, 1971)

A fairly radical rearrangement of Harry Robinson’s orchestral theme for the Hammer horror film Twins of Evil, Essjay’s version appeared as a one-off British single and the name is largely a disguise for Mike Batt, a man better known for composing the hits of The Wombles, a cash-in novelty group spun off from the Filmfair … Continue reading

May 23 2011: Unidentified Gypsy Girl Photograph (1890s)

Went to the opening of two new exhibitions at New Art Exchange on Friday evening, and afterwards spent an enlightening hour or so at a panel discussion – chaired by NAE’s director Skinder Hundal – with both the artists (Cecilia Jardemar and Sara Heitlinger) and some of the subjects involved in making Patrin, an installation involving photographs, sound, texts and … Continue reading

May 22 2011: The Mark of the Beast by Sydney Watson (W.Nicholson & Sons, c.1931)

If you’re reading this post, it would appear the promised Apocalypse and Rapture scheduled for 6pm GMT on the 21st May failed to materialise (though doubtless a few swift recalculations will be being processed at fundamentalist churches as I type, and some rationale for this latest delay to the Second Coming will be wheeled out shortly: perhaps … Continue reading