optical glade: day twelve

We have almost finished painting the Glade. Tomorrow the scaffolding comes down and the space will be revealed. What will also be revealed are several hundreds of kilometres of hand-painted edges between black and white; no one line painted by one person, every one a collaborative work shared between seven painters (my own presence included). At least two coats of paint. And once the scaffolding is down we have one more day to complete the second/third coats of paint on the wall area accessible from the floor, which will make it thirteen days that we have spent clambering on increasingly wobbly and loose-feeling poles and planks, thirteen days covered in blue chalk dust or black paint or white paint or all three.

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Here is some blurb which I have just spent some of Sunday writing; whilst, incidentally, some kind of mad procession of what looked like 19th Century soldiers, a load of uniformed children (scouts? guides? army cadets?) and be-robed priests swinging silver incense things and carrying effigies of saints passed extremely noisily for ages outside in the street. Trumpets and tubas and stuff like that.

Anyway, sorry, I’d temporarily forgotten about this morning’s entertainment. Anyway, the blurb:

About the Optical Glade

Year: 2017

Title: Optical Glade

By: Stanley Donwood

Painted by: Stanley Donwood, Ralf Nevels, Jack Reubsaet, Jeroen van Bergen, Etienne van Berlo, Erik Habets and Jeroen Everts.

Optical Glade represents a sacred space, in the form of a stylised ring of upturned trees, the fluted trunks descending from the octagonal light-well at the apex of the Bonnefanten’s cupola, and the branches and twigs of the trees wrapping around the walls to create the illusion of a moonlit shadow-cage, a haven – or a trap. Inspired by the forest glades of northern Europe and the ancient and mysterious ‘sea-henge’ uncovered by a violent winter storm in the east of England, Optical Glade intends to transport visitors to somewhere they’re not.

This work has evolved from original drawings via linocut, digital photograph, 3D CAD model, perforated template, chalk-dust dots and pencil lines to this black and white painted glade.

No single line was painted by only one person – it is the result of seven individual painters each with their own style working together to create a harmonic space. There are no straight lines in nature, and there are none in the Optical Glade.

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14th May 2017

hashtag bonnefanten

Hello again. It is me writing more words for the internet. And I have pictures too. Today I am going to write about Optical Glade. Here is a panorama of progress…

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jeroen2As you can see, it’s climbing up the walls like a kind of geometric invasive weed. Except its not really very geometric as it’s all hand-drawn. As I mentioned earlier on (on the first day, I think) we used a technique from the Middle Ages to transfer the design to the white-painted walls, using chalk dust and pencils. Once all the pencil lines were drawn it was time to realise that the cupola is not a geometric shape as I had foolishly assumed whilst working on the 3D model back in London with ben_k, but instead is a creation composed of eight individually different panels.

Anyway, as soon as we started painting with the black paint things started to be more enjoyable than clambering up and down five stages of scaffolding in a cloud of blue dust, because now we could see what was emerging. In one week we have painted from the floor to the very apex of the dome. And in a few more days we will have finished with the black paint and will move on to the white paint. Then back to black paint to tidy it up. And then the scaffolding will be removed and the audio part of the work will be installed. More on that in the future.

The painting itself – the design of it, I mean – represents a sacred space, in the form of a ring of upturned trees. I will tell you some of the reasons why this happened. When I was a small boy there was a derelict cottage at a crossroads near where I lived. I found its ruinous and decaying nature very alluring and I investigated the cottage as often as I could. It was certainly older than most of the structures that stood nearby; a relic of a time before motor cars, tarmac, DIY stores and traffic lights. On the side of the cottage wall was a small weathered stone plaque with writing carved into it that said that the spot marked where the Peddars Way had crossed. The Peddars Way, I later found out, is (or was) a very strange and very straight track or path that crosses the part of England known as East Anglia. No-one knows where it starts, and it runs for hundreds of miles before going straight into the sea on the coastline of north Norfolk. It doesn’t connect towns, would have been of no use militarily, and couldn’t have been a trade route as it went, quite literally, nowhere. It is (or was) also reputed to be haunted by the Black Shuck, a terrible dog the size of a Great Dane that had one Cyclopean eye and meant certain death to anyone who caught sight of it.

In 1998 the destination of the Peddars Way was uncovered. A storm surge stripped away layers of mud and peat from the coastline and revealed what’s become known as Sea Henge, a circular construction made of huge wooden poles surrounding an immense upturned tree. It had lain, preserved, under a thick layer of mud for thousands of years, and for thousands of years the Peddars Way had continued to point to it. Of course, I’ve no idea what would compel people to undertake a hazardous journey for hundreds of miles through what would have been dense woodland along an eerily straight path to reach this strange structure. But they did, and probably for much, much longer than our current civilisation has existed.

So here in Maastricht, I’m painting my own version of a henge, or a grove. The trunks of the trees emerge from the octagonal window at the apex of the cupola, and surge down the curved dome walls, plotting out into branches and twigs that brush the floor. The trunks of the tree forms twist around the walls; the limbs of the trees have become formal annotations of actual branches – I’ve more-or-less obeyed natural laws of growth and structure, but with the aim of creating a moonlight shadow-cage. A monochrome haven in the noise and haste of 21st century Maastricht. Next to the river.

 

7th May 2017

yeah yeah yeah

Hello again. This is a surprise, isn’t it? Me writing in my stupid blog again so soon, I mean, rather than a totally ignorant authoritarian real-estate and reality-television person being in charge of nuclear weapons. Let’s not think about him for as long as we can, hey? Which is about one minute. But never mind. here I am again, talking to you via the internet for ONE MINUTE ONLY. If you read really fast.

Where was I? Ah yes. Today I’ve not done any more work in the Sacred Dome of the Bonnefanten because it was King’s Day here in the Netherlands and they take their holidays seriously over here, as indeed we all should. So instead I’ve been doing other stuff and also lazing around a lot. One thing that has come to light during my idle hours has been the artwork for this year’s Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts and Muntering Around which looks like this:

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It’s called Hold Your Cool and it began life a fiendishly complicated linocut. Actually it began life as a vague idea and then became a scrawled sketch and then became a linocut, but it’s subsequently become a lino print done on a Vandercook proofing press at the workshop of the esteemed Richard Lawrence, then a digital photograph taken by the equally esteemed Peter Stone, then a colourful thing made by the total chancer Stanley Donwood i.e., me, and now it’s out in the screen world courtesy of @glastofest and so on. It is a long and strange and arguably arduous journey from idea to reality, so thank you to everyone that has helped me to do this. I really appreciate it.

Hold Your Cool is the title and it’s probably not too self-indulgent to use the internet to explain why. I spend a lot of time on trains because I can’t drive. And often I pass through Swindon, usually without stopping or getting off. This is not to denigrate Swindon. I know nothing about the place aside from the fact that it has a bus station situated underneath a multi-storey car-park that smells strongly of human urine and is frequented by characters unlikely to pass muster in a swanky restaurant. The rest of Swindon is probably great.

Anyway, the reason why I think Swindon is probably great is that, until quite recently, on the side of some huge and boring metal-clad warehouses along some railway sidings were the words HOLD YOUR COOL sprayed in letters about ten feet high. Every time I passed them I felt better. They were even spaced really well, like H O L D  Y O U R  C O O L.

It was like an instruction; whatever happens, whatever anyone says to you, however badly your work goes, however awfully your partner responds to your attempts to heal a rift, however frightening the newspaper headlines are, whatever your boss says to you, that idiot on the tube, anyone who takes you for a fool, all the people that treat you like shit. The feeling of inadequacy that’s the result of watching the news.  The feeling of guilt. The horror. The terror.

H   O   L   D    Y   O   U   R    C   O   O   L

Some fucking halfwit thought that this public service announcement was ‘graffiti’ so they covered it up. It’s my duty to the anonymous ‘perpetrator’ of the aforementioned ‘graffiti’ to take these heartfelt and beautiful words and spread them as widely as I can. Anyway, I’ll shut up now. Bye.

27th April 2017

Optical Glade: day two

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So. It’s the second day of working on a project called Optical Glade at the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht. The weather is cold and there is snow coming from the north – I’ve just been up on the walkway at the top of the cupola, pictured above. But we are inside, using what I can only describe as Mediaeval techniques to transfer an immense drawing on to the eight walls inside the dome. These techniques include making millions of tiny holes in the paper stencil, dusting them with blue chalk and then connecting the dots with a pencil. At the moment we are doing the ‘easy’ part, but soon we will begin on the ‘difficult’ part, where the walls curve up to the apex. Easy and difficult are relative terms. It would be properly easy just to go to a café and not do this at all. But well, you know.

The aim is to create a sort of contemplative pagan space, surrounded by upturned trees stylised into optical confusion, but at the moment it’s more like being within a building site wreathed in blue chalk dust. There are five floors of scaffolding, clattery metal staircases and vertiginous walkways. I’m trying to make some kind of sanctuary but at this time it’s anything but.

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There’s a lot to do; the project will take four weeks, hopefully…

More later. Tomorrow, perhaps.

26th April 2017

An attempt to write about a painting

I have a list in front of me of all the things I need to do. I’ve crossed off some of them and this morning I read through the ones I haven’t crossed off and realised that I’ve done the easy ones first. The others have been lurking for a while, jumping through days and weeks in my diary, stubbornly remaining un-done, until reappearing on the list. One of them is to write about a project that I’m about to embark on at the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht. I suppose the idea is to write a sort of explanation of what the project is, so it can be printed in a programme or put on the museum’s website; something like that. I’ve been putting it off because I’ve had a few other writing projects to do and at the time they seemed to be more pressing, but now it’s only seventeen days until I travel to Maastricht to start work.

While I was dithering, looking for a book on the shelves, I thought that maybe I should use my stupid blog as a way in; if I write about it in the way i used to before I started using twitter and instagram, then maybe I can edit what I write in a sort of casual way into something worth printing. in some ways it’s easier to write in a more chatty way than try to be some sort of essay-writer. Well, that’s the idea, anyway.

The Bonnefantenmuseum is a really big purpose-built art museum, constructed in the 1990s. From the sky it looks like an upper-case E, and at the end of the middle bar of the E is a sort of tower that looks like an elongated dome. It reminds me of the Gherkin in the City of London, only smaller. It’s still pretty big though; taller than the rest of the museum. It must be one of the tallest structures in Maastricht, and definitely the tallest building that I’ve ever painted, except for perhaps a chimney in Plymouth. But that was a very long time ago. Anyway, the inside of the dome (which is actually known as the ‘cupola’) is an octagonal shape, somewhat like a closed flower, with each petal rising up high to a small octagon that lets in daylight. Acoustically it’s quite incredible; in fact, it is quite simply an incredible space. At the moment the work inside this space is a wall drawing by Sol LeWitt called Spiral, a thin white line which spirals around the walls from the floor to the very top; it’s about five kilometers long. Here’s what it says on the museum’s website about it:

“Sol LeWitt is one of today’s most influential artists and is best known for his large-scale wall drawings. At the root of every wall drawing by Sol LeWitt lies a precisely formulated assignment, or concise work description. This contains all the painting instructions which his assistants – often artists – have to follow as precisely as possible. In the execution, LeWitt’s strict concepts appear infinitely more inviting than one would expect from the original underlying principle. This is also the case with ‘Wall drawing #801 : Spiral’, which was executed for the first time in the Cupola of the museum in 1996. The essentially simple principle of a slightly sloping white line spanning the whole Cupola produces an overwhelming result in practise.”

So, no pressure there, as people say. Sol Lewitt died in 2007, so I won’t actually piss him off, but I might piss off other people who could wonder why someone who’s done a few record sleeves is painting over his work. Which is partly why I feel the need to write about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it; because in some way I feel the need to validate what I’m going to paint with words. It’s probably unnecessary. Never mind, never mind.

The work I’m going to make inside the cupola is called Optical Glade.

For a long time I’ve been very interested in the idea that the northern European sense of spirituality, and also religion, has its roots in the forests. The natural state of these lands is arboreal, and until the advent of agriculture they remained so, apart from limited tree felling. What remains of the sacred structures of the early inhabitants of Europe are often found in bleak areas not amenable to agriculture; barren moorland, remote, treeless islands. But when they where built they would have been in deeply wooded lands, long before domesticated ruminants and humans denuded the landscape. Spirituality, or religion, or whatever you choose to call a sense of awe that is inspired within would have been experienced amongst the trees. The cathedrals and churches of the region often have fluted columns and intricate stone tracery above, suggesting a woodland setting, the stone appearing almost as if it has grown from the earth.

The cupola at the Bonnefantenmuseum seems to me to capture the sort of feeling that I feel when I walk into a cathedral or a mosque or a long barrow; an urge to be quiet or silent and a sort of suspension of thought. Maybe my mouth opens a little, involuntarily. The need to look up, so infrequent in normal, everyday life, is much more evident.

I remember when I was small an effect I enjoyed was obtained by standing very close to a tall building and simply looking up. If you try this as an adult, you’ll find it still works, that you still get a sense of dizziness, as if the building will wobble and fall over, or you will, you’re not sure. It’s like spinning around and around as fast as you can. Children do this all the time, but as adults we ‘grow out’ of mind-altering activities (unless we are Sufi dervishes) and resort of drugs and religion to try to recapture some of these feelings.

So, putting these thoughts together… I see the cupola as a sacred space, in which I’m going to paint an optical glade, for refection and also to make people feel kind of dizzy. The painting is derived from a linocut I made a few years ago called Optical Tree, which was a geometric reduction of the essentials of a tree. Using 3D modelling software I’ve been able to twist the verticals of the image so where the walls begin to curve in towards the apex of the dome, the verticals will spiral around a little as they reach the top. I want people to feel the sense of awe and silence of a forest glade, and also the dizziness of looking up, to feel something that is older than the established religions that have dominated us for so long.

I’m also considering using the audio work Subterranea v2 which Thom Yorke composed for the show I did called The Panic Office in Sydney a couple of years ago. Not sure about that yet, though.

Anyway! That’s great; I’ve done some writing about it. Ok. Bye now.

7th April 2017

Something old I found

Hello. I’m supposed to be doing something else, and as happens all too frequently I’ve become distracted. I wasn’t looking for this little film at all, but here it is anyway.

13th December 2016

A LATE AFTERNOON AT LA FABRIQUE

I just found this video. I think I was in the middle of a painting that I later abandoned. It was a cool studio though. I kind of miss it. Nice motorbike.

 

I think this was near the end of the second week there, before I ran away to Avignon for a few days. Or maybe it was after that? It’s hard to remember.

13th November 2016

THE MAKING OF EYLOT

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This is a print called Eylot. It’s made using the same photographic process used to make Wraith, and printed with a succession of translucent blacks and then finished with an enamel ink. It was originally a painting I made whilst staying in France in 2015. I’d had a disaster, in that everything I did for two weeks was no good. It was very depressing. I thought that maybe I’d done everything I could ever do already, that I was a husk, a hollowed out shell, an empty packet.

Then this happened. Suddenly there was a way through the woods.

If this painting hadn’t turned out as it did, it’s extremely unlikely that the artwork for A Moon Shaped Pool would have looked the way it does. And strangely enough, with the distance of a year, the earlier paintings I made that I thought were utter fucking shit, the ones that made me want to give it up and get a proper job are actually okay.

Anyway, just over a year after the painting was made, here are some photos of the print being editioned.

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Because of the ‘photographic’ method, this is the perfect process to reproduce these paintings. Using translucent blacks (well, I guess they’re greys, technically) allows the textures of the paint in the actual painting to appear with uncanny accuracy, so you can even see the weave of the canvas, all the drips and coils of the enamel.

If you’re interested there’s more info (I think) and you can buy one too, if you like. Over here.

 

13th November 2016

I JUST FOUND THIS

 

6th October 2016

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS, SUPPOSEDLY

moonpool

So, the new Radiohead record came out back in May and it went quite well. We did all sorts of things and lots of things happened but that’s all been extensively written about by people who write for (presumably) money and are considerably better at it than I am. So I have nothing very much to add except that it was a crazy time. After that I went away and hid for some time in a variety of locations until I judged that it was safe to emerge. I have grown a great big bushy beard so that my appearance is transformed.

I’m not going to apologise for the lack of ‘up-dates’ on my stupid blog because I do that every time now and it’s getting boring even to type the word ‘sorry’. Instead, here are a couple of things that I’ve been occupying my time with, if you are interested.

 

THE BOMB

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When I last wrote here I had been involved – as an ‘art director’ – with the making of a film called ‘The Bomb’, along with the directors Smriti Keshari and Eric Schlosser, and with quite incredible technical expertise from United Visual Artists. The film is essentially a history of nuclear weapons from their conception to the present day – there’s no narrative, and the visual experience is more reminiscent of Koyaanisqatsi than Four Weddings and a Funeral. This film was premiered in New York back in April as an immersive, 360º crazy experiential screening in a bizarre building called Gotham Hall on Broadway – see the photo above. Red carpets and everything. It went incredibly well, loads of great reviews and three people fainted. The only thing was that there were only four screenings and we could only fit in 500 people for each, so only 2000 people have seen the film. So currently we’re figuring out how to bring it to London, and from there to a global audience. I would say ‘watch this space’ but as you’re no doubt aware, I’m not a very conscientious blogger. There is more information on the website over here.

 

GLASTONBURY FESTIVAL

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I’d also been involved with Glastonbury Festival. I made a linocut for this, called ‘Somewhat Slightly Dazed’, in homage to David Bowie who died at the beginning of the year – he’d made a song called Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed back in 1969. As well as being an homage to Bowie it’s also a good description for most of the people at the festival. Well, most of the people I bump into anyway. As you ay (or may not) know, the festival this year was the wettest and the muddiest ever according to official sources. Me, I’m not so sure. It was bad, but not doubleplusbad. Anyway, as you can see from the artwork above, I went for an almost literal picture this year. Although some people might say that I took a few liberties with the sky, that’s purely a matter of opinion and entirely dependent on individual brain chemistry. As ever, an edition of prints were made of this image and sold out immediately on the Glastonbury website. However, it’s rumoured that a very few might be available on this year’s Slowly Downward Manufactory Zmas Boutique. If that interests you it’s best to keep an eye on my stupid Twitter account or my stupid Instagram account.

20th September 2016