A Saturday morning spent in Stockholm


After a Friday night opening at Wetterling Gallery in Kungsträdgården, where we see sculptures and drawings by the artist Bernar Venet in his show, Maquettes; displaying their chaotic, yet engineered formations - we then have an early morning stroll around the grounds of Clara Kyrka (figure i) and marvel at its sombre beauty, and then less so at its now sadly inauspicious surroundings.


Pipe & Klara kyrkafig i


We enter the new, temporary Nationalmuseum building on Fredsgatan to, firstly escape the elements and secondly to refresh ourselves. On the way in we admire their selection of casts of classic antique sculptures placed in the foyer and on the stair ways (fig ii & iii). Following a short break, it’s off to see the Konstakademien’s show, Thinking Through Painting (Part 2), which is located in Galleri Öst & Galleri Väst, on the second floor of the same building. The exhibition features: Kristina Bength, Marc Handelman, David Reed, Jan Rydén, Sigrid Sandström, Wendy White, and curator/theorist Jonatan Habib Engqvist (fig iv & v). This show is as good an exhibition of contemporary visual art as one is likely to see in Stockholm. The works are diverse, evocative and utterly engaging. The curation is successful in many ways also, as we are encouraged to navigate the space and seemingly scrutinise the works on show. As good curation often does, the artists’ works give the impression they are not only in a dialogue with you the viewer, but are also in an exchange and negotiation with both the other works and environment they have been placed in. The subtle, melancholic forms and textures in the works of Sigrid Sandström (fig vi), particularly stand out for us here. As does David Reed’s intoxicating, projected video animation - adapted from John Ford’s classic western The Searchers (2007) (fig vii). This piece - as is indicative of the show generally - really is a feast for the senses.


national gallery stepsfig ii


national gallery man2fig iii


national gallery 2fig iv


national gallery 3fig v


pipe_sandstromfig vi


searchers-1fig vii


Then it’s off for a quick visit next door to Galleri Gunnar Olsson & Galleri Magnus Karlsson respectively. The works of Joakim Lager in his show Kompost are subtle and nicely constructed. These semi abstract, ‘plantlike’ images, which are his paintings, have a deep colourful resonance that manage to ‘penetrate’ somewhat (fig viii). Bruno Knutman’s show at Magnus Karlsson entitled Allvarstider / Serious Times is very different though. It is similar in the respect that this is too a painting exhibition and the works are fairly small to medium in size. Nonetheless, his imagery is figurative with a candid, direct quality. Many of these images have a sort of a simple, dreamlike sensation, which taps into ones’ innate innocence (fig ix & x).


galleri gunnar olssonfig viii


Magnus Karlsonfig ix


Magnus Karlson2fig x


And finally off over to Gallery Riis to see the photographic show Another Room by Eline Mugaas. These photographs are nicely put together and some do have a certain ‘Egglestonesque’ charm. We enjoy the subtle nature and ‘ordinariness’ of this sort of work. However, on slightly deeper inspection there are some technically issues with regards the photos, which I admit, may of course be intentional (fig xi). Nonetheless, Gallery Riis is a bright, pleasant space and this is another show worth seeing.


gallery riisfig xi


If you haven’t already, please feel free to go to the links included in the text to find out more about these exhibitions and locations; and we hope you are able to visit some, if not all of the places we have mentioned within the text.




It looks like the 80’s never went away: ‘I Love it! What is it?’ at the Kulturhuset, Stockholm


I love it what is it picI ♥ IT! WHAT IS IT? Sculpture exhibition at the Cultural City Theatre, Kulturhuset, Stockholm. Photo: Petra Hellberg. By: Marianne Lindberg De Geer.


I recently came away from the exhibition I Love it! What is it? at the Kulturhuset in Stockholm, asking myself: how has Sculpture evolved since the 1980’s and 1990’s? - the period which this captivating exhibition focuses on. The idea behind this show is fairly clear; it consists of a group of artists who ‘made their names’ in the 1980’s’. Whether this historical time and the artists in question, ‘transformed the horizons of sculpture’ quite as much as Lars O Ericsson suggests in his text for the show’s catalogue, this is undoubtedly up for scrutiny. One only has to look to methodologies and work, which began in the proceeding decades of the 20th century, to find plenty of substantial evidence that these artists are far more directly a part of art’s overall lineage, than his text would have us imagine. Sculptural works labelled ‘Dadaist’ or surreal by artists such as Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971), Hans Bellmer (1902-1975), Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and Yves Klein (1928-1962), and through to the so called Pop Art purveyors, like Robert Rauschenberg (1952-2008) and Eduardo Paolozzi(1924-2005), on to minimalist artists, in the shape of Robert Morris (1931) or Carl Andre (1935) of the 1970’s – have all played a significant role in impacting on much of the works devised in the 1980’s and onwards, I suspect. And I certainly don’t see anything in this show which would contradict this assertion. Nonetheless, what is certain from looking at the work here is that much of what we now see within contemporary sculptural practice is heavily indebted to many of the artists who began working and experimenting during this important juncture.


Isæus-Berlin’s Ett Bed pipe

Isæus-Berlin’s Ett vattenhem pipe

Meta Isæus-Berlin’s Ett vattenhem & companion piece ‘the swinging bed’ above


On entering the space I am initially struck by just how lively this experience seems to be. People are engaging with the works all across the gallery. In many instances the themes and physical works themselves may be of a darker, more unsettling nature. Nevertheless, those viewing and experiencing the work during my stay certainly appear to be connecting with the pieces in a vocal and often jovial way. None more so than with Meta Isæus-Berlin’s Ett vattenhem (A Water Home) (2001), and its complimentary construction facing it, which can only be described as the ‘Swinging Bed’. As this bed - with relevant props such as bedside table, its associated contents and chairs all tied to its frame - swing from the ceiling, left to right in a clockwork motion, one is compelled to investigate further (as one young boy indeed did; by attempting to hang from the structure, much to the horror of his on looking parents). Although guarded with a piece of Perspex, the elongated ‘bathroom’ – an exact replica, therefore, a bathroom – spews out water from every possible object, collecting in a trough below, but in doing so, sprays the floor and unexpected passers-by. It’s as though a Robert Gober installation has malfunctioned and as a result, exploded. These two works undeniably become a sort of sculptural diptych - giving them the most uneasy and yet eye-catching presence of all the show’s exhibits. They have managed to convey that horrid sensation one gets when they are bed bound with illness or alcohol related overindulges; occasionally dragging your body to the bathroom and back. The saying, ‘the room was swimming’, has never felt so apt.


Klara Kristalovas sculpture2 pipe


Klara Kristalovas sculpture pipe

Two pieces from Klara Kristalovas’s collection of sculptures, intriguingly arranged


The oddly enchanting sculptures of Klara Kristalovas too made a specific impact on me. This collection of pieces, depicting multiple animal, human & animal-human hybrids, have been positioned in a black shelving unit, spot lit from above at the far end of the gallery space. These objects have a somewhat eerie quality. They appear to be characters from bizarre dreams, fairy tales and even strange forms taken from science fiction stories. These sculptures definitely connect with the darker side of the human psyche, as they appear both simultaneously familiar and otherworldly.

On adjacent sides of Kristalovas’ ‘characters’, we find to the right of the room, Carin Ellberg’s ever so gruesome looking, machine powered mobile, hanging from the ceiling, which is entitled Följeslagare (The Companions) (2012). And opposite this large construction, Olov Tällström’s ‘kinetic’ works have been arranged. The shared motion and mechanically engineered characteristics of both Ellberg & Tällström’s sculptures are clear and balanced. However, these similarities are short lived. The clean appearance and precision of planning which has evidently taken place in the production of Tällström’s work here, is counterbalanced against Ellberg’s more simple and tactile forms. Her mobile, which resembles a transmission aerial has rotating from its foundations, sort of Eva Hesse enthused, netting like brownish objects. In direct contrast are both Tällström’s computer programed works. One which, ZEN (2003 – ?), drops sand from a sharp funnelled machine onto a metallic sheet base, creating its own quite beautiful, clean liner abstracted forms – and alongside this his work Twister (2009-2011), of colourful rotating, circular Perspex that catch the light and create a certain spectrum of different hues and tones. This work gives the sense that it has a real direct and tangible purpose and feels as much science demonstration as it does traditional gallery based sculpture, which isn’t a draw back for me. Nevertheless, this claim is not something that can be attributed to Ellberg’s sculpture, and I get the feeling, nor would she wish it to be. Her work is far more directly corporeal and animalistic in its nature. It has an essential violence even - a facet not shared in the same manner by Tällströms’ works.


Carin Ellberg Följeslagare pipe

Olov Tällström Zen pipeOn opposing sides of the space: Carin Ellberg’s Följeslagare (1st photo) and Olov Tällström’s Zen (2nd photo)


I Love it! What is it? is curated by Marianne Lindberg De Geer and features work by her also. I particularly recall her revolving roundabout of enlarged children’s figurines in bright yellow shirts, caps and brown Plus-fours, called Lost (2010). I deem the show has been put together effectively from a curatorial perspective. However the wall text, supplied by De Greer, I consider should have been edited, reworked or perhaps avoided altogether. It is refreshingly honest and frank - if slightly detached - but it does feel both too long and somewhat out of place in this context. This message perhaps may have been more appropriately conveyed as a hand-out or catalogue entry for the show. Nonetheless, both her work and competence as an exhibition organiser is definitely not in question here.

The other artists, which appear in the show, are Truls Melin and his ghostly like forms and use of materials, and Ulf Rollof’s violent mechanical objects, such as Utan titel (untitled) (1997). His works interact with each other and confront you the viewer with their poses and actions. I appreciated much of this work as well and strongly recommend going to see them all, in this most stimulating of shows.

The exhibition runs at the Kulturhuset in Stockholm until the 11th of January 2015.

A link to the exhibition’s website, where opening times etc., can be found here (sorry no English translation, which I feel probably needs to be addressed by the show’s organisers at some point?).

Maria Nordin at Galleri Magnus Karlsson (& Pipe arrives in Stockholm)


Exterior Shot of Galleri Magnus KarlssonExterior Shot of Galleri Magnus Karlsson, Stockholm

On arriving in Stockholm one pleasant day in late August, I stumbled upon an appealing gallery called Galleri Magnus Karlsson. New to me, if not my Swedish colleagues at Pipe, this space certainly has all the signs of an art space which appeals to our sensibilities – particularly with regards the use of space & light, curation, selection of artists/works, location, amiable staff etc. The second worthwhile discovery here was getting to see their most recent exhibition and the work of Swedish painter Maria Nordin (b. 1980). This artist, whom in her show Landformer / Landform, displays both a delicate visual physicality within her painting, beside subtle empathetic emotional resonances. Fasad / Facade (a collaboration with Kristina Bength) (2014), is deceptively beautiful. On first glance, like a lot of the paintings in this show, the piece seems almost fading under its own subtle tonal formulations. However, when one studies the picture at greater length, the scene and artist’s approach to painting it, holds your attention and becomes particularly strong on the retina; almost staying ingrained there after the looking procedure is over. The cerebral effect of this gives the paintings the feeling of stills or small vignettes, which could belong to dreams or emotionally charged visions. Their sombre, reflective nature is encapsulated in a way that encourages you to look at them diligently, but never overly scrutinise their forms – it’s as though the viewer allows the nature of the paintings to dictate and reproduce the process of looking itself. One looks and in turn simultaneously internalises the scene presented. Landskap / Landscape (triptych ii) (2014), is a part-landscape, semi abstract composition that is ‘familiar’ in many respects, but similarly otherworldly. Almost sci-fi-esque in appearance, it again like the previous example, gives the sensation that it is the construction of a cognitive vision and one that appears to invite and even embrace your observations.


Fasad_NordinFasad / Facade (a collaboration with Kristina Bength), 2014


Landskap_NordinLandskap / Landscape (triptych ii), 2014


Moreover, I see echoes of other artists in this series by Nordin. This in no way detracts from the work or is at all unsettling in its similarities, but is indeed worth commenting on I feel. Perhaps the names which sprung to mind the most vehemently were Peter Doig (b. 1959) and Karin Mama Andersson (b. 1962) (whom is incidentally also represented by Galleri Magnus Karlsson). Their melancholic static situations, particularly those of Doig, which intrigue and frustrate in equal measure, I consider are both formally and thematically comparable to some of the work displayed in Landformer / Landform. Rightly or otherwise - or perhaps this is merely lazy journalism -nonetheless I think that these artists, in their own different ways, are attempting to communicate something inherent about the human form and it’s psychology - and crucial, how this is intrinsically attached to the landscape or interior environments one finds themselves in. As is conveyed in the show’s press release, “we encounter landscapes that have been dislocated into new environments and colour schemes, bodily settings that have become depopulated and a process that depicts itself”. The contemplation of ideas around absence, fantasy and reality, we are told have too played a central role in Nordin’s study of displacement and transposition - subjects and treatments, which could equally be attributed to both the work of Andersson and Doig. However, unique to Nordin within this company, there is a mixed media dimension to this show also, as she utilises audio to add a further dimension to this overall “synergised” experience.


1st sited comparison: Artist Peter Doig speaks about his work, as seen in the exhibition Peter Doig ‘No Foreign Lands’ at the Scottish National Gallery, November 2013


2nd sited comparison: Artist Karin Mamma Andersson describes working at Crown Point Press in San Francisco, 2009


Clearly though, partly because of the times we now live in, there are virtually always going to be comparisons made between artists. When attempting to initially decipher the work of an artist, this can often be helpful and misleading in equal measure – but always informative I find. Nevertheless, whether you agree with these perceived associations or not, all of these artists are unquestionably more than a little indebted to Matisse (1869 – 1954) (as most artist are I’m afraid), even if unconsciously so. Which I suspect is worth recognising in this regard.

A gallery and an artist that have been a pleasing discovery for us - both of which we plan to look out for again in the future. I am sure now that Pipe in based in Stockholm for the foreseeable future, we will be making many more visits to this Gallery. Something we look forward to doing.

Do look out for more posts and articles in the coming weeks. We intend for the next period in the ‘life of Pipe’ to be a busy one with many more events and exhibitions coming up soon…


- Maria Nordin Landformer / Landform runs until the 5th of October 2014 at the Galleri Magnus Karlsson - Fredsgatan 12, 111 52 Stockholm, Sweden


Tania Kovats – Oceans, At The Fruitmarket Gallery



Only Blue, 2013 (Antarctica); Courtesy of the artist


“I have a sense that people ignore elemental forces at their own risk. Nature is not benign. My sense is that we need to pay more attention to what our relationship is with the land. As an artist I have a very small voice on the planet, but I do feel if I could get someone to notice something, that feels like a small start.” [1]

The artist Tania Kovats has for a long time been creating work, which explores our relationship with, and understanding of, the landscapes that surround us. Many of Kovats’ sculptural forms and drawings are pre-occupied with the earth's changing geology. The work presented in Oceans – her current exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh – is no exception to this. Here, Kovats’ work is primarily concerned with our relationship to seascapes and coastlines.

To some extent it feels like Kovats is using the sea as a tool, in order to map a certain perception of the world. In many of the pieces displayed in Oceans, the coastlines, together with their maritime borders, play a central part in the exhibition’s formation. Kovats invites the viewer to observe the world by contemplating ‘what the sea is’. She does this by letting different kinds of media and approaches to her practice, such as installations made from atlases, drawings and sculptural formations – play with our perceptions of what a sea consists of, feels and looks like.

The exhibition’s centerpiece: All the Sea, displays water taken from oceans all over the world. The water has been collected with the help of a global network of people and organisations, who have shipped seawater from across the globe to the artist. This process has involved Kovats documenting, labelling, measuring and transferring the seawater into glass bottles - creating a comprehensively ordered library of glass containers. There are 365 bottles in the work and these bottles contain water from 97 different seas. Kovats was given a total of 250 donations. Amongst the water filled bottles, stand 37 empty ones, representing the seas that she didn’t manage to collect. These absent seas play an important role in the work; as Kovats explains, these seas ended up “mapping where your connections are – the seas off the northern coast of Russia have been difficult. It also shows up places where there are difficult circumstances. There are a lot of seas around the Philippines, but their infrastructure is still being affected by the typhoon.” [2]

On her website, Tania describes how “All the Sea […] represents an archive of moments in time, recordings of 250 human experiences with – and most probably in – the sea, capturing in bottles a substance that otherwise slips through our fingers.”



Reef 1, Glazed ceramic tiles on board; Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Pipe


Both the development and the outcome of All the Sea, embodies certain human relationships with nature and its contained elements. The missing seas remind us, not only of the difficult terrains, but also of the power of the oceans. The Philippines for example, has many seas but the area suffers from poor infrastructure due to the typhoon that hit the region in November 2013. This has made it difficult to access these areas, and subsequently collect the water.



All the Sea; Kovats aim here is to assemble the world’s sea water in one place, resulting in a seawater library; Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Pipe


The power of the earth is also evident in Kovats’ piece, Mountain. This artwork is made up of machinery imitating the formation of mountains. Kovats used the same kind of machinery to make her 2001 series of sculptures: Schist, which also represented the forces and the activity of the sea.


clip_image005[6]Mountain, a piece which utilises parts of machinery in its formation; Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Art Fund


Together the pieces exhibited in Oceans form a reminiscent exhibition that showcases the impact of the sea upon humans and the landmass on which we live.



Oceans runs until the 25th of May 2014 at the Frutimarket Gallery in Edinburgh.




[2] ibid


Considering the artist Alan Davie

Fig 1: A young Alan Davie, photographed with dog (Belinda, apparently) – a man clearly in tune with the natural world


I first recall encountering Alan Davie’s (1920 – 2014) work at first hand, in the early 1990’s when visiting the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow. A child at the time, I remember the effect these awesome paintings had on my young mind. The sheer scale, depth of feeling, use of rich colours and ethereal forms were like nothing I had experienced, prior to this important moment. Important because, I am quite certain now, that this event was when I first became fascinated with painting and more specifically abstraction within the medium. Davie’s death, just over a fortnight ago on the 5th of April, is the sad event which has prompted this unexpected deliberation, and my subsequent conclusions of his work, to be drawn. I find when thinking of Alan’s work, the fact I was a child when I first saw his paintings and that these objects were able to affect my observations in such a meaningful way, an interesting and correlated point. After reflecting on these events alongside the content of Davie’s work – both visually and thematically – I am inclined to think, the reason I was so drawn to this imagery as a child, was because my senses and judgements were far more innate and instinctive then, and as a result the appeal of this artist’s creations and his visual approach held my attention in a way that I could neither explain nor feel the need or obligation to do so. This is not to say that all children are necessarily more inclined to find an appeal in abstraction; however I do suspect that in this instance that I was able to, unknowingly, accept what I was viewing as being both new and simultaneously totally familiar, in a manner that I could find an unexplained comfort in. My awareness of this new intrigue, then as it is now, has an extensive appeal, which much like Davie’s work is precisely indefinable, yet considerations of, joyously attempted and therefore one feels inclined to do so again in the ensuing text.


clip_image003  Fig 2: Davie the artist and ‘shaman’ working in his studio, utilising his own ‘dip technique’, which is evident in much of his early work


clip_image005Fig 3: The Saint (1948) is an early painting of Davie’s, which has shades of Picasso coupled with the expressionistic, symbolic style of a Edvard Munch


Born in 1920 in Grangemouth, Scotland, Alan attended Edinburgh College of Art from 1938 to 40. After which he conscripted in the army and served in the Artillery during the Second War. However, during this period he never experienced front line battle. Instead his time was spent in training at an aircraft base in rural Warwickshire, surrounded by fields, trees and rural nature; which is now said to have played a crucial part in his eventual creative focus and direction. His interest in poetry, both as a writer and student of were pursued at this time and much of the artistic principles gained from this creative pursuit subsequently led into his painting. An awareness of the poetry of Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) & T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965) subsequently blossomed. In connection with these concerns, a consciousness of nature and a human being’s fundamental connections with this ensued and became an ever-present aspect of Davie’s practice. The realisation of these factors was settled upon during these experiences and studies.


clip_image007Fig 4: Jingling Space (1950) is a particular favourite of mine. A young artist, just getting by at the time, the painting is comparable to a fine improvisational jazz performance - an activity and discipline Davie was honing and adapting both as a musician and a painter, during this decade.


Davie’s approach to his work is primarily, deeply rooted in the improvisational nature of jazz music. A jazz musician of some standing himself, his concentration on the subconscious, embryonic state of the human mind and its capacity for extemporaneous creative development, is at the centre of his practice. During the 50’s Davie, like many other noted writers and artists utilising various disciplines, discovered and began adapting Eastern philosophies as part of their approach to their practices – the Beat writers being a noted example of this. The idea that art is a spiritual force that is in a sense, channelled through the physicality’s of the human body, was an ethos present in most of Davie’s paintings – particularly his earlier work of the 40’s, 50’s & 60’s – of which much of these ideas and principles had come from Eastern cultural and religious beliefs. The surrendering of oneself to a type of ‘native state’, where controlled impulses are allocated time and space in order to create different, unimagined forms of visual expression, was the central concern of Davie’s practice during this time. Davie appropriately described his approach to painting in this way:

a manifestation of spirit felt by a creative genius and passed to us through its conducting medium of form, as a wire can conduct electrical energy from one matter to another.[1]


clip_image009Fig 5: Farmer's Wife No. 2 (Jazz Musician and Lady) (1957) is a highly erotic, spontaneous, pulsating and texture work; both physically – by adding grit to the paint – and visually through the sheer expressive freedom of its formation. This is a work that displays various hallmarks of the artist’s interest in eroticism and improvisational techniques.


clip_image011Fig 6: Image of the Fish God (1956) is one of a series of 7 works of the same title. These images are informed by his interest in the primordial, shamanistic forms of ancient civilisations and beliefs.


At this time, this inevitably led to associations being made between his paintings and those of the new American Abstract Expressionists – and particularly the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock (1912 - 1956). This wholly simplistic comparison was one that Davie unsurprisingly rejected. Declaring himself, very much a “Scottish artist”; seeing himself in the Celtic and Pictish traditions and not in the Modernist cannon (although, this revisiting of ancient art and cultures of course, put his work very much within that particularly ‘Modern’ category). Whether consciously so or not, Davie’s art and the personality of the artist himself, became depicted as sort of shamanistic and a ‘man of nature’. A Super-8 film made by him and his wife Bili in 1960, of him working on various paintings in his London flat, stripped to the waist, with his legendary chest length beard, throwing dust and other debris onto the canvases, helped enforce this view of Davie ‘the artist’. The amalgamation of improvisational jazz, Zen Buddhist, Byzantine, Romanesque, pagan and early/pre-Christian cultures, became significant subjects and considerations within his work. His intrigue in exoticism and eroticism, which was evident in much of the visual imagery and other stimulated sensory accounts, found in the works Davie became immersive in, fused in his work with the spiritual intensity of his own deeply held Celtic roots.

The manner in which this artist is able to depict the inner instinctive spontaneity of the human perceptual state through the use of abstracted, archaic forms and seemingly primordially subject matter, I find singularly individual and visually arresting. In fact, Davie is now often regarded as one of the first British artists’, post Second War to have developed a form of abstraction within his painting. Not until latterly, and his work of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s & 00’s, where figuration, symbolism, formalism and text within his paintings become more the predominate theme, does his work begin to alter some of its immediate attentions. These images contain far less of the overt dynamism and fervour, which Davie exudes in this earlier artistic phase(s). These paintings in my view, feel much more illustrative of the human sensory/spiritual development – even of the histories relating to some of these crucial historical episodes, in various respects – than they are of an actual occurrence of an emotive response to ‘being’. This work is still often captivating aesthetically and the colours exquisitely vibrant, however it’s far more visually descriptive qualities and controlled arrangements have a less evocative and lasting resonance for me, than previously was the case.


clip_image013Fig 7: An example of the controlled pictorial symbolism that featured heavily in his later career. The Studio No. 28 (1975) is far more representational as an image than the paintings of previous decades.


As Davie’s work is often allied to the Jungian position relating to psychoanalysis, as opposed to the Freudian notions of the unconscious and its emphasis on repressed drives (mainly sexual) originating from childhood and adolescent experiences - therefore his use of symbols, reducible objects and forms, have been considered in conjunction with a mutual, ‘collective’ thought process and a shared or comparable human psychological awareness. These signs do unquestionably become transferable or substituted for various meanings and explanations; however the artist himself is always wary not to allow any fixed definitions to take precedent understandably, due to his own overriding concerns with the singular, intrinsic creative act and the unearthing of a certain truth behind a human experience. These observations connect with the commonly received association, of the artist’s work with 20th century European Surrealism and his focus on “juxtaposing the sacred and the sacrilegious”[2]. Quite fittingly in this regard, is the inclusion of his paintings in Michelangelo Antonioni’s (1912 - 2007) 1966 film Blow-Up – where a fashion photographer attempts to solve a possible murder by physically analysing one of his photographs, which he believes has captured a moment from this mysterious incident. The film’s subject matter, of scrutinising an object and a creative act in order to reveal a certain truth or mystery, coupled with Antonioni’s own improvisational treatment to his artistic discipline, seems analogous with Davie’s work and his treatment to the creative process.


clip_image015Fig 8: Patrick's Delight (1960) is similar to the paintings displayed in Antonioni’s Blow Up. The name of one of the precise paintings used in the film is, Joy Stick Stick Joy; other than that, I have had trouble finding out more information about these works – any information would be greatly received, thanks – Pipe


When one now considers a comparable artist like Jackson Pollock for instance (a contemporary, a personal associate and a name which regularly crops up when reading texts about Davie), and the esteem in which he is held in by, firstly, in his native America alone and then by the wider art world as a whole, this contrast is startlingly dissimilar to the treatment of Davie. As the critic and writer Robin Greenwood, when discussing Alan’s work of the 1950’s, recently described: “It is the culmination of a decade when Davie was without equal as a painter in the UK, possibly in the world.”[3] This is a judgement that I would concur with fully and would also add that his exceptional standard of paintings and productivity continued well into the next decade. Although in the ensuing decades the works became more ‘work like’ and somewhat formulaic (partly due to his own consummate standards), there was still continually the odd great picture, even in the last two decades of his life. Therefore, I find it incredibly frustrating that even within his native Scotland, an artist whom is regarded by many people inside the art community as being one of the most important painters the country has produced (and I would say the finest of the last century), he has still not received the type of recognition and celebration that many of his contemporaries and also his predecessors have been granted – many of which I also believe to be far inferior to Davie. It is a sad reality if Scotland, and similarly the wider art world, do not begin to recognise the unbridled commitment and talents of this great painter. As a child, on seeing them for the first time on that day in Glasgow, I was completely transfixed by his paintings, a fascination that still shows no sign of abating. Therefore, that chance encounter of mine, on that day, I hope could be reciprocated for others. However, due to the still relativity stark widespread acknowledgment of his work, even within his own native country, such a meeting is sadly expected to pass many people by. As a result, I judge if there was ever a big summer retrospective to be had at the Scottish National Gallery, it would be Alan Davie, and at this time, particularly appropriate and poignant I feel, in the year following his death.


clip_image017Fig 9: Painted in 1997, The Alchemist's Mirror No. 1 [Opus 1357], is a fine painting from Alan’s later career. The richness and texture of the paint is coupled with an intriguing composition; his interest in African art is also clear to see here.


clip_image019Fig 10: Alan in later life, an artist to the core and in every sense – the trademark beard was a constant throughout.


[1] Alan Davie, In the Quest of a Philosophy of Beauty: A Journal (1948), p. unpaginated.

[2] Robert Melville, Contemporary British Painters: Alan Davie(Gimpel Fils: London, 1961), p. 1.

[3] Robin Greenwood, Alan Davie and Albert Irvin at Gimpel Fils, (for abstract critical, 14th May 2013)


Our friends Human Blues – “A Creator & Distributor of Images”


HB Banner

A new and dynamic artistic duo, that have been creating their own brand of dark, visually intriguing work for some time, have just started making a selection of their artworks available to buy. Human Blues have produced an overall appearance within their initial catalogue of images that encapsulates a distinctive foreboding nature and demonstrates a monochromatic flair. They create work in a variety of ways and use a range of media such as inks, painting, drawing, illustration, photography and print making. Their subjects appear to be inspired and are unpredictably different – putting an emphasis on the aesthetic and coupling it with layers of possible meanings and various connotations, which entice one to look further at, and deeper into the origins of their imagery. The eccentricity evident in these images and the overall look of their brand, I feel sets them apart from other image makers working within this vast industry of commercial print making and art reprographics.


Ad_still life A recognisable product shot from Human Blues


I do concede that a certain level of bias exists, in respect of this venture. As the title here explains, Human Blues are our friends and associates. However, these judgments – which are sincerely made – will simply have to be taken on their merits. Of course all those reading this will individually decide for themselves as to the quality and appeal of this duo’s work. In order to assist with these deliberations however (and because the work ‘visually enriches’ Pipe), we have included some of Human Bluesimages and products here for you to look through and come to your own conclusions about.



dark days_print

The image for Fine Art Print‘Dark Days’


postcard setTheir 3 Postcards from the pack, together


the outsider_still lifeThe Gift Card ‘The Outsider’, in ‘situ’


Their work can currently be bought in three new, different creations. These groups of artworks are available as gifts cards, packs of postcards and as fine art prints. All products, pricing and shipping details are available on their website & in their Etsy shop.


a faint afterglowOne of their photographic works, available as a Fine Art Print


In addition, there is also information about how you can contact them on the site. I have been reliably informed that they intend to add more artworks and possibly further products too, in the coming months. If you do have any requests or questions about their work, I am certain them would welcome these inquiries.




Pipe’s album recommendations for 2013 (of the popular music variety – whatever that means nowadays?)


As the title suggests these are our popular music album recommendations from those released last year. Having been a while since we last wrote, and during December having read a lot of ‘the best albums of 2013’ lists too, we felt we should use this opportunity to let readers know what music we have had on and liked during last year. Our list is not really ‘a best of’ list in that way though (as it is very difficult to judge art I feel). It is simply what we have appreciated hearing, but has no rating attached. We just hope you enjoy reading Pipe’s thoughts on this subject and listening to some of our ‘plugs’. We have included a song from each entry on our list too for you to enjoy – and as ever, all other thoughts, views and comments are thoroughly encouraged.


· White FenceCyclops Reaps

white-fence-cyclops reaps

After what was a remarkably busy 2012 – bringing out 3 albums in that calendar year; one of which: Hair, a collaboration with his long time touring mate Ty Segall – 2013 was a more sedate affair, with only the single record released this time around. Nonetheless, in the immortal words of one Rab C. Nesbit: It’s quality that counts though, eh? And this album is positively brimming with these positive attributes. Former Darker My Love co-front man and main writer Tim Presley (Mr White Fence himself) has now unquestionably surpassed all the artistic achievements of his former band – if not the commercial ones. Having seemingly been building up to this record, in the creative sense at least, since his debut self-titled White Fence record was released back in 2010; he has clearly been honing his craft and unbridled talent for writing and producing ‘lo-fi’, psyche, nuggets of pop, which always seem to result in one wanting more. And as a consequence, one invariably returns seeking further, similar punk rock fulfilments. If there is someone making better records, of this ‘variety’, I haven’t heard them and would also love to know who they are. Just for the record too (no pun intended), if there was an order to this, Cyclops Reaps would be my first pick of last year – so there may be a little rating going on here after all. There really is not a bad track on either side. Nonetheless, do check out Chairs in the Dark & New Edinburgh – my particular favourites here.



· Steve MasonMonkey Minds in Devils Time’s


So, apparently no one is writing protest songs anymore. Well they are. Steve Mason has just written a whole ‘concept’ album, which has protest and anti-war/pro-humanity at its very core. Not only at the centre either, this is an album positively packed with anxieties over our political system and those who govern us. However his angst here is not in the slightest bit morose. No, Monkey Minds in Devil’s Times is plainly a joyous, uplifting record – even if it does contain plenty of anger and reflective moments as well. In my experience most great ‘politically’ originated records invariably do this. In the vein of other classic records with a social message, such as PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake (2011), Lou Reed’s Berlin (1973) or even Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On (1971) (and make no mistake, I absolutely think he has created a work wholly comparable to these other great albums); Mason also takes you on a ‘wee’ emotional journey here. This is a trip that allows you to confront some societal truths, through real human emotions. After 2010’s Boys Outside album, another truly superb work, Mason has now, with these last two works proved himself to be without doubt one of the UK’s best songwriters working today – I’m sure not many folk could have written songs such as Oh My Lord or Fire. They already appear to have all the hallmarks of classics from the modern pop song category for me. Subsequently, when the Mercury Music Prize was announced for 2013, I was bemused to see that not only had Monkey Minds in Devil’s Times not won, it hadn’t even been nominated, a very odd decision. In my view no one wrote a better British based album last year, and in turn, this would have been our choice for the prize.



· Mark Kozelek & Desertshore – (self titled)

Mark Kozelek & Desertshore

An incredibly emotional record, if any one album in our list is going to make you a bit misty eyed then surely it’s this one. The delivery of the lyrics, as is often Kozelek’s style, are made in a sort of stream of consciousness; as if they have come straight off the pages of a journal and expertly crafted together with melodies and musical enunciations, which are in themselves both simultaneously familiar and deceptively ‘other worldly’. These are ‘soundscapes’ that explore the ‘inner’ as well as the exteriority of our human environments. The best allegory I can think of for Mark Kozelek & Desertshore would be that this is kind of, music as cinema. It contains such specifically vivid descriptions, which for me create a strong sense of understanding for these highly personal accounts – he manages to tell us how he “hates Nels Cline” after all, that’s pretty personal. I feel that this is a sort of musical experience equivalent of a John Cassavetes’ film; in its emotional authenticity and expression of raw human feelings. Hey You Bastard I’m Still Here is a track which is incredibly moving and if you hear nothing else from the record (but I definitely recommend listening to the whole thing), hear this. In it Kozelek enables you to imagine every sentiment he articulates – a timeless American musical document.



· Cate Le BonMug Museum


Having recently heard Le Bon singing a quite beautiful cover version of White Fence’s Chairs in The Dark (from the previously sited Cyclops Reaps), I was encouraged to seek out some of her own music. This clearly led me to Mug Museum. Her vocal it seems has certain similar nuanced traits to previous folk and rock ‘alternative’ artists like Nico (the most obvious one) and at times I also hear echoes of Sandy Denny – her of Fairport Convention fame, of which Duke, one of the standout tracks on the album for me, has certain, updated suggestions of Denny’s vocal style. It is very pleasant to hear a songwriter and singer seemingly as influenced by those origins of the British and European folk traditions, as they are from those westward orientated sounds, which as we know are always far more readily heard. A Welsh girl (who writes & performs in Welsh too), Le Bon lets her accent shine through, a feature of her songs that make them even more endearing for me and consequently this allows the listener to invest more faith in the personal descriptions she recites in her songs. Mug Museum is an album written in the aftermath of the artist losing a close family relative and depicts her process of dealing with this lose. The notion of objects as memories – as the title too suggests – and the individual connotations they retain for the owner of them, is a noteworthy aspect of the record. The re-telling of stories and events creates an intrigue I feel, which is supported and enhanced by the beautiful, almost archaic sensations that the songs instil in the listener – Mirror Me is the most profound example of this. This tune is as reminiscent of medieval or classical music sounds as anything post 20th century. An impeccable fusion of psychedelia, the ‘ancient’, European folk and dotted with a little west coast jangling garage rock, all for good measure; Mug Museum is a record subtly delivered but is clearly layered in its conception and creation.



· PhosphorescentMuchacho De Lujo

Phosphorescent Muchacho 

If the union of the musical genres country/gospel and electronic seems unlikely or even absurd as I’m sure it does to some, then Muchacho is a masterful record that goes a long way (and I would remark, all the way) in refuting this claim. Matthew Houck (the man responsible for Phosphorescent) has generally in the past made what have now come to be known as alt country albums, a popular music genre that one can certainly get blissfully lost in, as I did for many years. On this album however he has expanded his musical range and created a work that includes processed beats, samples, loops, orchestral arrangements, Mexican brass and as much reverb as you can shake a cow bell at; to add to his already accomplished audio artistic range. And this has also all occurred, without any massive break from what he was already doing very successfully on his previous records. This understated, yet often widely undervalued sense of adventure has not affected his core principles for writing and performing great songs; the bedrock of Phosphorescent’s creative past. This chorus filled, uplifting, harmony drenched album – A Charm/A Blade is a fitting example of this – also has many melancholy moments on it – Song for Zulu being one – yet it still has a swagger too – Ride On/Right On – that is in keep with his country roots. Simply, Muchacho De Lujo is a superb amalgamation of ‘the traditional’, merged with various new future sounds of ‘Americana’ – synths and cowboy boots.



· Bill CallahanDream River

Bill Callahan dreamriver

Callahan, the former protagonist in the musical vehicle Smog, has been quietly going about this business under his own name for many years now. Having already made around 13 records under the Smog title – since reverting to ‘self’, he has since 2006/7, amassed a back catalogue of the most stunning and distinctively delivered music which, if it isn’t already, I believe it will be regarded as one of the key contributions to American popular music over the last 20 to 30 years. I do personally feel though, that even by his own lofty standards, Callahan has reached a sort of zenith in his career, thus far, with last year’s Dream River. Of course just an opinion, as Callahan has created many soul shattering pieces in his now 20 or so years as a recording artist, I just generally get the sense that on this latest release, his slightly more optimistic tone (at times) has led to a further expansion of his well trodden artistic, thematic sources and treatment of subjects. The delicate 70’s flute and percussive influences (reminiscent of Van the man’s Astral Weeks) is again heavily featured. Making the album feel a little like a partner piece to 2011’s Apocalypse – another great work. However the lesser moments on that particular release have been eradicated on Dream River, as Callahan clearly appears to have grown both as a lyrists and even more crucially, a writer and arranger of the most vivid and atmospheric songs. A song like Small Plane, as good a song as I have heard from him, is tantamount to the majesty of his art and the purpose of his creative vision. Is it now safe to say that although very different, and evidently not as commercial/well known, that Callahan is perhaps a kind of modern day equivalent to say, Leonard Cohen for instance? I am not sure if I would be thanked for this comparison or if it is indeed fairly simplistic, but I guess the point I attempt to make is that like a Cohen or Morrison figure in music, why does Callahan not have an audience similar in scale to the likes of the aforementioned? I am sure the reasons are many and complex. However, I hope that this recommendation might go a very small way towards redressing that balance – you can but hope.



· Nick Cave & The Bad SeedsPush The Sky Away

Nick-Cave-and-the-Bad-Seeds push the sky away

With two recent Grinderman albums behind them, the first one good and the second one not so; the exit of Mick Harvey has now resulted in the current Bad Seeds formation of members mirroring that of their ‘side project’. However this incident hasn’t produced a radical change in the Bad Seeds sound, if their current album is an indication of their musical direction. This is still very much an album which is in keeping with their musical oeuvre and doesn’t now resonant more with the punky, scuzzy, avant-garde(ish) rock made under the ‘banner’ of Grinderman. However there are moments which do have some of the traits of a Cave & Ellis composition (being Warren Ellis of Seeds, Grinder & The Dirty Three); but this album is far more reminiscent of the music they put together for the film scores on The Proposition and The Assassination of Jesse James – for me still two of Cave’s most impressive works to date – than it is of any of their other ventures. The song Water’s Edge is an adequate case in point here I feel. Although a little limited in terms of the overall sound and vocal delivery (a frequent issue for me with much of the Bad Seeds music), Push the Sky Away has an apparent individual, contemporary relevance (heard especially on Finishing Jubilee Street), and a social agenda – this may be unintentional of course – but it still draws one in and produces a greater level of attention. Like most of Cave’s records, I always feel I want to hear how they age. Of course his songs are not in the slightest bit unique here. However, as was the case with their last record Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, an album which I was totally under whelmed by when it was initially released, it has in someway aged well with me over time and become a record I now appreciate listening to a lot. As to how this current album rates in Cave’s overall career, it is too soon to say for me. Nevertheless, Push the Sky Away is certainly a strong record and one we have enjoyed hearing since its release. 



· Kurt VileWakin on a Pretty Daze

Kurt Vile Wakin

Of all the records in Pipe’s list I can safely say that this one has by quite a long way been played the most. This of course doesn’t mean that it is the favoured one (I think I have already revealed this anyway), however it does probably indicate that it is the most ‘versatile’ lets say, in terms of how a record can best assimilate with one’s mood. I can’t help thinking that if musicians could still sell ‘x’ millions of an album without the advertising industry telling consumers to ‘buy it’, as was the case pre- the era of digital distribution, then Wakin on a Pretty Daze would almost certainly have been such a musical commodity. This album is quite plainly a bona fide classic and comfortably fits within the cannon of the classic American rock and roll album. Literally everything is faultlessly in place; from the first few bars of the sprawling opening track Wakin on a Pretty Day (not ‘Daze’) that unapologetically oozes Americanicity, through the dreamy swaggering Girl Called Alex and culminating in Goldtone, a track which if you don’t get a few Goosebumps out of perhaps your heart has stopped, and with many more glorious moments in-between. Vile has definitely surpassed himself again here – 2010’s Smoke Ring for my Halo his last full album and is another true gem. A great aspect of Vile – exemplified here and matched by many of his contemporaries too I should add – is that he makes a big nod to the past but doesn’t just copy his rock forefathers. No, he manages to put his own ‘modern’ stamp on what is a well travelled musical terrain. This is fittingly demonstrated on songs like Was All Talk, with its electronic foundations, creative vernacular and novel delivery. An album which I believe is for a huge audience to hear and enjoy, Wakin on a Pretty Daze certainly proves when “they” thought Vile was “all talk”, clearly he wasn’t.



· My Bloody Valentinembv


Whether any album could ever live up to the anticipation of a 22 year wait is likely, particularly when the predecessor was as epic, and subsequently as influential, as Loveless has proved to be for many. Nonetheless mbv is clearly a valiant attempt at satisfying the soaring expectations, which greeted its rather staged release. Its as though the wait was so lengthy that their sound has come back round again in the intervening years and mbv, without this necessarily being a criticism of it, sounds precisely as you’d have expected it to when comparing it to The Valentines’ other historical releases. The 22 years haven’t really changed the output much. For me it is unquestionably the sister (or brother piece) to 1991’s Loveless. Kevin Shield’s still has the distortion, reverb and other hissing guitar effects ‘front of stage’ and as can be heard particularly on the songs Only Tomorrow and Who Sees You he hasn’t bored of creating that distinct cacophony of walled, pedal boarded sound. They do however give your ears a rest on tracks like New You; a pop infused, indie ditty, which is very pleasant indeed and does help break through some of the record’s ‘noise’. I do think that if anything though, they are more ambitious on mbv than before. In Another Way is still quintessentially them, but with a more varied approach. On this track what we have is the formations of something that is much more clinical and which feels as though it is far more ‘progressive’ in nature – there are also perhaps echoes of the ‘Math Rock’ sound, particularly heard on the latter part of the album. Largely what we hoped for and expected. Shields et al. may not be prolific, but what they lack in urgency, they certainly make up for in efficiency.



· Richard ThompsonElectric


When talk of the great guitarists is heard, a core group of names generally including Beck, Clapton, Page, Hendrix, Townsend etc. etc., are often heralded as being the frontrunners. However in this category the name of Richard Thompson is generally omitted. For me this chap is as good as all the names that mainly make up such a list, and better than most. The difference with Thompson and a lot of these more virtuoso type players is that his primary concern is always with the song and any notion of musical posturing then comes thereafter. As a result of this approach he has over many years been responsible for some great songs and pretty timeless albums. Last years Electric is, I feel as good as any release of his and is one that best showcases Thompson’s characteristic blend of British traditional folk, blues, rock and roll and country-esque style of musical arrangements. The music, much like the man himself, always seems to have a subtly and even a slight melancholic atmosphere to it. Salford Sunday is a track which best highlights this sort of ambiance and which features harmonises from Alison Krauss, a choice which certainly aids the song’s sober feelings. Although restraint is a facet of the music, within this, anger is still often simmering under the surface and always has been in Thompson’s art. The track My Enemy unquestionably has this angst in abundance. Thompson the travelling mistral continues his journey and Electric is clearly a landmark for him. If this is a sign of things to come, long may he continue.



This is a very general list of those new records from 2013 that we liked and listened to a fair bit. There were plenty of others too though. Here are another ten that, although we couldn’t write about at length, we still advocate a listen to all the same:

· Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin

· Primal ScreamMore Light

· Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavelle Perils From the Sea

· Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold

· Laura MarlinOnce I was an Eagle

· Deer TickNegativity

· Psychic Ills – One Track Mind

· Crystal Stilts Nature Noir

· Crocodiles – Crimes of Passion

· Wooden Shjips – Back to Land


Finally, please do let us know which of these, or others we haven’t included here, were your particular favourites of 2013. As ever, we always aim to begin a conversation and gain some insight from other views and opinions. Maybe we can do a reader’s list at some point as well? This would be a real privilege, so please do let us know your thoughts on this interesting subject and we can start this conversation.