I write about songs.

Archive for the ‘Blur’ Category

Blur, “Good Song”

This video, directed by the Glasgow-based artist David Shrigley with the design team Shynola, is so dark that I almost can’t watch it, except that so many things about it make me happy—the explosion of nuts when the squirrel and the winged fairy-creature meet, the look on the flower’s face as it is plucked (and after), the face-stroking scene. The animation gives me so much pleasure that when the love story takes a wrong turn, my heart just sinks.

Not too long ago I went through a period when I thought I might try to be a travel writer, and I wrote a story about Glasgow’s art scene, which can be found here. I’m not the most rigorous follower of contemporary art, and at first I imagined the piece might be about the cultural flowering that occurred in this industrial city during the late 19th century—about the work of the Arts and Crafts architect and interior designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and of a group of realist painters known as the Glasgow Boys who are little known in the United States. I’m glad I didn’t end up writing that story, because it would have been something of a snooze—Mackintosh’s buildings still look revolutionary, but they have a touristy vibe, as I discovered; the Glasgow Boys’ paintings are very pretty, but don’t have much relevance outside of museum walls. It turned out instead that my boyfriend’s sister, who is a dancer, knew an American artist living in Glasgow, who introduced me via e-mail to a gallerist, who put me in touch with some of her artist clients and friends. Pretty soon my schedule for four days in Glasgow was booked with meetings with young working artists and commercial gallery owners and musicians—a cross-section of the city’s creative class.

The story appeared a few months after my trip, and I was happy with the way it turned out. I had worked with a thoughtful editor, and it looked great on the page. The piece was easily one of a few high points of the three years I spent as a freelance writer (just ended). And the trip itself has taken on a lovely glow in my memory. Glasgow is not a traditionally beautiful city, and yet I saw beauty everywhere—in the rows of Victorian houses, many now gone to seed, along Great Western Road; in the aging industrial streets, deserted on a weekend afternoon, running down to the River Clyde; in the small but pleasantly hilly Kelvingrove Park. The sky was always gray over Glasgow, and a faint mist hung in the air, which somehow brought the city into sharper focus. I ate terrific meals, which no one at home was able to believe—a smoked haddock and potato chowder called “cullen skink,” wild Scottish salmon colored the palest shade of rose (it’s not supposed to be that bright pink, the waiter told me), sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream. The art world people I met were unfailingly friendly and open, welcoming me into their studios, showing me their work, inviting me to their parties and events, telling me stories about their upbringings and educations, sharing their opinions about Glasgow and explaining why they chose to live and work there. I recorded hours of interview material, which I then turned into countless pages of transcription. And so when I think of this story, I’m also deeply regretful, for how could I compress all of this into 2000 words of magazine writing? (The piece was cut further during editing.)

My friend Peter introduced me to David Shrigley’s drawings not too many months before my Glasgow trip, in another context entirely. I had seen David’s books on bookstore display tables, and taken in the squiggly drawings on the covers and wondered what they were all about. Once I spent time with his work, I quickly came to love it, and also find it profoundly touching.

I contacted David before I left for Glasgow. He agreed to let me interview him for my story, and we ended up spending the good part of a Sunday afternoon together. We met for lunch and talked for a few hours. He gave me a thorough and frank history of the Glasgow arts scene, and touched upon the ways the city had influenced his work, which in turn allowed me to understand what he described as the Glagsow’s “slightly gallows humor.” I wondered before I met him if he might have the same mischievous dry wit found in his work—there were flashes of it, which were delightful. He was also soft-spoken and modest and generous with his time. I liked him enormously. After lunch he drove me to his workshop in a building where he and a number of Glasgow artists make sculpture, and showed me new projects, including some ceramic castings of large molars (like the one on his website, here). The next evening I went with David and his equally nice girlfriend, Kim, to see the Crystal Stilts—a Brooklyn band, funnily enough—playing an in-store at Monorail Records.

This fall, David has a monograph coming out from Canongate Books, titled What The Hell Are You Doing?, that covers his entire career. He recently designed t-shirts for Scotland’s Pringle Sweaters, and created an animation ostensibly about the history of the company, which I like so much I’m making it the first non-musical video to be posted on Earworms.

The travel writing thing didn’t work out in the end—I never was able to come up with the right story pitch after Glasgow, and then I got a job.

Written by peterterzian

April 26, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Blur, David Shrigley


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