The Drawn Blank Series

June 16, 2008


Last Friday evening, viewing a wonderful set of limited edition prints from the Drawn Blank series at a local gallery, glass of champagne in hand, I had a kind of satori. I realised the Dylan song with the greatest point of connection to his work as an artist, and the key to understanding that work, is the little-performed Three Angels from 1970’s New Morning. Comically surreal, Dylan paints a song-picture of three angels hovering above the world, playing on their horns, unseen and unheard by those below.


The forceful point of connection is the way Dylan describes that world:

The wildest cat from Montana passes by in a flash,
Then a lady in a bright orange dress,
One U-Haul trailer, a truck with no wheels,
The Tenth Avenue bus going west.


The dogs and pigeons fly up and they flutter around,
A man with a badge skips by,
Three fellas crawlin’ on their way back to work…

The Drawn Black series is populated by images just like these, isolated moments from this ‘concrete world full of souls’.  Typifying the collection for me  is a series of paintings of an old truck which seems to push its way out of the canvas, vividly present, with real heft: you can almost feel the vibrations from its running engine.


As Dylan acknowledges himself in a recent Times interview:It’s not like the drawings were revolutionary. They weren’t going to change anyone’s way of thinking.” In terms of technique you can see the influence of figures like Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh, Hopper and others: they do not take art forward in any sense. But if they don’t change anyone’s way of thinking, they certainly offer the viewer a vivid confirmation of, and extended insight into, Bob Dylan’s vision and way of thinking.


By the way, the exhibition catalogue is well worth buying, though steep in price. It offers a set of full-colour plates of the series, plus two really perceptive essays by Andrew Motion and Andrew Graham-Dixon. Mind you, these plates can’t capture the startling colours of the originals.  They are so good , so full of life, who needs the three angels anyway?


Falling Man

June 9, 2008

I’m reading Don DeLIllo’s somwhat difficult but throught-provoking  Falling Man


I think it must be within this Still Life by Morandi at that DeLillo’s protagonists think they can see the Twin Towers 

Fantasy&ScienceFiction June 2008

May 14, 2008

Most of the writers in this issue were completely new to me which made it a particularly interesting read….


The Art of Alchemy   –  Ted Kosmatka


A ‘hard science’ thriller. The style was rather derivative of William Gibson’s cyberpunk and the characters were rather underdeveloped. Still, an interesting tale about the impact of globalism.


The Salting and Canning of Benevolence  –  Al Michaud 


This was the longest piece in the issue, a mix of humorous ‘tall tale’ and ghost story. Sentence by sentence Al Michaud writes really well but the story went on way too long and by the end I was rather bored.


Litany   –  Rand B. Lee 

I was completely gripped by this –very creepy and set in a vividly evoked town in New Mexico. However, for its full impact the story seemed to rely on the reader understanding some Christian symbolism. Unfortunately I didn’t, which rather reduced the impact! Is that just my ignorance? How much should a writer assume that his or her readers will be familiar with a particularly religious tradition?


Fergus   –  Mary Patterson Thornburg

This dark fantasy keeps haunting me, a wonderful parable of loss with a core of mystery which it doesn’t reveal easily. One of the best stories in the issue.


Character Flu  –  Robert Reed 

Robert Reed is a wonderfully prolific and inventive writer, and always thought-provoking. This is a great little story which packs in a lot of ideas in a short space.


Monkey See…  –  P.E. Cunningham 

I really enjoyed this Swords and Sorcery story– well-written and just the right length.


I found myself indulging in my annoying habit of second-guessing what an anthologist might choose for one of those annual ‘Best of’ collections. I think Fergus could make it, and maybe Character Flu as well.


Open Education Conference, Dalian, China

May 8, 2008

Day oneDalian is a coastal city of five million people in north eastern China, by the Yellow Sea.  On 24-26 April 2008 it played host to an Open Education Conference, co-organised by , Dalian University of Technology, and I gave a paper called From Special Project to Embedded Insitutional Practice.

 On a study tour in Dalian

I also tried to find some time to explore Dalian.