To Inform and Delight: The World of Milton Glaser (2008)

“The purpose of art is to inform and delight”. This is a Horace quote which Milton Glaser has followed throughout his career. Within To Inform and Delight: The World of Milton Glaser this was evident in various examples of Glaser’s work explained by himself and others who note Glaser’s influence on graphic art.

Glaser explained that emotions felt from music can be incorporated into graphic art. The contributors analysing his posters for Bob Dylan and The Beatles note as a result Glaser pioneered psychedelic design. Reflecting over these designs it is easy to understand Glaser’s use of colours and composition evoked the 1960s counter-culture directing its characteristics onto the world as progressive creativity.

I was in agreement with Glaser’s idea of graphic art needing to be simple and direct. He created the ‘I Love NY’ slogan at a time when New York was in disarray. This now iconic slogan was certainly a direct engagement in promoting social unity. Glaser’s more recent campaign of buttons with political slogans i.e. ‘dissent protects democracy’ also evoked calls for social unity. The simplicity and directness of Glaser’s designs contextualises his ideal to inform the public and delight them with his directness. Throughout To Inform and Delight: The World of Milton Glaser from my perspective clarifies how art can be a tool for direct defiance whilst being gratifying for the public.

Joseph Calleja: A Night in Malta

A thoroughly enjoyable concert it’s clear why Joseph Calleja has huge ovation in his home country. An excellent operatic voice with vast range accompanied by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Malta who added magnificent instrumentals.

Singing many operatic classics including La Donna E Mobile (as a fantastic concert opener), La Vie en Rose and O Sole Mio, Calleja never failed to capture audiences’ attention with this fascinating spectacle. This concert also offered a variety of music with guest performers Zucchero and Rebecca Ferguson. I felt this was a wise decision as it gave the concert more appeal.

Adding more rock to the concert Zucchero was charismatic and energetic. He engaged audiences in full flow with his growling vocals and guitar playing. Rebecca Ferguson was clearly the commercial option (as a former X-Factor contestant) performing songs of the pop variety. Ferguson did not have influence over audiences as Calleja and Zucchero did, but her performance of I’ll Count the Days was strong enough to justify her presence.

On the production side this concert was well-produced with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Malta and Children’s Choir molding with Calleja and his fellow performers in continuous harmonic flow. The various firework displays gave extra impact to the performances concluding an impressive musical event.

Imagine…McCullin (2013)

Being an admirer of Don McCullin’s photography, this recent BBC documentary certainly appeased my viewing satisfaction.

Chronologically charting McCullin’s career photographing local teddy boys, Cyprus’ civil war, the Vietnam war and secular conflicts in Beirut, there is a deep appreciation to be had for McCullin’s extensive work in dangerous environments. Understanding the back-story of McCullin’s photographs was key to contemplate the situation he placed himself in as McCullin explained throughout the documentary. In particular lying to the CIA was a potentially hazardous decision but McCullin got the images he wanted. Such actions emphasis what a war photographer has to be for their work to be a stories’ core. It only goes to show McCullin’s bravery.

Simply learning about the locates of McCullin’s photographs would have been interesting enough but McCullin explained his working psychology. McCullin seemed to be a conflicted personality that only fascinates my interest more as McCullin felt the thrill of being amidst violent conflict yet horrified by his subjects’ reality. As he explained “it’s a very fine line” between his work and the subject’s lives which from time to time blurred McCullin’s reasoning.

This is a compelling documentary about the psychology, morality and contextualisation of McCullin’s work that is equally satisfying as an admirer and a brilliant introduction for those unaware of McCullin.

Don McCullin

When Bjork Met Attenborough

“The sound of sound” is how Bjork described nature’s acoustic qualities centralising the basis of her project. In preparation for this project, the avant-garde album Biophilia, Bjork discussed in-depth with Sir David Attenborough the admirable qualities of nature’s acoustics and its importance.

Admittedly I am neither a dedicated fan of either Bjork or Attenborough yet this programme managed to engage my interest. As a pair they bonded well, clearly admiring the other, undertaking several discussions regarding music’s scientific relations. In one scene Attenborough noted the mathematics to mineral’s chemistry formation is linked to musical structures. Emphasising such facts was eye opening for a novice like myself.

Though titled When Bjork Met Attenborough the programme mostly concentrates on Biophilia‘s pre-production, which continued to show the boundaries music can reach. Major points of interest was Bjork recording with a Sharpsichord, an original solar-powered instrument maneuvering metal roll push levers to pluck strings to creating music. Equally mesmerizing was a bassline formed from harvesting electricity upon a tesla coil. Witnessing these unique instruments reach their full potential achieved wonderment for myself to music’s realms of possibility, which was the purpose of Biophilia and When Bjork Met Attenborough. Who said music couldn’t be beyond mere entertainment?

Playhouse Presents: Mr Understood

Grayson Perry’s concept of a transvestite’s voyage of self-discovery, written and directed by Katie Handie, was another heartfelt story from the Playhouse Presents series.

Gary’s (Tom Brooke) transvestite weekend is marred by his self-conscious, which happens to take human form in Frank (Tommy McDonnell). Gary and Frank continuously bicker as to if or when Gary should be openly transgendered. Whilst resulting in numerous laughs their conflict reaches critical levels in a harrowing scene where Gary faces public prejudice. Throughout this Gary is also ridiculed by Frank, fueling his self-doubt. This traumatic experience, portrayed with intensity by the actors, gave Mr Understood a connection to its audience who could easily emote to Gary’s vulnerability.

The human angle comes into full effect as Gary bonds with more experienced transvestite Jim (Neil Dudgeon). Jim also has a self-conscious named Linda (Clarie Skinner). In another emotionally charged scene, Jim attempts personal conversation with Gary who isolates himself. Simultaneously their self-conscious counterparts discourage them by revealing their insecurities, making the audience see Gary and Jim as human beings struggling with their ridiculed identities. And this is Mr Understood‘s essence, presenting the characters with a relatability to ourselves.

Tom Brooke as Gary and Tommy McDonnell as Frank

Playhouse Presents: The Pavement Psychologists

Jenny (Anna Friel) leads a lonely life. Waking up alone each day, minimal contact with friends or family. The only pleasure Jenny gains is from the extravagance shoe collection she owns, wearing a different pair daily. Jenny only finds true solace when forming a friendship with Chris (Nonso Anozie), a homeless man who preaches kindness and equality.

The Pavement Psychologists deals with social issues with a deep sense of humanity. It delves into the motivations of Jenny and Chris, where they stand in society and what they offer each other. When Jenny finds out from her Boss Doug (Steve Mackintosh) wants to close down the local shelter Chris occupies, she becomes determined to stop him. The determination and cunning charm Friel gave to Jenny made you root for her as she fought for the greater good in protecting Chris. The sympathetic delivery Anozie gives as we learn of Chris’ downfall into poverty paused for thought the wider social issues dealt with, especially since in an earlier scene the ‘Save the Shelter’ hand-outs he distributes are ignored. It opens you to understand these issues and like Jenny, be drawn towards the greater good.

Steve Mackintosh made Doug so sleazy that you could only hate him and all he stood for. And Reggie Yeats with a small, light role where he gave comic relief from the deeper aspects at play. The Pavement Psychologists is an uplifting story with a underlying message of hope, if you make it happen.

Doug (Steve Mackintosh), Jenny (Anna Friel) and Chris (Nonso Anozie)

Playhouse Presents: The Call Out

Carlo Nero’s poignant drama reflected upon the loneliness in which everyone feels. A finely acted piece by all principal actors especially Stephen Graham and Vanessa Redgrave, who bring into motion the exposing of emotion subtlety that is forever underneath the surface.

Deeply immersed into character studies, The Call Out introduces Policeman Len (Graham) is introduced by describing a horrific discovery in a blatant gross out manner to his colleague (Sushil Chudasama). The true relevance of this moment is subtly revealed later as The Call Out delves into a disturbance call. After finding no evidence of a break in, Len quickly finds himself in conversation with a repressed window (Samantha Bond) who indulges in personal questions setting in motion the underlying emotions slowly building up in Len, expressed with slight restraint by Graham.

Though the most significant scene is Len’s conversation with a second woman ‘in distress’, a fragile and vulnerable character (Redgrave). Tense close ups of Len experiencing his own emotions as the distressed woman’s harrowing words, brilliantly delivered by Redgrave, makes himself and consequently us contemplating loneliness, the invisibility of the self which strikes emotive chords and asks questions of the larger issues at hand. This scene is pivotal to what The Call Out represents, subtle qualities to the characters creating poignancy subsequently to the issues raised and how the characters, particularly Len, learn to cope day by day.

Playhouse Presents: Snodgrass

What if John Lennon had left The Beatles before their breakthrough? It’s certainly an intriguing scenario which Playhouse Presents: Snodgrass offered but did not fully deliver.

Lennon, well portrayed by Ian Hart, struggling with payments hesitantly goes into an unsatisfying job which he acknowledges through his bitter remarks along with cocky suaveness, an excellent additional by Hart in masquerading the tragedy of Lennon’s situation. Though this tragic element to the episode was overdone by the episodes’ writer David Quantick.

“Live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse” is the pivotal quote from a pestering colleague irritating Lennon who would simply not let go of the fact he left The Beatles before their prime. Just like Lennon’s annoying colleague, the episode never let go of this idea from an alternative timeline continuously doing so through flashback sequences, Lennon’s directness towards the audience and repeated viewings of Beatles’ posters with ridiculous song titles e.g. ‘C Moon’.

Despite its aim to be poignant which only came through Hart’s performance and the bleakly shot cinematography, Playhouse Presents: Snodgrass became a bittersweet glorification of John Lennon and how fortunate The Beatles were to have him in the band. Being a piece of drama was overturned into being a piece of fan fiction.

Ian Hart as John Lennon

Dead Art: Mexico City

Art has long been a form of communication. Though within the society I am surrounding within, graveyards and communication has only ever gone as far as informing me who’s buried in a particular plot with formal words. Grey and weather worth, sadly long neglected showing its age. Go across the Atlantic to Panteon de Dolores, a renowned Mexican graveyard inhabiting hundreds of thousands in their final resting place, each with their own significant style to vividly communicate those inhabiting the graves.

Usual expectations of a graveyard…..

.....Are blown away at Panteon de Dolores

…..Are blown away at Panteon de Dolores

Throughout viewing Dead Art: Mexico City, it was very refreshing to see how Mexican culture vastly applies art in its notions with the dead. Seeing multiple graves in different styles, colours and visuals adds character to the deceased which would otherwise only have be conveyed through formal wording never revealing any inkling of their personalities. This is partially due to Day of the Dead holiday where families visit their deceased relatives in celebration for the dead’s souls. This was shown in Dead Art: Mexico City with communities entering Panteon de Dolores playing music and gathering together as one, such a cultural contrast to what I’m use to which I find fascinating. This strong association with celebrating their dead is shown through the designs of various graves.

Diego Rivera’s Grave, immediately eye catching with its presence

Prominently featured in Dead Art: Mexico City, Diego Rivera’s grave is designed with features related to his career as an artist. Castings of his face and hands are also included giving Rivera’s grave a strong presence, which can also be seen on Lucha Reyes’ grave. At its highest point contains a picture of Reyes herself to expel a sustainment of life and underneath a golden wreath meant to symbolise triumph over death. The grandness and distinctiveness of Reyes’ grave compared to those around it certainly achieves triumph over death, though this can be reflected all across Panteon de Dolores. A graveyard which through its artistic communication gives vibrancy to those long parted, though only in physicality.

Lucha Reyes’ Grave, distinctive amongst those around it

Close Up: Photographers at Work

With Close Up: Photographers at Work, Rebecca Dreyfus succeeded in creating an engaging documentary filled with delightful insights into a number of established photographers whose openness helps even the novice understand what motivates their photographic drive. On a personal level this openness expands mindsets to photography’s essence as Albert Maysles noted “it gives us a basis to find a common ground with people and events who otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to connect with”.

Albert Maysles in his search for the common ground he sees as vital in photography.

Albert Maysles in his search for the common ground he sees as vital in photography.

Not only is the importance of Maysles’ statement embodied through the work shown in Close Up, the process which leads up to each photograph establishes the formation for the common ground towards subject and spectator. Maysles roaming through the streets of Harlem gracing his charm observing ordinary people, Andrew Moore’s vivid colourful city – scapes enthusiastically capturing the perfect moment and Sylvia Plachy wanting to reveal the depths within her human subjects. It all comes back to show photography’s reliability, the common ground Maysles defined as they aim to place themselves as a mediator between us as spectators and the subjects, letting us understand each photographs’ significance.

By Close Up going in depth with a variety of photographers, it allowed spectators the opportunity to expand and question the capabilities of what the profession entails, in particular Gregory Crewdson and Tim – Greenfield Sanders. Opposite from the direct simplicity in technique seen from Maysles and Plachy, Crewdson went to great lengths in constructing his photographs in a sophisticated style offering intrigue towards the mysterious and Sanders’ repetitive use of still portrait in photographing subjects in a controlled, dignified state to reveal their sense of character. Despite the large contrast in each photographers’ style, they all share a common interest in exposing an underlying sensation regarding individual forms of beauty that they strive for perfectly conveying Close Up’s alluring essence as an insightful documentary out to prove photography’s relevance.