Friday, May 27, 2016


Marvellous get-together at high noon at bookartbookshop today (or rather yesterday) with George Szirtes and Clarissa Upchurch, Ian ( "Vincent" of Wayfarers's Notes) and Karleen Mulder, and another friend who had also travelled some distance to give me their blessings and appreciation. How fortunate I am - things like this re-charge the creative batteries which sometimes flicker and fade. Thank you all.
I take the liberty of copying  George's wonderful boost to me on his Facebook page:

Rising at 5:30 I get ready, have breakfast at 7 and am in a taxi three-quarter of an hour later. Having booked a specific train I have to stick to it. This means buying a new ticket from Bristol Temple Meads to Bristol Parkway, letting a perfectly good train go and waiting another forty-five minutes on the platform for the booked train. It is sunny and cold at Parkway but warming up. Once on the train I begin to feel very sleepy and almost nod off once or twice on the way. At Paddington there is a delay on the tube because of a signalling problem but eventually one arrives and I go to Old Street via Moorgate and walk the quarter of a mile or so to Bookartbookshop in Pitfield Street for Natalie d'Arbeloff's exhibition. Unfortunately I arrive a little early while the shop is locked so have a cup of tea at the friendly Ned's Noodle Bar next door, but soon Natalie arrives, as do some of her friends, and Clarissa too and we look at Natalie's tiny exhibits in the tiny shop which is dedicated to book artists.
I would rather like to write a full article on Natalie's work, enough for now to say it is essentially narrative, autobiographical and philosophical, using words and deploying a variety of visual styles that tease, delight and move the viewer. Her work isn't very much like anyone else's but some of it is like a cross between a diary, a graphic novel, and sketches by Chagall.
Afterwards we have lunch at the nearest pizza place. There are six of us. It turns out not one of us was born in England. Our various birthplaces are Paris, China, Jamaica, Australia, South Africa and Hungary. We drink to that then discuss food, life elsewhere and the existence or otherwise of the soul. One of us, Simon, had been, among other things, a sports psychologist advising Crystal Palace football team, not recently but back in Dave Bassett days. We don't talk of that though I'd love to have asked him more.
Then we head off in our various directions. It's quite warm, almost hot now and we have dressed for something ten degrees cooler.
The train journeys are deeply drowsy affairs. Arriving home we drop into bed for an hour or two. We take longer to recover from things that we used to. My ankle is swollen from too much train sitting.
Below, a link to Natalie's website. Do explore it in detail. She is quite a treasure to find. Especially check out the marvellous artist's books.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


The opening of my show at bookartbookshop went very well, a good crowd packed the premises and many good words were said about the work.

 Herewith some pictures I took before people arrived. I tried to photograph the work displayed in the window (a unique bookwork titled NATSHEPSUT - you can read a description of it on the Artists' Books section of my website) but because of reflections, some strangely relevant, ghostly things came up. A couple of examples are among those below. The first shot is of Tanya Peixoto and Chiara Ambrosio talking in the bookshop doorway.

Sunday, May 01, 2016


The legendarily magnificent Tanya Peixoto who created, runs and animates the legendarily unique, small and perfectly formed bookartbookshop in Hoxton, London, invited me a while back to have a solo show of some of my autobiographical books, boxes etc. What's more, she felt that there should be a new edition, in colour like the original, of Augustine's True Confession, the handwritten journal published, with help from the Arts Council, in a b&w version in 1989 (out of print). 

Tanya offered to equally share the cost of printing, and so... drum roll....the brand new edition of ATC will be launched at the Private View on 12th May, a joint publication by bookartbookshop and NdA . If you can't be there in person (why not?) you can order the book ...£10...from bookartbookshop. 

Meanwhile here's the cover, along with a photo of the original journal sitting in the house I built for it. Included in the show.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

THIS WILL BE LONG AND RAMBLING: back from Matera and Grottole

 Gerardo Guerrieri was a master at expressing complex ideas, emotions and observations in lucid, direct language but, unlike many Italian intellectuals, he was not a great talker, least of all about himself. His forte was writing. And listening. The way that Gerardo listened was an art in itself, a creative process. Every person he encountered was, for him, a book waiting to be read. When Gerardo listened he was not being sociable, polite or intent on impressing you. At that moment you (whoever ‘you’ happened to be) became his teacher and he. your passionately curious and intelligent pupil, eager to absorb sparks from your experience, your mode of thinking, sparks that he would later connect to other sparks, in his daily life, in literature, science, art, philosophy and much more, forming a constellation, a moving galaxy of which he was not the designer but a fascinated recorder and interpreter.

Gerardo and I immediately became friends, as well as family, when he married my sister in Florence and over the years we exchanged a great many letters from various countries and throughout various  stages in our respective lives. Below I've roughly translated excerpts from a letter he wrote to me during the 1960s or 1970s. I've chosen this particular  letter because it is so relevant to my own current thoughts and feelings.


Translation note: the fact that affection can be injected into otherwise neutral words by giving them diminutives fills me with joy - maybe because I haven't a single drop of Anglo-Saxon blood. In Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, it’s only natural to give some words that extra boost whenever they require it. But how to translate this habit into English?  “little sister-in-law” for “cognatina” is as inadequate as “a little coffee”  would be for “um cafezinho” in Portuguese. I'm not going to try.

cognata = sister-in-law

Dear cognatina -  to continue the conversation.
You ask me to talk about myself - fair enough, but I have to think about it. It will come. For the moment I’m wondering what I should focus on for the next ten years.

I’ve dedicated a great deal of time to technique: now I must dedicate some time to educating myself. In spite of all the experiences I’ve had, it seems to me that I don’t have even the tiniest bit of experience: I feel that I was born yesterday. Of course I’ve lost interest in many things which used to enrage or excite me, things for which I would fight.

I think that one should know the world as one’s self and that knowledge of the world comes through being attentive to this interaction. But I can’t stand those mandarin writers and artists who wallow in navel-gazing - perhaps I’m wrong because, after all, we can’t know anything except through our own perceptions. However it has to be said that some forms of self-idolatry invariably end up being interpretations of absolutely everything through a distorting mirror of self.

Little by little I’ve become detached from my directorial ambitions because they were never truly mine: I can no longer allow myself the luxury of doing something which is not sincerely mine. I need to concentrate on that which was hidden beneath a preoccupation with technique: very often it was this preoccupation which stopped me from doing what I really felt. And, often I simply didn’t know what I should be doing. To quote a phrase of yours, I rarely knew what was “imprinted in my being”. I must always work on this, search for it.

I think I will never tire of learning too much. I’ve noticed that when vitality is low in me,  I don’t want to know anymore and  I become one of those who can’t conceive of anything beyond the day to day, those grey things which happen day to day. But when vitality is bubbling then I feel that a point in time is about to arrive at an unknown tomorrow and this thought gives me vertigo but is also fascinating, like looking up at a night sky filled with stars. This is the reason that I can’t completely believe in what I’m doing today, right now - because it's against a background of clouds which are flying by and which distract me. It's the background itself which, deep down, is the real fascination of life.  It’s why I can’t believe 100% in human civilization but, still, it moves me, fascinates me by its ingenuity, its vitality, its stubborness. I’m enthralled that this whole story was created by a being who knows it must die. The whole of human history then looks like a dare, a joyous act of defiance. Still,  I can’t take it entirely seriously.  At some point it begins to bore me, just as the theatre began to bore me. What truly attracts me is the background, the off-stage, of which we know so little and of which we are so afraid. 

Now you understand why I’d like to know what I should do for the next ten years, something not too far removed from what I should have done earlier. It’s not a question of ambition but of harmony. To write is important, but for me, writing has to help me to live.  If you think about it, there have always been two categories of writers: those who have lived in order to then write; and those who live whilst writing. My road is certainly the first one. To repeat: I’m one who was born totally ignorant, like doubting Thomas.

I wish I could do justice to the experience I was fortunate to be a part of: the belated but enthusiastic re-discovery of Gerardo's multi-faceted achievements, thanks to the initiative of individuals in Matera, Grottole and Rome, not least to the tremendous effort made by Selene Guerrieri to complete in time what has turned out to be an invaluable book, meticulously documenting her father's life and work via letters, photographs, bibliography, statements from many of those who worked with him, as well as  recapitulating  the extraordinary undertaking that was the Teatro Club, created in Rome by my sister Anne in 1957, developed and expanded internationally together with Gerardo into the mid-1980s. To quote from a chapter The Adventure of the Teatro Club by Paola Columba, author and director, who curated the Teatro Club Archive at the Biblioteca Baldini (my translation):

".. it had a fundamental importance in the panorama of Italian theatre...bringing a breath of fresh air into what was a closed provincial ambiance...internationalizing the Italian theatrical scene and introducing audiences of all ages and social backgrounds to radical innovations such as the Living Theater, Peter Brook, Tadeusz Kantor, Café La Mama, Merce well as Indian and Japanese theatre...But the Teatro Club's activity was not focused exclusively on theatre...conferences, workshops, debates, film projections, exhibitions... a multicultural undertaking.... In his notes a year before the Teatro Club's foundation ....Gerardo Guerrieri talked of creating a dialogue between cinema and theatre, between theatre and literature, "between the arts in general, to break the ice of exclusivity and specialization which is ignorance".

Errata: in the above caption the words 'Province of' are missing after "President of the...' It should read 'President of the Province of Matera...'

(Errata: the date in the above photo should be 23 April, not 3)

Sunlight on the Sassi, Matera.

I am totally incapable of writing a detailed report of this journey - there was just too much to absorb in three very full days. I hope I've conveyed at least the flavour of it. Matera, Grottole and the entire region of Basilicata are fascinating visually, historically, geographically, human-ly.  I strongly recommend looking it up on the internet and, better still, going there. I will surely return one day. The people and the place make it impossible not to return.

I'll end with these  notes by Gerardo which are printed on the large panel permanently affixed to a wall in the Grottole centre dedicated to him: