New World 34April 7th, 2017 by Richard
This is the title for my newest picture and it came from the finding of an oblong enamel and metal badge which might have originally been fixed on a cooker. New world immediately made me think of the Sci Fi magazine New Worlds from the 1960’s. I have always been a Sci Fi fan and in my youth I think a lot of this genre fiction was optimistic and outward looking in keeping with the general feel of the times. In the 60’s it was all about progress and improvement and the condition of the worlds inhabitants getting better.
I’ve tried to capture that remembered sense of optimism and the sense that progress was inevitable in this picture. So first of all it’s quite bright and colourful. There is a sense of movement given with the strong diagonals going up towards the top right, one of them even topped with an arrow ( the arrow of progress ? )these repeating in the conventional manner from left to right and the way the central figure in the foreground seems to be moving upward, almost launching rocket like. Remember ( if you are old enough ) this was the height of the space race and Space truly was the “Final Frontier “. So for me the central purple figure is reminiscent of Sputnik, the first (Russian ) satellite. The frame of dark eroded rubber and canvas might be seen as a cartoon representation of space or perhaps better as a freeze frame of the original b&w intro to the early Dr Who television episodes and definitely is the frontier around the picture. The picture contains several pieces of lino which with new ,trendy designs achieved new popularity in 60’s . The hard geometric lines of the lower left figures in red and brown are reminiscent of the surface texture of cast concrete seen in so many of the “high rise ” buildings which were built to replace the old slum buildings of many a terraced street in many a town or city. This new architecture, villages in the sky, often had narrow concrete paths connecting buildings at different levels, reminiscent when seen from below of the large purple figure top left. The lines in this figure appear to be pointing towards the same vanishing point as the previously mentioned diagonals. At this vanishing point we see more Sputnik shapes but appropriately smaller to chime with the suggestion of perspective.In the upper right centre we see another arrow again pointing up towards the vanishing point. This reinforces the sense of aspiration, onwards and upwards which was so much the zeitgeist of the time.
Here and there in the picture we see letters and no’s ,perhaps unnoticed at first ,but like the worm in the apple giving a certain bitter taste or frisson ( did I actually eat some of it ? ) when we notice them and consider their meaning. Easiest to appreciate are the several coherent words viz ” eye ” and ” eigen” . The 60’s was when the current age of self regard was born, when it became part of mass culture to be interested in how we looked. Thus was born the self regarding eye of I and mine which is such a predominant force in the modern world. The less comprehensible fragments of text or number such as 021 on the far left of the picture might be seen as the good intentions of the 60’s being frustrated by accident not design, so that what is intended ( steady, regular progress) becomes garbled, disordered,two steps forward, one step back.In the upper centre we see two solar symbols, one complete and one incomplete. There is no life without the sun and generally a solar symbol would be seen as a good sign, dawn of a new day, another sign of optimism. So the incomplete sign might be read as another indicator that the intended and anticipated progress has not quite materialised, two steps forward and one step back again. The remaining parts of the picture, a mixture of blocks of colour ( hopefully harmonising nicely across the picture ) and fragments of pattern (mostly deliberately chosen fragments of curves to contrast with the straight lines elsewhere in the picture ) are deliberately incoherent even dreamlike. These are more signs of the disorder and missteps which always remain present to derail our plans for progress. It’s fifty years now since the 60’s and we can look back and say ” Is it really better now ? Have we progressed as we thought we would ? Did New World 34 really live up to its promises ?” Perhaps it’s time for another New World.