Still on a festive tip...this post spotlights the Biscuit-tin Lid Artwork of Frank Newbould
. Forgive the slightly murky picture, but I've never scanned a biscuit-tin lid before:
Tins of biscuits: sure, we've all bought them for mums, grans and elderly aunts; usually from a seaside town gift-shop or a tourist-trap like Cheddar Gorge or Glastonbury. C'mon, admit it. Like you, I've hardly given biscuit-tins a second glance (I don't eat the damn things; biscuits, I mean, not the tins
, stupid...)...but this one's been kinda sucking me in over the last few months and it was only this morning that I finally got to where it's been taking me.
The scanning process has partially eroded the 'true' colour scheme of the tin, but you should still be able to see that the light on the side of the hotel is overly-bright, as if the walls are lit by near-horizontal sunshine...it hints at the coming of twilight, the onset of a semi-dreamlike state...in some ways it's almost a Ballardian
light: it makes me think of a late-afternoon variant of Columbine Sept Heures from "The Day of Forever", or the weird opalescent light that Jim saw as a child after the first Hydrogen Bomb was detonated over Hiroshima. Half-awake, eating my breakfast cereal this morning, the picture momentarily struck me as being prescient; a nightmare premonition...an accidental flashforward from the sexless, glacial vacuum of Mid-Twenties Middle England to the undreamt-of horror of The Atomic Age. Or maybe the soy milk didn't agree with me...
Still, that strange light in the painting had already got me thinking. Again, that low, late-pm sun reminded me of the lengthening shadows of Dali's own dreamscapes...but the haunted arches on the hotel and the rich, bottle-blue almost nighttime sky above the sunlit walls mainly put me in mind of Georgio De Chirico and the Italian Metaphysical Artists. De Chirico's deserted noonday plazas and shadow-drenched archways always struck me as alpha-wave mind-maps that could lure an unsuspecting viewer into maze of flickering REM-landscapes. His abandoned quasi-classical architecture hinted at archetypes and altered states: like individual frames removed from a film and from context
, they seem to suggest that something unseen and unfathomable had just happened or was about to happen.
Again, there's that strange sense of uncertain premonition.
De Chiricho's paintings didn't generally feature people, whereas this is populated by spectral, almost idealised
figures who look as if they are trapped in an unfinished novel by Fitzgerald. That strange wrong-angled light makes them appear like ghosts or somnabulist dreamforms more suited to a Surrealist painting. Two of them walk towards us, as if to welcome us into their late-afternoon version of The Afterlife, or perhaps they're just curious that we are conscious whereas they are not. Are they haunting us, or are we haunting them? I'm really not sure...
Frank Newbould was a commercial artist (well, hey, ain't they all...?); a freelance poster-painter whose heyday was the mid-1930s. You've probably seen his work before without realising it, maybe a print in a museum or Athena: he specialised in posters for barely-remembered railway companies and provincial south-coast hotels. Later on, I think he painted propagada and recruitment posters during World War 2 and died in the early 50s...
Maybe part of the painting's strangeness is down to process
; after all, the image was copied and cheaply 'enamelled' onto the lid of a mass-produced biscuit-tin, so faithful reproduction of Newbould's art was pretty low on the manufacturer's wish-list, but, that said, there is still a curious dreamlike sense of disengagement to his art, a distance
, as if he is barely interested in its subject-matter (which he probably wasn't). Couple that with our own inability to connect with or understand an England that ceased to exist long ago and which itself seems like a barely-plausible dream, and you have a possible explanation for my early-morning brainfart and my meandering reinterpretation of his art.
I've no idea where the biscuit-tin originally came from (maybe my mum-in-law), but these days Kid Kid Shirt uses it to stash the fairy-cakes that she makes with her mum. Since this morning, its lid has taken on a new meaning that will haunt me to my grave. I will never be able to see it as just a biscuit-tin lid ever again and that, surely, is a credit to its creator.
A toast to you, then, Frank Newbould. I wonder whose painting you now inhabit?
Hopefully, it's one of your own.