The Beauty of a Dream

all of the buildings, all of those cars
were once just a dream
in somebody’s head

dreaming of mercy st.
wear your inside out
dreaming of mercy

Peter Gabriel – Mercy Street (link to Iain Matthews cover)

In my frequent work trips to Bootle, Widnes and now Warrington, I feel I make more than my fair contribution to the 35 million journeys that take place annually along this stretch of the M62.  As I do so I often muse about the large luminous visage that peers down upon the traffic speeding past here on Merseyside and I’ve dreamt of the photographic opportunities that it presents.

Imagine my disbelief then, when having arrived for my first night in Warrington, I read a post from my fellow blogger Debra who posted her image of the sculpture on Vladography this week.

Expressing that disbelief to her she of course pointed out to me that there are many other angles on the subject, and so on finishing my work the following afternoon I determined to waste no more timing in unleashing my Canon upon the artwork. remarkably as I started my car, a drama called North of Riga on Radio 4 was telling the story of a mysterious stranger called the King of Winter who cuts a girl’s hair to steal her dreams.

Intentionally or not, Eoin McNamee‘s character, with his long black hair, immediately brought to mind the protagonist of Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman series.  This character Morpheus, is also known as Dream; a name shared by the tall, white voyeur atop the hill in St Helens.

Jaume Plensa‘s Dream is the North West’s answer to the Angel of North, and is equal in height, though to my mind less impressive when viewed from the roadside.  I’ve always seen the elongated head as androgynous from this aspect, but when you make the effort to climb that hill and meet her face to face she has just as much impact as her rusty cousin, in fact I found her slender beauty completely captivating.   Like the Angel, she stands on a site that was once better known for the dirty and deadly industry of mining, the faces of the men who worked here a stark contrast with the self-cleaning white concrete of the disembodied head.  Her pallor reminds me of the “engineers” of Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus, a film in which an arrogant and jealous android “reads” the dreams of a woman who is in stasis for an interstellar journey. (The film also features a large disembodied head; both in reality and as a statue!) Our fascination with dreams will continue long into the future it seems.  Funny things dreams.



The beauty of a dream is you don’t let it go,
You don’t ever let it go.

Once in a while a girl comes along
And opens your heart like a spam tin
Just how long can it take?
A bow bends, a bow breaks
And then when it’s time to return the key
She’ll flash you a smile as she slams the door
But you didn’t have to do that to me
To show me just how cruel love could be
And cruel’s a show I kinda starred in before.

Thomas Dolby – Beauty Of A Dream

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Baltic: Pronunciation: /ˈbɔːltɪk, ˈbɒlt-/

Origin: late 16th century: from medieval Latin Balticus, from late Latin Balthae ‘dwellers near the Baltic Sea

It’s funny how the brain responds to certain stimuli.  Earlier this week I received an email from my friend Anna in Sweden telling the tale of a lucky escape when her home caught fire.  (Luckily she’s fine).  I’ve only been to her home city of Stockholm once in my lifetime, and even then it was a flying visit when the SS Nevasa docked there during a school cruise in the 1970’s.  I’m sure it’s changed a lot in the 40 years since, but whenever I think of Stockholm my first thoughts are of that cruise around the Baltic which included Helsinki, Copenhagen and a jellyfish infested piece of Norwegian rock among the many outcrops near Kristiansand (Dybiggen? Island rings a bell).  Of course in those days many of the Baltic ports were off-limits.  These were the days of the iron curtain, so Gdansk, Riga, Tallinn, and St Petersburg weren’t options.  I’d love to repeat the experience and fill in the gaps.

The tensions in this area have a long history, including both World Wars, and the sea covers the broken wreckage of over 5000 aircraft and warships, to which the governments of the US, UK and former USSR have added dumped chemical weapons.  The brackish waters are a living monument to man’s inhumanity.

I referred earlier this week to the freezing temperatures during the photo shoot with Bananastudio, and several times during that evening I heard Baltic used as an adjective to describe the bitter cold.  During the winter this is very true of course, but many forget, or are ignorant of the fact, that Tallin for example, though further North than the UK mainland can experience long periods of 30 degree temperatures in the summer.  Stockholm similarly enjoys better summers than we do, with sea temperatures warmer than the English Channel.

So when deciding where to spend Easter Sunday I should not have been surprised that these subconscious hints drew me to another Baltic.  The contemporary art centre in Gateshead.  I’m no aficionado of modern art, but I go with an open mind and have regularly found inspiration there and enjoyed the work of artists such as Yoko Ono, Anthony Gormley, Martin Parr, George Shaw and Vik Muniz.  You can no longer take photographs in any of the galleries, but the building itself can create some interesting imagery.

Yesterday however, was one of those days when I just didn’t really get it.  Fabrice Hyber’s Raw Materials contained many ideas – probably too many to fit into one space. His huge rain cloud for example deserved to stand alone with some more interesting lighting to accentuate the crystalline rain drops that dash the floor below.  The maze like rows of hanging fabrics, akin to the washing line sequence from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life were good fun though (and I did sneak one shot when concealed within it). _MG_0981

Very little of David Jablonowski’s Tools and Orientations  or David Maljkovic’s largely film based Sources in the Air help my attention, but that’s fine.  The creative process will throw up things that stimulate and appeal to one mind and not another.

Returning to the ground floor we found a more conventional gallery of oils on canvas.  These had a photographic quality, with many of the figures outlined in the thick black shadows that you often see in photographs taken with an “on camera” flash unit.  This light is harsh and flattens figures into cardboard cutouts with two dimensions.  Appropriate for a painting, but of course many of these images originated as photographs, for Polish artist (another Baltic connection) Marcin Maciejowski takes his inspiration from images in current affairs and the media though frequently with the facial features removed.  Nevertheless the scene from Godfather II where Michael Corleone tells his wife Kay “Don’t ask me about my business” was still recognisable.

So four exhibitions but none that really wowed me.

Perhaps I was just looking in the wrong place.

Portrait on Car Roof