You should always look down on a circus

You should always look down on a circus

Charles Bukowski said “we’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus!”, at least according to the internet – I’ve got several Bukowski collections and I can’t find the quote. Bukowski is one of those writers who have hundreds of publications it seems, so it may exist somewhere. I read Bukowski because of the manner he works in, the continual production without, apparently, applying quality control during the process. It was my greatest frustration when I taught that people couldn’t grasp that creating anything works in stages and requires editing. It’s an iterative process. I also like the way Bukowksi throws out a thought and runs with it, following the route it takes towards whatever he ends up with. The quote above continues “That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” 

There is an obvious metaphor for life with the circus, the backstage (off ring?) living and the performative presence, the constant practice before the audience gets to see the output and the sense of separateness, of being in a community that does not belong to the general population, of being a way out. (Have I ever written a longer string of cliches?)

The circus, and it’s all a circus, should be witnessed from above. You should look down on the performers and the audience, freezing the action often to contemplate the ludicrous pirouettes and somersaults.

You should watch the purposeless gyrations and applaud, then make your choices like Beckett’s ‘Molloy‘  “[…] I came upon a kind of crossroads, you know, a star, or circus, of the kind to be found in even the most unexplored of forests. And turning then methodically to face the radiating paths in turn, hoping for I know not what, I described a complete circle, or less than a circle, or more than a circle, so great was the resemblance between them.”

Beckett, S (1979). The Beckett Trilogy. London: Pan Books Ltd

Sometime in 2003 or 2004 I made a set of wax maquettes for a group of sculptures and produced a couple of drawings from them. The other day, mid March 2021, I woke up having dreamt about one of the drawings and with an idea in my mind of a new figure for the group.

you should always look down on a circus, 2002/3 version 2

you should always look down on a circus, 2002/3 version 2

After producing a set of new drawings I set about finding the original drawings to compare to the set. The drawing above is the first one I found. I still have the idea of the drawing I woke up with and it’s closer to the image below but that’s not what I remember.

you should always look down on a circus, 2002/3

you should always look down on a circus, 2002/3

Both these drawings are 100cm x 70cm or thereabouts.

The title ‘You Should Always Look Down on a Circus’ is scrawled at the top of a each of two sketchbook pages that I found. I remembered the images were suggestive of circuses. Late nights watching Tod Browning’s 1932 film ‘Freaks‘  may have contributed to the feel of the portrait drawing, which I think was the first, but also the grouping of the objects and their interactions, including shadows, is also suggestive of a circus ring.

The new drawings started with a set of arches, referencing an unmade sculpture ‘acrobats’ from around the same period – Virtual Sculptures Gallery –

The large group in the centre of the gallery is ‘Acrobats’

tumbling 1

Tumbling 1


tumbling practice

tumbling practice



The dream suggested a set of tumbling arches and an almost tied knot that I’ve explored through a set of thirteen drawings, twelve A1 size and one 130cm x 100cm. The drawings eventually suggested a harlequin. –

Harlequin and Tumbler

Harlequin and Tumbler

Harlequin and Trapeze

Harlequin and Trapeze

I built a maquette for the group that I imagined and have since remade the original objects to reproduce the drawing that I had in mind. That drawing either never existed or has been lost.

circus maquette 050321

harlequin with tumblers

The first maquette ‘harlequin with tumblers’ made at the beginning of March.

I then recreated the original maquette from my drwings so that I could remake the drawing I think I remembered in my dream.

you should always look down on a circus, 2002/3 model remade

you should always look down on a circus, 2002/3 model remade

It’s a rough maquette but from this I did some more sketchbook drawings until I got the composition and then made the big drawing below.

You Should Always Look Down on a Circus (2003/4 - 2021)

You Should Always Look Down on a Circus (2003/4 – 2021)

I’m building a version of the combined maquettes as a larger sculpture, that will form another post.

Garden’s Project 5: Miro Deviations

Garden’s Project 5: Miro Deviations

I’ve been working on the Garden’s Project for a while now, and as I’ve said before I worked a new world, ‘Miro World’ alongside it.

Garden's Project 5: Miro Deviations

Miro – I Work Like a Gardener

Miro, J (2017). I Work Like a GardenerNew Jersey: Princeton Architectural Press.

This book is a conversation between Joan Miro and Yvon Taillandier about his life and work. First published in a limited edition in 1964 I discovered this new edition last year and have started working with Miro’s paintings as a result.

‘Miro World’ is a 3d interpretation of a small set of paintings from 1924-25; The Hermitage from 1924, Catalan Landscape from 1924 and Dialogue of the Insects from 1924-25. The paintings are all from the time when Miro had just developed the language that symbolises his Catalan heritage and the mark making that anonomizes the imagery and brings it from a collective unconcious.

I made the worlds to test things I wanted to achieve for the Garden’s Project initially but it developed a life of it’s own. The journey starts in the landscape of the hermitage, at a campsite with the constellations of summer overhead, a woman at the campfire, a farmer in the distance with a bull in one direction and a river in the other. You explore the landscape to find doors which you pass through to the other spaces. The next is the hermitage, later in the day, and both these worlds have a sound track of ‘concierto de aranjuez’ by Rodrigo in an interpretation by Luis Manuel Molena and the Orquestra de Camara Musica Eterna, released under a creative commons license.

From here you progress to the Catalan landscape, facing the hunter with his rifle and a freshly killed rabbit, there is a sardine in the background and the soundtrack is a ‘sardana’, a Catalan folk dance – ‘Joves Ileons’. This reflects the writing in the original image that says ‘sard’, and may be a reference to the dance or to the sardine.

From the Hunter you progress to the dialogue of the insects, finding yourself in the long grass with strange creatures flying and running around you. The soundtrack is a field recording of a summer meadow, when you find the door you return to the hermitage.

Interlude – Brief Catch Up for February

Brief Catch Up for February

leBrun Bather version four Brief Catch Up for February

leBrun Bather version four

Just a very quick post so I’ve got something to show – I’m working on a new post for the Gardens Project, which was just rejected again for funding through ACE.

I’ve revamped the website  – and I’ve been working on another project, two pictures below, that I’ll say something about later.

Lemniscate - Front

Lemniscate – Front

This was built in plaster and has been cast but this is the restored original.

lemniscate - Back

Lemniscate – Back

These are for a commission.

I finished the Draw Every Day for January

Began February

And, while I was revamping the website, discovered some older work and made a gallery of it