Studio Blog April 2018

Studio Blog April 2018

April 1st 2018 (April Fool's Day - Pinch, punch, first day of the month and no returns) Although John privileges the laugh to the smile, there are no jesters at his court! There are consequently few artworks that relate to fools, the closest possibly being related to the Towers of Babel.

The Fall of the Tower of Babel - Peace to the World (1963)

The story of the Tower of Babel is told in Genesis (chapter 11): And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

John's Babel works explore the way in which language is used and abused and he opened the Babel theme with a drawing in 1955 that more recently has become a print. Soon the idea expanded to become two large word-screens.

Tours de Babel Changées en Ponts (1965)
Fifty-one Towers of Babel (1984)

Within the last couple of years, John has returned to the Babel theme, cutting up  some of the Babel prints to produce new montage works.

The Fall of the Tower of Babel I (2017)

 April 6th 2018 - Waste not, Want not! John has always used waste materials to create 'art'. His involvement with mailart is a case in poin, although it is not always appreciated by the art critics. At one of his exhibitions at the Arnolfini Gallery (Bristol), John displayed  some mailart that, according to Waldemar Januszczak was "Furnival just messing about with mailart"!

The Green Queen Series

Amongst the mailart projects John has been involved with is the Nailart project that involved sending postcards to various artists across the world for them to alter/mutilate and then show at the Nailsworth Festival.


In more recent times, in correspondance between John and myself, John has taken to producing postcards that either montage wrappers from the cheese that he has eaten (the Cheeseboards series) or taken newspaper clippings showing the headgear of members of the Royal Family (the Where Did You Get That Hat series).

Detail from a Cheeseboard postcard

Paper food packaging has often featured in John's work. These, pasted onto card and combined with pen and ink additions, have formed the basis of several series of works, including The A to Z of Consumerville and All the Colours of the Rimbaud.

A is for..... (From The A to Z of Consumerville)
S is for..... (From The A to Z of Consumerville)

 This approach has been extended to involve mannequins, either as stand-alone objects or as figures for displaying Astrid's sweaters.

Then again, cutting up old maps (sometimes to form Prayer Wheels around old containers/tubes from from alcoholic spirits) keeps John busy!

April 19th 2018 Wittgenstein Series 2 (update)  On March 11th, I posted a blog showing work in progress on a panel for the Wittgenstein series 2. These drawings have now been completed and are shown below. The front of the panel displays words and boxes related to Greek myths while the reverse side shows words and boxes related to death! To my mind, the Wittgenstein series of drawings are equal in quality and imagination to the screens. The panels for the first series are now in a private collection but the drawings for the second series are available for purchase... please don't all bid at once!

The Wittgenstein series 2 (Front of panel 1)
The Wittgenstein series 2 (Back of panel 1)

April 21st 2018 Some Astrid sweaters Recently, great friends of John and Astrid from the US, Dobree Adams and Jonathan Greene, contacted me about the Furnival exhibitions in May and, to the delight of all, provided excellent images of Astrid's sweaters that they own (some of which I was unaware of). The sweater shown below (Common or Garden) is a variation on a theme that Astrid has drawn upon several times. Another example of this sweater will be on display in the exhibitions.

Another theme is that of the quotation of Gertrude Stein: A rose is a rose is a rose. Astrid has made beautiful sweaters and quilts on this theme and I envy Dobree and Jonathan the ownership of the sweater! The quilt, presently owned by Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle, will be on display at John and Astrid's exhibition in Venice in 2019.

One of my favourite series of textile works from Astrid relates to the counting of sheep (often with numbers derived from Celtic languages). Again, both sweaters and quilts have been made, the quilt coming from the Don and Sally Anderson collection in Dentdale (Cumbria).


The famous knitters of Dales sparked the interest of Ron King and the poet, Roy Fisher, to produce a series of screenprints (under the imprint of Circle Press) that was entitled Neighbours We'll Not Part Tonight (1976). For this project, Astrid produced some knitted works to complement the screenprints. 

New to me are the two tanktops, Kiss Kiss and Doesn't Matter that highlight the humorous side of Astrid's work







Original drawing of Tower of Babel (1955)











The Fall of the Tower of Babel print (2016)












The Fall of the Tower of Babel II (2017)






Mailart with Darrel Rees









Cheeseboard print that montages nine Cheeseboard postcards



Camembert Box






Wittgenstein series 2 (Panel 2 - Work in progress)










Bernard Moxham wearing a Common or Garden sweater



A rose is a rose quilt



Counting Sheep Hanging at Dentdale