A Poem Review of IAIN SINCLAIR’S THE HOUSE OF THE LAST LONDON,
GALLERY 46, ASHFIELD STREET LONDON E1 8TH-17TH SEPTEMBER 2017
At a time when each street has become something other,
The all encompassing gaze, foot constructed,
In charting each shift, feels secure.
The measurement of a room, from Rodinsky’s place
To Whitechappell, with each scarlet essence still captured
By the present and past’s warped allure.
A converted house now stands guard
To the shards of memory tendered; fragments from paths
Across culture leading to the proper advance of the Sage.
Photographs, costumes, art, the impressions of friends
On glassed carbons, and amidst the noise
The stilled echoes of Iain Sinclair’s night trails towards age.
Here, then is the fruit of the labourer’s tree,
In oak shadow, the growth of the art snagged by image
As the shifter of land, sculpted words. Sinclair’s life
And work in small frames, sometimes oblique,
More like rumour, with each view a fresh angle
On that already ensnared by time’s sword.
If blood is birthed from these wounds then time
Itself floods a river, along whose banks others follow
As the tapering stairs wind like streams;
Chris Petit’s dark house, belitting dolls in ghost image,
Egg tempera B. Catling, with his eerie paintings of moon witnessed
Congos at dawn. Renchi Bicknell’s exuberant maps of the external earth
And Kept landscape, Keggie Carew aping Muybridge,
Anonymous Bosch, Alan Moore, each gazes out from their shell
As this show and gallery changes aspect, from wood or forest to river
With its sparkle of stones on blacked shore.
The Avant garde as vanguard and society’s last rearguard action,
Ready to take on allcomers with an educated breath and sharp claw.
London’s lines of influence seen through those old Hawksmoor churches,
A youthful Michael Moorcock resplendent, posters from Dublin’s Trinity,
The underground overground, as the seminal storm coats the pavements,
And Sinclair walks out his reasons for attempting to set true art free.
Man as myth. Man as mast. Man as muse, news and city;
While all the time new communions with all of the alternatives
One can face. Sinclair as enabler then, and educator now,
Like his consorts, who labour away liberating the neglected
Remains they can trace. This exhibition, this time as lived
And celebrated by Sinclair, is as seminal now and as needed
As other lost Shangri-las. Happily a new generation surface,
Keen to reclaim the realm;
Artist Stanley Schtinter, Filmmaker John Rogers,
Designer Susanna Edwards, Sound artist Susan Stenger,
Each of these now reach far. But it is in the inspiration set forth
By Iain Sinclair and his findings that these others gather,
Having spiralled and trailed his wide lines.
This collection in scope shows how such a refined art can still cover
Decades of entrance and acres of need, through heart’s eye.
There is a full lifetime on show, the prizes of years that bred novels,
And from novels, fictions of the endlessly real and reports.
Now a new line has been drawn as London’s very own Boswell
Is Johnson, fusing as he always has, fresh expressions
For both changing the heart and life’s course.
If we cannot learn from each place then what is the point
To our living? This what the eye feels upon seeing these splinters of time
And gold walks. Coins glimpsed in the dark, strewn across the unwavering
Sadness of cities, Brian Catling’s brassed totems, Andrew Kotting’s
Smeared time frames, tumescent with light; objects talk.
Such as Kotting’s Straw man, or Toby Jones’ By Ourselves John Clare outfit,
Photos of Kotting and Sinclair in massed triptych, footing pedallo swans
Through cold sea. Each image here is a myth as legends are born
From mere findings and the separate ends make a marriage
From a light that will burn endlessly. There are people alive
Who are doing more for the living than simple advance, competition
Or the dispassionate ascent stoked by fame.
Instead, they are realigning the earth, with seismagraphs and tectonics;
Paintings and books,films and poems provoking those who are watching
By shaking the page and the frame. In this slender house the compact stairs
Lead to wonder, as Iain Sinclair closes London and his fifty year curation of it,
Another exhibition soon forms, that of a man’s innovation as he becomes
His own city in which new populations of artists and friends can now live.
The Last London begins, while ending itself with each chapter,
Which Sinclair wraps for Anna, glorious companion and wife
All this time. He has given himself to these streets, unearthing those
Who walk with him, at every turn, a film maker,
Or a sparked imagination set free. When we live in a place
If we are not exposed to advances, we rarely regard the held
Secrets that the breath of the night can release.
Enter this space on any of the days it stands open
And it will both expose and protect you:
Shelter becomes Gallery.
David Erdos 8th September 2017