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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Grundig, Marantz, Aiwa, Sony and Pioneer

Pye was the first brand of music equipment in the home I grew up in. A mono record player. Eventually a grown up, who had forgotten how to listen to music, took pity on those of us who were having to wait half an hour for the record player to warm up before it would work, bought a turntable as a replacement.

A stereo. Three boxes replaced the one. I think it was the touching of the older record player to check the temperature that gave me my love of boxes. And I've been painting them ever since. Especially music systems.

Of course it was the actual boxes themselves I first painted. I didn't like covering them in fancy papers or sticky-back plastic; I liked making them look like paintings. I think I was influenced as a kid by the Bloomsbury crowd but as I didn't own my own house that I could turn into an artwork (earlier attempts when two and three years old were seriously frowned upon by parents who did own the house) I had only my toy box to paint. So I did.


Growing into my teens I drew my mono transistor Grundig radio over and over again. It mesmerized me. In fact that reminds me - I need to draw it again.

Music Systems

Most of the world I see as cuboids, and I'm sorry to say but that excites me. Especially music systems. Don't get me wrong - I like cardboard boxes as much as the next man, but those metal and plastic box shaped things that play music on vinyl, tape, CD, and thin air in the case of a tuner, - perfection. What Cezanne was doing seeing cones and spheres in the world as well as cubes I don't know, for all I can see is cuboids - and none more perfect than those that produce music. The cones and spheres are just slightly malformed cuboids. When you love boxes, you too will see this way.

Tuners, Amplifiers, Speakers and Graphic Equalizers

Maybe it's because they house all these other little cuboid and round shapes with all the buttons and indicators. Maybe it's because they have wires going in, and wires going out, that makes them alive in that Mary Shelley kind of way. Morandi may have painted bottles and glasses and whatever for his entire life, but tuners, amplifiers, speakers, and oh my word, graphic equalizers, is where it's at. How do you explain a love?

Pioneer as Aiwa

In truth I prefer nothing better than a brand new system. Why? Because then you get the cardboard box that houses it also. I paint those boxes still, but I'm long past my Bloomsbury phase. For a long number of years now I paint boxes so they look exactly like they looked before I painted them. I paint the words THIS SIDE UP over the words THIS SIDE UP, and I paint plain brown cardboard ochre with some raw sienna. In more recent years of course boxes have a tendency to come in all kinds of colors with pictures even, so I paint them too. For a while about a decade ago I experimented with painting boxes that had housed Pioneer systems as if they had housed Aiwa systems, but I was the only one who found it funny so I stopped. Not that anybody finds painting them exactly the same as they already are funny - but neither do I, so that's just fine.

Rack Systems and Midis

It's the systems all stacked that I love painting pictures of, ideally not quite square to each other. That's where Midi systems when they came out messed with my head a little. They were just too perfect. Though as still lifes go they were great for their buttons and indicating lights and displays. The bigger rack systems that slotted into units didn't make for great paintings either. And they all tended to be the same brand, all Sony or Sanyo, like a deciduous forest of one tree type.

D-I-Y Systems

Do it yourself systems is what I mostly love to paint. Painting a Nad amplifier sitting on top - though a little bit off, of course - of a Marantz equalizer which in turn is almost square on top of a Sharp tuner and beside them stacked unevenly a Sony CD player underneath a Technica turntable and beside a Bose speaker. Still life. Forget that Dutch nonsense of silver dishes reflecting dead pheasants and skulls. Paint boxes. Paint paintings of boxes and paint the boxes themselves.

Until Death and Beyond

Me, I collect every box I ever see. Well, I don't really - that would make a trip to the grocery store either illegal or impractical - but I do collect a lot. And I never throw one away. I love them. And look at it this way; some people love motorbikes - they may even be rich enough to own more than one, like some people collect mugs - but how many people do you know who when they died got to get buried on a motorbike or in a mug?

Boxes. My art. My life. My death.

Paul Dorrell says:

[no loves] will ever die, since I don't feel that real love ever does, despite the inevitable flaws that those loves may have had.


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