This is a film about Austin Osman Spare, perhaps the greatest artist ever to be ignored / overlooked / considered too weird by mainstream art history. Spare’s work embraced religion, the occult, sex, magic, atavisms, ghosts and cockneys in ways never fully understood, or adequately appreciated.
It doesn’t have a title, yet.
What it does have, and is gaining more of (perhaps as you read this) is footage of Spare’s extraordinary artistic works along with the South East London urban sprawl that he made his home, plus interviews with foremost authorities / experts / fanatics.
Discovering Spare is one of the most rewarding art appreciation experiences there is. When completed this film will stand as a pretty good first step on that journey.
With Alan McGee it’s difficult not to be inspired to go out and do something great, something daring, like he did with Creation Records and Poptones and all the bands whose music defines the past 3 decades. His infectious energy glows and inspires, it fills you with his rich enthusiasms for life.
Just now McGee seems to be everywhere: he is making a film called Kubricks with the artist Dean Cavanagh; he’s writing his memoirs; he’s curating a music festival in Japan for 2013; he’s working on an art exhibition with musician Alex Lowe of Gun Club Cemetery; he’s thinking about returning to making records because most of today’s music is “awful”; and he’s also studying Aleister Crowley and Magick.
‘For the last 5 years, I have been studying Crowley / Osman Spare and the Chaos Magickians. I got into Crowley because everybody told me not to go there so, of course, I did and ended up at Chaos Magick.
‘I 100% love Aleister Crowley. The Book of the Law is my Bible. I love him. Anybody that is still demonised by the media seventy years later had to be on it and he was. He was the ultimate libertarian.
‘I believe in the power of will. If I want something to happen it does. It always has and that was before I read Pete J Carroll. I really wanted Creation Records to become massive and to get the biggest band in the world and I did.
‘I wanted to become rich and I did, which sounds crass but I come from Glasgow we had fuck all, so having money interested me and still does.
‘If I really want something it comes to me. That was before I learned you can do it with technique, we all can read the right books and be very accurate in what I want to achieve.
This might sound like arrogance, but it’s not. It’s just said in a matter-of-fact way, without any sense of ego.
‘I am almost a hermit in Wales, then I go and DJ or give a talk or work with Takashi, my Japanese friend on Tokyo Rocks and I become the old Alan/Rock ‘n’ Roll Alan, which I also enjoy.’
Most recently he bought a church.
‘I bought this chapel in Wales, as all the pubs and churches are for sale, so I bought it for 33K, has its own graveyard, it’s pretty posh, so that should be fun. I live on a ley line in Hay-on-Wye, everything that happens here is charged. The chapel is more for doing stuff that local people can interact with long term. I know Primal Scream want to do playbacks there etc. so, it’s going to be fun.’
Last month he was producing his first feature film Kubricks, written and directed by Dean Cavanagh, starring Joanna Pickering, Matt Berry, Gavin Bain, Anton Newcombe and, of course, McGee.
Dean and Alan became friends around 2008, after working on the hit on-line comedy series Svengali, which has now been made into a movie.
‘We formed Escalier 39 as a film company to shoot some DIY films. We talk a lot on the phone and have a lot of the same political and spiritual views on things so the film company seemed obvious to us. It’s an experiment really, to see if we can make films together.’
He pauses when asked what his role is in Kubricks.
‘Good question. Maybe as agent provacateur.’
Kubricks was shot over an ‘exhausting’ 5 days and is currently being edited. It’s tag-line is ‘Everything Is Synchronicity…Even Chaos!’ and is a new map to the world Kenneth Anger once filmed (‘I love Kenneth Anger…he’s an amazing dude’) of Magick and Art. Though McGee puts it more bluntly:
‘I could say meta-physics, but the truth is we don’t really know, which is why we did it.’
Kubricks will released next year, which brings us to McGee’s next project, his return to music after his “retirement” five years ago, which led him to believe he had given muisc up completely. But the cancer of mediocrity spread by Simon Cowell and the piss-poor quality of current chart music has led McGee to rethink things, especially after an offer to organize music festivals in Japan.
‘Recently I have been helping curate stadium festivals in Tokyo for 2013, and I am enjoying it. So maybe I am moving back towards music. I don’t know, to be honest.
‘I do like films and books more than working with music but I find music easy to do, I sort of understand the music process and always have done.
‘I think music is awful at this point and it’s deliberate. Music is such a strong thing, with the message and the vibration and they want it now to be shit so it loses its impact on people. They are great bands around but they just are basically marginalised till they give in.’
Next up, is an exhibition with Alex Lowe, and another film with Cavanagh set in the recently acquired church..
‘Dean is already writing a script about the chapel, but to be honest we both have too many ideas.’
In this fascinating but (far too) short clip, Alan Moore gives an introduction to the work of artist Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956), who he describes as “one of the most over-looked figures in British art history”. The obituaries for Spare’s death remarked “England had lost one of its best ever nude study artist.” Nearly sixty years after his death, little is known about the artist outside of knowledgeable and specialist circles.
But Spare wasn’t only an incredible artist, as Moore points out, he was also “possibly the greatest English magician of the twentieth century.”
“I think that Magic offers the artist a new way of looking at their consciousness, and of looking at where they get their ideas from.”
Spare was an artistic prodigy, who was the youngest exhibitor at the Royal Academy, London. At the same time, he was developing his own esoteric beliefs, which brought him into contact with Aleister Crowley, and a relationship of sorts began, with Spare contributing illustrations to Crowley’s magazine Equinox. However, the friendship foundered and Spare alluded to Crowley in his book The Book of Pleasure:
“Others praise ceremonial Magic, and are supposed to suffer much Ecstasy! Our asylums are crowded, the stage is over-run! Is it by symbolising we become the symbolised? Were I to crown myself King, should I be King? Rather should I be an object of disgust or pity. These Magicians, whose insincerity is their safety, are but the unemployed dandies of the Brothels.”
Yet Spare did not give up on magic completely, rather he began his own particular mix of “repressed magic”, which fed directly into his art work. Spare became known for his “automatic drawing” - allowing himself to act as a medium to spirits to guide his pencil, creating inter-twined images of figures and faces on a page.
There are many different stories (some more incredible than others) about Spare and his involvement with magic and the spirit world. He was said to have the power of divination and premonition, and could accurately predict events long before they took place. He was also know for his dialog with “spirits” and “demons”, and after a fire at his studio, he fell under a mysterious ailment which left him unable to paint for 5 years.
Spare’s work had some odd admirers, in particular Adolf Hitler, who asked him to paint his portrait. Spare refused believing Hitler to be evil, and if he were a Superman, Spare was claimed to have said in reply, then he would prefer to live as an animal.
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
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