Malaga Graffiti

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Graffiti is I completely appreciate a controversial art form (and there will some who will not view it as art but simple vandalism) but for me there has always been a place outside of the organised art spaces for other creativity to break out.  When I was in Malaga recently as well as visiting some fantastic galleries I couldn’t help  but notice, and be blown away, by the graffiti that was all around the area I was staying in.  At first I just noticed the odd piece but then began to realise there was more and more of it.  I loved the piece at the top, an unknown artist painting on a Jackson Pollock.  Look at the pot of paint which contains his Pollock paint, I couldn’t help but smile at this.

I came across skulls, lizards, rats, random bits and pieces, some small and some huge taking up the entire side of buildings.  Lots os the shops that had shutters down in the evening had taken up the graffiti theme and had their business spray painted on the shutters.  Check out the cheeky barber.  After I’d been in the city a couple of days I was walking back to the hotel when I looked up and saw this incredible Raven like bird on the side of a building out of which flew a host of smaller birds flying across the neighbouring wall.  I was completely transfixed by this, totally amazing.  Whilst I’m sure some people will disagree with this, for me this graffiti art added a real flavour to the city and there was some amazing talent on display.

 

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Bike Story

 

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I make no apologies that at the moment this blog is having it’s fair share of bike related posts because as well as my riding and the Tour hitting town in a little over a week’s time there are literally stacks of art and cultural bike related events happening using the tour as a catalyst – there are 48 events in Leeds over the next week alone.  Alongside the headline Yorkshire Festival stuff there are all sorts of other smaller events taking place.  This is never going to happen again here so I’m determined to make the most of it.

Tonight I went along to Bike Story by 509Arts which was an outside show featuring bike stories, our bike stories.  People have been submitting their memories and stories and these were then brought to life by the three actors into a one hour show of history, nostalgia, memories and humour celebrating how bikes have been intertwined in our lives even if you may now no longer ride one.  Most of us can remember learning to ride a bike, those first wobbly moments of freedom with parent or older sibling puffing along beside you encouraging you to keep pedalling while you shouted at them to keep holding on.

This heartfelt moment was of course replayed beautifully but there were many others, from an aid worker borrowing a local kids bike to set a strava king of the mountain time in a war zone, a lonely single man riding around on his tandem after a breakup of his relationship which had initial started after their bikes had been locked to each others, someone who’d lost 16 stone through cycling and wondered if he could ride 100 miles to his girlfriends house, the first British man to complete the Tour de France, bumps and scrapes, a fatality, charging down hills and puffing up them, Christmas presents, Birthday presents, hand me downs were all played out as a revolving patchwork of bikes and memories.

These stories were intertwined with our own which we’d been asked to scribble down and hand in before the show started and I found myself transported back to my early wobbles as one of the older kids in the village had been tasked with getting me riding for ‘Bob a Job Week’ .  I feel very fortunate in that as I cycle most days I’m constantly refreshing the memory bank with new stories some of which, like Monday’s ride, link me straight back through time to my younger self.

All that life is was on display tonight, our hopes and dreams, fears and failures, loves and losses but all told with heartfelt whimsy from the saddle and the moral of the bike story – just keep pedalling.

Ride like when you were a kid

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When I was a kid I used to get in from school and if not going out playing footy or some other sport I’d go for a ride on my bike, this was pre mountain bike days and the whole bmx scene passed my little village by so I’d go out on my ‘racer’ or road bike as they are now know.  I had no particular specialist equipment and just rode my bike on a ten mile loop round the lanes.  I might if I could remember put a puncture kit in my pocket but that was it, can’t ever remember even putting a water bottle in the cage.  Of course this approach changed for longer excursions but for the after school ride it was just get on the bike and go for a ride.

Nowadays I seem to find myself packing as if I’m going on a major expedition when I go out and sometimes the logistics of getting a ride sorted can itself feel like planning a journey to some far flung region of the globe.  I am particularly bad and stuff all sorts into my backpack, just in case, even though I don’t know how to use half of the stuff that’s in there.  To this end I’ve gone to a much smaller pack to restrict what I can take but still seem to carry a lot.

Tonight I decided to ride like I was a kid again, an hour loop on trails as opposed to roads near my house.  The bike may be different but the approach was the same.  I packed nothing, no backpack, no water, no tools, no pump, no kit.  Just mobile (didn’t have them of course when I was a kid) and some cash in case I stopped at a pub.  It felt incredibly liberating and of course if I did have a mechanical I was never more than a couple of miles from the house.  I know this is not the approach to take really but tonight it felt right and I remembered what it was like to be 15 and free.

Cyclism

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The cracking ever changing exhibitions at Leeds Gallery has this week seen the gallery go all things bike for their Cyclism show which brings together a collection of design, graphics, film, bikes, photography in a delightful mix of art and design centred around the bike.  There is some delightful work that has been produced for the exhibition (all of which is available to buy) together with some great cycling jerseys and bikes hanging down from the roof.  I’m not a huge fan of the whole fixie scene but I must admit the Colnago is a fantastic looking machine that I’d happily enjoy learning how to master riding fixed on.  There is also some beautiful old footage that you can sit down and watch with a coffee from Cafe 164 next door.  Whether you like bikes, bike art or just great graphics pop down, the exhibition runs through till the end of July.

Morvelo City Cross 3 – Leeds – The Snail races again

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Trumpets, cowbells, cheers, beers, thrills, spills, music, laughter, beards, baldies, fat bikes, thin bikes, mountain bikes, cross bikes, single speeds, bananaman and a werewolf were all present as the third iteration of the Morvelo City Cross concept hit the mean streets of Leeds.  Never mind the Tour de France, Holbeck Urban Village surely hosted the most fun bike racing that Leeds will see this year, all thanks to Emma Osenton and her mighty crew of helpers and sponsors.

As regular readers of this blog and my projectsnail idea will know I’m no racer and have no ambitions to be but I made my debut at City Cross 2 and seeing as City Cross 3 was basically a roll down the hill from my house I thought it would have been rude not to have another go.  This is racing Jim but not as we know it and while there were some very keen bees riding, plenty were there for the fun and I found it a very inclusive, supportive and encouraging event.  Yes I’m way out of my comfort zone doing these events but there are times in your life when you need to do that and in doing so you will be richly rewarded, City Cross delivers on this for me big style.

As I rode down to the event I reflected on my hydration preparation the night before and as I peered through the fog of a hangover realised I might have been a tad too enthusiastic and the thought of a hard physical effort ahead made me feel, well a bit nauseous to be honest.  I was really intrigued however on how the course was going to be laid out as it was in a part of Leeds I know well owing to the cracking nearby pubs and I wondered how Emma was going to shoehorn a race circuit into the streets, alleys, ginnels, cobbles and courtyards that surround them.

Before I knew it I was going to find out as I lined up for the novice race start.  It had been mentioned by my garagebikes colleagues that I had looked terrified before City Cross 2, that was because I was so this time while very nervous I didn’t feel quite as scared – I’d ridden the warm up lap and was confident of getting round.  Whistle goes and we’re off swooping into the main arena, missing the traffic bollard (phew) to the sound of The Smiths (nice one Brant) and as I got into the swing of things I decided to put my race strategy into action.  This was to ride as hard as I could, smile when not grimacing, physically stop every lap for a beer break (yes beer is kindly supplied to riders who want it – and why wouldn’t you?) and to get to the end without being lapped by a fellow garage bikes rider.  There were a good chunk of us in the race all fiercely contesting the #raceyourmates race within a race category which gave a prize to the fastest lap from among your club / mates at any time during any race of the day.

Slow I may be and undoubtedly looked but I was burying myself and legs were screaming after a couple of laps but on the plus side I’d not vomited on the course.  I was wearing my Snail from South Wales shirt in the first race and Brant kindly gave me a shout out on the mic as I rode back into the main section, this happened throughout the day with kind encouragement from him such as ‘come on Ian the bloke in front only has one gear you can catch him’ and other helpful hints while all the time keeping the tunes spinning.

I totally loved the course, it was so weird to ride in this way around areas I know so well and to swoop into courtyards of the Midnight Bell and the Crosskeys with spectators lapping up beers and racing felt amazing.  My weapon of choice for the event was a Kinesis Pro6 kindly lent to me by Sarah (the not so silent partner of garagebikes) and even in my prosaic hands the bike felt fantastically agile and was a joy to ride the event on.  I may not have looked it but I felt like a proper rider out there, leaning into the corners, swooping and flowing, flying off the steps, flicking round the tight bends all the time inches away from the concrete edges.  It felt incredible, I was completely buzzing and it was unlike anything I’ve experienced before.  As I approached the final bend my race objective was in sight, behind me though breathed Chewie, he took the berm whilst I attempted to hold the inside line but Chewie went by me over the top on the line and went on to take the garagebikes race your mates fastest lap time.

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After a short while recovering with a few beers I entered the last chance saloon race for all those knocked out of the earlier motos.  a mighty herd of us set out, this time with me resplendent in full orange garagebikes kit.  This race there were no beer stops so I just had to keep riding as hard as I could until I finished shattered, gasping for air but utterly exhilarated before then taking up the cowbells to cheer on the riders in the finals.  Special mention must go to all who supported the event, I personally recieved lots of shout outs (thanks to Timothy Pulleyn for doing this every lap) and of course my garagebikes mates who supported from the barriers and from within the race itself.  Of course the biggest thanks must go to Emma and all who made it happen.

I’ve tried to describe the race but Timothy Pulleyn (thebrokenline) filmed a lap from the handlebars so strap in and take a ride:

 

Here’s a fab video highlight of the event (however note the amateur nature of the riders failing to stop and enjoy their beer – shocking behaviour).

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proof that I did put some effort in

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I watch all the riders vanish into the distance

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On the charge (ramp)

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The garage bikes crew – top day out and a very handsome devil in model pose

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Remember I mentioned there were fatbikes and Werewolves

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Thanks to the following photographers for the photos on this post:

Joolze Dymond – flickr of garagebikes day out  and official photos from the event to purchase here

Stuart Petch – flickr of day here and website here

Jack Chevell – flickr of day here and website here 

 

El Roto – Apocalipsis

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I was incredibly fortunate on my recent visit to Malaga to come across two of the best art exhibitions I’ve ever seen at the fantastic Centre for Contemporary Art.  I’ve already written up my thoughts on KAWS – Final Days but capping that was the astonishing Apocalipsis by El Roto which was one of the most powerful, thought provoking reflective exhibitions I’ve ever seen.  El Roto is one of Spain’s most important sartirical cartoonists, born Andres Rabago in Madrid in 1947, he has undergone various name changes but creats cartoons on a daily basis over many years that look at the human condition in a world of perpetual conflict that act as a moral compass to Spain’s history and politics.

Apocalipsis was based around the sequences in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal involving a game of chess between a crusader knight and death for the knight’s life.  271 cartoons were organised in four sections, each section containing 64 pieces (the same number of squares on a chess board) with the sections linked by chess knights and then a final selection of ten cartoons called epilogue depicting the end of the battle / conflict perhaps?  Each of the sections / boards had a theme – Ecology, Economy, Science and Violence.

Each picture was very simple with a minimum of colour used but the individual and collective power of each of the sections was truly remarkable.  Across the boards the economic and political problems of Spain (and the wider world?) were played out in starkly effective terms, immigration, war, ecology, famine, corruption, capitalism, religion, consumerism, politics, human relations, multi media, health, education and unemployment all featured but El Roto appeared to be pointing a way out of a worn out corrupt system in which we live.  Even with only about 4 words of Spanish in my vocabulary I was able to interpret the art even if I could not translate all of what was being said in some of the pictures.  I would have thought that for the Spanish audience this exhibition must have been nothing short of incendiary.

It’s very difficult to capture the scale of each of the boards here but to be able to drift round them, immerse yourself in the story that El Roto was trying to tell and reflect upon it was a brilliant experience.  To think that after I’d see this I turned a corner into the KAWS exhibition and you can perhaps understand what a fantastic overall experience this was.

Perhaps the final world should be left to El Roto “What my cartoons aim to show is not so much an attitude of despair but an indication of errors committed and thus the possibility of correcting them”.

And the roads were paved with ….

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When you visit somewhere new your eyes tend to focus upwards at the architecture around you which gives you a flavour of the history, style, and beauty (or otherwise) or a place.  This is of course perfectly natural but perhaps taking the time to focus down at the ground under your feet provides another interesting sense of place as after all the buildings around you are built from the ground up so perhaps the ground can also tell a story.

I started thinking about this as I walked up the main shopping street in Malaga recently and became aware of the smoothness of the surface, looking down I noticed that the street was made up of the most beautifully polished stone flags, so smooth they were almost marble like.  For me this gave the whole street a real feeling of decadence, then at the end of the street as I walked into Constitution Square I noticed the paving changing to sumptuous burnt red that was so inviting I slipped my shoes off to feel the smoothness and warmth on my feet.  Now I’ve never done this before but they just looked so inviting to walk on and they were spotlessly clean as I found out they they are all hosed down each morning (creating a very slippy surface for a short while if you happen to be up).

The more I walked around the city the more I started to notice the different stone patterns, all carefully selected and laid out.  There seemed to be a real history to this as underneath the Picasso museum there are some small remains from the Phoenician times and you can see careful stonework making up the street which is replicated through to the Roman and Moorish remains around the city. This trend appears to have carried through to the modern day and it made my think that anywhere that takes this much care over where we place our feet has got something going for it.  Have a look around your own area next time you are walking around and see what the paving etc might tell you.