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“Fuji” etching by Norman Stevens [Alamy image ref. C2YG5P]

Norman Stevens (b.1937 – d.1988) was a painter and printmaker who attended Bradford Regional College of Art from 1952 to 1957. At the college he led a group of talented painters – David Hockney, David Oxtoby, John Loker, Michael Vaughan and Norman Stevens – dubbed the “Bradford Mafia” by poet and writer Edward Lucie-Smith.

Stevens’ art took a while to settle into a distinctive style, not fitting into the neat categories of commercial or “pop art”. After completing his art school training at Bradford College of Art he took up a career teaching at Manchester College of Art (where I studied in the early 1960s under Liverpool pop-poet Adrian Henry). In 1973 he took the leap and gave up teaching to earn his living by painting alone, but died of cancer at the early age of 51.

I can only find a poor reproduction of this etching entitled “Fuji” on the internet linked to “The Secret Intelligence Service, Vauxhall Cross, Albert Embankment” where the series must hang on it’s walls somewhere within the building.  I have all six of the series “Sites and Sight” which include China Wall, Easter Island, Fuji, Mount Etna, Palenque, and Pyramid – which I bought from Christie’s Contemporary Art, London, in 1974. The Tate Gallery has eighteen Norman Stevens works in it’s permanent collection, but not including any from this series… so perhaps they are to be found in his collections with the V&A or the MOMA, New York.

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft) and is an active strato-volcano that last erupted in 1707–08. Mount Fuji lies about 100 kilometres (62 miles) south-west of Tokyo and can be seen from there on a clear day. Mount Fuji’s exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs. There is a well-known Japanese saying which suggests that anybody would be a fool not to climb Mount Fuji once – but a fool to do so twice.

The RM image was licensed by Alamy for reproduction to illustrate editorial material in a 25,000 print-run bi-monthly magazine in the United States under my “Beaux Arts” pseudonym.

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Splash of Color. [Alamy image ref. BJ2PWA]

Some readers may cursorily regard the above image as equal in content to the piles of rubbish and muddy traces of waste seen in the previous two articles. Well, each to his own… but as is also often said… beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

I sort-of remember doing this piece of artwork at college in Manchester but am unsure of the exact year – which reminds me of the old saying, “If you can remember the sixties you weren’t really there!” One of my tutors was the late Liverpool Pop artist and poet Adrian Henri who encouraged “free expression” with one’s hands, body and mind, with media from tubes of paint to events or “happenings”.

At the time another particularly admired artist was Jackson Pollock, the American abstract expressionist action painter, whose dribble paintings were held in awe, by many students, as much as his alcohol-related car accident which killed him at the early age of 44 only a decade before. A Pollock painting currently holds the world record for the most expensive piece of art – “No. 5, 1948” was sold privately to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in 2006 for US$140 million!

My cut as a repro fee for my own abstract art was about a millionth of the Pollock amount… but a welcome sum nevertheless as it had remained hidden in my college artwork portfolio for almost 45 years until I decided to take a few photos of the contents on the off-chance – a very small chance – such an abstract image would be used when, and this was the mental argument that stopped me doing it before, it would have been in competition for reproduction in the media with works by many famous artists from Picasso to Pollock whose artwork is available free for publishing from many museum and gallery sources.

The above piece measures 30 x 20 inches and was created in less than 5 minutes using blue and white gouache paints, a palette knife and some Pollock style dribbling. If news of this gets out to the wide world… I can be contacted for a private sale subject to negotiations. It could be a good investment… you never know… one day I’ll be dead… and dead artists appreciate faster than live ones!

Licensed by Alamy under my “Ed Buziak” pseudo (I have less than 100 images under my own name from more than 8,000 images in total on Alamy) for a 5-year license world-wide as textbook editorial print (and e-book) inside 1 page.

French postage stamps by artist Ben [Alamy image ref: B11445]

I saved this block of modern French stamps from a package that had arrived in the post with the intention of bundling them with other foreign envelope clippings and selling them as a cheap lot on eBay. What caught my eye though, was the simple graphic hand-written style message by French artist Ben which read, “ceci est une invitation”(‘this is an invitation’) in strong red on yellow… which struck me as an interesting graphic message in itself with some sales potential.

My used block was large enough to have included almost two dozen stamps… but I framed the item through my 55mm Nikkor macro lens and gradually closed-in so the graphic message was stronger. Tilting the camera about 15 degrees from the horizontal produced a more dynamic feeling – and the postal cancels in each corner added balance and framing.

Similar ‘messages’ from Ben, in the same quick, hand-written style appear on many French items, especially exercise writing books for the younger generation… so there is obviously an attraction for this art-form as well as a recognized and growing market.

Many non-French readers here will probably not be aware of Ben, so I include some info and a bio from Wikipedia… Ben Vautier (born on July 18, 1935 in Naples, Italy), also known simply as Ben, is a French artist whose official web site (in French) is at http://www.ben-vautier.com/

Vautier lives and works in Nice, where he ran a record shop called Magazin between 1958 and 1973. He discovered Yves Klein and the Nouveau Réalisme in the 1950s, but he became quickly interested in the French dada artist Marcel Duchamp, the music of John Cage and joined the Fluxus artistic movement in the 1960s. In 1959, Vautier founded the journal Ben Dieu. In 1960, he had his first one-man show, Rien et tout in Laboratoire 32.

He is also active in Mail-Art and is mostly known for his text-based paintings – and examples of the latter include “L’art est inutile. Rentrez chez vous” (Art is Useless, Go Home)… and the 2004 postage stamp design above.

My image was licensed by Alamy as a 1/4-page reproduction to a school/college textbook publisher in the Netherlands for a 5-year period… and for a fee many times the original cost of the stamps from the post office. So it’s worth stopping to think about the visual aspects of throwaway items and ephemera and making a few exposures… it may surprise you when such an image is used in such a completely unexpected way!

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