The 20th Century Bottle Cult

Welcome to the first ever Mumble ART-icle. The twenty-first century is trundling along nicely, thank-you very much, everybody is buzzing off the way social media & its connected devices have become our new brains, the way Burnley Football Club are firmly established in the Premier league, & also the way some things never change. Among these are the artistic aesthetics of a number of drink bottles established deep into the previous century, which this little article will be taking a look at forthwith. These drinks were essentially icons to be worshipped, & the idea then, as now, is to manipulate the public into buying said products with a certain sense of sleek, hypnotizing familiarity. Art sells, & of course, helps to sell.


COCA-COLA

The tooth-rotting recipe of Coca-Cola was born in the days of snake-oil, quack medicine & hucksters peddling patent remedies at travelling fairs. It would eventually become institutionalized in America, & then the world, whose most endearing legacy would be to change from green to red the clothing of Father Christmas in an early advertising campaign.

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In 1915, they created the iconic glass Contour Bottle, which was designed to help Coca‑Cola stand out from other drinks at the time. The design brief was to ensure that the bottle was recognisable even in the dark. The bottle evolved thro’ the century, from its prim neolithic phase, thro’ the full-blooded Mae West curves of the 1920s, to their anti-buxom slenderization suggested by Raymond Loowy in the 50s. And sure, there’s nothing like holding a chilled bottle of coke on a hot day, when the anticipation of opening it & quaffing the sparkling remedy is a quasi-sexual experience.


GROLSCH

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The Dutch brewery, Grolsch, is over four centuries old. On entering the twentieth century, a certain company boss called Theo de Groen introduced the flip-top, or Quillfeldt stopper (after the inventor, Charles de Quillfeldt). The mouth of the bottle is sealed by a stopper, usually made of porcelain or plastic, fitted with a rubber gasket and held in place by a set of wires. The bottle can be opened and resealed repeatedly and without the use of a bottle opener, with the wires acting in the same way as a latch clamp. By the 1920s, almost everybody else in the brewery world began using the crown-top to bottle their beers, but Grolsch stuck to the flip-top & you’ve gotta admit, its a funky thing still. The bottles are useful to, in the 80s the cool kids threaded the bottle-tops thro’ their laces, while the rubber gaskets are used sometimes by guitarists as an improvised straplock. The bottle itself is also a triumph of the glass-blowers art, with its proper fancy insignia.


PERRIER WATER

Perrier sells over a billion bottles of water a year, a large part of which is down to the familiarity of its bottle & its Art Nouveau-style logo, which ooze a seductive & stylish freshness for the thirsty. This quintessentially French objet d’art owes its fame to an Englishman, actually, St John Harmsworth. It all began at Les Bouillens, in Languedoc, whose natural spring had been used as a spa since Roman times. Local doctor Louis Perrier bought the spring in 1898 and operated a commercial spa there; he also bottled the naturally carbonated water which bubbled to the surface.

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Enter Francophile Sir St John Harmsworth, a younger brother of publishing magnates Lord Rothermere and Lord Northcliffe, who bought the company from Dr Perrier & placed the water in the distinctively tapering bottle. It was modelled on a club-shape Harmsworth had seen out East, where he used to swing Indian clubs to exercise. Through his marketing efforts, the water was exported to all corners of the British Empire and also became popular with the Royal Family. Following the Second World War, Perrier was re-acquired by the French, & using chic advertising helped position the brand as desirable at a time when many people still thought that it was crazy to pay money for something you could get for free from a tap.


NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE

Newcastle Brown Ale, fondly nicknamed ‘Broon Dog,’ is a dusty throwback to a long-departed age, long before the homegenous & homegenized paradise of shopping malls & fast-food outlets that mark our modern world. In 1924 a gentleman called Colonel Porter came up with the recipe for the North East’s most famous tipple, who said of his potent new concoction: “We tried for a long time, all ends up. I wanted something different but not far too strong. No one was allowed to mention what was going on, but we varied it so much that few really knew.”

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The brand should have been killed off in the 1960s, but managed to cling to life long enough to become fashionable once more, thro’ its strong indivuality, distinctive flavour & of couse its unique bottle.  The key to this bottle is less its shape & more its big, brashy blue star on the packaging which stands out a mile. Introduced in 1928, the year after the beer was launched, & while Newcastle United were champions for the England for the last time; the five points of the star represent the five founding breweries of Newcastle. By the late 1990s the beer was the most widely distributed alcoholic product in the UK & as the 2000s dawned, there were huge sales in the United States where fans included Dirty Harry star Clint Eastwood who said it was his favourite beer – all down, one expects, to that shiny blue star!

Damian Beeson Bullen

Nick Cave: Until

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3 Aug – 25th Nov 2019
Time: 12.00pm – 5.00pm
Free – Drop-in – no ticket required
Closed Mondays


Chicago based artist Nick Cave (not the Australian musician) known for his wearable sculptures named ‘Soundsuits’ that hide the race, colour, gender and class of their wearer has now expanded his already mammoth practice by filling the main Tramway gallery with crystal chandeliers and ornaments in his ‘crystal cloudscape’,a weird smiley face and the word POWER on the beaded cliff wall and the majority of the space a kinetic spinner forest comprised of laser cut steel. Referencing Mardi Gras parades as well as shamanism and drag queens Cave has been collecting his culture junk and racist tat for around a decade to turn into his crystal cloudscape which is perched atop four brightly painted yellow ladders that the audience is invited to climb up.

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Eclecticism on steroids, this massive array of gutterchunder boldly addresses political themes such as gun culture – 16,000 windspinners weighed down with huge circles of metal,17 cast-iron lawn jockeys and 1 crocodile to name a fraction of the thousands of objects carefully choreographed/arranged all beg the artist’s question which is , ‘Is there rascism in heaven?’ His windspinners have guns precision cut into the steel , some painted bright colours ,others glinting their steely rawness. Other windspinners contain bullets, targets and teardrops.An exhibition that is mesmerizing in its volume and fun in its maximalism

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This exhibition reminded me of Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Weather Project’ from The Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall Unilver series sixteen years ago.Though much more minimalist in execution, Eliassson wanted to bring a part of London’s weather system into the building, recreating a unique feeling of warmth unexperienced in such a vast concrete space, so much so that onlookers were sunbathing in the artificial light.Here, at the Tramway, Cave has reinvented all his spending sprees in antique junk shops and brought his cloud into a similar vast environment.This juxtaposition is interesting because Cave’s cloud has the opulence of the upper (class) echelons of the business world and high class living literally supporting the cheap ornaments and Mark Twain Negro memorabilia of the 19th century America. Whether this was intended by the artist or not , it is thoughtprovoking none the less.

Clare Crines

Into Me See

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Group exhibition
4 Rogart Street, Glasgow
August 19th – September 1st 2019


Crestlink Developments (a father and son family enterprise) own a six acre development in Glasgow’ s fast expanding east end. Minutes from Bridgeton train station this multifaceted complex has a bright white contemporary art space and cafe on the ground floor with thirty one luxurious studio spaces on the first floor with communal kitchen and shower facilities. Next floor up is plush office spaces where offices can be rented as well as hot desks.

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Lorna Mulhern – “Untitled” Fine Liners on Cartridge Paper, NFS

I met Gary Gardner at the reception desk and he showed me around the 3 floors. Since 2018 this cafe/art space has been offered to artists for free to exhibit the fruits of their practices. April last year saw the launch of their thriving exhibition venue with Myra Ostacchini ‘Readdressing The Thread Works.’ Currently Ostacchini’s social enterprise upcycles textiles and sells the resulting bags at her Edinburgh festival stall .

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Wouda Thompson – Plant-based Psychedelia Part I £200

I was there to see the latest installation at 4 Rogart Street  which is the culmination of a trio of fine artists – Wouda Thompson, Lorna Mulhern and Leo Sarkisyan. ‘Into Me See’ explores spirituality and positive vibrations. In their own words they summize,

“We believe that embracing negativity adds weight and meaning to low frequencies, causing them to multiply. Instead of actively engaging in it, we choose to acknowledge this energy objectively as the facilitator of light. Our vision is of intimacy and truth. With the abundance of available information, it is up to us to sift through it, show our own reality and find the strength and innovation to make the changes we want to see in the world.”

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“Untitled” Fine Liners on Cartridge Paper, NFS
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Wouda Thompson – “Untitled” Charcoal on Watercolour Paper £75

Mulhern’s two drawings were meticulous in their execution. Fine pen work reminiscent of Frida Khalo’s vibrant colour palette mixed with the seductiveness of Georgia O’keeffe’s flower paintings all intermingle on her main subject matter- a fox,an owl and a rabbit. Mulhern expertly shows the internal and external together removing the boundaries of form and showing the life within. Four dandelion seeds hover below the head of her rabbit straying from the dandelion clock placed in the heart region of her glorious bunny. They relate to the seeds of spiritual growth. There are five smaller formed baby rabbits drawn into her womb, all vying for the viewers attention. But it is the way Mulhern portrays the animal’s fur that is worth the one stop train journey from Glasgow Argyle street low-level to Bridgeton.

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Wouda Thompson – Three small untitled paintings £50 each, painting on the right of the photo: Plant-based Psychedelia Part II £200
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Leo Sarkisyan – “Thought Process” Hand Printed Cyanotypes on Heavyweight Cartridge Paper, £50 each

A series of 8 cyanotype prints by Leo Sarkisyan explore man and material. What seems to be material used for cross stitching but is actually a mesh, Sarkisyan explores different bodily stances and seems to be in various states of consciousness in each piece. From caught in the headlights to hiding from the bright light Sarkisyan’s self-portraits seem to be trying to free himself from the rigidity of the oppressive fabric that he has been trapped and ensnared in within the top four works. The four below, also deep cobalt blue, see some freeing of the torso and finally the arm breaks free from its confines. PHEW.

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Wouda Thompson – “Untitled” Pastels on Watercolour Paper £75

Finally Thompson recreates home scenes with plants on furniture playfully disregarding perspective in her floorboard pastel. She oscillates between oil paints and pastels and her colours though bright and cheerful at first glance take on a more menacing glow as the viewer makes their way along her streamlined works. This exhibition is well worth seeing and most of the works are for sale. Prices on request.

Clare Crines

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