Originally appeared as the foreword to Gordon Fazakerley: Drawings, Poems. Published by Bauhaus Situationniste (1962)
Hamletomania

J°rgen Nash

Do you see yonder a cloud that is almost the shape of a camel?
HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK

There is a savage beast that is the rage in European art.
A savage beast that makes the young painters look alike.
A savage beast that kills the individual artist.
A savage beast that is a labyrinth of convolutions.
A beast in a drunken frenzy who threatens to destroy all forms, all codes.
A God who is a devil and a lightning by which we recognize darkness.
A savage beast who is the two violently opposed forces in the contest between the Dionysian, the aesthetics of ugliness, and the Apollonian, the laws of harmony.
The Dionysian fever is rampant everywhere, from New York, the new Rome, to Tokyo, the new Babylon.
On the side of the anti-romantics we encounter the Homeric naivetÚ, that is to be understood as the perfect victory of the Hamletomania of the Apollonian, which will bring about the downfall of the Titan's Empire and kill the Monster. But like Sisyphus we know that the stone will constantly roll back again, and the fight will begin again. The fight has begun again, the stone is being pushed up again. But not by the King of Corinth.

In the autumn of 1961 and once again in 1962, I visited London to see recent English art, but also to collect information for a book I was writing. It was at that time I met Gordon Fazakerley, at the Institute of Contempo-rary Arts. I had visited the Biennale in Venice in 1960 and had been bored to tears once again by British Art with its everlasting collection of second-hand experience. English Modern Art has an enormous appetite for con-temporary alibis. There was no drunken beast in a frenzy that threatened to destroy all forms and codes. Here ten years ago, when I tried to translate English poetry of my own age, English poetry held a position that was second to none. Now when I return it is a desert. As if an atom bomb had dropped, England was a dehamletized scene. But of course the University snob-class poets were there warbling the Establishment from their State aided ivory towers. Owens unearthed and studied himself. About the art situation now, he said, "From '56 to '58 it seemed that art and the artist had become free, taken wings; with the revolution that came with Pollock it looked as if the chains of abstraction had fallen to the ground. But here we are again wearing our Fathers' old Bowler hats, being served esthetic sandwiches as gentlemen, and playing the old game of follow the hearse. This situation happened after Cubism. Perhaps we are in for another 25 years of Ozenfants and other studio cleaners. I guess these are the commercials for the product no one can make". Then Owens decided to move, to begin the day again, from another spot.

From a Scandinavian viewpoint, European art was surely in a state of decay, the Titans' Empire was at its height, apart from the Kings of Corinth, Dubuffet, Jorn and Carl-Henning Pedersen, when the revolution took place in the States. There the victory of Apollo was understood. The Cobra movement after the war and its fore-runner, the Danish Resistance art magazine, Helhesten, was the preservation of European art, in its darkest hours. When the Dionysian fever was rampant everywhere! Owens was one of the few English artist to have understood what Cobra preserved, and to have understood the lesson of the American Hamlet, Jackson Pollock. Most of the younger English artists are what I call, move-anticipates; they try to think of the next move in the so called Modernism. They play art like chess, they are more at home with a computer than a paint brush, they are never of the two violently opposed forces. This chess-game attitude to life and art is the product of men who can not face the dilemma of modern man - the fighting Sisyphus. Man is a complex functional pattern, but few will face this situation. I think that writers like Almqvist and Strindberg were men who could face this dilemma. Their greatness lies in the fact that they could introduce an absurdity into their illusion and errors. The contradiction of there lives was a Hamietizatlon. They were true Situationists.

To watch Owens paint is to see a battle enacted from the dawn of history, the canvas is attacked as if it were the shield of an enemy warrior. - Wielding the brush as if it were the battle axe of a Celtic warrior, the blows land in a symmetrical pattern on the surface of the shield, rhythmi-cally alternating, constantly rising, writhing and twisting. All the time he is swearing and cursing. The image swearing away from him to the canvas. At other times he lies in ambush for hours, then swoops and the battle is over in a few seconds. Sometimes the battle goes on day and night, the artist and his art Iocked in mortal combat. The studio changes to an arena, then to the Eastern front. Old tubes of paint lie on the floor like shrapnel on the battlefield. The smoke from a thousand cigarette ends curls around the studio like the soul of a dragon. The scene is Stalingrad, Guernica, Dunkirk, Hiroshima. Nothing is standing.

English art has always been provincial in the case of Turner and Constable they were the Fathers of the so called French lmpressionism, for e.g. Delacroix. The English artist has passed for ever through the experience of other artists. Fazakerley is one of the few English artists with a sense of the European, and one of the few who is not on the American aid program. He also has a touch of the poet. Although he is very young, he is no beginner; in 1958 he held a small oneman exhibition at the institute of Contemporary Arts in London. He then withdrew to a self-imposed exile, he vanished. His obscurity is Hamletic. In 1961 he appeared again, not in England, but in Sweden, working with the Bauhaus Situa-tionists. Then followed an exhibition at Gallery Rosander in Landskrona that upset sections of the Swedish press almost to the point of violence. The tradition of neutrality almost came to an end with the touch of a paint brush. - This book of drawings and poems is the result of his contact with the Scandinavian Section of the International Situationists. The avant-garde movement that came into being when, I'lnternationale Lettriste in Paris, the Psychogeograhical Committee of London, and Mouvement international pour on Bauhaus Imaginiste united in 1957.

The combination of painter and poet is not unusual in modern art. It is a duality of communication. Most poets are bloody liars. That is for sure with all this talk about inspiration and magic. The poetic event happens when all other forms of communication break down, an act in the position of total despair. Most poets at this point apply dream lotion to the situ-ation, or tend their brushes with lyrical vagueness or retreat into the state of lyric intoxication. Their corruption has mummified them for posterity. First of his purposes is to kill the dream at its point of application, the poem is for him something that is awake, concrete, not a latent dream moving aimlessly; it is an act in the critical moment, the moment communication breaks down, not a mine of the unconscious. Only the sick have waking dreams.

In the age of the specialist he is a conqueror in the self, the inner world, decoding his fable, his ten thousand influences of different intensity, his consuming greed; the influences are his very universality. He is one of the last anti-professionals of our time. There was never a time till now, when more words than babies were born, we all father more words than children. Joyce was the psychogeographical mile stone on the way to our century that marks this. Fazakerley is concerned with new words and new word formations. Today two words can fall together and make one, one splits to make three, four join to make one. Permutation is the order of the day. His word formation can tyrannize the conventional language experience. The words are situations that permutate into situations. It is characteristic of him to attack the romantics; their enthusiasm was senti-mental. He divided them as one-soul poets, for he believes with Nietzsche that he "is a social structure composed of many souls" who constantly finds himself in exile from his communication, surrounded by his tribe of self-eating selves. It is here that the creative act takes place, as the light in a flame consumes its self. The result is one and the same, sometimes paint, sometimes words, but always Hamletic.

Calligraphy and his sense of the psychogeographical and the ideogram play important parts in his work, arranged to excite the eye, presented directly. The participator can enter the poem without hesitating, thus one of the oldest obstacles that exist between the poem and the participant is removed. He has a good psychogeographical background.

Much English Modern art is a tame domestic, civilised animal; when one sees the Victor Pasmores and British abstractions, one is reminded of the saying "we are all born originals, but if we live long enough we die copies". Art made tongue-tied by authority.

I feel that here is an artist who has no respect for the power elite of the art world.

Gordon Fazakerley's, Paintings, drawings and poems are the two years he spent as a soldier in the R.A.O.C. In the British army, his mountain climbing in the Jotunheimen, plus his marvellous collection of bird songs that he has gathered since childhood; all have developed his Hamlet-omania. There is a savage beast that rages in European art. Sisyphus will never die.

London, February 1962.