Death of the High Street

Death of the High Street

The toppled torso
tired and torn
lay in the Church Street window
Snapshot of fallen glory
now in tired languor
seeking to hide from view
attempting to forget its past 
Once peacock proud
And prettified
Embellished and brocaded
Bedecked in yesterday’s mode
Reduced now to a fallen dusted death
Memento Mori
Of yet another High Street death

My Chinese Mudmen




Death brought to Life  –
here lies
the ambiguity

Wrought by ancient toil
hands in the dirt
my Men of Clay
contemplative figures
moulded figurines
idle idols
progenitors of
Gormley’s Field
still still
after all these years

The thoughts
of uncounted
peasant potters
death to life
life to death
the artisan’s role
a messy resurrection
now paraded
amongst my books
in my own milieu
a lesson
for my assimilation

Dead as the earth is dead
alive as the wet oriental soil
of their conception
the kiln heat
of their birth

Chilling sentiment
glazed eyes recalling
the potter’s hands
remembering the gnarled
and knotted tension
in their birth

The hope of yesterday
the stillness of today
The meaning of tomorrow



For many centuries Chinese artisans have created clay figurines to accompany their miniature bonsai gardens and aquaria. Such miniature landscape creations were known as Pen’Jing.  These artefacts were individually created by hand from local clays and fired with a low temperature lead glaze, usually in green, blue or yellow.  Faces, hands and feet were often left unglazed, allowing the natural colour of the mud to show.  Such small-scale figurines were generally termed Mudmen.  They were made in many village farming communities when,  following the rice harvest, and the onset of the dry season, locals turned to the production of figures using the local clay. They were often of standing or seated fishermen, mystics, musicians, occasionally women, sages and old wise men, holding books, axes, flutes, scrolls, pots, fish and other objects in common use often of some mystical importance.

Over subsequent years such objects became of importance, particularly following the European fashion of seeking out oriental pottery and sculptural artefacts.  The genuinely old and individually hand-made mudmen figurines are nowadays highly sought after and fetch high market prices.  In more recent years however, modern versions of these mudmen figurines, which most, if not all, of those in my photographs are, have been mass produced and are not of any great value.


Gwen JOHN – Rodin’s stalker

RODIN-Winged Victory-Model-Gwen John

‘Winged Victory – sculpture by Auguste Rodin… modelled by Gwen John

Gwen JOHN – Rodin’s stalker

sucked into his circle
seduced by his attention
the youthful innocent
flattered and captured
by his reputation
the innocent ingénue
her youthful innocence
to his gnarled advances
an old cracked vase

now linked
to her driven impulsion
her aroused possessiveness
his fate
brought upon himself
his penance for taking her
in her prime
using her
then when she had fully succumbed
to his ardour
discarding her like a broken vase herself
now he was reaping the seed he had sown
being punished in his decrepitude
by her youthful zest
her constant attentions
her clinging ardour
demanding and draining
pressing constantly for his attention
now enfeebling him
the shards of his desire
scattered on the potters floor
Winged Victory de-flowered
disposed of
its remnants scattered
as so many others
the artist’s detritus
swept into a corner of his studio
to take their place
alongside those other rejected manikins
all now redundant.

she became the stalker
the stalker stalked
the predator compromised by his own lust
and trapped in his rapacious past
impotent now and fearful
his winged victory over her
turned turtle
finally repaid
by her triumph over him
resolved only
at his death

Gwen John (1876-1939) , sister of the renowned Welsh painter, Augustus John (1878-1961),  grew up in Pembrokeshire, Wales.  After leaving Britain for France in 1904 she became first the model, then the lover, of the much-older Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) .  Their relationship lasted a decade and shaped the remainder of the Welsh artist’s life and work.

In her lifetime Gwen John was primarily known merely as an appendage to both her brother and to Rodin.  She died on the outbreak of WW2, unrecognised as a serious artist.  In more recent years, however, following rediscovery of her work by art scholars since the 1970s, her own artistic work has undergone a re-appraisal.  

 She is now considered, particularly as a portrait painter, to be almost on a par to her brother.  In fact, Augustus is quoted as saying before he died in 1861, that “In 50 years Gwen will be better known than I am as an artist”.

The story of Gwen John’s intense infatuation with Rodin can be readily discovered on the internet. 


Gwen John – Self portrait – 1899