I have always admired people who think outside the box; mavericks who take risks as a matter of necessity, not journeymen purely playing by the rules.
I recall with great joy discovering the philosophy and music of John Cage, the photography of Man Ray, the painting of Salvador Dali who embraced the science of painting as a way to study the psyche through subconscious images. I appreciate the disturbing twisted images of the soul created by Francis Bacon. I find the same zest for the unknown in the Yorkshire born improvisational guitarist Derek Bailey who creates an abstract language all of its own making.
I am an admirer of Surrealism and other forms of abstract art. The cinema, Luis Buñuel, especially his early films made with Salvador Dali: Un chien andalou (1928), with a perpetually shocking opening shot of the eye being sliced by a razor, and L'Âge d'or (1929), a sacrilegious mix of quasi-scientific documentary, psychoanalytic symbolism and eye-catching visual imagery. In 1929 Man Ray created Le Mystère du château de dés with Duchamp and L'Étoile de mer, centred on a poem by Desnos, relying on improvisation to produce a kind of ‘automatic cinema’.
Some people have even suggested that the basic rhetoric of cinema is Surrealist in essence. I stumbled upon the work of Jane Arden by accident really. Intrigued by the abstract/experimental nature of her films and the fact we both originate from the same town – I wanted to learn more. Jane Arden (née Norah Patricia Morris) was born at 47 Twmpath Road, Pontypool in 1927. Jane Arden was an actress, author, filmmaker and poet whose screenwriting and directorial work of the late 60s and 70s explored themes of social isolation and ‘madness’, sexual politics and radical feminism. The films Arden wrote and directed with director-producer Jack Bond (Dali in New York, It Couldn’t Happen Here) are a unique and unclassifiable body of work, ranging from Separation’s counter-cultural splendour of swinging 60s London to Anti-Clock’s boundary-pushing psycho-exploration. The 1966 documentary Dalí in New York chiefly consists of the renowned surrealist artist Salvador Dalí and Arden walking the streets of New York discussing Dali’s work. This film was resurrected and shown at the 2007 Tate Gallery Dalí exhibition.
For her last film, ‘Anti-Clock’ (1979) Arden also wrote and performed the soundtrack. Anti-Clock is a complex and fascinating experimental exploration of time and identity. ‘Anti-Clock remains a film of genuine, startling originality utilising both cinema and video techniques, Arden and Bond create a movie that captures the anxiety and sense of danger that has subverted the consciousness of so many people throughout western society. ‘Anti-Clock ‘engages its audience by being mysterious, disturbing, fascinating and exhilarating.
Throughout her life Arden remained interested in other cultures and faiths which in turn took the form of a personal spiritual quest. Jane Arden was clearly an adventurous, complex artist who frequently tackled very challenging subject matter in variable forms of media.
The extraordinary career of British film-director, screenwriter, playwright and actor Jane Arden came to an abrupt end when she committed suicide on Dec. 20, 1982 in North Yorkshire. She was buried in Darlington West Cemetery. In 2011 her remains were exhumed and moved by her family to Highgate Cemetery in London. Jane Arden remains a unique figure in British post-war culture.
The Hwyl Nofio composition ‘Anti Clock’ as featured on the forthcoming album ‘Dark’ is my tribute to her.