Lapis: James Whitney (1966)

One of James Whitney’s several cinematic masterworks, Lapis develops a series of impossibly dense mandala patterns in increasing intensity, set to a Ravi Shankar track. Whitney spent several years developing the imagery for the film, using his brother John’s homemade and hand-me-down motion control camera rig to realize it. Although James never aligned his creative interests with contemporary psychedelia, his work nevertheless sought to create an audio-visual catalyst for a deep and spiritual contemplation that was not too far removed.Mark Toscano

I’ve carried the memory of this short film for years. Now, having just found it again, it’s still pretty impressive but not quite so overwhelming as the first time. I was an 18 year old art student watching it on a big screen in a small lecture theatre, with the volume turned up and completely immersed in its kaleidoscopic intensity, I’d never seen anything like it before. The film was made six years earlier, and what I love most about it now is its handmade lo-fi pre-digital devoted dedication to beauty.

Frames of reference

Kew Gardens


On the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, aka Whitsun Bank Holiday or maybe even Whitsuntide, we went down to Kew. It was a slow journey. There was a UEFA Cup Final at Wembley that evening and a Premiership Rugby Final at Twickenham that afternoon, there were roadworks in Ealing and there was a continuous traffic jam around the North Circular. There was a long queue to Kew. By the time we arrived I was stir crazy. Once inside the gates I was snap happy. The resulting photostream begins with eucalyptus, smooth-skinned and animal-like with aromatic blade-shaped leaves. Continue reading “Kew Gardens”

Frames of reference

For Ravi Shankar

A little video clip of Ravi Shankar and George Harrison (Hari Georgeson to his friends). This was a pivotal moment. Ravi Shankar had been hoping to introduce western audiences to eastern music since the 1940s. These two were made for each other. Within You, Without You was always my favourite song on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I saw Ravi Shankar just once. He was in the front row of the audience at the Barbican Hall. John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain and all the other members of Remember Shakti bowed to him from the stage before beginning their performance, acknowledging that without his pioneering example they probably would not have been there.

Frames of reference