Inspirations: the 1950s

I decided to put together a mini-blog series which I’m inventively titling ‘Inspirations’. I want to exemplify what influences my photography, writing, design and all round creative life. The series intends to span 3 different topics/posts, the first of which you’re reading now: the 1950s. Enjoy, and as always, I love to hear you guys think.

Over the past few years I have become increasingly more influenced by this decade and, to a lesser extent, its chronological neighbours. I became interested in the period while studying Abstract Expressionism at university (I’m currently writing a thesis on the movement but probably won’t be able to publish it here). It’s the kind of contemporary art which causes the ‘How is that art? It’s just a load of colour’ response in most observers.

Jackson Pollock - Lavender MistPersonally I love this style of art, and though the artists may not necessarily demonstrate the painterly skills associated with great art, I think the movement shows a pure expression of the artist’s ideas and emotions.

Surprisingly most of my inspiration from the 1950s comes from different fields: literature and design. Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet published in 1958, is unquestionably my favourite work of fiction, and is so vivid in its descriptions that one can imagine themselves conversing with the Indian banker Nessim, seated in his elaborately decorated and richly furnished apartment in the heart of the simmering city of Alexandria. Durrell invents the city beautifully, the narrative is emotionally and descriptively woven and the plot twists are incredible.  The tale concerns itself with a number of affairs told from the differing angles of a handful of characters involved. It is a beautiful insight into both European and Egyptian cultures, both high and low, of the late 1950s and often the ordinary is made so vivid and lifelike by Durrell that I cannot help but be inspired by his masterful literary imagery. Whenever I try my hand at fictional or descriptive writing, I always look to these books to see how it’s supposed to be done.

Egypt

Another inspirational book from this era is Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene. It is based in Cuba, but still appeals to that side of me that wants to live in a tropical city in the 1950s rubbing shoulders with all the extraordinary and comical characters detailed in the book.

Another aspect of my influence is a little harder to trace, I just like 1950s design in general. A lot of the old-school movie posters like ‘Godzilla’ have such a s strong impact on the viewer, and the hand-drawn styles really add to the authenticity of the film as well as accepting the fact that they are artificial and made solely for entertainment. In short, I like these posters because they know exactly what they are representing: works of fiction.

Hopefully I’ve done the era a bit of justice and inspired a few people to try more 50’s styles out as I did for the header of the blog (click here if you missed it). I just wanted to flex my fledgling design skills a bit and see what I could come up with. Thanks for reading.

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8 thoughts on “Inspirations: the 1950s

  1. I really like what you’re doing here. I think the more we articulate the ideas that influence our work, the more we will understand that common thread that runs through our work. It’s important.

    • Thank you very much! I really appreciate the support. I’d never thought of examining my influences in order to understand how they run through my work though, I rather just wanted to share the ideas. However yours is a very nice way of looking at it. When I get a bit of breathing space I will work on the next inspirations post, thanks again!

  2. Really enjoyed the post Robby. You reminded me I must read the ‘Alexandria Quartet’. It’s on my to do list after I finish the Graham Greene novel I’m currently reading-‘The Heart of the Matter’. Excellent so far. I don’t know if you got to see Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles when you were in Australia but it really is a sensational painting to see.

    • Thanks a lot, I’m really glad you enjoyed the read. I couldn’t recommend the book enough really. It is one of my favourite novels and though I relate it to some fond memories of my life when I first read it, the book is a brilliant work of fiction. I hope you get round to it. I’ve just finished ‘Our Man In Havana’ by Greene, I really enjoyed it and must investigate his other works, looks like ;The Heart of the Matter’ is up next! Unfortunately I missed Pollock’s Blue Poles, as I never made it to the Australian National Gallery, but I do hope to return to the country and visit all the cultural sites I missed during my first trip. Thanks again for the support, it is greatly appreciated!

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