The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
The Institute Of Contemporary Arts continues its upward trajectory as new curator Matt Williams engineers this venture of exhibitions over two sites, the ICA itself and the Bloomberg Space, attached to the finance and business newsgathering hub.
At the latter Hannah Sawtell combines digital imagery with structures fabricated by British industrial steel firms to create works which confront the malign values of product design.
At the ICA, Bjarne Melgaard's A House To Die In sees the artist collaborating with Norwegian architectural designers Snohetta to produce a very strange-looking dwelling based on a mindset psychologically derived from who knows where.
There the artists' similar links to industry and business end and their content and concepts demand a totally different interpretation.
In Vendor, a critique of the shallow and polluting surface values of commerce at the Bloomberg Space, Sawtell reclaims the visual languages used by our corporate masters be they still images as in photography or moving as in video.
They're contained within industrially cut-out steel panels, with nylon plastic joiners designed by Sawtell and made in Wakefield, providing an array of anti-capitalist and anti-corporate visual slogans.
These are profoundly acerbic images, the most striking of which is the executive yacht sporting a blue swimming pool enclosed on its deck.
At the same time it's surrounded by the free blue sea - the experience of water is tamed and contained for luxurious "taste" within the expanse of the real thing.
Sawtell's eloquent and subversive swipes at capitalism in Vendor are made all the more powerful with the juxtaposed and gentle images of natural forms, the exploited landscape and the weeping weather.
At the ICA she sizes up the gallery space with a megalithic video and audio projection of driverless monster trucks, each seemingly stuck in wheel lock, endlessly going around in circles.
These are "show room" images and the inane repetition of their motion created by Sawtell diminishes any impression of power or sense of wonder - they represent industries that are going nowhere too.
Melgaard's approach, honing in on the personified space, is quite the opposite.
A House To Die In is a design project based on the notion of the home as space for reflection.
Psychoactively, it reflects and contains as much of the person - in this case an artist - as it can.
The personalised drawings and models made by the artist on tables and the personalised angles of the walls of a house in the making might, at first glance, appear to be of no interest. But these works really do invite more than just a casual gaze.
This prototype for living, albeit self-centred, is a dreamscape to die for and its intrigue is further compounded by the extraordinary and large-scale paintings that accompany A House To Die In.
Accompanied by the odour of oil paint permeating the space, these are images ranging through figurative, decorative, tribal and symbolist styles.
Moving from the realist, abstracted and the mystical, each painting is begun by Melgaard but finished by someone else such as his psychiatrist Annatina Miescher or Uman Nyako, similarly undergoing therapy, to complete as they see fit.
Miescher makes flagrantly sexual additions to Melgaard's symbols and metaphors while his realist self-portraits and scrawled words are made darker and more sombre by Nyako's amendments.
Two very distinctive exhibitions, but both demonstrate in very different guises why the ICA is regaining its stature as a ground-breaking arts centre.
A House To Die In and Osculator run at the ICA until November 18. Vendor runs at the Bloomberg Space until January 13. For details, visit www.ica.org.uk/exhibitions and www.bloombergspace.com.
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.