Tuesday, 5 April 2011

London 2012

London 1912

Vorticism was a radical literary and artistic movement which entered the London scene around 1912. It was the London art scene's avant-garde reply to Cubism and the Italian Futurists, acknowledging the machine age and Britain as the first industrialized nation.

The Vorticists attempted to shock English society out of its polite acceptance of timid aesthetics...  

BLAST years 1837 to 1900 Curse abysmal inexcusable middle-class (also Aristocracy and Proletariat)...WE WHISPER IN YOUR EAR A GREAT SECRET. LONDON IS NOT A PROVINCIAL TOWN. We will allow Wonder Zoos. But we do not want the GLOOMY VICTORIAN CIRCUS in Piccadilly Circus.

...wrote Wyndham Lewis in the Vorticist magazine, BLAST (1914).

 BLAST cover (1914)

It seems the Vorticists wanted to engage people in life's vitality, to meet nature's challenges face to face and embrace the vigor of the modern world of their times. What they despised was the opposite of those things: the placid acceptance of social norms, snobbery, the pleasantries of nature tamed and kept apart from the world of man.

In a Vorticist painting modern life is shown as an array of bold lines and harsh colors drawing the viewer's eye into the center of the canvas. The Vorticists wanted to place the machine age at the very center of their work. BLAST proposed that they fill their art with ‘the forms of machinery, factories, new and vaster buildings, bridges and works’. Richard Cork (Oxford University Press)

(above) Portrait of an Englishwoman, W. Lewis;
(previous image) Abstract Design, W. Lewis (1913)

The Arrival, C.R.W. Nevinson (1913)

Head, Frederic Etchells (1914)

Vorticism, as a coherent movement, was cut short by the arrival of World War 1. But its influence in art and literature was far reaching and long lasting. It affected many, from literary giants such as T.S. Elliot to the anti-establishment revolution of Punk Rock.

London 2012

2012 marks roughly 100 years since the beginning of London's Vorticism art movement. The logo, to represent the London games, is a jagged emblem based on the date 2012. It was designed by the Wolff Olins agency of London. Instantly controversial and despised by Joe public it is undoubtedly bold, modern and vibrant. A connection to the Vorticist ideals and imagery of 100 years ago seem clear and, in my mind, appropriate.

I am not sure if the London 2012 Olympic committee would be comfortable being associated with the radical Vorticists of 100 years ago any more than the Vorticists would be happy with Vorticist imagery being used to promote Olympic sports...

Exert from BLAST (1914)

On the other hand, Ezra Pound also declared in BLAST that ‘the vortex is the point of maximum energy. It represents, in mechanics, the greatest efficiency. This is perhaps something that sits more comfortably with the modern Olympic movement.


The 2012 logo has been instantly criticized from all quarters, from the press to the politically correct. The first victim to fall to the PC Nazis was the logo's utterly brilliant introductory video, with everyone from the concerned parents brigade to mayor Ken Livingstone claiming it would cause epileptic seizures and must be scrapped, and so it was. Judge for yourself below...

Many people simply considered it to be ugly, others joked that it depicted the act of fellatio. One of the more absurd claims came from Iranian Olympic officials that the logo was a secret depiction of the word "ZION" and threatened to boycott the games if it was not changed.

I consider all of these objections as vindication that the London 2012 logo was, finally, an inspired and courageous choice.


  • Il Vorticismo (Londra 1912-15), Storia dell'avanguardia antagonista del Futurismo - by Raffaella Picello
  • BLAST, Review of the Great English Vortex, (1914) Wyndham Lewis & all
  • Vorticism.co.uk
  • Wikipedia: Vorticism

 Wyndham Lewis

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