Nick Cave’s inspiration: pictures and notes from his archive

The Guardian, March 22, 2020

A scrapbook of rarely seen photos and sketches traces Nick Cave’s transformation from Aussie teenager into an international artist

hat you see in this book lives in the intricate world constructed around the songs, and which the songs inhabit,” writes Nick Cave in his introduction to Stranger Than Kindness. “It is the material that gives birth to and nourishes the official work.”

That intricate world includes drawings, lists, collages, scribbled notes and lyrics, found photographs and several handmade books, creased and stained, sometimes in his own blood. Therein the sacred and the profane, the biblical and the pornographic, exist side by side as they have done in Cave’s songs for about 40 years of often frantic creativity. There are pin-ups alongside devotional images of saints, sketches of nude female torsos alongside portraits of the madonna, and there are hand-written, home-made dictionaries listing arcane words, such as anchorite (a recluse), and autogamy (self-fertilisation).

Cave calls it the “peripheral stuff”, which is “the secret and unformed property of the artist”, but here on the page it takes on a life of its own, revealing his often compulsive way of working, as well as his abiding interests and obsessions: desire, faith, sin, despair, redemption, grief, love, and the transformative thrust of language itself.

This is the raw (in every sense of the word) material out of which his songs and stories have emerged. It is also a map – messy and impulsive – of a creative life that for a long time was pursued with a ferociously self-destructive intent, and, latterly, with a singular acceptance and grace.

It begins with a photograph of Cave’s father, Colin, a teacher, who, in one uncharacteristic and transformative act, read aloud to his nine-year-old son the opening paragraph of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. “It was the most intimate moment I ever spent with my father,” Cave later said… [+]

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