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Black and Blue and The Senses.

It seems a pertinent  time to introduce two films online and make them available for viewing on this website and other platforms. They signify a change both in pace and style from my work thus far.

The first of these moving image works is simply entitled ‘Black and Blue’ and features a ‘Space Painting’ that I did in my studio a few years ago, and an action piece of  burning a canvas in the Woodland close to my house and studio. This piece explores the processes of creation and destruction, resonating with a wonderful poem by Wallace Stevens about a painting by Picasso. Stevens wrote much around the senses (of which my work is based) and about painting too, even writing a fascinating essay on “The Relations of Poetry and Painting.”

The simple and stark black space, was inspired by two spaces. The first  Wally Hendrick’s war room, a powerful protest installation  piece which, I first came across  at an exhibition in London , and  Tuol Sleng a disturbing place in Cambodia, a crude bessablock structure built within a crudely constructed within an old school, by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970’s. The place seemed to be an embodiment of people’s cruel capacity for the destruction of humanity.

Bringing the colour blue and my own body into this stark broken space is both symbolic and reflective, and partly  hommage to the history of action/live painting in particular reference to Klein and Pollock, the work of the Vienna Actionists such as Gunter Brus the Gutai movement and of Stuart Brisley and Carolee Schneemann, exploring ideas of the sensory nature of painting , destruction and the limits of the body in creating painting. The poem “The Man With The Blue Guitar”  resonated well with the resulting images, it being in itself a meditation on the nature of art, performance and the imagination.

Film Still from "Black and Blue"

Black and Blue-Film Still 2019.

"Black and Blue" Film Still 2019.

"Black and Blue" Film Still 2019.

The second piece “Empty House Studies” 2019.  also takes its cue from the poetry of Wallace Stevens, whose work has had an important impact on my thinking lately, and the film is more personal and centred around objects and transformation. The poem used in this case is “Asides on an Oboe”. The lines I have placed as titles, contain particular resonance with each segment of filming. Each action is also  punctuated and introduced by one second long compositions of music by long time collaborator Roger Redgate.

Empty House Studies-2019 Film Clip.

"Empty House Studies" 2019 (Film Clip)

The Actions performed as part of the whole piece reflect an overriding sense of loss, and of the daylight passing through my old house (by then falling into a derelict state) each different sequence acting as a visual poem.

The segments are all moments, and mostly important objects and memories from my life thus far, personally significant to me; self revelatory, and transformative. They explore ideas of fear, isolation, solitude and in particular vulnerability. A feeling which picks up from my various performances.

Strangely, at these times of the Pandemic  and “Self Isolation” for all peoples around the globe, and viewing these works again after a couple of years in gestation, these moving image pieces seem to gain more focus and seem to me to gain an extra relevance to the moment that we currently find ourselves in.

1st October 2021

“Empty House Daylight Studies” 2019.

“Black and Blue” 2019/20

Music Listening.

Portia Winters-Bliss of small things.

Andrea Keller-Transients Vol 2.

Yosi Horikawa-Vietnam

Autechre-Plus and Sign

Django Bates- Tenacity.

Anchorsong- Mirage

POSTED: 09/16/21 4:47 PM

“Everyone you have loved”

This latest textural and site specific and complex performance piece was performed last year just immediately prior to the Pandemic. It is a Sensory, celebratory improvisation between myself,  dancer and artist Lavinia Cascone, singers Maggie Nicols and Portia Winters and Sound Artist/Composer Dr Emmanuel Lorien Spinelli and I believe  is an exciting development in my performative work to date. This particular collaboration was borne from my close relationship formed over the past ten years with Portia and Emmanuel who helped me with devising the performance. The idea was to create a painting via the senses.

Everyone you Have Loved

It was performed amongst special guests who freely circulated around the recently built modernist architecture and  immersive space in which the performance took place. The event centred around the central space of the Make designed building which is infact outside. The performance begins with myself working from the outside, and reacting with the dance, sound and movement which was happening inside. We eventually come together seamlessly flowing from inside to outside the building. The main premise for the wholly improvised piece was to convey the immaterial spirits of sound and of Colour and ends with coloured smoke. The title of the film documentation of this performance comes from a song poem that Maggie wrote and which she spoke at the very start of the performance inspired by dialectical materialism when exposed to Engels’ “Dialectics of Nature.”

“All in a moment,

Everything you’ve been and done

There in a moment

Caught in a moment

Everyone you’ve loved and known lives in those moments.

“The text I use in the film documentation is from James Joyce’s visually inspiring “Finnegans Wake” of which I have been drawing inspiration from lately after many conversations and espressos with my lovely friend Professor Peter McDonald,  and also the great visual poem I love by Tom Paulin on Jackson Pollock  called “I am Nature” which reflects upon Jackson Pollock and in particular relation to his upbringing and ancestry. This all seemed to resonate so very well to the premise of the performance.

There are so many special moments that occurred within this performance. The first being when the dance and sounds from the interior came to the exterior. An Audience member afterwards told me that there was an exciting moment, when the focus altered from all sensory elements of movement and sound towards the painting. Another moment comes when we all become part of the painting itself, and there is a lovely passage when things seem to slow down and become almost as if choreographed and dreamlike. Towards the very end of the performance Maggie and Portia’s voices come into the front of the mix as blue smoke surrounds the space and all parts come together as one with the wonderful words of Portia and Maggie.

I hope you enjoy this special improvisational complex and textural performance.

Special mention also goes to the Camerawork by Brian Strange and Peter Farkas and the brilliant editing of Guy Ducker who all helped document this special piece of Art.

Everyone you have Loved. 2020/21

August 2021.

POSTED: 08/9/21 9:56 AM

Collaboration and Performing within Painting..

My own personal view, formed over a long period of time, is that the world of Painting  is not necessarily always a purely visual activity but is a whole sensory experience which often involves collaboration too. This is perhaps given credence by my own neurological experience of seeing Colour and thinking of painting very much as a whole with Music and in terms of sounds and movement across the senses. One of my earliest and most formative memories is of watching a watercolorist. I remember the excitement of watching colour spread across the wet white page. For me, It felt like playing a Chord on the piano.

My own approach to  painting is also very much as a participatory and transformative experience and over time I have learnt as much, and often more from working in workshops and with other disciplines than from working alone, and  in isolation.  I remember once in an interview I was asked why to me Painting in itself was not enough…why did I need music or poetry? At the time, as a young artist I was flummoxed and  did not know how to respond.

Now, if faced with the same question I would say that they were for me the same thing. Painting is Colour and Sound. Over time, some critics and audiences have responded to my work with difficulty,  seeing the disciplines very separately rather than tied as one. We learn to separate them as children and via education. It is a continuing issue for me. One  Critic at an event suggesting that it somehow made the painting unimportant , unvalued. Using the example of the New York school of  painters and and the painters whom spend much time deliberating over their image making. To me this seems a narrow approach to painting, with its emphasis on the final product rather than process and creation.It was suggested I should destroy my work at the end of a piece , Jimi Hendrix like. Painting in performance is something that is difficult for a lot of people, but for me it is about making a multi sensory painting, which like a jigsaw all fits together in the end.

Still from "Everyone you have loved" Painting Collaboration.

Performance Painting with Lavinia Cascone

Stuart Brisley has said “The very notion of Art itself has an aspect of Alienation about it”. I am always keen as he is, to lean away and avoid this and I believe that painting in performance with and amongst people is a great way of attaining this. For me it opens  a way of demystifying and  democratising painting too.

Throughout my career , my embracing of collaboration has enabled me to work alongside and work in with many Musicians, Composers, Dancers and Sound Artists all painters in sound and movement,  and has allowed me to think deeply about the connections between materiality and sound. It has helped my development as an artist. My work has become much more than the image produced . It is the story of the piece in itself and about the collaborative processes as a whole. The world of silent Studios, painting alone, the formalist qualities within painting and abstraction are not for me.  The painting that interests me more, especially at this time has a often sensory and transformative and the medium of painting itself becomes and often provides a platform or becomes a vehicle, therapeutic even,  constantly evolving and searching, and for me is a sensory exploration of the world and life as a whole involving different peoples experiences, and is enriched and advanced by working across different disciplines. At the time of writing, we can see these  advancements in a terrific show of Jean Dubuffet at the Barbican in London of whom collaboration was often an essential part of his art. Just recently I also see the most exciting painters today such as Cecily Brown and Julie Mehretu taking part in exciting collaborative projects. Just recently I also enjoyed Paul McCarthy’s brilliant performance drawings,  in collaboration with the actor Lilith Stangenberg. I also greatly enjoy the work of Florence Peake and Anne Imhof who also mix visual and music concerns with performance in exciting ways. Closer to home in the UK the artist/painter Oscar Murillo has been working on a project with Artangel with schools across the world.

If I  look back to History at artists such as the famous Abstract Painters in New York in the 1950’s for instance. The archetypal singular artists working in isolation, cutting their own path and seeking inspiration from within. It seems seldom that one reads or examines  the influences of free Jazz, Dance, contemporary Classical composition, Blues and of the visual, technological influences of the time, the visual music technologies of pioneers such as Thomas Wilfred, Oskar Fischinger, Jordan Belson, Mary Ellen Bute . Yet In my opinion this pioneering work profoundly affected and was indeed pivotal in pioneering developments in painting at this time.  At the time of writing, Mary Ellen Bute’s work is highlighted in a show at the Pompidou about Women in abstraction. I have spoken before in these posts about the work of Len Lye, for many years neglected whose abstract work prefigures and foresaw much of what came afterwards, and the other night I went to a wondrous evening of hand painted films at the Barbican called “Raw Vision” by pioneers in this field which highlighted to me just how important these developments were and still are for painting.

A few years ago also,  I became fascinated by, and immersed in the work of the Gutai movement and of the Vienna Actionists all of whom explored painting via movement and the body. At the time that I became interested,  there was just one book on the Gutai translated into English about this fascinating and now widely acknowledged influential movement. Much of this work was transitory, often time based and involving different disciplines.The effect of these movements is now thankfully noted and much reflected upon.

In the UK I have long admired the Painter/Sculptor/Artist Stuart Brisley, as one of the greatest artists living today who still amazingly and imaginatively manages to move between performance, painting and sculpture, using complex imaginative ideas and his body within his work. His work for me continues to be  groundbreaking, important and inspirational.  I have just been reading a great fascinating book of interviews “Performance and it’s afterlives”.

At this time…more than ever , I am excited by the act of painting. I  recently spent a great deal of time in Australia, where my son lives. I saw much great Aboriginal painting which very much involves itself with sensory perception, and now having spent so much time within that overwhelming continent, imagined to me over years and years artistically via poets such as Peter Porter and Les Murray and visual artists like Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Tracey Moffatt Shaun Gladwell and many others. I was surprised to learn that Aboriginal painting on Canvas is a relatively new history which continues to evolve and is taking place now .

This time I started to make great connections with and gain an understanding into how the native Aboriginal painting has become so integral to the continent, and is such an important expression of the land and the alternative histories of past present and future, which belong to the land  and is  articulated by a special awareness and importance of, the Human Senses. In particular I became fascinated by the work of Kudditji Kngwareye a member of the Utopia artists whose work conjures up a sense of the landscape he knew and had become estranged from. He apparently used to sing whilst painting to further bring about his memory and connection with the land.

Many years ago, I remember working in a Hospital with an elderly woman in rural Suffolk. I received a grant from Eastern arts to work in Rural communities to do so. This particular woman, was greatly mentally disturbed and without speech. I remember seeing her over a period of two years, each week. Each time, as soon as I mixed paint, sometimes playing music,  her eyes lit up. She painted for hours and hours on end, naturally and freely sometimes with and sometimes without me. It was as if she were communicating something deep from inside. I never forgot her amazing work. Now, long gone and destroyed. It was the sensory act, the great handling of paint and the colour and the act of which i remember. It lives on within me. It reminds me of the great story about Agnes Martin telling a child that a rose continued to be beautiful after it had been seen. Holding it behind her back she asked the child if it were still beautiful? and remarked that the beauty of it existed in the mind. In a world full of more and more imagery,  this seems so important to remember at this time.

I will be creating more work painting in collaborations and performances soon, (please see my most recent collaboration in the previous posts) further reflecting upon these thoughts and experiences and I hope continue to provide further agency to the importance of creating the space for  Collaboration, and the different senses within the subject of Painting.

August 3  2021.

Listning to.

Sault: Nine

Anchorsong- Mirage

Donald Bousted- Duo Contour 19.5

Sault- Black Is/ Rise


Amit Chaudhuri – Finding the Raga

Yuval Etgar- John Stezaker “At The Edge of Pictures”

The Stuart Brisley Interviews. Performance and its Afterlives.

Peter Macdonald -Artifacts of Writing.

POSTED: 08/2/21 12:00 PM

I Am Nature

Just immediately prior to the pandemic, I staged two collaborative performances. The first being a complex collaboration featuring voices and dance. The second a more stripped down event with singer Cleveland Watkiss (with whom I had worked with before)  and dancer Lavinia Cascone.

For this I planned, that instead of working on an upright surface as I normally do, that I would instead work on the floor with colour and onto Lavinia’s body and onto my own, interconnecting in a sensory way with Cleveland’s voice. In the past year I had travelled to Thailand, and stayed with a hill tribe with my family in the Northern Hills. There was a moving ceremony when we left which involved us dancing around a central point to a rhythm. I wanted to in some way reflect on this in the performance.  The result can be seen here and at times we all seem to come together in a powerful and intimate way via different our own respective art forms. It felt as though we were all painting and mark making .

Performance with Paint Voice and Movement

I cannot wait to work with Cleveland and Lavinia again. The Title “I am Nature” is from a poem I love of the same name by Tom Paulin. I also use some particularly visual text from Finnegans Wake suggested to me by a dear friend, which seemed to fit with the whole experience.

I hope you enjoy it.

June 2021.

“I am Nature”

POSTED: 06/7/21 7:25 PM

The Energies of Carolee Schneemann

It is with the greatest of Sadnesses that I learnt recently of the loss of the great inspiration and Artist Carolee Schneemann. I cannot understate what an effect Carolee’s work and her encouragement had on my own progression. Over the past ten years, my art has been evolving and becoming more about performance, evolving as it has from the synaesthetic sensory experience of colour via painting and towards involving my own body via performance and  more broadly speaking, exploring my own vulnerability and identity through my own work.

At around the time when I was starting collaborative improvisatory performances,  I became fascinated by avant grade developments in painting and performance especially by the Gutai movement and the Vienna Actionists and also with Carolee Schneemann who seemed to cut her own path. At the time there was very little written about any of these movements or artists. This thankfully has and is  changing.

The first time I saw Carolee Schneemann’s work up close was at a glorious exhibition about Dance and performance at the Pompidou Centre, called ‘Danser sa Vie’, which seems a very long time ago, but actually relatively recent.

Carolee’s work seemed to resonate so well with all that was happening and developing in my own work. I immediately read the books  ”Beyond Meat Joy” and  “Correspondence Course” (Edited by Kristine Stiles) which revealed the huge depth of her work, and the endless energy and collaborations too. I became more fascinated by all of her work spanning, assemblages, film, paintings, performances together with overtly political . Over the years  I was very surprised that despite being so well known amongst so many artists and so very influential, that her work at this time and especially in the UK seemed still largely unrepresented. I then saw more work at a (then small) gallery in London called Richard Saltoun gallery featuring work by largely (at that time) neglected female artists.

I immediately wanted to try and connect with Carolee, and made it a priority,  and managed to obtain her studio e.mail. I cannot recall what I wrote, but I received a quick response I received a very warm response and that she was soon to come to London and perhaps to make contact when she was there.

At this time I was also trying  with the Centre of Visual Music to get together some film showings organised with the University of Oxford of which I am affiliated, and at this time I became aware that Carolee was finishing a film (Breaking the Frame) and hence made enquiries about her perhaps giving a talk about this . Unfortunately and to my great frustration at the time this did not eventuate.

However, partly due to my efforts , the Hales Gallery put Carolee and myself in touch . I will always remember the evening when I excitedly picked up the phone and took that call in my studio, as by now she had become an almost mythical and heroic figure to me. It was arranged that I would meet her for Lunch the next week between interviews. Amazingly, and incredulously to me,  it was to be the first solo show of hers in a London Gallery. A small show of her wonderful performance and film “Water Light/Water Needle” (a choreographed performance and film), which I particularly love, not only for its imagery, but for the unusual way it mixed music and sound, ( using excerpts of Vivaldi in this case) which I have since found out was in collaboration with the great composer James Tenney. Her collaboration with Tenney  I became greatly interested in, and I always felt that her sensitivity and knowledge of Music played an important part of a lot of her work.

Some People often say that meeting your heroes is often disappointing, but in this case, it was a delight. Carolee was gentle, kind and supportive,  sharp, greatly intelligent and clearly had such a broad knowledge and voracious interest in all areas of culture, politics and life. It was easy to talk to her, and I felt a connection on many levels.  We talked of all sorts of things and I got a real sense of not only her love of life but also the great struggle she had experienced through her life and Art interwoven. She was an inspiration.

In the following years and after this memorable and treasured meeting-   we kept in touch. Carolee became a generous mentor and I showed her the first cuts of my latest films and images and she in turn showed me her ideas too, and then a few years ago  I helped with a show of hers,  and staged a performance in part a homage to her work at Reykjavik.  I was delighted to be invited to, and to see the PS1 MOMA show only last year. I found it an especially moving experience, to see all her work finally together in one place and especially in New York. To see all that work together at last was both exciting and awe inspiring. Thankfully, and movingly she finally received the attention that she so richly deserved right toward the end of her life, and after a long struggle with illness.

Her last message (Only a matter of months before she died ) to me was heart warming and typically encouraging and inspiring …I love these works very much….Go Further, follow your energies……. Keep in touch…..( with a lovely picture of her Cat dancing with coloured Ribbons.)

I will continue to follow, be inspired and keep in touch always with the tremendous inspirational energy of Carolee Schneemann which will remain alive to me.

Water Light/Water Needle, at the PS1 MOMA show in 2018/19

POSTED: 04/2/19 6:01 PM

Correspondences in Performance Painting.

In recent months I have been looking at filmic documentation of Painting performances and interventions,  considering one in particular which took place at the Sequences Real Time Art Festival in Reykjavik a few years ago. The performance itself was site specific and a both a simple painting and a Space Painting and was in responce  to the nature of the environment. The performance was in part a homage to the rich tradition of painting as performance,in

but also followed the course of a meditation exercise, a form of ritual in self help and awareness of which I often practice . I also wanted to reflect on the fundemental connections between the sensory act of  painting, sound and the body, and like some other performances I was using and controlling my own breath to dictate the movement and actions, reflecting on my own Identity within space and in the landscape as a whole.

The music I use in this film is  “Concerto for improvising Soloist and Two Ensembles” by composer Roger Redgate, whose work I have always felt a great connection to. His process was very much collaborative with the other musicians and says that “I give them some freedom to work with given materials, so I can control the overall form and some of the content, but they can make decisions as individuals and collectively to influence the result.”The soloist is Christopher Redgate with whom I have also performed with for over 10 years. The music  contains a sound world that I feel connects strongly with the actions of the performance.  The resulting film which can now be seen on this Website contains moments of Correspondence, when sound, movement, gesture and material all seem to join and fit together as as a whole.

Correspondences (Film Clip)

Film Still from "Correspondences."

POSTED: 11/23/18 12:30 PM

Performance Painting “Plein Air”

A few years ago I staged a performance outside and within the landscape. For this I was responding to the music of composer/artist Mira Calix, whose musical approach resonates with my own practice, I feel it uniquely collages electronic and acoustic instrumentation, and I finally sent Mira some stills of film that I was working on, which were  mainly shot outside in the woodland where I live. I know that he compositions also often refers to, or reflects upon the landscape.

The performance outdoors had an unpredictable quality of which I enjoy and wish to take further. In the performance I was thinking of some of the Gutai artists’ experimentations with surface and the ephemeral. I was also thinking of some of the great work that Carolee Schneemann did with the composer James Tenney and I had this work at the back of my mind when setting up the piece.

Plein Air Performance Painting

This led to me to utilise this music for the performance,  and the film can be seen now on this website and here. It was premiered at a Centre for Visual Music Salon evening, held by myself and the Director of the Centre Cindy Keefer.

November 2018

POSTED: 11/8/18 4:14 PM

Transparence of the Place.

Many years ago a lovely old friend of mine introduced me to the work of the great  Australian Pianist and composer Andrea Keller. I had just recently painted in performance in response to some music by Bartok and very much related to the improvisations her group had then done around Bartok’s Mikrokosmos.  I have strong links with Australia. My wife is Australian and all my Children hold Australian passports. I have a great  love for the landscape in particular, and relate strongly to the profound and spiritual connection the indigenous people of Australia have to the Land.  When starting out as an artist, I was inspired by artists such as Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan and poet Les Murray . More recently I have found that some of the most exciting art today is happening in Australia. In particular I enjoy the film and installation  work of Angelica Mesiti, the work addressing issues around Australian Aboriginal history by Danniel Boyd and Shaun Gladwell’s iconic video work  too.

Returning to Sound, A few years ago I did some paintings in response to a piece from a fascinating album called “Three Lanes”. I found the sounds transported me to Australia, and at the time I was working in my studio in the woodland around my home in Oxfordshire UK. Finally, this year I assembled the films I made at this time and made a film with a piece of Andrea Keller’s music aptly titled “Far away, Here” which seemed also to resonate strongly to ongoing concerns in my work about Place and Time, the action and immediacy of performance and the stillness of contemplation and also a sense of completion.  By Coincidence, Andrea Keller also needed some film for a new piece called “Hills of Nectar”which worked well too.

The Film is titled “Transparence of the Place” which comes from a poem that fascinates me called “Asides on an Oboe” by Wallace Stevens with whose work has had a great impact on my thinking and whose work I have been working closely with lately. The piece intends to show the connections between Colour, light passing and the contemplation of space and time come across and connect strongly sound and visual work done across different time zones.

The Film “Transparence of the Place” can be seen from this month on this Website.

Mark Rowan-Hull-December 2018

POSTED: 11/7/18 2:04 PM

Horse Hospital Performance/ Newcastle University.

This Collaborative Performances took place at the Horse Hospital and formed the second part of an evening exploring visual music. In the first half, Cindy Keefer (director of the Centre of visual Music ) introduced a series films (some rare) by filmakers such as Oskar Fischinger and Jordan Belsen. In the second half we explored this theme further with a visceral performance of performance painting on translucent cellophane with sound from Professors Roger Redgate and  Matt Wright (Goldsmiths and Canterbury) and regular collaborator Portia Winters singing. It was an exciting and intense performance.Performance Painting, Centre for Visual Music Salon Performance

Center for Visual Music Salon

Center for Visual Music Salon

Live Painting with Light Performance

Centre for Visual Music Salon (Film Still)

Performance Painting

Centre for Visual Music Salon 10/16

Performance Painting with Light

Performance Painting (Film Still)

Centre for Visual Music Salon (10/16)

Performance Painting in Light

March 2017. Film Stills by Haavard Helle

POSTED: 03/9/17 2:01 PM

House Of St Barnabas (Performance Stills)

This performance came about from when I saw Cleveland at the meltdown festival some years ago performing a re envsioning of John Coltrane’s Love Supreme. His solo was incredible, and like other moments when I have heard music that I can see so clearly, I went about making contact to see if I could work with him. Luckily we connected and understood what each other were doing. I would love to work with him again. This performance was in the lovely chapel at the House of St Barnabas in Soho, London.

I wrapped the inside of the chapel (Christo like) in Cellophane , so that it appeared that the colour was happening all around him spatially. It was dramatic and looked and sounded great. The palette constantly changed with Cleveland’s versatility of colour and texture. However, I used white a lot, which seemed to reflect the purple light, and also worked as a kind of unspoken script casting a shadow against the lights. The performance was completely improvised, but I had set the space up so that I could surround the audience, and create a feeling of informality (slightly ruined by the seating arrangement, just prior to the performance) . I also invlolved my own body within the performance, painting myself, and also using two miked up canvas’s to provide sound. I have since been looking at the exciting work of Donna Huanca who uses the body with paint as a kind of skin within installations, which resonates with what I was trying to achieve within this performance.

Painting Performance with Cleveland Watkiss (Film Still)

Film Still of Performance with Cleveland Watkiss

Performance Painting (Film Still)

Performance Painting with Cleveland Watkiss

Film Still of Painting Performance with Cleveland Watkiss

Painting Performance (Film Still)

Painting Performance with Cleveland Watkiss

Singing Colour Performance with Cleveland Watkiss (Film Still)

Painting with Cleveland

Cleveland Watkiss Singing Colour

March 2017. Film Stills by Haavard Helle.

POSTED: 03/9/17 1:38 PM