Wyndham Lewis was described by Ernest Hemingway as having “eyes of an unsuccessful rapist”. Leonard Woolf labeled him as “bilious and cantankerous”. Paul Nash defined Lewis as “strangely sub-human” (Normand*, p.1) Lewis inspired almost entirely negative commends from his contemporaries, including accusations of vanity, insanity, irritable temperament, dullness and general nastiness. His penchant towards the negative, makes it rather delightful and surprising, that his first Vortex manifesto in the first Blast edition included not only of those deserving a blast, but also of those who would merit a bless.

The work in the Octagon vitrine takes a less polarised view of BLESS BLAST. Although inspired by Wyndham Lewis’ manifesto, the clouds of letters merge blast and bless into one. Layers overlap, preventing the words from emerging as clear entities. Only differentiated by two letters, the bless and blast are entangled: bonded by b, l and s, they are a nebulous reminder of the delicate difference between that what is praised and that what is cursed.

This evolving publication will explore the opaque transitions between bless and blast.

* Normand, T. (1992) Wyndham Lewis the artist : holding the mirror up to politics. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press



"Lewis attacked British culture for its 'mildness· blaming this conservatism on a susceptibility to the influence of the Gulf Stream. Bergson, Elgar, the Clan Strachey and various popular entertainment figures arc among those singled out for humorous attack. British humour is both 'blasted' and 'blessed' as a denial of seriousness on one hand and, on the other, as a satirical 'barbarous weapon· expressing itself in 'the separating, ungregarious BRITISH GRIN'. The question of the 'New Egos' appropriate for modern life is, as our examination of Lewis's art of this period has shown, at the heart of much of his thought and the subject of one of the short aphoristic essays he contributed to the new journal. In an egotistical world with an 'infinite variety of means of life ... frontiers interpenetrate. individual demarcations arc confused and interests dispersed'. The simple individualities of the past are no longer a sufficient model for life and art cannot continue as if 'the one compact human form' is sufficient as a.means of expression. A new 'logical Passion of Life' is thus the foundation and aim of a new art. where a 'separating' instinct must live alongside a psychological 'promiscuity'. Lewis accepts the Futurist diagnosis of the flux of modern life but proposes an imaginative independence from, rather than an immersion in, it. Equally, he rejects the Futurist concept of “re-constructing the universe” and mocks their “automobilism” and efforts at fashion design.*

(*Humphreys, R. (2004) ‘Wyndham Lewis’. London : Tate)


BLESS BLAST vitrine at the Octagon Gallery, UCL is part of celebratory events for 150th aniversary of the Slade. A three dimensional visual poetry display and this immaterial online writing/publishing project are inspired by Wyndham Lewis’s first edition of the Blast magazine; it contained the Vorticist manifesto with a list of things, people and ideas which were, according to Lewis, either ‘bless’ or ‘blast’. What is the threshold between "blast" and "bless"? Marked by the difference in only two letters, the words elicit a polarised judgment, obscuring an opaque network of connections and overlaps between the concepts. A link will soon appear here for a BLESS BLAST publication available for print. It will be supplemented by weekly by a new double spread. November 17, 2021 - April 17, 2021. (or possibly longer)