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  • Stephen Ellcock: The Facebook curator or the social media cabinet of wonders.
  • Post author
    Karina Miller

Stephen Ellcock: The Facebook curator or the social media cabinet of wonders.

Stephen Ellcock: The Facebook curator or the social media cabinet of wonders.

I came across Stephen Ellcock’s Facebook page by accident, or maybe it was destiny, but in any case it was certainly meant to be; with the kind of voyeuristic pleasure Facebook provokes, I notice I wasn’t the first one: many of my “FF” or Facebook friends, already had discovered the treasure.

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Who is this guy? According to his page information, he studied “Venery at Rat Bastard Protective Association” and the “Special needs school of Hard Knocks” and lives in London (obviously he has a very British sense of humor). His page is like a Cabinet of Wonders were one can find photographs, catalogs of ribbons, animals (natural and imaginary), book design covers & binding selections, maps, illustrations, botanical indexes, antiques images, miniatures, engravings, drawings, quilt designs, color treatises, mosaics, and even a “late 17th century medallion, made in Point de France [needle lace] depicting the French royal sun contained within half-domed architectural structure, surrounded by stylized foliated garlands.”

https://www.facebook.com/stephen.ellcock

Like in Borges’ short story “The analytical Language of John Wilkins”, Ellcock (ironically a borgean name itself) seems to be interested in “the possibility and principles of a universal language” and, in the same fashion, Ellcock’s sense of humor resembles Borges’, who describes a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled 'Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge’, that seems to be a kind of metaphor for Ellcock’s page: “In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) etcetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.”

toi art gallery blog

toi art gallery blog

toi art gallery blog

Ellcock is also adored by his followers; who write things like this: “Stephen, if you ever need anything, you know you can call me, and a thousand other people. Because you rock my world with every picture you post”; “Your posts are just the most beautiful wonderful things… you make my eyes and brain spark… thanks. If we take time to look there are amazing things around”; “No words Stephen for today’s post. Stunning, stunning! I love, I share and I save to savor again and again. Like I do with all your brilliant posts. Thank you so much.” And the list goes on and on. Like little love poems, people express their feelings of joy and wonder with smiles and tears and words of gratitude for Stephen’s posts.

And I think there is hope in the world, there should be, because all these feelings are inspired by art and hidden treasures of humanity in a wonderful collection on a Facebook page. In fact, if an alien species come to earth long after the extinction of the human race and find Stephen’s page, that would be the perfect testimony of all the wonderful ideas and things human beings are capable of.

******

 Interview with Stephen Ellcock

  1. Where were you born?

I was born in a small town just outside of London.

  1. Are you an artist yourself?

No, sadly not. I have, however, always had an interest in pattern making , bricolage collage and the juxtaposition of images . From a very early age I was obsessed with creating scrapbooks out of found materials , newspapers , magazines, comics etc . When I was a teenager I destroyed what would now be a priceless collection of Marvel & DC comics from the 1960s and ‘70s, Underground magazines and comics , e.g. Oz, IT, Zap , Nasty Tales etc, and Punk era ‘zines in order to create complex collages .. all now sadly, or perhaps , thankfully, lost.

toi art gallery post 

  1. Why did you start your Facebook page?

I was at a fairly low point in my life – homeless , dealing with drink and drug related problems , recovering from a serious , debilitating illness – and my sister coerced and cajoled into signing up even though I didn’t even own a mobile phone , never mind a PC or a laptop at the time. Initially, I found it insufferably mundane and tedious but gradually , as I connected with increasing numbers of interesting people , I was seduced and soon found myself spending a lot of time and money in internet cafes.

After a year or so of maintaining a fairly low profile , I began to see the huge potential for exploiting Facebook as a unique powerful visual forum and very few people I encountered were using it in that way . Once I started posting images and realized  that I could compile thematic albums containing as many as 1000 images, there was no stopping me and, encouraged by the response, it has snowballed from there until it has now well and truly hijacked my life.  

  1. What do you think about collecting?

I understand the collecting impulse all too well and in my time have been an obsessive collector , particularly of books and records . However , having either lost or abandoned everything several couple times during my rather precarious , white-knuckle life , I am now almost completely cured of that impulse and enjoy a relatively uncluttered , spartan life , I am unencumbered by sentimental attachments to all but a handful of material objects .

I think that the following passage by José Saramago is a brilliant and deft analysis of the collecting impulse:

‘There are people like Senhor José everywhere, who fill their time, or what they believe to be their spare time, by collecting stamps, coins, medals, vases, postcards, matchboxes, books, clocks, sport shirts, autographs, stones, clay figurines, empty beverage cans, little angels, cacti, opera programmes, lighters, pens, owls, music boxes, bottles, bonsai trees, paintings, mugs, pipes, glass obelisks, ceramic ducks, old toys, carnival masks, and they probably do so out of something that we might call metaphysical angst, perhaps because they cannot bear the idea of chaos being the one ruler of the universe, which is why, using their limited powers and with no divine help, they attempt to impose some order on the world, and for a short while they manage it, but only as long as they are there to defend their collection, because when the day comes when it must be dispersed, and that day always comes, either with their death or when the collector grows weary, everything goes back to its beginnings, everything returns to chaos.”

toi art gallery blog

 

  1. Is there a specific artistic period or region that interests you?

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that I believe I can find art and objects that interest, delight and intrigue me in almost every culture, tradition and epoch, but if I had to single out any particular era then I guess I have a particular affinity for the High Baroque; Medieval illuminated manuscripts ; Renaissance alchemical texts and Emblem books; Japanese woodblock prints ; Indian miniatures from the Mughal era ; American comic book art from George Herrimann and Windsor McCay, via the Golden and Silver Age artists like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Basil Wolverton, through to Robert Crumb  Art Spiegelman, Gary Panter, Daniel Clowes and man, MANY others ; finally, European and American artists of the late 19th – early 20th century , i.e. the Symbolists , the Decadents , the Post-Impressionists, Les Fauves , Les Nabis etc .  

 

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 6. Name three artists you couldn’t live without.

Dürer, Rembrandt and Bosch , with honorary mentions for Breughel , Goya, Zurbarán, Giovanni Tiepolo, Turner, Samuel Palmer, van Gogh, Munch , Félix Vallotton , Redon , Léon Spilliaert, Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolours etc , etc ad infinitum.

  1. How is your typical day like?

My typical day is a complete blur, interspersed with long walks and frequent naps.

I am nocturnal by habit and reclusive by choice. I don’t really ‘do’ mornings , I have never possessed the slightest ambition to ‘better myself’ or ‘get on in life’, alarm calls , routine, hive-speak and small-talk are anathema to me , I abhor telephones , hypocrisy , and (most) authority figures , so I am therefore constitutionally and temperamentally unable to hold down a ‘proper job’. Consequently, on the few occasions when circumstances have compelled me to take an office based job, I have been fired within a few months, if not weeks, or even days, of my arrival.

Nowadays, my home is my ‘office’ and I work on a freelance basis for various publishers, artists, photographers, designers and record labels. I also edit and write texts for illustrated, ‘gift’ books and children’s books .

Virtually all of my free time is devoted to Facebook, and I spend innumerable hours each week foraging, excavating and rummaging around in some of the more obscure, murkier corners of the internet researching and looking for arcane and interesting material to post.

toi art gallery blog

  1. What do you think about museums?

Museums, libraries and other institutions are obviously having to evolve rapidly and astutely in order to adapt to the challenges of the digital age and some are evolving successfully, whilst others are floundering and failing miserably .

I would love to live in a society where Museums and education and library services are free and accessible to all, but I know this is a hopelessly quixotic and utopian ideal nowadays.

Whilst a part of me deplores the increased commercialisation and commodification of ‘Culture’ , I also acknowledge that these things are a necessary evil in today’s world if such vital institutions and services are to survive and attract and inspire future generations. I would, however, completely banish the dreaded ‘audio-guides’ from the face of the Earth.  

  1. Name three of your favorites books

Ovid’s ‘ Metamorphoses’

Flaubert’s ‘Trois Contes ‘ (Three Tales)

Joris-Karl Huysman’s ‘A Rebours’ (Against Nature)

  1. Should people have art at home? Why?

I confess that I am at a loss when it comes to answering this question. I think this is entirely a matter of individual taste and choice and I would hate to be prescriptive.

There was no art on my parents’ walls when I was growing up and there are absolutely no paintings, photographs, posters, objects d’art or conventionally ‘beautiful’ things on display in my present home but, nevertheless, I know that I have a very good ‘eye’ .

If I had money I might be tempted to invest in works of art and aesthetically pleasing objects, curios and artefacts but possessions mean next to nothing to me and I am quite content with the way things are, (although, truth be told, I wouldn’t mind a new sofa)

toi art gallery

  1. Have you traveled a lot?

I have travelled widely throughout Europe , North America, Asia , the Caribbean but, sadly, have hardly ever ventured south of the Equator.

I was a professional musician for many years and toured extensively throughout that period, so if any foolhardy, possibly suicidal publisher would like to commission the definitive guide to the dives and toilet venues of the Northern Hemisphere then I’m your man!

12.Where is home?

South London, about 100 yards from the Thames surrounded by the relics and reclaimed, ‘repurposed’ remnants of London’s Docklands and besieged by encroaching gentrification and a tidal wave of braying, aspirational young ‘professionals’.

13.What would you like to say to your followers?

This :

“I respect kindness in human beings first of all and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.” - Brendan Behan 

 

toi art gallery blog

toi art gallery blog

All pictures are from Stephen Ellcock’s page: https://www.facebook.com/stephen.ellcock?fref=ts

To support Stephen's work click here:

https://www.patreon.com/stephenellcock

 

                                                                                                            Karina Miller

 

 

  • Post author
    Karina Miller

Comments on this post (46)

  • Apr 30, 2017

    Than you for this interview ,I admire the honest answers and the no nonsense attitude! I do love Stephen’s post,interesting and everything you can imagine

    — tineke ouwehand

  • Apr 30, 2017

    I’m a huge fan of Stephen Ellcock’s posts on Facebook, and this interview was brilliant…!

    — Martha Somerville

  • Apr 10, 2017

    dear Stephen, Thank you for many hours of visual pleasure! As one anarchist to another your free art warms my 87 y.o. soul. Keep doing your wonderful work. xoxo

    — Mary K O'Brien

  • Feb 20, 2017

    Muchas gracias Stephen! Visitando tu página aprendo más que en la escuela de arte
    Saludos desde Buenos Aires -Argentina

    — Gabriel

  • Dec 18, 2016

    Yey he’s back!!!! Great news!!

    — Caroline

  • Dec 18, 2016

    STEPHEN ELLCOCK IS GONE, DISSAPEARED, NO LONGER THERE, EVAPORATED AND VAMOOSSED. HE IS NO LONGER ON FACEBOOK. OVERNIGHT HIS POSTS HAVE GONE. ITS A SAD TIME FOR THOSE WHO APPRECIATE MORE THAN CAT MEMES ON THEIR FACEBOOK FEED. OH1 MR FACEBOOK WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!!!!

    — CHRISTINE GLOVER

  • Dec 16, 2016

    Really worrying Stephen’s name has completely disappeared from Facebook, all but gone from google searches, nothing on reddit, what on earth is going on?
    Very disturbing if people can be erased from internet – how can we protest, find out what is going on, and support those like Stephen who seem to be deliberately extricated from cyberspace – unless its something he wants in which case please ignore what I’ve said. But surely not after all his extraordinary labour of love and how much he has given us all (I am a latecomer to his treasure trove) ?
    Please, does any one know what has happened?

    — Caroline

  • Dec 13, 2016

    Stephen – Where are you?

    — Sebastian Jakobsson

  • Dec 12, 2016

    I can’t find Stephen Ellcock’s Facebook page or any news about him, he seems to have disappeared from the Internet… Please help! I feel so bereft without his marvellous magical pictures. Where is he posting now?

    — Caroline

  • Oct 18, 2016

    Please, can you send me an emai contact of Stephen Ellcock? Or whatever contact on him which he answers? Thanks a lot!

    — Eva K

  • Aug 23, 2016

    Stephen Ellcock ❤️

    — Katie M

  • Aug 23, 2016

    Thank you for this interview,very open+honest!I do love your postings,so very inspiring+special! Hopefully we’ll have books of you in the near future!
    I still like beautiful books! I also admire your response! Thank you Stephen???

    — Tineke

  • Aug 23, 2016

    Thank you for the interview – a day with out Stephen is a day, literally w/o art. What ever the deal is with FB and the ban – I’m behind him all the way. Your interview is delightful – so many things explained, yet another world view. I thank you both.

    — Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt

  • Aug 23, 2016

    Stephen’s work is wonderful…about one of the only things that actually keeps me going to facebook…interesting reading his background a bit…I wish you all the best Stephen and thank you for all you do…

    — jeffery weigand

  • Aug 23, 2016

    J’ai découvert la page FB de Stephen Ellcock il y a un an. Depuis, je le suis quotidiennement. Son immense curiosité, son goût artistique très sûr, font de ses albums de belles et profondes expériences esthétiques, indépendantes des modes et dépourvues de tout snobisme. En français, on emploie le mot “amateur” dans l’expression “amateur d’art” pour désigner quelqu’un qui sait voir et aimer la beauté partout où elle se trouve. Stephen fait partie du petit nombre de ceux qui savent non seulement apprécier, mais surtout faire partager le beau. Merci à lui pour sa générosité et sa passion.

    — Eric Dumaître

  • Aug 22, 2016

    Marvelous, Marvelous, Marvelous Stephen

    — MJ Motsinger

  • Aug 22, 2016

    Stephen’s omnivorous eye enlists the fragile, the neglected, the exotic & mundane – the surrealities of old photographs, the gnomic glaze of petroglyphs, the patternist & portentous preoccupations of alchemists, the overlooked quirks of fine artists ancient & modern, & the piquant oddities of antique advertising images, or Renaissance sky atlases – all to show us a graphic universe where anything & everything is possible & almost tangible – even, perhaps – I dream – the salvation of our culture via his tireless unearthing of the staggering richness of our shared visual heritage.

    — Jay gle

  • Aug 22, 2016

    Deepest appreciation and gratitude to Stephen Ellcock. Long may you run!

    — joan

  • Aug 22, 2016

    Stephen you are a true legend. As a young teenager at school I was lunchtime librarian and poured through books revelling in the pictures of art, Greek mythology and artifacts from all places and countries beyond my then imagination. Thank you for rekindling my inner ardour for visual experiences from way beyond. May life give you daily kindnesses.

    — Susie D

  • Aug 22, 2016

    Stephen you are a true legend. As a young teenager at school I was lunchtime librarian and poured through books revelling in the pictures of art, Greek mythology and artifacts from all places and countries beyond my then imagination. Thank you for rekindling my inner ardour for visual experiences from way beyond. May life give you daily kindnesses.

    — Susie D

  • Jul 04, 2016

    Une occasion pour moi de remercier S Ellcock; Je suis ce qu’il post, j’adore ses trouvailles et surtout le fait qu’il nous donne accès à des documents que peut -être parfois nous pourrions trouver mais au prix de recherches ++ et aussi avec beaucoup de temps. C’est un grand plaisir de suivre son travail. et partage et à priori nous sommes vraiment très nombreux à le suivre !!

    — martine

  • Jun 25, 2016

    Stephen has an excellent eye. I’m really thankful that he shares his vision with the rest of us.

    — Hal S.

  • Jun 25, 2016

    I am frequently on the verge of leaving Facebook for its aggression and inanity, but then I think of Stephen and all the joy he brings and I stay to scroll another day.

    — Amy Trojanowski

  • Jun 23, 2016

    Stephen Ellcock’s work was a big influence on my whole approach to facebook. Love books and culture and try to find others who do as well. If you have a good eye, use it. Cast a wide net. If you’re going to share or post, go for quality over quantity. It’s good to see an actual interview with him. He’s the best and we appreciate all his hard work in finding great images and more.

    — Maurice Greenia, Jr.

  • Jun 22, 2016

    Thank you for this interview! I have been a huge fan of Stephen Ellcock’s page for some time, saving so many of the wonderful things he has posted. Mr Ellcock thank you for doing what you do – curating a visual world of beauty, melancholy, curiosity. You are a treasure.

    — Sara

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