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Archive Entries for January 2013

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Thursday January 31, 2013

Books in January

  • At the Villa Rose by A E W Mason BOM-AtTheVillaRose.jpg
    This is the second of the "free" vintage - presumably out of copyright - detective novels I downloaded from the internet.
    I was really keen on this story - both for the period detail, as well as the mystery plot aspect.
    It did seem to me it would make a good screen adaptation as it is written in a very picturesque way, with a charming landscape as a backdrop and with characters that could expand beyond the writing. and indeed I find it has been adapted three times for the screen: first in a 1920 silent version starring Manora Thew, and then in further versions in 1930 starring Austin Trevor, and in 1940 when the title role was played by Kenneth Kent. All of these have eluded me!

  • The Newgate Jig by Ann Featherstone [read by Gareth Armstrong] BOM-NewgateJig.jpg
    Yet again I can't praise Ann Featherstone enough, and from reading the reviews I am not alone in my view on this novel. I'm afraid its another poignantly sad little story and yet I find her way of telling a tale so captivating. It's true that the core of the story is set around acts of deeply unpleasant violence, which I am sure convincingly had its place in Victorian society as much as it does today. However, in the everyday life of our hero, Bob Chapman, one of life's innocents, ("For you should know that I am not an adventurous man. I like a life that is calm and well-ordered."), she describes a world in which for the greater part, people are generally good to one another - and even the slightly less sympathetic peripheral characters are only acting out of interests of preserving their own world, not any underlying ill will. Don't get me wrong - she does not draw a winsome rose-tinted view of jolly Victorian life - the harsh reality of urban life is all too evident. Alongside this stable picture of Bob and his solid friendships, and maybe because of it, she manages to convey a deep sense of sinister unease and real threat to Bob's world from the "Nasty Man" and his network - a threat which essentially stems from only bad luck and a misunderstanding.
    The story ends sadly but not tragically (as does Walking in Pimlico* I would say) - again much in keeping with real life. Although in hindsight, and without giving the game away too much, it is perhaps true that the events really did have a most tragic affect on Bob's life.
    * I did enjoy Ann's sidelong reference to Corney Sage (and Lucy) from the previous novel who make a fleeting appearance in passing as they perform in the run down Constellation music hall - with the comment that he was "too good for this gaff". Apparently - in 2011 at least - she plans a third novel focussing on another of the characters from the Pavilion Theatre that appear in this book. I am looking forward to it already.

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 9:37 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Monday January 28, 2013

Cakes and ale


OK the above is your first clue.

And below is my "big" present. Only 50 years - probably to the day - from when I first dreamed of owning one. She is 50 years old this year, though I have put her in an outfit that dates from a bit later on - the outfit is very "me" - I guess I'm the one that should be wearing it.


Posted on January 28, 2013 at 12:38 PM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Thursday January 24, 2013

A Bigger Splash


The critics seem to have been quite ... critical... of this exhibition, and if I say I found it quite interesting, it sounds like damning with faint praise - but (you'll have to take my word for it) I'm not.

The thing for me is that it was all about people working at the extremes or boundaries of art during my own lifetime. Even if I had been intellectually capable of it, or interested enough, I don't think it was very easy to judge what they were doing - for artistic merit or anything else for that matter - at the time they were doing it.
So how interesting for me to look at it again now.
A lot of the performance art of the 1970s was a bit "rude" so you have trouble either getting away from that and saying "I am grown up enough not to be shocked by this rude stuff and is it art nonetheless?" or alternatively regarding the "rudeness" as part of the point of it; a reaction against convention and shock value as an artistic statement or wittiness in itself. And if it is the latter - then none of it's very shocking any more*.
I have no answer to this - I still don't know if I am looking at Yves Klein's living brushes (nude models rolling around in paint) with the narrow view of a sheltered middle class 12 year old or with the hindsight of a sophisticated woman in her 50s - but....
it was all dead interesting.

* I recently watch "I Cladius" from 1976 which included a scene of naked (presumably slave) women dancing for Augustus, which was like the naked dancing in "Hair" (1968), with everyone pretending that it was all "natural" and we were all in touch with our bodies, but in fact it looked just the opposite. These days incidental nudity on TV is simply that: incidental.

The exhibition was really about performance art "looking at the relationship between performance and painting" - so the eponymous artwork (1967) was exhibited with a short clip of the almost-but-not-really documentary film about Hockney by Jack Hazen from 1971 - the film seems to have shaped the reality rather than the other way around.
It included some of Hans Namuth and Paul Falkenburg's film of Jackson Pollock painting - although as I understand it, he did not really like being filmed at work. He found it was limiting in that he was performing for the camera rather than focussing on the art. And it is interesting that the exhibition seems to demonstrate this - the art seems to live either in the performance or in the artwork thus produced - not in both equally.

I think it's fair to say that - apart from Yayoi Kusama and her dots - I had not heard of any of the other artists before, despite their obvious fame among the cognoscenti. And to be fair she only registered with me as, in her 80s now, she came over for her exhibition at the Tate last year - and again - how interesting to see film of her in the 1960s, at her Body Festivals, painting dots on naked people...

Other items in the same vein included: Niki de Saint Phalle - filmed and photographed firing (a gun) at balls of paint captured in plaster casts, that explode on the canvas ("shooting pictures"... get it?) - a lovely idea and great performance art if you were there, but the actual artwork thus produced... you can't help feeling could have been achieved better by other methods. I know, I know....;

G√ľnter Brus with a film of his walking around in Vienna painted white, with a black line down the centre of his body (unusually it seems wearing clothes), and then his inevitable arrest by the local police. (It was Austria, and it was 1965);

And various artists demonstrating the art of make-up - either stage like make-up creating a look: a series of photos showing gradual ageing (Urs Luthi), and aseries of female sterotypes (Cindy Sherman), or as a performance in the actual application of the make-up (Lynn Hershman). Fascinatingly not to say "weirdly", the latter created the alternative self, named Roberta Breitmore, with a "performance" lasting from 1974 to 1978, which she categorised a "time-based sculptural work" - a description I like.

YvesKlein.jpg YayoiKusama.jpg GunterBrus.jpg

The reason we chose to go to the Tate Modern was to fully explore the pleasures of Robert's membership (plus guest!) and as a preliminary outing for my imminent birthday. We continued our tour by dropping in at the British Museum for tea, and then went on to see One Man, Two Guvnors as I felt Rob had missed out; it is still excellent of course, but the cast has changed a few times and you're still left wishing you'd seen the original.

Posted on January 24, 2013 at 12:35 PM. Category: Days Out.

Thursday January 10, 2013



Some years ago I put my name down for an allotment, and to my astonishment, this year we were given one. Here we are choosing our plot (yes! there was a choice) and collecting the key.

Posted on January 10, 2013 at 12:37 PM. Category: The Garden.