Posts Tagged ‘culture’

I greatly took to Cubism,
right from when my brain started to function properly.

Ok, that was no straight-forward event in itself, more a spasmodic, sporadic, an occasional kind of development. Retrograde at times, too.
But the point is, Cubism did it for me.

Look at those early Picasso’s and Braque’s: the regular rectangular picture frames; the muted, limited chromatic palette.
It all spelled out Ordinary, and Normal.
The colour-scheme was deliberately mimicking the faded, un-retouched, colours of Old Masters, of Renaissance art.
This was part of the point – Picasso’s ego was towering, as usual, and he was laying down his statement: We Are The New Renaissance Artists

Of course, what those regular frames and muted colours contained was something else again. This set-up was all part of the effect, the impact.
Set-up, and punch-line.

As to the new content: we were so used to older art having a narrative, of even being the adjunct – although as a very established and authoritative one, of a pictorial experience.
Decorative art was taking off, though: think of those gold panels of Klimt. Painting was calling its own bluff:
I am a flat surface. What you see as multidimensional is really just graded marks in two dimensions.
Art is illusion.

The novelty of this was paramount: the emperor has no clothes.
Think of stage magicians showing how a trick is done.
Ah, but they always hold something back.

The new ‘thing’ was to break with narrative, and be Art: painting, colour, volume, shape,  all owning their own identities, in their own rights. Abstract Art. Balancing colours, volumes, shapes, created on the field.
Think of Mallarme, and the breaking away of words, language, from its narrative. Words as decorative, or, if you like, freed.

Art always moves on, seeks further expression; the meeting of one’s slice-of-time, and psychological make-up, interact, feed into each other. They are made from each other.

There is always this dialogue.

Art does not exist in isolation, no matter how hard it tries. The multi-cognitive nature of painting depicts all the aspects of the human imprint.
Cubism was a dialogue with what went before, and also with what might come.
Cubism, authorities agree, had its roots in the later Cezanne’s cubic, conal, spherical, dominated landscapes. Those and ancient African and Iberian works.

But it was also grounded in the intellectual ferment of its period: give it a name, for convenience: Relativity.
I refer you to this stimulating blog:
https://richlynne.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/cubism-and-relativity/

Those cubist multi-angled, part-depictions, the objectivications, of that most intimate subject, the  human portrait, also imply – and this is what excited me – the painter’s response to, if not a proper understanding of (but then, what in the public sphere ever has a full grasp of its subject?) the new theories coming from out of physics and the sciences.

The meeting point between Picasso and Einstein is given in an stimulating article on the  book, ‘Einstein, Picasso‘, by Arthur I MIller, in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/miller-01einstein.html .
The meeting point was Poincare’s book La Science et l’hypothèse.
The book introduced ideas of non-Euclidean geometry, multi-dimensions, multi-perspectives.
– Einstein read it and was fired up.
– Picasso heard the theories at around the same time (third-hand), and was freed.

It was this hidden, though implied, back-story that I responded to in Cubism. I did not know it at the time, and am incapable of understanding the mathematics, and would probably struggle and fail with the concepts now. But the need for tantalising dimensions of deeper meanings has always been my life’s ache.

There are currently writing practitioners who pronounce Writing Is Words. Nothing else (see Mallarme again). This goes for all types of writing.
Are they trying to create a form of decorative art, in words?
In art, some track all this from Duchamp, this breaking the art-and-meaning bond.
Post-War American artists, writers, took to it large-scale. It was one way, perhaps, of dealing with the War horror, by defusing it, scattering it. Meanwhile Korea, then Vietnam, were tearing at the heart of it all.

Painting, sculpture, music, without some grand narrative has never been enough.
Is it part of a cluster of synapses were developed by my response to my-period-of life in the world?
Do other generations not have this? Or other clusters that I do not detect?
There are no cut-off points. No generation ends and another begins.
As an analogue, try this:
I was investigating oral traditions of legends, tales. One source pointed out, quite pertinently, that writing and oral traditions, especially in Western Europe have co-existed for a long time. It is perhaps impossible to conceive of a solely oral tradition. All cultures have connected elements, whether painting, carving, weaving as well as some forms of written.
Some Native Australian groups now will not allow, for example, a piece of their music, or picture-making, to be copied, on the grounds that it cannot be divorced from the complete event of dance, song, music, making, that is their whole ceremony.

Now, off to bed with you.

johan-huizinga

I’d been email-chatting with an historian, one of a new group, with their own angle, agenda, their own name. I signed off saying I was just going to re-read some Huizinga.
And that was it. I did not hear from him again.
I had gone beyond the Pale.

That is the problem with Academies, they become so culty, hemmed-in with codes and etiquettes. I had obviously mentioned an historian who was not ‘in’ with their group.
I was going to re-read him because I found so much of value there. But it wasn’t what they valued. He did it differently. Heaven forbid.

Johan Huizinga is mostly known in the English-speaking world for his magisterial The Waning of the Middle Ages. The more correct title, apparently, is The Autumn of the Middle Ages, published 1924. It is this book made the man’s name. He was a leading Dutch historian.

His dates are 1872 to 1945.
That last date in particular I want you to note: died February, 1945. He had been interned in 1942 after criticism of the invasion forces. Eventually, after much clamour and agitation by the international history community, he was released. He was released in that terrible winter of 1944/5.
It is now estimated that 10,000 Dutch people died that winter, after the Nazi’s cut off food and energy supply lines, in retaliation. As the Allied forces moved through France, the Belgian and Dutch citizens could see liberation so near, so inevitable. They cheered them on. When the advance was stalled in the Ardennes, the Nazi’s took their revenge.

He began his academic career as a student of Indo-Germanic languages; he then studied comparative linguistics. He taught Oriental Studies for many years. It was not until his 30s he turned to medieval studies. Here he excelled.

His book on the later middle ages gives us the clamour and spectacle of the period, the life-lived-in-public aspect.
He also fills in with some of the gaps in current information on, for instance, such figures as Georges Chastellain, and others grouped as the grands rhetoriqueurs:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grands_Retoriqueurs.
This gives us, in turn, the real nature of the much acclaimed period. In this book he sets the increasing brutality and violence of the time against its constructed images of courtois and chivalry.
The book investigates the Burgundian Court in its positioning as potential alternate power-base to the royal court.
Professor Ralph Strom-Olsen of Madrid University, put up a very interesting paper on this: Georges Chastellain and the Language of Burgundian Historiography, that is available on Academia.edu from http://fs.oxfordjournals.org/

He has other books, influential in modern fields. Take Gaming – for this the ‘go to’ book is his Homo Ludens, published 1938.
Homo Ludens puts forward, and illustrates, the theory that our main and enduring activities as civilized people, is a form of play, serious play, that is play with rules. He traces word games as the origins of rhetoric, to Cicero’s monumental legal disputes; he sees here also the dress-up aspect in legal and royal court costume.
Playing and Knowing is an intriguing chapter, challenging us to consider acquisition of knowledge, experimentation, indeed logic, as forms of play-activity. How can we know anything until we put aside certainty, the known, and step out into maybe-land? But this play is deadly serious: riddle-solving, the penalty of death, are part and parcel of the game.
The point is, he stimulates thought, he makes us look at our institutions differently.
The range of this subject can be seen to refer us back to to the subject of Professor Huizinga’s first PhD: The Role of the Jester in Indian Drama.
https://gamingconceptz.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/huizingas-magic-circle.html

You can go to the crazy end and cite the late 1960’s Playpower ideals here. Oz Magazine founder, Richard Neville’s book, Playpower, was the bible for attempts at neutralizing governments and their powers through play, through the skewing of seriousness and power politics, by returning to origins, and seeing what all its accumulated kudos really was.

Another book of his well worth searching out is Men and Ideas, first published in translation in 1959.
This collection of essays is concerned with ‘the task of cultural history.’
The books have dated, that is, their range of subject matter and methods of treatment, have been left behind by modern tastes.
But the general reader will not find a more stimulating essay on Peter Abelard, than this. His essay on John of Salisbury is also outstanding.
Who was he? He was a 12th Century English cleric, who became apologist for Thomas a Beckett. From modest beginnings he worked his way up, studying under Peter Abelard, was secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Theobald; he even met who was to become known as St Bernard of Clairvaux.
John’s main legacy to us, however, is his Policraticus; the study is a slice of his time.
http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/salisbury-poli4.html
Chaucer valued it highly for its political relevance, its clear thinking, its civil conscience.
His essay on Erasmus, which was the heart of the collection… is it the translation? No; I think Johan Huizinga became exasperated with his subject. The reader comes away with the impression he blamed him for wasting his opportunities, for not being as good as he should have been.

I would dearly love to give as much information on his wife, Mary Schorer.

maryshuiz
Her story must be as fascinating, and as eventful.

Their son, Leonard Huizinga, became a prolific and popular Dutch novelist, with his comedic Adriaan and Olivier series.
There is also another son, of whom I can find nothing.

See also:
http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/history/historian/johan_huizinga.html

 

We have all now seen the viral R F Kelly interview.

http://www.news.com.au/world/europe/robert-kellys-live-bbc-interview-gatecrashed-by-his-kids/news-story/941f9467b6664cc9b5684cb6db933814

I was one of the ones who presumed the lady was the nanny, and not his wife. Of course, those of us who did, are now happily castigated:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-39244325

It’s all about reading the signals, aligning with experience, and about rail-roaded expectations.
Who now remembers the argument he was putting across? It was presented as a purely visual event.

Those of us who have siblings close in age recognised this: the older/wiser one goes there, does that, so the other follows. It is about learning to be part of a larger unit. We will need it when we go to school, to be obedient so we can take in, learn.
As they get older this can turn into utter frustration: being followed around all the time. I remember it, I did it: we trust our family more than neighbour kids. Something our parents taught us. So, when the older one needs a broader discourse, the younger does not understand, and thinks it’s business as usual.

The older child came in: she knew something was going on, with the computer, her dad talking to it. She played along.
Oh, but he pushed her away.
Maybe she was way too disruptive anyway. Maybe not. But what did we read from that?
And the other sailed in, in the arc.

This was piling it on: we knew the classic two set-up, so when the lady came in, with the expression of horror, it was a classic full three-set fail.

But how did she handle it? She did not assume the authority we presumed his wife would.
And, now knowing she was his wife, my heart bleeds a little for her predicament, how she was caught out here in her uncertainty to her position, status.

It is no longer so funny. I now read her moment of pain in this.
Why does it hurt; what do I read? My own embarrassments? Probably; me not measuring up to some wider discourse’s system of etiquette.
I read her crouching, and closing the door on hands and knees as not the wife-status behaviour of someone from my own very restricted cultural experience. I was wrong; this was her/South Korean etiquette.

This is how Brexit will be.
Our ignorance of others will be written large. Because this is how it was before Britain joined the Common Market, when anything continental was exotic, when foreigners were to be mocked, and Ealing Farce and Carry-Ons ruled the waves… on a very, very small pond.

 

I was right to be castigated. I did go the easy way, and assume. I did play along with the media game/online presentation.
Tiredness, loss of attention, over-exposure to the needs of a world, much of which is not my business – all these sap alertness and attention.

‘Pay attention, boy. Yes, you at the back.’

PS

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-39267005

On Thursday 9th March it was announced Howard Hodgkin had died. He was 84.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-39219709

In memory, I am re-posting my blog on his work:

Howard Hodgkin (1933-2017)

To view a Howard Hodgkin painting is like being in on some event, but with the sound turned off. Everything is happening at once, but there’s this gap.

His paintings are visual ‘events’; you feel the churn of intensities.

It works by being so tightly contained. Most of his paintings are comparatively small: 37×38 cm (Still Life), 26x30cm (Venice Sunset). It’s only in later works he takes on size: 196x269cm (When Did We Go To Morocco?); but these are the exception.

The fierce overpainting objectifies emotional responses. The technically assured range of brushstrokes persuades us into seeing the harmonics of the piece.

So what soundtrack would we put here, then?

Harrison Birtwistle (Sir), for his layered textures and sense of theatre? Because Hodgkin is dramatic, his “emotional responses” (ie his paintings) lift and shape, throw into relief, subjective experience onto an objective plane.

But also for both their idiosyncratic Englishness. Unmistakable. Hodgkin’s focus is mostly domestic, the interior: we, the public, look either into frames into the picture, or out of an interior. Our sense of perspective is jeapordised to such an extent whichever way we look, that Hodgkin’s intensity becomes ours.

The unmistakable overpainting of the frame, and the painted frame within the painting (see Snapshot) is to “protect from the world” the at times fleeting emotion of the painting.
SNAPSHOT, 1984-93

snap

His paintings are deeply figurative; witness the quantity of portraits. At their heart (the canvas level, or, as he uses mostly board, the wood level) is generally a figurative leitmotif, before arpeggios of response, a polyphony of tonal qualities, describe their way out.

Ok, joke over, but you get the idea.

Painting for Hodgkin is about creating “illusionistic spaces” through the use of a specific vocabulary: colour is to create depth, the richly textured surfaces that allow underpainting to show through create counterpoint; patternings and obliquities help suggest space, while other techniques defeat space, keeping our eyes on the surface of the painting.

He has learned, surprisingly, from Sickert: “one way to make a painting exciting is the intimation of a human drama through psychological and sexual innuendo”. He does this through his tightly controlled focus, an almost keyhole perspective. Hodgkin himself writes: “I paint representational pictures of emotional situations”, that is, not emotions themselves. He also writes: “Pictures result from the accretion of many decisions, some are worked on for years, to find the exact thickness of a feeling.” (to Susan Sontag).

But is the Sickert so surprising? Hodgkin studied at Camberwell School of Art 1949 to 1954. Camberwell at that time was very influenced by the Euston Road School, in reaction to avant-garde’s pure abstractionism, and Surrealism. The Euston Road School (William Coldstream, Graham Bell, Victor Pasmore) was all about disciplined realism, observation, everyday life. And deeply influenced by Sickert and the Camden Town Group.

You also need to consider early Vuillard for the mood and interior scenes. Later, of course Hodgkin’s peers, Matisse, Derain, and who were to become fellow travellers: the neo expressionists.

His focus has always been intimacy, the understated; his figuration cubist, similar to de Kooning. Hodgkin’s observation is very much a consideration of remembered moments, his disciplined realism the veracity of the self.

Of It Can’t Be True (1987-90)

Itcantb

Michael Auping writes, it is “echo-like in its composition. It is composed of tilting frames jostling each other for position within the whole.” So, a constant tension set up by structural elements: the bright yellow frame in the centre is stopped short by a series of abrupt brush strokes that “violate its containment”.

And the title: what can’t be true? I question the need to know. The painting stands, for us; it emerges out of the personal life of the painter. As with all creative works there are always the unknowable elements: the subjective self’s containment is challenged, maybe compromised, but never wholly claimed. The titles are at times oblique because they are commentaries, jokes even, on the self, the legislated life, the legislators of life.

Auping comments, on Snapshot (1984-93), “We are given an inside view…  how the artist allows the marks to show through other marks, how he half buries and obliterates, leaving only what is necessary to re-engage his memory of the subject, though that memory and its relation to the title remains mysterious.”

As with all things, we have to learn to read paintings, their vocabularies, their aesthetics. Those who praise Old Masters for their perspicacity only see, in fact, a fraction of what they look at.

And so we begin to hear the soundtrack to these paintings (and it is not Birtwistle) in the dramatic tensions of the canvases, the emotional sweeps and uncoverings of colour, the personal chiaroscuro.

What has not yet been addressed is Hodgkin’s purpose in using the technique of the overpainted frames. It is a constant feature in his work, this bleeding out from the canvas onto walls, into the room’s light, but most importantly, into the viewer’s own existence.

There is something Derridean in this, how Derrida interrogates Kant and his logic of the parergon: “those things attached to the work of art but not part of its intrinsic form or meaning” eg the frame of the painting, the colonnades of a palace, drapery of statues…. The strict demarcation between one thing and another.

Derrida’s ‘indeterminacy’ informs Hodgkins’ sense of self; sexual orientation, and a sense of community are all implied here; hence a democracy of being, of being in the world. Hence, also, the personal quality, the familiarity, of some of his titles, implying a relationship with the viewer. Like all relationships it has to be worked at, constantly renewed, updated, changed.

HH

https://michael9murray.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/darkness-spoken-the-collected-poems-of-ingeborg-bachmann/

There was a loud rat-a-tat-tat on her door. It was a warm Rome night; she looked up from her work – That time?
She tutted at the interruption, at the time, at another night without dinner. Was she really tutting at her own forgetfulness? She turned back to her work, the old manual typewriter.

The door was knocked – banged – again. With great annoyance she stood but sitting so long had not been kind to her hips and she stumbled, hobbled, towards the door, holding onto her old, scant furniture.
She became aware of the noises around her for the first time, noises from the other apartments she was housed among. There was the next door radio again, and the other side the harassed voice of  mother of two little girls. Upstairs for once was quiet. Odd that, she was thinking. And then the door banged again.

‘Who is it?’ she called in her still-inflected Italian.
‘The Police. Open up please.’
Still she paused, the particular emotions this roused racing through her like long-lost family. She opened the door a crack, then more as she recognised the older man’s face.
‘Hello again,’ he smiled sardonically.
‘Upstairs?’ she asked. He nodded. Without being asked they walked in. They looked round the small, cramped apartment.
‘You would think,’ the younger of the two men was saying, ‘with all these papers, books… they’d sound-proof.’
‘Sound, like hot air, rises.’ The other motioned to the ceiling above, still strangely quiet.
‘This is the third time your neighbours have complained,’ the older man said, not unkindly.
‘I have to work.’ she said.
‘I know, I know….’

‘We need to see your papers.’ It was the younger man, he did not like the way his older officer was being easy with the perpetrator. There must be respect for the law.
She showed him her passport, permits.
‘German ?’ He was unsure now, the old enmity was still alive
‘Austrian!’ She was suddenly very much awake.
‘The older man moved in front of his comrade, gently returning her papers to her.
‘It is late, though,’ he said, ‘people need to rest after a long day.’
‘But I need to work,’ she repeated; or I’ll go mad, was running through her head.
The younger man was trying to claw back the ground he’d just lost,
‘What are you working on?’ His tone was a little too authoritative; he realised it and could not keep eye contact.
‘Just… just some poetry, a novel.’
The younger man was leafing through her papers. She looked anguished. The older man sighed, tired and in need of some cooler air after the stuffy room.

‘It is such a… little thing.’ the younger officer said, holding up the poem she had typed out already. He looked disappointed. They were moving towards the door at last.
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘such a little thing.’

 

ib2

Based on a real event.

ib1

seine3

In the apex of the barn gable an owl’s hole
perches on a stone head, and the head
stares out towards rectory trees
luring the valley between
to this bare, parched socket.

A pub sign, official designation,
rescued from the cellar of the reservoir;
the drowned village that bares its teeth
in the long hot summer.

A face uncomfortably blank like the blank
stare of the water; its wind-carved features,
brow, nose ridge, the deep eye-clefts;
straight mouth mean as a hill-winter.

A head tight to bursting
with indignations, straight-faced
with verticals and horizontals;
a labourer caricatured
by a neighbour fallen on easy times.

Too high in the barn
to be on equal terms with.

The head is brewing its word,
its kettle fired by the face’s
utter sobriety. A Viking
in his barn-ship wrecked
beside the ragged waters of the valley,
or Odin, caught out in trickery

tricking life from drudgery,
worth from existence, words
from the hinge of January.

.seine5

 

Rivington Village, Horwich, Bolton, Lancashire.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rivington

La Source de la Seine

Posted: February 18, 2017 in Chat
Tags: , ,

Many years ago I took a little time out. I only had little money so the options offered me were Turin, in Italy, or Dijon in France. I knew no Italian, but had a little school French. Not only that but the predominantly urban Turin, and the longer journey I found off-putting. I had also come across an article on the wooden statues found at La source de la Seine. So that was decided.

The day I went out to visit the sanctuary of La Source  was warm, wonderful, with occasional cooling showers of rain. I t00k l’autobus from Dijon, to Ste Seine l’Abbeye, and then walked from there. It was a mostly long straight Langres road.

As I neared the site I noticed the long lines of roadside trees seemed full of dark growth. Intrigued, I looked further: their crowns were thick with mistletoe. This occurred to me to be highly significant: I was approaching a sacred grove.

And then La Source de la Seine:

 

seine2

Whimsical, and 19th Century.

seine1

La Source consisted of a narrow cleft between lush and leafy tree slopes; the sun streamed in and was caught there. As the afternoon declined the air took more of the green colour from the trees, and the many-coloured pastel-shade pebbles in the bed of the water became more noticable.

Just how orchestrated was all this? Were the pebbles natural to the site, or chosen and laid? Was the mistletoe still the same growth from long centuries ago, or especially nurtured recently?
In a way the questions are superfluous: the early priests did no less when building up and commemorating this shrine to Sequana.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequana

http://www.worldhistory.biz/ancient-history/53561-source-de-la-seine.html

What if I had chosen Turin? The wonder of the Turin Shroud awaited me. Is it any less a mystery, not being what we thought it was?
Even the present whimsical Sequana caters to a need. It may not be a particularly elevated need. But then, we have to ask if ‘elevation’ is what it is all about. Is spiritual elevation a specifically Christian concept? Is it a generally monotheistic concept?
Is it a response to a Sky God, a reaching up out of ourselves, to something greater which we conceive of as therefore higher dimensionally, as well as ethically and spiritually?
Is this experience of elevation, or need for elevation, a genuine response of reverence?
Is ‘elevation’ an offering up of oneself?

The wooden offerings date from the Iron Age, and show a variety of physical ailments. We can surmise they were given as votive offerings, as the people appealed for help in some way with physical infirmities. We can also surmise that this was not the earlier reason for the specialness of the site.

I learned many things from my brief time there. One being to keep a tighter hold of one’s money. The other things, I am still discovering.

We go, travel, looking for the authentic experience. It may be that we confuse that authentic with the genuine, even the gratifying. These are mis-identifiers for the experience that is deeply moving, dare we say, elevating – that changes us?

EUROPE

First thing the change in air, the quality of light
on red, gold roofs above Dijon streets.
Then the aggression to my poor school French:
I was young still, ‘Youth is stateless, language
as eloquent as need!’ From l’eglise
de sainte Benigne to the marketplace, a circling;
Algerians spread floor cloths for tooled leather,
haggling I became their foreigner, fair game.

To flounder in language; to return to the hostel, perplexed.
A French-Canadian said, ‘Talk English, huh?’
That night with German students, language
on tongue-kisses, shared strangeness – that night
white walls of apartment blocks opposite
took on a rose-tinge, windows yellowing.
How our differences lit up in us, united us.