Sunday, 27 January 2008

Bouncing along the trophy cabinet

It seems that artists, writers and musicians strive to create for multifarious (and sometimes apparently contradictory) reasons: to observe, to record, to preserve, to entertain, to celebrate, to challenge, to change, to illuminate ... to live.

Madeline_green_glasgow The Arts are inextricably linked in this respect, but, for me, are linked in many other respects too. It's often the case, when I'm writing, that I'll have either a piece of music in my head, which is shaping the structure of a story and/or the rhythm of its words, or a painting or a piece of sculpture. Sometimes it takes me a while to realise that a piece is actually sitting there with me and that I'm somehow writing to it; however, when I do realise it's there, I know it's time to bring it to the surface through exploring/researching it, in order to understand and accept (or dismiss) its connection. Sometimes, having done this, I have to allow this new knowledge to fully redefine what I'd originally set out to write. It changes everything.

And because writing, for me, is about making worlds out of words, andDod_procter_in_a_strange_land painting with them, and playing with them, and letting them sing and dance and live and die, and about interpreting the world as I see it, and the way humanity reacts and interacts in that world---which is a similar world, I think, to that of painters and directors and composers and choreographers---that's why I particularly enjoy those opportunities which expose me to other ideas and interpretations and methods for communicating these. It's the way that ideas are conveyed in books, music, theatre, dance, art, films, as well as criticism, that gets the words and ideas bouncing for me.

Reading Helen Dunmore's introduction to D.H.Lawrence's novella's The Fox/The Captain's Doll/The Ladybird this weekend might have made me reflect on the way Lawrence used language to present a view of England in the aftermath of the First World War, but it also provoked me into asking myself: What is it I'm trying to say when I'm writing and how am I trying to say it? The process led me towards jotting down a couple of notes for Novel Two that I otherwise might not have arrived at.

Modern_britain_exhibitionIt was also a fitting article to read as I travelled to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne to see an exhibition of 250 paintings and sculptures by British artists, dating from 1900--1960. This was superb---a visual feast, from which I still feel gorged, and which I won't fully digest for some time---but it was essential to buy the catalogue in order to catch up with a lot of the background information that supported the exhibition. Although there were 27 Stanley Spencer's on display, it was the story of his life I found most interesting (and same with L.S.Lowry); whereas the single Francis Bacon painting was stunning in its own right. A couple of my favourites (see above) were Dod Procter's In a strange land, which I've been drawn to since I first saw it about twelve years ago, and Madeline Banksy_wall_and_piece_front_3Green's Glasgow, which I saw for the first time yesterday.

When we left the exhibition, my sister and her partner, who we went with, gave us a copy of Banksy, Wall and Piece (thanks J and M). This, inasmuch as Banksy's street art challenges a notion of art, was similarly fitting and led us in search of a piece which is tucked off Flinders Lane. Two great catalogues that I'll spend some time with, although I especially enjoy the quote on the back of his (click to enlarge):


And three fine examples of his art:

Banksy_woman_with_dustpan_2 Banksy_phonebox Banksy_military_graffiti

And a quote from Banksy to finish with, which, whilst it might be at odds with evidence that over 25,000 people, for example, viewed Roger Fry's exhibition of Manet and the Post-Impressionists during a two month period in the winter of 1910-1911, certainly keeps the ideas bouncing:

Art is not like other culture because its success is not made by its audience. The public fill concert halls and cinemas every day, we read novels by the millions and buy records by the billions. We the people, affect the making and the quality of most of our culture, but not our art.

The Art we look at is made by only a select few. A small group create, promote, purchase, exhibit and decide the success of Art. Only a few hundred people in the world have any real say. When you go to an Art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires.

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