Sunday 31 October 2010

Saturday 30 October 2010

Friday 29 October 2010

Still here

They're still here, those photos I wrote about before by James Russell Cant - and they still startle and move me every day.  They strike me differently as the season advances. This woman had never looked so beautiful, so brave and vulnerable before.  Do click to enlarge!

Thursday 28 October 2010

Good day for photos (updated)

Photographic magic in my little blog-world: from Germany, a dark and painterly capture of a cityscape with tree; an old farm building in Pennsylvania revealed as abstract art; moody shots of the Blue Mosque on a grey day in Istanbul. Wonderful!

And here's another (the second photo is my favourite): colours and shapes of Fall in Boston.

Monday 25 October 2010


So I take Friday off, having worked through a weekend and through a very nasty bout of something feverish and aching. I plan to get up at the usual time and go first thing to the Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern. And I don't. I wake up and think about it and then fall asleep again. And I dream of this vast, ugly, inexplicable building adjoining my workplace, where I get completely lost one day with a new, young colleague. Strangely, we never turn back and try to retrace our steps into the university, but keep on going, up a tall, tall tower, through a crowded hotel lobby and out onto a deck and down a long metal staircase with no handrail. He stops to take a photo and, jammed up behind him, teetering, I urge him on, urge him down into the deep water, where he disappears below the flat, brown, shiny surface. And no one reacts; they keep right on sitting there, chatting, staring out across this wide, dark, reflective expanse. And then, of course, I wake again. Thank you, sad and scared subconscious, for coming out to join me on my day off. Shit.

My dream came with me, later that day, to the exhibition, melding with the phantoms and dream figures that lurk in Gauguin's paintings, the spectral intruders amidst the lollipop hues and the sinuous play of shapes. Twined through the colours, the grey. Right there with the pleasures, the sharp intake of breath at what he called 'the muffled, powerful thud I am looking for in painting'.

I'd read artist friend Natalie d'Arbeloff's comment on the show, surprised and intrigued by her major reservations, and Peter Campbell's review in the London Review of Books - subtle and penetrating as always. Their voices deserted me, though, left me squeezed and alone before so many pictures, among such milling crowds.  My small, hemmed-in response: still, yes, and always, seduced by the flat, insistent, gorgeous palette, the blue and turquoise, green and yellow, orange, pink and purple, by the equally insistent play of form and pattern; surprised and haunted, too. And frustrated, as ever, by the 'blockbuster' experience. Too much. Too rich. Too long at table with too many courses.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Angels in Autumn

A sunlit walk in Nunhead Cemetery. More photos here.

'Walking The Dog'

The new sculpture at Dulwich Picture Gallery. It's a nice thing with warm, nubbly presence. I wish it was a bit bigger, more startling against the venerable trees and the gracious gallery behind.

Friday 22 October 2010

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Postal Poetry

The frightening, overwhelming illness that follows, always, overwhelming busyness - it... well, it frightens me. How long can I live like this? How long I can live like this may be how long I can live, so somehow I have to protect and strengthen myself within it, not against it. This is life. It's not good. It has it's moments that are softer. Try to let them permeate the rest.

One of those moments was finding yesterday that Dave had crafted a new design for the archive of the no longer active Postal Poetry webzine.  It's terrific - an entirely appropriate and enhancing holder for what becomes a very satisfying online exhibition of small works in poetry and pictures. Such a pleasure to see it and to have a couple of things of mine in it.

What a timely reminder that keeping up the small efforts of creativity is worth something - all those small things together can be a big thing, not a luxury but a necessary part of refusing to be dehumanised. A big thank you, Dave, for your skill and generosity!

Monday 18 October 2010

Saturday 16 October 2010

Before the heavy weather

It's got so much colder since I took this photo at Dulwich Picture Gallery only a week or so back - all the gentle, sparkly Autumn feeling gone. You wouldn't really want to sit near an open door.

Thursday 14 October 2010

In the London Review of Books

A colleague sufficiently eminent to be offered such things very kindly passed on to me a free year's subscription to the London Review of Books.  I'm enjoying it a lot.  It's probably the only mainstream British periodical with the very long articles characteristic of some US journals, in this case mostly book reviews. I can't say I read every word, but every printed issue has at least a couple of features of great interest and quite unlike anything I'd be likely to read elsewhere. Impressive contributors: many regulars, a mixture of academics, journalists, novelists. My subscription also gives online access to the whole issue and to the almost bottomless riches of thirty years' archives, while only a few pieces from each issue are available on line to non-subscribers.

Then there's the LRB's cover artist and regular art critic, Peter Campbell, a wonderful writer whose artistic taste is often close mine and never less than interesting. I was moved to buy his very lovely recent compilation book, exquisitely designed and laid out by himself and wonderfully entitled At... (every week's review being headed At [wherever it is] ). 

The 7 October issue of LRB had a great review of Tony Blair's new memoir, by David Runciman:

" He faced two serious and determined enemies during his time in Downing Street: al-Qaida and Gordon Brown. One, he concluded, represented a force so strong and rooted that it had to be uprooted and destroyed, since confrontation was inevitable; the only question was when and how. The other had to be contained, because stepping over the line would have been crazy and made war inevitable. But why on earth did he think that al-Qaida was an example of the first, and Gordon Brown of the second, rather than the other way round? "
" Less than three weeks after the [9/11] attacks, Blair delivered his famous speech to the Labour Party Conference in which he said: ‘The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us reorder this world around us.’ It was, in his own words, a ‘visionary’ speech, and he wrote it all himself in the study overlooking the Rose Garden at Chequers, a single draft composed with little hesitation and no agonising. While he wrote it, he picked up from the desk a silver and gold inkstand given to Chamberlain in 1937, with an inscription that reads: ‘To stand on the ancient ways, to see which is the right and the good way, and in that to walk.’ (Really someone should go around removing these objects from Chequers before the more impressionable prime ministers move in.) "

Read the rest on line - this one can be read by non-subscribers. This is the nearest I'll be going to the book, since I am one of those who think it should be shelved in the Crime section of bookshops.  Please don't buy it!

The same issue of LRB also has a very interesting and perceptive review by Michael Wood of Certified Copy - by coincidence also one of the pieces selected for free availability on line.  I found this fascinating because everything he so articulately pinpoints resonates with my experience of the film, but I clearly enjoyed it much more than he did. Perhaps that is because I so frequently see the interactions around me as jerky, embarrassing and pretentious, just as presented in the film - and maybe Kiarostami does too.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Wonderful online window on art and life

More bowed than I realised, actually. And still so frantic last week that I missed the tenth anniversary of wood s lot. I've only been a regular reader myself for the past three or four years - very much my loss. About Mark Woods, the mind behind this blog, I know only that he lives near Ottawa and is a man of exceptional intellect and taste, as well as a talented and heartful photographer.  I'm more grateful than I can say for all the wonderful art and writing he's introduced me to.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Bloody but unbowed

Well, only a bit bowed.

Tuesday 5 October 2010


Wishing the mist in my brain would clear as fast. 

Monday 4 October 2010

Close up

A big, beautiful painting by Duncan Grant, which I had the pleasure of viewing at length in a domestic setting this past weekend. I moan too much. I do realise I'm very privileged in some ways, as well as very overworked.

Friday 1 October 2010


For the first time, I could see my breath in the air when I left the house this morning. The drop in temperature crept up. I only started wearing socks again a few days ago and haven't yet got out my gloves. It strikes me forcibly that the beginning of October is about where I am in life as well as in this year.      

Watching the changes in oneself is unavoidable, and unavoidably a mug's game. You watch, but you really can't see. I seem to see myself at once grow stronger and grow weaker, more skilful and more inept, more fragile and more resilient. I see nothing but a big, cloudy mess. No point, really, in trying to get a handle on it. Every point in trying to turn my face up, not down, so that when the sun comes out I don't miss it.

I wrote the above on the bus on Thursday morning, then had to get off and walk because the main road from South London was a massive traffic jam. The sun came out and by the time I got to work two hours later, far from wishing I had my gloves, I was radiating heat.

Hoping that next week things will calm down a little in these parts and I'll have time to look out at the world again, not just to emit little squeaks from inside my own psyche. However busy, I do spend a lot of time pondering other people's feelings and behaviour as well as my own. Very fascinating they are too at such crowded, chaotic times, but - alas - not bloggable.