We are moving into late spring and early summer – my favourite time of year in this part of the world. Bluebells are out and carpet the woods if one knows where to look. Also, there are many young foals in the fields. It being the UK, however, lovely sunny days are often followed by a return to winter. Even so, long light evenings – bliss.
I travelled down to Cornwall on the turn of the months and visited several ‘open studios’. This is where various amateur and semi-professional artists open their studios for the week. Most areas now do this. It is a great time to see a wide range of work in a very short period of time; to speak with the various artists, craftspeople and potters about there work. Studio prices are also very tempting as the artists are able to subtract the 50/60% commission that is normally charged by galleries. I came a way with a selection of pieces!
Up nearer my home, it was a pleasure to see the Unthanks. This two-part sister group have made a name for themselves singing in Geordie dialect – that is from Newcastle. Their harmonies are beautiful and they have a very respectful backing band. This tour has them singing arrangements of songs written and recorded by Molly Drake, mother of the famous Nick Drake, who has become somewhat of a cult figure. His guitar playing and songs are beautiful but he committed suicide, somewhat as a result of lack of success, in 1974. Really, he sank into obscurity but was then rediscovered and praised in later years. Then, years after that, recordings were found of his mother’s songs, accompanied on piano. Also, some of her poems. The connection between mother and son was immediately evident in the similarity of mood, melody and subject matter. Now, the Unthanks have done recordings of her songs, accompanied by poems recited by Nick’s sister Gabrielle.
A lovely evening of music – the band came out in both the break and after the show to chat with the audience members, which made for a very personable event.
Back to the venue next door to see The Woman in Black – a rather macabre ghost story. England has a tradition of ghost stories going back many years and Susan Hill, the author of this story, wrote it somewhat as a spoof, but it turned out to be genuinely spooky. Then, a play adaptation was made, which has run in London’s West End since the 1980s. Quite good to watch, and based around just two actors who played all the part, mimed others, and generally created the necessary sinister atmosphere. The actors also did a Q&A afterwards – these sorts of interactional events are becoming increasingly common and are a great way to deepen one’s enjoyment and understanding of the process behind art and performance.
Also a trip to Bath to see an exhibition of the work of Peter Breugel, the famous Dutch artist of the sixteenth century. They had a good range of his work, including one depicting Dutch proverbs. It seems his work was so popular, he did ‘templates’ of his most famous pieces which could be used by an associate artist to produce multiple ‘copies’ – as were of many of his famous works. There were also example of religious scenes, flowers and portraits. It really showed me that artists were ‘taking charge’ of aspects of their own work way before the rise of ‘arts for arts sake’ in the nineteenth century with Manet and the Impressionists (see Bourdieu: The Rules of Art or my own: http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/art/art-rules/……).
In the proverbs painting as well was the famous ‘cuckold man and dishonest woman’, which is a central motive to a PhD novel an associate student of mine is doing. We have spent a long time working on the various significant elements in this image.
The second part of my extended essay on the band King Crimson was also posted.
The essay is in 3 parts and part 2 in parts 1 and 2 because of its length. Really, it deals with the first incarnation of King Crimson in 1969 and adopts a socio-cultural approach, together with explorations into creativity from the perspectives of philosophy, psychology and spirituality. It also gives an account of my own experience with listening to the group around this time. Part 3 will appear later this year and I am presently working on another essay, which takes the story up to 1975, which was probably the first cut-off period.
Book of the month discusses the modern Islamic Enlightenment, showing what a rich set of progressive ideas have been developed in Islamic countries in modern times.