News

May 2018

Apologies again, if this posting takes on the flavor of ‘holiday pix’ – but images often speak louder than words, and I have been ‘on the road’ in south America for the past five weeks. The descriptive travelogue would take up very many pages indeed. So, here is a fleeting run through some of the impressions and experiences of this time – I have aimed to include material not posted on Facebook – plus a round up of some reading and music.

 

 

The stay began with a special event that Lucho was organizing where the city of Mendoza was invited to switch of all their lights as a gesture towards ecology – ‘save the Planet’. Candles were lit and a lovely atmosphere prevailed.

 

 

The next event was a Musica en Moviemiento Introductory course. Excellent team here and some very good work.

 

 

This being Mendoza, a trip to the local vineyards was never far away:

 

 

 

I then ‘decamped’ to Salta – a town in the north of Argentina.

 

 

A further journey north then took me to Humahuaca, saturated with indigenous Indian culture.

 

 

 

 

And then a meet-up with two of the MEM team for an even more spectacular trip to Cafayate.

 

 

The Devil’s throat and Amphitheatre – reputed gateways to the underworld and cosmos respectively.

 

 

 

 

Again many indigenous signs and myths to get hold of.

 

 

 

This lead to a Dr Mike transformation……Dr Who?

 

 

Also some time to search out some contemporary Argentinian art:

 

 

 

 

 

 

A special trip to Samsi – the Yoga, Tai Chi cenre established and managed by one of the MEM team – Vijaya – these past 23 years!!

 

 

 

A honour and a pleasure to meet the team there, eat and speak with them.

 

 

 

 

Could not resist this photo of fast food – Argentinian style.

 

 

 

A trip to Buenos Aires – a great city.

 

 

 

This trip took in a concert of the British group – Radiohead. Spectacular!!

 

 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iajXJIp_eU

 

Pizza with Lili and Lucho at 03.30 in the morning!!

 

 

 

Also a visit to La Boca – a coastal port where the first immigrants arrived

 

 

 

 

 

– and tango was born!!!

 

 

 

My favourite photo of the trip:

 

 

 

I posted a recording of the lecture I gave in Mendoza last November – with concurrent interpretation into Spanish.

 

 

 

Lots of reading and listening to music along the way. For music, some traditional Argentinian chanson – beautiful songs:

 

 

 

I need to improve my Spanish, so my reading was firmly English based: one philosophical and the other fiction.

 

The philosophy is one of those books that one comes across every now and again that seem to pull together and sum up the current direction of one’s own thinking.

 

 

 

 

 

The fiction was actually a translation of Esther Kinsky’s book from German – very much in the style of W G Sebald. A very elegiac account of a woman walking the outskirts of the city – London, but other places as well and images joined across time by the presence of water and the river. Very poetic – part psycho-geography, part dream-like, part Bakhtinian carnivalesque:

 

 

We gave another Musica en Moviemiento presentation:

 

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/musicanmovimiento/

 

Lots more eating outside – but autumn was turning in out there,

 

 

 

 

 

….so time to catch up with the English spring…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2018

Usually, I post my ‘News’ report a few days into the following months. However, this time, I am posting it a few days early into the preceding month. This because I know I shall be travelling here and there a bit, and not much time to sit and consider with the system open before me.

 

 

Also, in order to break the pattern a bit, I thought I would do a ‘special’ art posting, since I have done quite a few exhibitions in the past few weeks.

It began with David Haughton at the Penlee Gallery in Penzance. Not a name I had really come across before. It seems he ‘discovered’ St Just in Penwith after he moved to St Ives, Cornwall in 1947. Anyway, he appears to have had an epiphany there  and he spent several years painting and drawing not much else. The work had every lane and road of this small village/ town perched up inland from Cape Cornwall. He joined the Penwith Society of artists and exhibited with the best of them, but it was an epiphany that had its drawback as this work completely overshadowed anything else he did after he left to teach in London. Still, interesting stuff.

 

 

 

Another Cornwall-based exhibition was the new one at Tate St Ives with the theme: ‘Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition inspired by her work’. The paradox was that it included some great pieces of art from female artists. However, it was not clear to me at all to what extent Woolf came into the show, or indeed should have. Just sloppy curating in my view. Also, some rather over-exaggerated remarks about Ithell Colquhoun and her network of associates. I have no evidence IC ever read Woolf let alone was influenced by her.

 

Incidentally, my article on Ithell Colquhoun is now published.

 

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/art/ithel-colquhoun-painter-and-magician/

 

More London shows…

 

First one of epic proportions by the German photographer Andreas Gursky. It is difficult to suggest the scale of these pictures on a small screen. They tower above you with clarity and colour. Of course, we are talking about photography in a ‘post truth’ world, so they have all been ‘doctored’ to exaggerate certain aspects of the pieces – various figures repeats, re-positioned, and other elements removed. They suggest that what we see is not what exists, amongst other messages. Sometimes they are fun; at others there is a gaping silence when confronted with the essence of a situation, now distilled out into sharp relief.

 

 

 

 

 

Two cracking shows at the Tate Modern:

 

Joan Jonas and her incredible installations: again, we are talking ‘post human’, ‘post feminist’, ‘post truth’, indeed post post…..’

Each one brings you face to face with an angular aspect of life.

 

 

 

The Picasso exhibition displays work from a single year 1932. I went thinking I had seen it all before and was again completely balled over by his level of creativity – and in some many different forms and media. Kind of humbling as well when one thinks about what British artists were doing at the time – he was moving so fast!!

 

 

 

Then, Tacita Dean and things ‘about to disappear’. She really brings a kind of spiritual regard on both the mundane and epic. One almost ends up looking at one’s own ‘looking at’. Very moving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book reading is Karmic Traces, which does the same sort of thing in writings.:

 

 

 

 

March 2018

February is know as a wicked month: this year came in like a lamb and went out like a tiger. So, all was well and we were chugging on to spring – flowers arriving in the garden, etc. – when the ‘Beast from the East’ struck and then danced a merry tune with Storm Emma. In practice, this meant, sub zero temperatures for the last days of the month and then intense snow for the very last day. It was the speed and intensity of the snow that hit me. I left the house in Cornwall saying, ‘I did not believe it’, only to be in a crisis snow situation 30 mins. later. I then had to abandon my car when I lost all control of it. Luckily, I was near a farm and got to the house after a little walk. Then, frozen up for a few days only to be hit by high rains and winds of Emma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, Lent, and a time to give up things – but not food with this climate. Not just yet.

 

 

 

 

Earlier in the month, my neighbours – Caroline and Marc -celebrated the arrival of their first child – Martha – into the world. Photo has me with holding a baby for the first time ever!

 

 

 

I managed to get over to Berlin for the Guitar Ensemble of Europe’s guitar courses: Intermediate and Beginners. Good teams and a lot of work done. Snowy there too, but some nice lake side scenery.

 

 

 

 

Played this rather lovely Ovation there – loaned to me by Hernan Nunez.

 

 

The chairs seemed to be radioactive!!:

 

 

 

 

Back to London and the Modigliani exhibition. Quite impressive; although after the Cezanne portraits, these seemed a bit derivative. Still, he did fashion his own recognisable style, and surely stuck to it through a series of portraits and still life figures. Once he had it, however, that was pretty much what it was/ is. That being said, he did die at 35, so we shall never know what else he might have done.

 

 

 

But, it was School Half-Term!!

 

 

 

 

Off to the theatre and Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, first performed in 1957. In those days, it was badly received and shut after a week or two. Now, however, it is seen as a modern classic: a kind of mix of Beckett, Kafka, Agatha Christie and Ben Travers. So, farcical in a very noir way, and focussing on the way we use language to subjugate each other. Also, the way memory is refashioned to suit our wants. A stunning performance from an acclaimed cast.

 

 

 

It is the 100th anniversary of the death of the French composer Claude Debussy. So, I have been listening to his wonderful chromaticism; especially in his solo instrument and quartet work.

 

 

 

 

Also, reading Julian Barnes’ latest: The Only Story.
He has really matured as a writer in recent years. He always was a good story teller, but now he adds a new depth. As in recent books, the themes include memory, the impact of singular events on life, the nature of love in its glorious manifestations.

 

 

February 2018

January comes in gently with sun and storms – it is an incredible mild winter here – no need to light my lovely fire yet!

 

A bit late with this posting because I have been in Berlin – about which, more next month!!
January the 6th – Epiphany. An important day for me as it is around now that we notice the light strengthening. It goes on for the months and, by the end, the days are noticeably longer. Birds begin the sing – nature is moving to Spring, even if humans are talking about ‘winter’.

 

                         

 

Busy writing with one thing and another, but I take a trip over to Chichester to see the David Bomberg exhibition. A gifted artist of many styles, who is another example of someone who was not really appreciated in their lifetime. He is most original and insightful in his early ‘vortices’ pieces, but then took every which way looking for success, even some fairly straight takes whilst staying in Israel. And, then a wild, late period – almost Turner-easque.

 

 

 

 

                               

 

 

A delightful day visiting in Worcestershire and then to their Cathedral to view the Via Crucis tableau, each based on the Stations of the cross. I had previously encountered them in Exeter and Bath, so it is somewhat of a ‘pilgrimage’ to follow them from one holy site to another. Now they move on to Hereford Cathedral – and then after??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Been listening a lot to Purcell…

 

 

 

 

 

 

…also re-reading the works of that extraordinary English writer, Bruce Chatwin….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 2018

 

 

In a way, it has been a short month as the last News posting was mid-December; I realise, then, that I have already dealt with half of last month’s news – the last weeks of my time in South America (Wine tasting and guitar course).

 

However, the Christmas period is always a busy time, and I seem to have hit the ground running. The next day after my return I was in the university and then off on a one-day Satsang with Satyananda. I am going to transcribe my dialogues with him for the Satsang section of this website. The two sessions will be called: Freedom of Thinking and the Anatomy of Consciousness. Coming soon – just as quickly as I can transcribe….

 

 

It was also my birthday. I go to Bath for one of my favourite walks, and it is a lovely sunny day. The light here in December is so crystaline.

 

 

 

 

 

And, so we move to the Solstice – as always, I sense the change immediately: the sun is now returning to this part of the world.

 

 

 

 

Not so evident though on stormy coasts with the winter to come:

 

 

 

 

Whilst in London I see a couple of exhibitions. Firstly, one at the British Museum – a remarkable show on the Scythians, who were tribes in Siberia around 2 – 400 years BC. Fascinating people who left a treasure of jewelry and other artifacts which show the lives of these nomad, horse based people. In fact, it offers us more than what we have from similar times in the UK. It also demonstrates just how sophisticated they were, and the beliefs that orientated them. Unsurprisingly, the sun was an important god to them.

 

 

 

 

The other exhibition was of Cezanne portraits. Truly amazing and sets out how he was pretty much the father of modernism – that is before Picasso and Braque, etc. And, he seems to have accomplished this just by repeated and intense observation of the human figure. He certainly predates people like Spencer and Freud in his capture of the spirit of individual sitters.

 

 

 

 

 

So, Christmas! I elect to spend it on my own – a quiet time to reflect and indulge oneself. I make it super traditional with a tree and lights/ candles.

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas day meal begins with salmon, then it is the traditional roast, and Christmas pudding.

 

 

 

 

 

The thing then is to settle by the fire and read. We have a tradition here of murder and ghost stories at Christmas (not sure why!?), so again I indulge in some of these. They are always of a certain cosy tradition – nothing too horrific, more intrigue in terms of the twists and turns of the plot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, given the very troubled times we live in, I also decide to ‘regroup’ a bit – intellectually, that is. So, a somewhat light hearted account of where this all began:

 

 

 

 

 

Lots and lots of Christmas music, but one of the finest is of the gospel group, The Blind Boys of Alabama singing traditional Christmas songs. Sublime:

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 2017

Bit of a strange month, as I was away for much of it ‘on the road’ in South America – Chile, Brazil, Argentina: basically, a mixture of some business – lectures, meetings with students/ publishers – and pleasure (more later).

 

But, first, I was down in Cornwall, and still pursuing the antics of surrealist, occult painter Ithell Colquhoun. Like, this rather lovely painting of the ‘Goddess of the Moon’:

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhat different was the extraordinary modernist icons of Jasper Johns in London: most famous being his various US flags and targets. Good stuff, but like so many abstract painters, he seems to have had a purple patch and then lost his way somewhat.

 

 

 

 

At last, a sympathetic and appreciative review of my biography of Ralph McTell – by Peter Landon.

 

 

 

When I set out to do this book, it was clear that I had to find a different sort of coverage since Ralph had written so much about his early life, and also another have covered the same from the standard journalistic approach. I also have to admit, that I was interested in bringing a range of my own interests and explorations to the topic, all whilst having at the core a straight, and affectionate, consideration of Ralph’s life and times. The approach to offer various layers was meant to create a ‘discursive montage’. As a result, linearity is avoided in certain sections. The reviewer says that because he cannot understand some of the language – and calls it ‘academic’ – this could put people off.. I suppose I would ask what might be an alternative response?: for example, like digging deeper into some of that language in these sections and finding out what is there. In other words, why blame the author for something the reader is not prepared to do? Especially, as one and all admits, these bits can be skipped and the main conventional parts focused on.

If this disturbs the normal expectation that the author tells the reader what they should think and offers a way of appreciating the nature of one’s appreciation of Ralph’s work, well, that was intention.  Putting it together, does the reader better understand the life and work in an integrated fashion’? As Peter Landon writes, ‘You may not have been through the exact same experiences, but you could well recall the same historical events. You may well end up, as I did, with an even greater appreciation of Ralph’s work and a better understanding of your own position and how you got to be where you are today’. Exactly!! Thank you Peter.

 

http://www.ralph-mctell.co.uk/index.html#pl2review

 

Sorry if what follows has the air of ‘holiday snaps’, but better have a visual round up than me waxing endlessly. So, I shall keep comments to a minimum.

 

First I am in Brazil – and a first Brazilian ‘tasting menu’ thanks to my contact there Fabio. Do not ask me what they all were, but they sure tasted good: various combinations of spice, fruit and other exotic ingredients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I get interviewed by both the TV AND Radio.

 

 

 

I also get to choose one King Crimson track for the rock show. I choose Frame by Frame:

 

 

 

 

Then, a chance to explore a Brazilian book shop and purchase some CDs of Brazilian music.

 

 

 

 

 

Airports are the same the world over:

 

 

 

 

In Argentina, and a visit to the 7th highest mountain in the world: Anconcagua. I arrived in 37degrees of heat, but it snowed this day!! Luckily, someone was able to lend me a coat.

 

 

 

 

A trip to Santiago, Chile, the university and a chance to see the remarkable Icelandic band: Sigur Ros:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well received.

 

 

Lots of fun with pals Lucho and Lili:

 

 

 

Mike gets into the Matte:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some fairly spectacular scenery; including where valleys have been flooded for the generation of electricity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still hot, and I take a solitary meal; but soon acquire a companion:

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of food, there was Lucho’s magnificent Paella – cooked over hot coals in the garden:

 

 

 

 

And, more scenery:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In between, visiting the local wine vineyards: apparently, there are some 2000+ in the Mendoza area.

 

 

 

 

This lady was so enthusiastic about here wine: she said it contained the whole of life – in fact the different blends were named after her husband, father, children, etc.

 

 

We end up with a fine guitar course in a lovely setting..

 

 

 

 

 

 

On my final day, there is a magnificent sunset.

 

 

 

Walking up the road, and we are ambushed by ‘the kids’ yelling, and they gather for a farewell photo.

 

 

 

Like Trauffaut’s ‘les Mistons’, they could not understand the adult world, especially when I just sat and read a book when there was swimming, bike riding, football, TV, shouting, trampolining, etc.

 

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

 

Oh, yes, and taking great relish in disturbing my reading!!

 

 

 

A lot of fun, though.

November 2017

October skipped along and the last vestiges of summer – leaves, apples, flowers – are now all but gone. Time for a trip far west and a few days in Penwith, Cornwall – they have at least 30 mins. more daylight down there!! On my way down, I visit the isolated Church at Templar – a site, which is indeed associated with the Knights Templar in antiquity. It is surrounded with their references, and the nearby countryside includes all manner of menhirs and iron-age hill forts. Bodmin Moor is one of the most wild parts of England, and it is nice to be there on sunny day with blue skies. I take time to sit in the silence of the place and then catch up with one of the custodians of the place.

 

 

 

 

 

The weather is kind to me, and I later visit Mounts Bay with its enigmatic St. Michael’s Mount – a place, which has always fascinated me. This is a place that is also known for Starling murmurations: that inexplicable behaviour of these birds at dawn and dusk as literally thoughands of them swarm around – apparently as one. Certainly, their twists and turns and acrobatics are sometimes hypnotizing.

 

 

 

It is that time of year. I travel north to join in the seasonal celebrations. Whether one calls this Samhain, or Allantide, or Halloween, or All Saints there is a general agreement that somehow the veil between the material and immaterial world is very thin at this point of the year. Certainly, the darkness grows: there is then a celebration of both embracing the darkness whilst staying in touch with the energy of light. Much music playing as well. Further food celebrations including fruits of the harvest.

 

 

 

 

Plenty going on culture wise. I visit Bath Studios for their anniversary exhibition: a marvelous range of visual creativity and an opportunity to speak directly with the various artists.

 

 

 

 

I then travel down to Exeter to see an early performance in the tour of my friend Ralph McTell. A extremely good set, enhanced even more with Ralph and his team inviting new/ young players to open the evening for him. Afterwards, I work the queue for the merchandise table, and am happy to sign several copies of my biography of Ralph – 2nd Edition.

 

 

 

 

 

Further me writing: a new academic book (posted here in the academic section of this blog) and the final part of my Extended Essay on King Crimson I (1969) is posted on the DGM page.

 

 

https://www.dgmlive.com/news/Part-3-of-An-Extended-Essay-in-Three-Parts-by-Michael-Grenfell

 

 

 

More music, I go to Brighton to see the soul/ gospel singer Emeli Sande. An amazing show – 12 piece band and stunning lighting – that manages to be both spectacular and intimate: at one point she comes down to the audience and sings with just her and the piano. Thrilling stuff.

 

 

 

 

By a twist of fate, I end up speaking with Terence Stamp in London. Terence was one of the ‘beautiful’ people from the 1960s, and it is even thought that he is the reference of ‘Terry and Julie’ from the ‘Waterloo Sunset’ song by the Kinks – Julie being Julie Christie, with whom he acted in the film Far from the Madding Crowd. He has had an interesting life to say the least, coming from the East End of London, combining being one of the fashionable set with both artistic credibility (he appeared in films directed by Fellini and Pasolini) and undertaking somewhat of a spiritual journey (he was close to Krishnamurti and spent several years in India – before leaving to play a villain in the Superman film). Some of this has been included in a recent memoir, which is really a briefer version of his series of biographies. Anyway, he understand immediately what I am talking about, and is there before me. He shakes my hand and looks me in the eye.

 

 

 

 

 

Afterward, I mull on the way structures in one’s life link up: his girlfriend was Jean Shrimpton who was a super model in the 1960s, but then went on to own and run the Abbey Hotel in Penzance. I ended up having lunch with her and the artist John Miller once without knowing who they were. Miller’s paintings, of course, adorn the sleeves of Robert Fripp’s soundscape CDs. Both Miller and Fripp were also at Sherborne, the locale of the courses given by J G Bennett in the 1970s. Bennett was a student of Gurdjieff – Stamp acted in a film version of the latter’s Meetings with Remarkable Men. With my own associations with Penzance, Miller, Bennett, and Fripp, one might call this elective affinities, or more precisely, ‘you cannot avoid your circle’. Anyway, there was certainly a resonance at this particular meeting.

 

More music, and I go to see the Malian singer Habib Koite – a tremendous evening of African sounds.

 

 

 

 

 

As for book and CDs of the month, various things on the go. However, I have been absorbed by an account of Passchendaele – the 3rd battle of Ypres in the First World War – whose 100th anniversary falls this year. No comment: it speaks for itself:

 

 

 

 

Two CDs, at two extremes of the spectrum:

 

Robert Plant – West Coast Blues tinged with African textures – very exciting:

 

 

 

 

Then, a fairly obscure Russian composer, whose recordings I am currently working my way through.

 

 

 

 

Now off to South America for circa. 5 weeks. I always aim to get these News reports out in the first week of the month. However, I may be a little later next month as I do not return until after this date. And then Christmas….

October 2017

It’s been a book filled month, so rather than a ‘book of the month’, there seem to be several!!

 

Excuse me if I begin with my very own: the second edition of my ‘biographies’ of Ralph McTell. Revised and Expanded, it took a lot of work editing, with which I was ably supported by John Beresford, editor of the ‘Ralph, Albert, Sydney’ fan-site, who has, I might say, a quite extraordinary knowledge and appreciation of Ralph’s work.

 

 

http://www.pomera.co.uk/books/parallel_lives_second_edition/

 

Anyway, the new edition has a lot more refinement of my quest to integrate a scholarly narrative within and about a popular vernacular. John also came down from Manchester and we recorded an interview with me talking about the origins and content of the book.

 

https://youtu.be/P_p9OtekKUE

 

 

Then I was given a copy of the recent reprint of articles from the Systematics Journal 1962-73. More about Mr Bennett and his ideas from my own Esoteric section of this very site.

 

 

 

Rupert White’s book on Cornish Art, Modernism and Earth mysteries and the like finally came out. It was originally entitled ‘Magic and Modernism’, but seems to have been re-titled at the last moment as ‘The Re-Enchanted Landscape’. He certainly has collected together an interesting set of individuals who were based down in Cornwall at various times, drew inspiration both from the landscape and Pagan traditions there, and expressed these in various forms of creative output.

 

 

 

 

Then, there is The Tryst:

 

 

 

 

Written by the well-known author Monique Roffey, it is really inspired by the Lilith myth – the woman who predated Eve for Adam’s ‘affections’. It is a racey read and a kind of celebration of rampant femininity. She certainly writes in a convincing and beguiling manner. My only complaint was that the man in the story is pretty much a dupe and putty in the hands of the main female character – Lilah. But, then again, that is probably in the nature of the story of what happens in the ‘empire of the senses’. The conclusion is a little like ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ – that they are lucky to survive the encounter.

 

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

 

Music wise, I got to see probably ‘the’ exponent of traditional German Music Hall/ Cabaret style, Ute Lemper – a ‘master’. ‘er, sorry, ‘mistress’ of the genre. She really managed to create an atmosphere of sleaze and decadence, as well as romance and heroism faced with affairs of the heart in a challenging world. She also included some favourite French chanson: Léo Ferré and Jacques Brel.

 

 

 

Also, caught up with Ralph McTell – one of the sets he has been doing with Wizz Jones, who was the one who invited him down to Cornwall in the first place – see my book for fuller account!! A good evening with a retro look at their separate and joint song repertoire.

 

 

 

Art wise, I was able to get to the beautiful exhibition of Church panel paintings from the late Medieval period (14th century); as particularly exemplified by some new acquisitions at the National Gallery in London of the Italian artist Giovanni da Rimini.

 

 

 

 

Somewhat in total contrast, I was also in Venice for this year’s Biennale: always a lot of fun, and some pretty wild art in settings, which never fail to intoxicate me. All very different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The British artist Damien Hirst also has a two venue installation show there, under the title Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable . The story is that a ship went down in ancient times, the wreck of which has only just been discovered. What was on show pretty much looked like authentic archeological finds, ranging from statues that were several meters high to gold coins and jewellery. Just to make a point (?), there was also the odd shell encrusted Micky Mouse and Goofy thrown in for good measure. Well you have to admire his audacity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite a remarkable show on at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum as well by the American artist Mark Tobey (1890-1976) – a precursor of American Expressionism.

 

 

 

All this activity, and I have not been listening to that much music. Some recent Russian CDs, about which, more next month, but in between, I have been working through the complete pieces by Mahler as CD of the month. A good selection, although it just shows what a wide range of interpretations of Mahler there is.

 

 

 

 

Otherwise, the last days of summer as autumn closes in….Clevedon…

 

 

 

 

September 2017

August and traditionally holiday time, I don’t really do ‘holiday’ as such, but I do do travelling.

So, off to Brittany, as the only area in France I have never visited. France is big – bigger than England – and so Brittany is already sizeable.

 

 

 

I was a bit surprised, I expected it to be rather Cornwall Plus but it was its own place: quite flat and mostly modern buildings – and farms! Still, the coasts were very impressive – long dunes and spectacular bays. There were also all the rocks all over the place.

 

 

I was based around North Finstere, Which somewhat reminded me of the song of the similar name from the latest CD by June Tabor – Ashore:

 

 

 

 

For me, Brittany was a country of: Dunes, Chapels, Crosses, Rocks, Cider, Crepes, Choirs, Fish, Markets, Sea, Stones, and Sunsets.

 

 

 

And Alain Stivell, of course:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMQbcGNs9kg

 

 

 

Whilst there, I visited Le Poldu and Pont-Aven, where Gauguin lived for a while:

 

 

 

 

Painters within the Nabis group (‘The Prophets’ – Maurice Denis, Bonnard, Vuillard, Sérusier) also met and worked there. I ended up admiring their work more and Gauguin’s work less – still all very interesting. Apparently, he hid when Van Gogh came to visit him there.

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

 

 

A quick trip to Weymouth, where my mother lived as a child. Typical English seaside with fair, candy-floss, and fish n’ chips.

 

 

 

This shop has been here decades and we went there as children – now adults!!

 

 

 

More travelling took me back to my old workplace of Trinity College, Dublin. To do some work and also catch up with various ones. A good trip: the sun shone, the accommodation was home-from-home and a real please to see old friends over a glass or two.

 

 

 

 

Whilst there, I got to see the Vermeer exhibition.

 

 

 

 

Pretty good. Of course, Vermeer only did about 34 paintings – of at least only that number are left, and only four signed. There are exorbitant amounts charged by overseas galleries to loan out key works. One way Museums get around it these days is to ‘fill out’ with paintings by other artists associated with the master. I came across a similar trick in London last years with ‘the people Caravaggio influenced. There we 10 actual Vermeer paintings in Dublin, which sadly only rather showed up how much not as good all those associated with him were. Still, he was not beneath copying someone else; except all always seemed to do a better job!

 

 

 

Whilst in art mode, I also get to see the Giacometti in London: these tall thin figures which Sartre referred to as somewhere ‘between being and nothingness’. The exhibition was badly curated and there were just too many on display. Still, it showed the evolution of his style very clearly. He apparently inspired Dali to dedicate himself to surrealism and Giacometti himself dipped in and out of it: rather sociable, he always seemed to manage to maintain friendships with other artists, André Breton, for example, even after falling out with them over work. I liked him and his generous spirit, even if he seemed determined to strip men and women to their essential natures.

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst in London, I was also delighted to see some free WOMAD music on the South Bank, in a general atmosphere of summer festivities. Surely, we need it!!!

 

 

 

The contemporary artist David Barton has dedicated his latest book to me – a great honour.

 

 

 

https://www.hotbedpress.org/artists/david-barton/

I met David at a critical moment in my life some years ago. He has been a very important mentor for me, and always encouraging in my creative explorations. He worked with Anton Ehrenzweig at Goldsmith’s College London, the ideas of whom he introduced to me. The Hidden Order of Art became very important to my understanding of the creative process – or, at least as far as the psychology of art/ music can take you.

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

 

 

Some years back, David’s wife, Moya, also shared with me her enthusiasm for the work of the British ‘Surrealist’/ Occult painter Ithell Colquhoun, which has since preoccupied me with various researches.

http://www.ithellcolquhoun.co.uk/

 

 

Summer, so, appropriate that this month’s ‘CD of the Month’ is the latest by West African Oumou Sangaré. I have seen her perform a few times and it is always rich an intoxicating music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Book of the Month, there is some completion, but I have been re-reading various forms – poetry and literature – of what I call ‘charismatic’ work, so clearly defined in Le Grands Meaulnes (1913) by Alain-Fournier, with its ‘lost domain’ theme.

 

 

 

 

I shall be publishing an article, which discusses all this shortly on this web. Here is an extract:

‘John Fowles cites Le Grands Meaulnes as a previously unacknowledged primary source for his Jungian story of transformation, The Magus, which ends with the enigmatic aphorism, cras amet qui numquan amavit, quiqu amavit cras amet. Following on from Le Grands Meaulnes, which Fowles refers to as ‘adolescent’, he describes The Magus (1977/ 66) also as ‘a novel of adolescence written by a retarded adolescent’ (p. 9); sentiments quoted approvingly by Julian Barnes in his review of a new edition of the Alain-Fournier classic (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/apr/13/grand-meaulnes-wanderer-julian-barnes). In a typical externalist aside, Barnes draws attention to the final carnival fireworks in Le Grands Meaulnes as announcing the end of romanticism just before the ‘reality’ of World War 1 broke out. That being said, it seems that the sublime world, just out of sight, occasionally encountered in the magical, and often personified in women and men (even boys), is not a disposition easily overturned; rather its seems endemic in the human psyche and its aesthetic. Most of subsequent Fowles’ novels, for example – The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), The Ebony Tower (1974), Daniel Martin (1977), Mantissa (1982), A Maggot (1985) – contain strong elements of this search for the unreachable.’

I particularly like this French, Livre de Poche, edition with its evocative front cover picture, and yellow spine.

August 2017

Summer now flying by and indeed the first stirrings of autumn: the birds have stopped singing and there is heavy dew in the morning. Before the summer broke – days and days of rain, which left all the flowers bedraggled – I made it down to Somerset and somewhat of an undiscovered gem: Exmoor. Lots of walks in beautiful country.

 

 

 

 

There are funny curios as well, like the steam railways running along the north coast near Minehead. It represents a memory of the past: silver service on the trains, oldie world stations, cardboard tickets and heavily upholstered seats.

 

          

 

 

 

And, lost domain like cafés/ craft shops – again, apparently from a time past.

 

 

 

 

 

I also went to view Blake’s cottage in Felpham, West Sussex. The poet William Blake only spent 3 years outside of London – and this is where. The Blake Society of St James, of which I was a founder member in the 1980s, managed to purchase the cottage last year when it came on the market for the first time in almost 100 years. The asking price was 500K GBP. Having begun a fundraising scheme, it managed to raise 50K in six months. Not enough. So, they let go of the idea of purchasing it. Then, an anonymous donor phoned up and offered the other 450K. As Blake said, ‘I live by miracles’.

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, there are plans now to restore it to something like its original condition when Blake lived there and also build some sort of study/ retreat centre for those looking to dwell – scholarly or otherwise – in a Blakean spirit.

 

 

 

Every year, a rose small rose bush grows in my garden and produces a single rose, which it beckons me pick it and take into my home. This is this year’s:

 

 

 

 

 

Up to London for the Pink Floyd exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum. These ‘fashion/ pop exhibitions have become popular – and successful – in recent years, with high numbers attending. The current one follows others on Bowie, 60s Pop/ Rock Revolution. It adopts a similar format; chronological account of the band, lots of gear, original lyrics and stage designs, etc., and then a final ‘concert’ auditorium. This time, recording/ headphones were supplied, which turned off and on as you approached the various cabinets. Amazing. Lots of fun; although I do wonder what it is doing in a museum and little or no effort is made to offer any sort of socio-cultural account of the Pink Floyd phenomenon.

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, down on Chichester, I go to the Pallant House Gallery for the John Minton (1917-1957) exhibition. Minton was very much part of the romantic revival of the English pastorale, with the likes of Nash, Sutherland, etc. Good to see the development of his work. An amazing graphic artist, able to render detail in a formidable way. Yet, he seemed to get distracted in designing book covers, for which there was a big demand, and eventually lost his vision almost all together, ending his life at a relatively young age. Enjoyable, but the sense of dying creativity was rather palpable as the exhibition proceeded.

 

 

 

 

 

July always marks WOMAD time (World of Music, Arts and Dance), which is really a festival of music and arts from around the world: Africa, Europe, South America, Asia.

 

 

 

 

 

Partly the brain child of the rock star Peter Gabriel, the first festival was in 1982 in Shepton Mallet. I missed the first one, which was an artistic success but a financial disaster: so, much so that Gabriel’s former band Genesis had to reform with him to do a benefit to cover the expenses and costs. There then followed years of uncertainty moves in siting: Mersea Island, Clevedon, Bracknell, Carlyon Bay, Morecombe, Brighton, London, Bristol. I certainly remember a free festival in Bristol, which was pretty much on orange boxes – the whole carried by the enthusiasm of those involved. My first festival was in London’s ICA in 1983, and was really one of those personal epiphanies for me – I had never quite seen anything like it. The first half was a group of Aboriginal musicians. If that was not enough to ‘blow the mind’, the second have had the 9 piece West African drum troupe (and dancers) Ekome from Bristol. They just played non-stop. I remember it was a hot summer evening and the audience just started stripping off. Very powerful for an impressionable young man. Anyway, many festivals followed, both in England (especially Reading and Charlton Park) and around the World. A book has just come out by another co-founder – Thomas Brooman. Going through his list, I counted I had been to 35 events in its 35 year history, including Winter Warmers and one-day events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My book of the month is Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. Ishiguro, of course, is a famed novelist, selling millions of books and famed for The Remains of the Day. The Buried Giant is his most recent, and appeared after a 10 year gap. Generally, it was not well reviewed, which I think is wrong. Critiques said it was too Tolkienesque for apparently being set in the past – King Arthur’s time. I think this is unfair, however. To me, it is an allegory, which could just as easily be set in the distant future – a bit like Richard Jefferies’ After London, Wild England – kind of post-apocalypse. For me it is exploring issues of post-colonialism and even post-modernism and the state, with this key note of memory/ forgetfulness. It is also elegiac, dwelling on the nature of love between individuals and the way they build their lives on it. A very special novel in my view.

 

 

 

 

My CD of the month is actually a record: of a CD of a record. That is the re-issue/ remastered version of Peter Gabriel’s Passion album (1988): now on 180 vinyl, and half-speed – played at 45 rpm. This is music he recorded for the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ, based on Nicos Kazantzakis’ novel. The book re-tells the Christ story, with a meditation of the faces of evil and temptation. Gabriel wrote a soundtrack drawing on traditional musics from the Middle-east, interspersed with modern synthesisers, and indeed music from Africa and India more broadly. In this new all-analogue version, the tonic sonority is truly amazing to bathe in.