Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Own work: Life Drawing XXXXVII

A New Year and a new 'term' of life drawing classes, and a shaky start for me.  However the second drawing was much stronger, and I'm pleased with that.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Ss Peter & Paul, Gosberton

A little jaunt on Saturday into the fens.  We ended up at Gosberton on the silt fen between Spalding and Boston.  The church, like the village is large and sprawling, cruciform, and is crowned with an a massive and elegant crocketed spire.  It is almost entirely Curvilinear Decorated and Perpendicular - the east window is Victorian in best Middle Pointed.  In all a fine piece of architecture. The inside is wide and multi-vista'd, reminding me strongly of St Peter and Paul Algarkirk, though there is none of the Mid-Victorian richness of the latter.  In many ways however the interior is a disappointment - there are no fittings worthy of the architecture, and chancel is impossibly dark thanks to indifferent Victorian glass. Impossible, in fact, to photograph.  And also - regular readers may guess what's coming - it is full of well meaning but awful modern clutter - notices, things.  How many of our churches are slowly being wrecked by all this, submerged under all that dross? Another example: before Christmas we drove over to Ketton, and I was hoping to take some photos of the interior for social media, but it was a pointless quest. The place was a mess.  A superb building like that deserves better.  Back at Gosberton, Pevsner says that the east window is by Comper.  It isn't.
But on the west end of what is a very large parish and amidst a very bleak stretch of fen sits something that is by Comper.  Well Comper & Bucknall to be correct.  A small rather charming misson church dedicated to two Lincolnshire saints St Gilbert of Sempringham and St Hugh of Avalon, of 1904, with a half-timbered nave, porch and vestry and masonry chancel.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Happy New Year and 'Follies' at the Royal National Theatre

A New Year and another year of blogging ahead.  So wishing you all a Happy New Year I'd also like to apologize for the trailing off of this blog at the end of last year.  There's quite a bit going on here, but more of that as the year progresses.

Last Wednesday the bf and I went up to London for the last night of 'Follies' at the Royal National Theatre.  For those who don't know 'Follies' is the work of the New York composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim.  It was first staged in 1971 in New York and has had twelve revivals since.  It is a massive and complex work and for these reasons it is not perhaps performed as often as it deserves.  Briefly the musical takes places at a reunion, 'our first and last', in the Weismann Theatre, New York, a building scheduled for demolition. The host is Mr Weismann himself, legendary theatrical impresario and producer of the 'Weismann's Follies' 'between the Wars'; his guest are his former artistes, in particular the famous 'Weismann Girls', and their partners. The drama focuses on two of the former girls in particular: Sally (Imelda Staunton) and Phyllis (Janie Dee)and their respective husbands, Buddy (Peter Forbes) and Ben (Philip Quast). The show is in part an affectionate tribute to the Broadway musical written at a time when New York was beginning its slide into decline, and in part a exploration of the space between dreams and reality, between the perfection of the theatrical world of, say, Florenz Ziegfeld and the muddy imperfections of everyday life, as we watch the lives of the leading characters unravel.  Bitter sweet may be an apt description of the tone.
And here I may just begin to run out of superlatives for this production was such an overwhelming experience.  It is no exaggeration to say that I've never encountered anything in my theatre going to rival this; wonderful song followed on wonderful song. (Twentyone of them all told. Sondheim has the most breath-taking fluency.) Acting, direction, choreography, design were all superb. (It's invidious to single out a particular talent but I have to mention the designer Vicki Mortimer, being a visual sort of guy.  Set and costumes were stunning.) In all then an incredible ensemble work, demonstrating British theatrical talent at its best.  To be honest it's had such an artistic and emotional effect on me I've been playing recordings of it over and over again on 'Youtube' since then.   As I'm doing now while I write this.  Thankfully a cast recording is in the offing.  I can't wait.

We had lunch at a favourite of mine 'Dishoom' (Shoreditch), and dinner at 'Canteen' at the rear of the Royal Festival Hall.  Both very good.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

A Bigger Splash

After watching this film with the bf I was tempted to entitle this post "Significant people, huh!", a quote from Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece 'Brideshead Revisited'.  The narrator (the painter Charles Ryder) and Lady Julia Mottram are dining with a curious assortment of American grandees on a transatlantic liner. The dinner does not go well and the grandees are left with a poor impression of their English counterparts.  At one point one Senator Stuyvesant Oglander 'looked at his wife as if to say: 'Significant people, huh!''.  Which is really just a long winded way of saying the bf thought all the 'characters' were in 'A Bigger Splash' were somewhat dull.  I couldn't help but be disappointed with his response, not only because the film is important to me as it reflects a little of that social sphere inhabited by David Hockney et al, wonderfully reflected in that fabulous book by Peter Schlesinger, 'A Checkered Past' that is a deep fascination for me, but because it was hard to refute his opinion. The bohemian lives depicted here seemed somewhat domestic and trivial, leaning perhaps a little too much to the boring. Perhaps it is the crippling self-consciousness that they all display before the camera that's to blame.  There is but one moment of transcendence when the artist, the charming Patrick Proctor forgets the presence of the camera, but really that is it. We are given two all-too-brief scenes of a wider bohemian life: an Ossie Clarke fashion show (chaotic) , and 'The Alternative Miss World Competition' (more chaotic still).  Would there have been more of those scenes.  Fascinating too were the fashions and interiors.
Anyway I'm rather leaping ahead here.  'A Bigger Splash' dates from 1974 and is work of British cinematographer Jack Hazan.  His first full length film - a semi-fictionalized documentary with the 'stars' playing themselves.  It is named after a Hockney painting of 1967.  The result is visually beautiful, sometimes striking, but often confused in narrative structure. Since getting the dvd, way back in September, I've watched the film five or six times, being both attracted, as I've said, to the subject and slightly confused about the narrative.  There is a lot to sort out, to 'unpackage'.  The film ostensibly documents a three year period in Hockney's life in the early Seventies when he was living in London. The central event of the film is break-up of his relationship with Peter Schlesinger and the repercussions the break-up has for his art, particularly on the creation of the painting 'Portrait of an Artist'.  A painting, an earlier version of 'Portrait of an Artist' is destroyed in the process, which sounds quite dramatic, but without the overly melodramatic score by Patrick Gowers would be quite trivial an event.  It's not as though we actually see the canvas being destroyed, just the fragments (depicting Peter Schlesinger) lying on the darkened studio floor.  We see another canvas being destroyed earlier in the film.  They should not be confused. It isn't the same image.   For the trouble with this film is really simple: its narrative has been constructed after the event, in the cutting room, with the available material.  The continuity between shots can be laughable, and some of the seems were either too long and needed a swift editing, or were verging on the pointless.  However that is not to neglect or denigrate its importance in the depiction of gay guys like me living life that is normal as opposed to one that is problematic, or filled with sorrow beyond that of the ordinary.  A brave attempt then, and one I cannot totally dismiss.  Nor would I want to.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Own work: Life drawing XXXXVII

Back to the life room of an absence of a fortnight.  Two poses each of an hour long, media: pencil-crayon.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Own work: Sketch Book

Just a few pages from my latest sketch book.  Mixed media one and all.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Ss Peter and Paul, Tickencote

I consider myself very blessed to live close to some very beautiful towns, villages and countryside.  Yesterday on a brilliant Autumn day I made a return visit to Tickencote in Rutland.  I hadn't been there in years, since in fact I was a small child.  It really is an exquisite place, a small stone built village, with a marvellous church. The visit only confirmed that the local oolitic limestone looks better in slanting Autumn light.  It seems then to posses a beauty that makes my heart ache.
St Peter and St Paul is jewel of a church.  Small, neat and perfectly formed.  It is the work of two periods hundreds of years apart - Norman and Georgian.  Both are worth seeing on their own merits, but the Norman work steals the show with some pretty spectacular architecture for a humble village church. The exterior is however Georgian.  Not classical but Neo-Romanesque, the work of Samuel Pepys Cockerell.  The chancel is a restoration of the original Norman, the nave and the tower & vestry (which project like transepts from the e end of the nave) are wholly the design of Cockerell and are built of the smoothest Neo-classical ashlar.  All of dates from the early 1790s when Cockerell was called into restore the dilapidated Medieval church by Miss Eliza Wingfield.  Cockerell swept away all the later Medieval work, retained the sumptuous Norman chancel and attempted in his new work to harmonize with the Romanesque. The result is at times extraordinary if not bizarre such as the arch into the porch under the tower.  His plan, I think, owes a lot to Cormac's Chapel on the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland.
Cockerell's interior is simple and rather noble, making no attempt to compete with the Norman chancel which is on a scale and sumptuousness that is more suited to a cathedral rather a remote country church.  An embarass du richesse.  The chancel is vaulted with a sexpartite vault (that is six ribs and six webs) - a rare thing for its date, but what stays in the imagination is the incredible chancel arch, not only is it on a gargantuan scale, with the most wonderful enigmatic carvings it has buckled and deformed with the years.  Extraordinary, and a treasure.