Blackpaint 10

British Library

Exhibition of 19th century photography at the above, called “Points of View”, I think.  The usual stuff; workmen lined up on earthen galleries in tunnels, bridges and dams under construction in Egypt, India and elsewhere in the Empire, Muybridge sequences of apes, horses, bison and humans in motion – the horse definitely does have all four hooves in the air at one point – Gettysburg dead in a trench,  Conan Doyle with an ectoplasmic entity hovering behind him.  Victoria, Tennyson, Oscar Wilde, criminal types, misty evenings in Trafalgar Square.

Three photographs really stood out for me, for completely different reasons.  The first was an Andaman Islander with a clamp attached to her neck to hold her in place for the photograph.  The second was an X ray of a frog, with an eerily human skeleton- and the third, a portrait of the actress, Mrs. Patrick Kavanagh, as she was titled.

King’s Place

Then, down to King’s Place  in York Way, to see paintings by Updahl, the Norwegian painter.  Mountains and huge sweeping curves of bays, with distant towns sketched in with paint along the shoreline, all under dark mauve skies, sometimes with aurora depicted.  Some of them reminded me of Paul Nash’s bay scene.  Downstairs, some watercolours of similar scenes with sharp contrast of light and darkness on mountain faces.  Our view impeded by a huge throng of suited businessmen (some women, overwhelmingly men) having their buffet lunch break from a conference.

British Museum

Finally, down to BM and to Mexican revolutionary prints from 30s to 50s, I think.  Social Realist type subjects- beggars, workers, soldiers, disabled, street scenes – but in that heroic, stylised manner of the muralists; Rivera,  Siqueiros and Orozco (who have a wall to themselves, titled “The Big Three”).

Had a quick walk through the North American/Canadian Indian section – First Nation peoples is the correct term, I understand from Ray Mears and George Monbiot – and saw the anoraks made from gut (of seal, sea lion etc.) to the Main Court and through to the Assyrian reliefs from Nimrud, Nineveh and Tigrath – Pileser (is that right?), to check on the lions in the lion hunt series and see if what I said about them being much better than Renaissance lions was right – it was.

As well as the lions, sprouting arrows, there were lines of soldiers carrying little lopped -off prisoners’ heads, two prisoners being skinned alive, divers apparently using inflated skins as swimming aids, rivers full of fish, crabs and eels, cities being besieged, walls scaled and battering ram “tanks” crashing into walls.  And the huge eagle-headed guardian spirits with pine cone and bucket (very like a handbag), lashes, fly whisks, and one pair attacking each other with knives.

Home, and Tim Marlow on Vermeer on TV.  Enough to make me despair, as I contemplate the trite, anaemic, tricksy abomination that is my own current “painting”.

Listening to: “Sorry”, by Bix Beiderbecke and  “It Never Entered my Mind” by Ella Fitzgerald.  The latter has the phrase “uneasy in my easy chair” – I came across “uneasy chair” in Ferlinghetti the other day – and “Naked Lunch” a few times too; did he get it from Burroughs or was it the other way round?



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