Blackpaint 288


Santiago de Compostella

It means Saint James of the Field of Stars and refers to James the Greater (there were two disciples  named James, the Greater and the Less), whose bones allegedly rest here in the Cathedral, having been stolen and smuggled away from Alexandria in the night.  Perhaps at odds with the disciple image is James’ reputation as the Moor Killer; he is supposed to have turned up to support the Christian side in a battle with the Moors  and killed 60, 000 of them.  There is a statue in the cathedral of him on horseback, slashing his sword down, presumably on the head of an enemy; in  his big, floppy pilgrim’s hat, he resembles a Remington version of General Custer or Buffalo Bill.

The Cathedral has some curious sights for those not of the faith; there is no escaping an Indian, or perhaps Thai aspect to the numerous turrets, the elaborate altarpieces and the general profusion of decoration;  It reminded me of Fatehpur Sikri in Rajahstan.  The figures of Christ and the madonna were strangely doll-like; one, Christ with sword and orb (actually it might have been a Spanish king, but I think it was Christ) looked as if it might step down stiff-legged like a Golem and start slashing away.  There were several booths containing priests ready to hear confession – one had a placard listing the languages he spoke, another was apparently fast asleep – giving the impression of fortune tellers awaiting clients.

You go up the narrow steps behind the gold – is it the sun, or the head of Christ or the Virgin? – thing on the main altar and straight down the other side, no time to linger.  As you descend, you look up and there are two huge cherubs hanging above your head like Ron Mueck babies, but not quite so lifelike.  The descent into the crypt, to pass the silver box containing relics of the saint, is conducted at a similarly brisk rate.

Tapestries

There are threee sets of tapestries in the Cathedral museum which are  “based on” designs by Rubens, Teniers and Goya.  The Rubens ones have the usual Pugwash women, but with rather crude facial features; they show Achilles being dipped in the Styx, and some Greek love myths.  The Teniers are scenes of village life; dancing, drunkenness, rowdies being chucked out of celebrations, a man urinating discreetly in a corner, a skating scene and possibly some work going on.  The Goyas were various; a boy trying to trap a bird, children playing drums – the characteristic things were the hats, tall and pointy for soldiers, curling and oddly drooping at the  sides for those matador jobs.  Also the stance – that shoulders back, bum thrust out, hand on hip stance for the bully-boy soldier.

Picasso 

Free to see, in a private gallery nearby, 60-odd etchings by Picasso from 1931 – 33.  They contain some wonderful images of course; the one I know best is the Minotaur relaxing with a glass of wine and a female admirer.  Many are on the theme of the artist and model, but the one that stuck in my mind was one that contained two Guernica horses, done several years before the famous painting.  There were also two that showed a woman asleep on a table or the artist’s lap, which foreshadowed the famous Dream (the one where half her face appears to resolve into a penis).  They were entitled the Vollard Collection.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The Philip K Dick book on which “Blade Runner” was based, of course.  I’d never read it before and was surprised to find he never used the term Blade Runner (it comes from William Burroughs, via the script writers presumably).  They must also have come up with Roy Baty’s famous lines about the shoulder of Orion and the Tannhauser Gate – they are nowhere to be found in the Dick original.  On the other hand, the film left out the cult of Mercerism, Buster Friendly,  the coveting of animals and  the philosophising.

So, two distinct works of art; Ridley Scott’s stripped-down, cold-hearted action thriller film and Dick’s original – little character development,  perfunctory in places, but fizzing with ideas.  I think all his novels are like this; he can’t be bothered to finish them before starting to develop some new idea that has occurred to him.  The short stories, conversely, are beautifully succinct and focused.

Blackpaint

11.08.11

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