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Saturday, 2 December 2017

Food for thought


Josephine Tey wrote a fine book called The Daughter of Time. It focuses on a Scotland Yard Inspector - Alan Grant, injured and bored out of his mind in a hospital bed. Then a friend introduces him to the mystery of Richard III and the disappearance of the ‘two princes in the tower.’ It’s a wonderful historical ‘who-dunnit’ and I’d recommend it to anyone. 

I was put in mind of it halfway through ‘LovingVincent,’ which has had mixed reviews. The story is told through the medium of his paintings and portraits, animated and spoken through actors. Some have found it visually unsettling, others thought it lacked emotional depth in the same way a cartoon might. I thoroughly enjoyed it both as a visual spectacle and for introducing me to the mystery of Vincent van Gogh’s death. It was an adroitly told ‘whodunnit’ which left more questions than answers and, as I said, put me in mind of a now largely forgotten book.  

Before I move on to another event, I’d urge with the zeal of . . . a zealot to google Van Gogh quotes. For me they were an eye-opener – another unexpected bonus of the film. Two in particular apply particularly well to the writer:

"Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don't know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can't do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerizes some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can't' once and for all.”
(Letter to Theo van Gogh, October 1884)

And in another letter, another useful tip especially for those who deal in words.

Exaggerate the essential, leave the obvious vague

The second event of an action packed week was a concert in the Newport Centre featuring Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott. I don’t know about a ‘starry starry night’ but this was a bloody freezing night.

 Even before they came on stage I was forcibly reminded of two tips I should never have forgotten. 1) Bring a hip flask with you. The beer was overpriced and the queues immense. 2) The seats are booked so for God’s sake only arrive when the act you’ve paid to see come on to the stage. The support act is usually a waste of time. In this case it was a Philadelphian band called ‘Son Little.’ (the singer) 

They ambled on stage like disconsolate factory hands starting a nightshift. The drummer went bang bang bang. The two guitars went ‘thrum thrum thrum’ and the singer shouted. Pretty basic stuff.
And then Heaton and Abbot took to the stage and the magic began. And I confess now, I wasn’t a particularly devoted fan. That is my wife’s privilege. But the artistry, professionalism and sheer stage presence won me over: sharp lyrics, harmonic chemistry and the ability to work a crowd from years of experience followed by three encores. I remarked afterwards they must have left the stage on a high, buoyed on a wave of gratification. Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime.

A selection of videos and some very nice ‘Dad Dancing’
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igYq3CEaHvU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7vEImmJq8E

So, a book, a film, and Paul Heatonand Jacqui Abbott’s latest album all recommended

1 comment:

Maria Zannini said...

I can corroborate the Rembrandt quotes. Whenever we'd dither in front of a blank canvas one of my favorite art professors would make us smear a big daub of paint on it. That usually fixed the problem. :)

By the way, the term I've always remembered was horror vacui-- Greek for fear of the empty.

re: concerts
I fear I'm too old for concerts. It's noisy (with fans), it's crowded, and as you've mentioned, expensive for any victuals.