Sunday, May 14, 2017

HAT TRICK

A little while ago George Szirtes posted photos of his grandfather and of himself in a hat and I was reminded of my father in this hat - not the same one of course - the kind of hat that men used to wear all the time, everywhere. When did this change? Why? I loved that hat, the look it gave to men's faces, rakish, serious, a bit louche, melancholy.

My father, Sacha, seemed to have this hat on most of the time, either leaving or returning from a trip. Here he is at three stages: in his fifties in Florence, in his sixties in Switzerland, in his nineties in London.




MATCHMAKER?

Hypothetical question:

If you have a dear friend, mature and single and wonderful, who is searching for someone (as yet un-met) who is also searching for a committed relationship with a mature and single wonderful person of the opposite sex, would you feel it was okay for you to play the role of...Matchmaker? Is such a go-between role legitimate, acceptable in the 21st century?

Monday, May 01, 2017

TAVIRA RETURN

My first short visit to Tavira in the Algarve, Portugal, was in 2009 after my brother moved there. The town and surroundings enchanted me and I applied for an artist residency, got it in due course, and went back for three months in 2010 (photos and blog posts of that time duly archived). Last week I was there again, spending time with my brother and becoming acquainted with the small and beautiful art/craft shop which he, with a friend, opened a few weeks ago.

Tavira is a small and unspoilt jewel in the Algarve which I'm reluctant to praise too much.  A festival was taking place during the few days I spent there this time featuring folk dancers in traditional costume and a long row of stands under peaked white tents selling regional produce and handmade goods.











Sunday, April 23, 2017

MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND

THIS
is the best summing up I've seen so far concerning Jeremy Corbyn's actual policies.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

ELECTIONEERING AND SNEERING

I know that my posting of the link below will annoy some who visit here but hey, can't please everybody nor do I aim to. 

This space is for things I care about, think about, notice, or am working on. Outrage comes into it too sometimes because sometimes, letting out rage is all you can do. Donald Trump, Brexit, Theresa May and the impending election ....I could go on. The list of things to worry about and rage about gets longer every day. 

The blatant bias of the media over here is obvious to anybody who's got eyes and ears but since it benefits those whose bias it supports, well, eyes and ears can close down when it suits them.  Anyway have a look at this and see if it grabs you.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

WALLS I HAVE KNOWN


Doing some website housework, I've added a page for murals I've done. I think I already posted some of these here quite a while ago but if you want to have a look, here's the link:

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Asunciòn, Paraguay and London, UK are the places where my murals came to life. Unfortunately the public ones are now dead, wiped out, but possibly a couple of private ones still exist.

Fresco study, Instituto Allende, San Miguel

Cement relief abstract mural by NdA for Hotel Guarani, Asuncion, Paraguay




Hotel Guarani, Asuncion
Detail of mural at Godwin Court Health Clinic, Camden, London 1982-83

Preparatory drawing, Hampden Community Centre mural, London 1983-84


Sunday, April 16, 2017

RESURRECTION

To everyone who passes by here,  a happy Easter and Passover and springtime and any other feast of rebirth and renewal that you care to celebrate today or other days.

The concept or belief in resurrection is as old as humanity as is its expression in symbols. If the traditional religious ones don't appeal, have a look at some of the others.

Phoenix from Aberdeen Bestiary, 12th Century


The Ascension from Four Gospels, Northern Ethiopia, c 14th Century

 The view from my back window today, Easter Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

CAT MINDFULNESS

What I love about cats and some other animals and young children is that everything is always for the first time for them. I put some food in the plate for visiting cat Pushkin and he lights up as if the Messiah has just offered him eternal life. And every single time it's brand new, the excitment never dims, no routine is ever boring, everything is wonderful or frightening and invariably surprising. I like to think that I'm a little bit like that, most of the time.

Meanwhile nuclear war is in the air, Trump remembers chocolate cake and forgets which country he bombed.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

HODGKIN'S ABSENT FRIENDS

If you're in London, it's definitely worth going to the National Portrait Gallery for the Howard Hodgkin show Absent Friends.

Absence certainly takes centre stage because those people whose portraits Hodgkin painted at various stages in his long career are not actually depicted. What he did was to invent a carefully constructed visual language to translate his memories and feelings about certain individuals or situations into pigment, colour and form. They're not abstractions, not abstract expressionism, and not merely "mark making" (irritating art-speak!) The subject matter is always essential and Hodgkin is a narrator, telling stories which remain alive in his memory. The exquisite Indian miniatures which Hodgkin loved and collected also tell stories - he borrowed from their intense colours and precise construction  but deftly removed all illustration from his own tales. An acrobatic tour de force.

Unfortunately that vigor and inventiveness didn't persist into his late years and the final paintings in this and other recent exhibitions have an unconvincing, floppy bravado. You could say, well, that's what old age does. I'd vehemently disagree (I would wouldn't I?) and I don't know what took the vim out of Howard Hodgkin but it surely wasn't old age, even if he was 84 when he died in March this year.  Anyway, see the show if you can or if not, look up his work.

 Howard Hodgkin  Rain 1984-9

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

WORKS IN PROGRESS

A couple of things slowly taking shape and I'm not pushing too hard. Artworks are like children, you can give them directions but there's no guarantee they'll obey and even if they do, it will be their way. I like to listen to where a particular work wants to go and that requires a lot of sitting and staring and waiting.

The box-things I make (recently named Pableaux) sometimes turn out as instigations/inspirations for paintings and vice-versa. The latest one is specifically a maquette, a 3-dimensional rough model for a painting. The painting will take quite a while to do but here's the miniature maquette for it, made of wood, cardboard, wire etc. The title is: The Cosmic Sadness of a Teen Age Girl Crying in the Shower.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

I HEART THE NHS

Had the echocardiogram today, done at hospital by excellent Portuguese doctor (yes, the blessed NHS is as grateful as we are to have so many 'foreigners' among its staff) and he said he was very happy with what he saw and heard on the machine. I was facing the other way from the screen so I couldn't see anything but I did hear occasional rumors of pumping blood.

So my heart is perfect - or as perfect as these things ever can be - in spite of my rather advanced years. I've been debating whether to come out of the closet where I hide exactly the number of that advancement but have decided against it. Maybe on my next birthday. Maybe not.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

HAPPY ENDING

Unbelievable but absolutely true sequel to my last post:

A few minutes ago I got a phone call from the hospital where I was due to have an echocardiogram yesterday morning (which I missed) offering me a new appointment this Saturday11th March, rather than on 27th April as they said yesterday. Of course I accepted very gratefully.

Even more amazing is the fact that the lady I spoke to had been trying to phone me, unsuccessfully, since yesterday. The reason she couldn't reach me was because my landline phone number was changed, against my wishes, when I changed telephone provider recently. (Don't get me started on that infernal story!) However the  lady did not give up: she took the trouble to get in touch with my local GP's practice to verify my phone number and fortunately, I had told them just a couple of days ago about the new number. So the saintly NHS lady found me and all's well.

May blessings and cash rain down upon the blessed NHS.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

MAXIMA CULPA

Sometimes there's a good reason to hate yourself. Missed an important medical appointment this morning because I overslept because I didn't get to bed until 4am because I was looking at something on the internet, can't even remember what, and I did set the alarm clock and it did go off at the proper time but I turned it off to just lie there and think for a minute and then when I woke up again it was an hour past my appointment and when I phoned to explain why I missed it they kept me waiting on the phone and then I was told I couldn't have another appointment until the end of April and I said no no no my GP said I need to have the echocardiogram and I know it's my fault but can I come later today and they said no you cannot so I had to accept the new appointment and I can't blame the NHS because it's all my fault mea culpa mea maxima maximosa culpa and I hate myself, yes.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

NEW NdA CATALOGUE

There are quite a few print companies listed on the internet which tempt you with Special Offers to make a photobook with your own pictures, laid out in any way you wish, including text, all beautifully printed under hard covers, very reasonably priced and usually delivered in a week or less.

I've taken advantage of these offers on several occasions from two of these companies, sometimes for family birthday gifts (putting together a relative's pictorial life story) but mainly to gather together photos of some of my paintings, drawings, prints and bookworks in a series of catalogues. I've only ordered one print copy of each book for my own use - it would be ludicrously expensive to use this method for copies to sell and distribute in larger quantities. For that purpose, print-on-demand companies are much more economical and do a very good job as well.

I've previously posted slideshows which the photobook companies give you a link to, so that you can show your 'creation' to friends, but the annoying thing is that they use this as a means to advertise their products. So the first thing you see before looking at my slideshow is the company's sales-pitch as if it's me talking (it's not) asking if you want to buy my catalogue at £65....Are you kidding? No way! But that's what a 60-page book would have cost, had it been been printed without their Special Offer which costs me £30 plus postage.

Now you understand why I'm asking you to ignore the salestalk on the opening page of the slideshow You can set the viewing speed to slow, medium or fast and, if possible, I suggest you watch it on full screen, preferably on a computer or tablet rather than on a phone.



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

UKED

Sorted.

Loveable new soprano ukulele bought in Denmark Street music shop yesterday and they even fitted my strap and metal strap button to it. So now all I have to do is learn to play it. One year? Two? We'll see.

That thing sticking out of my head is not a horn. It's the top of an easel.




Monday, February 20, 2017

UPDATE ON THE UKULELE STORY

The classes in the pub were fun and instructive. I learned that pressing down firmly on the strings, fingers and wrist of left hand bent into required positions, then moving to different positions with new bends and stretches of every hand bone whilst simultaneously strumming down/down or up/down/up/ down in a carefree, rhythmical manner with the right hand, all the while hugging the uke flat against the body yet also managing to bend my neck forward to see where my fingers are on the instrument's neck... .

Well. I learned that it is not a walk in the park for a short-necked, short-arsed, short-fingered person with rather stiff hands. The teacher was good-humoured, patient, competent and, seeing my struggles, he kindly gave me the last lesson one-to-one. I now know what to do. It's only a matter of training my bones to obey my brain.

I decided that some improvements to the instrument itself were needed if I was to make any progress. A shoulder strap, so that I could forget about holding the uke, would also allow me to tilt it so that I might see where to place my fingers. To remember basic chord shapes I stuck coloured dots on the uke's neck and diagrams on its body. I bought a strap but, as my uke didn't have the posts to attach it, I cut and glued bits of wood for the screws to fit into. Then I got a set of good Aquila nylgut strings to replace the cheap nylon ones on my cheap little soprano uke, googled instruction videos on how to re-string the thing and proceeded to undertake this apparently simple task.

Not simple. More like fiendishly heart-stoppingly difficult. It's a long story but to summarise: the bridge broke when I was tightening a string. I thought I could save it it by gluing a new piece of wood over the broken section. I used Araldite, the strongest glue in the universe, everything looked perfect, I managed to restring the uke. I practiced. I was getting a tiny bit better at moving from one chord to another.

Then yesterday, without warning, suddenly, there was a loud bang or snap or bing or whatever sound four strings make when they've had enough and the entire bridge broke away, strings attached, from the ukulele's body. You can see the miserable wrecked little Aradilted bugger in the photos below as well as my now stringless and bridgeless ukulele. The strings are saved. I'm not giving up. I will buy another, slightly better uke and I will master a few chords, just enough to sing a few songs. I will.





Tuesday, February 14, 2017

HISTORICAL BUMPS

Once upon a time
A man named Donald Trump
Entered a famous White House.
In history he will be known as Bump
Not only because it rhymes
And because of Humpty Dump
ty, but because history
Is an obstacle course
Littered with bumps.
That's why it's called an obstacle course
Of course 

Destiny litters our time
All our times
With bumps. 

To test us all
To find out if we'll fall
Or slump
Or dump
Or jump
Or overcome
When a Trump
By any other name
Appears on the bumpy racetrack
Of history.

Monday, February 13, 2017

CELEBRATING GERARDO GUERRIERI

This afternoon, at the Biblioteca Baldini in Rome, an important event to celebrate the late Gerardo Guerrieri and a new edition of his biography by Selene Guerrieri A Stage Full of Dreams. Below a video by Rocco Brancati of another event a few days ago in Matera to inaugurate his own book on Guerrieri and a forthcoming documentary. The mayor of Matera announces that a street will be named after Gerardo Guerrieri.

I am so proud of my beloved, much missed brother-in-law Gerardo and of the extraordinary women he left behind - his wife, my sister Anne d'Arbeloff Guerrieri who founded the unique Teatro Club di Roma with Gerardo, and their two amazing daughters, Selene and Indira. Selene is speaking in the video below.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

MUST YOU?

Guilt and irritation mixed in equal parts - that's what I get when too much time passes between one post and the next one. Guilt because of a sense of failed duty, as if regular blogging and/or facebooking is a real responsibility. Irritation because I know that's a delusion: I do not have a duty to blog. Anything which must be done is always an irritant. But what happens when something you freely choose to do slides down the slippery slope to MUSTNESS? As it generally does.

Do you have a file or shelf or cupboard or trunk or shed filled with things/projects which you began some time (days?months? years?) ago, flushed with energy, zip and zoom, pencils and tools and ideas sharpened, ready, willing and perfectly able to carry on and carry out? The next question is: how many of these have morphed into Duties (therefore irritants)? And how many are ongoing daily joys? Yes yes I know I know. Nothing is entirely one thing or another, it's a mix, sometimes duty, sometimes joy, and so on and on.

But what I want is the zip and zoom without Duty poking its infuriating head in. I want a foolproof recipe (designed for fools) for avoiding Duty whilst still getting things done. So there.

One of quite a number of things waiting on the shelf to be finished is my online autobio. To get in the zip/zoom mood I started looking at old photos. I have hundreds, maybe thousands of photos - my whole life (with just a few gaps) in photos. I don't know who took many of them, somebody must have, way back then.

 Moi in Paris or Paris environs. I don't understand the feet in this photo, they're like hooves.
 Somewhere by the sea in France, maybe Royan. I still have the same hairstyle now.
 With my father in San Antonio, Paraguay.
 In Los Angeles with my parents, Sacha and Blanche, and my older sister Anne.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

SMALL VOICES CAN MAKE BIG SOUNDS

I want to say thank you and bravo to Gina Miller and colleagues for the courage, enterprise and informed committment, as ordinary (extraordinary) members of the public, concerned enough about upholding the rule of law to challenge the government itself.

Because of their action, what should/could have been obvious to everybody if they'd paid attention is now officially confirmed: Prime Minister Theresa May cannot trigger Article 50 without a Parliamentary vote - she wanted to zoom ahead, ignoring Parliament, and now she can't because the Supreme Court has declared it's against the law.

Brexit will still go ahead but this case is a historical victory, proof of what individuals can achieve without necessarily being politicians, pundits, prime ministers, presidents or any other Persons of Influence.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

INAUGURATION

Whatever others had in mind when the name of God was repeatedly invoked at the inauguration ceremony yesterday, it seems to me that Donald Trump's deity is a two-headed gold idol consisting of himself and money.

Billy Graham's son Franklin declared that the sudden downpour of rain was a holy omen. I felt that the heavenly host, wherever and however you define it or them, were shedding anguished tears.

But what do I know?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

WILDNESS AND UKITUDE

Fascinating 'finissage' of the Call of the Wild exhibition yesterday at Natalia and Simon Zagorska Thomas' home and Studio Ex Purgamento with one-celled organisms behaving almost intelligently and Morse code going Dada and conversations ranging from this to that and every variation in between. Happy to have been there and looking forward to further eclectic/electric salons at ExPurg.

And tonight was my first ukulele lesson in a pub room near the BBC. It was fun even though my hands are too small, my fingers too short and fingertips so sissy that nylon strings hurt. The fingertip cushion skin toughens up after a while, I'm told. We learned and (sort of) strummed three chords and two songs and have homework. Teacher and students (about 12 of us) all very simpatico - a short course, once a week for 4 weeks. Hope to report on some progress at the end of it. At the moment my ukulele aptitude or ukitude, on a scale of 1 to 10, is approximately minus zero.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

TIME'S WINGED MOSQUITO

(Thanks to Marly Youmans for her comment to this post on Facebook today in which she brought up Time's Winged Chariot - it hadn't ocurred to me in connection to my mosquito and I love this connection!)

When you’re not as young as you used to be the month of January behaves like a mosquito. Not only does it keep on buzz buzz buzzing stupid cliches in your head likeTime is Marching On, You’re Not As Young as You Used To Be, The End is Nigher Than You Think and so on, but it’s also literally after your blood - allright that’s pushing it a bit, but how better to describe a month that won’t shut up about  how little time is still allotted to you in the chronoilllogical calendar of your life?

Even though my health and general joie de vivre are in good working order, thanks to God and my DNA and my ancestors and whatever other miracles may be responsible for such a blessing, there are frequent moments in January, possibly more than in other months, when I am struck  - nay, buzzed - by the awareness that not only am I not as young as I used to be but even older than I used to be a few minutes ago.


Monday, January 09, 2017

HARD QUESTIONS IN THE SILENCE



Saw 'The Silence' yesterday. Here is The Guardian's review which gives the background and the story but in its heading needlessly highlights Liam Neeson who is not that significant in the film. He does a good job, as always, but that's not the point.

I thought the film was visually stunning, the script nuanced, the pace slow and unobtrusive enough to let you think, the directing/acting excellent from everyone but I agree with the Guardian that Adam Driver would have been better cast in Andrew Garfield's role. However I don't want to talk in cinematic terms (am incompetent to do so even if I wanted to). What interests me most in this film is that it leaves a door open for philosophical/ethical questions and doesn't attempt to answer them for you. 

Obvious questions regarding religious faith: 
If there is a God why is He/She/It silent in the face of suffering? 
Which religious or non-religious teachings are the kindest, truest, most beneficial to humans and to the world? 
Should any believers try to convert anyone to their beliefs, whether religious, atheist, political? 
What should you do about beliefs which threaten your existence, your culture, your identity? 
How important are symbols of your beliefs such as images, relics and other artefacts? 

What immediately came up as I left the cinema, got on a bus and took out my notebook (as usual when a thought seems worth jotting down) was the concept of heroism. Who is or is not a hero?
The martyrs who endure unspeakable torture rather than deny their relgious faith?
The soldiers who accept torture and death in order to defend their country?
The conscientious objectors who refuse to go to war?
The Jew or Christian or Muslim or Hindu or member of any other denomination or race who denies it in order to save him/herself and family from extermination?
The child who refuses to snitch on a classmate who has done some dreadful deed?
The whistleblower who publicly reveals information which will wreck his/her life but will expose serious wrongdoings?

And what about symbols: flags for instance. Desecrating their country's flag is seen as a crime by some, whereas they may see others' veneration of an image or a book as nonsense.

I don't have answers. But I welcome a film which elicits hard questions.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

LOST FAN OPPORTUNITIES

I was in a queue for the train to Paris once, probably before Eurostar, and right in front of me were an attractive couple. I recognised the man: it was John Berger. The woman maybe his wife, maybe not. I knew what he looked like from author photos but the vitality fizzing from him could not have been captured in any still images. I very much wanted to speak with him but only if it was a real conversation and I couldn't think of any way to initiate that. Besides, the couple were talking to each other and I didn't want to interrupt. I love much of his work but don't know how to be anyone's fan - don't believe in fandom (not even the fandom of the opera) So I missed that opportunity. 

Just as I missed another fan-op many many years ago when I was only a tiny pre-teen and George Sanders, my then-hero, was actually literally in the same elevator with me in the very same brownstone house in New York City where I lived at the time with my parents and where my hero's mistress, Zzzazza Gabor, also had an apartment. Fate, in its occasional whimsical generosity, gave me another chance to approach this particular hero of mine many years later (1972) at the airport in New York, on my way back to London: George Sanders, my George Sanders, was there in the pre-boarding area, wrapped in a fur-collared coat, looking grey and grim and old. I desperately wanted to speak to him and again could not think of anything to say - "I love you" would have been stupid. I didn't know then that he was on his way to die by his own hand in an anonymous hotel room somewhere in Spain. I read the obituary when I was back home.

RIP long-gone George Sanders, RIP gone yesterday John Berger, wherever you are. See you there one day.