Sunday, July 27, 2008


Can you believe it's the end of the month, almost the end of summer already? Can I believe another birthday is nearly here already (August 7th) when I haven't digested the last one yet? I haven't believed in birthdays since I passed the fortieth one.

So if you don't believe in something it doesn't exist, right?

Well, my unbeliever attitude regarding age may prove to be exactly the right attitude. An article in The Independent last Friday says:

Growing old may not be mandatory after all.

I told you so.

Read the article but try to ignore the picture of Cliff Richard - not a good example of eternal youth. Even I look better than he does and no plastic scalpels have ever been near my ancient mug (how ancient I'm not telling but believe me, it's unbelievable).

I regret filling this space with my face but the last couple of days have been very hot and everything is too much effort. Will get back imminently to the autobio (me again, yes, but more interestingly, no?)


Saturday, July 19, 2008


Interesting exhibition of portraits by the Vorticist Wyndham Lewis at the National Portrait Gallery. My favourites were Edith Sitwell, T.S.Eliot and Portrait of the Artist as the Painter Raphael . Not a nice man, Mr. Lewis, but I appreciate his unsentimentally constructed subjects, like secular icons in which character is presented as architecture and emotion can be trapped in the precise folds of a jacket as well as in the slope of a cheek. He doesn't have a lot of depth but he sure knows how to make a surface meaningful.

I was instantly struck by Wyndham's borrowing from Van Gogh's L'Arlésienne (1888) in the satirical 1921 self-portrait Mr. Wyndham Lewis as a Tyro - the colour-scheme, the jagged edges - it's such an obvious influence yet nowhere, in none of the reviews or monographs, have I seen this juxtaposition. Am I the only person to have noticed it? Ha! Maybe you're seeing it here first.

It's such a relief, sometimes, to move in thoughtful silence amongst paintings, drawings and prints - images within familiar rectangles of canvas or paper or board - instead of being accosted by the whole shebang of multimedia artifacts and arty fictions which dominates our cultural landscape like a gigantic, noisy circus. Paintings that still exude the excitment that must have permeated artists' ateliers at the turn of the century and into the twenties, when truly radical things were being done inside that old traditional rectangular space. Illusory window or flat surface, there's something deeply satisfying about a rectangle of any size. With colour and line alone a painter can project thoughts, re-create the world, interpret reality, change reality, dispense with reality - all within a four-sided boundary.

I've started a very large painting, partly self-portrait partly something else I don't know yet. Autobio continues in the next post. Summertime is the time blogging slows down, isn't it?


Wednesday, July 09, 2008


My dear cousin Alex died peacefully yesterday in Boston. He was the eldest son of Vladimir, my father's brother.

Alex achieved extraordinary success, starting from a little workshop in Boston with his friend Nick DeWolf and gradually created the famed electronics company Teradyne. This is not the side of Alex that I know best because Vladimir and Katia, his father and mother, brought up their children mainly in America whereas my family was the more nomadic branch of the d'Arbeloffs and our lives went in very different directions.

What I cherished most about Alex was his wonderful personality, his humour, his ceaseless energy and innovative, rebellious spirit, his amazing generosity and family loyalty. I am grateful to him for so many things and fondly remember him in childhood, when he and his brother Dimitri and my sister and I played together and fought together in Paris and Rio de Janeiro and Paraguay and Los Angeles. Our shared memories of those days came up whenever we got together in recent times and gave us a sense of belonging to a private world far removed from our everyday lives. I saw him again in September last year when I spent a weekend with him and his wife Brit at their home. He was still playing tennis and doing his morning exercises on the floor.

Daragoya Alex, gospodi pomiluy. Wherever you are, I'm sure you are giving flying lessons to the angels.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008