TWO YEARS OR TWO THOUSAND MILES
... Whichever Come First
Or the Statistics of Art, Parentheses Parity and Pencil Parings
Two years ago today, I stepped off a plane in Wellington and said to myself “Well, I’m back.” It had been a while, clearly, and in all honesty, I thought at the time that now, two years along, I’d be repeating myself, but back on the other side of the globe…
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/04/11 | 08:00 PM |
THAT EXTRA DIMENSION
Or Imagining, Subtracting and Adding: the Arithmetic of Painting and Sculpture
Well, they’re back!
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/03/11 | 08:00 PM |
Or the Fine Art of the Empty Space
It’s no secret. I quite like words. Meeting new ones is like meeting new people, each toting an etymological suitcase of complexity and experience in the simple syllabification of a few letters.
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/02/11 | 08:00 PM |
Or How the Past Can Inspire the Now
Actually, this entry might well have been entitled “a friend in need…” as ambition had gotten farther down the road to writing something than the writing itself. Some how, the year’s end and this one’s beginning, which I had hoped to dedicate to getting a goodly, or at very least, a respectable number of words written, somehow was consumed by more mundane pursuits, doing nothing amongst them. Thus having ceded to the sirens call of sloth, I was girding my loins to dash something off in my usual state (a narrow land, situated between Dismay and Panic) when a friend offered a text, and I gratefully accepted.
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/01/11 | 07:00 PM |
A SHORT HISTORY OF HOT AIR
Or Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…. Phlogiston!” (Hearty applause)
“And its creator… Georg Ernst Stahl!” (The house comes down)
It is a shame such a scene never took place, but the world of 18th century science was such a mix of daring, foolishness and showmanship, stranger things might have happened.1
For two millennia, life on Earth was measured in terms of the oligarchy of four: Earth, Air, Water and Fire, as proposed by Empedocles in 5th century BC, though the fifth element or quintessence, Aether, a kind of cosmic glue holding it all together, was considered to circle in the space around the Earth. The 5th element handily took care of the eternal and immovable cosmos, as the other four elements were known to be rather less stable, besides being often uncomfortably hot, cold, wet or dry. The elements were decidedly finicky.
For example, they had a tendency to catch fire.
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/12/10 | 08:00 PM |
THE ART OF TALKING ART
Or Getting A Few Words in Edgeways
This is an essay about the fine art of talking about… art. There’s decidedly an art to it. Serious art critics, who speak about serious art, adopt a palette of authority, sternly applied with brushes that brook no objection, deciding what constitutes Serious Art, and what is not. I do take some small comfort from the fact that this exclusivist approach has been a constant since people have been authoritatively writing about art, though membership in the ranks of Serious Artists is as ever-changing as the passengers on the quay of a train station. The other constant is that we always seem to be right. Now. And look on those who were right before with derision and commiseration. Undoubtedly someone will one day look on what we say and shake their heads.
In light of this, I’m always reminded of John Ruskin’s lecture on Classic Schools of Painting given at Oxford in 1883, when he described Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s “The Pyrrhic Dance” as “exactly like a microscopic view of a small detachment of black beetles, in search of a dead rat”. Tastes change.
Leslie Stem is a film-maker, artist and writer, and not afraid of speaking her mind. Or of graciously agreeing to stand in for me, when, in some desperation, I asked if she might not enjoy the exalted, albeit virtual, status of guest newsletter-writer (and save my skin in the process). *
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/11/10 | 07:59 PM |
MUSINGS, MUSEUMS & BEMUSEMENTS
Or A Few Musings of a Studiously Random Nature
I confess to spending quite a lot of time in museums. I also confess to taking them for granted, though of late, I have vowed to make a rather greater effort to use them more profitably. To do this, I’ve been thinking of removing the final two letters. Simple arithmetic: museum - um = muse.
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/10/10 | 07:00 PM |
Or Vertigo Without Fear of Falling
I like edges. I like where one thing stops and another starts. I cherish those points of contact, abrupt or indistinct as they may be, whether between atoms or idioms, between states of mind or states of matter.
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/09/10 | 05:00 PM |
A NILE OF SPHINXES*
Or Pawprints on a Riverbank
Who invented the sphinx? When Prince Thutmose had his dream in the shadow of the Giza Sphinx, it was already so old as to be considered practically ageless. “The sand oppresses me,” said the Sphinx, see how it irks and suffocates me. Free me from its grip and your reign will be long and prosperous.” Or something to that effect. Young Prince Thutmose was dreaming god-king dreams. Or perhaps he was thinking of his legacy. Or, chances are, he was thinking of both, and creating the first legend of the Giza Sphinx in passing.
Thutmose commanded the sand to be cleared from around the statue, built a temple between the outstretched paws, and set a tablet of red granite 14 feet tall, recording the tale.
Seven times the sand was cleared from around the Sphinx, six times it returned. Now it is not sand that surrounds the Sphinx, but drifting crowds of tourists, all come to see what is perhaps the oldest statue on earth.
But if the Giza Sphinx was already old, the very idea of the sphinx was far older, so old as to be forever lost. While the statue at Giza largely defines the Egyptian sphinx for the general public, there are countless others.
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/08/10 | 05:00 PM |
THE SPHINX WITH A THOUSAND FACES
Or A Statue in Egypt
Pards, Paranders, Monoceros & Manticores. Charadrius, Cinnomolgus, Amphisbaena, Leucrota & Tragelaphus, and Bonnacons to boot. Medieval bestiaries are rampant with the most extraordinary creatures, but where is the Sphinx? That was the question I imprudently asked myself the other day, resolving (equally imprudently) that I would look up a few things on the subject. I had no idea.
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/07/10 | 05:00 PM |
HALF SPEED AHEAD
Or Ce N’est Qu’un Au Revoir
Well, I give up.
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/06/10 | 07:00 PM |
Or Where It’s Really All About One’s Point of View
I think Dover Books must be the publisher the best represented in my library, they do have a habit of publishing all manner of wholly indispensable books on art and history that I simply cannot pass up. So, when asked if I would like to do a foreword for a re-edition of Piranesi’s Prisons, I naturally (and eagerly) agreed. (My own copy of the last Dover edition, which dated from the mid-‘60’s, had long gone the path of books lent and never returned.) Now that the book has come out, here is the preface, with the kind permission of the editors.
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 31/05/10 | 07:00 PM |
Or Thoughts and Words in Some Semblance of Order.
(After a Fashion.)
After having given a couple of evening talks to art and design students recently, I have once again realized how ardently I desire NOT to know what I will say, that the unrehearsed articulation of thoughts and convictions must always remain a quest for the right word, seizing the brief clarity inspired by those same serendipitous combinations.
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 15/05/10 | 06:59 PM |
HEAVEN AND HELL IN A CEDAR TUNNEL
Or A Very Slim Book by Mervyn Peake
At a very trim twenty-two pages, The Craft of the Lead Pencil, by Mervyn Peake, is the briefest of excursions into the well-trodden realm of drawing manuals. * This said, the modest number of pages is no indication of the keen quality of the book, perhaps one of the best books on drawing ever written by an illustrator. †
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 30/04/10 | 07:00 PM |
Or a Certain Fragmentation of Thought and Image
I tend to pick up things.
Read the whole entry - Posted by John on 16/04/10 | 07:00 PM |