Saturday, 28 November 2015

Exquisite Loneliness

Would a bureaucrat give up his wealth, an attractive lover and a fine house to look for the maker of a beautiful object? To sacrifice himself for a vase? To stare into the kiln, and watch as the fire makes it… It is the final scene; one that suggests the allusiveness of the artistic spirit.

Artists. What makes them so odd, so different?

A few details might help us.

Jang Seung-up - known as Ohwon - is a real life genius.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

A Young Poet Takes His Exam

Sentimentality is the great danger to art. It replaces the complex flow of feeling with an idea that being too simple is static and vapid. Ideas must be alive. In philosophy vitality comes from insight and argument; which can enliven even the clumsiest of prose styles. With art it is more indirect; ideas live in concrete forms - in characters, in situations, in the overall pattern of a poem or play - and they gain their vitality from the indirectness and vagueness of their presentation: the more we have to undress the character to see the idea underneath the stronger we will feel it. The risk is always that the artist will be a dealer in secondhand ideas; ones acquired without thought or analytic penetration. Great and original thought is thought itself, not the ideas it generates; the outcome less important than the process. Think of a great thinker. Think of David Hume. The arguments between his full stops the flower pots where I grow my own roses and weeds.1 

Saturday, 7 November 2015


Out there, where the frontiers end, roads are erased. Where silence begins. I go forward slowly and I people the night with stars, with speech, with the breathing of distant water waiting for me where the dawn appears.

I invent evening, night, the next day rising from its bed of stone, the clear eyes of that day running across a world painfully dreamt. I sustain tree, cloud, rock, sea, the joy foreseen, inventions that vanish and hesitate before the light dispersed.

And then, the arid mountain, the adobe village, acute small reality of a puddle and one stolid peppertree, of some idiot children who stone me, a rancorous people which denounces me. I invent terror, hope, noon - father of solar frenzy, of glittering fallacies, of women who castrate their men of the hour.

Friday, 30 October 2015

The Silent Sacrifice

And afterwards: nothing. Elizabeth Vogler is silent. Into that silence flows Alma’s words. Alma talks and talks and talks until…there is nothing left but groans and grunts and a terrible hammering on the table. That silence: it is a large pit at the bottom of the garden.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Beware the Butterfly

Help!  Expert wanted!  These characters are strange. Their behaviour is foreign. It is alien, both in space and in time; especially in time - this is a pre-modern society, where mores are determined by cultural codes whose meaning we find odd and incomprehensible. We guess at things. We stumble. We make things up. Our thoughts wander into the woods and are lost.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Difficult Lessons

In most mainstream films - think of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut - lesbian sex is safe. A straight man’s fantasy, it is done so softly so as to emphasise the feminine nature of the protagonists. So genteel; like afternoon tea amongst the lace and porcelain of Lavinia’s caf√© in Chipping Camden; we’ll have a slice of Victoria Sponge and a pot of Lady Grey, please; oh, the tongs for the sugar appears to be missing. Thank you, you are very kind. Watching such films we forget: women are animals. They too like to rut without thought or consequence.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Pop Art

Steven Shorter behaves like a robot. This makes him odd. It sets him apart. Every other character is recognisably human; the one possible exception is Vanessa Ritchie; she can be as gauche as the star she has been commissioned to paint. It is meant to be like this. An artist is an alien presence. Born to give meaning to the world, to do so she must remain  forever detached from it. Thus Vanessa refuses to marry Steven. She needs her solitude. To make a puzzle out of her life, to truly understand what she encounters, the artist must recreate it within the privacy of her own personality. To marry a celebrity would destroy such detachment; too many people would now live inside her.