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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Standing stones

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Standing Stones (recto) (1960) by Jonathan D. Cramp.

The Uffington White Horse is famously best viewed from the air which not only prompts continual speculation about its creation but also explains why there aren’t many paintings of it. White horses in British art are either the physical creatures or the much later chalk figures that can be found on southern hillsides. More surprising, perhaps, is the lack of paintings of Britain’s many neolithic monuments. Gothic and other ruins were a common feature of Romantic art but—Stonehenge aside—the circles and monoliths that litter the British landscape seem to have been ignored until very recently.

All the paintings here are from the BBC’s Your Paintings catalogue of the art on public display in Britain, and its notable that their dates coincide with the popular resurgence of interest in neolithic monuments. (The site does show a few older paintings but they’re a mix of the unattributed and the unimpressive.) Derek Jarman’s paintings of Avebury are absent since they were featured here last month. I especially like the stark and sombre picture by Gomer Lewis, an artist whose work I hadn’t seen before.

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Standing Stone (1976–1977) by Helen F. Wilson.

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Standing Stones (1977) by Peter Standen.

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The Song of the White Horse by David Bedford

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Many of the old TV documentaries I link to are ones I saw when first broadcast and wanted to see again, but this edition of the BBC’s Omnibus from 1978 is one I missed. The late David Bedford is a familiar name in British music: in the 1970s he was as much known for his orchestral arrangements for Kevin Ayers, Roy Harper, Mike Oldfield, et al as for his own album-length compositions. The Omnibus film concentrates on the composition and performance of a new Bedford piece inspired by the ancient earthwork known as the White Horse of Uffington.

The first half of the film has Bedford visiting the White Horse and nearby Wayland’s Smithy before returning to his studio where he shows the film crew some of his electronic gear. Later we get to see Mike Ratledge of Soft Machine helping create an electronic equivalent of the sound made by the Blowing Stone. The second half of the film has a complete performance of Bedford’s piece which takes its libretto from The Ballad of the White Horse by GK Chesterton. The sound quality doesn’t do the composition any favours at all but Bedford did record the piece in 1983 for Mike Oldfield’s label.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Hill figures

 


The art of Frantisek Kobliha, 1877–1962

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Untitled.

Another unfamiliar name, Frantisek Kobliha was a Czech Symbolist whose output includes a great deal of monochrome work in a variety of media: woodcuts, lithographs and the like. This may explain why he doesn’t make the larger Symbolist studies despite the quality of his work. Among his series of prints there’s that Symbolist perennial, the Temptation of St Anthony.

These examples may be found at larger size here (slow to load but many pages) and here. Thanks to Thom for the tip!

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Untitled.

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May (1911).

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The art of Willem Arondeus, 1894–1943

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Salomé (1916). “Your eyes are like black holes burned by torches in a Tyrian tapestry.”

This marvellous Salomé design is by a Dutch artist I hadn’t heard of before, Willem Arondeus, who might have had a longer career had his life not been cut short by a Nazi firing squad in 1943. Arondeus helped with the Dutch Resistance during the war, forging papers for fleeing Jews, and bombing the Amsterdam Public Records Office. His work warrants a place in the ever-popular gay artists archive not for any homoerotic qualities but because Arondeus was open about his homosexuality for his entire life, his last message to the world being “Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards.” The work that can be seen online is in that hybrid style that you see a lot from the 1920s on, a blending of the prevalent Art Deco manner with some hangover from the Art Nouveau period. The Salomé piece is particularly good for the way it entangles Salomé’s figure in writhing foliage and clustered architecture.

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De Elfenzetel (1919).

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Stamp advert (1923).

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Pierrot in Turquoise, or The Looking Glass Murders

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A final Bowie post included here as much for its connections to Derek Jarman. Pierrot in Turquoise was a pantomime by Lindsay Kemp based on the characters of the Commedia dell’arte, and broadcast by Scottish Television in 1970. David Bowie is “Cloud”, a non-commedia character who provides songs while perched atop a step-ladder. The smaller independent TV stations like Scottish often used to fill out their end-of-day programming with oddities such as this, the kind of thing that would have been screened once to a bewildered audience then forgotten.

Kemp’s production reverses some of the commedia traditions by having his Pierrot challenge Jack Birkett’s Harlequin, the exchange of roles taking place after a Cocteau-like journey through a mirror. Pierrot lacks a hat but otherwise his costume resembles the one that Bowie wore in the Ashes to Ashes video. Two years and a gulf of reinvention separate this little pantomime from Kemp and Bowie’s next encounter in Mick Rock’s video for John, I’m Only Dancing, a film the BBC found too weird and/or queer, and refused to show.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Flowers: A Pantomime for Jean Genet
Lindsay Kemp’s Salomé again

 


 



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Penda's Fen by David Rudkin