Thursday, August 18, 2005

Reading Viewing Listening - Lists

Having been treated to a week in Melbourne on a project, caught the Dutch Masters exhibition at NGV. Highlights:

Not the Vermeer (sorry!) - it's about the size of an A4 page and is frankly better done in reproduction on the catalogue's cover.

The Rembrandts - expressive faces, a certain dash in the line.

The landscapes (so many!) - the big-sky genre is my favourite. Low horizon line, and clouds/light effects are beautifully done in the best renditions. Names: van Ruysdael, Hobbema, Pynacker, Moreelse (Girl in a Mirror, just to confound the list...)

Like most world class galleries, NGV has benefitted from bequests and trusts. An early straw stuck into the rich vein of gold-rush money continues to fund purchases, and there are many astounding private collections which have been donated.

Favourites here:

The Japanese woodblocks (Utamaro, Hokusai, Kuniyoshi) - a small selection from a vast store, including many early-impression prints (tend to be sharper)

Durer - NGV has a massive collection, a fraction of which is on display. Again, many early impressions, which are even more crucial in some of the printing techniques such as drypoint, where the plates very quickly lose definition.

Impressionists - including a favourite JWM Turner, whose late pieces (1840's) are forerunners of the movement as a whole - but a very good selection of Pissaro, Sisley, Manet and a thoughtful grouping overall.

As for most decent galleries, too much for a single visit: and we didn't hit the Federation Square site (Australian and Pacific art) - ran out of time.

Melbourne as always, delights with the architecture in the central city - try 333 Collins for a quick sample (outer suburbs and industrial areas are the standard blah) and in the better suburbs around South Melbourne. The obligatory Acland St (St Kilda) tram pilgrimage but (sniff) no gelato - closed up for winter. Come on, Green Apple, it's officially Spring!

And notwithstanding the multiculti ninnies' opinions on oppression, art, kultcha and so on ad infinitum, the things that stay around to evidence said kultcha tend to be (surprise!) great artworks, and architecture which has survived the Darwinian selection process. And, bow to the vanished Bamiyan Buddhas and British church decorations, survived various iconoclastic episodes.

Reading has tended to concentrate on heavy topics interspersed with light ent:


Winning the Oil endgame - a wonderful summary based on hard data and private initiative. Dedicated to the proposition that the Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of rocks. And the price signals are going to really push this sort of thing: nice aspect is that no 'to-be-announced' technology is involved in Lovin's suggestions.

The Command of the Ocean - N A M Rodger. Hugely detailed and notable for the sidelights into social history, from a historian of the old, pre-we-are-all-evil-colonisers school. Another engrossing old fart, in other words.

Landscape and Memory
- Simon Schama. OK, cheating here, still reading it. Marvellous premise: that landscape is an artefact of human perception, and thus its depictions and commentary reflect the Zeitgeist - spirit of the times or age. Not forgetting the Weltanschauung - the world-view of the writer. How to tease these apart? That's a lifetime's work.

England- An Elegy - Roger Scruton. An unabashedly personal but deeply English book: he laments the loss of 'enchantment' as embodied in the rituals, clubs, brass bands, and generally bottom-up activities of Blighty As She Was. A quote (about church interiors) seems in order:

"That this [deep impression made on those who entered] had not come about without a painful history was evident from the very appearance of those quiet interiors. Iconoclasm and puritan vandalism had swept through these arches like a boiling tide through seashore caverns and, retreating, had left them bare. But you sensed too that the storms had passed, that the architecture was the purer and cleaner for the brutal torrent that had washed away its ornaments, and that the stunned tranquillity of those pitted walls would remain everlastingly."

Quite so. It echoes what we felt at those Evensongs - a quietitude which was the product of a turbulent yet burnishing history.

Light Ent:

Jasper Fforde: the Thursday Next series. Literary to a fault, Python meets Richard II meets Adams (Doug). It really does help (no plot giveaways here) to have actually read Jane Eyre. Great fun.

A Year in the Merde - funny and pertinent.

The Corrections
- Franzen. I almost never read a book which is too hot-right-now - I prefer to take my time and read it when the fuss has died down and a bit of history and sanity has intervened. Loved this: oddly uplifting given the subject matter.


Anything by Tom Waits: no,that's not a title. Look it up, you lazy sausages. I do think he needs to be listened to in order, to appreciate the transitions (say between Burma Shave - Foreign Affairs, to Gun Street Girl - Rain Dogs - to Another Man's Vine - Blood Money. And possibly not by youngsters - there is a cyclic element in Waits that demands a certain number of years under the belt. But of my own Desert Island Tracks on the Muvo, Waits owns a good chunk of the playlist.

Madeleine Peyroux - marvellous, old time jazz/blues crossover stuff. The earlier CD with her ex is thin and too much not-her.

Nick Cave - Boatman Calls and since. We have both found that the early tracks on Boatman have become strongly associated with England and our time in London, despite the fact that we heard NC for the first time well after the trip! This rather puts paid to the theory that smell is the organiser of memory. Must actually go inside Brompton Oratory the next trip.

Bob Dylan - early and late. The middle years are frankly forgettable. Another old codger getting better as he (and we) age(s).

Mile Davis - Kind of Blue. The cleaned-up version, from the tape recorder that wasn't running slow on the day. A true 20th century classic.

Here endeth today's Lists.