Art, artsiness, and pretty things

This is art. We know this because it’s called art by people who know these things. In this case, it’s art that I love. It was made by Mats Caldeborg and is called Himmelsförsök och Hund (rough translation: A Try for Heaven and Dog).

DSC_0348

DSC_0334.JPG

DSC_0351

DSC_0359

But it’s kind of rare that I love visual art that’s officially recognised as such. I have no patience for naivistic painters or splotches of colour. Others love it, great. I want to see what it’s supposed to be.

Like these pictures I got at a second hand shop yesterday. I actually hesitated before buying them, only because I was worried they were too vulgar. But so what? I liked them. They fit my hallway. Why is this even an issue?

DSC_0133.JPG

DSC_0136.JPG

Because of prestige. Because liking figurative art, especially if you like it indiscriminately (as in, I’ll hang any old picture of a flower or a boat on the wall as long as it looks like a flower or a boat), is looked down on in some circles. And I get it, I really do. I want my movies to make me think, and I like music that surprises me. I’m not always in the mood for anything lightweight there. But when it comes to visual art, I just don’t want to have to work for it. I want it served on a silver platter. I want it to be pretty.

Because I really love pretty things. Kitschy, vulgar, glittery things that shimmer and sparkle and have lots of colours. I want it to be over the top and gaudy, otherwise what is there to look at?

DSC_0123.JPG

Sometimes I think I’m caught in some kind of time warp where I’m compelled to buy things I would have adored as a ten year old. It’s definitely the case with fabric, since I am in no way a seamstress, and yet I can’t help buying all these pretty swaths of cheap, spangled material that I never find a use for except to hang from the ceiling in my Indian room.

DSC_0116.JPG

DSC_0129

It’s how I write too. Some people would probably call it purple prose. I call it verbal painting, music in words. What’s the point of text if it’s not beautiful? Over-burdened, yes perhaps. And there is also beauty in simplicity. But to translate a feeling into words, you either have to create a situation for your character that sparks the same reaction inside the reader, or you have to create the image for them by conjuring glitter and sparkle with the help of language.

It’s an age-old battle between the ornate and the minimalistic, and neither is an obvious winner. Sometimes you need the baroque, and other times a bare space.They’re different modes that speak of different things. So yes, I love the riot of colour in my home, but I also love artsy black and white photographs of musicians.

Which is all to say fuck all really. 🙂 Here’s a couple of artsy black and white photographs of a musician.

DSC_0093_01

DSC_0097_01

 

Book hangover

Just finished re-reading my absolute number 1 favourite book of all time, and now I’m… in that weird mood. Book hangover mood.

I’ve read this book maybe ten times since I was sixteen and first got it from a relative, and I’ve been waiting so long since the last time because when you know a book by heart, you’re not really reading it. So I had to wait until I could feel it again, and now I’ve done it. Squeezed the last drops out of it for a while, and it makes me happy and sad and nostalgic, and now I don’t really know what to do with myself…

But hubby’s making something yummy downstairs, and food solves all problems, so I guess it’s dinner and a glass of wine, and another five year wait until I can read it again. Because I will. Because some books are like friends, and even if you lose touch, you’ll never forget.

I guess I’m saying that books matter. Whoever the writer is, whatever their views and politics and prejudice and whatever, a book is a world unto itself. Books may come through us, but we don’t own them. And for every person who reads, they mean something different.

The artist is flawed. The work is perfect. Just be grateful for those times when the words or the notes or the colours settle in the pattern that’s just for you, because nothing can take that away.

The power of art

Today I watched the movie Pride again. Fourth time in a month, and it still has the power to punch me in the gut. To others, it may just be a run-of-the-mill British feel-good film about miners, but for me it pushes all the buttons and then some.

To begin with, Wales. *sigh* I can’t begin to express the beauty of that country. As a child, I was dragged back and forth across the Black Mountains year after year, and it remains my secret second home.

There’s no feeling like standing on top of the world, looking down at that patchwork of hedges and fields while the sheep graze around you and your skin shines with something which is neither mist nor drizzle, but something in between.

I love Wales. Love it. The cherry pies, the pretty villages, the welcoming people, the bracken and the foxgloves, the sheep and the rabbits, the castles and the churches. And you know what they say: if Wales was flattened out, it would be bigger than England.

I’m sad to say I haven’t been to Onllwyn, but I’ve sort of skirted it. The dotted line on this map shows some of the roads I cycled as an eleven-year-old who didn’t have a clue what had gone on here just two years before.

2016-01-03 17.10.14
Onllwyn is at the bottom of the image, just above Seven Sisters.

I could go on about Wales all day, but I’ll move on to Gethin. He has all of 1% of the storyline, but that’s what really stays with me. I know all about coming from a small village and getting the hell out of there because you’re the local weirdo. When Hefina wishes him Nadolig Llawen over the phone… oh Lord. I get misty just thinking about it.

And then there’s Bill Nighy. Christ, he’s good in this film. His scenes don’t feel like a movie at all, but like a documentary. When he speaks about the “dark artery”, it feels like listening to a real person, telling their own story. Actually, that’s another of this movie’s strong points, that it does such an amazing job of telling several people’s story in just a few brush strokes. They don’t spell it out, they rely on the audience to get it, and it’s extremely effective.

Like Maureen’s son who objects to the “gay invasion”, but you can see him fidget and fret about it. Like the god-awful scene at the nightclub between Tim and Mark. Perfect, understated, beautiful. A stab in the heart. Or like the first time the van arrives in Onllwyn, and they look out to see the children with their bikes, standing around in the street because there’s nothing else to do. It’s so real. I see it around me today.

What else? Oh, Bread and Roses, the song/poem that speaks about how you don’t just need to survive physically, but that you need something else, too – dignity, culture, love. Because without that, what are you fighting for? I cry every time. In fact, all the music is spot on and almost another character in the film. Not to mention the perfect blend of 70’s and 80’s fashion that sets the tone.

This is not the last time I watch this movie. Maybe in a while it’ll only be once a month, but it’s shot straight up there to my top ten of all time, and it won’t budge for less than a miracle. But more importantly, it has told me something about my own life: I need a Cause.

So that’s my vague almost-resolution for 2016: to find something to believe in and fight for. I have no idea where to start. I’m sure people around me have lots of suggestions, but I need to find it for myself. If I don’t feel it, it won’t happen. But I know I want it, and hopefully my brain will catch on when the opportunity comes.

Because I have heard the message of Pride: while we’ve been gathering our iPads and shoes and knick-knacks, and while my own damn country is building a fucking fence against the rest of the world, something important has been lost. And I, the most individualistic of all individualists, intend to find it again.

Diversity in fiction

“I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading. All my characters were white and blue-eyed. They played in the snow. They ate apples. And they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out.”

Click here for a fascinating TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the need for diversity in fiction.

I didn’t know what ginger beer was, either…