Creating the Space

Creating the Space

Art is not just a pleasing arrangement of shapes, textures and colours; it can only be properly appreciated in its cultural context.   So-called ‘Conceptual’ artists use imagery to explores a theme that resonates with and provides insight into contemporary culture.  In an age of internet dating and casual sex, Tracey Emin dares to explore female lust.  Damien Hirst, on the other hand, expresses a more ordered corporate theme, in which feelings, emotions are put into boxes and bottles and categorised.  But isn’t all art conceptual?  Maybe historical notions of art... Read more »

Two’s company,three’s a couple. Betrayal; the anatomy of an affair.

Two’s company,three’s a couple. Betrayal; the anatomy of an affair.

At the beginning of a love affair, one might ask oneself either ‘what am I getting into’ or ’what am I getting out of?’  Every entrance is an exit.    The only real question is,  ‘Are we going to go through (with it)?’  The pivotal moment in Emma and Jerry’s seven year... Read more »

The past is another country.  Or is it?

The past is another country. Or is it?

Friar Barnadine: "Thou hast committed--" Barabas: "Fornication-- but that was in another country / And besides, the wench is dead."                      Christopher Marlow (The Jew of Malta) What made people like Guy  Burgess or Anthony Blunt rebel against their society, betray their  country and spy for the soviet union?  Was it a reaction against... Read more »

King George, the stammerer.

Bertie was never expected to become King.  David, his elder brother, appeared a far more charismatic leader.  People turned a blind eye to his dalliances with actresses and socialites as they had with his grandfather and nobody thought he would give up the throne for Mrs Simpson.  But he did. ... Read more »

Design for Living? I don’t think it will work.

It should be easy, you know.  The actual facts are so simple.  I love you.  You love me. You love Otto. I love Otto.  Otto loves you.  Otto loves me.’ Oh My God!   Or as Mrs ‘Odge might say,  ‘Well, ‘eres a pretty pickle.’      So why isn’t it easy?    Why shouldn’t... Read more »

Keep on dancing

Every Saturday evening,  sixteen million people turn on their televisions for two hours to watch Strictly Come Dancing, and turn on again the following night to see the results.  But why?  Why  should a dance competition captivate the nation so much?  It’s not Brucie’s jokes.  And I can’t really  believe... Read more »

Catherine; the tragedy for Jules, et Jim!

Catherine was one of those entrancing women, so full of life and fun, a free spirit, brave, sparky, vivacious – the kind of lively, fragile personality who lives on the edge; exciting, impulsive, passionate and very dangerous.  Like a candle in the wind, she was never going to be tied... Read more »

Ghosts in the Nursery

Henry James leaves his stories open to his readers interpretations.  That is the source of their intrigue.  The ‘Turn of the Screw’ is his most famous and most chilling novel,  but why?  Is it because it explores, albeit obliquely,  that most horrific of topics, the loss of innocence.     The governess... Read more »

Winter’s coming. To the barricades!

It was 1789. France was still a feudal monarchy.  All the power and the wealth was in the hands of the aristocracy,  the King was like a God.  His ancestor, Louis XIV, the Sun King, had built himself a wonderful palace in Versailles.  The people had no voice. All the... Read more »

White ribbons; repression and its consequences

Eichvald is a small Baronial village in northern Prussia, a patriarchal society dominated by powerful male autocrats who justified their abuse of their womenfolk and their children on the grounds that it was what they needed.  ‘This will hurt me more than it hurts you’.    It is the autumn of... Read more »

Emma Bovary; incurable romantic or dangerous hysteric

Flaubert’s heroine didn’t start bad.  She was a lively imaginative girl.  She might have benefited from a bit of maternal constraint, but her mother died when she was just 11 and she was sent to a convent.   There her religious fantasies took a romantic turn.  She began reading the romantic... Read more »

Henry Moore; as edgy as a Yorkshire outcrop, as soft as rain.

For Henry Moore, art was the expression of the imagination rather than representation.   He was not just a craftsman, he was an explorer.  With typical Yorkshire bluntness,  he declared, ‘I express myself in shapes; that’s my language.’  The same recurrent shapes featured prominently in Moore’s  work, the reclining female figure,... Read more »

The skin of the painter

She is beautiful, her body stretches, bends and arches  with the tone and grace of an animal.  And when she discards her shift, she moves with that lack of self consciousness and engagement that obviates desire.  It is the artist who seems self conscious.  He is shown holding a zebra... Read more »

The dangerous politics of love.

The seventeenth century was a bad time for women.  They had no autonomy, no rights.  They were treated as the property of men; they had to obey their husbands and fathers.  Fathers would promise their daughters to men they didn’t love for political advantage. Husbands would keep their wives locked... Read more »

A Habit of Art

Do writers tend to write more about themselves as they get older?  I guess they do.  Art, literature, musical composition is projection; an expression of aspects of the self.  This applies to all creative activity; the world seen through the filter of personal experience.   It tells us more about the... Read more »

Love and Glory; the wondrous madness of it all.

'It’s still the same old story; a fight for love and glory; a case of do or die.’  It is 1885 and there’s  trouble in the Balkans – as usual!  Sergius, so ambitious for glory, leads a foolhardy cavalry charge against the Serbian machine guns.  He’s not to know that the... Read more »

Was Dr Johnson mad? Aren’t we all?

He was a most strange looking man, much bigger than average and rather stout.  Slovenly, dishevelled, deaf, almost blind with myopia; he slobbered, he dribbled, was host to all manner of people, and his personal cleanliness left much to be desired.  In truth, he stank.  And he had a variety... Read more »

In search of meaning

‘To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering. If there is any purpose in life at all, there must be a purpose in suffering and in dying.  But no man can tell another what this purpose is.  Each must find out for himself, and... Read more »

Existential emptiness; the tragi-comedy of McEwan’s Solar.

You see people like Michael Baird all the time at scientific conferences; pudgy, balding, slightly unkempt,  full of their own self importance.  But Baird, like many academics, was a lazy man; a one discovery wonder.  As an Oxford post-doc, he revised  one of Einstein’s theories, an achievement of brilliance that... Read more »

Beauty with Balls; an appreciation of Ingrid Bergman

I think I was in love with her from the start as she gazed steadily at me with moist lips and knowing eyes from the flickering monochrome  screens of such classics as Casablanca, Notorious, Spellbound, The Bells of St Mary’s,  and For whom the bell tolls.   Her face expressed vulnerability and innocence,... Read more »

Charmed! The irresistable attractions of Violet Gordon Woodhouse.

Some women just have it, that magic; the ability to evoke adoration in others.  Violet did.  How else could she make four men fall in love with her so deeply that they devoted their lives to her.  First there was Gordon, whom she married, then Bill, the love of her... Read more »

The dread of feeling too much; Edvard Munch and his women

‘I was out walking with two friends.  The sun began to set.  Suddenly the sky turned blood red.  I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence.  There was blood and tongues of fire above the blue black fjord and the city.  My friends walked on  and I stood there... Read more »

When honour is betrayed

It is 1918, the Bolsheviks have taken over in Russia and sued for peace,  Germany has annexed Ukraine and installed a pro-tsarist puppet government under Skoropadsky, the Hetman, but Tsa Nikolai  II and his family have been murdered in Ekaterinberg.   The remnants of the old White Guard have migrated to... Read more »

Theo van Gogh; holding the lonely madness of genius.

Vincent van Gogh is all too often seen as the mad genius who created masterpieces while in a state of ecstacy and infatuation, the man who cut off his ear in despair and took his own life, but that is a distortion.  He was more an intensely driven man,  awkward... Read more »

All the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby  picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been , lives in a dream, waits at the window wearing the face that she’s kept in a jar by the door.  What is it for?     All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely... Read more »

Cries and Whispers

I first experienced Cries and Whispers  in 1973.  I was, even then, drawn to the deeper, darker aspects of human psychology.  It was no wonder, therefore, that I was into Bergman. I rated the Seventh Seal and Persona as the greatest films I had seen.   Then came Cries and Whispers.  And now,... Read more »

When the dream fades, kill it off!

Frank and April Wheeler had it all.  They were a charmed couple, or so it seemed to their neighbours and friends.  He was virile and handsome, a whizz in the city, she was beautiful and an actress.  They owned a pretty clapperboard house in the leafy suburbs.  They had two... Read more »

Haunted! ‘Trauma’ and McGrath’s ghosts.

Charlie is a psychiatrist, an expert on trauma. His marriage to Agnes broke up after her brother, Danny, committed suicide.  Danny was a Vietnamese veteran whose buddy was killed by a booby trap device right next to him.  He was also Charlie’s patient.  He blew his brains out after Charlie... Read more »

Of families, fathers and forgiveness in the whimsical world of Wes

What kind of person are you?  Since when have you been so perfect?  When did you last fuck up?  What are you going to do about it? Royale Tennenbaum has been evicted from his family by his wife, Etheline, for playing around. He is casual, careless even as he explains it... Read more »

Of daughters, damage and destruction; is that the legacy of Mrs Klein?

Melanie Klein might be said to have founded the British School of Psychoanalysis, though it was never as formal as that. There was a never a ‘concrete school’ more a movement dominated by the ideas and interpretations of Mrs Klein.  Psychoanalysis was (and still is) very incestuous.  There were not many... Read more »

Dr Haggard’s Disease

It was 1937; and there was trouble on the horizon.  They recognized each other at a funeral. There was a spark.  Then they found they were sitting next to each other at the Cushing’s dinner party.  He was Dr Edward Haggard, house surgeon at St Basil’s and a bit of... Read more »

Madly in love

When her husband, Max, is appointed director of an asylum in Essex, Stella is not overjoyed.  She is bored; ‘dying of chronic neglect’.  She resents the restrictions of her position and the limited perspectives of the other wives.  To relieve the monotony, she develops an attraction to Edgar, a handsome... Read more »


He is the last off the train. He looks lost, wary, an alien from another world.  He stops,  picks up an object from the edge of a puddle, examines it and puts it in his pocket.  Everything about him is strange. He doesn’t so much walk but shuffle, keeping close... Read more »

Capturing the Look of Love; Waterhouse’s Women.

   The long neck is bent, the skin pale, the gaze serious and sustained, sad yet determined, the lips are slightly parted, the body lithe, nubile, not a child but not yet a woman.  Waterhouse's depictions of women express an ambiguity, an inscrutability, a mysterious, thoughtful reflection that enthrals and captivates.... Read more »

Show! Don’t tell! An appraisal of The Reader.

Show! Don't tell!  Let the reader decide why the characters behave as they do.  Keep them guessing. It's what can turn a good book into a great one.  But, to be honest, I didn't think The Reader was a great book when I first read it about three months ago. ... Read more »

Death, desire and despair at the Odioun; the pholly of Phedre

She has desired Hippolytus since the day she married his father.  Proud,  aloof, disdainful of women; he has all the strength of the father but none of his sire's weakness for sexual temptation, or so it seems.  He is a real challenge.  She has to possess him, but Hippolytus is... Read more »

It’s not all straightforward in Arcadia

Arcadia is perhaps Tom Stoppard's best play.  Its eclectic blend of literary history and science bubbles and fizzes with ideas and wit.  Stoppard not only explores the shifting mindscapes between between science and literature, he tackles the divisions between classicism and romanticism, and deterministic and unpredictable theories of the universe.... Read more »

Duet for one; the destructive narcissism of the performer

Stephanie was a virtuoso violinist until she was struck down with multiple sclerosis. Now her fingering is clumsy, her bowing uneven, her music sounds scratchy and discordant. She can’t do it anymore. She is destroyed. Music was her whole life. It was her joy... Read more »

In the eye of our mind

Human existence is nothing is not meaningful. The brain works in metaphor and meaning. We surround ourselves with symbols that represent aspects of our identity. We use mental imagery to make sense of our experience through the creation of internal objects, psychological representations that flesh out... Read more »