new header Blaugustine

10 May 2015


Entrance, Tate Modern DElaunay exhibition

text on wall at Tate Modern

Original Trans-Sib sheets 1913

Well the first thing I wanted to see of course was the 1913 original of Trans-Siberian Prosody and Little Jeanne from France. I must admit to being disappointed that the tall narrow panels were hung on the wall and framed, rather than being folded and viewed in accordion book format as intended. Also disappointing was that on the information panel next to it there wasn't more about Cendrars and the making of this work. However the voluminous and excellently illustrated catalogue does devote about twelve pages to Trans-Sib. It's hard to believe that the photo below could really have been taken in 1913 - Robert and Sonia would then have been only 28 and Blaise Cendrars 26 - the photo is blurred but even so, do any of them look that young? As well as the catalogue, I also bought another irresistible book, Blaise Cendrars: Selected Writings, with a preface by Henry Miller.

Robert and Sonia Delaunay with Blaise Cendrars circa 1913

In case you're new to this blog, Cendrar's poem has occupied my thoughts, the sweat of my brow and every other available physical and mental resource for the past nearly two years - a creative saga shared, in different ways, with Dick Jones whose splendid translation of Cendrar's poem was the stimulus which inspired me to illustrate it with over 40 relief blocks, and with Nicolas and Frances McDowall who turned the project into a magnificent Old Stile Press publication.

Now that our version - visually very different from the Cendrars/Delaunay original - is published and gradually making its way in the world, there remains the task known as PR (actually HS: Hard Slog). Promotion, public relations, publicity: does anyone actually enjoy doing that stuff? Professional PR people probably do, if the smiles permanently attached to their faces can be trusted. Although I do not in the least enjoy it, I take on this task out of habit because, for most of my life, I've had to rely only on myself to get attention for my work. That's a bald way of putting it but the truth is that what we want - and what we need if it's our livelihood - is attention for our work. Whether we're bloggers, writers, artists, actors, musicians, craftspeople etc - maybe we just want to know that what we wholeheartedly give our time and thought and talents to is seen and heard. If you're hiding because you don't want to be found, that's fine. But if you're hidden and want to be found, then some form of HS/PR becomes unavoidable.

Le Bal Bullier, Sonia Delaunay

While walking around Sonia Delaunay's quietly invigorating world - she never shouts but calmly and confidently asserts herself - it struck me that she took on that task in an original way, managing to make it part of her creative practice. She was always multi-faceted but extending her work as a painter into fashion design, interior decoration, textiles, etc. and establishing the Simultané logo not only provided financial support but also took care of PR because there was no separation between the private and the public art: you could wear a Delaunay as a dress but it could also serve as walking publicity for Sonia and Robert's other artwork.

Models with Citroen

Ptismes Electriques 1914

It's a wonderful, life-enhancing exhibition and a good way to, temporarily at least, chase the blues inflicted by the Blues' incongruous victory in the election. Enough has been said and written about it so I'll stop right here.

Portrait of Sonia Delaunay by Andre Villers

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27 April 2015


Here is how this blog began on 27th April 2003:

My name is Augustine and this is my first blog. I am Natalie's alter egoist. I'm the ventriloquist and she's the dummy.

I'm embarassed that I thought I could keep up the pretense of being a cartoon character with a life of her own. Can there be such a thing as an alter ego?

Appropriately and coincidentally, on Saturday I went to see Tom Stoppard's new play at the National Theatre, The Hard Problem. (I hadn't read any reviews before seeing the play). The 'hard problem' is the mystery of consciousness. At least it's a hard problem for those who have a problem with believing that anything which is not material can exist, those who are absolutely convinced that the activity of a physical organ, the brain, is consciousness.

I don't have that particular hard problem because it seems completely rational to me that non-material things can exist and interact with matter. Does Augustine stand for consciousness while 'Natalie' is merely the body she inhabits, the hand that drew the cartoon character 'Augustine'? Maybe. Why not?

Bravo to Stoppard for tackling a controversial and profound subject on the stage - where better? Unfortunately in this play the characters he created are not controversial enough. It's as if he was afraid to come up with bold leaps of the imagination in case he'd be mocked on one hand by the orthodoxy of science, and on the other hand by the orthodoxy of religion or spirituality. Instead he sticks to safe territory, merely presenting known points of view spoken by mostly conventional characters within a situation that apes the real world but is too contrived to be convincing.

The most annoying stereotype in the play is the female lead, Hilary. She represent the educated, intelligent but naive believer: she believes in God, in morality, in altruism, in motherlove and in getting ahead career-wise, more or less on her terms. In order to embody these characteristics, Stoppard makes her female (of course), young, pretty, excitable and emotional, 'zany' in a cute way. Very Hollywood. To demonstrate her naivety, the playwright has her kneeling at the foot of the bed to say her prayers, after sex. Any original, probing, challenging point of view which might be expressed by a non-stereotypical, non-naive believer is automatically excluded because the Hilary persona is unable to depart from the conventional role Stoppard gives her. The male characters have more to say and are more rounded but they too are trapped in a script that is like a clever academic exercise.

The programme notes by Stoppard are more interesting and include an exchange of letters between himself and Richard Dawkins and an extract of a letter from Professor Armand Marie Leroi, leaving us to draw our own conclusions about where he, Stoppard, stands in the debate. I hope he isn't tired and hasn't lost his pizzaz, his ability to take on perennial philosophical questions and invigorate them in wildly original ways.

There's more to say on the Alter Ego theme but I want to wander away from it now. After the play I walked along the South Bank, always a pleasure, always filled with life and unexpected sights, sounds and smells, especially on a beautiful April afternoon. There's also a very speedy little movie at the bottom of the photos: skateboarders performing at their special hang-out.

April on the South Bank

Bookstalls, South Bank

Stalls under bridge, South Bank

The finger points, South bank

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