Archive | May, 2015

My Inspiration for May

31 May

Things that inspired me in May were Syd Barrett, Percy Bysshe Shelley, book Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, Margaret Sarah Carpenter’s paintings, collages, Andy Warhol, Velvet Underground’s debut album, Brigitte Bardot, David Bowie’s song ‘Moonage Daydream’, films Cemetery Junction (2010), Ghost Town (2001) and Submarine (2010).

I’ve been a bit obsessed with The Libertines and Pulp. May I add that Pulp has amazing music videos, especially for the songs Common People, Disco 2000 and Do You Remember The First Time, though the latter can give you a headache, but it’s brilliant nevertheless.

It would be unfair not to mention a book that I’ve read for the second time – The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. It’s a very philosophical book but engaging at the same time. I’ve read some of the chapters up to six times and I was left with different thoughts each time. Unbelievable, or rather unbearable. I’m in love with the character of Sabina, a passionate and free-spirited artist. I admire her choices in life, and I hope that someday I’ll be a woman like that; never attached to a place, a thing or a person. A quote from the book:

We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.

may calender

1956. Christa Päffgen (a.k.a. Nico) photographed by Herbert Tobias 1935. Vogue Cover, July, FLowers 1960s Brigitte Bardot 302 Lovely old fashioned garden jane austen northanger abbey 1 1840. Miss Theobald - Margaret Sarah Carpenter

Copyright Ferens Art Gallery / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Copyright Ferens Art Gallery / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Haddon Hall, Derbyshire - Jane Eyre 'Thornfield Hall' 1 Bluebells in Cornish Graveyard at St Wyllow Church, Lanteglos-by-Fowey, Cornwall, UK. pink floyd early posters 1 syd 109 syd 19 1894. John William Waterhouse's Ophelia 1960s Brigitte Bardot & boyfriend Sami Frey 1964. Terry O'Neill - Marianne Faithfull 1858. The signal - William Powell Frith 1843. Fashions for March 1941. Vivien Leigh and Old Portraits common people

1775-1800. A Welsh Sunset River Landscape by Paul Sandby, showing rather better weather than most 'sublime' landscapes

Lament for May……

Romantic Welsh Landscapes – Paul Sandby and Richard Wilson

29 May

I feel as old as the Welsh hills that I love
And yet as empty as the sky above
I am as mournful as the stillness of the sea
I am so full of sorrow
Can something set me free?‘ (Nicky Wire)

1775-1800. A Welsh Sunset River Landscape by Paul Sandby, showing rather better weather than most 'sublime' landscapes1775-1800. ‘A Welsh Sunset River Landscape’ by Paul Sandby

Wales, Romanticism and Nicky Wire’s lyrics; three things that I love finally amalgamated! Did I really need another reason to write this post?

The first thing one can notice in the painting A Welsh Sunset River Landscape is a rather different atmosphere than in the usual ‘romantic landscapes’. Romanticists were infatuated with sublime; wild landscapes, storms, mists, mountains and old ruins; anything unusual and unexplored fascinated them. This painting, however, shows a rather better wetter; Sandby beautifully captured the end of a sunny day – golden sky, mountains and a castle in the background, boats sailing out of the harbour and a dash of trees in the foreground; a scene awfully picturesque but not even a tad bit sublime.

The already mentioned fascination with wildernesses along with a typical romantic wanderlust, prompted British artists to travel to wild and unexplored areas, such as Wales which was discovered by artists and wanderers even before the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands became hot-spots of Romanticism. Spirit of Romanticism first came to the fore in landscape painting and British artists became infatuated with untamed scenery as early as in the 1760s. The situation was different in France where the Neoclassical style was dominant.

1808. Paul Sandby - Pembroke Castle

1808. Paul Sandby – Pembroke Castle

Paul Sandby, an English painter, made his first recorded visit to Wales in 1770. He made three trips to Wales all together; in 1770 and 1771 he visited North Wales and painted the famous Caernarfon Castle, and in 1773 he toured South Wales in the company of Joseph Banks, an English botanist and naturalist. His three short journeys resulted in many pencil sketches, watercolours and oil paintings.

Sandby’s paintings represent the very essence of what the artists found inspirational in Wales and its magnificent nature. From castles and old ruins, sublime mountains and lakes of the north, to the splendid coastline, picturesque hills, the meandering waters of the River Wye and the famous Tintern Abbey; the seductive beauty of Wales compelled artists to capture it on canvas. I already wrote a post about Tintern Abbey – ‘Romantic and Picturesque Tintern Abbey – Its Effect on Art and Poetry‘, so don’t be shy, check it out as it is connected with the topic of this post.

1800. Paul Sandby - Pont-y-Pier near Llanroost, Denbighshire1800. Paul Sandby – Pont-y-Pier near Llanroost, Denbighshire

In Romantic art, nature—with its uncontrollable power, unpredictability, and potential for cataclysmic extremes—offered an alternative to the ordered world of Enlightenment thought.

1789. Paul Sandby - Conway Castle1789. Paul Sandby – Conway Castle

1800-1809. Paul Sandby - Welsh Mountain Study1800-1809. Paul Sandby – Welsh Mountain Study

Apart from artists that found inspiration in Welsh landscapes, there was an artist native to Wales who decided to capture its historic and natural beauties – Richard Wilson. Although tremendously influential in his time, even awarded with the title ‘the father of British landscape painting‘ by John Ruskin, painter Richard Wilson and his beautiful landscape paintings have largely been forgotten. Wilson was born in 1714 in Penegoes, Powys, Wales, as a son of a clergyman. He lived in Italy from 1750-57 and that’s when his interest for landscapes blossomed.

Inspired by the Baroque artists Claude Lorrain and Salvator Rosa, Wilson painted Italian and later Welsh landscapes, in turn inspiring many young artists such as John Constable and J.M.W. Turner who later formed the core of Romanticism in British art. Young Turner searched for the exact spots Wilson had painted from so that he could recapture Wilson’s dramatic work. Constable copied Wilson’s technique of moving focus from the building to the scenery.

1770s Richard Wilson - Caernarvon Castle1770s Caernarfon Castle – Richard Wilson

1770-71. Richard Wilson - Dinas Bran from Llangollen1770-71. Dinas Bran from Llangollen – Richard Wilson

1766. Snowdon from Llyn Nantlle, Richard Wilson1765-67. Snowdon from Llyn Nantlle – Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson’s painting ‘Snowdon from Llyn Nantille’ is particularly interesting to me, not as much aesthetically as symbolically. In the foreground we can see three boys, three meaningless figures compared to the vast landscape surrounding them, but the background brings us something lavishing – Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. The clouds are drifting around its snow-capped peak, while the lake surface reveals to us the reflection of the mountain. The summit of Snowdon is said to be the tomb of a giant Rhitta Gawr in Welsh folklore. Also, in Arthurian legends, Sir Bedivere threw Excalibur into a lake identified by some as Glaslyn on the slopes of Snowdon. Arthur’s body was later placed in a boat in the same lake to be carried to Avalon.

Another Wilson’s painting, Dinas Bran, shown above, is interesting because it shows the medieval castle Dinas Bran. Again, in Arthurian legends castle Corbenic, the domain of the Fisher King, is identified with a number of places, one of them the Dinas Bran castle itself. If you like the TV series ‘Merlin’ you must have seen the Fisher King’s castle in the episode ‘The Eye of the Phoenix’, one of my favourite episodes. I’m certain that this is not something Wilson had in mind when he painted Snowdon but I just wanted to include these little details because Welsh folklore and Arthurian legends are something that I’m interested in.

1774. The Bard - Thomas Jones1774. The Bard – Thomas Jones

And finally, one peculiar painting that fully embodies the spirit of Romanticism – ‘The Bard’, painted in 1774 by Thomas Jones, another native Welsh artist. Once a pupil of Richard Wilson, Jones became a respectable landscape painter in his own right. The Bard is described as a ‘prophetic combination of Romanticism and nationalism‘ as it shows the emerging combination of the Celtic revival and Romanticism. The painting, inspired by Thomas Gray’s poem of the same name, brilliantly captures the mood of the poem. The poem and the painting make a great pair, combining elements of sublime, picturesque and Gothic, they foreshadowed the Romantic movement.

Syd Barrett – See Emily Play

26 May

Pink Floyd’s second single, See Emily Play, allegedly told a story of a young aristocrat, known as the psychedelic schoolgirl. Mystical, whimsical and childish, verses of ‘See Emily Play‘ contain a deeper meaning than you’d expect. By reading this post further, you’ll discover the influences that created this beautiful and strange psychedelic gem; from Shakespeare and Romantics to Pre-Raphaelites and Pagan festivals.

pink floyd early posters 1

Recorded on 23 May 1967, and released on 16 June, the song instantly became a hit and struck a chord with the public, preparing the youth for a vivid and mind expanding atmosphere of, what was later known as, the summer of love. It was Pink Floyd’s second single which paved their way to success. Interviews and performances at the Top of the Pops soon followed. At that point Syd had already started struggling with the concept of being a commercial rock musician rather than being an artist.

Still, the lyrics of the song represent the very best of Syd’s writing; witty, childish and whimsical, they are the testimony to the spirit of the 1960s, and yet some of the verses posses a certain mysticism. It is impossible to pinpoint precisely what inspired Syd to write this song for its verses are engulfed in mystery, as is the case in most of Syd’s songs. Syd himself had many versions, one of it was that he feel asleep in the woods after taking LSD and saw an unusual girl.

The main inspiration for the song was, in fact, a fifteen year old girl Emily Young, who skylarked across Holland Park to the London Free School with her friend Anjelica Huston. Emily was nicknamed ‘psychedelic schoolgirl’ at the UFO club. Intellectual curiosity prompted Emily to visit the Free School and educate herself beyond school curriculum. Her private ‘evening classes’ consisted of reading William Blake, existentialists and Romantic poets, dressed at the same time in a noticeable long Victorian style gown ‘that touched the ground’.

Pete Brown said that ‘See Emily Play‘ was based on this schoolgirl.

This English cult of the schoolgirl in fetish uniform has always been around – the more dubious side of English culture, allied with British repression and fetishism. Emily was someone I went out and about with. I was friends with her because Anjelica Huston was at the same school, and hung out with Emily as well. I met them walking down to Portobello Road. I did poetry gigs in schools. I was young, in my twenties. These girls were seventeen or eighteen. I went out with them. English schoolgirls in the sixties were forward-looking, discovering their own sexuality.‘ (Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd: Dark Globe by Julian Palacios)

1960s Emily Young - Syd's Muse                      Emily Young in the 1960s

Syd’s young muse blossomed into a notable sculptor whose aim is ‘to tell a truth about the origins of human life and consciousness.‘ In a way her sculptures remind me of Gauguin’s work, at least in approach. Like Gauguin, Emily believes that the truth about life lies in primitive and archaic, and that art is hidden in the forces of nature, not in Western world galleries. I’m delighted to see that despite her progression from a confused 1960s schoolgirl to a prolific artist, she hasn’t lost the open-minded attitude towards life. Her worldview is still psychedelic.

LYRICS:

Emily tries but misunderstands, ah ooh
She’s often inclined to borrow somebody’s dreams till tomorrow
There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play

Soon after dark Emily cries, ah ooh
Gazing through trees in sorrow hardly a sound till tomorrow
There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play

Put on a gown that touches the ground, ah ooh
Float on a river forever and ever, Emily
There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play.

1852. Ophelia by John Everett MillaisMillais’ ‘Ophelia’

The story of Emily Young is, however, merely a segment of Syd’s fantastical song. The opening verses of the third stanza can instantly be connected to Millais’ Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece – Ophelia. It is impossible to believe that the whole century separates these two maidens in long flowing gowns! ‘Put on a gown that touches the ground, ah ooh, Float on a river forever and ever, Emily…’ Emily’s graceful figure full of calmness in a flowing white gown that touched the ground, so brilliantly white against the darkness of the dance hall in All Saints, caught Syd’s eye while he wailed ‘I’m high, Don’t try to spoil the fun‘ into the microphone.

Beautiful and complex, strange as the mists of Avalon, this pop gem is at once intelligible and psychedelic all the way. It simultaneously unites all the elements that Syd’s fantasy world was made of; May Queens and Green Man, psychedelic drugs, tragic heroines, mysterious world of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, children’s stories, Romantic poems along with bright and innocent childish visions. See Emily Play is, at the same time, a hymn to the English woods, willow branches, rivers and pagan festivals, as well as the embodiment of dozens of archetypes of European literature – tragic and innocent maidens such as Ophelia. We know that Barrett was familiar with John William Waterhouse’s rendition of Ophelia who is painted in a long flowing gown, surrounded by the magnificent and mysterious woods and deep sinister water. Flowers, mystery, lost maidens, muses; all amalgamated in the mind of a psychedelic Mad Hatter of rock ‘n’ roll – Syd Barrett.

1894. John William Waterhouse's Ophelia1894. John William Waterhouse – Ophelia

Influence of a great Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, can also be traced in Syd’s writing. Shelley’s poem ‘The Song of Asia‘ was printed in Syd’s copy of ‘The Cambridge Book of Poetry‘. Specific verses evoke both the spirit of the song, and the ones of the Pre-Raphaelites masterpieces.

Whilst all the winds with melody are ringing.
It seems to float ever, for ever,
Upon that many-winding river,
Between mountains, woods, abysses,
A paradise of wildernesses!
Till, like one in slumber bound,
Borne to the ocean, I float down, around,
Into a sea profound, of ever-spreading sound.

1910. Ophelia - John William Waterhouse1910. Ophelia – John William Waterhouse

Final stanza of ‘See Emily Play‘ offers the listener a feeling of isolation; floating forever on a river, in loneliness and sorrow. Tragic destiny awaits Emily, as it awaited other innocent heroines before her; Ophelia, Lady of Shallot, Lavinia… At the same time, these verses may suggest a more personal subject, the one that never stopped occupying Syd’s mind; the end of childhood, days of innocence and playfulness are gone forever. Still, the usage of the same subject, by artists centuries apart, from Shakespeare, Romantics and Pre-Raphaelites to Syd Barrett, shows us that themes in art are eternal, whether it’s a poem, a painting or a rock song.

And what did Emily had to say about the song? ‘Floating forever on a river is a perfect dream image of the soul moving through time and space, through eternity. Of the world at peace in its place in the cosmos. Individual and universe flowing in perfect order with nature at one.

syd 118

I decided to write about this song because it’s beautiful and lyrical, thematically rooted in nature, folklore and other artworks that I love, and most importantly – it is a song I can identify with. In fact, it is the only song I can identify with, especially with the verse ‘She’s often inclined to borrow somebody’s dreams till tomorrow’. Then the ‘free games for May’ and I was born in May. For an unknown reason, I’ve felt like a ‘psychedelic schoolgirl’ for a long time. One cannot be sad when one is immersed in psychedelia.

My favourite books (so far)

25 May

My reading tastes are rather eclectic but anchored in the 19th century. I have only scratched the surface of literature but still wanted to share with you the list of books that I’ve particularly enjoyed. I’m a slow reader so there’s always a ton of books on my endless reading list. It sometimes takes me a whole month to read one book!

1856. Alfred Stevens Young Woman ReadingThis is me, reading a book in one of my previous lives in the Victorian era.  🙂

I decided to split this list into two sections:

1) books that inspire me, give me comfort and which I enjoy rereading.

  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
  • Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carrol
  • Mary Poppins – P.L.Travels
  • Lola Rose – Jacqueline Wilson
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  • Eugene Onegin – Alexandr Pushkin
  • Short stories by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

2) Books which I really enjoyed reading but wouldn’t read again soon because they’re quite negative and destructive or at least sad

  • Thirst for Love – Yukio Mishima
  • Torture garden – Octave Mirbeau
  • On the Road, and basically any other novel by Jack Kerouac
  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  • We Children from Bahnhof Zoo – Kai Hermann and Horst Rieck

Well, that’s it. I hope that you like some of these books and authors. If you have any suggestions about the books I should read be free to let me know.

William Shakespeare – Sonnet XVIII

23 May

1880s The Long Walk At Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire - Marie Spartali Stillman, Watercolour1880s The Long Walk At Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire – Marie Spartali Stillman, Watercolour

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

1870s The Sensitive Plant, study, Sir Frank Dicksee. English Pre-Raphaelite PainterThe Sensitive Plant, study, Sir Frank Dicksee, English Pre-Raphaelite Painter

Collage – ‘Growth and Decay’

21 May

Indeed I could have written this post earlier, but I couldn’t decide what to write about, so I wasted two hours of my life on deciding. Now I understand Helena Bonham Carter when she says ‘I’m a Gemini, I can’t decide.‘ I’m a Gemini, I know what she’s talking about.

Lately, collage artworks have caught my attention, which is rather weird for I’m not usually fond of contemporary art. However, I saw a peculiar mix of collage, drawings, textiles and photographs that really impressed me. These mixed media artworks were made by Halima Akhtar while she was a student at Woldingham School, Caterham, Surrey. You can see her sketchbook and read the article HERE.

What impressed me the most about her mixed-media art work called ‘Growth and decay‘ was not just the aesthetic appeal, but the idea behind it and all the exploration. In her own words: ‘With the title ‘Growth and Decay’, the main thing that struck me was the concept that fungi grows as a process of decay and degeneration. I went looking around forests and outdoor areas to find examples of fungi in the natural setting. The tremendous scale, smell and slime that I often saw growing around these forms – observations I could not have made through photographs – inspired my work greatly as I experimented with material qualities.

Collage is an interesting art technique which can be conducted on many different ways, from Matisse’s simple cut and paste works such as ‘The Snail‘ to fantastic Pop-Art works of Warhol and Richard Hamilton. The latter is the most interesting type of collage to me, but Halima’s creations have certainly broadened my horizons when it comes to mixed media works.

In my opinion, collage is a powerful medium but easily exploited at the same time. It’s easy to make a collage, but it’s very hard to make a good one. Anyone can cut a few pieces of paper and glue them together, but it takes vivid imagination to create a new, surrealistic dimension, or an intellectual statement, or at least something new, fresh and interesting. Also, may I add that the music video for Franz Ferdinand’s song ‘Take me out‘ features some mental Dadaist and Terry Gilliam style animations.

Here are some other collage artworks that I find interesting: (I don’t know who created most of them, I have simply stumbled upon them on Pinterest)

collage 1

collage 4

collage 6

 

Source.

1919. Hannah Hoch – Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, collage of pasted paper

collage common people pulp

She Became Eternity

17 May

This is a story I wrote recently, and decided to share it with my lovely readers!

____________________________________________________________

Every day Gwyn would come to the beach, to watch the sea waves in the magnificent silence, which she praised above all. It was the only place she felt happy and relaxed. Sea was a wellspring of life for her, and the smell of it reminded her of childhood.

Every day of the year Gwyn came there, and watched as the waves clasp one another in eternal harmony. She loved observing the sky too; from the richly coloured sunsets to drab and grey skies in the winter. No matter how she felt or what had happened to her that day, the moment she stepped on the colourful pebble stones with her cherry red rain boots, all was calm again. Voices inside her head were silenced by the sounds of the waves. Tranquility and solitude refreshed her mind from daily worries and despair.

Gwyn has never achieved anything in her life. She longed to be a ballerina; she spent her childhood admiring Degas’ paintings. To her childish eyes they seemed like another world; world of theatre and ballet. On the candlelight the ballerinas came to life; more elegant and vivid than in day light. But this fascination with the fanciful world of theatre, the beauty and opulence of the stage contrasted so much with her drab bedroom in a council house. She thought it strange how one shiny red velvet curtain divides such different worlds; a vivid world of dreams – the stage, and a grey world of reality. Gwyn hoped to be a ballerina too, but fate had other plans – she had nor the talent, nor the money, nor the courage to follow such grand passions. She became an actress instead. The moment light hit the stage and the whispers of the audience stopped, Gwyn shone like a star, her voice trembled, her cheeks blushed, her eyes filled with tears. The theatre life was vivid, the real one – engulfed in solitude.

Which is the real life? The one she enjoys living, or the one she is forced to endure? – These questions wandered through her mind while she sat on the beach, eyes fixated on the sea. On the stage she can be everything she wants, she can feel; love, fear, tremble, cry. In real life, she feels nothing. Her soul is as empty as the sky above. The insignificance of her life was unbearable. She could not endure it any longer.

One drab Wednesday afternoon Gwyn was again sitting on the beach. Sea always reminded her of eternity. She gazed at the waves and the flickering sea foam, overwhelmed by the beauty and harmony that stood right before her eyes. But how little, plain and immaterial she felt compared to the sea! She longed for the power to disappear, not die, but calmly fade away… into the waves, into the cold water, into eternity! These thoughts filled her heart with rapture. She stood up, trembling from excitement, and walked slowly until she was approached by the sea waves. She stepped out of her red rain boots and walked barefoot into the cold seawater.

It has been found again.
What? – Eternity.
It is the sea fled away
With the sun.‘*

She whispered into the sunset, her body trembling, not from the cold water, but from delirium. Gwyn continued walking into the sea, finally free from the lightness of living, until, carried by the waves, she became wholly amalgamated with the sea. Gwyn vanished into eternity, fully immersed into the emptiness of life.

All that was left of her were a pair of cherry red rain boots. Until the waves swept them away too.

*Rimbaud