Four meditations on lines by T.S. Eliot: part I

CHORUS:

…King rules or barons rule; we have suffered various oppression, but mostly we are left to our own devices, and we are content if we are left alone.

We try to keep our households in order; the merchant, sly and cautious, tries to compile a little fortune, and the labourer bends to his piece of earth, earth colour, his own colour, preferring to pass unobserved.

Now I fear disturbance of the quiet seasons: winter shall come bringing death from the sea, ruinous spring shall beat at our doors, root and shoot shall eat at our eyes and our ears, disastrous summer burn up the beds of our streams and the poor shall wait for another decaying October.

Murder in the cathedral: part I.  T.S. Eliot

 

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The last gift

Fire they had already in abundance.  They had no need to steal it, nor to commission its theft for pity.  What heaven’s burglar gained them was the hearth, and later metal casings to make the fire work.

After fire, though, came the gifts, freely given.  They unwrapped these in awe, each miracle more wondrous than the last.

The waves were tamed, accepting the actual oceans were unruly.  The sails were filled, though of course they could not direct the wind.  The baby’s head was guided.  Skins could be made more durable with piss and fibres woven into cloths.  Water was directed and fields sown with bland food so rock could be hewn and cities built.

Sisterhood they had had for ever, but brotherhood through shared ideas was new: yes, empire and slavery were among the gifts, and the capture and exchange and use of women too.

Some gifts showed great workmanship and had been long in the making.  From the very first, encapsulated life defended its integrity by capturing, cutting, splicing and inserting invading parasitic genes.  This was the gift, that they might use life’s defences as a tool to change the sequences encoding their own nature.

When the basket seemed empty, they carried on looking, turning it over, shaking it and feeling at the seams.  They knew the story, of course, and were looking for hope.   They wanted a myth they might believe in, so they might act positively, winning against the odds.

They found something almost as good.  The last gift of all was wishful thinking, that this might all go well.

Igor Mitoraj in Pompeii

These are my sketches of the bronze sculptures, placed in the setting of Pompeii’s ruins with the looming presence of Vesuvius behind.  These were done using fountain pen, water, conte crayon and Faber Castell grey brush pens.

I was struck that most of these mock-mythical figures are male.  Though cracked and fractured through pseudo-millennia, they are endowed with mouths and genitals.  The female figures are sparse, without heads and with genitalia obscured, typically by small grotesque masks.

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Pompeii forum, with the fallen Icarus (fore), with Tyndareus, father of Helen of Sparta (back)

 

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Daedalus, father of Icarus

 

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Ikarus and Ikaria: male and female Icarus’

 

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Pompeii basilica: centaur

 

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Pompeii basilica: Male and female Icarus’

 

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Pompeii basilica: first sketches of two Icarus’

 

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Intersection of main roads in Pompeii: winged Eros with hand.

 

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Second century bath complex: Sulla riva grande screpolata

 

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Columned quadrangle by the theatre: Cracked Theseus

 

Seeing, imagining, drawing

 

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In the columned quadrangle behind Pompeii’s small theatre had been placed three bronze sculptures by the late Polish artist, Igor Mitoraj.  He drew on classical sources for his bold structures, typically fractured and fragmented to suggest the ephemeral nature of all we build.  Here, Teseo screpolato (Cracked Theseus) is shown against the remains of walls hit not only by Vesuvius but much later by Allied bombing.

I have scraped conte crayon over heavily textured stiff paper then used Faber and Castell cool grey brush pens to deepen the tones on the metal surface and brickwork.

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My daughter worked on smoother cartridge paper and gained greater depth of colour from the conte crayons.  I love the interlocking shapes which build the tones of the bronze face.

 

 

Dr Sketchys: Steampunk III

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She harvested moonlight broken by droplets scattered by flying fish, and the phosphorescence left in their wake.

He scooped up after-images of butterflies in sunlight, the glisten of dew on beetles’ carapaces, the warning shock of wasps’ weeds.

From this they wove a cloth so fine that a bale of the stuff could fit in a razor shell.

They pitched their iridescent tent at twilight, at the surf’s edge, between silence and laughter.

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Credits

Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, The Victoria, Birmingham.  24th September 2016

The Sea Hunter – Kitten von Mew

The Land Gatherer – Richard von Mew

Anslem Kiefer at the Royal Academy III: Lapis Philosphorum

20141017 Anselm Keiffer at the RA (8)

Lapis philosphorum: the gold and blue of the virgin’s cowl descend.  To the left there is a busyness of rushes and to the right these open out to reveal a pool of water.  There is no balance in this philosophical discourse, rather a rock is weighed by the deformation of metal.

This is a piece created, I think, specifically for the RA in 2013, and is striking for the heavy gold leaf overlaying blue at the top and the sculpture projecting in front of the flat image.