Friday, April 06, 2012

Some sun at last!

A day of clouds but not of rain. 

I found myself watching for the little patches of blue hoping that the sun would link up with one of them and shine on me!  It reminded me of my Christmases in Gran Canaria, stretched out on a sun bed in uncertain warmth but staying there because each minute was expensive and each fragment of sunshine had to be used to get to the required shade of brown sufficient to infuriate the pale stay-at-homes in Cardiff when they saw me at the start of term in January!

With such a short break at Easter in this country every day is equally important and with the rain and cloud I am getting quite panicky as the holiday drains away.  Still, there is the “gained Sunday” to look forward to as we do not start the summer term until Wednesday of next week.  And that means that I will have missed eleven lessons and a lunch-time duty which make up my Monday and Tuesday: result!  It also means a short week until the weekend.  But there is a price to pay.

Guess what we will be thinking about instantly on our return – examinations! 

I sometimes think that what we teach is totally irrelevant as long as we can divide it up into examinable chunks.  We have to get two complete sets of exams in before the end of term so that we can also have our last tranche of pointlessly long meetings and, then, O Joy, the longed for summer holidays – even if our “extra” pay is going to be ravaged by the rapacious government taking 3% of our total annual salary out of the money.  Bastards!

Thinking further about the Goya exhibition I saw yesterday, I find several responses vying for attention in my memory.  The first was amazement at the quality of exhibits and the number of iconic paintings which are now in Barcelona – albeit only until the last week of June.  The second goes to the centre of one of my problems with the paintings of Goya his use of painterly technique.

The series of cartoons for the royal tapestries are of various scenes of folk around Madrid.  “The Parasol” for example is a striking arrangement but the quality of the painting seems to be reminiscent of theatrical scene painting rather than the brush of a master.  His trees are particularly vapid looking more like a green cross section of a sponge than of any leafy matter!

The portraits were striking.  A couple of studies (?) of the King and a prince were amazingly sensitive with a real sense of the personality of the sitter being caringly brought out through the application of paint.  This portrait of the king as an elderly man is warm and generous and not the searing portrayal of him in the famous group portrait dominated by the King’s mother.  I have seen Goya portraits of the princes too which make them seem like ungainly toys, but this portrait of a prince is also of a boy and was touching, even loving.  With paintings like these it is easy to see why Goya was respected and admired by the royal family which in other paintings he seems to paint with a restrained savagery that you would not pay to have created!

The etchings are the etchings: they define a whole sphere of human inhumanity and they are timeless.  May favourite this time was the one from La Tauromaquia where the rampaging bull with a human impaled on its horns is caught at the far right of the picture which in the pens below the humans panic.  It is an eerie drawing with a surrealistic (perhaps too easy a word to use with this artist) sense of emptiness with the bull on a visual plane that takes the viewer a while to work out.  A wonderful work.

The madness and the irrational in Goya’s work attract me the most.  The Disasters speak for themselves but even the playfully disturbing compel attention.

This exhibition has a full title of “Goya – Lights and Shadows” and from the 90 or so works this can be taken literally and figuratively, and both aspects are a delight to follow through a career in which the personality of the painter is one which encourages and challenges.

This is a real treat and I must return – and perhaps reconsider my rejection of the idea of buying the vastly expensive catalogue.

The Delacroix exhibition (a few steps through the rain to the other large exhibition hall) was a less challenging experience but perhaps more uplifting.  I can’t say that I cam away with a different view of the painter but I did enjoy the sketches for paintings that were on display.  My favourite was a study for one of the Arabs on horses attacked by lions series and this sketch was quasi-abstract, a whirlpool of splashes of colour with the faintest outlines of clues which indicated the representational limits of a conflict of speed, colour, line and power.  It was a glorious canvas, and one I would quite cheerfully have walked off with!

Again this is an exhibition to revisit – though this one finishes in the third week of May so I mustn’t relax and tell myself that I have plenty of time otherwise (like exhibitions in the past) I will have to be content with a single visit.

I finally made an attempt to go and have a swim and was frustrated by the fact that the pool was closed, it being Good Friday.  I am tempted to go into town and watch the foreigners (the Spanish) labour through the streets carrying their idols on heavy rafts of carved wood, but I am not sure that I can be bothered especially as every fibre in my Anglican-Atheist being rebels at the idolatry of it all!

Four more days of the holiday left.

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