Monday, July 06, 2015

Lazy lacuna

For a person who enjoys writing as much as I do, there is not really any convincing excuse for not having produced more entries in this blog than the inescapable accusation of laziness.
            Admittedly I have been completing the last assignment for the Open University course on Modern Art of the Twentieth Century – but that was handed in (or at least sent off via the internet) on the 26th of May, and while that might have explained the lack of other written work leading up to this date, it does not really explain the lack of words after it.
            I propose to ignore everything and write as if there was an unbroken daily chain stretching back to when there really was an unbroken daily chain of blog entries.

Come September I will be plunging back in Art History and doing my last course for my degree (I think, you never really know with the Open University, as you need much more than a mere degree to work out the fiendish complexity of how a degree is actually worked out given the courses, modules, exemptions and the phases of the moon than have to be taken into consideration.  And don’t get me started on the impenetrable calculations which go into deciding the class of degree that you get!) in Renaissance Art.
            I am fondly hoping that this course will have less pretentious theory and more taking about the actual paintings.  It says something about the works of art that we will be considering that I have had to search out my old copy of The Penguin Dictionary of Saints so that I can work out why the various slaughtered fanatics with the shining heads are carrying miscellaneous hardware, botanic specimens, weapons, models, keys, books or body parts.  Decoding paintings is hard work at the best of times, even in the modern era when we have plentiful primary documentation to work with, it is even more taxing when we are dealing with paintings whose moral, religious, social and artistic purpose is more distant.            

          But it is stimulating to find out that even the smallest and seemingly most insignificant details might have a truly significant importance.  And this is not just like finding a bee in an Italian painting and being told that the name for the insect in Italian is a pun on the name of the family that commissioned the painting; or that the material used in a tomb is actually an elegant comment on the antiquity and power and wealth of the person who caused the tomb to be built well before his own death. 

            You will notice that there are no specifics in those examples because I am too hot and sticky and lazy to go downstairs and find the books that I would need to fill in the names.  I can, at least, remember that the material was porphyry – a word that I knew and I have used, though it is only recently that I actually looked it up and discovered its unlikely source.  I am sure that I will not be able to stop myself ‘sharing’ my discoveries as soon as the next course gets under way.
            Assuming, of course, that I have passed this one.  Although the work was given in at the end of May the results are not due to be posted until, possibly, the end of this week.

The ‘proper’ restaurant in MNAC, Barcelona’s main and most prestigious art museum on Montjuic came into its own again last week when I met Suzanne on Tuesday and had lunch and catch-up.  Both the conversation and also the food were excellent.
            I have always recommended the restaurant as having the most breath-taking non-view from the large windows.  The restaurant is in the front of the museum and, as the whole edifice is on a hill it commands a sweeping vista of the city up to the surrounding hills.  But, and this is the point, not of the most interesting parts of the city.  Admittedly the large fountain was, for the very first time in all my visits to the museum, working!  That made up for the lack of detail in the expansive panorama which you always assume will be more impressive than it actually is.
            If the restaurant had been on the side of the building then you would have been able to eat looking out towards the sea and would have had an excellent view of all the more famous monuments in the city.  But it isn’t.  Still worth going there and having a meal.  Never let me down, and the lamb shank I had this time was outstanding.
            I did also go and visit a possible candidate painting for the final essay that I have to do on the Renaissance Course.  You have to write about a work or works that you have actually seen, so one of the vast collection in the museum is a given.
            The one that I glanced at was actually commissioned by the city of Barcelona almost 500 years ago, or possibly more (again, I am not prepared to go downstairs to determine exactly when) and there seems to be an interesting divergence in the appreciation of the painting: some critics claim it as one of the first works to bring the Northern Renaissance and the techniques of oil painting and a particular approach to perspective to this area.  They also laud the particularisation of the characterisation of the five donors which appear in the painting and say that this is a dramatic moment in the history of portraiture.  One other critic that I noted while browsing through expensive books that I have no intention of buying dismissed the painting as a mediocre copy of a Van Eyck and complained robustly about its lack of originality.  At least there is a controversy, I am sure that I could make something of that!
            I may work on the painting through the summer and see what information I can get together without too much ‘research effort’ to see whether it is a viable candidate.  I am greatly encouraged by the fact that the contract for the painting figures in one of my set texts and is conveniently translated into English as well.  That is a very good start.

Toni is now back home after an eleven-day stay with his mother, looking after her as she recovered from her recent and successful operation.  To celebrate his return, any excuse, we went out for lunch to the restaurant of the hotel where most of Cardiff will be staying for the publishing event of the year in October.

Talking of which.  My bits are done and edited.  As the days follow each other I am starting to worry, a little, about whether my original plan is going to become a reality.  I still have faith, though each day when nothing happens lessens my optimism.

Still, the sun is shining and even at night there is a more than pleasing warmth.  Admittedly, sleep is impossible without the gentle wafting air of an electric fan, but that is a small price to pay for the sun.  Though not at night.  Obviously.

I am trying to get back to putting my poems on line and have added one, Fatal Flaw, which can be found at  Though, come to think of it, I am not sure now that the second word should start with a capital, no, I think that Fatal flaw is better.

Wednesday we are back up in Terrassa for a birthday.  Never a dull moment.
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