Sunday, October 08, 2017

Autumn medley: art, words, & a brilliant SLAM in Bristol

Stourhead in October consoles winterphobes like me for the ending of summer. The Temple of Apollo is particularly consoling as he was a major inspiration to Keats and other romantic sun-worshippers.

A further attraction last week was the work of Frome painter Kate Cochrane who has combined with Olivia Clifton-Bligh, Tanya Hinton and Tim Rose in First View Gallery on the edge of the park in a show they call Quartet. Here's Olivia with her massive bronze lion Bee-speaker, who has a tiny gold bee in his mouth. There's a strong connection between lions and bees from a biblical story cannily utilised by Tate & Lyle when they canned their sugary waste with the slogan Out of the strong came forth sweetness. (The quote, from Judges, begins 'Out of the eater, something to eat', so it's a kind of Ozymandias theme about power never enduring, really, but we all loved Golden Syrup anyway...) I like too the notion of telling your secrets to the bees: they don't care or tell.

Frome author Peter Clark sees his writings about his time in the middle East for the British Council as "in the genre of the Subaltern's diary: fly-on-the wall observer, not someone important in his own right." The Emirates Diaries are the latest to be published: "I didn't want to go to the Emirates," the author admitted to an attentive audience for his talk in Hunting Raven Books on Tuesday. "I thought it was an unreal country, modernist and consumerist". In the event he found much to admire among the people of the sheikdoms, and as he speaks Arabic, Peter could contribute much as well as enjoy his experience. As well as the Sheiks, other colourful characters featured in Peter's fascinating talk, like Wilfred Thesiger, who consented to an exhibition of his photographs of arabs in the 1940s & 50s, and Mrs Thatcher who left without paying her bill... This book like his previous ones is based on a daily writing habit which has accumulated into 50 volumes of page-a-day diarising. Peter's writing has been described as "quirky, digressive, and indiscreet" and he says he's happy with that. It sounds perfect to me.
The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever has quit the Serpentine to come west, filling all three floors of Bristol's Arnolfini dockside gallery. The Analphoney, as some disenchanted Bristolians call this prestigious institution, is usually renowned for esoteric items in unfrequented rooms, but when I went on Saturday it was totally rammed for Grayson Perry. This is a show that sends you out into the city finding you are gazing at strangers with compassionate intensity. I've only experienced this after a really great play before, but then Grayson Perry's art is like theatre: he dramatises life in extreme and vivid ways. He weaves our lives in tapestries, we are bottled in vast ceramic vases, he depicts everyone from world leaders to the dispossessed. He has a special empathy for men, struggling to define manhood without jobs, money, or status. It's all very political and personal and indescribable, and you really should go and see it ~ if you haven't yet ~ before 24 December.
Grayson Perry wasn't the only sensation at the Arnolfini on Saturday: the evening brought an influx of poets and poetry fans for Bristol Poetry Festival Poetry Slam, a dazzling presentation of talent and passion as 18 performance poets presented slices of their life-view: acutely insightful, mostly witty, sometimes painful, each one showing why this art form is so extraordinarily powerful and exciting. Judging was on writing, performance, and audience response, and scores were high all round with Shaun Hill the final winner and Melanie Branton a nano-fraction behind him ~ but the 'competition' aspect becomes an exciting part of the enthusiastic appreciation in the superbly capable hands of host Claire Williamson together with Elvis McGonagall ~ who will be in Frome later this week: cue quick final push for Elvis at the Granary!!!

A busy week left me less time for enjoying the bar music sessions but Thursday gave us an extra treat from Frome Jazz Club at the Cornerhouse, where Keith Harrison-Broninski's trio was joined by John Martin on sax adding a mellow 'multiphonic' sound which gave a different mood of their set (though, sadly, from a photographer's viewpoint no further illumination.)

Somerset Arts Weeks ended on Sunday so I made a last-minute dash to Shave Farm to see the amazing collective work of 8 artists, using a range of media including film, printing, pottery, and painting, all working in barns with wonderful views across the fields towards Bruton.
Here's Frome artist Annemarie Blake painting in one of them, Terri Hogan with her Cornish seashore sketchbooks in another, and a portrait of her daughter by Kay Lewis-Bell.
And here too is the more concentrated hub of artistry in the village hall of Batcombe and Beyond that I stumbled upon en route due to Google satnav malfunction. As well as paintings and drawings, there were some intriguing envelopes by illustrator Peter Sheldon, decorated satirically as inspired by their stamps.

Sunday was Come Together day at Frome Library, a free-to-all event hosted by Fair Frome in a party-like atmosphere with music, balloons, and lots of cake, to show the range of facilities and supports available in Frome to anyone looking for companionship, activities, or any kind of support.
The Frome Street Bandits and the Frukes, as pictured here, provided the live music and among other presentations Home In Frome was there to encourage people to share & record their memories of changing times for an archive of stories that would otherwise be lost.

Finally in this slightly out-of-order week, a quick movie recommendation, because of its writerly connection and because you may think Goodbye Christopher Robin will probably be sentimentalised and sugar-frosted. It isn't. The back-lit woodland shots are gorgeous, but the child is usually anxiously trailing his shell-shocked father, who's blocked from writing by PTSD and slowly finding solace in those famous imaginings which become a product that turns his distressed son into public property and ruins their relationship.  It's a dark tale, in short, and the film ends with a reminder that AA Milne really wanted to write an anti-war book. He finally did: Peace with Honour ~ "It is because I want everybody to think that war is poison, and not an over-strong, extremely unpleasant medicine, that I am writing this book" ~ was published in 1934. Well, he tried...

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