Sunday, October 16, 2005

A day in Islington

The Candid Arts Trust promotes arts and helps create a network of artists who sometimes exhibit there or is otherwise connected to the CAT. I spent an afternoon in Islington to go and visit the Photography, Illustration, Print Making and Graphics exhibition of the Islington Art & Design Fair at the Candid Galleries in Torrens street - just behind Angel tube station.

Well, I got sidetracked first. Thanks to years of neglect and other sinister reasons the Northern Line is completely out of action at the moment which meant I had to walk all the way from King's Cross station - or take a bus, but I felt too frisky for that - to get there. So halfway there I come across the Crafts Council. Who can resist? I popped in to find the finalists for the Jerwood Applied Arts Prize 2005: Metal featuring in the exhibition rooms. Among a paticularly long line of increasingly impractical and unconventional spoon designs I found - yes! - a cotton spoon. Clearly this was about artistic design rather than practical kitchen utensils. I was glad I came :-)

The French-speaking woman to my right couldn't explain the nature of the exhibition very well but there was another unusual lady drifting around looking officious all in black. Except for the girlish ponytail that is. Turns out she is security and she neatly guided me to the brochure at the entrance. She is also a photographer. Whatever.

Me: You know you remind me of someone?
She: Uh, no - who?
Me: A moviestar ... what's her name again? Oh yes, Polyanna!
She: Who's that?
Me: Uhmm, well she's not an actress, she's a character in an old movie. She's always smiling and jumping around. a very friendly girl. I think it's the ponytail that made me think of her.
She: No, I don't know her.

And she was honest. I guess that's a pretty old movie nowadays after all. Right, moving on ...

Oh, and the receptionist spoke faster than anyone I've met in the last I don't know how many weeks or months. Some people get so good at their jobs that every conversation seems predictable. Except when you start asking them about their favourite type of restaurant, haha. I think she doesn't get out much.

The IADF turned out to be pretty interesting. There were loads of artists and photographers - some professional some amateur - exhibiting their stuff. I remember one dude explaining that the naked woman peering from the noir confines of a boudoir photograph was actually from a brothel in Wales, for real.

And then there were the very colourful paintings of Yoshiko Tsuruta, and of Ferney Manrique. Ferney is a designer by day, but has a sizeable collection of paintings and drawings - an amateur artist with a passionate interest in his hobby.

Beautiful photographs by award-winning photographers Peter Greenhalf and Janet Pollard. They manage to make black-and-white look classic and delicate at the same time. Lots of landscapes, especially beaches.

Rebecca, another photographer who took beaches as her theme produced a very different package. Focusing on beach candy shops or empty merry-go-rounds during the out-of-season period, the unexpected stillness and absence of life sets up a naughty desolation and abandonment in otherwise ordinary-looking scenes.

Other artists such as Dawn Gray and Bea Lopez, who exhibited in the same corner, had different themes again. Dawn has stayed some years in Japan and works in what is a little-used medium these days: woodcuts. Japanese motifs of birds and trees permeate the brown landscape. Bea photographs flowers and plants up close and personal.

That was good fun. The CAT also has a fabulous cafe frequented by artists, spiritualists, and otherwise interesting and friendly people. An Indian Yogi came over to explain the West's misunderstanding of Indian philosophy, in particular as respresented in that other dictionary of Eastern philosophy, The Matrix.

In the evening we went to go and see Souvaris at the Buffalo Bar near Highbury and Islington tube station.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

It's weekend!

Damn it's over already.

Almost done with Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy. So far it reads like a postmodern homage to Poe (and probably Stevenson as well). But a certain Poe in particular - not the Poe of the House of Usher or any number of stories about longing and a beautiful woman who dies. Not that Poe - rather the Poe in Man of the Crowd and William Wilson, and the theme of playing detective in Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter - a genre Poe singlehandedly invented ("stories of ratiocination" as they were known then).

The detective style is totally different - none of the embellished utterances of C. Auguste Dupin type investigations - but the theme is there. It seems to be about narrative and its relation to identity - literary identity in particular. A detective in search of a character, characters in search of an author, authors in search of purpose - perspectival recursion and narrative self-reference as each detective starts doubting his detective task and the purpose behind it as he discovers someone who could almost have been his double. The discontinuity of identity and the elusiveness of self.

It's all very clever of course.

S and I went to the ICA yesterday and saw 4 - a Russian movie described by one New York Times reviewer as "as close to the experience of an actual nightmare as anything I've seen on the screen". Quotes aside, I was surprised to find very little information on it anywhere on the web. That's a shame really. It is terribly bleak and without any glimmer of hope in its ceaseless sequences of dehumanised individuals and meaningless human encounters, enhanced by ominous and relentless sounds accompanying characters' seemingly simple actions. But that is all the more reason I expect reviewers to exclaim that, surely, modern Russia does not look like this!!

Who knows - the people sitting slightly behind us sounded Russian, and generally laughed or reacted as characters spoke rather than when they would have finished reading the subtitles like us other schmucks, but unfortunately they left so quickly that I never got to ask their take on it.

In the movie everything unravels. No human interaction retains anything but the most basic bond and no one offers redemption. Even suicide is offered as a meaningless way out - something pathetic and without consequence.

It's as depressing as it sounds. It's a carefully constructed movie works. Perhaps the last hour could have been reduced to 45 minutes. I saw one too many scenes with old ladies eating greasy food as if they are celebrating the success of a hunt. They are not - someone died, and they ate a lot, and then a pig died and they stuffed themselves again until they fell over from drowsiness.

Today the tedious ordeal of buses to central London as weekend engineering works continue to make rail services unavailable in this neck of the woods. Ongoing installments of this story until Crhistmas. I'm sure there is a rant left in me, if only I could find the will ::sigh::

Monday, October 03, 2005

Magic at the movies

Haha, this girl stands in front of Empire movie theatre with a questionnaire in her hand, obviously targeting passersby but it would seem she's keeping too much of a low profile to catch many. Regardless.

Me: Hey what notes did you take about me? I saw you! Are you a spy?
She (looking a bit bewildered): No! It's a survey
Me: I am supposed to believe you? You look a bit suspicious you know.
She: No really ... it's about movies. haha, yea I am spy, I was watching you.
Me: Hmmm, are you sure ... where is your special spy gear?
She: It's invisible!


Me: Well that's lucky 'cause I am a spy as well. But how come you don't know the special spy word?
She: Uhmm - it's oyster.
Me: No, that's wrong! You are probably waiting for another spy.

Her fellow footworker arrived. A pretty one, but boy what a slow talker. She claimed it was from a hangover but somehow I wasn't convinced ... It's a travesty sometimes.

Land of the Dead turns out to be quite good. If you ask me it's a satire :-o Yes. The faceless masses will rise up and squash the privileged pale faces. Now where have I seen that before? Oh, Metropolis. And then there are the suckers getting disemboweled for their flesh. Satire for us horror lovers who don't really get out to see Oscar material. Whatever. Rock on Romero.