Unsuitable Girl


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  1. We sat in a small but beautifully formed concert space in  the Venezuellan Embassy, Bolivar Hall.  The walls were smooth stark and white.  High ceilinged and  baffled in beige and brown waves of wood the hall felt light and spacious. Raked audience seats gave a comfortable and clear view of the stage.  The acoustic was perfect. Each touch of string or gentle stroke of brush against cymbal audible, the clear delicacy of the sound standing hairs on backs of necks. The gentle sounds from the Ghatam were clear, delicate and gave  sublte texture to the soft beguiling notes from Dario's fingers.

    The hour long  programme encompassed original pieces by Dario and pieces grown from other musicians' works.

    There was a section which stood out for me, though it was all magical.  The piece inspired by Dario's watching a film of a drive through the places where some of James Ellroy's dark crime fiction was set.  On that flimsiest of notions, the reminder to him of those novels, Dario and Magnus produced a startling soundscape of  mean streets in  downtown America.

    The staccato harsh  beat slapped down gave a metallic snarl of the clash of aggressive cars, cruising and swerving off into the dark, shadowed buildings, street lights, steam billowing from underground vents, and figures lurking in murky corners, waiting for opportunities, watching for evidence, both furtive and fierce. That brusque deep rhythm held together by the rippling of the guitar notes and a high pitched drone/tone  kept the broken synchopated piece together as the pictures built in our minds.

    Who knows if these pictures were in the minds of the two muscians, but this for me was aural impressionist painting. 

    Now let me start reading James Ellroy and see if the pictures are there in his prose!

    This was high art, where two people created an experience which took us with them to another place.  To witness this live in front of us, not on a screen, was a rare treat.   

  2. Jack Vettriano comes from the same neck of the Scottish woods as I do, so I am particularly interested in his career. As a miners' son,  brought up in spartan circumstances, he has flown, from a beginning as a mining engineer, almost accidentally,  to fame and huge fortune through the medium of his painting. A girlfriend had given him a set of watercolours and he found his gift.  He is the most succesful Scottish painter ever. His exhibitions are sellouts.

    The mystery is  that the art establishment still turns up its collective nose at his work.

    When looking at Damien Hirst's  Shark in Formaldehyde, which I do rarely, and remember Tracy Emin's Unmade Bed, complete with used condoms, I marvel at the madness of the art world.

    Because Saatchi bought up these 'works' , these artists became lionised and raved over. He made them.  But somehow, because the populace buys Vettriano's work, this renders him in some way unworthy of the art establishment's stamp of approval. Anything accessible is suspect.

    In my view Vettriano's paintings have a narrative which immediately draws one in. A dead shark repels...what is the narrative?... 'Look and be disgusted' perhaps?

    Vettriano's Dance Me to the End of Love,  The Singing Butler , Between Darkness and Dawn, for example, all capture moments which connect in myriad ways to fantasy, memories or hopes. They pull us in and we see our own humanity.  Look at Caravaggio's The Cardsharps and you'll feel that same depth of atmosphere and immediacy.

    Now  there is to be a retrospective at the fabulous Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow. 

    Having heard on the Today programme on Radio 4, (September 18th) his interview with John Humphries I see the knives are still out for him.  The Independent art critic for example lays it all bare, but for me he is what he is , a man doing what works, what he enjoys and what the world beats  a path to his doorsetp to buy.... so ...What's not to like?




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