Sunday, February 26, 2012

Inward Optics

Behold thyself by inward Optics and the Crystalline of thy Soul. Strange it is that in the most perfect sense there should be so many fallacies, that we are fain to make a doctrine, and often to see by Art. But the greatest imperfection is in our inward sight, that is, to be Ghosts unto our own Eyes, and while we are so sharp-sighted as to look through others, to be invisible unto our selves; for the inward Eyes are more fallacious than the outward. The Vices we scoff at in others laugh at us within our selves. Avarice, Pride, Falsehood lay undiscerned and blindly in us, even to the Age of blindness: and therefore, to see our selves interiorly, we are fain to borrow other Men's Eyes; wherein true Friends are good Informers, and Censurers no bad Friends. - C.M.Part 3:15

If Sir Thomas Browne had ever only been known as the author of  Christian Morals his name in English literature would have been  celebrated. As it is, his late work remains the least-known of his literary oeuvre. But it seems we're are lucky to even have the text of the late advisory moralistic essay  at all, the preface to the 1716 posthumously published work informing the reader that, 'The Reason why it was not Printed sooner is, because it was unhappily Lost, by being Mislay'd among Other MSS'. One shudders to think what else of Browne's writings may have been lost or mislaid due to haphazard  literary executorship.

Written from the vantage-point of a life-time's experience as a doctor, the entire essay is an  advisio on how to live a sound Christian life. Highly original optical imagery is employed in the essay along with many of the symbols and images which fascinated the Norwich physician throughout his life. Browne may well have had Luke 6:42 in mind - developing and expanding upon the scripture verse with typical profound psychological insight and artistry. 

How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. - Luke 6:42

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Iron makes a Nation Strong

I've been hearing the sound of tons of metal continuously roaring through the stratosphere this morning. Even though the New Depression  has resulted in a decline of living standards for millions in the United Kingdom, the UK as does America, persists in spending an astronomically high percentage of its GDP on military hardware. Indeed the export and sale of military weapons to whoever can pay the price, regardless of their human rights record, continues to be a big export industry worth billions to the British economy.

In many ways the domestic policies of the UK now differ little from those of pre-World War II Germany. Blaming and scape-goating the dispossessed for the Nation's economic woes, rampant xenophobia and hostility to all who question authority, are traits the UK now shares with pre-World War II Germany. Although the UK likes to imagine it possesses a higher moral stance, the recent  proposal to make the unemployed engage in unpaid work for benefits, differs little from the policies of 'solving' unemployment as implemented in large-scale public works projects in 1930's Germany. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cupid's Dart

And sure there is music even in the beauty, and the silent note which
d strikes, far sweeter than the sound of an instrument.

           ♥         ♥         ♥        ♥                  
And therefore in reference unto Man, Cupid is said to be blind. Affection should not be too sharp-Eyed, and Love is not to be made by magnifying Glasses.
-Sir Thomas Browne of Norwich

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

As the Elephant Laughed - An evening with Peter Rodulfo

Recently I had the pleasure of an evening with the artist Peter Rodulfo. Modest and soft-spoken, Rodulfo is a gifted, prolific and visionary painter who is equally adept in portraiture as in fantasy as in landscape. His paintings are by turns graphic, witty and mystical.

While in conversation with the artist, over a bottle or two of wine, and in between reminiscing about 1970's Norwich, the setting of our youth, and while listening to recent songs by Lou Reed and Kevin Ayers, Rodulfo insists there's a strong element of the charlatan within most artists. The public these days, he states, demand a constant pulling-rabbits-out-of-a-hat conjuring act from artist's and are required to provide ready-made meanings and answers to all of life's questions. Some artists, more than others are willing to fulfil this role of conjurer, often compromising their artistic integrity with financial reward. Rodulfo's’s art however speaks strongly of independent creativity. He is indebted to nothing other than the combustive energy of his own industriousness and imagination.

There’s more than a little of the rebellious and eccentric about Rodulfo who exhibits archetypal Aquarian characteristics in his personality and art. Reticent and even downright self-depreciating at times, a casual glance at his book-case reveals favourite authors such as Honore de Balzac, who was no mean occultist and physiognomist, and the autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections by the seminal psychologist C.G.Jung. Almost all the available wall space at his home is given to a kaleidoscopic gallery of his art, recent work and older personal favourites are all mixed together - Tolkienesque landscapes, animated portraiture of sharply-observed character and dream-like imagery jostle for the viewer's attention. Such a cornucopia of paintings gives a strong impression of a life-time's productivity and testimony to an industrious and disciplined creativity.

Although he’s travelled the globe, it’s the city of Norwich which Peter Rodulfo has chosen as home for decades. Here in an ancient, almost forgotten corner of the English psyche, the mysterious east of England,  life moves at a Do Different pace. Many artists have appreciated Norwich's relative calm; its been the home to gifted artists throughout the centuries, from the days of medieval stained-glass designers to nineteenth century 'Norwich School' artists, John Crome, John Sell Cotman and Joseph Stannard, who celebrated Norfolk’s ‘bootiful’ landscape. Norwich has often quietly nurtured creative artists with it’s relatively stress-free urban living. The city is encircled by an expansive, yet intimate landscape; a not quite flat, but undulating rural county; which makes the city geographically remote and not easily accessible, to the delight and consternation of its inhabitants.

It’s easy for Rodulfo to give a nod to the art of Paul Klee, Max Ernst and De Chirico for example, while remaining very much his own man. Although his art utilizes some of the techniques and motifs associated with surrealism, as well as magical realism, he retains his artistic integrity. Labels are often misguiding and Rodulfo wisely eschews any eager and simplistic labelling of his still evolving creativity. But although comparisons can be misleading, there is one British artist whose art is worthy of note in both technique and imagination to Rodulfo's - that of the self-exiled British surrealist artist Leonora Carrington (1917-2011). Like Carrington, Rodolfo acknowledges the role the unconscious psyche plays in his creativity. Like Carrington, Rodulfo's symbolism is home-grown and capable of striking a deep chord in its unconscious association. Finally, like Carrington, Rodulfo is equally adept at draughting a layered field of perspective to showcase his artistic vision. His paintings, like the best surrealist or magical realist painters can be a vivid encounter with the unconscious psyche, or more correctly in Rodulfo's case, a polite enquiry into the viewer's relationship to their own unconscious psyche.

Rodulfo's canvas As the Elephant laughed (above) exhibits a rich vocabulary of symbolism evoking a panorama of life on earth. The relentless march of time is depicted by the eroding cliffs of the Norfolk coast framing the composition. Its detailed brushwork includes stars and the ocean, perhaps the most common of all symbols of the unconscious psyche. Protozoan marine-life, animals and ageing humans are also depicted in a skilfully layered composition evoking the cosmic nature of time. It's a canvas lush in colouration which instantly transports the viewer to internal landscapes of the imagination where as in much of Peter Rodulfo's art, imagery, technique and imagination coagulate to form an absorbing viewing experience.

Through decades of hard work Rodulfo has now become a grand-master of magical realism; his creativity has yet to reach its zenith. One cordially wishes the artist will enjoy many years more of painting to the delight of his growing number of admirers.

In January 2012 Peter Rodulfo released no less than twelve photographic images of new paintings to public view. I've chosen just two of his paintings from a total of over 60 in his facebook portfolio for 2011/12  alone. With such a varied and expansive back-catalogue and with many paintings quite different in subject-matter, but equal in terms of technical virtuosity, its well worth checking out more of Rodulfo's art-work.

                    An Intruder in the Forest by Rodulfo. 

See also -

Rodulfo's Mandala of Loving-Kindness

 more of Peter Rodulfo's paintings here

Wikipedia entry for Peter Rodulfo

As the elephant laughed - A panorama of evolution

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Romeo and Juliet

A scene from Moscow City Ballet performing Romeo and Juliet

Last night I attended a performance by the Moscow City Ballet of Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. Composed in 1935 during the dark days of Stalin's iron rule of Russia, the story of the tragic lovers of Verona is of course originally the subject of a play by William Shakespeare.  The ballet Romeo and Juliet is the musical work which established Prokofiev's fame as a composer upon his return to Soviet Russia - its become firmly established in the ballet repertoire. Written for a large orchestra including 6 horns, mandolin, violin d'amore, piano, organ and an extensive 'kitchen-department' of percussion, an unusual aspect of the musical score is the addition of a tenor saxophone. This single instrument adds lush colouration to the orchestral timbre. Prokofiev was not averse from occasionally re-cycling earlier musical material, and in Act 2 of Romeo and Juliet  inthe Ball room scene, the Gavotte of the Classical symphony (1917) is used to great effect.

Romeo and Juliet  has been choreographed a number of times. When Kenneth MacMillian re-interpreted it  for the Royal Ballet company in 1965  the leading roles were danced by Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev to great critical acclaim, re-launching and extending Fonteyn's dancing career. In 1977 Nureyev himself choreographed a new version of Romeo and Juliet for the London Festival Ballet company.

The Moscow City Ballet company was founded in 1988 by Russian choreographer Victor Smirnov-Golovanov. Their performance at the Theatre Royal Norwich, was marked with vitality and sensitivity. With lavish costumes and designs by Natalia Povago, the dance company  added gaiety and humour to the essentially dark tale of tragic love. In particular the company's leading female dancer Oryekhova Liliya in the role of Juliet, and Kozhabayev Talgat as Romeo, carry the success of the night's performance. It's a fairly long ballet with the best pas de deux of the ill-fated lovers occurring in the last ten minutes of Act I. If there is a weakness to any choreographing of Romeo and Juliet, it occurs in Act III which demands a lot of scene changing and coming and going during night-time in the plot. Indeed I noticed the love of my life glancing at her wrist-watch more than once during this final act. One highly original aspect of Golovanov's choreography of Romeo and Juliet is its very beginning coinciding with its ending. The bodies of all three tragic deaths are  presented to the audience carried in bier-fashion as if upon an  upside-down cross.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Golden Boy and Gherkin

Today on a  rare excursion to London, attending a conference, I saw this (above) with its inscription - This boy is in memory put up for the late FIRE of LONDON occasioned by the Sin of Gluttony 1666 and below - the 'Gherkin' tower, so-called because of its shape. Maybe it's an over-imaginative juxtaposition, but I can't help thinking the two monuments are related. But without doubt a certain seventeenth century Norwich physician and philosopher would have approved of Sir Norman Foster's quincuncial lozenge design in glass.