Archives for the month of: November, 2010

Do watch this very interesting 30-minute video documentary called Sargy Mann. To do so, you have to click on the underlined name “Sargy Mann” below the picture:

Sargy Mann from Peter Mann Pictures on Vimeo.

I came across it in an article in last Sunday’s Observer, but I first came across Sargy himself in about 1972, when I started at Camberwell Art School, in London. I never knew him well.  He was one of several of my painting teachers; a quite intense 35 year-old with black-rimmed pebble glasses who invariably wore a blue French artisan’s jacket and carried a portable easel.  For some reason, he lived with Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard on the other side of London.  He’s mentioned in passing in Martin Amis’s dental autobiography Experience.

At the time I was there, Camberwell was a school that taught its first-year students not much more than learning to draw from life.  The school thought it was the best way into the visual arts; to Camberwell, it didn’t matter whether you ended up as a conceptual artist or a glass blower or a stage designer drawing was the tool you needed.  I still believe that’s the best way.  Sargy was only interested in painting.  He thought art was about looking and seeing, but in colour: learning to see colour relationships (from life).  He was especially keen on the Impressionists, Bonnard and Matisse: peering over the portable easel he painted violet-coloured oils on small pieces of board while his students learned to see.  I remember one afternoon he got very excited on the Thames embankment when he saw a double reflection of the sun; first off the windows of a building and then bounced back to us off the river.  He hardly had time to comment on it and get it down before it was gone again.

Sargy had terrible, blurry eyesight — rather like Monet, if I’m not mistaken — but after I’d been at Camberwell for a year, he had a cataract operation.  He was very worried, he didn’t quite know the effect it would have on his work; but he coped and the paintings became clearer and bluer.  Later, his eyesight deteriorated again, and by 2005, during the making of the film, he ceased to be able to see at all.  But he didn’t stop painting; and that’s what the video is about, because he isn’t just sploshing on random patches of random colour.  It shows that if you paint from life every day for fifty-odd years you will have enough painting information stored in your brain to be able to continue working after you go blind and, what’s more, you’ll  continue deriving satisfaction from working.  Who knows: like Sargy Mann, your work may even improve…




*(John Ruskin’s joke.)

I found this ivory image of St. Paul, with its extraordinary elongated nose and crudely-rendered classical columns and mouldings in the background (the scallop shell is nicely made, but why the hole?).  It’s supposed to be 6th or 7th Century Byzantine — hence the crummy rendition of the streets of Rome, presumably —  and it’s kept at Cluny in the Musée national du Moyen Âge.


Except for the beard the face reminds me of Pete Townshend, but really the nose is so long he doesn’t look human at all.

More like a lion,  perhaps the cowardly lion of the Wizard of Oz .  But that lion has a very short nose:


The lion in Cluny… sorry, I mean the image of St. Paul in Cluny, looks more like a real lion:

Perhaps this is the answer: the face just needs foreshortening, as I can do here using Photoshop…

That looks more human, though the Spock ears are still taking off.  I bet that’s it.  Who knows if it was elongated by accident or deliberately?  It seems like material for a Ph.D. thesis:  Spatial Manipulation In VIth-Century Byzantine Ivory Artifacts, anyone?

If anyone nose of another explanation, I’d love to hear it.

I came down this morning, and, in a daze from Dearieme‘s and Bruessel‘s exposure of the shocking seasonal chocolate scam,  I  found that during the night the previous post (on the autumn leaves) had elicited some delightful seasonal poems.

Thanks to Jamessal we have Richard Wilbur‘s wonderfully (for me) evocative “In the Elegy Season”:

Haze, char, and the weather of All Souls’:
A giant absence mopes upon the trees:
Leaves cast in casual potpourris
Whisper their scents from pits and cellar-holes.

Or brewed in gulleys, steeped in wells, they spend
In chilly steam their last aromas, yield
From shallow hells a revenance of field
And orchard air.  And now the envious mind

Which could not hold the summer in my head
While bounded by that blazing circumstance
Parades these barrens in a golden trance,
Remembering the wealthy season dead,

And by an autumn inspiration makes
A summer all its own.  Green boughs arise
Through all the boundless backward of the eyes,
And the soul bathes in warm conceptual lakes.

Less proud than this, my body leans an ear
Past cold and colder weather after wings’
Soft commotion, the sudden race of springs,
The goddess’ tread heard on the dayward stair,

Longs for the brush of the freighted air, for smells
Of grass and cordial lilac, for the sight
Of green leaves building into the light
And azure water hoisting out of wells.

Principal gave us this, Rilke’s “Herbsttag”:

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Some translations are here, but since Stu didn’t like them and I’m pressed for time, I won’t include any.

So this post is dedicated to finding more great poems of autumn/fall and –because half our readers are located in either the southern hemisphere or the tropics — poems about spring, torrential rainfall or whatever season you consider to be seasonal.

Poems in Hungarian, Creole or Spanish, or indeed anything other than English, get extra points…

As always, there will be no retribution if nothing shows up.

All the time it’s been snowing, I’ve been thinking that I never posted the pictures of the leaves turning colour.

The orange tree (above, left and in the middle below) is a maple, and, after they had fallen, the leaves that covered the ground smelled just like maple syrup without the sweetness.  I looked forward to walking past it.

This pile of wooden paneling has been there for a year now.  The man who left it is going to use it on his house, whenever he gets around to it.  The house is fifty yards up the road.  So why did he leave it by the field?  This is the kind of thing we think about in the country.

I took all these pictures one day when I went for a walk with Topsy.

It was Saturday the ninth of October, according to my computer: John Lennon’s 70th birthday and Uganda’s Independence Day.

But I think of it as one of the last days the goats grazed in the pasture above the house, one of the last days before they realised that the cattle grid had been covered over for the winter

and they could now trot down the hill and munch their way through the neighbour’s garden if they felt like it*,

one of the last days, in short, before we confined them to our garden.

Well, nobody likes winter.


*So far the goats haven’t figured out the Yorkshire sheep trick that dearieme told us about.

You can see through the fog that the lower part of our garden is on a slope:

and at the bottom of the garden is a crumbling cliff, made of shale and held in place by tree roots.

And at the bottom of the cliff is the deep, deep lake.

That’s what it looked like today.  In July, there would be a queue of children on the steps waiting their turn to jump off the diving board; but there are no splashes and often no ripples at this time of year, the water is flat and I love the reflections.  Sometimes I look at them upside down to see if they’re better:

and sometimes I look at their bilateral symmetry.  They’re like Rorschach ink blots, but with varied tones:

I’ve found that the higher you’re standing above the waterline greater the asymmetry  between the image and its reflection.  It must be because you aren’t perpendicular to the image and its foreshortened reflection.  I don’t mind it.  It’s actually  the asymmetries in the inkblot that I really enjoy, for some reason; the older I get the more interesting I find imperfections, when I was younger I just thought they were a mistake.

It’s about -5〫C. today, or 23F.  You can see here that the lake is starting to freeze over:

It takes a couple of weeks, usually.  That will be the end of the reflections.

Actually, I don’t think they mind fog or snow.  They aren’t crazy about wind or rain, though; but who is?

Here is a 4-minute unedited video of the goats and my daughter* that my mother took in the summer of 2008.   Theoretically I ought to be able to make videos myself now, and edit them so that there’s a plot and narration and the other things we expect from a film.  In the meantime, please remember this was not shot with the general public in mind.  But even if the goats aren’t very animated,  it does at least show that they are more than stuffed toys.   I’m surprised they’re wearing collars, I thought we’d given that up years ago.  We must have been taking them up to the reservoir at the top of the hill to erode the council’s undergrowth.  And now…

* (and that’s me & Topsy walking past, like Alfred Hitchcock)

I opened the front door this morning and blow me, if it hadn’t started snowing!

After half an hour, it was like this:

Vesla had noticed.

When I went inside, she was shivering.  We’re getting them the heat-lamp from the hen house.

Misty was still keen to go outside.

Holly was unsure.

Now it’s half-past-twelve and it’s stopped, but it’s still quite cold.

Poemas Del Rio Wang currently has a post up about an early archive of a half-million photographs of life in Mexico.  It was begun by Agustín Víctor Casasola, assisted by his brother.  Studiolum says of Agustín,

Since the moment when for the first time a camera fell into his hands (it seems this was in 1902) he did not cease to hunt for images and to reveal the flow of history. In his own words, he became “a slave of the moment”.

A perfect description, he does portray the events as extraordinary moments.

The last pictures he shows are from 1935; they cover a violent period that is well explained by Studiolum.  It’s well worth a visit — and don’t miss Tina Modotti’s poem, presented by Francesca in the Comments, nor the music.

Yesterday evening down by the parking lot a mist was coming in on little cat feet. Baguettes were flying overhead as well as a couple of geese and an enormous pain de campagne.  I don’t know if it was an omen.

Fast forward fifteen hours: two people get out of their car in the same parking lot and head for the little café.  The car begins to roll slowly forward and bumps down the embankment, chased by the two former occupants.  It comes to a stop in the field below. Someone hadn’t used the handbrake; perhaps for a moment they’d forgotten they were driving a stick-shift.

Poor things.  Later, a man and a woman come from a garage and drive it away. It’s pretty obvious the springs and some of the front bodywork will need replacing.

I’m wondering if it will be on the national news tonight.  They often have car accidents.  Always set your handbrake.  You know it makes sense.

Early this morning, my wife drew our attention to a dead body lying in the meadow.  We needed binoculars to see it well, goodness knows how she spotted it.  It’s the black dot behind the ash tree twig, slap in the centre of this picture:

Here is an enlargement:

As I approached, there was no sign of a struggle:

I think it might have been…

a discarded hallowe’en costume.  It was made of felt and there was a piece of satin ribbon sewn around its perimeter that I thought gave it a witchy look.

I hung it on a nearby sapling, where it was immediately inspected by an elderly man who was passing by.  He walked on, but I doubt it will still be hanging there by lunchtime.

Tom Clark had a post yesterday that shows this 1922 work by the great Georgia O’Keeffe, called My Shanty, Lake George:

I like it very much and it reminded me of somewhere I was going today, so I took a picture as Topsy and I walked past:

This October no one could be bothered to clip the goats; and then it got too cold to do it, so we’re leaving them with long wooly coats until the spring.  My daughter has trimmed the wool around their faces because it was beginning to be hard to tell which end was the front.  They look quite elegant like this, I think.  This one is Misty:

In contrast to their faces they’re very wooly around what the Guardian would probably call their paws, but I call their hooves.  This is Holly:

She was chewing:

The birds are still living with the goats.  They fly in and out during the day:

Vesla and the other bird, Cloudy, are spending a lot of time together:

Today’s Guardian has a story that, thanks to Dearieme, we revealed nearly three weeks ago.  A Bad Guide: All the news*, All the time, As it happens!

*(about goats)