ARTYFACTS: February 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Festival launch

That time of year again. The May Brighton Festival was launched to invited guests and friends, and a very fine Festival it looks.

I wasn't taken by the guest acts - a rather jaded jazz singer trilling out a rather predictable tribute to someone called Linda Smith, a panel show regular, apparently. We then had two women singing to each other across the stage with megaphones, in Hebrew. This was introduced, by its creator, as an exploration of love through the stag and hen party, a phenomenon well known in Brighton. I'll go to see it but my worst fears, that he's a rather aloof, posh chap, who wouldn't know what either of these phenomena are really about, was in evidence from this performance. I have seen hen parties drunk, singing, abusive, watching strippers, hanging out of hired fire engines and drunk in stretch limos - never once with a megaphone, and I'm sure I'll go to my grave before I see a hen party singing in Hebrew! Sometimes art and real life don't come together. Willy Russell, someone who does know a thing or two abut this theme, was doing this in 1978 with his 'Stags and Hens'.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bruegel to Rubens - Edinburgh

As Europe split cleanly into the Reformed north and Catholic south art was similarly separated in terms of funding and content. Hans Memling, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Jan Brueghel, Van Dyck and Rubens are all here and the Van Dyke/Rubens connection (one VD the pupil) is well illustrated.

Quinten Massys’ portrait of Erasmus, painted as a gift for Sir Thomas More, is precise and scholarly, a reformation image. Meanwhile, in the south there was a rash of ‘encyclopaedic’ paintings.

Frans Francken’s Cabinet of a Collector, shows a man's obsessions as a collector. His coins, shells, fossils, books, paintings and miscellaneous bits and bobs are stuffed into the frame, but at bthe side some dark figures in donkey heads are destroying art works. This was a jibe towards the reformed north. Nice to see that a 16th century man's private room looks the same as my own! I bought the postcard, which is now in that same room.

The Boy at a Window (unidentified artist), is a curios piece with a lad tapping at the glass window with the tip of his finger. It's a fun image and free from any of the religious import which shape most of the other images in the exhibition.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Massacre of the Innocents is the centrepiece of the show. The snow acts as a clean, white backdrop for abloody massacre. The killing was neutred at a later date, the massacred children replaced by animals, but look carefully and you can see the overpainting. It would have been great to have seen an x-ray image showing the 'before' to this 'after'.

I made the misatke of taking the audio commentary. While it did a good job on the massacre painiting, the rest was like an undergraduate essay.

James, Son of james

A few superb dance sequences padded out with tedium. At times I had that 'get me out of here' thetre feeling - I was not alone. The opening carpentry scene was an appalling mess, and set the tone for the whole work - weak, confused and not at all funny. The attempts at humour were no laughing matter, the plot banal and the acting awful. This is a dance company who have overstreched themselves into theatre - it didn't work. On the bright side, the job interview dance was tight and clever, and the sex scene open and wild - loved them both. OK to take a risk but it clearly didn't work. The previous reviews meant the audience was sparce.