ARTYFACTS: February 2010

Monday, February 08, 2010

Mariza - not a passing fado!

More than a passing Fado for me, as I've loved her work for the last five years and was pretty excited about this concert as I've wiped away many a tear listening to her at home - she didn't disappoint.
She is a stunning spectacle in herself, half African, half European, very tall with cropped blonde hair - like an elongated Elizabeth 1, without her wig. You just can't keep your eyes off her extraordinary shape.
But it's her voice and command of an audience that tells. She's been singing to audiences since she was five and knows exactly how to handle the ebb and flow of emotion - for Fado is extremely emotional. I preferred the pure Fado songs, but also enjoyed the other world influenced numbers. I literally can't listen to O gente da Minha Terra without the tears welling up (I'd pay £25 just to hear that one song live), Primavera being a close second. From heart rending Fado to roof rousing ballads, she had the entire concert hall on their feet clapping away. No better way to spend a Sunday night. Plenty of Brazilian and Spanish people in the audience tonight but for one evening at least, we were all Portugues.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Van Gogh was a blogger

The Van Gogh show at the Royal Academy is unusual as it has as many letters as paintings. He was a habitual letter writer. Like a blogger, he felt compelled to pour out his thoughts and plans. Fascinated by the process of becoming an artist his letters, like a blog, includes sketches and watercolours in the letter itself, sometimes among the text. The work was not enough, he had to verbalise the process.

You hear about the sheer effort he put into learning his craft, slowly mastering drawing, perspective, watercolours, portraits and landscapes. There was no quick spurt of divine inspiration, only the long march to competence. Van Gogh’s work would have been unknown if he had gone to Art School, as it was the inner struggle, against the odds, that made the man and his work. He was free from the groupthink of other schools, even that of Paul Gauguin.

As the show, and blog, unfolds through his letters, you also get a peppering of surprises. I never knew that he was a teacher in London, an avid reader (even painting books) or that he worked in watercolours. And as he drifts south, the palette and subjects change. That’s the key to the show, the geographical influence in terms of light and colour. Ultimately it’s nature and its organic forms that matter most, in palettes of green and yellow. There’s no water in these images and the clouds seem out of place – it’s the earth and its crops, grasses, flowers and landscapes; and the cycle of growth. The landscapes are alive with colour.