The Cubic Structural Evolution Project

To get to the Quaker meeting I left the house before eight, and cycled up steep hills and into stiff winds. Then at the station the replacement bus was full, and a man had suggestions of what the incompetents managing the service should have done. Do we get compensation? Yes, but only £6.75.

A woman offered me a lift in her car. She’s off to see Romeo and Juliet, at Sadlers Wells, choreographed by Matthew Bourne. He always manages to surprise her with new ways of expressing story in dance.

“You’re obviously very creative,” she said.

Yes, that’s why I wanted to tell you of her.

“I’m not creative myself,” she said. I protested. You talk to your grandchild, don’t you? You’re interacting, sparking off each other. She agreed and enthused.

“The 9.42 will get me to my meeting on time,” I announced.

“No pressure, then,” she said. She got her silent husband to let us out at the drop off point before parking. If they rowed about her generosity they did it after I left.

On the train the big shaven-headed bloke in jeans and white t-shirt talked of going to Mass and his grandmother’s power of attorney. At Meeting I looked at the food bank box and thought of connection- mine with these people, through them with my fellow benefit claimants.

I had not known what was in the Turbine Hall, and went over to look. I had not intended to join in but got chatting to a mother and daughter who explained it to me.

“I want to go back to the bar,” said the mother.

“How old are you?”

“Eleven,” said the child, who looked younger.

Oh, she’ll be alright! No one will mind!

“You have to take towers down or there will be no bricks to build with,” says the mother. I joke about playing Godzilla and the daughter is horrified.

The future city is very beautiful now. Those are huge towers, wonderfully varied, from only a few different brick types. I have not really noticed adult Lego hobbying before. I was aware of its existence but only seeing what is possible in real life makes me alive to it. Children make structures at ground level, but I want to contribute and be Noticed. When the towers have taken so long to build, and such inspiration to imagine, how can I compete? I will build a bridge.

That’s difficult with the short bricks available. The round towers can only sit on the table, not build on bricks. I am Creating: constrained by my materials, inspired by other work. My bridge has a hinge in it, making it considerably weaker but more able to place between towers. It is irregular, Brutalist among these neo-classical forms. Inadvertently I knock the top off a tower as I try to affix it, and am abashed; but I do not have time to rebuild it even if I knew how.

It is ungainly, detracting from the Beauty! No, it is a piquant or picaresque contrast, adding to the whole work. I hadn’t seen a bridge there before, but noticed someone creating one later. Future cities need bridges! Writing next day I don’t know if my bridge still exists, but my posts are web archived, and perhaps archeologists will find silicon with this photograph, just before the Sun as a red giant engulfs the Earth.

Then I go to gaze into the eyes of the Goncharova Christ, which is why I came to London. I can’t find it in a postcard or online- possibly like an icon it is holy, so restricted. The grapes on His vine are rich and strong.

I want to take a tower apart and put a slab of blue bricks in! It would not need to be large, and it would stand out like the Sun in Impressions- Sunrise!

With biscuits and cheese, and two cups of tea at Meeting, I don’t need to buy food in the gallery. I am with Christ and the Queen of Heaven when I am chucked out.

Paula Rego

The woman’s face shows calmness and certainty. She is richly dressed in a full long gold-coloured skirt and black close-fitting jacket. We look up at her, not only at the picture hung on the wall but in the world of the picture, whose perspective suggests a view from her waist height. In her right hand she carries a sword. She is an angel: of vengeance, it seems. That crease at the right of her mouth, turning upwards: she has no malevolence, just one clear task.

In her left hand she carries a sponge, which the caption refers to the sponge held up to dampen Jesus’ lips at the crucifixion, but I more prosaically think of as cleansing. I love to gaze up at this strong woman.

She is part of a series, after a novel. The next picture is of a paedophile priest, face and body twisted on a bed. The caption indicates he is in sexual arousal, I would not have imagined that explanation. Rego is angrier than I, not clinging to comfort, clearer seeing. There is no avenging angel in the novel.

There are women at the backstreet abortionist’s, anticipating the treatment or curled in a ball after it, with faces and postures that could be completely broken or in grim determination.

The exhibition starts with works from the time of the Salazar dictatorship, with an intense anger in “when we had a house in the country we’d throw marvellous parties then we’d go out and shoot negroes”, or “Salazar vomiting the homeland”. A host of solitary figures on the canvas are twisted and distorted, not relating or related.

And then there are the men. Her husband had MS, and ran her father’s business into the ground, and she portays him curled on a bed in a skirt, with women in control. Or two girls dressing a dog. The dog has no fight or resistance left. They control him.

Or, “The Maids,” based on a play. That’s a man’s face, not an “androgynous” one as the caption says. He sits, in women’s clothes, unaware or acquiescent of their knowingness and control.

The exhibition ends with a picture of the artist painting a sleeping man. The caption suggests that this reverses the usual order, but she might be read as femininely attentive, carefully looking up at him. On her face I read professional absorption, calmly executing a task. Her calf is firmly supporting her, and is emphasised in my view. I look at that strong calf in the court shoe with slight heel.

Strong women, without illusion, doing what must be done, and passive or useless men. I find these women intensely beautiful, as role model or imagined partner.

The works, mostly in pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, are wonderfully smooth of surface. I chatted to a worker at the gallery. Normally, she says, hanging an exhibition, you just get on with it, fixing the pictures to the wall like a carpenter on a building site; but here they unwrapped the pictures and were increasingly overwhelmed, delighting in them.

Hubert van Eyck

This painting from around 1410 shows what people are thinking. It may have been begun by Hubert van Eyck, and completed by his more famous brother Jan. Consider first the Three Marys, at the empty tomb:

The first is sad, simply mourning. The second is trusting, being told something and having faith. But the third is thinking, assessing, coming to her own conclusion.

Here is the Angel, holding forth the glad tidings:

The face is closer to the not quite human expressionlessness of earlier art, though the gesture of the arms is persuasive. The soldiers are cast into sleep.

I publish paintings because I wanted free pictures for my posts, and don’t devote enough time or energy to my own photography, but also because I love them, and want you to see at least all the beauty I see in them.

Powerful, beautiful, alive

I cannot see, in an art work, anything which is not myself; but I can see something I have not admitted to myself. The human being contains multitudes. The whole human being, the artist, speaks to the whole human being, the viewer. Content: suicide and internalised prejudice; and also overcoming that in celebration.

It seems to me that my conscious mind is a filter, preoccupied with what a human being, and in particular this human being, should be. The “shoulds” come from outside, from parents and the wider society. The brain, being part of a whole organism, calculates what others desire and what it can get away with, and produces a simulacrum of that, while underneath there are greater possibilities and desires. Primo Levi observed inmates of Auschwitz who wanted to live by the rules, a common human desire, which might be understandable in Jews- I fit in, give unobtrusive service, try not to be noticed, and thereby might survive- but in Auschwitz the rules were designed to starve and freeze the inmates to death, and so that route to survival was no longer open.

This crushed response of traumatised Jews in Eastern Europe in the 1930s, or Venice in 1516, is not the Jewishness of Naftali Bennett. Bennett, the politician of the settlers, may be a bad man, an oppressor of the Palestinians; but outrage at him can still be antisemitic, insofar as it is outrage because he is uppity.

You need a queer eye to read Francis Bacon. His lover George Dyer committed suicide in a hotel bathroom. Triptych 1973 may show him dying, that black stain seeping out being his life draining away or death coming upon him like a wraith. A straight woman guide led us to Triptych 1972, and suggested it was the same, the death, the man crushed. No. Those pools on the floor, I was sure they were cum. These figures are ejaculating, a glorious, joyous climax, more I think than most prostates would achieve, a superhuman effervescence of life. Coming, he feels immortal.

You need a queer eye because the straight might see the poor oppressed gay having a ghastly time then dying, poor soul, wasn’t it awful to be gay with all that homophobia? And I see Bacon, the gay man who knows exactly who he is, being it and showing it. Elsewhere in his work subjects have manly energy, physically and psychologically imposing, with a sense of threat, but here they are soft gay men and glorying in it.

Partly I do not listen to you because my concern is not to hear what you have to say but to maintain and affirm the societal consensus, what we should think. Or, perhaps, you would free me if I could hear you but I am not ready for that.

I want you to find this offensive- and then laugh in delight. If I am I in all my Light this is not taking physical goods which are not mine, so that others have less, so much as dancing new moves which will embolden others to dance their own.

I do not see my power, my inner Light, because I imagine it ought to be good, that is, good as the societal consensus would see good. And it is so much more than that. It could feel like a threat, or danger, because it is so alive. It wants to shine, for shining is its nature, and thereby to draw out others’ light. The Light is hard and soft, gentle and commanding, all that is possible in a human, made in the image of God, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful.

I want everyone to be uppity. I want us to dance together, showing our abundance. Jesus said let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Joy in a gallery

What should be the mood of a museum visit? Is it like going on a picnic, to school, on a shopping trip, or to church? –Cynthia Freeland.

There’s a difference between English and US English here- she’s asking about what we would call an “art gallery”, a special space for looking at Art. My first thought was, it should be like a garden, where I move, relaxed, with beautiful and sometimes unexpected things catching my attention. And it should have good cake. What do you think?

An art gallery should enrich and expand our understanding of what it means to be human, the glory, jest and riddle of the world. It should have something to delight, intrigue, confound, provoke, enlighten anyone wandering in- any child, any person who has never seen art before, any connoisseur.

So it should be welcoming, to everyone. No-one should feel excluded. Any faint lingering traces of the idea that this is for educated people, for people with good taste, rather than for everyone should be expunged. It should be enticing. There should be eye-catching things round every corner, to draw you through. It should be mindblowing. We might have our understanding of the world completely changed.

I hope it could overcome resistance. There is resistance- “That’s not Art!” imagines that Art means technical skill in painting and sculpture, the ability to make a face look like a face in a photograph, rather than the ability to make a face that a person can read and feel with. There is fear, that these connoisseurs are looking at things I will not understand. Well, possibly- an understanding of the meaning of the colours in certain icons, or the symbols used to indicate saints- Peter carries keys, for example- can enrich viewing such paintings. Arguably, truly great painters have produced something new, and lesser artists copied their betters, and so some sense of the development of Art has value, but progress is not linear. Instead it is an expansion, in many dimensions, with people finding new possibilities and their idiosyncratic way, or revisiting the old and finding something new in it.

It should be a place we escape words. Words mediate our experience of the world, and come between us and the thing in front of us. You do not see what is around you because you are thinking. Words move through your mind, and you pay attention to them instead, even if they are the same words as flowed through you yesterday and last month. I love to escape words. It is an experience I know and value. There must be a wordless experience before there can be new words or new understanding. So I enter an art gallery with the intention of relating to some art object- probably many- and allowing it to communicate to me, without judging, or at least permit my mind to see possibilities in it without seeking to define them.

The child or adult entering a gallery for the first time needs a certain level of trust in the guide taking them there, or the society which values the gallery, to be open to such experience. So the gallery should do all it can to win such trust. Not understanding is OK- but the viewer must perceive the possibility of understanding, and a route to understanding, without too strict an idea of what understanding might look like.

I have strong memories of art in my teens grabbing my attention and engaging me. Then I saw that there was something that would repay my attention. Now delight is quotidian for me, enraptured by the flowers in a Burne-Jones forest, but also perception, being brought face to face with a man standing over his wife, just killed in war.

Go to a gallery! They are wonderful places!

Beautiful. Striking.

And now for some art. These are images I have found beautiful or striking, suggested by things I read.

I found The Fountain of Youth by Lucas Cranach in New Philosopher magazine. Is that armpit hair, straggling down longer than her elbow?

The naked Maja.

A “Maja” was a lower-class Spaniard who wore exaggeratedly Spanish dress, and mocked rich Frenchified Spaniards. Note the way she gazes at the viewer.

This is by Jenny Holzer. Do you agree with her?

In the waiting room

In the waiting room, there are tiny canvases, about six inches square, with foreboding messages. Protect yourself against the dangers! Some are addressed to children, some to women:

With the glitter, even with the Rothko colours that could go either way. “Hello”! How lovely! But-

If you find a new friend, it is too good to be true. “The man I met was nothing but a scam.”

Bully and victim.

Disconnected. Mental. Hate. Confused. Fake. Insecure. Disgusting. Vulnerable. Stop.

The word on Olly’s phone is “Target”. Is it too much?

All too much? After the session, in the supermarket I hear a man snap out an order- as if he has had to fire his underling for stupidity and uselessness, but the underling has been made to work her notice by his managers specifically to belittle and insult him, and he has not the grace to rise above it but wants to make everyone else as miserable as he.

“Put the milk in the buggy!”

Surely, that could not be his partner? That could not be their child, in the pushchair?

I retuned the radio from the local station to Radio 3. “Hello,” said someone behind me. I ignored her. “Would you like us to move the tree?” The potted shrub was tickling my neck. “Maybe later,” she said.

Franz West

Franz West’s sculptures are playful and anarchic.

I brought my stool just to the point where I am standing, and looked up at the loop, back and forth at the waves of this structure. Then I found the point against the wall where, sitting on my stool, I could capture that virus-model or whatever it is through the loop. I had not really noticed how the other pink thing enhances the picture.

Then I asked a woman to sit on the stool so I could be in the photographs. She pointed out how colour-coordinated I was, so I took my jacket off, then really played the game, taking several, trying to make a composition. I don’t know how to alter the depth of field on my phone: it focused on the brightest thing, the light reflecting on the virus, and was slightly out of focus on me.

You may go behind the curtains to play with four sculptures of metal and plaster. The video shows what you may do. So I did, taking a plaster blob on an iron poker, throwing it about and seeing how far from myself I could lift it. Closing the curtains, so I was alone with the sculpture, was important.

Before, I went to Tate Britain for the last day of the Edward Burne-Jones exhibition, and a brief look at Don McCullin. I saw from a very different Finsbury Park two beautiful young men in a pub sizing one another up, ready for verbal rather than physical combat I think. Later, from a war, I saw a starving woman’s deformed breast given to her starving child. The whole will repay my sustained attention, and there are members’ hours every weekend, but I just dipped in to get a vague idea of it. I love the idea of feeling a photograph you take so that the audience will feel it too. I hear his wrestling with his privileged position, getting money and fame from others’ misery, yet being the necessary witness documenting that suffering.

After taking the boat, I went to the Pierre Bonnard exhibition. I had not heard of him! These pictures are beautiful, and I hated the self-portrait from around the time of his life-long partner’s death. He was crushed, and he showed his misery.

At St Pancras, I heard a pianist play Rachmaninov, the Bells of Moscow Prelude, Beethoven and Mozart, much better than the usual players. I played Metamorphosis II, though without repeating all the arpeggiation.