Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jack Maggs

Continuing my quest to read all Peter Carey's novels, I have just finished Jack Maggs, his reworking of the Magwitch theme from Great Expectations, complete with thrusting young author not entirely dissimilar from C Dickens, especially in his sexual habits.

Tremendous read, highly recommended.

Andrew Miller wins Costa Book of the Year

Andrew Miller's sixth novel Pure was announced yesterday as overall winner of the Costa Book Awards.  Apparently there was "bitter dissent" among the judges, some of whom favoured the heavily-hyped biography of Edward Thomas.  Personally, I plan to read both.  The paperback of Pure is already available.  An extract is available on the publisher's website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Bigger Pictjure at the RA

Would dearly love to see this exhbition of David Hockney's latest landscape works at the Royal Academy.  Will need to be quick, though, as it only runs until April 9.

Curwen Studio - bastion of British printmaking

Superb half-hour documentary on BBC Radio 4 this morning about Susan Aldworth's experience as artist in residence with the legendary Stanley Jones at the Curwen Studio near Cambridge.

The programme gave the impression that traditional printmaking - lithography and offset - were on their way out.  In a depression which affects the art market as much as other sectors I think surely not.  The Tate, for example, now buys more prints than original one-off artworks and I have noticed that quality limited edition prints bring a good price in America.  But Aldworth and her producer, Sara Jane Hall, are nevertheless right to draw attention to this neglected corner of art which is too often confused in the public mind with mere repographics.

Is it too much to hope that we will get a TV doc about printmaking?  Probably...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Stanley Spencer's Wisteria

Spotted this image in this morning's Independent on Sunday.  Certainly warmed up my frosty January morning.

Publicly funded TV drama ... from Denmark

Borgen is another unmissable treat on BBC4 Saturday nights.  When that finishes, Bron/Broen (The Bridge) begins.  Killing 3 is complete, I believe, and Borgen 2 certainly is, with Borgen 3 in preparation.  Amazing what you can do with a licence fee and no adverts, isn't it?  Meanwhile, for our own publicly-funded channel, Edwin Drood was a worthy near miss.  It's one of those things you have to attempt from time to time - and there is no better time than so early in the bicentennial year - but scriptwriter Gwyneth Hughes should have been more radical with the minor characters.  Barnstorming performance, though, from Matthew Rhys as the drug-addled choirmaster John Jasper.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

George Shaw and Michala Gyevtai at the Herbert

Went to Coventry yesterday to see the above exhibition.  As it says on the poster, Shaw narrowly missed out on the Turner Prize last year.  Martin Boyce won, so he must have an astonishing talent because Shaw's work is superlative.  I genuinely have never seen anything like it, nor have I recently seen anything so inspiring.

As the image on the poster suggests, Shaw paints unpeopled images of Tile Hill, the huge Coventry estate where he grew up.  Tile Hill was one of those moral experiments of the Sixties and Seventies, an attempt to build idyllic self-contained communities.  The experiment failed and Tile Hill was becoming notorious by the time I worked in Cov in the early Eighties.  Shaw immortalises that decline.

He paints with supra-realism but he does it in Humbrol enamel, the paint little boys smear all over model cars and aeroplanes.  How does he get such sumptuous mixes?  And those skys... Shaw is painter of urban wastelands but his skies are so stunningly emotional.

The homecoming exhibition also includes specially-painted watercolours - and yes, he is is a virtuoso in watercolour, too - and a room devoted to his juvenalia.  Superb.  The exhibition runs for two more months.  Truly unmissable.

Also on, but only until January 4, is Seas of Grass by the textile artist Michala Gyetvai.  She uses threads and embroidery with paint and pastel, often on felted blanket rather than canvas or board.  The results can be extraordinary.

All the images on show at the Herbert can be found here, on the artist's website.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Costa Book Awards 2011

The Costa Book category winners for 2011 were announced yesterday.  The overall winner and Book of the Year will be named on January 24.

The Costa awards have started to eclipse the Booker because they draw from a wider selection and are much less predictable.  The awards tend to go to the book rather than the author.

This year's category winners are no exception, putting some very celebrated literary noses out of joint.

Novel: Andrew Miller, Pure.
Biography: Matthew Hollis, Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas.
First Novel: Christie Watson, Tiny Sunbirds Far Away.
Poetry: Carol Ann Duffy, The Bees.
Children's: Moira Young, Blood Red Road.

Congratulations to all winners and particular congrats to the judging panel.  I look forward to reading all of these.