I’m standing in Brighton Museum & Gallery, in my preferred spot: opposite Glyn Philpot’s portrait of Mrs Gwendolen Cleaver (1933). I try and make sense of why I love the picture so much, why I feel the need to tell my friends to spend some time with it. Gwen, the subject, wears an outfit that looks more 1980’s punk than 1930’s society. She pouts sullenly away from Glyn, the artist in whose shoes I am metaphorically standing. ‘Why so melancholy?’, I want to ask my sitter.
If I didn’t know that Glyn was gay, I’d have said they’d had a lover’s tiff. Particularly as he never finished painting the detail in her left arm – perhaps she was getting impatient in sitting for him, or she’d changed her mind about off-the-shoulder couture. The portrait was possibly a commission from Gwen’s husband, whom she’d fallen out of love with years ago and it’s pale pigment face reflects her feelings of resignation to emotional bondage.
This is tricky. How can I warm your cockles with a true story of feminism in action that deserves to be told, without jeopardizing the heroine under military law? By removing names, ranks and all of the specifics, I suppose. Actually, let’s just say this is fiction:
Someone very dear to me served an 18-60 in the RAF. One of the first non-commissioned female officers to achieve a technical, logistical rank involving responsibility for the lives of crew on fighter jet aircraft, she had a smart eye for detail. Noticing a significant gender pay-gap at this career level (which hadn’t been the case at lower ranks), she set about re-dressing the balance. And what a slog it was…
A buoyant audience gathers in the cramped basement of retro emporium cocktail bar The Black Dove. It’s Sunday evening and we’ve dragged ourselves out of our roast dinner coma’s to attend the first NEW SPACE: a low-key bi-monthly event showcasing new experimental/digital sound, visual and performance art. The night is run by audio-tech creatives Wesley Goatley and Danny Bright. Having experienced their work during Brighton Digital Festival, I know I’m in for a treat, I just can’t yet imagine the form it might take.
Just over a year ago, I was grabbed by news of Shia LaBeouf’s sky-written apology for his cinematic plagiarism of a story by graphic novelist Daniel Clowes. I began keeping an eye on his profile, noting public reaction to his subsequent acts of artistic appropriation, and the bizarre media downplay of LaBeouf’s claims that he was raped during his #IAMSORRY performance piece. More recently came the rumours about his method acting techniques for the film ‘Fury’; he joined the US National Guard, experimented with self-harm and underwent a Christian baptism. And now, in January 2015, he’s at the epicentre of a hysterical media shit-storm over Sia’s beautiful and moving Elastic Heart music video. I guess I don’t need to tell you any more about that, you’ve already seen it – 36 million You Tube hits in seven days. Hungry for more Shia, I delve into the pages of Winter’s Dazed and Confused. What delicious tidbits will Aimee Cliff reveal in her interview with this passionate and flawed controversy junkie?
Last Saturday night, selected Picturehouse cinemas offered Almodovar fans the opportunity to watch the acclaimed director in an exclusive Q&A, live via satellite, before enjoying on the big screen 1988 Spanish comedy classic Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown. Tickets for the West End stage adaptation are currently on sale, but knowing the whole event was a shameless plug didn’t mar my enjoyment.
The stylised black-comedy farce follows the intertwined antics of Pepa – hot-blooded heart-broken voice-over actress, Candela – her suicidal model friend who has inadvertently become wrapped up in a terrorist plot, Marisa – the moody girlfriend of Pepa’s ex-lover’s son, and Lucia – the ex-lover’s ex-wife recently released from an epic asylum stint. Add flavours of Madrid, giant telephones, tower block residing chickens and a striking period wardrobe.
With no knowledge of pyrotechnics and a Brownie badge in first-aid, I agree to take on the role of Art director for slick monochromaniacs Dark Horses new music video ‘Saturn Returns’.
I’m a last minute stand-in and half the work of sourcing props has already been done. Which is great as the list makes for quite bizarre reading, including ‘an ostrich egg’, ‘a handful of dead poppies’ and ‘the unconscious object’. Even after handling ‘the unconscious object’, I still don’t know what it is, but stay with me and try to imagine a giant plaster cast squid-cum-cactus that may contain mystical powers.
Today a colleague mentioned her middle-aged stay-at-home-mother’s newfound passion for the scraping, drying and styling of road-kill. I was reminded of the art again as I passed ‘EatonNott’ on my way home – a boutique studio/shop specialising in the creation of intricate death-fashion for the adornment of body and living space. In 2009, the practice was featured within the pages of interior design bible Wallpaper magazine and since then, the trend has filtered into the rented homes of the disillusioned graduate generation. These days, it seems you’re more likely to find a pair of mounted rams horns positioned above a lover’s bed than a reading lamp…
A prolific online dater friend of mine sends me message:
‘I’m thinking about coming off Tinder and joining Guardian Soulmates. What do you think?’
I think she must be tired of casual sex and after a marriage proposal.
‘Why don’t you just shift your focus for a bit and wait until you meet someone in real life?’ I respond.
An hour later we’re on her sofa, picking at a giant plate of nachos and checking out the human merchandise on her laptop.
To my surprise, I find lavish Tate advertising all over the Soulmates website. This upsets me for two reasons:
One. I’m hugely uncomfortable with Tate’s BP corporate sponsorship and now I feel like my newspaper of choice is indirectly condoning it by business affiliation. I realise my hypocrisy in still being a regular Tate gallery visitor and remind myself of Jeremy Deller’s point – “This is not a novelty, art has always had connections to power, business and politics’. It’s not okay, but that’s the way it is.
Two. Not so long ago, Tate Modern was one of my favourite first date haunts. If everyone’s doing it, does that mean I have a serious lack of romantic imagination?