Back home from London this evening feeling pretty weary after quite a packed weekend but a really good one at that. Apart from an hour listening to Radio 3 in the hotel room yesterday I managed to spend the best part of three days away from music and the internet, which did me some good I think. We took in plenty of other cultural activities however, the trip to see Stewart Lee’s stand-up show on Friday night was as special as I had imagined it would be, unlike any other comedy I know, highly intelligent, viciously satirical at times and constantly challenging the usual audience/performer barriers. I thoroughly recommend that if you live somewhere where you could have the chance to see him live that you grab the chance. If you aren’t much of a comedy fan still do it.
We visited both of the Tate galleries, on separate days, and in between went to the British Museum, which I haven’t done since I went with school, but as it was just over the road from our hotel it seemed silly not to go and it was well worth it. Just generally looking around the incredible depth of exhibits was very rewarding, but I particularly enjoyed a detailed exhibition of Mexican illustrative printing, mostly revolutionary in tone. Great stuff. today’s “excuse post” photo was taken while holding my iPhone slightly wobbly above my head as we left the museum and headed back out into the rain. I just loved the view of the Georgian architecture. At Tate Britain we saw the Turner and the Masters exhibition, which was stunning, though just too much to take in all at once. Wandering around the show, which mostly places Turner works beside paintings by other great masters (Rembrandt, Poussin, Constable, Lorrain, Canaletto etc…) and compares, contrasts and underlines direct influences, I must admit it was hard to get TJ Clark’s superb book The Sight of Death out of my head. In the book Clark visits two Poussin paintings daily for many months and explores deep into them, finding new insight and imagining all kinds of ideas by spending so much time with the works. So trying to take in very much at all from what must have been around 100 fantastic paintings seemed a fruitless task but I enjoyed giving it a go a great deal. As usual, the Tate’s catalogue of the exhibition, complete with lengthy texts as well as colour reproductions is excellent and worth getting if you cannot make it along.
In stark contrast, and definitely as a result of having attended the Turner show the day before, Â our visit to one of the main exhibits at the Tate Modern left me feeling completely bored and shortchanged today. Miroslaw Balka’s How it is is a huge black box into which you walk along with many other visitors to become completely enveloped in darkness, unable to see anything less than a couple of inches in front of you. Balka is Polish, and the work is directly linked to the plight of Polish jews in the war, and so for a short while, as you experience the unsettling sensation of walking into the unknown it all feels very intense, but later, as you walk away the overriding feeling I had was “so is that it?” While Turner’s skies will remain with me forever I doubt I will remember much about the Balka work this time next year. This was the first time I had been to the Tate Mod in ages, and I was disappointed to note that the Seagram paintings were nowhere to be seen, their usual room inhabited again by work by the Viennese Aktionists. I learnt that the Rothkos are currently on display at the Tate up in Liverpool but they will return in March.
So today is Sunday and once again I’m not writing about classical music, for which I apologise, but I will mention that the only music that I did hear this weekend was classical, on Radio 3. There was a programme on as I rested on the bed about the Brodsky Quartet, and I tuned in as they played Schubert’s wonderful Quartettsatz and then combined with another quartet to perform an Octet for strings written by Mendelssohn. I listened to, and enjoyed this piece a lot until exhaustion got the better of me and I fell asleep, but I will seek out a recording of the work to listen to tomorrow. I know little about Mendelssohn.
So that’s it a great, tiring but enlivening weekend. Back to work and music tomorrow.