Category Archives: Art

Bitchface: The Masterworks

Just a quick note to say that the tumblr blog Bitchface: The Masterworks is just about the best thing ever. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys bitchfaces and/or art. Check it out.

Festive Street Art: Santa-Hatting the River Nile

In central Copenhagen, at Søtorvet, there’s a bronze copy of the marble statue The River Nile from the 1st century, escavated in 16th century Rome. A bearded man is supposed to represent the river itself, and he is surrounded by 16 infants playing on his body,  symbolizing the number of feet (16) the Nile was believed to rise annually, fertilizing Lower Egypt. There’s a similar statue of The River Tiber situated across the street from the Nile sculpture.

Some street artist must have figured that just because one is tasked with representing the flow of a northeastern African river, one should not have to miss out on the festivity of the season. In any case he or she has carefully created Santa hats to fit the sculptural babies. I just spotted this today and was so charmed that I pulled my bicycle out of very heavy traffic in order to snap a few pictures:
Nilen1

Look!

Nilen2

Adorable!

Nilen3

Thanks for warming my heart as well as the heads of several bronze infants, unknown street artist.

Philip Glass: Geometry of Circles

I saw this for the first time today:

Absolutely mesmerising. Once again I regret that I did not grow up watching Sesame Street which did not air in my country during my childhood years. What a wonderful educational programme, always with a sense of beauty or humour to it.

O Come Let Us Adore Him

Time flies when  you’re busy, and suddenly the advent season is upon us. What better way to celebrate than to revel in the marvel in the freaky-looking, awkward, weirdly propotioned, leering Christ-children and cherubs of the middle ages and the renaissance?

"Uh, ma'am? Ma'am, your child has freakishly long arms for a newborn." says that donkey. From the murals of Fanefjord Church, Denmark.

The Tumblr blog Ugly Renaissance Babies, brought to my attention by Danish blogger Sofisten, makes such revelling easy, featuring the likeness of a new unattractive infant on an almost daily basis.

Enjoy!

“Life is a dance we must learn” – Reviewing The Forsyte Saga

As promised in a recent entry, here’s a separate post about the 2002 adaptation of John Galworthy’s The Forsyte Saga. I watched it just before Christmas and then I brought it back to my parents and ended up watching the whole thing again over Christmas, because my mum wanted to see it, too.

This was no great sacrifice for me – watching the entire series again so soon. I loved the series. Telling the story of the extended Forsyte family from the year 1874 to 1920, The Forsyte Saga recounts a saga of love, marriage, sex, violence, spite, and friendship, all with the tumultuous fin-de-siècle/early-20th-century events as its riveting backdrop. Main character Soames Forsyte (Damian Lewis) marries the beautiful, artistic Irene Heron (Gina McKee), who doesn’t love him. At the same time, Soames’ cousin Jolyon divorces his wife in order to pursue a relationship with his daughter’s governess Helène. This becomes the on-set of a series of events and feuds that come to hold significance for the fate of the family.

Damian Lewis
No expenses seem to have been spared in this mini-series adaptation by ITV from 2002-2003 – it is a piece of quality. This comes through possibly most importantly in the casting of the series which is almost perfect and presents a line of incredible actors. The best of these is, to me, Damian Lewis as Soames. As I’ve declared before I have fallen hopelessly in love with Soames Forsyte, and I am certain that I have Damian Lewis to thank for this. John Galsworthy himself found that while Soames could easily be called the villain of the story, it is hard not to sympathise with him at least a little, and Damian Lewis conveys this beautifully. His Soames is not a “tortured man” like the clichés you find in bad romance stories, and Lewis leaves nothing ambigious in the infamous scene in which Soames rapes his wife. But more than anything he comes across as a pitiful man whose empathical limitations allow him to be caught tragically uncomfortably between two worlds – Victorian England and a new, modern world.

He's not too hard on the eyes either. But that's a different story...

Damian Lewis depicted this conflict so well by way of his brilliantly awkward body language, and also by his absolutly incredible ability to portray an aging man. 31-32 two years of age while the series was being shot, Damian Lewis somehow manages to convincingly embody Soames’ character from being in his late twenties to being a man of sixty-something. The make-up does a lot here of course, but Damian Lewis does most of the work, gradually and very subtly changing his acting as the series progresses.

“Moments are given, then gone”
And I feel that this is the over-all conflict that the series manages to convey so well: This conflict of being caught between two different eras. Focusing mostly on romantic relationships between men and women, the series depicts the marital problems that arose in a time when appearances and reality started to become visibly arbitrary. Irene, married to Soames Forsyte, dances in public at a formal ball with her lover, but at the same time her husband owns her to the point where she is not even free to prosecute him if he violently rapes her. And her lover is her and her husband’s architect of all people; the man who is designing the married couple’s supposed love nest. Soames’ sister Winifred lives in a lovely, but nearly empty house because her husband gambles up all their money. Jolyon lives for many years with his mistress and has two children with her, but can never marry her until his first wife dies.

It’s as if all these characters are caught in a time that they can’t quite keep up with, and the theme is there even in the beautiful and lusciously detailed art direction. The art director has made sure to make clocks play an important part in the cinematography, and the camera focuses not infrequently on pocket watches, grandfather clocks or the dialers of sitting room clocks, their hands moving steadily while an increasing web of lines and wrinkles trace the faces of our bewildered characters.

Teddy Bear-like Jolyon, Statuesque Irene
The other actors deserve mention as well; Rupert Graves is a lovely Jolyon, every bit as kind-looking with his brown eyes as Soames is cold-looking with his icy blue. Yet Graves also leaves room for a teddy bear-like clumsy helplessness that ensures that Jolyon doesn’t become a hero: Good as Jolyon is, he is not a man of action, and revolutionary as his ideals may be, he is still living off of his conservative family’s fortune.

If Jolyon is Soames’ counterpoint then surely his energetic June is the poised Irene’s, and Gillian Kearney plays June’s part beautifully. Quick-tempered yet fair, she never quite captures the hearts of the men in her life, but she easily gains the viewers’ sympathy.

Amanda Root is a wonderful actress and a joy to behold as Winifred, and Lee Williams is pretty and appropriately vague as the indecisive Jon who fails to find the strenght put the family’s problematic past behind him.

The only part of the casting – and the series as a whole – that I wasn’t completely sold on was the casting of Irene. Almost every review of the Forsyte Saga mentions this as a problem and some even state that Gina McKee’s Irene ruined the series for them, because they couldn’t see why all the men would fall in love with her, or that they downright hated Irene in this adaptation. I wouldn’t go that far; I do see where they were going with this particular Irene. Gina McKee fits the aesthetic ideal of the late 19th century with her tall, lean body, her pale skin, narrow face and watery eyes. She rather reminds me of impressionist works like this one:

Paul Gauguin: Portrait of a Young Girl

In that context, it makes sense for the male characters to be smitten with Irene – she’s like a fin-de-siècle cover girl. However, there’s still something missing in McKee’s Irene in order for this to work. McKee’s Irene becomes too much of a picture, I think, and there is not enough life in her. Even before her character is unhappily married to Soames she seems cold and rigid. She’s statuesque, but to the point of inanimity. Irene states several times that she loves to dance, but McKee doesn’t really have a dancers disposition and comes across as gawky and awkward on the dance floor rather than bewitchingly sensual. In her best moments McKee was slightly similar to Gillian Anderson in Bleak House, and I couldn’t help thinking that Anderson might have been a better, more vibrant and sensual choice for Irene’s part.

But as I said, this in no way ruined the series for me. It’s a wonderful series and very recommendable. It’s a document of a time in history that changed our entire culture, and it’s a moving, timeless story of the difficulties of love and marriage.

Overheard at the Public Library

I was having a bad day today. No particular reason, really – I actually had an oral exam today, thus completing a project management course I’ve been taking, and I even did quite well at it. But I was in a lousy mood  all the same, and then I got hit by a car. I’m alright, nothing happened, the driver was ok, too, and was really nice and apologetic about it, but still. Hit by a freakin’ car. That’s a bad day, right there.

Anyway, when I was hit by that car I was on my way to the public library, and I’m glad I went, because I had an experience that really brightened my day and basically made it worth it to have been hit by that car. It started when my eyes were caught by the cover of a book that the librarians had, for reasons beyond me, put on display. The book was this:

(VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED! RACY COVER ART AHOY!)

(NO, SERIOUSLY, IF YOU’RE NOT YET 18 OR JUST REALLY SENSITIVE, STOP SCROLLING.  THERE BE SEMI-VISIBLE NIPPLES AND STUFF.)

(OKAY, BUT I DID WARN YOU)

“Werewolf in a Thong”, the title reads, in Danish. Werewolf. In a thong.

This would have been enough to make my day, in and of itself. Clearly this cover is worthy of a Judge a Book entry, and I was delighted to see someone within the New Gothic Fiction Industry who seems to acknowledge that, yes, they’re basically just writing porn there. Vampire and werewolf porn, yes, but essentially porn. Like, “Yeah, we know that some readers appreciate the fact that we reference and imitate a certain literary genre that dates back to the 18th century. But we also realise that most of our readers are just waiting for that vampire to take off his shirt and get freaky”.

But then it got even better, because scarcely had I moved on from admiring this amazing piece of cover art, before I heard the following conversation behind me:

Five-or-six-year-old boy: “Mummy, what’s that?”
Mother: “Um, it’s… It’s a werewolf.”
Five-or-six-year-old boy: “Ah, ok. So, the body is human, and…” *voice trembling with delight* “Butt-cheeks!!”
Mother: “Yes. But we have to go pick up that book now, the library’s closing in ten minutes.” *starts to drag off boy*
Five-or-six-year-old boy: “But I want to look at butt-cheeks!!”
Mother: “No, we have to-”
Five-or-six-year-old: “Butt-cheeks!!!
Mother: *sigh* “Ok, fine. Tell you what: I‘ll go loan my book. And you can stay here, and you can look at the butt-cheeks.”

Awesome.

Euphemism

I love my blog stats. And I have to say that I find it completely adorable that someone found my blog by googling the words “Ladies with no clothes on at all”. I imagine that this person really wanted to type in “naked chickzz” or something like that, but then at the last minute he or she decided that that was too crude, and went with “Ladies with no clothes on”. But then he or she just really, really wanted to emphasise the nude aspect of it, and thus added the “at all”.

I’m almost kind of sad to think how disappointed this person must have been with what he/she found here. I believe that the only ladies with no clothes on at all I have ever featured are Bernini’s Proserpine and Rembrandt’s Susanna.