Sunday 1 May 2022

Forty Years

DC and I visited the Granary Gallery in Berwick on Saturday and saw an exhibition of prints from various artists. Details from MutualArt website:

The Printed Line showcases the work of nearly 60 artists who have used a variety of printmaking techniques to exploit the potential of the printed line, from the thick velvety line of drypoint and the heavy cross-hatching of etching to delicate wood engraving and boldly coloured screenprints. The use of colour will be explored in screenprints by Bridget Riley and Kenneth Martin, as well as Simon Patterson’s witty lithograph, which reworks the lines of the London tube map.

The exhibition features a number of celebrated artists, spanning the 20th century to the present day, including: Walter Sickert’s masterly cross-hatched etching The Old Middlesex (c.1910), Ben Nicholson’s rich drypoint Halse Town 1949 (1949), a bold etching by Eduardo Chillida and David Hockney’s pared-down linear etchings.

All the prints in this exhibition are from the Arts Council Collection, which is the largest loan collection of modern and contemporary British art and includes fine examples of work by all of this country’s most prominent artists.

We'd not researched this exhibition and I'd no expectations arriving at the gallery.

The following print by Hockney I found delightful. More naturalistic than the stylistic work which has become his trademark, and dated 1966 just before the 1967 sexual offences act, the picture conveys a beautiful and gentle connection between the two men depicted. This connection, clearly post coital, is one of calm peaceful presence - the men are at one with themselves and each other - spiritually speaking, sex has done its work; union at multiple levels flows between them.

Returning home I listened to Shine on You Crazy Dimond by Pink Floyd and let Spotify wander off to play what it considers related tracks. The Spotify algorithms seemed to get it right for me and played stuff which fitted my mood. A mood which has been growing over the past day or so. I'd captured part of it over lunch before we went to the gallery in a conversation with DC as follows: I was 12 in 1979 shortly after the general election which brought Thatcher to power. Effectively as I started leaving childhood and developing more adult ways of thinking neoliberalism was taking a pernicious hold and aided by the industrial woes of the time, perhaps one might say under cover of those woes, it would dismantle and redirect the zeitgeist. It could have all been so different, a progressive, inclusive left, focused on improving life for the many, taking due consideration of emerging environmental understanding and building on and cherishing the progress made in the earlier post war period both those immediately following the war and those of the 1960's, might have taken the need for individual freedoms and woven them into a collective engagement rather than exploited greed as a vehicle for all that has inevitably unfolded as did the right.

Sensitive and in many ways the classic gay boy I'd hated competitive sport and was painfully aware I think of the vulnerability of human life as a child. In another version of the universe things might have unfolded so as to be fertile ground for such a child to blossom. But in the one we're in the ground would be more grist to the mill... a feeling of going against the grain or bumping over the tracks has been I think, an underlying current throughout most of my life. Doubtless we all feel this in some way at some times but that turn in direction in 1979 has I feel, set things in a mode ill conceived and tiring. 

I suppose I'm indulging in a fantasy that some fictitious alternative history would have been more fulfilling. This is dukkha. However, there's more here than tanha. Desire as I've said before isn't so simple - it has its pitfalls but without it where are we? What's important here is a feeling of connection with one's integrity. At the moment conditions are challenging me greatly and so connection with my integrity is essential. What does this mean? At present it means acknowledging the fears, being with the thoughts and feelings and giving life time. Time to let deepest desire become clear through the fear, not to let only part of experience fill awareness. Being with and not judging, not trying to control but still having care. I'm blessed to have DC with me. He's so steady and a natural optimist. His mind and heart are of the very best. Together we allow each other to be the very best, the very most we might be. This is the unfolding of deepest desire. What do I mean by deepest here? I mean life's desire to be - to exist to create. In our depths we know what is good, we recognise it by its warmth. We know beauty, wonder and peace. Perhaps that fantasy of an alternative history isn't so much an indulgence as a reminder that we need to remember our humanity. That I think is what has been almost totally abandoned by neoliberalism. And the kick back is seen in populism. You might find calling anything an 'ism problematic - any definition by nature is partial, we know that. But I think the use here is a convenient and reasonable shorthand. In truth I have faired well economically and I'm grateful for that. I see the progress made through my lifetime, I was remember, born about the time of the picture above in1967 the year of the sexual offences act and looking about it's plain that much of the 'revolution' of the '60's has come to pass. Much is good. Yet many of the traditional political ills play out - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. What is delightful in the picture above is how we see the hubbub, the drama, the travails, all that,  fall away... and left is being, being together. Being together with DC continues to deepen and I'm grateful for that. Being, doing, intention, time / timelessness and our creativity... These I think are present in the Hockney picture above. And implicit I think is a message about an individuals truth - that they can only be who they are. This would come over in a depiction of any couple in unity but it's more stated in a work showing two gay men drawn in 1966. It's nice as per my previous post to see that this last point has faded - that a work showing two gay men is no longer as significant. Progress has been made and depending upon your politics you'll say either because of or in spite of the individualism which has marked the past forty years. It's a complex picture.