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erotic robots and overstuffed pheasants

This morning, I meant to post: "I'm drinking a cup of afternoon tea and it isn't even the afternoon! I'm so mad!" I'd waited ages to do so, because I almost never find that I want my afternoon tea (it's flavoured with jasmine and bergamot) in the morning. Usually I have moroccan mint tea (blended green tea and crushed mint leaves) instead. But when the moment came, it didn't seem funny anymore. And now I'm on my second cup, and it's the afternoon now, and I'm tidily into the banal.

Again with the splintered eye. I'd get an eye test, but what's wrong with me isn't in my eyes. It's in my brain.
So I didn't go to Glastonbury (and I really wish my co-workers would stop asking me how it was) but soothed my misery by going to London instead, and visited those two exhibitions I'd been meaning to get round to.

First up, the twisted lines and snobbish smoothery of dirty rich bitch Tamara de Lempicka (RA) the bisexual baroness who knew what she liked and considered all else ugly. Popular with fashion victims and fascists ... why do I like her again? Oh yes, the women and men, the beautiful people. Up close, what struck me most were the intimate and individual details; nailpolish, slightly grown out, professionally personal jewels, slightly lopsided lips curved around tantrumish pouts, specific lines and planes of flesh (crease of an armpit, the line of the ulna) selected for emphasis and celebration ... and always those filthy sideways looks, that made you somehow complicit with these smooth-faced monsters, a proper perverse dialogue with the rich, and corruptibly cruel.

For a major restrospective, it was meanly small, just three rooms (four, if you stretched a point) and there were a few very notable omissions. But apparently, she is mostly owned by Jack Nicholson nowadays ... Most serious critics slag her off, and perhaps rightly so. It's possible that the passion I see crawling out from under her technique, terror and tantrums is only in my head.

The final room was especially miserable. I found myself muttering, under my breath; you should not have got married, you should have gone to war. But that's me being selfish, not caring about her life, just wanting her as an artist.

Current mood of google: get on your bike, get off your RSS.
Then it was the turn of bloody Vivienne Westwood, who has two massive, and I mean HUGE rooms at the V&A right now, stretching all the way from the strident clothesripper trailing potty-mouthed punk bands to the fantasy clotheshaped princess with her naked boyfriend-on-a-string. As someone short, fat and ugly, this style of fashion has very little to say to me; a bit like Tamara's portraits of the rich, I'm here in a strictly observatory capacity. So I observe: ancient linen punk shirts hanging miraculously preserved, like profane turin shrouds; comments on the proper construction of pirate pants that may come in handy later; power-dressing suits that have been padded and bumcaged to give fashion models just the right amount of curviness, one made of white latex; summer dresses crawling with jewelled insects (including some very creepy snails); corsets designed to look like naked bodies, art, chocolate boxes; a tartan hat topped by a (real) pheasant that's been stuffed so badly it looks encephalitic ... At this point we start laughing at the poor pheasant and eventually have to leave. On the way out, there's just time to buy a badge. It's been a lot of fun.

On the way out of the V&A we hit an urban current which swept us past; the Olympic Flame, being carried by um I'm not sure really, the Natural History Museum gardens, currently full of life-sized animal statues, the freshly-cleaned Albert Memorial (garish), ducks and tiny goslings on the serpentine, a waterfall, a huge complicated rose garden full of sleeping tramps and disturbing fountains (where the red arrows flew overhead, leaving smears of coloured smoke in the sky), and eventually deposited us on a sofa in an air-conditioned basement on Oxford Street.

We got out the books and looked at Tamara's women, their monolithic deco curves, heavy arms, flat dead eyes, glistening swirls of fabric hard as folded metal, the air and city solidifying and fracturing around them, incurious and uncaring as stone robots, unstoppable beautiful fashion machines.

Maybe the problem with them is that they look like they just don't care what anyone else thinks.


( 13 worms — Feed the birds )
29th Jun, 2004 09:18 (UTC)
tidily into the banal
I love your way with words. This has been a most satisfying post.
30th Jun, 2004 02:43 (UTC)
em, thanks
... sorry I've not been doing so much on dropandgiveme50 recently, I keep leaving it till the end of the working day and then forgetting ...
30th Jun, 2004 08:44 (UTC)
Re: em, thanks
well, me too! I always note the word, sometimes write it on a sticky and put it in my bag meaning to come back to it later; without fail, in two weeks almost to the minute, i'll reach my hand into my bag and pull out a note to myself that says "starveling".
29th Jun, 2004 09:32 (UTC)
Tamara de Lempicka
I just saw her stuff for the first time a few months ago at the Art Deco exhibit at the Palace of Legion of Honor here.

Was a neat exhibit, including the electrified stairway entrance to The Strand.

The jewelry was unavoidably gaudy from that era though. Oh well.
30th Jun, 2004 02:44 (UTC)
gaudy times
the pictures, I think, are more familiar than the names. Like you've seen them somewhere ...
29th Jun, 2004 10:09 (UTC)
From the newsnight page that you linked to:

"For me, it is not my business to decide who is a feminist icon, but for me, I found her figures to be very masculine... And that is not what my instincts draw me towards - my instincts draw me towards things that are feminine."

Yes, to be a feminist icon, one must truly also be domestic goddess, none of this nasty virago business... but seriously, her work does seem more subversive than it is usually given credit for precisely because of this. Consider the portrait of the Duchess De La Salle, for example.
30th Jun, 2004 03:01 (UTC)
hmf, yes
What a lot of b*ll*cks they were talking -- and Greer and Self, too, who are usually people I enjoy listening to ...

I'm not sure her pictures are "feminine" or "masculine" --- maybe they draw more on an intersexual or (heaven forbid) queer aesthetic, where people can be beautiful without having to be aggressively gendered.

Though, it has to be said, I do think her painting are ... well, feminine, with its connotations of prissiness and frilliness, isn't the right word, but intensely female, while still being fleshy, solid and very much there.

And that's a nice contrast to the usual floaty sylph-like deco lady with her legs ten miles long, individuality neatly tucked back into her fashionable bob, and just the barest suggestion of curves.
29th Jun, 2004 10:38 (UTC)
I Didn't Go AGAIN Today!
Why am I avoiding a free visit to Vivienne? I guess as an extreme example of short, fat & ugly, her stuff is kind of a smack in the face,or irrevelant at best, but it IS fun, and reminds me of jolly times and people I liked in those days. Plus, I don't usually object to artifacts of the cute and solvent. I'd quite like to take in Tamara just 'cos she IS so decadent, creepy and reptilian-)
Maybe tomorrow...
30th Jun, 2004 03:08 (UTC)
irrelevant but marvellously mad
... the earlier stuff is good-times galore, the newer stuff looks like it's come from another planet. I laugh at it, but love it, too.

There's also a display of "artist's sheds" in the V&A garden (they're calling it the other flower show or something like that) ... some of them are rather dull (cough Tracey Emin) but some of the others left me with serious shed envy.
3rd Aug, 2004 06:26 (UTC)
Re: irrelevant but marvellously mad
Yeah, I kinda liked the one with the camera obscura inside, and the one you mentioned with the blotting paper. Sheds are so fine...I 'd like to have a garden just so I could put a shed in it.
4th Aug, 2004 02:13 (UTC)
this whole comments trawl thing
is putting time quite out of joint.

One of those sheds would entirely fill my garden (and be a much better use of the space than what's out there currently).

The camera obscura was closed when we were there.
30th Jun, 2004 06:00 (UTC)
Perhaps it's the bright colours and stylised lines, a hint of cartoonyness never fails to bring out the snob in art critics.
They're also all reasons why I love her art, that and the mechanistic feel of them. (Hair like rolls of copper, aluminium clothes.) But I have a fondness for mechanistic Art Deco art anyway.
Is it too foolish a hope that the display will travel up north? :-(
30th Jun, 2004 07:08 (UTC)
alas, it is going South
.. and will next be seen at the Kunstforum in Vienna.
( 13 worms — Feed the birds )