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.