Friday, October 01, 2010

Colours in Cambodia and Tahiti.

I went to London again yesterday (second time this week!) to Sue Guiney's book launch. It was a very successful event in the posh 'Asia House' which was in embassy territory. There were masses of people there, and it was great to see Sue's launch (which was also the launch of a new imprint Ward Wood Publishing. As well as listen to Sue's excellent readings it was a pleasure to meet other writers: some of whoms I had met before, for example Sarah Salway and Elizabeth Baines, and some of whom I had only before 'met' on-line: Tania Hershman and of course Sue Guiney herself.

Sue's launch was combined with an exhibition of photographs (which had quite stunning colours) taken by students in Anjali House which takes in street children from Cambodia.

This ties in very well with A Clash of Innocents which is about an American, Deborah, who runs an orphanage in the country.

Now Cambodia, like Korea, is somewhere I know nothing about, but judging from the photographs is a place of wide light skies and tranquil people, so I can understand Sue Guiney's imperative write about the place. Anyway, I love learning about new countries - and great to explore from the comfort of my armchair so I'm looking forward to reading it.

I explored more out of the way places in the Gauguin exhibition which had just opened in the Tate Modern in London. The pictures were thematically displayed, but this worked well because there were some excellent explanations on the wall. All I knew about Gaugin's life was from reading Somerset Maughan's The Moon and Sixpence, a long time ago.

I hadn't realised how innovative Gauguin had been. I had have long had a collection of Gauguin postcards. They seemed strange things, pictures of Breton people in costume looking at two men fighting, one of them with wings. Another showed a cross with a yellow Christ, another showed a Tahiti girl with something that looked half back fox- half human looking over her. This exhibition helped me to understand them. Gauguin was evoking dreams and prayers. He seemed to start this exploration with his children, painting what they might be dreaming, before developing the idea to portray spirituality - both Christian and Heathen.

It also helped me to appreciate Gauguin's use of colours - in both the tropics, which I knew about, but also in more temperate lands like France. There was more explanation about these in an excellent short film outside the gallery which described what Gauguin was trying to do in his own words. I learnt he was poor and lived in obscurity, but that he believed in himself and his art. He went to Tahiti to escape and to commit himself to his art, leaving behind his wife and children, and taking a young Tahiti girl in their place. She had a baby which died soon after birth, and this is painted too. His hedonistic lifestyle did not, unsurprisingly, meet with approval from the priests on the island, and he exhibited his contempt for their religion by carving an entrance to his house proclaiming it to be the house of orgasm, and guests were admitted through this into his bedroom before encountering the rest of his house.

I now feel I have greater understanding and respect for Gauguin, and feel even greater admiration of his art. It is definitely one of the better art exhibitions I have been to for some time.

Also, as part of the deal, was entry to see an exhibition called 'Exposed' which dealt with the art of the Paparazi...and all those sly pictures people take when the subject is unaware. I rather like pictures like these because I think they capture life as it is being lived - a more candid record. Although if I were a famous person I might well feel differently!


Blogger Sue Guiney said...

It was so great to meet you, Clare. Thanks so much for coming to my launch, and for this description. How wonderful to read about the Gauguin - it's so hard to get a ticket, well done you for managing it. I'm still trying.

Mon Oct 04, 10:28:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

My pleasure, Sue!

I was lucky with the Gauguin. Since I was coming to London to your launch I thought I'd see what else was on at the same time. I only realised when I was there that the 30th was, in fact, the first day it was on!. Since then, of course, it has had great (well-deserved) reviews! Well worth going IMHO. I learnt a lot.

Mon Oct 04, 01:57:00 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

The Tate's Gauguin exhibition sounds fantastic. I hope it comes around to the States eventually.

Fri Oct 08, 11:47:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

It is Paul - well worth a visit.

Tue Oct 12, 12:29:00 am  

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