David Hockney, Terence Conran, and me…

IT’s confusing but is it a crime for a socialist to be interested in retail? Whatever, I am both! It’s probably genetic, not to say even a bit Marxist! Each time a department store or other shop opens, I like to be there.

Terence Conran visited each of his ‘Habitats’ launched throughout Britain in the 80s. So it was in the Chester branch, he exclaimed, “you snob,” when I told him, how now anyone could buy a print, David Hockney would no longer be my favourite artist.

But on Friday/Saturday I’m off to indulge in more of this old Yorkshireman’s brilliance at the Barbara Hepworth award winning gallery in Wakefield.

Lilies

In 1958 Alan Davie, Scots painter and musician had his first solo exhibition at Wakefield Art Gallery, which went on to tour nationally and launched Davie’s career. A young attendee at the Wakefield exhibition was David Hockney, then a student at Bradford College of Art!

The exhibition was a pivotal influence on Hockney’s artistic development and shortly after this visit, Hockney moved to London to take up a place at the Royal College of Art. Here he discarded, as Davie had, realist figurative painting in favour of colourful, gestural works that combined abstraction with coded text and symbolism.

Hockney:hepworth

The exhibition will bring together around 45 paintings and works on paper by Alan Davie and David Hockney, many of which have not been seen publicly for decades. It will trace the parallel paths of these key figures of post-war British painting, revealing creative convergences and shared themes of passion, poetry and love as their works of art evolved from figuration to abstraction.

Thanks to Conran, everyone knows Hockney. Now I’m about discover Davie who sounds like renaissance man!  Musically, Davie played piano, cello, and bass clarinet. In the early 1970s his interest in free improvisation led to a close association with the percussionist Tony Oxley. His paintings have also inspired music by others, notably the bassist and composer Barry Guy.

Set within the context of 1960s counterculture and the popularisation of art through diverse new forms of media, the exhibition represents an exciting moment in British art and the emergence of a radical new art world. Told you so. It’s why Hockney was my favourite until no longer radical, through the 80’s retail fiascos, I dropped him and went back to Picasso!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have to talk about Jeremy!

Cinema Fashionista

The BRITISH LABOUR PARTY, the largest political group in Europe, has over 512,000 members with more joining since this figure was published a couple of weeks ago.

Why is this?  It’s because Jeremy Corbyn has instigated the most radical form of democratisation to the Labour Party since Aristotle’s reforms in Athens.

Jeremy Corbyn’s inclusive strategies mean the Labour Party is equipped to handle the REAL CHANGE which happens because of exponential development of technology and its impact on industry.   LABOUR’s manifesto is researched and delivered by specialists from among its 512,000 members across the UK.

Economists from among LABOUR’s ranks have costed every part of the manifesto. ‘The Financial Times’ on November 30th, announced,  “It seems clear to us that the Labour Party has not only understood the deep problems we face, but has devised serious proposals for dealing with them. We believe it deserves to form the next government.”

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We have to talk about Jeremy!

The BRITISH LABOUR PARTY, the largest political group in Europe, has over 512,000 members with more joining since this figure was published a couple of weeks ago.

Why is this?  It’s because Jeremy Corbyn has instigated the most radical form of democratisation to the Labour Party since Aristotle’s reforms in Athens.

Jeremy Corbyn’s inclusive strategies mean the Labour Party is equipped to handle the REAL CHANGE which happens because of exponential development of technology and its impact on industry.   LABOUR’s manifesto is researched and delivered by specialists from among its 512,000 members across the UK.

Economists from among LABOUR’s ranks have costed every part of the manifesto. ‘The Financial Times’ on November 30th, announced,  “It seems clear to us that the Labour Party has not only understood the deep problems we face, but has devised serious proposals for dealing with them. We believe it deserves to form the next government.”

Jeremy Corbyn is able to achieve this life saving potential because of his charmed childhood. His parents not only liked him, but included him in their campaigns for peace, love and fairness. He in turn is loved and admired by his children who all work towards kindness and decency for everyone.

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FASHION, DISTINCTION, DEMOCRACY

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IT’s possible that Fashion’s power reached its zenith when Kate Middleton married the heir to the British dynastic throne of the United Kingdom in April 2011.

Prince William had fallen in love with her, it was said, as she paraded down the catwalk at a charity Fashion show in their shared university town of St. Andrew’s, near Edinburgh, in Scotland.

Roland Barthes, the 20th century French philosopher and voyeur would have been fascinated by how the signs of the harem had transmitted themselves to a virile young royal.

Realising that the written garment is made by publicists and journalists, created through words, Barthes was interested in the way sign systems produce not clothing, not women, but the abstract notion of Fashion. He saw any number of extra meanings in everyday gestures and images. His genius was to write about them in a kind of reverse poetry; to reconstitute rather than condense.

Arch flâneur, he was consumed with a passion for observation. Speaking of Fashion as a ‘cross-subsidising organism’, he was enchanted by its vivacity, seeing it as a living thing. He thought it could do two things at once; extend everyone’s access to clothes, while making each wearer feel distinctive.

He writes of modern democracy, as if it were a universal given. In mid 20th century Paris it may have felt quite near.  Now not so much!

Thoroughly Modern Gentleman Jack!

IT’s 1832 in West Yorkshire, England — the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. Landowner Anne Lister is determined to save her faded ancestral home, Shibden Hall, near Halifax. To do this she must flaunt society’s expectations, coming out as benevolent employer,  international play girl and astute businesswoman!

In America, Levi Strauss was patenting the rivets on his blue denim jeans as Karl Marx ‘s primary school in Trier was closed down for employing liberal humanists as teachers! So it’s not so surprising that Sally Wainwright’s spectacular television drama, ‘Gentleman Jack’, has such a Modern feel to it!

In addition to reopening her Calderdale coal mines,  part of Lister’s plan is to ‘marry’ well.  However the single-minded, charismatic, Lister,  dressed head-to-toe in black and played with consummate panache by Suranne Jones, charms her way into high society and has no intention of marrying a man!

‘Gentleman Jack’ examines Lister’s relationships with her family, servants, tenants and industrial rivals, and would-be wife. The real-life Anne Lister’s story was recorded in her diaries, and the most intimate details of her life are revealed for the series.Header_2490173_1.1-1023x1024

Lover and fellow landowner, Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) tormented with the battle to reconcile her sexuality, in a hostile world, suffers depression and anxiety.  The brilliant ‘Insight’ team in Halifax must be shocked at how we treated each other in those days!

Anne Lister and her sweetheart are victims of homophobia. There are intense emotional scenes in all episodes.  The tough lives lived by Ann Lister’s tenants and the fight to stay true to herself are recreated with empathy and inspired dramatic writing by virtuoso Sally Wainwright, who also directs on this homespun mistresspiece!

To add to the glamour, authenticity, and magic of the BBC series Wainwright worked with international theatre, TV, film, opera, dance costume designer Tom Pye. He was thrilled to have exquisitely detailed descriptions of clothing on hand from Anne Lister’s own diaries. Credit for this perfect source material goes to translator and series consultant Anne Choma.  She is the historian and decrypter, I first met at a a literary festival in Huddersfield when she was beginning the mammoth project, 20 or more years ago!

OtherAnn

Don’t go Breaking my Heart

TARON Egerton in ‘Rocketman,’ the Elton John biopic, does a tremendous job in the main role, capturing John’s vocal style if not his precise sound, while Richard Madden smoulders throughout as Reid.

Dexter Fletcher’s decision to dispense with reality does have its upside. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the scene in which Elton duets with his boyhood self at the bottom of a swimming pool, bubbles escaping his nostrils as he does, or another in which the audience at an early US show literally levitate.

Irocket_man_01It’s The Dirt as envisioned by Baz Luhrmann.

MARY QUANT: Genius in action at London’s swinging V&A!

THERE’S  magic at a Mary Quant exhibition this Spring.  Quant is revealed as a genius of the Modern age in an exemplary experience at London’s V&A. Curator Jenny Lister, captures the enchantment and excitement inspired by the British designer just over half a century ago.  

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At the V&A Jenny Lister shows Quant in action, illustrating  her skills and success, with  spectacular displays of clothes from fans’ collections and donations; stylish people who’ve loved Quant since before influential 60s journalist Ernestine Carter wrote:

It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion there are three: Chanel, Dior and Mary Quant.

Travelling with Quant and her husband Alexander Plunket Green from Chester to Manchester airport in 1981, I was meeting a Fashion phenomenon.  After 25 years of continuing international success APG spontaneously praised her exceptional talent,

Mary and her team are like French couturiers. We don’t take great whacks out of the business. Our first motive is a passionate interest in the goods”.

My play for Radio 4, Thoroughly Modern Mary dramatises these early years, questioning the power balance between the Plunket Greens.  At the V&A there is new evidence to back my plotting. In dynamic film footage the couple are seen in their offices and studios running their international Fashion house in the 1960s.  APG is filmed directing staff, guiding them to assist in the operation, while Mary researches, designs, philosophises about Fashion and its impact on society. He is obviously in her thrall as he witnesses genius in action!

It was the British Post Office which confirmed Quant’s greatness when they put a little black dress on a series of stamps in 2009. No one was more surprised than Mary Quant when she found herself being celebrated with 20th century Modernists but this is exactly where she should be positioned.

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She was at the heart of the Modernist momentum and it took British Post Office to identify her worldwide influence. She was much too close to see she was interpreting an international movement. At the time of the second Bazaar opening she wrote:

“Fashion is the product of a thousand and one different things. It is a whole host of elusive ideas, influences, cross-currents and economic factors, captured into a shape and dominated by two things….impact on others, fun for oneself. It is unpredictable, indefinable. It is successful only when a woman gets a kick out of what she is wearing; when she feels marvelous and looks marvelous.”

Identifying herself with the characteristics of Modernity, Quant sees it encouraging change, embracing technologies which would make life more enjoyable for men and women:

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“It is the Mods…the direct opposite of the Rockers (who seem to be anti-everything)…who gave the dress trade the impetus to break through the fast-moving, breathtaking, up-rooting revolution in which we have played a part since the opening of Bazaar.”

For some of the forty years since his Bazaar liaison David Wynne Morgan, was chairman of Hill and Knowlton, Madmen archetype in New York. He was still working in Fashion when I met him. His first words on Quant, in December 2006, were, ‘She’s a genius’.

Staff at the V&A, delighted with the current show’s enchanting glamour agree, with  Wynne Morgan and me, that we are indeed witnessing a life and works of pure brilliance.

 

Daisy