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Monday, 30 September 2013

BOOKS: Extract by Freya Stark on Syria

In its urban life, Syria was probably the most civilised of the Roman provinces.
There were schools everywhere and Syrian doctors were invited by Shapur to his medical school in Susiana.  The great jurists, Ulpian and Papinian, were Syrians, and the law-school of Berytus (Beirut) drew scholars from all over the East.  Antioch was renowned for philosophy and poetry, Emesa, Damascus and Chalcis for rhetoric, Apamea and Laodiceia (Latakia) for medicine, Palmyra for art, Sidon for astronomy; the list could be enriched and prolonged.  The best workers in bronze were in Sidon; a guild of gold-and silversmiths in Palmyra; and Diocletian's armament factories in Antioch even in Caesar's day, and Ascalon and Gaza wines continued to reach Gaul under the Merovingians: the international span of Syrian commerce was very long indeed.
The spread of philosophy too was largely Syrian at this time. The greatness of Plotinus (A.D. 205-262) was preceded by the Posidonius of Apamea, and followed by Porphyry of Tyre and Iamblichus of Chalcis; and after Origen---an Alexandrian settled in Acre---and the Greek fathers, and the School of Cappadocia, Syrian theology reached the farthest west with a Syrian first archbishop of Canterbury, and produced a series of Syrian popes for Rome.

Tempus erat

Friday, 27 September 2013

TRAVEL / ART: Venice

The iconic church by Palladio on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore has Venice's most handsome campanile - a monastery of Benedictine monks, it is home to the Fondazione Georgio Cini, and has exhibition halls, which this summer, showed Marc Quinn.

His sculptures of people with missing limbs, paintings of great emotional impact.  On the quay, giant bronze shells - glowing golden - and some huge, very disturbing carvings of embryos carved in massive blocks of stone.
A quieter note is struck by an exhibition of Napoleone Martinuzzi's work in glass, executed by Venini 1925-1931 - wondrous, beautiful, immensly decorative, some huge and lustrous.

An installation by 
Not Vital: 700 Snowballs created by Alma Zevi is extraordinary - last chance to catch it this weekend - until September 29. 

To quote: ''700 Snowballs is an installation consisting of 700 individually blown glass balls which bear striking resemblance to snowballs suspended in the air...The installation creates a place of meditation, evoking the metamorphic, transformative and cyclical processes of nature".  

Thursday, 26 September 2013

COMMENT: Medecins Sans Frontieres

Unless you do so already, please support Medecins Sans Frontieres....
a life-saving and terrific charity.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

LIVING BY DESIGN: Claridges Hotel, London

When asked to refurbish some two hundred rooms, it seemed propitious to keep to the Art Deco style that predominated. Furniture of the period was scattered throughout the 200 or so rooms.  The tradition of lighting a log fire was encouraged, the original Art Deco bathroom fittings were kept intact or restored appropriately. 
Following are images from a small suite

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

POETRY: Mr Apollinax by T.S. Eliot

When Mr. Apollinax visited the United States
His laughter tinkled among the teacups.
I thought of Fragilion, that shy figure among the birch-trees,
And of Priapus in the shrubbery
Gaping at the lady in the swing.
In the palace of Mrs. Phlaccus, at Professor Channing-Cheetah’s
He laughed like an irresponsible foetus.
His laughter was submarine and profound
Like the old man of the sea’s
Hidden under coral islands
Where worried bodies of drowned men drift down in the green silence,
Dropping from fingers of surf.
I looked for the head of Mr. Apollinax rolling under a chair

Or grinning over a screen
With seaweed in its hair.
I heard the beat of centaur’s hoofs over the hard turf
As his dry and passionate talk devoured the afternoon.
“He is a charming man”—“But after all what did he mean?”—
“His pointed ears... He must be unbalanced."

Monday, 16 September 2013

TRAVEL: Latvia

A Baltic beach

Pilgrimage to a Great Great Grandmother's grave in Latvia... romantic and mysterious.

Photography by NW / SP / CP

Saturday, 14 September 2013

MUSIC: Glyndebourne

A coveted invitation to Glyndebourne - yet again - the last week of its glorious Festival of 2013.

I saw 'Don Pasquale' by Donizetti, lovely singing, a great conductor, the tunes a ravishment.

Founded in 1934, Glyndebourne is a unique national treasure and a triumph to this day.  Eviva the Christies père et fils and their consorts!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

ARCHITECTURE: Geoffrey Bawa [1919-2003]

The Sri Lankan architect, whose style 'Tropical Modernism' has been a huge influence on Far Eastern architecture and, by now, on anywhere the sun shines and palm trees drop their coconuts.  As different architectural styles are absorbed and fan out, it is easy to forget where or who originated them. [see my blog entries of April 5, 2011 and Dec 12, 2012] 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

BOOKS: Extracts from The Government of the Tongue by Seamus Heaney published by Faber and Faber

What does poetry do?  Heaney quotes the Polish poet Anna Swir:

And thus the government of the tongue gains our votes, and Anna Swir's proclamation (which at first may have sounded a bit overstated) comes true in the sensation of reading even a poet as shy of bardic presumption as Elisabeth Bishop:

A poet becomes then an antenna capturing the voices of the world, a medium expressing his own subconscious and the collective subconscious.

...Here is the great paradox of poetry and of the imaginative arts in general.  Faced with the brutality of the historical onslaught, they are practically useless.  Yet they verify our singularity, they strike and stake out the ore of self which lies at the base of every individuated life.  In one sense the efficacy of poetry is nil - no lyric has ever stopped a tank.  In another sense, it is unlimited.  It is like the writing in the sand in the face of which accusers and accused are left speechless and renewed.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

LIVING BY DESIGN: Chester Square, London 1970's

A two-sided John Stefanidis brown sofa, JS cloud tables in chrome, a Cy Twombly painting, pinoleum blinds on the windows.  In the foreground, a Bokhara rug and a wicker and chrome chair designed by Mies van der Rohe 

A Wesselman painting on the landing [left], a Zanotta brown leather kneeling chair and JS brown velvet sofa, chrome JS cloud tables

Friday, 6 September 2013

POETRY: Rupert Brooke [1887-1915]


How should I know? The enormous wheels of will
Drove me cold-eyed on tired and sleepless feet.
Night was void arms and you a phantom still,
And day your far light swaying down the street.
As never fool for love, I starved for you;
My throat was dry and my eyes hot to see.
Your mouth so lying was most heaven in view,
And your remembered smell most agony.

Love wakens love! I felt your hot wrist shiver
And suddenly the mad victory I planned
Flashed real, in your burning bending head. . . .
My conqueror's blood was cool as a deep river
In shadow; and my heart beneath your hand
Quieter than a dead man on a bed.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

LIVING BY DESIGN: A Hallway in an Athens Penthouse

Pyramid paintings by Millington-Drake. 195o's floor lights. Marble table by Angelo Mangiarotti.  Glass sculpture by Niyoko Ikuta.  

Sunday, 1 September 2013

ART I ADMIRE: Edward Burra [1905 -1976]

A very British painter who is not widely known, he painted in watercolour and I think only one oil painting as he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and watercolour brushes are lighter.  Very much of his period, witty, frivolous as only people who are profound can be. Synchronicity - I went to Rye only last week - Burra's home town. Watch the BBC's 'I Will Never Tell Anybody Anything' - The Life & Art of Edward Burra - by Adrian Graham Dixon.