Monday, November 14, 2016


Laying a floor is a bit like making a Victoria sponge - you need to mix a lot of ingredients first, place them them down in layers and wait for them to set before you can put the icing on top. Finally last weekend the blue stone tiles were laid into place and all I need to do now is fix the stone skirting tiles and do a beeswax polish to bring out the colour -but that can wait for the moment when all the windows are sanded and painted. The pictures below show both before and after with summer excavations and the autumn capping of the finished work.

The cold November nights are dark early and at the weekend with a fire in the wood stove and candles lit inside and out the gathering darkness and enfolding silence is an almost dramatic event. 

This sense of interiority that comes from being present inside a small room illuminated by natural light and in this case inner visionary light is certainly implicit in Robert Campin's small painting of the Annunciation.  Everything in the room is ordinary, quotidian, the tiled floor, the door to another room or hallway, the wooden beamed ceiling, the stone fireplace, the plain lime plastered walls, and the shuttered windows. There is calm, seclusion and receptivity in the relaxed and reading Virgin whose hand gestures inward to her heart and who modestly looks down as the angel, the only obviously supernatural presence, greets her. Here all the simple objects that furnish a room are loaded with significance if we know how to read them and like clues in a mystery point to a birth and a death in the past, present and future, both inside and outside of time. 

'To see the world in a grain of sand 
And heaven in a wild flower 
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand 
And eternity in an hour..'

'Auguries of Innocence' by William Blake

The Annunciation (Brussel version), by Robert Campin 1420–1440. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.
At Tate Modern Bhurpen Khakar's 'Yayati' offers another (deliberately and confusingly erotically ambiguous?) angelic visitation - this time one in which Puri, one of Yayati's sons, offers his youth in exchange for his father's old age. A sacred and profane image from the Mahabharata as lurid as the drunkeness of Noah in the Old Testament.

At times the paintings in the exhibition 'You Can't Please All'  remind one of David Hockney's early faux naif pop art paintings, R. B Kitaj's collage like paintings of literary and historical figures grafted on to distorted landscapes or the poems of C. P. Cavafy with their evocation of desire and memory and almost painful honesty about human encounters. These hybrid paintings fuse India in their colour and evocation of traditional and popular paintings and European religious art of early Italian Renaissance. 

Yayati returns the youth he has taken from his son Puri and returns to old age having come to a realization after years of indulgence in sense pleasures that....

....not all the food, wealth and women of the world can appease the lust of a single man of uncontrolled senses. Craving for sense-pleasures is not removed but aggravated by indulgence even as ghee poured into fire increases it....One who aspires to peace and happiness should instantly renounce craving and seek instead that which neither grows old, nor ceases - no matter how old the body may become." 


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