Wednesday, 23 December 2009

On writing

I've been rediscovering a couple of favourite books lately.. Although I do have a tendency to stick with a few staple writers and perhaps don't allow myself to discover something new as often as I should, I'm all for re-reading books, and certainly for me the feeling of engaging with a book you loved the first time and have since forgotten is something I like quite a lot. The books in question are rather different on the surface yet perhaps are not all that different when considering them a little further. First up is Mrs Dalloway, seen by many as Virginia Woolf's masterpiece, an ongoing prose stream of consciousness, striving to uncover the human condition through the thoughts and emotions of a small group of characters. At its core Woolf explores the difficulties of communication and the profound effects of memories and the passing of time. The second is J.D. Salinger's couplet of short stories, Franny and Zooey. Most famous for The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey focuses on the youngest of seven children of the Glass family, a family Salinger has written numerous short stories about, and who, coincidentally, provided rather a heavy influence for Wes Anderson's film The Royal Tenenbaums (not as original as you think). This short novella is heavy with dialogue and once again describes the difficulties language has of communicating inner feelings and emotions, and also discusses the meaning of spirituality. The first part in particular is a rather poignant vignette of a couple growing ever distant, conveyed by Salinger through simple and fragmented dialogue that allows us to witness the deterioration of their closeness.

Writing often influences and informs my own work and these two books seem incredibly relevant to me right now, and perhaps this is why I've picked them up of the shelf again. Woolf's ideas of the transience of time and the significance of fragments of memory have certainly been feeding into my recent work, and the attempt by both authors to highlight the limitations of language when trying to truly express oneself is something I feel I am attempting to convey in fragmenting and distorting images.. It's almost a sensory experience that I'm trying to depict, a feeling of nostalgia or intimacy that you can't quite pin down, trying to remove the image without losing the sense of what is felt. For me it's like listening to music - a lot of the time for me the lyrics are secondary to the melodies and textures of the sound, which often stir up more feeling and emotion in me than the direct images being sung aloud by the singer.

I'm hoping to make a short film in the near future and finally use my ancient cinefilm camera and projector. I'm sure Woolf and Salinger's writing will be somewhere in the back of my mind when it happens.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

All that glitters

So, Richard Wright has won the Turner Prize. Despite my ardent support for Roger Hiorns (in my case still the rightful winner) I had a feeling Wright would swoop in and take it. Wright's piece, a giant wall painting in gold leaf, is incredibly intricate and painstakingly executed and yes, its beauty is undeniable. However I still can't get past the fact that, for me, it didn't really work in the space it sat in, and it wasn't an immersing awe-inspiring experience that everyone was claiming it to be. Admittedly Hiorns' offering wasn't necessarily as spectacular on first sight but I felt that his work contained a quiet beauty, the atomised jet engine creating a beautiful, desolate landscape that spoke of modern world materiality and that was a timely reminder of how everything eventually returns to dust. I do feel that Hiorns was let down by the fact that his most breathtaking work was half an hour away in a dilapidated flat in Elephant and Castle, sitting unaware to anyone that didn't take the time to watch the artist videos at the end. It would be nice to think that the judges took Seizure, arguably the most exciting and original art piece to be made in years, into consideration, however if they did then how did he not win? Perhaps, and this is probably just a cynical presumption, they wanted to reward the piece that showed most 'skill' in an attempt to save the prize from the many of the public and media's perception of pretentious joke (anyone else blame Martin Creed?)... That or certain members of the judging panel had a slightly predisposed bias..

Anyway, I shouldn't take away from Wright's achievement, his work has appealed to many and certainly is magnificent in its own right. It just so happened that he wasn't all my cup of tea.