Category: Art

Starry Skies, Chapter 9: Slices of Pie

I had to tell Chockney that we are done with each other. I was trying my best but it could have taken years for him to break through the iron fortress that appeared around me whenever I was in proximity with him and he started talking about commitment. I was going to let him come over and do some building work at my flat but then I had a magical third date with Harry which made me want to save my free time for him, so that meant Chockney had to be dismissed. I tried to be nice about it. I let him go.

Harry. We looked at paintings, then we had lunch, then we sat on a sofa in the book shop and looked at books about paintings. I could say a lot of things about how I felt and what I thought. Let me try instead to recall what he was saying and doing.

  • We were sleepy after lunch and when I tired of looking at books, he put his arm around me so I could rest my head on his chest.
  • If I offer him my hand, he holds it and strokes it.
  • He put his hand on my waist when we were kissing. He’s not aggressive at all. He’s very delicate and he moves slowly.
  • He made some reference to Our First Date, like it was a thing, which it was. He said happily of our three dates so far (dinner, opera, paintings) that they were all really nice days. I’m glad he’s enjoying himself, I certainly am. I would look at paintings anyway but it is so nice when you have a young companion who kisses you and says intelligent things.
  • He said that I am the first person who has had anything positive to say about his work. Everyone else he has tried to date disapproves. But it is his job. It’s a lot easier sustaining or even starting a dating relationship when the other person isn’t dead set against your job. In subsequent text messages, he was quite chatty on the subject.
  • I invited him over to my place, he is coming on Sunday. He said ‘afternoon or evening?’ and I said ‘afternoon, but don’t book anything for the evening, we’ll go out and have dinner locally’. This reply made him look happy.

When I see him, it will be our fourth date. And that’s why Chockney had to go.

We went to see Wayne Thiebaud at White Cube in Piccadilly. I absolutely love WT, he is one of my favourite artists. American post-war painting of cakes, slices of pie, sweets, lollipops, ice creams, bubble gum machines. Brush strokes are thick. Shadows are heavy and long. Lollipops lie slain. Donuts are kept in isolation. Quite often, pairs of things appear but are not allowed to have any contact. It criticises mass-produced, synthetic, post-war, commercial food at the same time as participating in it. The items are both grotesque and strangely delicious looking. I think so, anyway. I would eat most of the things painted by Wayne Thiebaud. Harry didn’t agree on this point and I expect that’s why he’s thinner than I am. The White Cube exhibition is on until 2 July. If you can’t make it to the exhibition, I might point out that there are numerous lovely books about Thiebaud here and you should probably have one for your art library.

Starry Skies, Chapter 7: Paint

Not the kind that artists use to make paintings. The kind you put on your face.

OK, first things first. Harry has finished his exams and we had our long-awaited second date. We went to the opera together, in fact we went to see the Charles Court Opera company perform The Magic Flute because I wanted to see it again and I thought he should see it as well. I was so happy that his exams are over and we can finally date like normal people.

I am a little bit self-conscious about my appearance right now because I am getting older and mostly because I weigh a massive 164 pounds due to eating too much ice cream. I am old and I am fat. Just in time for tonight’s date, I watched a YouTube beauty vlogger and realised that I have been doing my make-up all wrong, it is out of date and I use the wrong tools. There were things I hadn’t grasped about to how apply concealer correctly, also modern trends require less eyeliner but more eyebrow. I followed this girl’s tutorial as I was getting ready to go out and the result was very pretty and took 10 years off me, which I needed, due to being so fat. So if you are not 100% sure that you are doing your make-up right, or if you are just old like me, then you should watch this because she shows you the wrong way to do things and then the right way, which is so helpful. Includes contouring and highlighting.

brushes

So I went out with Harry, we both loved the opera. It was the first one he’d been to, he said it was amazing and I agreed. Then we had dinner (tuna steak, wine). Then we went to the tube station and there was kissing, he kissed me this time, slightly assertively.

Things I remember from tonight’s date:

  • The part where he said “You’re beautiful”, and placed his hand on my bare arm to reassure me and emphasise his point. I was grateful, you don’t take beauty or compliments for granted at my age. Also, I felt that Christen’s YouTube tutorial had paid off. Win.
  • The part where he took my hand so we could navigate the crowds in Islington (he did the same thing on our first date, as I recall). The surprise of having him take my hand and pull me through the crowd. The feel of his hand in mine, his slim bones.
  • The part where we were walking together and I put my arm around his narrow waist, the shape of him, slender and firm.
  • The part where we were sitting together at dinner, he was explaining complicated maths to me and his hands were trembling with barely-suppressed excitement or anxiety, not sure which.
  • The part where he didn’t try to have sex with me. The part where we agreed to meet for a third date next week, with no suggestion on either side that it needs to involve sex. Not yet. I think we are getting to know each other.

I have a little thing for him, you can tell. I wasn’t going to follow up with Chockney because I feel safer with Harry and I’m a little afraid of Chockney’s talk about relationships and commitment and not ‘being on your own’, whatever that is supposed to mean, probably something bad. But then I texted him anyway, mainly to make sure that he wasn’t planning to show up at the Magic Flute tonight, and that’s why we now have a date planned for this Saturday.

So that’s the state of my love life. Stay tuned for more dating news, which I bring to you as it happens.

Starry Skies, Chapter 6: Chockney

I returned from Paris feeling satiated. All my romantic and physical needs had been taken care of by Alain. Maxime had been dismissed and Fyodor was far away in Russia because that’s where he lives. This left only Harry, based in London, who I was looking forward to dating as soon as he’d finished some crucial maths exams. I had no need for anything else in the meantime and I wanted to get back to work. Then people started reminding me that I promised I would come out and meet them, arrangements that I made several weeks ago when I was in another mood. I managed to deter a couple of people at least temporarily but felt I should fulfil a date for Monday evening, in fact, last night, because it had taken a while to set up. Gah. I just wanted to stay indoors and play video games or do something useful, but no, I had to put on a dress and go out.

As if my love life needed further complications, just when I’d straightened everything out, the guy turned out be really nice. So inconvenient. He is a Cockney, with a proper Cockney accent, and he is an artist, in fact, a painter, so we are calling him David Chockney, ha ha, I slay myself. He used to be a builder and then he found out he could paint and people noticed and now he’s famous. That’s the short story.

He’s my age. He’s 51. I know absolutely nothing about this age group. All my dating experience is with people in their 20s; they look attractive and they are fun and spontaneous. No-one is looking for a committed relationship and despite my romantic banter with Maxime, I’m not even sure I still know what one involves. Chockney is fit and very good looking for his age, I bet he was stunning at 25. He’s surprisingly self-effacing and softly-spoken. I would be really full of myself if I were a well-known artist. He was interesting, he knows a lot about art, even though he says he knows nothing, and he likes me. He said that he would prefer to be in a relationship. He said ‘I’ve been on my own for a long time, too long really’. These are terms that I don’t fully understand any more. I don’t know what ‘on my own’ means or how that’s different from just being alive and going about your normal, everyday business. I asked him why he wanted to be in a relationship. He said ‘Honestly, it will be better for developing my painting’ and I thought that was a good answer, if there is one. Better than some shit about being afraid to be old and alone.

Anyway. I tried to put him off as much as possible by smoking while on the date, saying ‘fuck’ and talking about my extensive experience of dating models who are half my age but he was undeterred and it seems like we’re on for a second date.

I finally get to see Harry (24) on Thursday. We’ve waited so long and so much has happened since we first met. We are going to the opera on Thursday and then we’ll see what happens. And that, readers, is the point where you are finally all caught up with Starry Skies. What an epically romantic time it has been. From this point, you know as much as I do. We will all have to wait and see what happens in upcoming episodes as Harry and Chockney become love rivals.

British Holidaymaker Drinks, Gets Tattoo

A little more Paris, just to fill you in on the remaining events. As I mentioned, after I left Alain in Paris I had a spare morning – really, most of the day – which I intended to use. So I started by going out to lunch, naturellement, and drank wine with the intention of going to the Pompidou Centre to look at some photography by Walker Evans. Most art is much more enjoyable after a couple of glasses of wine, and I say that as someone who is almost teetotal. I ambled off to the Pompidou Centre and was outraged to discover that it is closed on Tuesdays. Gah! Now what? I am in the middle of Paris in the middle of the day, I am slightly tipsy and the art I wanted to see is Not There. I walked down the street, in somewhat of a huff, and I found myself passing a shop selling art, albeit of a different kind. It was, in fact, a tattoo parlour.

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I looked at the designs on display outside the shop (very run of the mill, actually, just what you’d expect). Because I was a bit intoxicated, I briefly contemplated getting a tattoo. Then I remembered I already had one! It is 32 years old! It was once a tiny butterfly with brightly-coloured wings but over time it faded a lot and almost became indistinguishable. I went inside and asked to talk to a tattooist.

He was an extremely nice man but he spoke no English whatsoever. My French may accommodate romance but does not extend to tattoo-purchasing situations. It was like the worst possible conversation you could have with a tattooist. I was a bit drunk and neither of us could understand a word the other person was saying. Eventually we secured a contract by means of my pointing at my tattoo and making expansive gestures with my hands to signify “make it brighter”. So he did.

Before

After

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And that’s how I finally returned to London with both sunburn (Spain) and a leaky new tattoo to look after, and thus resembled every British holidaymaker ever.

The Walker Evans exhibition is on at the Pompidou Centre in Paris until 14 August. Closed on Tuesdays.

Casanova

Chapter 4 of Starry Skies will be with you tomorrow. It gets more and more romantic and exciting, I promise you. In the meantime, I need to quickly capture this before I forget about it and the moment has passed.

Just before I ran off to Spain on holiday, I went to the ballet. I went to Sadler’s Wells theatre in London; it is a venue which is dedicated to dance.

sadlers ext

sadlers int

I sent photos and text messages to the Russian boy, of course, because who else would I talk to about ballet, of all my lovers.

I was there to see Casanova, a new ballet by Kenneth Tindall, performed by the Northern Ballet company. It’s about Casanova’s life.

casanova

The sets were incredible, I was enchanted by the glittering, golden chandeliers and pillars and the immense mirrors that appeared on the stage.

It’s a modern ballet, obviously, being new, so it was not constrained in form or content by the 19th century traditions that characterise the romantic, classical ballets that I grew up with. The choreography was innovative. Also, rather importantly, Casanova was depicted as having both male and female lovers and I can’t really think of another time when I’ve seen men dancing ballet together, romantically and erotically. It was nice. It made a nice change.

If one wanted to be critical of it, I would say that I didn’t really get a sense of how Casanova’s life hung together as a coherent narrative. It felt like a series of unrelated episodes, lacking a big picture. But this did not dent my enjoyment of a spectacular and very dramatic production. Here is the trailer.

And here is another sample, showing the beautiful golden scenery that I was telling you about.

Okay, that’s all for tonight. We will resume Starry Skies tomorrow.

Saraghina, la rumba!

It’s Friday evening at 7pm, and I have actually finished work, for a change. I am doing no work this weekend. The next several days are going to feature cute boys, arts & culture and exotic locations. Stay tuned for more news.

I would like to celebrate this situation with a clip from Fellini’s 1963 film 8 1/2.  There are many things one could say about this important film but I will be concise. One of the most memorable figures in the film is La Saraghina, a woman who lives in a hut on the beach. In exchange for a coin, she dances. She is – well, I will let you decide.

Saraghina, la rumba! La rumba!

The Magic Flute

OMG. That was possibly the best thing I have EVER seen.

OK, so I am an opera aficionado now. I have been to many official, impressive and very expensive venues such as the English National Opera and the Royal Opera House to see world-class performances. Everything has been magnificent. The singing, the orchestras, the set design, everything. It’s all been the very pinnacle of refined culture.

Today, I went to see Mozart’s Magic Flute, an opera I knew nothing about. I went to see it at the King’s Head Theatre, a theatre that I had never heard of.

OMG. It was AWESOME. I was BLOWN AWAY.

First, the theatre. When they say ‘theatre’, what they mean is ‘back room of a pub in Islington’.

Pub exterior. A typical London pub.

kings head ext

Inside the pub.

kings head interior

Where’s the theatre? Oh, it must be back here.

kings head entrance

It is a miniature theatre! It is amazing! It seats maybe 120 people, at full capacity. It is a real theatre, it has proper lighting and everything, but is tiny. 120 people might sound like quite a few, but let’s take into account that the Royal Opera House seats 2,500 people and that means you are going to pay £200 to sit approximately 8 miles away from the stage. At the King’s Head Theatre, you pay £30 and you have actual Mozart performed by people who are less than three feet away. It was absolutely unbelievable. It was like having a private performance. The Magic Flute was performed in the round, which is to say, in the middle of the room, with the audience no more than four rows deep around the perimeter. Here’s a cheeky photo that I took during the interval so you can see the tiny scale of the place. I’m sitting at one end of the room, facing the scenery on the back wall, and then there are more seats and audience members to the left and right. As you can see, one is basically on the stage with the performers.

magic flute stage

The Magic Flute is a fantastical tale set in “a distant land”, according to Wikipedia. The highly imaginative Charles Court Opera production that I saw today transplanted the action to a South American jungle. Mozart wrote it for a full orchestra, with the original libretto in German; today’s slightly abridged production was sung in English with the accompaniment of a single piano. Mozart intended it to be a comic opera – if you’ve ever seen any opera you’ll know that the comedy element can be a little bit elusive. There were no such problems here. The Charles Court version of The Magic Flute that I saw today was hysterical. I absolutely laughed my head off. It has hand puppets! It has singing birds and snakes! It has the most glorious, over the top costumes! It has hammy acting and joyfully camp dancing! It was by far the most fun of any opera that I’ve ever seen and indeed the best time I’ve ever had at the theatre in my adult life. I split my sides laughing. I clapped my hands over my mouth because I couldn’t bear the moments of suspense. It was a riot. I didn’t know opera could be like that.

If you are within reach of London, you really must go, I cannot say enough good things about it. I have already raved about it to a bunch of people and persuaded them to buy tickets immediately.

Links.

Charles Court Opera: The Magic Flute

A review of this same, fabulous production when it first appeared in 2016.

Go here to buy tickets: Kings Head Theatre

The show is on until 3 June.

Here is a larger, more traditional and serious production that was at the Royal Opera House in London in 2003, with a full orchestra and everything. I will go and see this type of version of The Magic Flute at some time, but nothing will ever take away from my first experience of that intimate production in that tiny little place. It was magical. Mozart would have approved.