Category Archives: Art

From cake to Cecil

The whole thing began with cake, but I forget quite how we ended up on the subject of homemade versus bought cake, and the effect of certain television programmes. But when we really should have been tidying books, we got lost in odd – and old – memories, much to the surprise and interest of Daughter.

It was my madeira cake – back in 1982 – which led us to my old friend No Filmstar. It was he who admired my cake so much he reckoned it had to be an M&S cake. For some reason Daughter required more information, and slowly, step by step, we arrived at the sculptor Cecil Thomas.

At first I couldn’t remember his name, but the Resident IT Consultant knew we’d looked him up before, in a past where there was no Google. But with the few facts we had, Daughter eventually found him and his impressive work and reputation.

Having known so little back then, it was interesting learning more. I met No Filmstar soon after Thomas’s death in 1976, and whereas he was mentioned now and again, I never knew any real facts. No Filmstar was one of the somewhat strange individuals hanging out in Queensway, back in the day when the young witch began witching.

So we moved sideways from the sculptor to the other people, including Dulcie and Mrs MacLean, and I remembered more about Mrs Hop and Cyril with the guinea pigs, and the old couple with the dog, and I realised what an odd life these people had, eating out every night, because they hadn’t the means to cook where they lived (most likely just a room). It seemed a bit glamorous then, but now I feel mostly sorry for them.

It’s the idea of being so ‘posh’ that you don’t go to work – other than charitably – but live ‘frugally’ off an inheritance, which inevitably dwindles as you go, that seems strange.

As always, I wish I could get the photos out, but I stuffed them all in a box when we moved, so can’t easily find individual ones, and the last letter I received in connection with these people I threw out a couple of months ago…

Except, Dulcie the 1st, who was eventually replaced by her niece Dulcie the 2nd, recently caused Bookwitch to receive a contact email from someone who could turn into Dulcie the 3rd, if her name wasn’t something else.

And I know none of this makes sense. I’m merely reminiscing. There was a Russian spy – whose name I forget – in there too.

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We met by Picasso

It felt like something straight out of a Gyllene Tider song. I did wait by Picasso, and we were indeed in the same small town Per Gessle sings about in Småstad. That’s because singer Lena Andersson and I grew up in the same small town as Per, and my suggestion that Lena and I should meet by Picasso was more a matter of practicality, than me being clever. It’s a big statue, there are seats to sit on (I am old) and it’s across the street from the church café that I felt might be a good place for some ‘fika.’

And had it not been for my plumber who phoned me on my mobile to ask where to send his invoice, then the local radio station would have lost its star turn for the day. Lena is back in Sweden this summer to stage a come-back, and she has been interviewed by everyone, everywere. During two months she will have covered great parts of the country and she will have sung in lots of places and been interviewed in many more.

So while I was spelling my address out to the plumber, Lena got her phone out and looked at text messages – as you do – and discovered that she needed to get her skates on to get to an almost forgotten about live radio interview on time. In fact, she couldn’t make it to the original venue (her parents’ balcony), so quickly switched to a nearby park, as she’d cycled into town.

Luckily we had drunk our tea and coffee, and eaten.., well, never mind what we’d eaten, and chatted about being foreigners where we live and about coming ‘home’ and whether our husbands are tidy men when left on their own. (No comment.)

I had forgotten to ask Lena if she could bring a copy of her new CD Open Your Heart when we met, but luckily she did anyway, and I’m listening to it as I write this. (I’ll tell you more about that later.) Her voice hasn’t changed much from the days of gospel singing over the skipping rope in the late 1960s. Neither has she, which is nice.

Halmstad Library, Lena Andersson on the radio

Woman in Gold

What surprised me the most about Woman in Gold was how much it was about the war. That might sound stupid, but I’d mainly thought about the process of getting a stolen work of art back now, long after the war. And the trailer had been mostly lighthearted, with clever and amusing lines.

Woman in Gold

Don’t misunderstand me; I believe the film was better for all its background, reminding us – and in the case of Daughter, showing for the first time – of what went on in Austria not only during the war, but before it as well. Without it, Maria Altmann could have seemed to be simply greedy and grabbing. In a way this was one of those occasions when you feel that both sides are both right and wrong. Were it not for the fact that Austria took away Maria’s right to the life she was living, when they pulled the rug out from under her feet. As I think she said, it wasn’t so much getting the painting of her aunt back, as getting some recompense for what they did to her family, breaking it up, and killing most of them.

Woman in Gold

I had looked forward to seeing more of Vienna, but in the end it was almost painful. I appreciated seeing the old Vienna, as Maria knew it when she grew up. I’m not Austrian, nor quite that old, but I could recognise some of the life she lived.

Had not realised that Daughter didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, but then it had been some years since we read about Maria and her Klimt painting in the news.

Woman in Gold

I enjoyed Woman in Gold, and more so for it being so European, and not just Hollywood gloss. Helen Mirren can do anything she puts her mind to, and Ryan Reynolds was a lovely Randol Schoenberg. Good to see so many actors employed who are not necessarily English language household names, but who were able to portray Austrians in a believable way.

Criminals, and their other work

I can still recall my shock and surprise at the Post Office – where I had once worked – finding the member of staff at the counter was an old colleague of mine. Fresh out of jail, she must have been. I had heard she had been found guilty of helping herself to money from people’s savings accounts. It was all the more ironic to me, as this colleague had been the union representative and she had railed at us younger members of staff for not taking things seriously enough.

But there she was, back with her hands in the till, so to speak. Obviously no one else would want to employ her, and Swedish state employees had pretty secure job rights back then. I’m guessing they couldn’t sack her. You know; court, jail, back to work.

There is a Swedish singer I quite like. I’m not an active fan, but enjoyed his music as a child, and in recent years there are some albums I have and listen to. He was – I believe – jailed for drug crimes in the intermediate period. I don’t read gossip magazines, and living in exile it’s hard to keep up with all the news.

It didn’t worry me, nor did it surprise me. I don’t go around thinking his singing is connected with his private life or whether he is a nice person. The songs are the same, with or without the drugs/jail connection. Equally, I don’t feel my childhood enjoyment of his music has been tainted by the drugs news.

But perhaps you can tell where I’m going with this? Rolf Harris; a man I have admired and whose work I have enjoyed for so long.

When the news first appeared about the accusations of sex crimes, I hoped they were wrong, and worried about what would happen. Now, though, I couldn’t care less about him. Not only have I made the journey from fan to non-fan, but it all seems very plausible and far easier to ‘accept’ than I ever thought it would.

You see films where the other convicts spit in the food served to child abusers. I’m guessing this is what I’m feeling. There are crimes that you can see as merely crimes, and then there are other crimes that are something else entirely. I have to admit that I never worried too much about what to think of Gary Glitter. As a teenager I liked his singing well enough, but that ended and his criminal career has not caused me to dwell on what I think of him.

In both cases there are young people who have been abused. That’s very important to remember. But then there are the fans, who possibly never saw their star perform live, or at least never spoke to them.

We have a past, that now has changed. We liked someone we would never have liked, had we known. When the news first appeared, I didn’t know how I would feel about my Rolf Harris CDs.

I do now.

They will have to go, just like all everything else this man created in his life, and which people all over the world are ditching. Either because they want no connection with him, or because you can’t continue enjoying what you once liked.

So many children – and adults – have had their memories tainted. I have decided to let my earlier blog posts remain for the time being. I somehow feel I don’t want to be forced to erase my own past, even though my feelings and opinions have changed. And now I understand why Rolf Harris looked so stiff and was in such a foul mood at the last concert at the Lowry. I was just too polite, and too much of a fan, to draw attention to it.

I shouldn’t have been.

My big fear is finding out who will be next. I very much doubt this is all there is. We will find more heroes with feet of clay. The question is who.

When.

Ascension art

I remembered the rock. It was enormous, and just by artist Rosa Ekelund’s front door. That’s how I knew we’d gone to the ‘wrong’ artist’s house. We had followed the other cars up the hill, and ended up at Kätie Nilsson’s instead. She had the most marvellous view from her windows, which isn’t surprising considering we’d gone some way up from the coast. And she was an interesting artist too. Main problem was too many people and me too close to the paintings (I’m old, so don’t see too well if the distance is wrong). I liked the way she’d displayed some of her smaller pictures. I’ll copy that at home.

Ascension weekend is just coming to a close, and in my part of Sweden Ascension means art for four days. Artists open their studios and people come and look. And buy, if they feel inclined. We don’t often manage to be here at the right time, so it was a bonus to discover we’d picked the right week.

After Kätie we did find Rosa Ekelund, and her enormous rock. I’d like a rock like that, even if it is inconvenient to have one in the middle of your drive. Rosa does colourful women, mostly, and also paints on slate and driftwood. We could easily have bought a slate with thrift on. Or the Madonna and child, on Rosa’s garage wall. Or the large oyster-catchers. If we had enough money and walls, which we don’t.

On to Eva Norrgren at the apple farm, where I had a narrow escape. She had a lovely – and small and not too expensive – picture I liked. Luckily it had already been sold. Nice looking farm building, which was at least as much fun to see as the art.

We finished the day at Helmut Witt’s ceramics workshop. Daughter and I both eyed up the large mugs. We have the ‘smaller’ ones already, but clearly felt thirsty enough to want a larger version.

So we went to Göstas for afternoon tea with a sea view, in the sunshine. It’s not always nice, but this time it was perfect. Good tea and nice cake, and everyone got what they wanted. We wouldn’t have minded taking the furniture home with us, but resisted the urge.

The next day we looked at the art at Särdals Kvarn, even though it wasn’t part of the weekend event. We had more tea, in more nice surroundings. And then we went to see Thomas and Ulla Frisk and their art, which is always a highlight for me. Thomas paints large oils, and we don’t have room for more, even though I’d happily build a wall down the middle of a room just to hang one of his grey, industrial oil paintings. Or maybe a wash basin. I already have the toilet.

Thomas Frisk

Once we’d got this far we found we’d overdosed on the art and the teas. There were plenty more places to go, but we had no energy left for anything. Not even for Mjellby Konstmuseum. Even though it was free entry, and it had a great looking exhibition on.

Another year, another Ascension.

From Siberia with love

‘By the way, we don’t have to take that with us’ said the Resident IT Consultant, indicating The Siberian Painting. He was trying to be helpful, and feeling responsible for it, he felt he could at least make it one less item to be packed, once it’s time for us to move.

Siberian painting

He seemed to have forgotten that I had already explained – last time he said it – that it would come with us. Because contrary to so many belongings, it really does have memories attached to it.

Not that I’ve been to Siberia. But he has. The autumn 0f 2001 he was in Moscow when the Twin Towers came down, and was very nearly stuck in Russia for a while due to diligent travel rules for employees of the US owned company he worked for.

Some weeks later, he and a colleague went to Siberia to do some work on site for the client (who, in case you follow the news, has only recently been let out of jail) and at the end of a working day the local boss inquired whether they had been to their nice museum.

They had not, so the boss called the museum and told them to stay open late so that the foreigners could have a look round. With a set-up like that, the least you can do is buy something in the museum shop, and the Resident IT Consultant picked something inoffensive and small enough for his suitcase; this tiny painting of birch trees. It’s only postcard sized, but very heavy, as it’s actually painted on stone.

Siberian painting and Russian doll

When it arrived home I put the Russian doll, which Daughter had requested, next to it. They seemed to get on well together. And there they have stood for over twelve years, in the shade of the palm tree.

It had plenty of extra meaning for me at the time, since I had been reading Gillian Cross’s Calling a Dead Man, which is about a Western worker disappearing in Siberia. Luckily it didn’t come to that.

The art in the cupboard

In the end it was easier than I thought it would be. I know I said I’d find it impossible to get rid of Mother-of-witch’s paintings. But once you’ve hardened your soul, you find that a fair bit can go.

After all, the best stuff is already on the walls. Not everything in my cupboards has gone. Yet. But a lot went. Makes me feel nice and ‘light.’

Art by Anna-Stina

Over Christmas Offspring were here and they needed to take a look and agree to what I was about to do. Son had asked for a few pictures to put on his walls. Preferably beachy things with boats. As it turned out, he has a shortlist, but Dodo is to have final say, and no decision has been made. Except she can’t abide the seagull he’d set his heart on. Seems that Daughter and the Resident IT Consultant are with her on that. It’s creepy, as well as large.

Oh, well.

Speaking of Christmas, we had prepared the paintings and taken them all out in advance to be looked at. Then one day Daughter and I were searching for something else entirely, and I found to my horror that the cupboard we opened contained, not what we were after, but more bl**dy paintings. That came as a surprise, I have to admit.

Later we had a day when we even braved the unframed art and looked through every last folder of absolutely everything. (Bar the sketchbooks. I still have them to leaf through.) A lot of it has gone. It was OK, but I will never have enough walls to display more of anything.

At the very end of her Christmas holidays, Daughter went through the things in her room. There were all the works of art she produced throughout her GCSE and AS-level Art… I quickly realised I will need to build walls going up and down every room in order to hang all the pictures I want.

GCSE Art 1

We got rid of some, but most of it stayed. That’s Art 1 – Witch 0. Well, I suppose it is flat and will take up less space than the books.

My new dream home is an industrial space with masses of large walls. So if anyone knows of a disused factory in central Stirling, going cheap and with a nice garden; let me know.