by Norman Warwick

Bel Mooney´s article in The Daily Mail on Friday 11th December at


could save me a lot of time this Christmas. Many of the people for whom I buy presents are lovers of the visual arts, but there is often such a plethora of appropriate titles to choose from, I often head to my nearest Waterstones (other good book shops are available) and browse what is on the shelves. The trouble with that is that I rarely move on from the first book I pick up as my browse becomes a read, becomes a reveries. Ms. Mooney, though has suggested four titles and given a brief synopsis of each one. Thank you Bel, I´ll book into the shop for a week or so, I think.

The first title she offers is Spirit Of Place: Artists, Writers & The British Landscape, written by Susan Owensand published by  Thames & Hudson for £25-00.  This, she says, ´is one of her books of the year´ and she explains why in her description of it as ´ a wide-ranging, enthralling examination of how landscape shapes the imagination, and is itself given imaginative shape by painters and writers from the earliest times to the present.´

The book includes the sharing of Palmer’s moonlit visions, and dazzles us with Turner’s radiance, Nash is here, too, with his ´blasted battlefields.´  For those who love literature the book covers ´a beautifully written text which wears erudition lightly´ and the art contained is much to be admired, this is an essential addition to the bookshelf marked C for cultural. We have already helped you fill shelves L, for books on Lanzarote and M for books on music and musicians.

Shaping The World; Sculpture from Pre-History To Now, written by Antony Gormley and Martin Gayford and published by Thames & Hudson £40) was the second book on Bel Mooney´s list and called just as loudly to me as had her first.

There are perhaps two reasons why the book appeals to me: when I ´discovered´ the work of Gormley, (see cover photograph) it had a profound effect on me and significantly changed (for the better, I think) some of my writing techniques, and also I live on an island so enthralled to another artist (the late Cesar Manrique) that his scores of wind toys, monuments and sculptures still adorn the landscape.

The Daily Mail contributor strongly recommends that we spend some time ´eavesdropping on two brilliant men discussing art, bouncing ideas around and clarifying each other’s thoughts.´

Here, the artist and Gayford, the art historian. in fascinating conversational tones, defines sculpture as widely as possible (referencing a prehistoric hand axe and Silbury Hill, for example) illustrating a varied and inspiring analysis accompanied with a generous, seductive selection of illustrative plates. The dangling conversation takes through fluid forms, such as ritual and dance, and the whole journey from past to present leads you to ´look at the familiar anew´ and, no doubt, envisage the future.  

There is something about Gormley and his work that drops me into deep contemplation. Perhaps because I first visited ´Another Place´ (his installation of 100 tin men on Crosby Beach shown in our cover photo) on a Sunday when the sky was low and black, the waves high and angry and the beach deserted of human beings, except for my wife and I, mingling with these stoic figures staring out to sea, with 100 pairs of eyes seeming to focus on the same spot on the hazy horizon. I wondered what they could see, what they were thinking and all the other who, what, when, where, why questions my ´five bums at the bar´ might have wanted to ask. The drive home took us about ninety minutes and throughout that journey my thoughts were a tangle of confusion (that my wife says is my usual state of mind when I´m  driving !). The minute we arrived home I rushed to my keyboard and tapped out a piece about what we had seen and only when reading it back did I become aware of its content. Have You Ever Seen The Rain, a title borrowed from Credence Clearwater Revival, was published in Rob Howell´s MAiLOUT magazine. That led to Pam McKee (then my business partner in Just Poets) and I collaborating in a unique way to create a book I had thought was called Healing In These Songs but Pam thought was called The Turnpike Path. I thought I we were writing a contemporary book about a child born of non-consensual sex and Pam thought we were writing a book about the genocide of the Native American Indian. Neither of us told the other what we were writing, we´d simply cut and paste from our texts to make a whole, (and leave some holes). Be warned, we will shortly be publishing short extracts from that book we eventually called The Healing Process !!

However, back to Bel´s books. Picasso and Maya, (right) by Diana Widmaier-Picasso and Carmen Gimenez is,as the £155 price sticker on the Rizoli publication might suggest, an altogether more precious item. It is, it has to be said, ´a handsome book,´ that celebrates an unusual, lavish Paris exhibition devoted to Picasso’s relationship with his elder daughter Maya.  The book, says Ms. Mooney is ´a work of art in itself.´ The artist fell in love with Maya’s mother, Marie-Therese Walter (1909 to 1977), when she was only 17 and he was a 45-year-old married man. His drawings of Maya as a baby are a delicate counterpoint to the more familiar style of the paintings and sculpture that record his love for his child. The book would make a special (if expensive) gift to be treasured.

Goya by Janis A. Tomlinson is published by Princeton at £30 and depicts fear in that way that only Goya can. There are no artists that spring to mind who have created anything to compare with his terrified faces of the innocent victims in his series The Disasters Of War. These images reveal the great Spanish artist’s revulsion at the brutality of humankind. Neither do any artists stand in comparison with him for juxtaposing mockery and compassion at human foibles and flaws.

Although I have never known much of Goya´s biography or canon, this masterly biography should help me now put the work into context and breathe life into the legend of an artist most of us perceive from afar as a ´morose recluse.´

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.