Thursday, 21 February 2013

Biba in Brighton, Rigoletto in Hastings, strange goings-on at the De La Warr.

We went over to Brighton on the train to visit the Biba exhibition at the Museum - and to have a sunny day out.
      Given that we had a flat in Brighton (or 'Hove actually') for nearly three years, we rarely go back, and neither of us miss the place. It feels like a real city, different from small-town Hastings.  More traffic, more people, more noise.  Passers-by walk more purposefully. The average age is younger, and people are undoubtedly more stylish. It is nice to visit, but would have been too hectic for us to live in.
     The Biba show was good value - lots of clothes on show - here are a few pictures. Here, also, is another copy of the very Biba poster I just sold a couple of weeks ago on eBay - not surprisingly, it made a good price.

The garments looked tiny.... Where we really that size?  I don't think I ever was.  But I did cheerfully go out wearing hot pants....
     On Saturday night we went to see Rigoletto at the Hastings Odeon, beamed live from the New York Met. I thought it was an amazing production,  with the setting relocated to a casino in 1960s Las Vegas - lots of neon. It worked well, and the costumes were very reminiscent of the clothes worn by the customers in the casino where I worked in London in the early 70s - brocade tuxedos, Arab Sheiks in flowing robes etc. The small Hastings audience got very irritated at occasional pops and crackles in the transmission.
     I enjoyed it very much when the curtain fell, the cameras moved backstage and we were shown a positive army of stage hands rushing around, with whole sets being mechanically moved upwards, downwards and around the enormous back lot.
     Like when we went to see a ballet film, the close-up views revealed the physical effort involved in singing at that level - the heaving chests, the puffing and panting, but it did not matter so much - opera has never set itself up to be effortless like ballet.
     Weather has totally changed - for the moment. Friend Pete came down last weekend, and we went to Bexhill on Monday for lunch at the De la Warr. Absolutely stunning sunny day. Saw a totally weird exhibition:
Shaun Gladwell: Cycles of Radical Will. Have said enough on this sort of thing, so will not bore on any further. They have erected a skate/BMX track in a wire cage on the roof. It looks tatty and nasty, as if the building is undergoing urgent major repairs. However,  the notice says this - an addition to my collection of International Art English codswallop:
Half-term now, grand daughter here - off up to Birmingham today.......

Thursday, 14 February 2013

From the horse's mouth - Hastings hairdressers, Writers' Group - and the Women's Institute

Valentines Day due to improve.  Hurry up, spring.
     What a crazy business this horsemeat saga is. In principle, I don't particularly mind the idea of eating horse, but I prefer to know what I am eating, and don't fancy doped-up racehorse carcass, or the scraggy bones of some Romanian peasant's worn-out old nag.  It is just staggering to read that these utterly repulsive so-called meat products apparently can be shipped all over Europe and still sold, at a profit, as reconstituted packaged shite meals in main-stream supermarkets. By the time you have taken off the vast transport costs and the packaging, the raw materials must be utterly worthless.
     All this fatty, synthetic rubbish processed food should be banned. People need to pay proper prices for decent meat. Yes, I know the argument that poor people can't afford decent stuff - it is spurious. Everyone could eat better, and as cheaply, by cooking nutritious food themselves.  It doesn't have to be meat at all - we could all do with eating less of it.
     Anyway, less of this nagging on heh heh. There are some funny horse/cow jokes on the internet - I quite like these:.
     A Tesco burger walks into a bar. "Pint please". "I can't hear you" says the barman. "Sorry" replies the burger. "I'm a little bit horse".
     'Those Aldi horse burgers were nice, but I prefer My Lidl Pony'
     My last post, about the Jerwood exhibition, has gone a bit viral - it is already the fourth most viewed Battleaxe post of all time. The Hastings Battleaxe blog has had over 7000 'hits' since starting at 1 January 2012 - not bad, considering that over the house-moving period in May, June last year, I made very little effort and traffic dropped to only 150 views per month. This year, I should get over 10,000.
     What news in Battleaxe Land?
     Had my hair done this week. I go to Ronni (with an 'i') at the George Street Salon in the Old Town. He has a distinguished pedigree as a London stylist, does it well and is a nice bloke too - but does anyone ever have a grumpy hairdresser? One place I used to go to in Birmingham, the girls used to constantly shriek and scream at each other about their love-lives at the tops of their voices and pretty much ignore the customers. I wouldn't have minded but their stories were utterly boring - the eternal gripe about how a good man is hard to find.
     I find it hard to find a hairdresser who will do my hair sufficiently in yer face bright - Battleaxe doesn't do subtle. This time, Ronni has blitzed up the colours massively, but people are still not going to fall back in amazement when they see me in the street.... but then do I want that? Yeah...  The reading matter in the George Street Salon used to crease me up - a mixture of 'Heat', 'Vogue' - and 'Shooting Times'.  Unfortunately the latter has now disappeared because Ronni's dog turned out to be 'gun-shy'. I enjoyed looking at the adverts for the extraordinary clothing men apparently wear to go out shootin'. Anyway, Ronni doesn't kill things, he just trains dogs. I thoroughly recommend the place.
     Hastings Writers' Group meeting also this week. It was a Manuscript Evening, where people present their work in progress to the group and have it discussed. I always think it takes courage for new writers to do this, especially when there are about 20 members present, but people do it happily enough.This time, we had a bit of a workshop on how to critique others' work effectively - mostly led by Kate O'Hearn, who is probably our most successful published author, but I also did a bit on the process stuff. Our meetings have been very well-attended so far this year - twenty people plus each time.
     The next night Battleaxe really pushed the boundaries of her envelope and went to the Hastings Ore Women's Institute. Had been planning to sample it for a while. Philosopher and I went to see 'Calender Girls' at the Stables Theatre last week - Philosopher was virtually the only man in the place! I found a little flyer advertising the WI on the table in the bar, so I thought that was an omen....  I really didn't know what to expect. Lots of women of all shapes and sizes all crammed into Christ Church Hall in Ore Village - very handy for Battleaxe. Ages ranged from 35 to 85.  I was astonished how much they get up to - as well as the monthly meeting they have a walking group, a book group, a craft group etc.I am going to the book group to give it a go. Battleaxe might have to sellotape her gob up, though....
      Then busy busy - friend Pete coming down from the Midlands at the weekend, then its half-term week, grand daughter, visit to Brum etc. etc.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Hastings Jerwood 'Knock Knock' Review - time to burst the hype bubble?

First, reverting briefly to the topic of shopping, discussed in previous 'Foxy Battleaxes' post.
     I quite liked this 'Husband Creche' advertised in the window of the General Havelock pub in the centre of Hastings.
     Incidentally,  I see that this pub apparently has one of the finest tiled pub interiors in Britain. It looks very interesting, but as yet, we have not visited it.
     Back to art. In the last couple of weeks we have visited two exhibitions. First, at the Arts Forum, the 'Breakthrough' Exhibition celebrating the joining of the two halves of the gallery, featuring the work of local artists, and secondly, the Jerwood's re-hang and 'Knock Knock' their first exhibition of 2013.
     The Arts Forum exhibition included a painting of our friend Joe Fearn, by an artist called Bruce Williams. We liked it,  and it actually looks quite like him. (Sorry Joe, if you read the rest of this post - I know you won't agree with it!)
Joe Fearn at the Arts Forum

     We were really looking forward to the Jerwood exhibition, because, for the first time, we had been promised something related to Hastings. We had found the previous exhibitions - Rose Wylie, Gillian Ayres, Gary Hume - disappointing and inaccessible..
     First, we inspected the rehung permanent collection. Some nice and interesting things,  in complete contrast with the exhibition to follow.
     I tell you, if the 'guest curator' had set out to scour the country for anyone with a tenuous local connection who could produce totally incomprehensible stuff to bemuse - and alienate - us knuckle-dragging provincial butt-brains, he had succeeded.  There were some huge paintings of the sea by Mario Rossi which were technically interesting and quite pleasant to look at  - but the rest - forget it.
     Now, Battleaxe is not stupid, and Philosopher even less so. I have an open mind and as I get older, my artistic tastes are actually widening. I recognise that others might have different tastes to me. I want to like more things in 'our' Jerwood, and am sorry to see it caught up in this web of spin and hype.
     I could have stared at the stuff on the walls until my eyeballs fell out and bounced around the floor among the heaps of metal ingots, which, apparently, were the deconstructed remains of other sculptures. It would still all have remained meaningless, banal and empty. (We were told that the metal ingots were two melted down planes, by Fiona Banner, first exhibited in Tate Britain. For people who had never seen the planes in the first place, the grey heaps could surely have no intrinsic interest?)
    When we left the gallery, the nice young man on the desk said 'Some challenging pieces, eh?' I was polite, but, sorry, young man, you are wrong. I sincerely wish I could find it challenging.
     An extract from the catalogue (which, by the way, says nothing whatsover about Hastings or the painters' links to the area):
     'What is common to the works is a curious absurdity and a delightful awkwardness, where the  artists manipulate both the language and concepts they employ. These individual positions are challenging and persuasive, each artist presents a strategy for engagement along with an agenda that is convincing. The viewer is invited to go beyond their expectations and address the complexity of these works, which are both disconcerting and haunting.'
     Oh pur-lees. What kind of pretentious overblown piffle is that? Who do they think will be impressed?  Their self-regarding inner circle of art luvvies I presume. The rest of us just feel patronised - and insulted.
     Well, maybe the tide is turning, and people are starting to stand up and say the Emperor is wearing no clothes.  See this article in the Guardian on International Art English, about the special gibberish language used to describe contemporary art.  I have also read in the last few months about Dave Hickey, a famous American art critic who has retired, fed-up with the American contemporary art scene, and British critic Jonathan Jones, who is equally outspoken about the shortcomings of modern 'icons' such as Tracey Emin, Anthony Gormley and Grayson Perry.

     So, to finish, here is an example from the Jerwood exhibition. It is called 'Over the Border' by Stephen Buckley. I have absolutely nothing to say about it - it looks vaguely like a squashed waste-paper bin. But our friendly catalogue says this:
     'For more than 40 years, Stephen Buckley has concerned himself with addressing the major themes of the 20th century through a personal style oscillating between the matiere of Karl Schwitters, the dandyism of Francis Picabia and the intellectual rigour of Marcel Duchamp by deconstruction and reconstruction.....' and so on.
      I find this beyond pretentious - it seems sad, like a child boasting in an empty playground.
     'Knock Knock?'
     'Who's there?'

Friday, 1 February 2013

Hastings LOL cat beats February blues!

February today...... days are getting longer....but still wet..wet...wet.
Well, here's a surprise to start with - we have unexpectedly been allocated a brown garden waste recycling bin. The two year wait ranted about earlier this year on Bombastic Battleaxe never happened.  Our bin will be delivered this month. Perhaps Hastings BC have been reading this blog - I know two of our local councillors have read the post about Tesco in Ore.
     This post is just going to be just silly - yawn scratch more cats on the internet.
     Why do cat-posting people make those LOL cats speak in such silly misspelt voices? 'Duz zey tink dem kittez stoopid or sumfin?'  Well, I guess our rescue cat Digby is a bit dim, but I'm sure he could spell and construct a simple sentence.
     He is, of course, far more photogenic and interesting than any other internet cat, but is getting a bit portly. He still wolfs his food like it was his last ever meal, gets terrible wind, and still wants more. I guess the scars of his earlier stress, food deprivation and loneliness still leave an aching void that can never be filled bla de bla. How like us humans..... Less of that, this post is supposed to be silly.
     He has brought much innocent pleasure to our lives.
     So, here is Digby, getting maximum catty value from a shopping bag............