All entries for Sunday 03 October 2004

October 03, 2004

George Shaw, Coventry painter

Writing about web page

The painter George Shaw, from Tile Hill near the University, was featured on Channel 4's The Art Show a couple of weeks ago. I found this fascinating, and was pleased to read an excellent review of Shaw's work by Undercurrent , also a Warwick graduate (aka Coventry survivor).

Unlike Undercurrent, i've never actually seen any of Shaw's work 'for real', but got enough from the documentary to know that it is very interesting. For a start, it really does express something about childhood in this city (and cities like it). As Undercurrent writes…

The paintings exclude people, both in their content and in the viewer's engagement. They are places where the viewer is forgotten. You can't get into them unless you agree to disappear from the world. an ever present sense of awkwardness and uncertainty, which I still feel today when I return to such places.

But Shaw isn't a simple one-dimensional painter. There's a lot more to be investigated. For example, i'm thinking at the moment about the relationship between painting and other arts. Undercurrent shows the (difficult) relation between writing and painting…

...perhaps the intensity of his paintings stems from their being a negative artefact of his literary endeavour, the stubbornly inarticulable residue which it is impossible to force into prose.

...and between painting and photography, which is a crucial thing to understand in twentieth century art…

...the very nakedness of the photographic image brought into question…

Most interesting is the concept of "reconfusion" that Undercurrent writes of.

I'm going to think more about this. In the meantime, read Undercurrent's article on Shaw for more insights.

Chasing Che book review

Follow-up to The Motorcycle Diaries – book and movie review from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

5 out of 5 stars

This book makes a great companion to Ernesto Guevara's Motorcycle Diaries, and the current movie adapted from it. In fact I suspect that Patrick Symmes book was used to research the film, as I noticed several details in the movie from the book.

Chasing Che is a great work of research, investigating the journey made by Ernesto (Che) and Alberto. Symmes travelled along the same route, this time using a bike built for the journey (a BMW R80 G/S, which is a slightly older and smaller version of the R100 GS-PD that I ride). Not only does this journey help to make Ernesto's book more realistic, but also more concrete, as many of the places visited in the original journey are rediscovered. And of course the comparison between the Latin America of Ernesto's youth and that of today is of great significance.

Another great book by a GS rider, even if he does constantly describe his bike as "the ugly cockroach".

The Motorcycle Diaries – book and movie review

5 out of 5 stars

On the 4th of January 1952, two medical students left Buenos Aires together on an old British motorcycle, for an adventure that was double in every way. This book is the diary kept by Ernesto Guevara de la Serna on his travels through America with his friend Alberto Granado, together riding La Poderosa II, "the Mighty One".

This isn't a tale of derring-do, nor is it merely some kind of 'cynical account'; it isn't meant to be, at least. It's a chunk of two lives running parallel for a while, with common aspirations and similar dreams. In nine months a man can think a lot of thoughts, from the height of philosophical conjecture to the most abject longing for a bowl of soup – in perfect harmony with the state of his stomach. And if, at the same tme, he's a bit of an adventurer, he could have experiences which might interest other people and his random account would read something like this diary.

The nine months is of course symbolic. The adventure was both an escape and a birth, a romance and conception followed by a painful awakening to the world. It is double in every way.

Ernesto feels the pain of having to leave his beautiful girlfriend, romance succumbing to the companionship of his comic and earthy friend Alberto. The two of them and La Poderosa cross the vast expanse of the Pampas, the freezing inhospitability of the Andes, the dry world of the Atacama, and into the Amazon. With little money, they are reduced to scamming food and beds in often hilarious ways.

But this journey is an encounter with tragedy as much as with comedy. The tragedy of the peoples of America is their all along. Peasants disposesed, miners abused, a leper colony subject to the prejudices of the Catholic Church. And through all this we see Ernesto, the natural born doctor, not only helping the sick, but also slowly becoming aware of what he might do to help his fellow Latin Americans. A learning through practical encounters of the sort also documented by Ted Simon and other long-distance motorcyclists.

And by the end of the journey, these parallel lives, so different as they are, become deeply connected. Alberto and Ernesto finally refer to each other as 'Che', a special kind of Latin American friendship. Che Guevara is born.

This is a great book, although necessarily fragmented. It is now accompanied by a book by Alberto, who is still alive, and much historical research. You are probably aware that it has also been made into a movie, currently showing at the Arts Centre. The movie is magnificent. Brilliantly adapted, acted, and filmed. The double nature of the book is perfectly represented, and the words of Che echo throughout the beautiful, comic and tragic scenes.