Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Not buying books

Having barely started on my haul of books from a holiday in April (so far just the Moomin one and a third of Essays of Elia), I was determined not to add too much to the ever-accumulating pile last week in Edinburgh. But I couldn’t resist Gogol’s Collected Tales, picked up from the surprisingly fiction-friendly Word Power, whose radical political foyer merges gracefully into the good stuff as you turn the corner. The table displays inter-weave the strands, making for a thought provoking browse. The chief draw of the Gogol volume was the story ‘The Nose’, in which a man wakes one day to discover he has no nose, merely a smooth blank space where it once was. This is significant – just to me, perhaps – because of a doll belonging to my niece, with thick woollen hair and a simple sewn-on face consisting of a smiling mouth and two dots-for-eyes. She calls her ‘No Nose’.

There was plenty of wool on display at Dovecot Studios, a tapestry studio / exhibition space. They currently have an exhibition celebrating their centenary, which is stunning. I was expecting something pretty craft-based, but it’s more like a fine art show, in wool rather than paint. Many of the pieces are actually derived from paintings by big name artists, and it was uncanny how often this resulted in an improvement. Usually John Bellany, Elizabeth Blackadder and David Hockney leave me cold, but the pieces based on their paintings were more vivid and texturally interesting than any originals I’ve seen. Texture is the key, of course, and S. provided illuminating commentary on how this is achieved, by mixing wool and linen, for instance, giving a fuzzy / clean contrast to the respective sections. She made the gallery attendants a bit nervous, I think, getting right up close to the incredibly valuable exhibits, but she was right, you have to.

We spent ages debating the composition of Victoria Crowe’s Two Views (below). What is that pale strip to the left of the window? A recess? Is it a window, or another painting? If it’s a painting, then how does it manage to billow the curtain? If it’s a window, why can’t you see the runners, or the ledge, or the lower edge of the open section?* Where does the sunlight illuminating the wallpaper come from? The real point, though, is that the wallpaper is beautiful. You only get an inkling from the photo.


* The book says it’s a window, which it obviously is, I suppose. But I like the ambiguity, nonetheless.

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