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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 30 May 2019

"Enduring Creation" by Nigel Spivey

Spivey starts with a visit to Auschwitz. This leads to his reflecting on the maxim of Theodor Adorno that “All culture after Auschwitz is trash". This book is an attempt to suggest that even in these post-holocaust days it is important to continue to produce art. “We are compassionate by habit, not from birth. Pity is something that we learn to feel." he states. So we need art to visit the awful things that human does to human so that we can learn to feel pity. Therefore he has written "a book about horror, fear, death, ghastliness and grievous bodily harm ... about pain lodged at the core of human experience. Pain feared; pain avoided; pain inflicted; pain endured; pain savoured; and pain regarded"

It is a riveting read. And the illustrations, selected from the work of the greats and analysed brilliantly, are sometimes horrifying but always breathtaking. 

For example, one of his suggestions is that the classical statue group the Laocoon was used as a model in later forms so that he shows the same basic figure in, for example, Michelangelo's Haman on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel (a ceiling which El Greco once offered to overpaint to remove the blasphemous mixture of classical/pagan images with Christian ones). He also adapts Alberti's On Painting to create a "pathos formula" 

Some great quotes:
  • “Reporters, with notebooks and lenses, thrive in zones of human disaster - scouting and jabbing like crows over carrion. The compulsion to hurry to the view of a kill seems an Instinct in us all.”
  • “The early Christians ... did not seek to diminish or deny the existence of human suffering. Quite the opposite, Christianity thrived because it mind for virtue in striations of distress.”
  • “Why, when the literature of Christian martyrdom was so adoringly descriptive of fleshly pain and the Hell-quenching conduits of blood, images of martyrs so anodyne, so clean?”
  • "The successful institutionalization of cruelty rests upon a rationale of just deserts; also upon the species classification of certain humans as sub-human.”
  • “The Damned do not go gently to their fate. Their apprehension of imminent horror is made palpable and panicky. Eager blue-black beaky demons will hustle the process, clawng or shovelling their victims towards flames, or some mouthy tunnel: images of swallowing and regurgitation often prevail.”
  • “A painter will gain honour by making pictures of figures which by their attitudes credibly represent extremes of human emotion.”
  • “There is a period in the history of Catholic Europe when it seems that no painter’s career could move forward until some graphic scene of martyrdom has been proved as part of his repertoire.”
  • “The legend of Caravaggio says he slept every night wearing his Dagger (credible of a artist once charged with using a plate of artichokes as an offensive weapon).”
  • “Only in Giorgio Vasari’s bourgeois imagination does the great artist care nothing for cash."
  • “The classical ideal of female beauty was firmly but generously fleshed, and Rubens had carried that generosity to new extremes of cellulite celebration: but neither Rubens not any classical artist ever showed a ‘model’ slumped in flabbiness such as Rembrandt drew.”
  • “We live in bodies. Each of us is a carcass: made up, in Genet’s words, ‘of blood, tears, sweat, shit, intelligence and tenderness’.”
  • Adam Smith argued: “Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at our ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers ... iI is by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations.”
  • “Smith was never the champion of completely unfettered market forces, or laissez-faire. Beneath all measures of deregulation lay the groundwork of moral and legal codes that sympathy must construct.”
  • “If photography compiles a visual list of everything in the world, it is always a passing permanence. When the lens falls shut the flux goes on. For seconds, or fractions of a second, we clutch at eternity.”
  • “It may amount to a gesture of some pardon to remember that One hundred and twenty days of Sodom was composed by a man with no access to carnal extravagance beyond his own imaginary fantasies.”

A fascinating perspective on Art. May 2019; 249 pages

Also read other works by Nigel Spivey:

Also read these other books about art:

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