It’s 4pm on a gloomy and wet New Year’s Eve. As I looked out the window just now the slashing rain had stopped and there was a brighter hue detectable in the sky and little pink lights on the cranes on the horizon. I saw the word HOPE emblazoned on the bridge – and it did give me hope. 2017 was good for me in many ways but distressing and depressing when I think about world conflicts and the suffering of so many people. I despair at our inept and manipulative political leaders. But I’m also a believer in the potential for change and the power of people to influence things for the better. So here’s hoping for a better 2018 for all.
Yesterday I was buying some art supplies and somehow got into a conversation with the store assistant (or possible manager) about the lost art of handwriting and calligraphy. I was saying that my handwriting is now pretty illegible, and has been so for at least a couple of decades, even though I stillI handwrite on a daily basis as I keep a journal. Every so often I make a concerted effort to write more neatly and legibly, but my natural inclination results in something very different, My kids were laughing at my handwriting the other day as they tried to decipher some old teaching notes that had fallen out of a book. But there is another factor, not just regarding legibility and uniform neatness, but a beauty of penmanship that I simply do not possess.
The guy working in the shop told me that he’d so loved his grandmother’s handwritten letters that he’d been tattooed using her handwriting as a template and inspiration. I asked whether he’d show me and he obliged; he pulled down the neck of his T shirt so you can make out the words family, love and honour:
This encounter inspired me to think about the value I have placed on fragments of old handwriting. After my father died in 2004 and we sold the house and got rid of most of his belongings. Yet I held onto this old recycled pickle jar in which he used to store his black peppercorns. You can just about make out his writing, now faded, at the top of the label, capitalising the word PEPPER. I still use the jar – it has survived my moving homes and decluttering. I do find myself from time to time checking that the handwriting is still there:
As a hormonal 12 year old with precocious taste in rock music, here is an extract from my old 1969 diary, written in neat cursive and multicoloured felt-tips, I love the PEACE signing off!
I tend to carry a journal with me wherever I go. This photo was taken in the summer of 2013 at an outdoor dance event. I can’t remember who took the picture but think it was one of my fellow dancers – if anyone remembers please let me know so I can credit you!
My journals tend to have the function of processing rather than the intent of keeping a record. Every so often I am propelled to restate a moment expressed on paper as photographic evidence. This is possibly because I sometimes dispose of the journals. In this case I wanted to freeze and capture the fact I have experienced going bonkers with desire! Extract from a 2014 journal:
I’ve recently returned from a few days in Venice. It was the period of Carnevale, the Venetian Carnival, which culminates on Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras.
The first contemporary Venetian Carnival took place in 1979. I studied History of Art at Venice’s Ca’Foscari University in the academic year 1979-1980 so was able to immerse myself in the 2nd Venice Carnival in 1980. Here are a couple of pictures of me back in my Venetian student days dressed up for carnival.
On the right: Catherine Whistler, both images by Albano Rossano Sanavio.
Here are are some images I took at this year’s carnival:
Some of the costumes are incredibly elaborate:
In these photos, the carnival masks reference characters from the Commedia dell’arte, a form of popular theatre which flourishedin the 16th-18th centuries.
The following pictures feature costumes with more contemporary references, channelling icons such as Elvis:
I’m not sure what this one was about, but I liked the home-made creativity of the cardboard coffin complete with wreath and blow-up doll!
Carnival is child friendly:
I particularly like seeing ordinary people, locals or tourists, dressed in their normal gear but with an added touch of glamour or humour as a nod to carnival:
A little touch of carnival – the carnival confetti known as coriandioli can be seen all over this gallery goer’s hair:
My Venetian friends did not dress up for Carnival, but I like this shot I took of my old friend Mario with a mysterious caped man in the background:
When I was in New Orleans recently I came across a wordless sticker in the street that referenced the iconic 17th Century painting by Vermeer The girl with the Pearl Earring. In the last few years the original image has entered popular culture after Tracy Chevalier’s 1999 novel about the painting was adapted into a film in 2003 with Scarlett Johansson. I like the fact the source is recognisable even though the face is obliterated:
Here are some other images I’ve taken that reference fine art painting in contemporary fashion:
This woman’s leggings depict The Wave by 19th Century Japanese artist Hokusai
This hand painted man’s tie, seen last month in Soho, references and plays around with Matisse’s Blue Nude cut out:
And this cut-out leotard at Primark displays an 18th century portrait. I’m not sure what it is – possibly Gainsborough or Boucher, but the rococo softness together with the severe, athletic diagonals of the cut out struck me as an unusual combination. I also like the way we view the mass produced garment in multiples as opposed the singularity of the original painting.
Finally here’s a picture I took at The Women’s Pond in Highgate this summer of my beach towel and hand-written journal. For me this image functions as a kind of extended self-portrait, capturing the moment and mystery of my diary entry! The image on the towel is Gitana Tropical Cuban artist Victor Manuel, 1928.