Saturday, December 27, 2014

Matisse and Robin Hood

Two treats to tell you about: yesterday a documentary called Matisse: The Cut Outs, about one of my all-time favourite artists, and today a play called The Heart of Robin Hood. Very different, both wonderful.

Between the ages of 74 and 84, when he died, Matisse opened up an entire new frontier for himself. Ill, mostly bed-ridden, he began to work with scissors and paper. He'd paint or instruct his assistants to paint large pieces of paper with Matisse-y colours - yellows, greens and especially blues - and then he'd cut bits out with big scissors and create magnificent art. He said he was creating gardens and swimming pools because he couldn't walk or swim any more. There was a defiance of death - "a final fireworks," someone called it - in this phenomenal creativity at the end of his life. Sick and old, he not only continued creating, he invented something so new and spectacular, it inspired countless artists after him.

"Composition with masks."

He's like a child with his scissors and his paper, said Picasso with a touch of jealousy.

When the film compared Matisse and Picasso, I thought, They're like the Lennon and McCartney of 20th century art. Both brilliant beyond compare, but one is wild, crazy, selfish and domineering, the other self-contained, family-oriented, disciplined, making beauty. One of the great souls of the earth. Highly recommended.

Every December, I take my dear friend John, the handyman who keeps this house going, and his wife and daughter to the theatre, so I look for a show we'll all enjoy. One year War Horse made John cry; last year the new Riverdance show. The Heart of Robin Hood worked wonderfully for all of us, from Emilie at 9 to John at ... 70? From the Royal Shakespeare Company originally, it was mind-bogglingly energetic - actors descending upside down on ropes, clambering up or hurtling down the nearly perpendicular green wall that was the set, all kinds of comedy, tons of blue-grass music - fast-moving and very entertaining.

"The Snail."

Finally, I just read an interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard, with an interesting quote, with which I'll leave you.

KK: Creativity is located somewhere other than in the thoughts, which all musicians and painters know, so you need to neutralize the thinking while writing, to get to a place where they don’t matter, and one way to do that is to outrun them, just write as fast as possible. To make a piece of art, says Lawrence Durrell somewhere in The Alexandria Quartet, you need to set yourself a goal, and then go there in your sleep. The sleepwalking is essential. The difficult thing for me has always been to get there – I could easily work on a novel for five years with no result, but then, all of a sudden, something opens up, and it’s always the same. 

I saw an interview with Ian McEwan once where he talked about
the selfless state of writing, and that’s what it is – you write exactly the way you read, with no awareness of the self, you disappear completely, and that’s why I’m writing: this place, with no self, is just so desirable.

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