The last couple of weeks have been all about art. To start with, there was a weekend in Kent, wandering round a Folkstone Triennial sluiced bright with rain, and then going to Jeremy Deller’s fabulous English Magic exhibition in Margate. Deller is one of my favourite artists and If I tell you the exhibition involves Stonehenge, birds of prey, Bowie, David Kelly, William Morris and silk banners that show tax avoidance schemes, you can probably get a sense of how much I enjoyed it. There were free posters to take away too.
Then, last weekend, we went to Frieze. It’s a brilliant, weird experience – the sheer numbers of famous paintings in the Masters tent (and the fascinating price-tags), the oligarch spotting, the new commissions (including one in London Zoo). The best bit is actually probably the free sculpture park – I loved the Kusama pumpkin and Schütte’s lurid pink sausage, and Gruff loved running round the dinosaur roaring at his friends.
I’ve also been to see the Tracey Emin at the White Cube, and then, on my birthday, Amselm Kiefer at the Royal Academy, which was very moving. Interestingly, poets talk so much about Ekphrasis but he seems to practise the other way, with many many of his paintings inspired by poems, most disturbingly Celan’s Death Fugue with the ‘Black milk of morning’ and awful golden hair. It’s definitely made me want to read more Celan (what’s the best translation??)
Talking of Ekphrasis, it’s never been something I’ve practised much – I suppose for me there’s something so wonderful about the self-sufficiency of a poem – although I do adore some Ekphrastic poems: Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts, obviously, and Szymborska’s Vermeer. However, I’ve really enjoyed a recent commission to write ten poems about architectural details for the book Look Up London which is out this month, edited by Adrian Searle and David Barbour and published by Freight. It’s a very lovely photography book, full of interesting facts about the city’s buildings, and I immersed myself in London’s history and folklore for the first time, to put together a sequence that draws on Blake, Victoriana and nursery rhymes. (My favourite discovery was a ghost near Pie Lane called ‘Scratching Fanny’.)
Anyway, do take a look, lovely Christmas present for someone etc!