Tag: pictures

Hurried Exchange/ Day 29

"City" by shesta713@deviantART
“City” by shesta713@deviantART

Almost there, folks, almost there… You’re one day closer to the end of my lyrical spamming…

[EDIT] This poem can now be read in an edited version over at the wonderful Eunoia Review.


This House of Whispers/ Day 24

On this, the twenty-fourth day of NaPoWriMo, I opted for another triolet (ABaAabAB) – must be the fault of all these Gothic texts I’ve been thinking about in my not-so-spare time.

This House of Whispers

In this house of whispers born and raised
A gliding voice, I worship vastness
In this house where hollow smiles are praised
In this house of whispers born and raised
Where soundless, purple fires always blazed
I keep the books of hallowed fastness
In this house of whispers born and raised
A gliding voice, I worship vastness.

El Hotel del Salto, Colombia
El Hotel del Salto, Colombia

I was never so fond of cataloguing…

This will be more of a memento than a regular blog post, I suppose. Last week I got a chance to see the art collection at the Nottingham Castle Museum. It was only a brief visit, yet I made a point of jotting down the titles of all the paintings that caught my fancy for one reason or another. It was more of an instinctive decision than anything. I’d just love to find out more about them. So I’ll jot down what I do know, and also what exactly caught my eye in each painting. I have no idea how this endeavour is supposed to help me in the future. But I always trust my instincts – they haven’t failed me yet. 🙂 Needless to say, please do lend me your expertise if you have more information about these lovely pieces. (Note: most images, unless otherwise stated, were shamelessly stolen from BBC – Your Paintings, which is a nifty little tool in itself.)

via Wikipedia

The Death of Amy Robsart (1877) by William Frederick Yeames (1835-1918). Yeames himself seems to have been quite a colourful character, born in Russia, educated in Saxony, England and Tuscany. The painting was hung, large as life, on a corridor leading from the main art gallery to the ground floor exhibitions. It attests, I believe, to a mildly (at least?) morbid curiosity on the painter’s part, who was, if we are to believe Wikipedia, “fascinated by the events surrounding the death of Amy Robsart”, sixteenth-century gentlewoman who died under circumstances rendered suspicious by her husband’s unorthodox attachment to Queen Elizabeth I.


Deadly Detached (1987) by Graham Crowley (born 1950). Also hanging large as life on the same corridor as the previous picture. The label read: “Crowley paints the suburb as a nightmare where houses crowd, streets are maze-like and there is a lack of space and order”. I am greatly attracted to conceptual imagery of the suburbs and ghettos. Born and raised in what I think of as a “ghetto”, I have that love-hate kind of relationship with architecturally crowded, ugly yet compelling, generally unsafe sort of places. The painting reminds me of “home”, but also of China Miéville’s novels, a bit. This other painting by Crowley, The Poetic of Space, reminds me of the same.


The Soldier’s Grave (1813) by Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841). “A church interior, with mourners. In the centre of the picture is a large group of figures standing around a coffin covered with a dark cloth”, quoth the BBC website. The painting is so small (19.7 x 16.5 cm), I had to squint, but still couldn’t make out much of what was happening. And yet, the dark colour palette, the barren, Romanesque church interior attracted me very much. I was compelled, I suppose, by how the imposing yet all the same claustrophobic environment reigned over the picture, which made the human figures seem rightly ghostly and amorphous.

Virgin and Child with St Joseph (1500s) by a follower of Joos van Cleve (ca. 1464-ca.1540). I’m not precisely sure about what attracted me to this painting. It may have been the bland desexualisation of normally sexualised signifiers, such as the naked breast. Or better yet, the figure of St Joseph, looming in the background: it is known that Joseph was older than Mary, and here it seems (to my perverted mind, at least) that the viewer looks upon a libidinous Joseph who, instead of gazing on Child Jesus with tenderness and awe, is actually enjoying the sight of the forbidden fruit of Mary’s uncovered breast. At the same time, Mary looks almost apprehensive, almost painfully aware that she is on display, yet unable to do anything about it. (Just saying.)

Suscipe Me Domine (Receive Me, Oh Lord) (1895) by John Henry Frederick Bacon (1865-1914). By the looks of it, a painting showing a Catholic novice taking her vows to become a nun. The huge canvas (154.9 x 213.4 cm) were hung high in the gallery, and because of the protection screen the view was bad from every angle. I could hardly make out the figures in the lower left corner (the novice’s mother in black? her father right next to her, perhaps bemoaning his daughter’s decision?). It seemed to me an odd painting, though I can’t put my finger on the jarring details. I stood there looking at it for a long time (until one of the gallery stewards saw fit to introduce himself to me and give me a guided tour; he couldn’t tell me anything about this particular painting, though).

Magdalen Aston, Lady Burdett (1669) by John Michael Wright (1617-1694). Once more, I don’t know. I just thought her beautiful, that’s all. I suppose that’s as good a reason as any… For the history buffs out there, The Peerage makes her out to be

the daughter of Sir Thomas Aston, 1st Bt. and Anne Willoughby. She married Sir Robert Burdett, 3rd Bt., son of Sir Francis Burdett, 2nd Bt. and Elizabeth Walter.

So much for seventeenth-century Who’s Who…

A Child of Paul Sandby by Sir William Beechey (1753-1839). Is this child dead or alive? Is she dreaming dreams of innocence, or are those angels descended from Heaven to claim her soul? As a side note, Paul Sandby was a successful landscape painter. The gallery also held a few more interesting paintings by Beechey, all of them featuring children. For instance: The Children of Paul Sandby and Portrait of a Young Girl. I found them all alluring and a bit… otherworldly.


The Origin of the Combing Machine by Alfred Elmore (1815-1881). With this one it’s simple enough: it just offered me a good lead for my research. 🙂 More about the combing machine here. I know of two more variants of this painting, one currently exhibited at Tate, an early study for Invention of the Combing Machine (ca. 1862), and The Invention of the Combing Machine (1862), exhibited at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery.

Susannah and the Elders, attributed to Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1651/3). I wonder whether this was indeed done by her or not. She used to haunt my fancy with her almost mythical “prey turned predator” presence. Her famous Susannah and the Elders (which, I should hope, is indeed hers) seems so different, in so many ways, to the one exhibited in Nottingham. The composition, however, is very similar. I would be really curious to find out how and when this particular painting made its way into the Nottingham collection…


Love’s Oracle (ca. 1900) by Albert Ritzberger (1853-1915). I suppose the lighthearted atmosphere, the girlish dabbling with tarots and the soft reddish, intimate light triggered my nostalgia. It made me feel how good period movies make me feel: far away, comfortably numb and warm inside. I am mildly intrigued by the fact that the only face hidden from the viewer is that of the tarot reader herself. She is only the only one décolleté, which means that she is fashionable? well off? coquettish?

via Rossetti Archive

Marigolds or The Bower Maiden or Fleur-de-Marie (1874) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). My love for the Pre-Raphaelites and D.G. Rossetti is a secret to no one and stems from too many reasons to be listed here. As to this painting, according to the Rossetti Archive:

In a letter to his mother (February 23, 1874) DGR identified the model as “Little Annie”, a young lady later described by Theodore Watts-Dunton as a house assistant at Kelmscott.

And yet, is it wrong that I see in her figure the perfect combination of Elizabeth Siddal‘s and Jane Morris‘s features?


The Mummers (1951) by Richard Eurich (1903-1992). This tiny painting (21 x 15.9 cm) caught my eye instantly. I took a long time to examine the exquisite miniature characters and try to make out the relationships between them. I love them all, each and every tiny figure (bust most of all, the minuscule black cat). I’ve looked at some more of his paintings, and some appeal to me and some don’t. But none other that I’ve seen display quite the same fairy-tale or cartoonish charm that this one does.




Don Quixote in His Study (ca. 1825/6) by Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828). Seems that Bonington died the year Rossetti was born, which is quite interesting, in a random sort of way. This puts me in mind of all the seventeenth-century (1, 2) paintings of alchemists hard at work in their ateliers, and indeed Don Quixote and the alchemist are part of the same iconographic context in many ways. Perhaps one day I will write an article on the ways in which the two images interact. 🙂



The Flowers of Capri (ca. 1887) by Filadelfo Simi (1849-1923). I am afraid to say this in not a painting  I would normally have taken much notice of, since neither the style nor the subject do much for me. It was the gallery steward whom I mentioned earlier that pointed it out to me, and then dutifully transferred his own obsession into my brain. It’s difficult to see in the reproduction, but on the right hand side of the picture, just above the kneeling lady in yellow smiling at the baby, the patch of grass looks a bit wobbly and perhaps the space is slightly too… empty. That is because a seventh figure used to be there, whom the artist then painted over. No one has yet found out why he felt that was necessary, and it’s that mystery that keeps me interested.

For Sale (1857) by James Collinson (1825-1881). Lastly, I was drawn to this eye-popping representation of the Woman and the female body as object on offer. The juxtaposition of the woman and the porcelain doll is rather disturbing, as is the carefully displayed (artificial?) flower the normal beauty of which is diffused in the gaudy shop. There are several other versions of this paintings, of which this replica is particularly apt and perhaps even more depressing than the original, which may be an effect of the colour palette and the rather more pronounced and telling smile of the forefront lady.
Once more, I have no idea what will come out of this amateurish cataloguing of vague likes as a result of a spontaneous “field trip”. Perhaps someone will manage to make its possible uses (other than procrastination, of course) clear to me?

Coming Full Circle

A bit late, but here it is, the very last poem for this year’s NaPoWriMo. It was fun while it lasted, so I decided to take on the last official prompt as a sort of homage to the project:

Today’s prompt asks you to write a poem incorporating at least three “I remember” statements. This invocation of memory seems a fitting way to end our month together.

So there you go.


It was pouring with words of wisdom
No one was paying attention to
Because it had become a routine,
Almost. I remember that our most
Shameful desires were looking for
Each other in the dark, dreading
Collision. Your hands were colder
Than mine for once, but my teeth
Had become sharper than yours.
I remember that people were
Looking at us, strangers with clever
Maps, but none of them offered
Their assistance. We were soaked
To the marrow in wisdom by now,
Still we kept using our umbrellas
As walking-sticks. I remember
That you tried to steal some
Granny’s semi-feral cat, but
It bit you hard and you almost
Fainted. I suppose it was a
Stratagem to gain my compassion.
It’s fine, though. I, too, pretended
To cry, when it was just wet
Words melting my kohl into
Unseemly, sticky streams. We
Kept walking for a while,
But where we got to in the
End, I can’t seem to remember.

“The Whalers” by Vincent Hui

Of Bath-tubs and Card Games

photograph by Anna Morosini

I thought that for once I’d be able to do the NaPoWriMo challenge without missing a day, but apparently I was too quick to judge. So today I had to make up for yesterday, as well. I don’t really mind it, though, it seems that a day’s break from writing poetry did wonders for my lyrical garrulity.

The prompt for day 28 was great and very permissive, so I really took to it

Today’s challenge is to write a poem of space. Perhaps you could write about the contrast between the snug confines of a shell and the airy majesty of opera houses. What about a cavern? — it is both airy and oppressive — a vast pocket deep underground! Or you could write about the spaces of your memories — the space formed under the table with its big tablecloth, which was your playhouse and fort when you were a child. (I myself spent happy hours in the space formed beneath two large bushes in the backyard). Thinking about the emotional aspects of space give me the same kind of feeling of inversion and surprise as looking at an optical illusion — here I was, not noticing all of these currents of feeling, but wow! There they are.

So here’s what came out of that challenge:


I feel like a specimen –
folded into an origami crane
in the bath-tub,
not yet too wet, but waiting for the water level
to rise, slowly, hypnotised
by its creeping pace.
The scarred white of
the enamel marks every
one of my kicks, every on
of my struggles with the
scalding jets of water.
Closing my eyes, I can feel
an unnatural ocean,
where I am the sole inhabitant.

And for today, I decided to try and write a pentina, for the second time in my life (the first time I tried writing one was for last year’s NaPoWriMo). My fascination with faces, playing cards, tarot cards and eerie light has resurfaced one more on this occasion. Well, I suppose this one will be an odd read, if nothing else (the final envoi is a bit off as well, but never mind for now).


You taught me the meaning of phosphorescence
One evening, as we were playing cards;
You shuffled them easily and without delay,
As though you were born to deal carton faces
To delusional, ambrosia-sipping players.

You and I used to be such terrific players,
Laughing recklessly, our hands aglow with the phosphorescence
Of a fake moon, staring into each other’s faces,
Like children lost into their game of cards,
Unperturbed by the bus or train or tram service delay.

You taught me that sometimes it was best to delay
The final blow, meant to shake off the other players.
You were always too good at reading signs in those cards,
And I was bewitched by your unearthly phosphorescence.
At the end of the day, I liked to compare our faces.

They had always seemed so alike, yet so different, our faces,
Between your and my smile there was a slight delay,
A sort of momentary lag, the result of my weaker phosphorescence.
This was customary between different ranks of players,
Reluctantly disputing their monopoly over the cards.

You taught me the rules and the cheats of the cards,
All written plainly on their pink carton faces,
Reflected so often on the faces of the overzealous players.
But even with the well-calculated pass delay,
I was never able to learn the secret of your phosphorescence.

The phosphorescence you shed on the cards
Dictated the delay in the faces of the players.

“Gunslinger Woman” by Fung Chin Pang aka Cellar

A Matter of Standing Face to Face…

On day 27 of the writing challenge I was in the mood to write a pantoum, as I haven’t done this in a very long time. And I made full use of my long-standing obsession with faces.


Flickering faces
So old and worn
Can at times be spotted
In the winding river.

So old and worn,
They all look alike
In the winding river,
Stony and smooth.

They all look alike,
But their eyes sparkle oddly,
Stony and smooth
Though they may be.

But their eyes sparkle oddly,
Fixed and lifeless
Though they may be,
Looking always straight back at me.

“Prey and Predator” by Ryuko Azuma

Short Journeys to Heaven (in Poetic Form)

Going back to my love for condensed poetry form once again, I have decided to write a sequence of lunes today. A lune is an adaptation of the haiku to the English language, and I have tried my hand at both versions of the form, the Robert Kelly (5-3-5) and the Jack Collom (3-5-3). And here they are:

Lune Sequence

dancing on the moon
one more step
towards completion.


at twilight
etched on the skyline –

“Head on a Stem” by Odilon Redon