I had an idea I liked Alban Berg: he was a pupil of Shoenberg. I’ve seen Wozzeck twice. So I had a strong hunch I would love Lulu. Is it because I like expressionist German plays, or the old opera/ballet story, woman who loves, gets into big trouble and causes unhappiness and death? (The story of Lulu comes from two plays of Frank Wedekind, Erdgeist and Pandora’s Box). Anyway I bought tickets for Lulu at the Royal Opera House.

Then I discover curtain up at 6:30 – a tall order for Monday. There was nothing for it but to sink into my red plush seat, concentrate, let the music teach me what it’s all about. Which is exactly what happened. My companion and I poured over the luxurious red programme in between acts, lapping up our ice cream but it wasn’t really necessary. Somehow at the very bottom of understanding and concentration, my mind still full of nonsense from work, the grand drama dragged me upwards and upwards. Think of all those synapses being stretched and bent and shoved with so many things happening at once. 

There was very little action at the beginning which turned out right; the drama arrived through the orchestra conducted by Antonio Pappano and incredible performances from all the cast. I especially enjoyed the animal trainer [Peter Rose] and Schigolch [Gwynne Howell] seemed genuinely decrepit as he struggled on and off stage. This made his character even more creepy. Was he Lulu’s father or lover?

Lulu  hardly moved. The single chair on stage is claustrophobic, no where for Lulu to sit except on the lap of a man. It seems as if there is no where for her to go, she’s trapped on the stage while all the other characters try to gain something from their relationship with her. Even her portrait is just a circle of light, as if no one is really looking but taking it to mean whatever they want. When the Countess stands in the light herself at the end this was especially chilling. The sparseness of the production helped with the gradual build up of intensity. I almost leapt out of my seat.


Do you know how to blanket stitch?

After the Estorick I crept on a very slow bus to the White Cube, Mason’s Yard. for Tracey Emin’s show. No peering here. This atmosphere was all loud voices and posh scent. I’m obviously not used to St. James’ gallery up market tempo. There was a jittery animation and the title in green neon. Downstairs the huge work begins. That filled me with huge respect, reminded me,  how authoratitive.

I completely disagree with the Telegraph’s comment, ‘an idiot savant outsider who represents no one but herself’ . I felt so closely involved by the work I was shocked when a group of noisy young men came bouncing down the stairs. ‘Hey no, you can’t come in, go away!’ 

 Some scraps of material were made with sitiches so tiny I could hardly see if it was sewing or drawing. The mono prints where some of the writing is forwards and some backwards create doubt about what we’re allowed to read.

I went to see the exhibition in the South London Gallery in 1997. The thing that irks me now as then is the crass slogans ‘I need art like I need god’ and this one, ‘Those who suffer love’

But the huge blankets are truly wonderful and masterful, telling me what’s what, communicate directly intimately with me as a woman in my forties.

Do you know how to blanket stitch?

Homberg hats and umbrella pines

The towering diving board of the Ugolino Golf Club (1934) in Florence, umbrella pines in the distance, appears at the Estorick Collection, Framing Modernism. The exhibition consists of photographs documenting Italian rationalist and modern architecture. Many pictures of hot sun and strong shadow, shadows of people in Homberg hats thrown onto blank concrete and strangely dark skies make a history of seemingly impartial documentation at the same time the optimism of the age. Old cars and taxis remind us how long ago this was, the  empty spaces remind us of the respect for machinery and concrete in general.

The more anonymous industrial and agricultural buildings, the station, fish market, taxi garage, salt warehouse seem to do better out of the black and white photography. In Nervi’s government salt warehouse the triangular pile of salt reaches up towards the curves of the massive concrete structure. Here is a picture of his aircraft hangar in Orvieto


Nearly all the photographs are empty of people except for their shadows. An empty day bed against a tall glass-concrete wall suggests the (female) nude has just got up and left. 

Connected in the exhibition with Rationalism’s love of farm buildings, there appear pages from Pagano and Daniel’s a typological account of rural architecture, bounded in stylish black borders. Was this contacts sheet look was to emphasise the rigorous nature of the photographer’s task of recording facts.



All galleries encourage their own particular ambience and the one at Estorick collection was on of intense interest and concentration. The visitors looked as if they could eat the photos of light and shade, peering, leaning forward screwing up their eyes. There was the sharp click of heels on floorboards as they entered the dream world of swimming pools, stadiums, TB clinic its show of optimism.

1107855648There was just this beautiful mysterious one from Ugo Mulas from (1953) that suggests all is not as wonderful as it might be. 

I did of course wish I’d paid more attention when I visited Como, Florence and Turin in the past. I’m sure I just hurried through the station Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Who would have thought it would be so famous.

Homberg hats and umbrella pines