Of course Blake suffers a lot in representation, he’s invariably the madman more whimsical than genius or the failed commercial artist – key impressions I took from this show. Never is he given full credit as the great philosopher or painter, though the poetry seems better respected than owt else but still this is carefully compartmentalised and the politics are dismissed as utopian gibberish… his was a keen brain, with an open and vigorous intellect, Shakespearean in comprehension – and kind.
Blake was a great philosopher, poet and painter. It’s a joy to see his art on display – & seeing as so much is in public collections it should be available all the time. How about lending out to churches around the country? Many rather beautiful art space were once churches…
[I’d also like to remind everyone he was working class.]
i read ‘kestrel for a knave’ as a teenager and it went some way to politicising me. as a scrawny home counties boy it was a ray of frosty light shone across my narrow, introverted, antsy world view. it brought a few questions into focus, questions of my family history and questions of the sharp class distinctions of ‘Thatchers Britain’. i have never been able to watch the film – the book holds a very special place in my heart, though i doubt i will ever re-read it. i sobbed at it’s ending; and i felt justified. and all my basic assumptions seemed to be proven to be without merit. with the benefit of hindsight and with no clarity of memory whatsoever i can offer the observation that it was my first brush with art – the fragile, warm, plastic, breathing, bird of prey conjured in my imagination – it heated my adolescent soul.
i have had a few epiphanies as an artist, moments when my worldview is shaken, seemingly on the edge of breaking; and i felt my appreciation – and my awe – of the world deepen. some of these epiphanies have been short shocks that resonate throughout my life. ‘kestrel for knave’ was one, it introduced me to social realism (which nourished me for a time, before surrealism took it’s place – to be replaced in turn) and most importantly laid down in the humus of my consciousness the value of working class histories.
my reaction to this thin book was strong, it tweaked at my more sentimental and romantic tendencies and somehow revealed them to be insufficient as responses. i had to change to fully comprehend the novel. transmutation. so i suppose with my imperfect memory and the echoes of my hungry little formative heart; that i had my first inkling of art as an agent for change.
It is we [the workers] who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and in America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones! We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. […] That world is growing in this minute.
Buenaventura Durruti, spoken during the Spanish civil war to Pierre van Paassen.
Estragon: What about hanging ourselves? Vladimir: Hmm. It’d give us an erection. Estragon: (highly excited). An erection! Vladimir: With all that follows. Where it falls mandrakes grow. That’s why they shriek when you pull them up. Did you not know that? Estragon: Let’s hang ourselves immediately!
ESTRAGON: (suddenly furious). Recognize! What is there to recognize? All my lousy life I’ve crawled about in the mud! And you talk to me about scenery! (Looking wildly about him.) Look at this muckheap! I’ve never stirred from it!
VLADIMIR: Calm yourself, calm yourself.
ESTRAGON: You and your landscapes! Tell me about the worms!
Samuel Beckett, Waiting For Godot
landscape / politics / currency – all tied together.
The best laws that England hath,’ he declared, ‘are yokes and manacles, tying one sort of people to another.’ ‘All laws that are not grounded upon equity and reason, not giving a universal freedom to all but respecting persons ought… to be cut off with the kings head.
Gerard Winstanley quoted by Christopher Hill; ‘The World Turned Upside Down.’
The radicals assumed that acting was more important than speaking. Talking and writing books, [Gerard] Winstanley insisted, is ‘all nothing and must die; for action is the life of all, and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing.’ It is a thought worth pondering by those who read books about the seventeenth-century radicals, no less than by those who write them. Were you doers or talkers only? Bunyan asked his generation. What canst thou say?