Sunday, 12 October 2014

Extraordinary ordinary

Yesterday afternoon, we visited the Cheltenham Art Gallery, which has some fine Chinese work in its permanent collection, though not often on show. It has been dusted down to accompany a new travelling exhibition, just opened. "Ahead of the Curve" is the somewhat opaque title of what is a fine assemblage of contemporary objects from China. It was not something I thought would be of much interest to me when it was advertised, but in fact, as my photograph shows, there is much to catch the eye: Wan Liya calls his beautifully crafted porcelain copies of everyday containers "Birds Twitter and Fragrance of Flowers". Many of the artists studied at the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute: it hosts some 1,700 students of ceramics at any one time.

Later in the afternoon, we had tickets for a poetry recital. Once again, they were intended for Agnes, but she was in Bristol. The poets were Michael Symmons Roberts and Rowan Williams.  I found the work of the former infinitely more accessible than the latter's: obviously such a nice and good man, but "never knowingly understood" seems to hit the mark for his poems as well as his sermons.

Roberts not only read well, but gave us short glosses which illuminated his thought. A poem about a photo booth was prefaced by his describing it as a secular confessional where you are confronted with yourself.

Asked about the influences upon their work, Roberts referenced Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman's Dream Songs, Donne and Edward Thomas; while from Rowan Williams came the names of Auden, Dylan Thomas, Eliot, "early to middle Geoffrey Hill", Browning and David Jones.

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