Category Archives: Art & Photography

Bosch & Bruegel

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Bosch & Bruegel –
From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life
By Joseph Leo Koerner
Princeton University Press – £54.95

[…]at its beginnings, the painting of everyday life was bound inextricably to what seems its polar opposite: an art of the bizarre, the monstrous, and the uncanny. It was a dark, fanatical form of painting that had contained the seed of future genre painting, but negatively, as a bad seed. Familiar human existence, vividly portrayed, constituted a trap secretly set by an enemy indeed, by the Old Enemy, Satan – to ruin us.

                                                                                            (Preface)

Peter Bruegel is the unsurpassed painter of common humanity.

                                                                                             (History)

I recently visited the wonderful city of Bruges in Belgium, where I spent what felt like an eternity, gazing at the masterful painting that is Hieronymus Bosch’s The Last Judgement (1486) at the city’s Groeningemuseum. A triptych of surprisingly/supposed disputed authorship (in that was either painted by Bosch himself, his workshop or was indeed a collaborative effort). Thing is: will we ever know? And what difference would it make if we did?

Either way, The Last Judgement is an exceedingly dark and twisted, overtly macabre, stunning piece of work.

Apart from enticing one to investigate further and further; the painting, if nothing else, depicts humanity’s fraught and harrowing ability to be cruel to the extent of acute insanity. Perhaps this is what Bosch was looking to convey? Reason being, it’s just as relative to his Garden of Earthly Delights – in that apart from subject matter, the outside shutters are painted in grisaille while the inside shutters and centre are painted on oil.

Surely said depiction of polarity betwixt the two paintings is so much more than a mere coincidence?

To be sure, some explanation is to be found at the very outset of this most magisterial of books, where Joseph Leo Koerner writes: ”It is a historical commonplace that European art, having long been at the service of religion, became increasingly secular in subject matter and purpose and that this new worldliness produced a distinctive kind of painting, one voided of myths and histories and focused on everyday life.”

So far as the two Bosch paintings are concerned, there was always going to be some sort of inadvertent, if not subliminal trajectory of that which had gone before instilled within the varying subject matter of final judgement and that of the most profound of earthly delights. A most profound constitution, which, suffice to say, is more than evident in so many of the exquisite paintings featured throughout Bosch & Bruegel – From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life.

That which had gone before of course, being most indicative of Koerner’s assertion that European art had ”long been at the service of religion.”
He was absolutely right. It had.
Thus the author’s depiction that a ”new worldliness produced a distinctive kind of painting […] focused on everyday life.”

Indeed, when I visited the aforementioned Groeningemuseum, as much was far too evident and very clearly on display. One painting after another, after another, depicted yet another crucifixion of Christ or yet another rendition of the Virgin Mary. So much so, that the paintings themselves bore very little to art. Or so it (eventually) appeared, simply due to the number of paintings morphing into some sort of congenital apparition of religious persuasion.

They were no longer art.

To a degree, these 364 pages (excluding Preface, Acknowledgements, Notes, Index, Photography and Copyright Credits and a List of The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts 1952-2016 ) of high-octane, hight-quality reproduction, nigh symbolises said artistic demarcation and inevitable need for change. A most fluent change, which can be seen amid the very paintings of the two prime artists of this book, Bosch and Bruegel.

Where Bosch’s work was still steeped within the relative dark, elongated orientation of religiosity and suffering (if not madness), so much of Bruegel’s work could be described as having been triggered by the severing of such taut trajectory.

One need only marvel at the freedom and the joy depicted in Pieter Bruegle’s The Peasant Dance (1586) on page 329 to ascertain as much.

A real ”distinctive kind of painting […] focused on everyday life,” which the author makes clear, when at the outset of the ninth chapter, ‘History,’ he writes: ”The dance itself embodies […] embrace. Giving conjugal and communal bonds aesthetic form, dancing models the pull this painting exerts on us. Rushing into the revels, their footfalls syncing to the piper’s beat, the foreground couple draws the beholder into the vortex of the dance and its surrounding eddies of intimacy – the ambiguous tug-of-war at the doorway to the inn, the kiss ongoing at the far left, the invasive friendship of the foreground drunk, and so on.”

The assimilation of so many wonderful reproductions, along with such considered description as that above, more than accounts for Bosch & Bruegel – From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life being what it is: absorbing and utterly captivating. To quote Claudia Swan, author of Art, Science, and Witchcraft in Early Modern Holland: ” Bosch & Bruegel is a magnificent book – massively erudite, profoundly human, and sometimes even shatteringly poetic. Koerner is a marvellously compelling writer.”

Is it any wonder it has been twenty years in the making?
An elegant tour de force without equal.

David Marx

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The Tiger In The Smoke

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The Tiger In The Smoke –
Art and Culture in Post-War Britain
By Lynda Nead
Yale University Press – £35.00

Six years of war had drained the colour from Britain. Or so it seemed to those arriving in the country at its ports and railway stations from overseas and to those living in its faded, battered streets and amongst the broken buildings and bombsites. The aftermath of war was perceived and later remembered through a register of greys: the colours of bombed ruins and rubble, the hue of fatigue and austerity, of ongoing rationing and uncertainty. To many, even the air, the atmosphere, was gloomy and muted, with fogs making the landscape strangely and relentlessly colourless, spreading a pall of smoke-saturated particles over streets, buildings and trees.

                                            Broken Buildings and ‘Horrid Empty Spaces’
                                            (‘The Atmosphere of Ruins’)

This is an absolutely terrific book.

Indeed, The Tiger In The Smoke – Art and Culture in Post-War Britain is without any fog-induced, remote shadow of a doubt, one of the most inspired, invigorating and above all, quintessentially English books I’ve read in a long, long time. But what’s interesting, is there’s also no doubting that – that for all the wrong reasons – someone like former Smiths singer and annoying, current-day gob-shite of utterly unwarranted racist persuasion, Morrissey, would undoubtedly embrace it with all the tactile impudence of an over zealous apostle.

Likewise, former UKIP head-honcho and equally ill-informed, hypocrite from hell, Nigel Farrage.

Reason being, both brazen bigots and their idiosyncratic ilk, inexorably (and blindly) hark after a period in relatively recent English history, wherein myopic, super independence and everything that that nigh entailed – rationing, sectarianism, dire discrimination and the contagion of the horrific class system – was the invariable, ‘right-on’ order of the day.

As if ”the hue of fatigue and austerity, of ongoing rationing and uncertainty,” resembled something of the good old days; and was/is thus, something to be adhered to.

Admittedly, this absolutely isn’t to say The Tiger In The Smoke in anyway condones Britain’s black and white era of ”rationing and uncertainty.”
It resolutely does not.

It’s just that here we have a book which wholeheartedly substantiates what Britain, or England to be precise, really was like after the Second World War.
Not great.
Yet it remains some sort of nostalgic epoch – clearly underlined by perpetuating hardship and struggle – which today’s ignorant and utterly foolhardy Brexiteers long to return to.

Authoress Lynda Nead touches on as much in the chapter ‘Broken Buildings and ‘Horrid Empty Spaces,’ where she writes: ”In Lewis Gilbert’s controversial 1953 film Cosh Boy, the young and violent juvenile delinquent, Roy, forces his respectable girlfriend to have sex with him in a bombsite. Bombsites were where ‘spivs’ made their deals and carried out their crimes: crepuscular, broken places that were breeding a corrupt and depraved population. They seemed to draw suspicion, violence and discontent; in 1955 the race relations writer Michael Banton observed that white hostility to the colonial immigrant population was, in part, because ‘Indecent behaviour in the alleys and bombed buildings was frequent.’ This was the world of bombsites as opposed to picturesque ruins: murder, rape, prostitution, spivs, homosexuals and black immigrants, the nightmare antithesis of the ideal new Britain of the planners and improvers.”

Nead could quite easily have called the chapter ‘Broken Britain and Horrid Empty Spaces,’ because in a way, these 337 pages (excluding Acknowledgements, Notes and Index) are just as social as they are political as they are timely – simply because it captures said time period, both majestically and magnificently.

The photography throughout is alone, profoundly stark and telling.

Whether it’s Bill Brandt’s ‘The Square Where the Nightingale Died with the Fog in its Throat,’ Bert Hardy’s ‘The Birmingham of Yesterday,’ Haywood Magee’s ‘Immigrants Arriving at Victoria Station, London, or once again, Bert Hardy’s ‘The Horse Dealers.’

All tell the truth as it so effervescently needs to be be told; because as we all well know, true photography – before the onset of photo-shop and the ease with which to so readily manipulate – doesn’t lie.

To be sure, The Tiger In The Smoke tells the truth.
Just one facet (among many) which warrants investigation.

Other than that, each of Nead’s nine exceptional chapters traverse a certain interdisciplinary approach to film, television and advertising; which to be honest, more or less transcends time (and to a certain degree, fashion). With such chapter headings as the aforementioned ‘Broken Buildings and ‘Horrid Empty Spaces,’ ‘To Let In The Sunlight,’ ‘Learning To Think In Colour’ and ‘Battersea, Whitechapel and the Colours of Culture,’ the book provides unprecedented analyses of the art and culture – not to mention the trajectory of life and subliminal politics – within the shot-gun parameters of post-war Britain.

The ghastly repercussions of which the equally ghastly Foreign Secretary (a joke, surely?) Boris Johnson is still utilising and distorting for his own, ego-driven ends.

The kernel of said, ego-driven ends is touched on throughout.
None more so than in the fifth chapter, ‘Thirty Thousand Colour Problems,’ where Nead candidly writes: ”The dissolution of the empire after 1945 was ragged and violent; in the mid-1950s, Britain was involved in colonial wars in Cyprus, Malaya and Kenya, and reports of these conflicts fed into beliefs and assumptions about migrants from the empire who were now living in Britain. In particular, the conflicts in Kenya between 1952 and 1956, involving the Mau Mau, seemed to feed into long-established imperial fantasies of superstitious and violent natives, violating and murdering English women and bringing on themselves violent reprisals.”

As mentioned at the outset of this review, the likes of Morrissey, Farage and perhaps the BNP et al, will undoubtedly confide, take some sort of comfort in as well as confuse The Tiger In The Smoke with that of their own disgruntled, dishonest and utterly disgusting world-view.

This is a colossal shame, because this rather magisterial book cries out to be seen and wholly embraced for all the right reasons, and for what it really is: that of a template as to what Britain will probably revert back to – if it hasn’t already done so by way of the increase in recent hate crime – once the true horror of Brexit finally descends.

David Marx

America’s National Gallery of Art

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America’s National Gallery of Art
By Phillip Kopper & The Publishing Office of
The National Gallery of Art, Washington
Princeton University Press – £62.95

The dedication of this Gallery to a living past, and to a greater and more richly living future, is the message of the earnestness of our intention that the freedom of the human spirit shall go on.

                                      President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1941

Very lavish and very well presented, there really ought to be more books put together like this; or indeed, more books covering an array of varying subjects within the arts.

Replete with an assortment of simply stunning as well as startling, colour and black and white photographs, these 350 pages – excluding: Benefactors 1937-2016, Trustees and Directors of the National Gallery of Art 1937-2016, Current and Former Trustees’ Council Members 1982-2016, Acknowledgements, Selected References and Index (while the penultimate pages prior to the above is A Visual Timeline, four-page pull-out) – are a more than fitting nod to a (seemingly) former way of American life.

An intrinsically wholesome, organic way of life, that is sadly, not to mention criminally on the wane throughout the country.

That said, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of a beloved cultural institution, America’s National Gallery of Art takes curious readers on a definitive inside tour through this very special museum’s remarkable history.

By way of lively prose and abundant illustrations, this richly detailed volume recounts the development of the Gallery under its four directors – David Finley, John Walker, J. Carter Brown, and currently Earl A. Powell III. In so doing, it invariably highlights the museum’s collections, exhibitions, architecture, and rather awe inspired ambience.

An ‘inspired ambience’ that was, and surely remains something of a trajectory in relation its altogether majestic founder, Andrew W. Mellon. A man whose life (as explained in the chapter ‘The First Fifty Years’) spanned: ”the abolition of slavery and invention of television, the building of the first bridge across the Mississippi and construction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Walt Disney’s Snow White, the Dred Scott decision and the New Deal.”

No surprise(s) then, that Mellon was born the same year as the Paris Exposition exalted Delacroix, and died the year Picasso painted Guernica.

To be sure, the man was as faceted as that of his era: an industrialist, a financial genius and a philanthropist of gargantuan generosity. Born into prosperous circumstances, he launched several of America’s most profitable corporations. He was therefore, a venture capitalist before the term had even entered the lexicon (eventually becoming one of the country’s richest men). Yet his name was barely known outside his hometown of Pittsburgh – until that is, he became secretary of the treasury at an age when many men consider retiring.

Moreover, Mellon was a man of myriad accomplishments, but he is perhaps, ultimately remembered for one: he founded an art museum by making what was thought at the time to be the single largest gift by any individual to any nation. Few philanthropic acts of such generosity have been performed with his combination of vision, patriotism, and modesty. Fewer still bear anything but their donor’s name; although Mellon stipulated that his museum be called the National Gallery of Art.

Could you imagine Donald Trump being as remotely magnanimous?
In fact, one cannot help but wonder if Trump would have it in him to be even a tenth as giving and generous?

Divided into four distinct sections: The First Fifty Years (with chapters including the aforementioned ‘Andrew W. Mellon: Founder and Benefactor,’ ‘The National Gallery’s War Record’ and ‘J. Carter Brown Launches the East Building’), Framing the Future (‘The Powell Era,’The Physical Museum,’ ‘Mission Expanded,’ ‘Corcoran Collection’ and ‘Growing the Collection’), The Collection (‘Selected acquisitions since 1937’) and Exhibitions (‘Special exhibitions since 1973’), this altogether encompassing collection marks a published return to beauty, elegance and grace.

Qualities so sorely missing amid so many publications of this persuasion.

Suffice to say, later chapters explore the Gallery’s new emphasis on contemporary art and its historic 2014 agreement to accept custody of the Corcoran Collection, thus giving readers and visitors a window onto the future of this national treasure.

With even the quality of the pages being something to behold, this veritable tomb comes in a protective box; which, along with the aforementioned lively prose and 730 illustrations, is what fundamentally accounts for America’s National Gallery of Art aligning readers and art lovers (in general) with a most pronounced visionary acceptance of how art really ought to be appreciated.

David Marx

Traces of Vermeer

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Traces of Vermeer
By Jane Jelley
Oxford University Press – £25.00

There was a bewildering choice of blacks at the time, and they all had different properties and different uses. It is a long list: earth black; sea coal black; lamp black; cherry stone black; vine black; charcoal black, peach, date, or almond stone black; walnut shell black; bone black; ivory black; even ‘burnt toast,’ described as a ‘bread black.’ Some blacks are warmer in colour than others: bones produce a brownish colour, while vine black, often called ‘blue black,’ was recommended for painting ruffs, or the shadows in the face, when mixed with white. There were recipes to suggest how to prepare and use all of these different pigments in painters’ treatises. ‘Cheristone’ black was suggested as being good for draperies; and if a painter wanted ‘a most extremely deep black,’ then lamp black, and ivory black could be used together; by putting one, as a glaze, over the other. Painters could follow a recipe for making ivory black; and put some bits of an ‘old combe, fanne handle or knife in a closed crucible, with a ‘little salt;’and place it in the fire for a quarter of an hour.

My word, the complexity of choice at the disposal of artists during The Netherlands so-called ‘Golden Period’ – or any period come to that – really was both bewildering and overtly comprehensive to say the least. A daunting feature and something which is resoundingly highlighted in this overtly investigative yet very readable book by Jane Jelley.

A painter of still life and landscape herself, who, as authoress, herein bequeaths the reader with an inexorable intrigue that is altogether contagious. Contagious, because in her pursuit of trying to decipher just how Johannes Vermeer’s paintings were ”made,” she takes the reader on something of a tangential journey that is most illustrative, idiosyncratic and interesting at the same time.

This ultimately accounts for Traces of Vermeer being what it is: ”An absolute delight. A rich and highly original exploration of Vermeer’s life and work seen through the eyes of a practising painter” (Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe).

An example of such richness can be found in Vermeer’s View of Delft, on which Jelley conclusively writes in the book’s seventh chapter ‘A Glimpse of Vermeer’: ”Vermeer had to decide where he would stand to observe Delft, in order to establish his composition. Which window he would use? What might he like to include from here, or from any other viewpoint, and what should he ignore? One of his trademarks is the attention he pays to the construction of his picture, and the dynamics of the movements within it. He thought carefully about the weights of shapes, and where he wanted the viewer’s eye to travel; where he wanted it to rest […]. If this picture appears ‘real’ to us, it is not because things are very detailed, but because Vermeer has grasped the essentials of the tone and the shapes, and has left much for us to interpret ourselves. It is not like looking at a high definition image on screen, or even a photograph; but like glimpsing something out of the corner of our eye, something we feel to be familiar.”

It is precisely this familiarity, that to my mind at least, entices us to admire Vermeer’s luminous sunlit spaces, full-blown, mesmerising skies, glimmers of satin and many eloquent strokes of tranquillity (such as Young Woman with a Water Jug, Mistress and Maid and of course, Girl with a Pearl Earring).

To be sure, Traces of Vermeer is an invitation for us to not only embrace Vermeer’s world, but to also ask or decipher to what degree he may, or may not have used some sort of lens through a camera obscura.

Personally, I couldn’t care less. Surely it’s the final product that counts?

Wonderful paintings that have traversed the years.
The centuries. Paintings which continue to touch us.
And resonate.

David Marx

Marie Antoinette

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Marie Antoinette
By Helene Delalex, Alexandre Maral & Nicolas Milovanovic
Getty Publications – £32.50

I have seen all, I have heard all, I have forgotten all.

I do not share the king’s tastes. He is only interested in hunting and metalwork. I am sure you will agree that I would look quite awkward standing at a forge; I would not make a good Vulcan and if I were to play the role of Venus that would bother him far more than my real tastes, which he does not seem to mind.

The thought of the Viennese born Archduchess dressed as a Vulcan or working in a forge, does make for quite an image. Although had it been a reality, it may just as well have saved her life. That said, this Marie Antoinette essentially examines the the last and ill-fated French Queen’s personal collection at Versailles.

Assembled with all the authority of three curators (Helene Delalex and Alexandre Maral at the Chateau of Versailles, Nicolas Milovanovic at the Louvre Museum in Paris); this sumptuously compiled and altogether stunning book, really is something of a photographic treasure. An artistic approach to a book which sheds oodles of light on a subject, that unless one were actually/regularly in Versailles itself, has continued to remain something of an idiosyncratic enigma. Until now.

That Marie Antoinette (1755 – 1793) continues to intrigue historians, writers and film-makers more than two centuries after her death is a nigh given. Her glamorous role as arbiter of fashion and patron of the decorative arts in the French court, not to mention the overtly dramatic circumstances surrounding her death, still does much to trigger the imagination.

Lest we forget, Antoinette was the only French queen to have her own collection, the Garde Meuble de la Reine, upon which she spared no expense (much to the eventual chagrin of the Parisian populace at large might I add): ”Tracing her life from her upbringing in Vienna as the archduchess of Austria, to her ascension to the French throne, and finally to her execution, the three authors discuss the exquisite objects that populated her surroundings: beautiful gowns, gilt-mounted furniture, Chinese porcelains, and opulent tableware. Her more personal possessions are also represented, including her sewing kit, her harp, her children’s toys, and even the simple chemise she wore as a condemned prisoner. Excerpts from her correspondence offer a further glimpse into her personality and daily life.”

A life it would seem, to which she resolutely and openly adhered.

As much is touched on in the book’s third chapter (‘The Queen’) at the very outset of ‘Queen of Europe’s Greatest Kingdom,’ in which the authors write: ””Although God caused me to be born in the rank I now occupy, I cannot resist admiring the arrangements of Providence who chose me, the youngest of your children, for the greatest kingdom in Europe,” wrote Marie Antoinette to her mother a few days after her accession. Full of youthful beauty, charming and vivacious, the eighteen-year old queen was adored by the people of Paris and greeted with cheers on every public appearance, something that touched her deeply.”

From ‘The Future Queen of France’ to ‘Queen of Fashion,’ from ‘Petit Trianon -The Queen’s Refuge’ to ‘Platonic Love?’ to ‘A Tragic End,’ these 209 pages (excluding Bibliography and Illustration Credits) are throughout, more than substantiated with the most lavish collection of truly wonderful illustrations. Many of which, evoke in the reader, a place of the most exquisite, magisterial design.

Furthermore, a place many of us always knew existed, but one that nevertheless, has always remained (subliminally) hard to define. Hard to clarify. Even hard to come to terms with. Until now.

Marie Antoinette is one of those collections one will invariably return to time and time again, because some of the astonishing beauty within will simply refuse to leave us be.

David Marx

Annie Sloan Paints Everything

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Annie Sloan Paints Everything
By Annie Sloan
Cico Books – £14.99

[…] I didn’t want it to be about all the weird and wonderful things people paint – skateboards, tubas, and even caravans! – nor just about all the multitude of surfaces that can be painted, such as fabrics, concrete, plastics, melamine, marble, and metal, as well as all the usual surfaces like wood. This is an important point, of course, and one that I certainly took into account […].

From Warehouse Rustic to Shibori Lampshades, from a Painted Chandelier to Printed Table Runners, Annie Sloan Paints Everything might well traverse everything (and a whole lot more besides) that we have come to expect from one of the world’s most respected experts in the field of decorative painting.

It’s the sort of book that is bound to inspire any free-thinking home-owner with a quantum leap of varying ideas and dare I say it, opportunistic mayhem. Each of it’s three chapters (‘Furniture and Lighting,’ ‘Fabric and Other Surfaces’ and Walls and Floors’) cover an exceedingly wide terrain of the home – as mentioned at the outset – all of which are augmented with a spectacular array of photographs.

In fact the photographs alone, will have you running for the brush in next to no time!

As Annie Sloan writes in the Introduction: ”In this book, I wanted to excite you and encourage you to paint everything. I wanted to show how my own range of paint, Chalk Paint, which I developed in 1990, has retained its classic identity and continued to evolve and develop with new techniques and treatments.”

Having already written rather extensively on the subject of paint, texture and design (her previous books include Quick and Easy Paint Transformations, Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture, Annie Sloan’s Room Recipes for Style and Colour and Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook among others), the authoress most certainly knows how to convey a grand idea, but more importantly, put it across.

For instance, on page 34, there is a wonderful colour photograph of a completed Waxed Bureau, on the opposite page of which she writes: ” Oak is a very distinctive wood that is characterized by a deep grain. It also has interesting irregular markings, depending on how it is cut. I particularly love oak when it’s very old, unvarnished, and natural because it is a lovely, soft, light gray in colour […]. This particular bureau is from the 1940s or so, and had been lightly varnished with a dark colour. The grain was still textural, but the wood was darker than I would have liked. I could have removed the varnish – a rather long and tedious job – but this would have made the whole piece lighter. So, instead, I opted for the easier method of applying white wax to lighten the varnish and bring out the grain of the wood. If I had taken the varnish off, the finished effect would have been a lot lighter and the grain probably more pronounced.

The trick is to allow the wax to harden for long enough that it hardens a little in the grain, but not for so long that the wax does not come off where you want it to.”

That every section comes replete with a drop box called ”You Will Need” (in the above instance: White wax, Small wax brush, Clean, dry, lint-free cloths, Clear wax, Annie Sloan Valeska stencil and a project pot of Graphite paint, to decorate the edge of the bureau’s desk – optional), reiterates the practicality of both Sloan’s work and approach.

So why not start the New Year with some terrific new ideas for the home; of which this most fabulous book is literally uber-jam-packed with.

David Marx

Sins

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Sins
By Mary Telford
Illustrated by Louise Verity
The Lilliput Press – £25.00

In seven segments (‘Envy,’ ‘Pride,’ ‘Avarice,’ ‘Sloth,’ Gluttony,’ ‘Anger,’ and ‘Lust’), this book is a veritable delight to both behold and partake in; partake as in with the turning of every page, one doesn’t quite know what to expect.

Admittedly, this may have a lot to do with the occasionally dark and brood induced illustrations of Louise Verity (colourful and inviting the one minute, angular and intrinsically cartoonesque the next), although Mary Telford’s words are of an equal persuasion so far as the utterly non-ob(li)vious is concerned.

For instance, at the outset of ‘Avarice’ on page 75, Telford writes: The woman longed for wealth above all else. It wasn’t vulgar gold she hankered after or a fortune newly acquired, but long-held riches and respect.

Every Christmas she left her penthouse to visit her impoverished aunts. Their residential hotel was shabby. She slipped on the wheelchair ramp and scraped her Louboutin heel. She reminded herself that the trust fund would be hers once the aunts were dead […].

It’s not until one has reached page 108, that the reader invariably learns of the outcome; but not before having stumbled across a myriad of definitive artwork that (unsurprisingly), does much to trigger the imagination. An imagination, clearly, already attracted to Sins, but which now finds itself served with a certain imagery – some of which, assorted readers will no doubt find appealing while others will feel merely skim the surface of the aforementioned, seven universal themes.

There again: ”The modern fairytale takes many forms, clothing our unconscious with the macabre, the fantastical, the grotesque. In seven elemental stories, anxieties and dark desires are given dramatic force in the renderings of illustrator Loiuse Verity. Drawn form the European folk tale, they are grounded in a tradition from Hieronymus Bosch, the brothers Grimm and Lewis Carroll, to Dali, Dahl and Audrey Niffenegger. Where irreality touches life, dreams begin […]. A controlling husband envies his wife’s pleasures. An abused lover takes her revenge. An avaricious socialite is tormented by the kindness of others. A widow exploited by her grown son gains her freedom.”

To quote Kilgore Trout, and so it goes.

These 240 pages could be construed as being something of a subliminal traipse through the back pages Edgar Allan Poe’s after-thoughts; which, all said and invariably done, is a mighty interesting proposition.

Not to mention a regal and intrinsically refreshing change to such writing as that of the fifty shades of hog-wash variety…

David Marx