Saturday, 14 July 2012

Snooping and prying

Sometimes I think I lead a rather odd life. Today 11th July 2012 I had breakfast consisting of a stale old roll left from some I made last week after  impulsively trying out Kamut, an Egyptian bread flour which it said on the bag, contains lots of selenium.  I also had a piece of Hovis wholemeal toast from a bag of bread I found unopened on the pavement outside my flat.  I also found a beef tomato in good condition on the pavement in Chiswick yesterday and ate that. Perhaps I am turning into one of those people who eats road kill?

Set off for the Titian exhibition at the National Gallery,  in the rain as usual, and the bus driver pointed out that my umbrella was “all broken up.” I told him I  had only used it twice. I  was nurturing the futile desire to  “get some wear out of it,” just like my mother would have done.

There are three paintings on show, Diana and Callisto, Diana and Actaeon, and the Death of Actaeon, all made for Philip II of Spain in about 1551. If you are trying to find anything good about Philip of Spain and his vicious reign, this must be it.
These great paintings are  together again for the first time since the 18th century,  but not for long as two of them are soon off to Scotland on permanent loan, so I for one will never see them again.
I tried to foment some anti-Scottish feeling about this among the old ladies and unemployed gathered in the gallery, it’s a free exhibition,  and they were suitably disgruntled.  
Attached to this show are  some contemporary installations by Chris Ofili who is famous for his elephant dung, Conrad Shawcross and Mark Wallinger. Don’t know what they are famous for but it’s bound to be something disturbing.  There are also  three ballets opening at the Royal Opera House called Metamorphosis, tying  in with Titian’s work.  
We had a look at set design, costumes, a film shot very close up and low down of ballet rehearsals, and at the installations and paintings. Very dreary they were apart from an installation by Wallinger consisting of  a locked wooden box containing a  naked woman inside having a wash. Several women change places during the day to do this chilly task.
We were able to spy on her, like Acteon on Diana, through a break in the misted glass and slits in the closed window blinds. These were set so high that my friend and I  couldn’t see anything. We agreed that they were placed at man height. Men were obviously meant to be cast as peeping Toms.
I was a bit annoyed and banged on the door, shouting: “Are you going to be in there all day?”
A good question in the circumstances but from out of the Stygian gloom the prissy  voice of an attendant said :  “They would prefer it if you didn’t  do that.”
At least I wasn’t turned into a stag and torn to bits.
 My friend noticed a  key hole, painted black in the black door. The traditional  and best method of snooping. We had a peer and all I could see was the woman’s bottom filling the expanse of the key hole. Surely a repressed, prurient English perv’s dream come true but it didn’t do anything for me.  Then I got an eye full of unpleasant Scottish looking red pubic hair.
I was glad to have seen something but it was a rather a mundane experience.  Perhaps we should have left it to the men.
After that we went off to room 35, to see two small paintings by Andrea Schiavone,  showing Zeus disguised as Diana seducing Callisto. Now is that is a very odd idea, which assumes that most women at the time were Lesbians. The other shows Arcos shooting his mother Callisto by mistake,  after Diana had turned her into a bear. Well these things happen.
They were in room 10 and took some time to find, but were worth it. Vibrant, beautiful little paintings and I would like to use them in my work and my friend felt the same.  Then we had a conversation about all the cross-dressing men we’d known in the past. One of her friends had been tricked into sleeping with a prostitute in Paris who looked like a lovely girl but turned out to have 5 o’clock shadow. I noticed an elderly man standing near us  covertly listening to what we were saying. Thanks to Titian and his friends it was an afternoon of  prying and snooping.  


  1. Must go and have a look at that prurient sight for a sore eye.

  2. There is a cartoon in the new Private Eye about the men in dirty macs lining up!