This will be my 1000th blog since I started some two and a half years ago so I decided to publish a short summary of what has been most popular.
I write pretty much every day and a lot of what I write is on Australian politics. This tends to be highly topical and blogs do not have more than a couple of days currency. To the best of my knowledge there have been 26,982 hits on my Home page so someone is reading these posts.
Currently, two of my blogs appear on Google’s first page for Tony Abbott. The only person who is more popular writing about Tony Abbott is Tony Abbott himself, but I’m not certain if this is a plus.
But by far the most popular work that I have published is on the border-line softcore photographer David Hamilton. More than half of the 157,000 hits on my website hits have been on Hamilton who did most of his best work some time ago in the 1970s and 1980s.
Hamilton’s forte was photographing exceptionally beautiful young woman in dreamy, etherial and erotically charged settings.
My fundamental thesis about Hamilton is that, while he was a talented photographer, his view of young women and the way he portrays them, crosses the boundary line into the realm of pornography particularly in his photographs of very young children.
David Hamilton (Total hits 81,600)
My second most popular blogs, apart from the topical commentary on Australian politics, is on American artist Edward Hopper. Hopper painted in the early part of the 20th century and is regarded as one of the iconic American painters. His most famous and best known work is Nighthawks.
My interest in Hopper dates back to August, 2007 when I was lucky enough to be in Boston when there was a major Hopper exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. What has fascinated me as I have explored Hopper’s work is the way that he uses line and space, particularly sun-lit space, in his work. Two Hopper quotes provided an excellent starting point in understanding his work.
What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.
In Excursion in Philosophy and Summer in the City, Hopper uses two sun-lit spaces to set up the dynamic between two particular views of the world. The idea of the sunlit space is one that recurs frequently in Hopper’s work.
In Woman in the Sun and Morning Sun, Hopper creates a contemplatorary space from which his subject looks out on the world.
The other illuminating quote was:
If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.
This led me to realise that Hopper uses images as a writer uses words: to create a narrative or to develop themes around particular images.
Edward Hopper July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967 (Total hits 4000)
Susannah and the Elders,
Another idea that has fascinated me is the way in which women have been portrayed by artists through the ages. The biblical story of Susannah and the Elders, from the old Testament book of Daniel, provided excellent vehicle for examining this. As almost every Renaissance artist painted Susannah and many of the great modern artists did as well, this story provides an excellent way of seeing changing styles and views of women.
It is interesting that in the biblical story there are two moments of high drama. The first is when the elders accost the naked Susanna and the second is when Daniel traps the elders at the Susannah’s trial. To my knowledge there are no paintings of the second scene.
Tintoretto painted Susanna many times. In this version, she is unaware of the elders attention.
In Bellucci and Rubens, she is fending off the unwelcome attentions of the elders.
Perhaps the most confrontational and in many ways morally ambiguous painting of Susanna is by Alessandro Allori. The confrontational aspect is the Elders’ assault on Susanna which is portrayed in graphic and symbolic detail. The moral ambiguity comes in the great beauty of the painting itself. This Susanna is probably one of the most beautiful of all of the depictions and it sets up an immediate tension between what was being portrayed and our appreciation of the painting.
The modern view of Susannah is quite different from the more traditional one. In the modern paintings, the view of Susannah is more morally ambiguous. Here she appears as a young woman, fully dressed and not naked according to tradition, and apparently negotiating a deal with two fat businessmen.
In another she is a transsexual, complete with handbag.
Arthur Boyd’s version is rendered in his typical style
And Ben Morales Correa’s version is painted in graphic realist terms.
Total Susannah 3500
Films and Plays
Whenever I see a film or play that I have particularly enjoyed or perhaps not enjoyed, I find it useful to articulate what lies behind these responses. Interestingly, the most popular of these has been my review of Leon the Professional starring Jean Reno, Gary Oldman and featuring the debut of Natalie Portman. Luc Besson’s film was beautifully crafted and at the centre of it lies the morally ambiguous relationship between Mathilda and Leon.
There have been a number of other blogs which have attracted attention for reasons which I am not particularly clear, although the interest in Lewis Carroll is unsurprising.
What has been surprising is the number of hits I have had for the blog on Glenn Lazarus the ex-Senator from Queensland and rugby league’s famous “brick with eyes”.
Lazarus famously threatened to appear in a mankini which would not have been a pretty sight. The blog has attracted 4600 views, more than half the first preferences he received in 2016 election.
But the blogs given me the most pleasure in my twenty-eight Letters to my grandson who was of course when seen through grandparent eyes, the most beautiful of children.
The idea for these letters arose from my realisation that small children remember nothing of the first years of their lives. So I decided to document the time that Di and I have with our grandson to leave him with a record. This idea has now morphed into the idea that these blogs can now incorporate a family history.
As I write about Winton, I include information and photos about his father, Simon, when he was Winton’s age. I also include photos of me and accounts of what I was doing in the 1940s in Wellington. As well as this I am able to include some information and photos of my mother, Winton’s great-grandmother and also of my grandmother, Winton’s great, great grandmother. Doing this is made me realise how little of the family history has been recorded and how precious it can become..
The other interesting aspect of writing letters to Winton is that I’m not certain when, or even if, he will read them. My hope is that he will read them when he is young and perhaps return to them when he is a grandfather like me. I also hope that perhaps this is the beginning of a family tradition and that future generations will have a record of their ancestry.