Take your pic…

https://i2.wp.com/www.blogsolute.com/img/2013/08/fastest-typing-keyboard-android.jpgI know I still have a few interesting messages and responses to come back to — three, at the last count! —  but if you’ll allow me, I’ll just bash out a quick posting on a different (but related) subject now, while my dinner is cooking. With luck, I ought to get this done in about 15 minutes…

The thing is this. Preparatory to responding to the ‘Comment’ sent in by my net-buddy Daniel Margrain, I thought I’d grab a coffee and do a few minutes of googling to check that I wasn’t about to say something daft. And, quite by chance, I encountered a photo which practically had me falling off my chair with surprise.  Since it would appear to explain something that, in a small way, has been baffling me since the wee hours of Sunday, 11 November 1984, I’m going to write about it briefly here, and then get back to the previous topic.

https://i0.wp.com/static.rogerebert.com/uploads/movie/movie_poster/savage-messiah-1972/large_jTgvXFZxt4zkQLrtX0lwDHdS3NQ.jpgAs you’ll have seen if you clicked the link in that last sentence, this is to do with Ken Russell — a film-maker for whom I have a genuine but severely qualified admiration (as several of my postings will have made clear) — and the film Savage Messiah that he released in 1972. As Russell’s films go, Savage Messiah is, for me, one of the least problematic (even though it does suffer terribly from his tendency to represent emotional intensity by means of PEOPLE SHOUTING AT EACH OTHER); and, of all the ones I’ve seen, it’s probably this film that I’ve returned to most often. (If you want to watch the whole thing on YouTube later — or indeed now! — you can see it here.)

Something for which I do feel indebted to Russell is that it was this film that introduced me to the art of that astoundingly intense talent Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (a considerable quantity of whose output is in fact held here in Cambridge, at the unique and marvellous Kettle’s Yard). During the film, the viewer actually gets to see a fair few of Gaudier-Brzeska’s works (literally none of which I’d seen, or even heard of, before) — including, in a sequence not far from the end, an unfinished plaster carving of what we know as the bronze cast called Bird Swallowing a Fish:


Now, here’s a coded clip containing the sequence I mean. You’ll recognise the object easily enough, even though it’s still being worked on; what I’d like you to do is pay attention to what Gaudier-Brzeska’s dealer says to him after being invited to give it a name. (Yes, I’ve included a fair amount of film on either side, partly for context, and partly because I like it. Well, part of it… Oooh, look: SHOUTING…!)

So what was it that baffled me? It was this. Even though I could sort of see that the ‘fish’ part of the sculpture might be described as looking a bit like a grenade with the kind of stabilising fins that you need on a projectile fired from something without a rifled barrel, I couldn’t really see anything — anything at all! — that spontaneously made me think of a weapon… Or, to put it another way, why would anyone looking at that lump of plaster be thinking of a ‘trench mortar firing a grenade’? I simply couldn’t see it…


Until just now…

Here’s the photo I chanced upon while checking something that I wanted to mention to Daniel:


The page on which I found it can be seen here; a reverse-image search using this picture brings up an apparently identical killing machine here — and the object itself, we discover, is a trench mortar, as used by the French army…

gaudierwithsculptureIn other words, that tiny line of dialogue seems to betray more knowledge of WW1 weaponry than I had previously imagined — as, perhaps, does the sculpture itself: is it at all possible that in a piece of art carved in 1914, the young Gaudier-Brzeska’s conception was conditioned by knowledge of a primitively simple artillery weapon soon to be pressed into murderous use…?

I don’t have the answer to that. But perhaps the folks down at Kettle’s Yard will have a thought or two… Let me publish this posting now — and send them a quick email containing a link to it: this might be something that is ‘common knowledge’ in that particular part of the art world — or it might perhaps be a connection or similarity whose precise details no-one has known about before now… Either way, they might like to know about the image I found…

And by this point, my parsnips and broccoli ought to be done…


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