Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mash up

      I can't think of the name of the artist Raphael without thinking of Peter Sellars. He starred in a masterpiece called Being There back in the 80s. One of the funniest and strangest films in American history. During the credits they show clips of Sellars trying to tell a joke, play a bit, where he asks a doctor does he know a fellow named Raphael? He pronounces it, "Ra-Fai-El".
     For a number of reasons Sellars can't do the bit without bursting into laughter which ultimately kept the bit out of the movie but when seen is as funny as anything you've just seen in the film.
     So I'm reading over breakfast about Raphael, about a show in a museum in 1987, from a collection of essays by a critic supposed to be famous who I never read when he was and this one is three pages, from "The Nation", December 19th 1987.
   And while I'm reading a song comes on the radio, a 3 or 4 minute song and I'm transfixed. It grabs me by the gut like songs used to do when I was 15, 19, 24. And I think it's Paul Weller but I learn later it's Blur and I love the heavy accent and the deep tonal bass - "what have you got? Mass produced in somewhere hot", but at the same time I'm obsessed with Raphael and did I see this exhibit, did I run up to the Morgan when I tried to chase my girlfriend back into my arms that Winter in NYC and after she didn't show did I go to the gallery and try and lose myself in all that beauty? The drawings of the most influential Renaissance artist ever, the handful of drawings we know to be by him and not his pupils, how to see through all that fame and back into the genius.
  On goes Blur telling me about the 5:14 to Grinstead which is what made me think it was Weller telling me about "waking up at 6am on a cool warm morning, opening the window and breathing in petrol' because it is morning and I'm trying to get out on time for a meeting in Pittsburgh this winter of 2016 Trumplandia, but I want to finish this essay about this critic's favorite artist while Blur plays, side by side, and the language of each somehow makes the music better, a waltz of high and low, of my two complete passions: the long pondered miracle of a classic drawing and the snap shot hard reality of a city street in a song, the richness, the lust you can feel drifting by a nude drawn 5 centuries ago and the clear truth of music that works for just a night, for just a moment, for just your generation, both toe to toe in your heart, in the furnace of what makes you want to make things.
   "Talking types will let us down" the song sings and here I am talking and trying to tie a professional talker and his male muse to the evanescent climax of a pop tune which ends just as I get to the last paragraph of the essay which tells me that many of Raphael's best drawings we will never see because they exist under his paintings, studies laid down to give shape to the paint, "synopie" they're called and only a few of them remain, works from works he died before he got to. Stunning charcoal and pen and crayon miracles of shape and inspiration that the author thinks shine light on all else around them.
  But I  wonder...where is Grinstead street, and have I passed it on my few trips to London, is it even in London? Why didn't Weller write this instead of "two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude" which the first time I heard it made me drop a plate of food on a floor that some minor rock hero could have penned that when he was 20 years younger than I am now.
   I guess Raphael tells us as much. It's difficult to go back. To see thru what we've learned about what's so influential in our lives, back to when it was simply new and one voice among many that would soon fade.


  1. Glad to see ur still writing, enjoy reading ur blogs.

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  3. Great to hear your weaving of words again. It is amazing how art of all types, be it graphic or the beat of music and soulful songs, can transport minds into dreams.

  4. I saw Blur on Graham Norton. I have to admit men, any man, are more handsome the more experience they project...Blur, they seemed very handsome.

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  6. As always David, beautifully written. I enjoy everything you write.

  7. Surprised you are a Weller fan, or aware of his work. Thought he'd be before your time. Major Jam fan here.