I was interested to read that Patty Jenkins was leaning on John Singer Sargent as one of the main visual influences of the film (again, completely ignoring the photographs of Australian Frank Hurley which the film apes so convincingly – has anyone told them that those photos were composites?).
Well, I don’t mind if she’s referenced Singer Sargent as well. He’s one of my favourite artists (I last saw a work of his in the touring Scottish National Gallery exhibition).
I do remember that time I tried to find the Singer Sargents at the Met in New York, and was finally directed to the basement, and there they were, on a rack you had to pull out so you could only see half the painting in dim light. Okay, so I’d flown all the way from Sydney, I hadn’t even checked into my hotel yet, I hadn’t eaten or slept in over 24 hours, so I lost it. Completely lost it, demanding to know, out loud, what the fuck they thought they were doing keeping a highly revered American artist in the basement when I’d flown all that way to see him in situ, as it were, instead of paying $40 for the privilege of peeking over a scrum of desperate masses like I do at home.
These days I’d get shot for a meltown like that, but by the end of my rallying cry most folks were nodding and agreeing with me. I like to think it was my small part I played in bring Singer Sargent out of the basement and back on the walls.
Certainly I can’t think of a time, except maybe the mid-20th century, when Singer Sargent wasn’t a big deal here. Patty Jenkins will hate this (in her strident airbrushing out of Oz influences) but there was never a painter more influential, especially maybe Whistler, than Singer Sargent on his contemporary Australian artists. I’m talking Rupert Bunny, Hugh Ramsay and E Phillips Fox, just off the top of my head, but you could probably count the entire Heidelberg camp, if you wanted to, and not be wrong. I’m totally on board with the Singer Sargent style. Probably because I see so many ‘in the style of’ works on the walls of local galleries. Like I said, a big deal. Here, at least.
Anyways, enough of that. Back to the mean streets of Edinburgh, or rather, the city where I live, and the city where I work. In both locales I was lucky enough to have tickets to a talk by Ian Rankin as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival (some wag pointed out that it’s sometime misprinted as the Sydney Writer’s Festival, as in a writer, who lives in Sydney, who is feeling a bit festive).
So I went to see Mr Rankin, author of my beloved Rebus books, and they are beloved by me now. The tipping point happened when I was retrenched, and by some luck I’d bought a whole pile second-hand from an Amnesty stall at the fete only weeks earlier. So, alone, fucking miserable, terrified by hourly thunderstorms, I sat and worked my way through several Rebus books, and it kept me together, just. So Rebus, somewhat ridiculously, is where I go when I’m flat out miserable. Small surprise I’ve been keeping company with Rebus lately, a lot.
Maybe it reminds me of the Scottish books my grandmother used to send me via brown paper parcel when I was a child. Mythical Edinburgh is my safe place, my childhood space. Even Rebus’ Edinburgh.
The City Recital Hall was the locale for the first talk. It was ok, though crowded and snobby, and the cloakroom guy was a real fascist (after letting me breeze through on Wednesday) – it wasn’t for nothing the cloakroom line was longer than the book-signing line at the end of the evening.
Mr Rankin was very funny, but the ‘host’ kept cutting across him and interrupting anecdotes, which really started to annoy me, but there was nothing to be done. I did get to hear about the Belle and Sebastian story.
Maybe I was just tired, it had been a very long and frustrating day, and I’d had to run across town to get there.
Saturday and Mr Rankin was appearing in my very own hometown, which thrilled me no end as I’d been muttering to myself about having to miss the Rebus-fest in Scotland.
It was supposed to be a perfect day, but these things never are – my favourite restaurant let me down really badly – it was bloody awful. But I did get my usual glass of flat sticky wine at Riverside, and they had political cartoons on display on the walls for my pre-show entertainments and the seats I bought were top notch front and centre.
Of course I’d left my camera behind after the hullabaloo at the recital hall on Friday, never mind that it had been the first night of Vivid as well, so of course we were allowed to take photos this time. This is my life. At least I’d remembered to bring an armful of books to be signed, though, as I lamented on Twitter, I’ll not be able to read them on the bus anymore because they’re all signed now and they’ll get rooned if I try.
This, I felt, was a much better talk. More die-hard fans, better host, better questions. I enjoyed it very much, and it’s fun to hear about the influences and circumstances behind the stories and characters. He even teased there may be a Siobhan Clarke book one day – I hope so, as Shiv is a fave (even though she hates people calling her Shiv).
So, I met Ian Rankin, favourite living author (there’s only a handful now), and got my old battered books signed on my home turf. A moment of squee, there, then.
Obligatory Chris Pine reference: well, I did waste some precious time trawling around Tumblr. He was looking very dashing and being quite funny at the various premieres and promo interviews, more funny and dashing than he’s been in a while. So I was happy. The faux Victorian/Edwardian suit he wore at the LA premiere gave me the vapours, and I liked the pinstripe, too, though I still can’t see a pinstripe suit like that without going to the G Addams place (which isn’t a bad place as far as I’m concerned but probably not what he was shooting for). In any case, I wasn’t short of Pine pics for ogling over.
I was very lazy (or completely burnt out, take your pick) but Sunday did prove to be the premium washing day, if only for when the neighbourhood cat, who usually gives no fucks, decided he did not like the large shirts blowing and flapping and twisting towards him in the wind with their empty sleeves reaching for him. The unhappy kitty pretty much commando crawled all the way to the safety of under the house. I fell about giggling, so I’m in the doghouse again.
Of course, this means the new evil neighbours must be having a go at him when I’m not there (my yard is usually a sanctuary where all the neighbourhood cats and lizards and birds, etc. come to sun themselves - sometimes it looks like a battlefield with sleeping animals strewn across it) like I know they’ve been having a go at my parrots. Harumph. So yeah, sorry, cat.
That poor much put upon cat. I do not know why he keeps trying to be my cat. One, I’m a dog person. Two, I’m allergic. Three, I’m night blind so I keep tripping over him in the dark, and four, that time I accidentally locked him in the laundry and he’s damn lucky I forgot something that day (I’ve since learnt to check for cats that aren’t mine curled up on the washer before shutting the door). Took him several months to forgive me for that one, and I can’t blame him. Didn’t stop him curling up on the patio seat though, I just got the evil eye as I went past.
Anyway, that was the weekend. Not much pop productive wise, but I got my books signed. That made me happy.