Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Secrets and Lies.

Blue and Red.

It's a weekday afternoon and my friend and I are standing shoulder to shoulder in front of a David Hockney painting at The Tate Britain. She's brought me along because she has a member's card and I really want to see the exhibition. There's a silence. She puts her head to one side. We look at each other, then back at the painting...

"Is he gay?" she asks.

"Just a bit," I say. "All the young men in his swimming pools are a clue. Plus, there's his beloved mum over there on the wall in that photo, in her anorak."

"They're going to have very clean teeth," she says, still looking at the painting.

"It brings a whole new meaning to 'A Colgate Smile'" I say.

"Actually it reminds me of the baby monster in Alien," says my friend, "the one that bursts from his stomach."

A woman with a baby nearby, whom we hadn't noticed before, gives us a furtive glance and lifts her wailing infant from his pushchair.

"I did that," whispers my friend, looking sympathetically at the woman. "Once."

"Yeah," I whisper back, "taking your baby into an art gallery, it's the ultimate triumph of hope over experience. And did you see the photo of the woman who brought her paint swatches in here?"

"Maybe she was looking for the right baby blue?" says my friend, smiling at the mother and baby.

"Very good," I say.

The exhibition is billed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a retrospective spanning almost 60 years of Hockney's work, and it doesn't disappoint. His paintings plainly lie, and I love him for it. He sells us muddy fields that glow pink in a winter landscape in Yorkshire, when you can take it from me that never happens. He turns tree trunks lime green in an English copse, when no tree trunk in the UK ever grew in that hue. He serves up red hot Californian stone in a desert, and paints it as a sumptuous layer cake. His swimming pools remind me of Fox's Glacier Mints, with his lovers embedded inside them, and these are just the paintings.

There's also a whole room of feathery charcoal sketches, celebrating both the arrival of spring, and Hockney's first love of drawing. He finishes with an immersive four seasons kaleidoscopic feast of moving woodland, in a room full of television screens, which makes a French woman behind me gasp out the word "genié!" I've seen a lot of it before, because I'm a huge Hockney fan, what with him coming from Yorkshire and me also loving Matisse, whose paintings Hockney gives more than a cursory nod to, but I hadn't previously seen the Polaroid collages that include the witty little detail of the tips of the artist's shoes creeping in at the bottom, just so we know that he's there.

Afraid of the wolf.

All I can remember about Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - the movie - which I saw once as a teenager, is an all too realistic performance of a marriage made in hell, by two actors who were trapped in a real life on/off marriage made in Hollywood, although I do also remember that I loved it. I also love the current production at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London, staring Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill (who sounds like a place in Yorkshire that Hockney might paint) which I get to see on Wednesday because another friend has comp tickets.

Imelda Staunton's performance in particular is a tour de force that leaves me feeling knackered on her behalf. How do actors do that? And then pull it out of their bag of tricks again and again? The stamina involved is breathtaking. I have nothing else particular to report from that evening. I hadn't bought boots that day, or been to the hairdresser. No one sat in front of me and obscured my view. The barman happily agreed to let my friend and I have half measures of gin in our G&T. The queue for the ladies in the interval was long, but cleared in time for us to be back in our seats for the second half. The play was as I remember it from the movie, except I didn't recall the bit about the secret son. Why invent a son? Perhaps because lying to themselves and each other was their only way to get by. Then in the end George kills him off, which meant I left the theatre fearing for their future, which I guess was the point. And then I remembered: they're fictional.


A third friend invites me down the pub on Friday evening and then really pushes me out of my comfort zone. She strikes up a conversation with two men at the bar, who it turns out are cousins, and insists we accept their offer of drinks and sit and talk to them. I'm not happy about this at first, but it turns into an interesting evening (and gives me something to blog about) when the guy sitting next to me suddenly unburdens himself. He tells me he's heartbroken because his fiancée has left him. She doesn't like where he lives, and wants to live in Shoreditch, so she's moved out, to Shoreditch. Should he sell his flat in Wandsworth, which he loves, and buy one in Shoreditch in the hope that she'll move back in with him? (I love it when people ask my advice.)

I hesitate for a moment before answering, usually I'd lie through my back teeth in this sort of situation, for the sake of his feelings, but seeing as I only just met him I reckon I can tell him the truth, it's not like there's years of friendship there to spoil. "Listen," I say, "if you love someone you don't care where they live, you just want to be with them. It's not about Shoreditch, she doesn't love you."

Love E x


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