'our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamaties is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.'
Guru Stotram

Friday, 27 February 2009

I’m reading Jung at the moment and my current obsession is striving to withdraw my shadow projection in an attempt to integrate my personality. Based on the characteristics of a cross-section of folks who irritate the be-Jesus out of me, I’ve decided that my unconscious shadow self must be: officious, over-organised, bossy, arrogant, dogmatic and patronising - basically frightened if I’m trying to be generous. Which I am. So every time I find myself getting annoyed with someone I try to remember that my annoyance is only evidence of the projection of my shadow self onto them. This should, in no time, have the effect of transforming me into a balanced and delightful human being. Either that, or a highly irritating one.

So, with that in mind, what’s been going on this week in the Knowles cultural calendar? Well, the leg has fallen off my hundred-year-old sofa for a start. That’s not really news of cultural importance. But it is highly irritating, as I can now only sit on one end of it. Guests have to be issued with instructions as to how to sit down, which is a bit embarrassing for all concerned. Except the sofa. He doesn’t seem to mind. The swine.

I went to the preview of ‘Burnt by the Sun’ (****) at the National the other evening with my delightful friend Nicky – full title now Blessed Nicky, since we spent a week in an ashram where she took something of a fancy to the Swami. ‘Burnt by the Sun’ is probably not a play I’d have chosen myself, which, as it often does, made it all the more enjoyable and educational. Set in 1930s Russia on the cusp of Stalin’s Great Purges, it beautifully humanises a horrific era of modern history, without the faintest whiff of grotesque sentimentality. My knowledge of Russian literature runs to a recent reading of Anna Karenina (page turner! *****) and my old man telling me that after half an hour in the stalls on one occasion he was about ready to cut the bloody cherry trees down himself. So I didn’t really know what to expect. The result was I was bowled over by how witty and fun the play was at times, given the unimaginable tragedy at its core. I don’t think I’ll be guilty of a spoiler if I say the dramatic shift of perspective towards the end reminded me that things are rarely as they seem and never, ever work out how you’ll imagine they will.

I also finally managed to haul arse over to the brand spanking new Saatchi Gallery to see ‘Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East’ (***). The last thing I want to do is to “commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud” (Jung, 1919) but I have to say this show wasn’t really my bag. Once you’ve seen Altermodern everything else begins to look like yesterday’s news. But actually that’s probably a bit unfair because the experiences informing the work of these artists from the Middle East are utterly removed from the experiences informing the sort of work that lights my fire. Frankly I’m not sufficiently interested in the politics of the Middle East to immerse myself in it to the extent I would need to to really appreciate this exhibition. I guess I’m in a very privileged position. But hey, what you gonna do? All I can say is I liked some of the work, some of it I just didn’t get and some of it I found a bit done. But don’t let me put you off. Lots of people have told me they loved the show and if you haven’t already you must get along just to check out the sheer swankiness of this enormous privately funded free-entry gallery space in the heart of Chelsea. It’s a phenomenon.

The only thing at the Saatchi I will go as far as to call utterly pants isn’t from the Middle East. It’s American Will Ryman’s over sized papier mache bed in the Project Room on the top floor - revealingly entitled ‘The Bed’. The only explanation I can come up with for the appearance of this crass monstrosity in Sloane Square is: once an advertising man always an advertising man? Not that there’s anything wrong with advertising but its motivations probably aren’t the same as those of the fine arts. I know that. You know that. Does Mr Saatchi know that I wonder? The catalogue informs us that ‘this is the first time that Ryman’s work is being exhibited in the UK.’ I imagine it’ll be the last, but then you never know, you just never know.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Have you ever noticed the night sky when the snow is thick on the ground? It doesn't go dark. It's yellow. Shadowy yellow. Like the underside of a primrose on a sunny afternoon.

I got confused this morning. More confused. I'd planned to go horse riding. The last thing she said to me on Sunday evening: "I'll see you tomorrow, as long as it doesn't snow too heavily". Monday morning I pulled the blind to reveal a beautiful all-encompassing whiteness. Snow I hadn't seen the likes of in years. Sixteen apparently. Snow deeper than my school ruler. It was that long ago when it used to snow like this.

"Oh rats, I hope we'll still be able to ride," was my second thought. Ride? In Surrey? An hour away on a good day? I wasn't even going to be able to get the car door open. But I couldn't see that. All I could see was a breathtaking scene out of my window. The grey world covered in Christmas glitter. All life's unhappy lumps and bumps disguised and forgotten beneath a warm duvet of glistening wonderment. Enchanting for its rarity. No grotesque familiarity to procreate its ugly contempt. Just glorious divine whiteness. A distant recognition of home.

I switch the radio on.
"The M25 is at a standstill in Surrey between junctions 22 and 25. On the A3 …. The bus service is completely suspended across London. We're waiting for an announcement from Mayor Johnson on that one now. On the tubes the Piccadilly line is suspended between....
"Mandy from Sutton, you're stuck in your car on the M3?"
"That's right Nick…”

A romantic notion of trekking the ponies through a snowy woodland scene began reluctantly to fade. I started to realise that the vision outside my window wasn't the only consequence of this recent gift from above. Slowly, slowly…

Why does it take so long for the patently obvious to become so? Why did it take me eighteen months to realise that an engagement to somebody I barely knew was not a good idea? Why did it take me a further eighteen months to realise that I did not even like the person in question and furthermore never had. Why has it taken me a staggering thirty five years to realise that I am happy in solitude. I thought I was the most gregarious person in London. I am not. An hermitage. That'd suit me.

Can all of this be denial? Sometimes I feel as though I live in an egg. I can see no consequences to the outside world of my choices within the egg. And yet paradoxically I've also little idea as to what quite is going on inside the egg, as to the choices I am all the time making and for what reasons. What other mysteries lurk awaiting discovery? What will I have discovered by the time I am seventy? I should show septuagenarians more respect. They know more than I. They've been around longer. Made the same mistakes. Denied the same inevitabilities. Watched it all turn to dust. It hardly matters in the end. In fact it doesn't matter. Not a bit.

Finally I realise London is more or less in a state of emergency on Monday 2 February 2009. I decide to go for a walk in the snow. Break the egg as it were. Check out the Dunkirk spirit in action. The Great British 'pecker' at full mast.

I walk past my car. Two enormous letters are carved out in the snow along its flank. 'OM'. Only in Notting Hill. I'm overjoyed. Somebody has chosen my car as a platform from which to project to the world the sound of the universe. There must be some serious karma in this. The world is alright. There are wonderful people out there. Humanity is not all bad. Not a total washout. Not the bed-wetter of the animal kingdom. We are good. Some of us are good. Some of us is good.

"Hello". I greet a total stranger. In the street. In London. I had forgotten myself for a moment. But she responds warmly. A nation’s weather has a profound effect upon its collective personality. No wonder we're such a dour repressed bunch most of the time. But oddly the snow seems to be having the same effect as sunshine. It is opening us up.

Some guy stops me in the street. He has eyes for which the word goggle was invented. I gather he has taken leave of his sense of perspective. He stares at me as though to control me through force of will alone. His will. "Fancy a coffee love?" he breathes. "No thank you," I say as I scuttle away. "Don't be shy" he calls - optimistically - at my retreating back. "No. Thank you," I add, pointlessly, giving away an unease that borders on terror.

I don't like to engage with the world in such a defensive way but sometimes there doesn't seem to be so much choice. It was only last week I was wandering home at seven o'clock on a Saturday evening. A gang of hoodies was hanging around on bicycles. I walked casually through them thinking "I like the hoodies. I'm not frightened of teenagers. I'm sure they're perfectly nice young people. Just because they're black and wearing hooded sport tops does not make them criminals. It does not make them people to live in fear of. If I approach them with kindness they will respond likewise. Fear breeds fear." I smiled at them and walked on. Thirty seconds later three of them cycled up behind me and tried to grab my laptop out of my hand. Out of my bloody hand. They didn't get it and they didn't come back and have another go. I quickened the pace after that. But I still like the hoodies oddly enough. What I don't like is googly eyed strangers getting in my face and calling me "love".

I've just been out again for Higgedy Pie. It's pie weather. Somebody's rubbed the OM off. The once squeaky crisp angelic pavement has turned to dirty wet mush. Its got my boots dirty and my trousers wet. By the morning it'll be an invisible death trap. Isn't it always the way. It starts off looking beautiful, but you can guarantee it'll be a nightmare in the end. A nightmare.

However many times I mop the floor I seem only to succeed in redistributing the streaks of dust, never in actually removing them. It's been like this ever since Eleanor Wright erected the filing cabinet monolith in November. But I adored the filing cabinet monolith so I can forgive the dust bowl that 88 Bevington Road has become. Eleanor's latest dust creation scheme is currently in situ on the Southbank. For a short time only as they say. Until Sunday 15 February exactly, you can go and experience Brownfield - a really quite impressive immersive installation by 24 year old emerging environmental artist Eleanor Wright. It's free. This is what's called Not For Profit. A lot of what I do works like that. It's terribly clever actually. But that's the kind of business-woman I am. Clever. Hmmm. Feeling good.

On that note of largess I'll give you a free tip if you like. I bought rather a fine limited edition screen print last year from another up and coming young British artist - one Adam Bridgland - for a bargainsome two hundred odd quid.

He rang me the other day.
"Good news the BK. The British Museum have just bought the exact print you bought from me for their collection, along with two other pieces of my work."
"Nice one Mr B. Like it," I said.
"I thought you'd enjoy that. You've got a sharp eye Miss Knowles."
Now, I'm not in the business of recommending artists I don't represent, But if I were....

We had the private view for Grove Women on Wednesday. It was a roaring success. Well, it was roaring anyway. I hadn't realised quite how roaring until I saw the police arrive at 8.15. Sadly I don't mean Sting. Or Sergeant Lewis. Had somebody thought to invite the boys in blue for a drop of Oyster Bay in the name of community relations? How jolly.

Next thing there's a bit of argy-bargy coming from the street and I totter over to the door to see some young miscreant / drug addict / young(ish) offender in the ITV classic side of the face squashed up against the van pose. It was fantastically exciting. What browned me off though was that the caring sharing WPC they sent back to check I was alright and coping with the emotional trauma of having my private view busted by the fuzz, was looking more bloody glamorous than I was. I've never seen eyelashes like it. I wondered for a fleeting second if she was a striper. Which no doubt shows how naive I am. Stripers aren't glamorous. Or maybe they are. Oh God, how did I get on to this. So un-feminist. So wrong. Actually I shared a dorm with a striper once. But that's another story. Anyway, it turned out it wasn't the bobbies stripping off. This young buffoon they'd carted off had dropped his trousers. Dropped his trousers. At my private view. In front of super gorgeous and pinkly be-bowed Ellie the Intern from Sweden and Minnesota. I mean that takes the biscuit doesn't it? It certainly brings a whole new meaning to the term private view. It's a damned glamorous place the art world.

The next morning: the aftermath. Seeing the half baked results of my tragic attempts at mopping Yvette has taken over. Yvette's far more glamorous even than the WPC. I've never before witnessed someone doing the mopping in a vintage fur stole. She totally carried it off. Oh yes, it's a glamorous old place the art world.