'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.

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