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All Night Sitting

T.J. Clark, 9 October 2008

... There was a moment in the senate When the orator and the administrator Stood a few inches apart, their cheeks puffed From the previous power point scoring, Suddenly grey and tired. This was because The shadow of hopelessness (the debate had been about Aid percentages, rules for slaughter and United Fruit) Had slipped into the room, as it often did at this time, And stood between them panting ...

Clapham in March

T.J. Clark, 4 April 2024

... The island on Eagle Pond is a ruin. The trunk of a long dead treeArches in agony into the water,Not so much hollow as disemboweled.Six clumps of municipal daffodils struggle for life on earthSterilised by goose shit and particulates.The A24 has no mercy.South London is not all like this, I hasten to add. Ten minutes walk down Crescent Lane,Past the Catholic primary with its cuddly Virgin, you round a corner and come acrossA temple facing a Stonehenge of LCC flats ...

Pictures in Madrid

T.J. Clark, 3 February 2011

... There look to be two small monks in Campin’s mirror, One no more than a boy. They seem To have stopped in the doorway, maybe afraid Of the first soft touch from the Virgin’s force field Or just thinking the checkerboard tiles (That the mirror makes into a wilderness) Too slick and clean from the midwife’s broom For people like them to cross. There is a buzz In the door behind them, a greenness, a lack of air, As if a box hedge had sprung up next to the manger With small birds and flies sniffing its private parts ...

At Sils-Maria

T.J. Clark, 26 April 2012

... The mountains are still there, monotonously changeable, And the men in the sky with their slices of melon Are managing their ennui – at least until teatime, Till the dim philosopher comes to persuade them Of the pathos of distance and the pessimism of strength. On the cupboards for dogshit along the trails There are faces of spaniels with snouts like Nietzsche’s, And his weeping moustaches, done in sourdough plaster, Are preserved on a bed in his holiday home ...

Manet and Monet and Marx and Freud

T.J. Clark, 31 March 2005

... In which all outstanding problems of art history are settled to everyone’s satisfaction. What mattered more for Manet and Monet, That Manet had money or Monet had manners? Mattered to what, pray? Mattered to whom? To Monet’s manner, or just Manet’s mother? And what do you mean by that bad-mannered ‘just’? What matters more to a man than his mother? What matters more to a manner than money? We know Monet’s manner was dependent on Manet, Maybe even his manners; and his manners meant marriage, And money for Manets and many things more ...

Buildings of England

T.J. Clark, 19 March 2015

... Time and again, however well we know the landscape of love,and the little churchyard with lamenting names …                 time and again we go out two together,under the old trees … Rainer Maria Rilke Not time and again, but – this being Ruby, my daughter aged six – just once. One typical Norfolk afternoon, as I recall it, In early summer, so that the oaks creaking in the hedgerows Were still mostly black against the sky, and the wheat and barley grey-green ...

Three Poems

T.J. Clark: Three Poussin Poems, 22 January 2004

... On the Steps of the National Gallery I am on my way in to destroy Poussin’s Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake. I know what I am doing, believe me. When it has ceased to be part of our world We shall go without tragedy, and forget why we followed In the running man’s footsteps day after day, round the corner to the light. Once it is over There will be no more choking and spluttering in the black stream, Feeling the creature’s glistening inner tube tightening at our throats; No more soft explosions of hair in water – Diderot’s electric, scintillating extension of self, His thread of atoms glittering with static! – All senseless and endless as we are shown it, top heavy, twisted in fetters, Dragged along in the current squeezed sentimentally from the rock ...

At the Courtauld

T.J. Clark: Goya’s Witches, 9 April 2015

... It’s hard​ to pick a single image to stand for Goya’s Album D, whose sad totality – a triumph of reconstitution, gathered from collections across the world – is the centrepiece of the exhibition Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album (at the Courtauld until 25 May).* Repetition – a wild piling of imbecility on imbecility – is part of the Goya effect ...

At the Barbican

T.J. Clark: Jean Dubuffet, 29 July 2021

... Afew​ weeks ago, I came across a young poet saying that the book he had been turning to during Covid was Francis Ponge’s Le Parti Pris des choses. (Siding with Things, the translation of the title in the old Faber Selected Poems, is clever, capturing as it does Ponge’s mixture of gentleness and misanthropy.) One of the most winning items in the Barbican’s Jean Dubuffet exhibition, Brutal Beauty (until 22 August), is a pen and ink drawing of Ponge, balding, flat-nosed, grinning from ear to ear, expecting the best from his portraitist ...

At the Courtauld

T.J. Clark: Symptoms of Cézannoia, 2 December 2010

... Cézanne, whose work was the touchstone for critical thinking and writing on art for more than a century, cannot be written about any more. After a few minutes in the exhibition at the Courtauld (until 16 January), surrounded by Card Players and Smokers, one understands why. The mixture of seriousness and sensuousness in the paintings – I am tempted to say, in the best, of lugubriousness and euphoria – is remote from the temper of our times ...

At the V&A

T.J. Clark: ‘The Cult of Beauty’, 19 May 2011

... Towards the end of The Cult of Beauty, the V&A’s tremendous survey of the Aesthetic Movement in England (until 17 July), you gradually become aware of low voices issuing from a speaker on the gallery ceiling. ‘They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,/Love and desire and hate,’ says one; and the other: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams ...

At Dulwich

T.J. Clark: Poussin and Twombly, 25 August 2011

... Everything is changed at Dulwich Picture Gallery by the fact of Cy Twombly’s death. He died in Rome, aged 83, on 5 July, just a week after the current show at Dulwich opened (it closes on 25 September). Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters is the exhibition’s title; it brings together a range of works roughly deriving from the artists’ shared feeling for poetry and mythology, Italian landscape, the life of the senses, the cult of Pan; and inevitably the mind now turns to the enigmatic tag so important to Poussin, ‘Et in Arcadia ego’, meaning (art historians cut their teeth on this) that death is always present in the land of milk and honey, or maybe, imagined as spoken inconsolably by a body inside the tomb, ‘I too – not death in the abstract but this warm hand – once touched spring water and the yielding earth ...

At the Barbican

T.J. Clark: Lee Krasner, 15 August 2019

... The Lee Krasner​ retrospective at the Barbican (until 1 September) is not to be missed. It is rare these days to be given a chance to assess the seriousness and beauty of the best Abstract Expressionist painting. The style is unfashionable: it is thought to be overwrought, supersized, ‘American’ in a 1950s way (‘great again’) and heavy with male cigarette smoke ...

At Tate Modern

T.J. Clark: Gabriel Orozco, 17 February 2011

... I can’t for the life of me remember why I was so bad-tempered the first time I saw a show of Gabriel Orozco years ago in New York. Orozco’s mid-career retrospective at Tate Modern (till 25 April) seems so genial and ingenious and above all so modest. It puts together a body of well-made and various work: good photographs, peculiar abstract paintings, found objects (usually modified), small sculptures in terracotta or plasticine, larger ones made from burst tyres or lint from the laundromat, etchings, drawings, and some show-stopping art-world toys: a squeezed Citroën DS, a version of billiards with the red ball hanging from a Foucault pendulum-string (you’re invited to play and it’s fun), an empty shoebox on the floor ...

On Mike Davis

T.J. Clark, 17 November 2022

... Mike Davis​ was the kind of character who left you with strong, comic memories. One of mine is of midnight on the Boulder Dam, out in the desert south of Las Vegas. (‘Boulder, not Hoover,’ I hear him growling.) The geographer Richard Walker and I had been teaching a seminar at Berkeley on ‘consumer society’ and we were ending term with a field trip to Vegas, and wanted Davis to meet us there ...

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