Page 18 - Studio International - July/August 1967
P. 18

COMMENT                                  slightly wrong will raise howls of protest.   carried out with students. Nobody has
                                                                                       followed up the important implications of
                                              Instead, he is concentrating on projects like
                                              Mr Robert Erskine's museum-series, where   Bridget Riley's colour-projections for
                                              the tonal values of drawings, sculpture and   `Sweeney Agonistes', performed once only
                                              objets d'art can be enriched by muted    at the Globe in a memorial evening to
                                              colour within an easily verifiable frame of   T. S. Eliot. Nor noted that Richard Smith
                                              reference. I doubt, though, whether critical   at one time intended to train as a stage-
                                              susceptibilities would be all that tender,   designer. Nor that Bernard Cohen painted
                                              once the novelty was over; the vilest    a safety-curtain at Stratford East which
                                              distortion in printed reproductions has been   brilliantly related a personal abstract idiom
                                              tolerated for decades without protest    to a cosily theatrical interior (it was
                                              marches being organized. And there are   narrowly reprieved only recently from being
                                              sure to be a painter or two who will find   painted out altogether). There are techni-
     David Thompson                           inspiration in what happens when the set is   calities to successful stage-design which can,
                                              adjusted wrongly.                        of course, make the commissioning of
                                                                                       independent painters or sculptors a liability:
                                              q The theatre in this country is not exactly   ambitious projects by Kokoschka have been
     q Colour television being virtually upon us   notable for its visual literacy—by which I   abandoned before now because of their
     (or those few of us who may know where to   mean that one can hardly ever expect to see   impracticality.
     find a set), is there any case for supposing   on a stage even a passing commitment to   But who else can prevent that relapse
     that television might now begin to do for   the visual language of our own day.   into dated and second-hand experience
     the visual arts what radio has significantly   Towards the end of May there flashed in   every time the curtain rises?
     done for music? The subject certainly    and out of London an exhibition of stage
     occupies the more idealistic fantasies of   settings by the Czech designer' Svoboda (to   q Obviously there is cause to be thankful
     some of the department heads at Television   coincide with 'Die Frau ohne Schatten'   for the amounts of government subsidy
     Centre, but it is hedged round with      designed by him for Covent Garden), and   which are at last beginning to flow towards
     practical cautions. I was invited recently   whatever one thought of them theatrically,   the arts with some semblance of recognition
     to watch the run-through on closed circuit   it was at least clear that he was thoroughly   for the realities of the need (the latest
     of an art-film whose colour-values I could   conversant with current developments in the  worry is what will happen with a change of
     check with some assurance, and on the    other visual arts and was working, as a   government?). But the priorities observed
     whole the quality was translated with    matter of course, in a related idiom. Apart   and the quantitative relationship of some
     considerable subtlety. High tonalities like   from Hockney's 'Ubu' at the Royal Court,   grants compared with others can still on
     pale blues and pinks were most easily    it usually takes someone from abroad to   occasion be dismaying. One such concerns
     distorted in a softening, chocolate-box   bring relevant visual currency into our   the financing of the Fine Arts Department
     effect, but lower ones preserved most of   theatres—Martha Graham with Noguchi,   of the British Council as compared with the
     their body, and difficult colours like greens   for instance, or Roland Petit with Martial   equivalent section of the Arts Council.
     were surprisingly accurate. But, of course,   Raysse, who contributed a suitably electrify-  These are official bodies for dealing with
     the slightest maladjustment of a single knob   ing opening, to 'Paradise Lost' at Covent   the visual arts abroad and at home
     can result in psychedelic transformations,   Garden (neither Noguchi nor Raysse, as it   respectively, and one would expect to see
     and no one can as yet guarantee that what   happens, has Otherwise 'exhibited' in this   them supported with some measure of
     may be accurately transmitted will be    country). There are stirrings of hopeful   parity. But the first comes under the
     accurately received. Programme policy,   activity, though. The Ballet Rambert has   jurisdiction of the Foreign Office (which has
     therefore, will rely on discretion rather than   collaborated on a programme with the   its own ideas about the British Council's
     valour. Mr David Attenborough, for       Central School of Arts and Crafts, and   role and about priorities within it) and so
     example, appears to discountenance the   Frederick Ashton went to the Light/Sound   falls outside the bounteous sphere of
     immediate prospect in colour of such     Workshop at Hornsey for his recent ballet   influence of the Minister for the Arts. Its
     programmes as 'Canvas', on the grounds   'Sinfonietta'. But it is perhaps significant   importance for British art hardly needs
     that 'full colour' in paintings that goes even    that both these were small-scale experiments   rehearsing here: it is to a vast extent

     Contributors to this issue

     Jasia Reichardt, assistant director of the Institute of   Ronald Alley is keeper of the modern collection at the   David Thompson was formerly art critic for  The Times
     Contemporary Arts, Edward Lucie-Smith, poet and   Tate Gallery. He has written books on Francis Bacon,   and now writes regularly for Queen  magazine and
     critic and Dore Ashton, American writer and critic   William Scott, Ben Nicholson, Gauguin etc.   Studio International. He has also worked in television
     and George Savage, member of the council of the                                   and the theatre as well as writing art criticism.
     British Antique Dealers' Association are regular con-  Guy Brett is art critic of  The Times, London.
     tributors to  Studio International.                                               Albert Elsen is professor of art history at Indiana
                                              Ira Licht holds a master of arts degree in art history   University. He is in England on a Guggenheim Fellow-
     Peter Stone, critic and writer, contributes regularly   from Columbia University. He is a former fellow of   ship doing research on the origins and development of
     to the Jewish Chronicle.                 the University.                          modern sculpture. He has written extensively on Rodin.
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