Recent necrology, 10-30 November 2009

Necrology – a list of notable people who have died recently. Now a regular feature on our blog.

Nien Cheng, 1915-2009
Chinese American author who recounted her harrowing experiences of the cultural revolution n her memoir Life and death in Shanghai
Lionel Davidson, 1922-2009
Thriller writer whose novels, which mixed excitement with moral intensity, impressed the giants of the genre
Jeanne-Claude, 1935-2009
Artist whose monumental installations included wrapping up the Reichstag and the Pont Neuf in Paris
H.C. Robbins Landon, 1926-2009
Scholar and critic who unearthed Haydn’s forgotten works but fell victim to a musical hoax
Arda Mandikian, 1924-2009
Operatic soprano who inspired Benjamin Britten but fell foul of the ruling military junta in her native Greece
Geoffrey Moorhouse, 1931-2009
Journalist and writer of brilliant diversity who only just survived an epic voyage across the Sahara
Ian Norrie, 1927-2009
Journalist, author and bookseller whose pungent views earned him the title ‘Sage of Hampstead’
Elisabeth Soderstrom, 1927-2009
Operatic soprano whose mesmerising performances enthralled audiences at Glyndebourne for 40 years
Edward Woodward, 1930-2009
Actor who could turn his hand to any part but found particular fame with his bleak performances in Callan and The Equalizer

Max and the Wild Things stomp into cinemas

One of the coolest and most popular picture books of all time, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are makes it’s big screen debut today.  You probably couldn’t miss the huge cutouts promoting the movie in cinemas and some of us have had their photos taken pretending to be Max.  I’m really excited about seeing the movie tonight, even though there have been mixed reviews of it.  It’s one of those movies where you just have to leave the original story behind and enjoy the movie in its own right.  Everything I’ve read about it and all the trailers I’ve seen make it look and sound fantastic.

If you’d prefer to read the original picture book or just want to revisit the story before you see the movie we have plenty of copies in the library.  You can also watch the trailer for the movie here.

After seeing the movie…

It lived up to all my expectations and I came out of the cinema with a huge grin on my face, wanting to see it again right away.  The Wild Things look very much like the original ones from the book and I wanted to be Max, hanging out with the Wild Things and sleeping in a big pile with them.  Each of the Wild Things is quite different in personality and their clashes in personality make it difficult for them all to live together.  As Spike Jonze (the director) explained, it is not a children’s movie but a movie about childhood and you see childhood emotions coming out in the Wild Things, such as worry, fear, anger, and the feeling that nobody ever listens to you.  It wasn’t a scary movie so younger children would cope, unless they’re scared of monsters.  I thoroughly recommend it!

Canterbury Connections

In August 2009 an exhibition was held at SOFA gallery featuring 15 artists with Canterbury connections.  All are well known in the wider scope of contemporary New Zealand art and include Neil Dawson ( whose newest  public art work, called Sky Lens, has just been erected in the City Mall), Seraphine Pick and Ronnie van Hout (exhibiting at Christchurch Art Gallery this year). The book associated with the exhibition is called Inner Landscapes: 15 New Zealand Artists with Canterbury Connections.

The book showcases the work and ideas of a range of artists who are connected or associated with the Canterbury region. Unlike past books of its type, it does not focus on the geography of the region but instead on the ‘Inner Landscapes’ of the artists: their ideas and inspirations. The range of artists is very varied, creating a mix of styles, ideologies, and career stages – from senior artists such as Philip Trusttum through to younger artists such as Hannah and Aaron Beehre. The artists were interviewed by Sally Blundell. She presents their words directly, allowing them to speak in their own voices in a plain-english style devoid of art-world jargon, thus leaving the reader with a sense of having a friendly conversation with the artist. This makes the book suitable to a wide audience – not just art experts. The excellent introduction by Justin Paton is written in a similar style – being open, accessible and easy to understand.

Like the writing, the excellent studio and portrait photographs by Diederik van Heyningen are realistic and intimate – sometimes uncannily so, with close-ups of the artists’ faces showing every wrinkle. This certainly fits with the de-glamourising tone of the book. I thought it was great to show our famous artists in this manner – as real people and not inaccessible icons. My only complaint is that the book could be enhanced by more practical examples about how the artists go about actually making their work – not just how they come across the ideas that inform their practices.