Russian Revolutionary Art

Occasionally, with very good films, you come away stunned.  On Saturday, I saw “Loving Vincent” and was affected – similarly with today’s viewing of a memorable documentary on Soviet revolutionary art.  I saw a whole range of arts took on vital new forms – as the film tells us the gripping, memorable and mostly tragic tale of what happened next in Russia.

I knew a little about Russian art around 1917, and less about the history, but I now know far more.  “Revolution: new art for a new world” is made by Margy Kinmonth.  I hadn’t seen her work before, but will need to rectify this, as the list of her art documentaries is long and distinguished.  The range of resources and research in this film are vast: previously unseen paintings, artworks which are too precious to leave the country, and interviews with the children and grandchildren of the featured artists.


stained glass, Arran

Stained Glass and Making films – Richard Leclerc and Make Works

Having had so many posts last week about collage – here are 2 similar in a much more expensive media – stained glass and video.

  1.  Stained Glass

    A brief, one and a half minute film about Richard Leclerc, who lives and works on Arran Island, with a stained glass making practice.


Songwriter – Carly Simon

Just watched a BBC documentary on the making of the album “No Secrets” – which includes the song “You’re so vain”.  Absorbing.


We get to hear from the producer, bassist, sound engineer, drummer, lead guitarist, her manager and most of all Carly herself.  What were her inspirations for her songs?  What was it like to be at the centre of recording such a phenomenally successful album?

A great insight into songwriting and the team effort which is recording an album. And also of the personal and emotional toll it takes on the performer, in the concentrated pressure chamber of the studio. Should be watched by all wouldbe musicians.

Much of the documentary is about the single “You’re so vain” because there are so many little separate elements which made it special.  One of these is backing vocals by a very young Mick Jagger, whom Carly randomly met at a party shortly beforehand, and brought into the studio.

Carly also talks about how she was influenced by the soul stylings of singer Odette (photo featured above).  The photo on the album and its title were not chosen til the very last minute.  The photo used on the front cover was literally as Carly left the photo shoot, dressed in her own favourite clothes, to go back to the studio to work.

Much of this album and its making are indeed life and art combined – the life of one particular musician, at a particular phase in her life and in the technology of sound recording.

This one hour documnetary is available to view on BBC iplayer but only until 5 June – so watch or download soon.

I’m on the Riviera…..

with film star Richard E Grant.  And the painter Matisse.  And a BBC camera crew.

As you’ve probably guessed, I am watching a BBC Arts documentary – “The Riviera: a history in pictures”.  (We have only seen episode 1.  For UK viewers, episode 2 is on Monday at 9 pm, BBC4).



Joyfully, our companion/presenter/guide, Richard, is obviously glad to be there in the sunlight (he has holidayed there over many years) – and explains how the South of France coastal landscape influenced the artworks painted there by Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Cross, Signac, Matisse and Braque (co-creator of Cubism with Picasso).  Richard is not only pleasant company, he has really done his homework well and unfolds an insightful story of art.

Through what he says, you can see the influence of the particular light and harsh rocks landscape on the way these painters made art.  And you feel like you’ve been sitting in sunshine, with a delightful, charming and witty companion.

Hokusai – master artist/printmaker – exhibition

From 4 June, Documentary film “Hokusai” will be shown at selected cinemas in UK

25 May – 13 August Exhibition at British Museum “Hokusai – beyond the Great Wave”


The exhibition will include prints, paintings and illustrated books, many of which are on loan from Japan, Europe and the USA. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these extraordinary works together.                                 – British Museum

Cinemas showing the film include Inverness, Aberfeldy, Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Alnwick, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Liverpool, Sheffield, Brighton, Cambridge, Canterbury, London, Plymouth, Exeter, Swansea, Cardiff, Dublin, Cork……

Full list at:

Light relief

Into the veil of tears which is BBC documentary TV, a sparkle of light, laughter, self-sacrifice, helping the poor, genuine cameraderie, joy, benefit to community and unfashionably long robes broke through, last night.  As you may guess from the clues, this involved followers of St Francis.

Last night’s programme “Bronx to Bradford” following the lives of 5 friars in Bradford, was beautifully filmed, well edited, and tells a terrific story not only of the friars butScreen shot 2017-04-14 at 13.07.20.png indomitable older ladies, the life of an ageing community, a warm view of multifaith community in Britain and homeless people given an opportunity to tell their own story – sadly all this treasure was shoved into a late late late time on a Thursday night (10.45 pm), so many
people will have been denied the chance to see it – but worth catching on BBC i-Player  (available for next month) at:

We see the friars happily serving food to the vulnerable (aided by wonderful volunteers), rising pre-dawn to begin the day with prayer, telling their messy life stories, relaxing with some excellent jamming guitars  (one jokes: “Shall I sing No Woman, no cry?” – they both laugh).  As part of their vow of poverty, they sort through tScreen shot 2017-04-14 at 13.23.15.pngheir whole house for things which are superfluous – (St Francis predated minimalism and the Kon Mari method by 800 years) – anything ‘extra’ is set out for the poor to take away – and through it all the thread of that most unfashionable, un21st century emotion: joy.  You could have almost equally billed this programme as social reality or comedy, there is so much down-to-earthness and laughter throughout.

This delight and holy glee is part of their time of prayer in the derelict Chapel they are reconstructing and breathing new life into – two of the brothers who previously had a raucous guitar jam session, put their skills to the praise of the Lord and sing/pray into the space: “Let this be a place of light, of welcome…”

Screen shot 2017-04-14 at 12.40.26.png

“My spirit rejoices in Christ my Saviour”

“Lord let the poor find a place of the richness of your love here, Lord.”


This is, in the end, a most inviting documentary.  Thoroughly worth watching, in my opinion.





Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017) – painter

Words – the English disease

Howard Hodgkin disliked talking about his art.  A very rare documentary of him was made by Alan Yentob in the “Imagine” documentary series.  As you can see from this still, Hodgkin worked with broad brush strokes:

Screen shot 2017-04-07 at 19.21.13.png

still from programme “Imagine” 2006

The documentary is viewable in UK via BBC i-player for the next fortnight (16 days).  Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see the painter and his work – and, even more unusually, the painter AT work…..

Here are a few of his paintings, visible at the Tate galleries in London:

Screen shot 2017-04-07 at 19.26.18.png


Screen shot 2017-04-07 at 19.49.01.png

“For Bernard Jacobson” – Tate

In the 1960s was he known in the artworld?:

No, I don’t think anyone knew who I was at all – I probably didn’t either.

This quote is in an excellent short video (17 minutes) of an interview, taken in the same year, 2006, with Nicholas Serota, as part of his retrospective (which I saw in Dublin).


Screen shot 2017-04-07 at 19.42.40.png

Still from Tate film, with the artist in the foreground, Nicholas Serota facing camera

I like this still, because it features two pictures by the artist (one to the left, one to the right), the artist in foreground but characteristically self-effacing, his interviewer the curator, and in the background, blobs of light falling onto the wall, in a pattern type which Hodgkin would paint, over and over again, in his own artworks.