There Must be Music

Just back from a quick visit to London where I managed to fit a great deal of art and jazz and food into a day and a half.  I had forgotten it was half term and London was packed with noisy school children, doing in museums and galleries what we used to in orchards and fields in my youth. I pushed on regardless.

The highlight of the trip for me was a face to face encounter with Adam, carved in pink alabaster by Jacob Epstein. This is a monumental statue of such virility and power, that I had to sit awhile and wait for the palpitations to die down. First of all there was the full frontal encounter with a massive shiny schlong,  before which sophisticated men were making silly remarks. Then there were the elephantine legs, the off- centre crack in the huge buttocks and the almost uncontainable expression of feeling in the upper body. All found within a massive piece of rock. It was very exciting to behold.

Epstein in his book ‘Let there be Sculpture'(1942) admits that when the form came to him he was listening to Bach’s D minor Mass and that the music came from ‘a great distance away’. I like the idea that the whole of this beautiful creation came to him lightly, like a poem arrives. It gives one a sense that there is a power beyond the human will and the need to cut into stone until something of meaning emerges. It came from him and returns to him, this feeling, and one day, having worked and worked on it, the sculpture is finished and there it is -the problem solved. No wonder the artist so often prefers the beginning of the process to the end.

When the process is over, the feeling has been expressed and all that is left is for others to gather and be impressed, embarrassed, shocked or awe struck. Whatever. In my case the feeling I had when I was walking around the feet, looking up, was that I was accompanied by the sound of all the voices that have ever lived, crying their collective sorrow from a great distance away. How very different from the buzz of flies that accompanied Damien Hirst’s Let’s Eat Outdoors Today later in the exhibition.


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