An end of year show is a challenge for artists and attendees alike. The entry point is for the artist confining their conversation to one item or piece. Some find it irresistible to go triptych or expand a theme. Beginning middle and end. Other artists, and I will return to a particular energised and totally consuming piece later, @ERG, distill an immediate point in the journey of creating art by signalling an epic piece they can’t contain or control within a show or gallery devoted to the work they have in the past year or longer. They have created a theme which they are committed to and continue to approach with nuance and exposition of stages or a stage in learning and added towards a very involved and very involving set of conjunctions which are all the better for seeing in the care taken in collating the process.
There are even the individual ease of conscious pieces. The piece that is an expression of the soul at ease and visual visible contentment with the form of making art and communicating across a range of experiences and expectations. In writing this corrective text through up a word close to but not the one you are seeking but the temptation and I do not discard it, is to use it to elucidate on the subject being addressed. There is a common shape to the artists vein and implies that is physical and abundant in its delivery of energy. A compact.
The View Platform Arts Belfast Members Show
Gallerist type paintings appear. The paintings of painting and these are forms of colour which are a difficult ‘oeuvre’ a favourite word Van Gogh used while learning his own use of colour.
There are floor art pieces one being an all seeing robot home floor cleaner and in an attempt to stop sabotage or intended pet surveillance carrying a dash cam which is low strung video no one will ever watch.
The white wall has a screen sometimes awake to show the domestic dust gathering excursions. Belfast City Council will have their eye on this and the leaf gathering and tins, bottles and crisp packets can inform urban and city life. It can become a streaming service and you get to see the poo and street level debris those commuted and conscientious street sweepers deal with on a daily basis is not unreal. One thing it is essential not to do is flatter as sooner or later you will have no critical aim, and it is helpful I think for different views to emerge while bringing more thought and questioning that eventually a higher level of observance and recognition of a work or piece is obtained. So that requires an attitude independent of all others.
Give a dog a bomb.
Seeing sculpture with a beer in your hand can be frightening occasionally. Reading the piece no.14 Gerard Carson – Landarmour 2019 – you alight on the idea of its nearness to primordial warfare. It is a piece so well conceived and directed the balance of this thin animalistic form all bones and little steel junctions animated is pressing ahead, while static, assuming a hatred and visible increasing acerbic intent. In the canine form of a head the delicate touch of a golden bomb is clenched sausage like, a wire leading from behind it to the clenched imposters jaw.
The strain in a heartbeat – for the work is able to throw instant ideas and assemblages of thought at you – is of knowing this is a simple well balanced object created to imitate a widely held fear and up close and personal unintended closeness. You are witness to imminent fatal savageness. Can you recall the piece seems to ask the walk home or in a crowd on a bridge a stranger appear and you see there is a bomb in its jaw. Then there is the white chain. That sign it is danger freed. The white links tethering it broken and the ideas adding layers of unprotection. Clear and present danger. Is there a phrase to capture it? No justice is here? Why me? The work is on the one hand aimed at disconcerting amusement in the sum of its parts while in the other taking that device and throwing at you an immensity of fear. It may not create distress given the location and knowledge art is its collateral, it nevertheless surprises even mildly shocks that the pieces title leads you towards.
Painting is a recurring and thankfully continuing form used by current young artists. There is one of those triptych type installations. no.1 Jill Quigley Funhouse 2019 – being first a dibond print painting unhung but propped with the centrepiece a grid of screen prints on paper of pictures of decorators, with separate primary colour paper taped to each other as a gallery of paint in progress. Then the third elect which was 9 stacked acrylic painted abstracts.
They each were fine small boards but became a very enlivened image as it was apparent each board was not connected to the next unlike the taped middle piece but relying on staggered lines of 3 belonging together as a group but none having any connection other than abstraction to any other. The presence of all 3 is placed in a corner this gallery has history in. A Hugh Mulholland piece simple folded sheet I remember perfectly accepting the genus loci of the space – being around the corner.
The painting element gained a strong presence in 2 expressionist works of places. One no.16 Jess Gunn Midnight panic 2019 – a large room informally defined overview with a empty loom type chair.
The closeness to the lightly flat shapes were warming and inviting a story. The geometry an important and strong lever to getting into this scene. The other is a small and square object based view of a place. The industry of high contrast colour of inhabited space deliver a simple form of shapes that informally suggest a garden corner with brickwork, stool, leaning pad and plant pot giving this impression.
It is a confident and lovely work showing a lightness of touch and some gravitas concerning defining or inhabiting a place possibly to obtain enjoyment. The thing I see most is the discover many new artists take of avoiding decoration.
The absence of fine point pattern, detail, exactness, being a thing of digital images that when joined with painting – Des Edwards is an exponent of that arresting potential – see ERG no.7 Wormhole II – are themselves amazing so this is on the journey that dispels the past and states a local and intimate image that is really the interior mind. That being the imaged observation made by the artist of a place in now or a future seen. Is there a Paula Rego angst waiting to be revealed?
Small room spaces alight
The references are fine transmuting landscapes and figures laden onto a wild physical form. In some you see the trees and building farms with light falling on fields or streams brown on blue. Light coming through as sketched outline and as blurred background. All is calm reflection rather than problematic to look at and the names give some context for the story held. In no.24 Lianna McKinney Riverbank I saw the shapes tell tales of solitude in several rural guises. There are many pieces in the room all worth exploring. no’s. 18 > 25.
In the quest to find a reason for accumulating things – ‘…of a problem of material insistence’. came in work no.11 Damien Magee
An infinite curve showing a collaboration of materials that became a uniform assembly of very separate things. On the wall is a transparent manifestation of a grid as a backdrop to a form of order. In front is an artists easel, clasped in its clamps a series of itemised cassette covers ranges in accordance with size. They create a beautiful frontispiece in this summation of collections things and are posited as art in that easel. The frame is beginning to unfold the narrative of material very conversationally. We all are collectors of something or other. Something or other. The leaden words of hoarding. Here the accumulated elements are set as figures in the world of content. Where are the artists and music of these cassette memories. Elsewhere and alongside to complete the picture is a seat that fascinated me through its obscure though entirely reasonable engineering. I love the use of sustainable constructions and this was the winning element to my consc c
What it is, is a seat or bench made with sourced birch or sandalwood, a strong kiln dried wood which has through the economies of cutting created different sizes – around an inch to two inches and lengths then layered as and bonded to a layer below with the purposed random selection assembled to create a strong flat deck. It is separated by a gap, a split in the centre and the frame it sits on is of the same form of construction. The splayed legs are also timber engineered by bonding with the whole being a piece of fine contemporary furniture.
I once had to recreate a huge Church (hyperbolic paraboloid shaped) roof using the same technology. In that case it was forming the roof edge structures by Glulam beams and rarely used since the popularity of its modernist use in the sixties, 20c. It not only created a lightweight self structuring roof form relatively quickly, it created a large clear floor plan. There is a new mosque in Cambridge (Cambridge Central Mosque £23m) that has a roof supported by a spread of timber columns radiating that do not work in a sustainable way nor excel as a device to create wide spans but are for effect.
A different timber engineering company (Japanese) has recently bought 40% of Manchester’s Urban Splash and that signals the technology growth and this time sustainably. They use a laminated beam to make good design work as residential forms. It’s highly ingenious and brings many types – they don’t use a hyperbolic paraboloid roof but maybe someday as a large span several storey height complex.
There is a theme here which is seen in a similar way in the work here below.
Emery Blagdon was a pioneer of the subjective sculptural and painting combinations that evolved through, in his case a feeling of incapacity to heal himself his ailing mother. This is not a widely held expression of the reasons behind his work but I see it in this and even the Peter Mooney work you will read about further on in this blog.
The ‘Wiki’ on Emery tells us he was born aged 112! This could prove to be correct.
……. Description Emery O. Blagdon was an American artist. Wikipedia
Born: 25 July 1907 (age 112 years), Callaway, Nebraska, United States
‘He added brightly colored paintings with concentric circles and angular lines to serve as generators or reflectors of natural forces, an essential part of The Healing Machine’s overall structure. Blagdon believed the static charges and the emanating aura of these entities exuded curing properties for those experiencing intense physical and emotional suffering.
Blagdon’s artist-built environment makes visible the power of belief and the complexity of human emotion.‘
On Platform and this exhibition
There is undoubtedly in this form of art elements of ‘Raw Art’ I see in this new work. While clearly all the pieces are not in this vein and cannot be extrapolated in a general view like this I found there were works that required some further comparisons. The story is almost always a human reaction to the world and it’s often portrayed in Art History as belonging to the psychotic or disturbing preoccupations of mental illness and often confinement. This could also be described as confinement art. Art of the imprisoned mind. The physical and spiritual fixitude. Nevertheless it destroys the notion of the wider notions and parallels existing in other art. Vincent Van Gogh and other explorative painters and sculptors. Even Pablo Picasso was an enfant terrible in his anxiety of purpose. His furrowed brow told you this.
After WWII, art of the insane gained support from European artists as a reaction against the Nazi condemnation of Degenerate Art in 1937. Dubuffet continued his research and began to look at artworks from prison inmates, psychics, and autodidacts, which had a direct influence on the development of his art. From the 1950s through the 1960s Dubuffet resided in the United States and brought along some artworks from his Art Brut Collection; this lead to the developing American interest in this specific art form.
This is a clear connection of abstraction with in Emery Blagdons case, using materials and forms he called kinetic, from the main body of contemporary work never made connective. Here is an example.
More Emery Blagdon works –
The previous Platform Art exhibition – Paul Hallahan and Lee Welch, reviewed in a previous blog, was not inclusive of installation pieces but it was an example of this essential dilution of thought compressed energetically into work will avoiding the figurative realism and representative interpretation of place or volumes. That is near to the famous work The Healing Machine. It is as if we are locked into, when viewing art the healing machine accessed by and through art and artists.
The Engine Room Gallery
The chance for Engine Room Members and Artists to once again revisit and introduce new work was skillfully displayed as always. There is plenty of space to see the work mostly painting hung in the professional way Cliff Brooks as Chief Curator always provides.
This Gallery has had a huge stable year in producing very good shows and opportunities for long established and young artists alike. The generosity of spirit is a very important conrtributor to the whole of work on these islands and encourages new work to be seen in a democratic setting.
I refered eaelier to a piece which is in touch with the material consumption we are a complicit, some not all authors of. The medium of Gallery Art Work is a constant litmus test. Ranging from the eccentricity of Austin Clarke and his controlled anger at the panoply of values stacked and falling in the worlds destructive direction made real. Marmite is just one outlook.
Peter Mooney should never be underestimated indeed his work should often be lauded as it speaks to us in a rich and provocative while gentle ‘ouerve’ always enlightening to look at and think about. No less this piece. no.37. Construction.
Other work and I will given more time put up further commentary on is in abundance here.
There have been many good shows in Northern Ireland this year and I’ve written only about a few with other responses writing about an artists work in direct communication. What I have to raise is one Exhibition made a lasting impression was at Ps2 part performance and part a work conceived and relating to the interior and location it was presented in on Royal Avenue.
A powerful year Ps2
This is life and no a fantasy by Ieva Rojūtė March/April 2019.
The Lithuanian artist brought a connection across inspiring thoughts on the conditions and lives, and not only the transitory fragile harmful journey of East Europeans but sole for all in these times when political as well as the economic migration Ireland has too long been immersed in, it delivered a radiance and hope of human nature. By focusing on the person and through the experience the Gallery put the artist into was a fantastic enlivening and spiritual recognition of human strengths and resilience while tragedy often overcomes the person sometimes on the slightest thing and finally so.
I was very impressed at how Ps2 and Ieva Rojūtė levered into the space these thoughts and the practice of the artist was very well considered and utterly conscious of the world rstate in this minute space.
The art of the familiar shown as a guide bearing witness on multiple diverse journeys.
Ieva Rojūtė has work that expands and explores this widely on many forms and types of media. A cultural exchange is the process but that itself is a consequence of the today media access and it’s as if the person is as the doors of reconciliation in Dublin’s St Patrick’s Cathedral speak through a door and a hand put through the closed to the other side to symbolise a change and reconciliation. It gave rise to the expression chancing your arm which nowadays is less conciliatory but slang removing the original meaning.
Catherine the Great The new subscription series, Catherine the Great delivers a suspect history while illuminating the vestiges of contemporary Political and Sovereignty in Europe. Starring Helen Mirren it is made for her electric acting skills and lineage appropriate for her own history. Some critics have said of it there is no magic sparkle or gold-dust in the drama for an audience expectations of provocative spellbinding theatrical lustre. It is just not hot enough and Potemkin is as near as it gets to a potboiler.
In ‘The Europeans: Three Lives and the making of a cosmopolitaCulture’ by Orlando Figes has formed a theme in his book around three characters one of which is Turgenev; Focusing on the intertwined biographies of a famous French opera singer of Spanish descent, her French impresario husband and one of Russia’s most beloved novelists, and as a historian remarks on the leaders taking forward Europe in this period.
Pauline Viardot – became Turgenevs supporter in more ways than one and mari complaisant where Figes attempts a continent in constant change – technology not being the least alteration.
He has again written in review, his account of his viewing of this tangential series with some ‘warnings’ he describes thus ‘But there are many small errors, a few large ones, and dramatic licences abound (spoilers ahead).’ By his account and depth of knowledge and no spoiler alert needed as I won’t reveal the ‘allegations’ of discrepancy here, The Times 4 October 2019, Review (2 Arts article) does deliver the needed autopsy on the drama and fulsomely, with if it’s anything to go by, a promise of an excellent twist of the History seen in the Banquet of the Vanities often seen through English historians eyes though this is unintentional but my viewpoint given our recent times.
The world of media is a fanfare of opposing histories and no more so than seen in the deliver of a certain kind of meritorious justice, so it is contended by the Judges of The Supreme Court on the material Considerations they avail of in reaching their decision.
It is looking more and more absurd and demonstrative of a blatant lie being conducted on behalf of the people of these islands, GB and Ireland.
How is that so you may ask. The series Catherine the Great is a fine element to attune yourself to history and the ‘Rule of Kings,’ delightful contexturalised by Lady Hale and her Supreme Court colleagues in filling us in on the remnants othering shared history and by dint their authority to preside and pronounce of difficulties of stewarding a country as it conducts itself among neighbours. Naked hubris called out
Orlando Figes has created a context which is invaluable to discerning not decreeing the formulation of the record. The drama series only serves a little recognition of history and its therefore a good question to ask this, Why is this drama altering in effect – it is also a version but without the spoilers of the above article – undoubtably off piste. It is due to the consumption of drama and partially though it was hardly a precedent, Downton Abbey conjecture of lives in smart antiquated buildings. Even they are confiscated of truth in these dramas. Stanley Kubricks red coated drama was an exception to the narrative swirl and conflagration in ‘Barry Lyndon’. The dramatic accounts are seen honestly dishonest in such as Shakespearian drama and No Theatre elsewhere displays of a version of the past. An appetite expects the formula to be as near cognition as the soul allows.
In his writing the review there are facts I wish to consume and add to a following narrative on ‘the rule of kings’ having written immediately previously my analysis of where that history leads us. A new history is upon us. It is no small coincidence Orlando Figes book has the title – ‘The Europeans.’
Catherine the Great he points out was one Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, a minor German state. Arranged Marriage would take her to Russia at 17 where in 1762 she became Empress of Russia. That is a pivotal point in any account of Europeans.
The advance of a form of rule by Catherine the Great is hinged on the male protagonists around her and allies or enemies to the throne she occupies. Several lovers and conquests, tested beforehand by a Countess Bruce who noted their willingness or aptitude for her appetite and patronage seemed a sure common means to stabilise and conquer her peoples willingness to be ruled. The imperial bedchamber is a retreat where she obtained as much male sexual comfort as she could and stayed relatively loyal to some of her consorts. Potemkin being highest in her affections and finding in him an alliance equal to her ambitions of statecraft. By her alliances she was in control of the destiny of Russia and she thought Europe.
By 1773 an heir had been conceived though the convention of the hereditary male becoming Emperor was a minor obstacle to Catherine the Great living up to her reputation and her offspring born in 1754. When Prince Paul the son assumed to be heir where normal protocols to hold but when he becomes 19, Potemkin is now embroiled in a relationship which savoured the expansion and nature of the Russian Empire sought by Catherine. With a historians insightful gaze Orlando Figes notices in the acting the chemistry ‘ – and there is a chemistry between him (Jason Clarke as Potemkin) and Mirren’s Catherine who is tough, tyrannical, emotionally closed, but more vulnerable in his presence.’
That sounds as though it has the convincing, authentic power of period detail in the portrayal of relationships. The mores were not a stricture of guidance to be morally bound to the Ten Commandments for example but a position of realism in turbulent times.
Her quest it seems from Orlando’s reading of the historical records is parallel to the religious one I see in the stewardship becoming more akin to the Lutheran doctrine she had left when becoming – it is perhaps legitimate to call it her arraignment in the sense she was completely and inducted – of the Russian Orthodoxy. It is possibly a century earlier the radical ‘reformation’ in advance of other European Kingdoms including a Great Britain the Bible was no longer an asset confines to elite Religious but now was among the people as an Orthodoxy and template for God and the influence of the Bible.
Emerging Configurations on knowledge.
The Russians had, in this open freedom to consume and debate the virtues of Religious belief systems, been given a tool which subsequently would overthrow the lineage of Sovereign authoriety as practiced by Catherine the Great.
It is a view which would take a lot of persuasion in practice though I put it forward as a possible bridge in the construction of Europe’s state. Were it not for the intervention of Industrialisation and another ‘costume drama’ enters my mind, with Antony Hopkins as an exile torn between the past and his ancestry and the youth testaments of his daughter and friends seeking equality and a positive socialist life ahead. The subsequent fractions and divisions came destructively to a head in the twentieth century. This drama ‘Howard’s End’ fills in, partly in a very apposite way the English dynamism in the abrupt departure of the slave ridden empire; Russia had abolished slavery, substituting it with servitude converting them to serfs in 1725 long before Catherine’s reign.
Unravelling the historical immorality it had perpetuated was in all of Europe a yoke which caused its own internal demise. Catherine the Great sought with Potemkin her long held belief; and it may have been from a uniquely Religious Lutheran Orthodox itinerant perspective been conceived as a role to follow in her sense of herself, the expulsion of the Turkish implantation in Greek and the Volga uprising as establishing an authoritarian based after all is said and done on a Religious philosophy equal and of the same consequence as the Age of Enlightenment. Paradoxes abound and Samuel Rutherford would have been found as not only a dissenter but a deeply flawed reader of The Bible in advocating the intervention, which was already in place in the regime of the Church of England but bound up in ‘rules of the Kings’ a theology requiring the believer to press allegiance to a higher edict and put in place something between them and God.
Orthodoxy did not prevail upon its followers any hidebound sense of Sovereignty but collided instead with the reverse Communism of Catherine the Great. It is an extraordinary complex construct to make but it might bear some examination.
There is a joining of stories in the work of Orlando Figes writing in both, ‘The Europeans: Three Lives and the making of a cosmopolitan Culture’ and the following review in The Times 4 October 2019, Review (2 Arts article) stresses the account drama and screenplays provide a view that conflicts and obscures understanding of history and narratives assumed then thought about. I….the above book for instance Turgenev is honoured with the praise for his toiling on subjects he has no reward for, … Turgenev acted as a peerless cultural intermediary, introducing Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky to western capitals and Flaubert to the Russians. Figes writes of him being an advocate of reason, progress and democracy.’ “a Republic of Letters based on the Enlightenment ideals of reason, progress and democracy”. The plasticity of the literature – not only his but all writers – it can be observed claimed the supremacy of the narrative by its own eloquent reasoning and ease of understanding. This was therefore the conveyance Kings Queens and Revolutionaries clung to and set there compass by.
Countenance of Religious Affectations
From the essay looking into the Supreme Court Judgement (the previous blog!) I arrived at the observations made in Niccoló Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ and again see so much to relate this to. I struggle to remove the image, the appalling image of a ‘judge’ with the fabric spider cobweb around her neck and telling us of the import of rule by – and this is where religion and the misuse of ‘the rule of Kings’ occurs – as an atrocious suppression of the Word. The situation in Italy as seen by Machiavelli is in his gift to repair. The notion the Florentine intelligence can be transported beyond its realm is not seen as problematic but possible.
So it is with Catherine the Great and the bold Potemkin who see their task to rid the world at least in Europe consigned to misfortune and bickering among sensitivities drawn down over thousands of years as surmountable. Little did they know and when discarding the preeminence of what appeared at least in part to exist within them, a dislike based on Religious doctrine, their replacement by royal decree and rule they were discarding with it their soul.
In a Puritan way there is reasonable course to disentangle religion from the methods of men. The reason delivered first to us arrives through light. Age of Enlightenment etc. are the runes of spiritual life. Indian culture is similar in its Diwali hinge. Our spectral vision is limited to the range the human can take in while wavelengths outside that human spectrum lie what in the past have accumulated thoughts subconsciously held and unexplained.
Overtures to 1812
Inspiral spectrums of thought are only realisable by the vast outside influences assembled by the mind. You will a phrase into existence and compose a range of notes to stimulate your life force. It is as though I do my work by sleeping and unconsciously combine possible futures as seen in the eyes of the past. Thought dreaming. Sleep and see the sunsets and act as though your passivity beyond the fact of death as you in that stillness absence of conformity as vers libre, that living octagon of constant revisionism and regularity. When the parameters outside n the daylight side of living exist to produce the combinations of Orchestra, Theatre, Poetry, Organisation of beauty in functionality and use it exceeds our worth and world of ourselves. This accumulation is the stuff of influence and the inspiration is without. Those rays of light and otherness begin to mean things and some cam detect the cosmic influence beyond rejection and elimination.
The modern Culture offered and absorbed seeks to provide an extreme of interest and the literary crime wave is itself a questioning ambiguity and surging by that confusion as artful cold crime analysis.
All contained in the lines of a book and screening of a reality formed of false indicators and misleading trails and analysis. We compose our curation of the world and ourselves by a distortion of self and created illusion. The appetite is growing and the Google super comport can only advance the churn of indigestible form of invisible history.
To join the histories of the ‘Continent’ is by any account a broad sweep using various reference point. For these observational viewpoints I use literature and the arts. The Drama and influences of the body politic often taking its directions from the canvas of Entertainment and visual metaphors sometimes transparently opaque.
The range of European History and its Collisions
Below are a selection of notes from Wiki, Common Eductional websites which are used here as another way to join the dots and see what – if it is at all provable – the actions present a confusion of objections while having some legitimacy and coherence. It asks why the paths taken were so intensely random and happenstance. Was it will by our inner selves?
The French has several Revolutions and the following is an introduction to the French then the connection with Russian and its role on the fervour of Revolution brought about in no small part by the lessons and paradoxes expressed by the literary elite.
Let’s begin with the royals sporting across Europe in aims to modify the world according to their ambition.
* (1494) France and Austria began the Italian wars * (1515) Reign of Francois I began * (1519) Leonardo da Vinci died * (1539) French became the official language * (1559) Cateau-Cambresis Treaty ended Italian wars * (1562) Catholics and Protestants religous wars * (1589) Henry IV was first Bourbon King of France * (1593) Henry IV turned Catholic; religious wars ended 1600s – 1800s * (1610-1715) Reign of Louis XIII followed by absolute monarchy of Louis XIV * (1720) Last outbreak of plague in France * (1756-63) Seven Years War; France lost all colonial possessions and Canada * (1778-83) France assisted the 13 colonies in the American War of Independence * (1789) French Revolution ended rule of monarchy * (1792) Louis XVI overthrown, First Republic created * (1804) Napoleon crowned Emperor of France * (1815) Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo; monarchy reestablished * (1830) The French Revolution (or July Revolution) middle class revolt, King Charles X forced out. * (1832) Cholera epidemics * (1848) Founding of Second Republic * (1851) Coup d’etat instigated by Louis Napoleon * (1852) Louis Napoleon III crowned Emperor * (1870-71) Alsace-Lorraine regions lost to Germany; Napoleon III overthrown * (1875) Third Republic began * (1889) Eiffel tower built.
Then the familiar 20c and wars begin a transformative World Picture begins.
Puskhin and his Literary Genius
The future of uncertainty is it’s certain.
It was something Alexander Pushkin might have thought as his departure from a promising life came in a duel at 37 years old and the malevolent Queen of Spades called three days after his being fatally wounded by D’Antes who had spoken pitiably and grossly of his wife’s family. He had in his dying, sought for his wife to be looked after by the Tsar. In facing into a future where his youth had gone he made some gestural indications in his folly to take comfort in killing an enemy or be killed so reckless was his vision of his future. He fell without his talisman ring having also returned, (never turn back) for a sable coat before proceeding to the duel site on the banks of the Black River outside St Petersburg in his coach, passing unawares his wife returning from sledging in the Winter freshness. It was a tad Byronesce maybe, this disastrous act being a supplicant of the romanticists Greece and Rome had entrapped him in affairs as society had witnessed the malevolence attached to circumstances becoming public. Now the history of Catherine the Great and Alexander Puskhin are intertwined as a people’s History told with an irony of Royals and Revolutionary thinking on both their parts. Some things never change.
The story of French Revolution precedes the overthrow of the Tsars. Known to his entourage as ‘The Frenchman’ his Moscow writing found him by 1820 banished by government who decided his poetry was dangerously subversive. They sent Pushkin out of the capital and into exile in the south of Russia, 1700 kilometres from his family and friends in St Petersburg. He was sent first to Ekaterinoslav (now Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine) and then to Kishinev (now Chisinau in Moldova), moving to Odessa (now Ukraine) in 1823.
By the time he had formed his thoughts on the wider possibilities history informed him of, at the end of 1825 Tsar Alexander 1 died and in the following year his successor Tsar Nicholas 1 freed Pushkin from exile. Pushkin moved back to central Russia, living some of the time in Moscow, some in St Petersburg and travelling a lot. He became interested in the reformer tsar Peter the Great (1682-1725) and dedicated historical work to him. At this time he also became interested in his own family history and wrote a story Peter the Great’s African based on the life of his ancestor Abram Ganibal. His mother having been of African descent. At the time of her death he bought a grave alongside her for him to rest.
The peculiar interest in tyranny and it’s place in society was a duel in itself within Puskhin. His friends included many who were involved in a political group which was later known as the Decembrists. They were a group of officers who disagreed with the very harsh political system at the time. They are called Decembrists because they had an armed revolt in December 1825 to try to stop Tsar Nicholas coming to the throne. Pushkin wrote Ruslan and Ludmila at this time, a number of beautiful lyrical poems, and also some very political poems like Freedom. This starts with the declaration “I want to praise Freedom, I want to attack the evil of kings” and calls the tsar “Wicked autocrat!”
That extract comes from the above link, a composite view for children so innocently removed from overbalance or overbearance. His innocence of the worlds harsh realities seemed to be distant when in this removal from the turbulence and complete reversals of fortune Politics and the Reign of the Tsar encountered daily. He ought to have discovered through his African aristocratic legacy when only obtaining minor status as part of the elite. Being amongst aristocrats himself much of his life he was neither elite nor poor hence his probable annoyance at exclusion. The expulsion nullified any part in the big events that were unfolding. The only scope was his literary genius. It was Tsar Nicholas 1 who freed Pushkin from exile.
History has it that Puskhin provides a narrative of change while the powers provide the history. The fascination of history was an occupation brought about by his South Russian exile at his maternal homeland.
The fascination of the pre-history is him seeking the organic outworking among races and this is tied to ‘The Frenchman.’ His knowledge is accumulating and in the dramas he filed his own life and visions of depraved rule.
Peter the Great (1672-1725)
Peter was Michael Romanov’s grandson and under his rule Russia underwent many changes. It was Peter who made Russia one of Europe’s great powers and who helped it recover from the scars left by Ivan the Terrible.
He did this firstly by opening Russia to the West. He wanted Russia to be as modern and advanced as Europe and poured all the country’s money and resources into making it a kind of European paradise.
He asked the best Western engineers, craftsmen, merchants and shipbuilders to come to Russia and help him to modernise it. He also sent thousands of Russians to Europe to learn these trades and receive the best education possible. He even went himself – and worked in the shipyards of Holland and England.
In 1703 Peter declared that a town was to be built on the boggy marshlands of the delta of the Neva River. Over several years of frantic and often difficult construction, a city emerged. It was called St Petersburg, and Peter made it the capital of Russia instead of Moscow. St Petersburg wasbuilt to be a work of art, whose beauty would rival that of any European city. In fact, many early European visitors to St Petersburg described it as resembling a theatre set, such was its uniform and somewhat unnatural beauty.
Here are some other reasons why Peter was such a force for change in Russia: 1. He tried to change Russia from what he thought was a deeply archaic, superstitious and closed country into a modern haven of European civilisation. 2. To do this, he took extreme measures to make everything in St Petersburg exactly how he wanted it: he told his nobles how to live, how to build their houses, how to cut their hair, where to stand in church and how to converse politely in society. 3. In one of his most radical reforms, Peter made the Boyars servants of the crown. In this way he laid the foundations of an 18-19 century European-style absolutist state, where the monarch reigns supreme. The new aristocracy was suddenly totally defined by its position in the civil and military service and its rights and privileges were set accordingly. 4. In a surprising twist Peter even banned beards across all classes. This was a particular blow to the Boyars who wore theirs long in the Orthodox style, but all Russian men were subject to the law. To help enforce it, Peter even introduced a Beard Tax, payable if you refused to shave your beard! 5. He also made big changes to improve the economy, education and Russia’s military strength. He built up the army and the navy, making Russia a real military force to be reckoned with. In particular the Russian navy was really created by Peter who had hundreds of ships built by foreign experts.
Lifeline even now
Pascal had written another book for the Church after Pensées he formed another view which liberated him from dogmatic theory. He denounced Christianity by His Vers Libre on mathematics and science reasoning he went towards parthenogenesis and being separate from the need to believe one thing or the other. This magical delusion was Pascals downfall. It lmeant his best thoughts were not received by the populist and staggeringly they are still there even plays we have not seen or heard of all trapped in a bibliographic cemetery. The mocking tones of the authors seen preeminent like Voltaire were very often favoured due to the splendid cloak they gave to Royalty such as Catherine the Great. Delusion is a wonderful thing Pascal thought. His anti-religious thoughts were consistent with the well known maxim, it is better to believe, just in case. Pyrrhonism of living by thought is a paradox sent to sleep and put asunder by scepticism lent by the creator. That creator is the author of all and us.
Seeing the nothingness of belief in it’s unconquerable reason and the formed reality faced of war and dreadful outcomes for the earth’s inhabitants killing to survive among animals and complacency the compact only civilisation can construct to alleviate pain.
Not to question the religious life but know nothing of the other religious life is a nerveless position. The truth is beyond recognition but it’s invisible cloak surrounds and makes us alive.
Although we can see that Peter did much to modernise and empower Russia, we can also see why many did not enjoy Peter’s reforms. After all, by forcibly Europeanising Russian life he was trying to rid Russia of much of her cultural history and heritage. Of course, he was not completely successful and much of the old Russia remained, especially outside of St Petersburg.
The Napoleon part of Russian history is also astonishing in its exultation, it’s compelling act of restructuring, on the part of Napoleon who would not have the same analytical sense of the land he sought to conquer that Puskhin held even greater than the Tsars and this accorded a total clash of cultural values neither religious or colonial but a federal universal purge in the fashion of Alexander the Great and many others before them.
The act of exulting; lively joy at success or victory, or at any advantage gained; rapturous delight; triumph. This is the human failure. The obtaining advantage through warfare. Triumph is a potent word. From sport to self awareness all is in gain or loss while nature dismisses all-comers.
Napoleon invades in 1812 French Emperor Napoleon was becoming annoyed with the Russians and their Tsar, Alexander I. Napoleon had placed a European-wide ban on trading with Britain, mainly because it was almost the last remaining European country that wasn’t answerable to him. But the Russians kept breaking the ban because it was bad for their own trade. So in 1812, to teach the Russians a lesson, Napoleon decided to invade.
It turned out to be a huge mistake. He hadn’t planned for the terrible road network in Russia, making progress slow. The farms didn’t grow nearly enough food to support the gigantic army of 500,000 men and 50,000 horses he had taken with him. Soon they were starving, exhausted, and ridden with disease. As a final blow, the bitter Russian winter came.While Napoleon’s and Alexander’s troops did take part in some fierce fighting, in the end the French army could not cope with the harsh Russian conditions.
Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Eventually, defeated, Napoleon decided to go home to France. Before he left Moscow he set it on fire. His armies had a terrible journey home and by the time Napoleon returned to France, only a fraction of his men were left alive.
One important consequence of this invasion was that some Russians began to reject the Europeanisation that had become such a large part of Russian life since Peter the Great. They wanted to go back to their roots, and to make Russia Russian once again, rather than an imitation of a culture and history that weren’t even theirs.
Slowly and over a long period of time, Russia began to recover its own culture, heritage and style.
The 1917 Russian Revolution The Romanov dynasty came to dramatic end in 1917 under the rule of Tsar Nicholas II, through an event commonly known as the Russian Revolution.
L-R: Maria, Tsarina Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana, Tsar Nicholas, Anastasia and Alexei. Tsar Nicholas II was married to a German Princess called Alexandra. Together they had five children, four girls – Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia – and a much wanted son, Alexei. Nicholas was a devoted family man and he and Alexandra had a very happy marriage.
Unfortunately however, Nicholas was not a very competent Tsar. He was autocratic but lacked authority and confidence. Too often in the years before the Revolution, Nicholas made bad decisions, such as going to war with Japan in 1904 when the country could not afford it and was ill-prepared. Russia’s subsequent defeat led to riots and strikes, and in 1905, on a day now known as Bloody Sunday, demonstrators asking for changes were shot on Nicholas’ order. The Russian people were poor, hungry and dissatisfied and Russia was ripe for revolution.
In response to the growing crisis, Nicholas first reduced some of his own power by forming a government but this was not enough, and he abdicated in February 1917. A provisional government was formed but in October 1917 a man named Vladimir Lenin took advantage of the weakened state and staged a coup d’état: he took control of Russia.
Catherine Puskhin Voltaire Rousseau Here’s a thing as they pronounce now and again contradictions of their objectives. In currently historical narratives the personalities of the makers of Revolution – or the ones who recognised change as inevitable – the Religious having exposed evil and given moral guidance through various interpretations of ‘The Word’, as Russians sway to Orthodoxy, The Age of Enlightenment and the following outcomes of Democratic will manifesting. In England the King James Bible was a result of the Europeanise and the new ideology brought by Charles II and the recovery of Royal privilege in 1659 when his Europeanism brought about by compelled exile a bit like Pushkin, his thoughts had accumulated wider visions neither Puritan nor Revolutionary but liberal in universality. This is the Cosmopolitanism Orlando Fuge refers to presumably but with Turgenev came a worldly sense beyond perhaps European Enlightenment.
Catherine was also ambitious and ruthless. She dramatically expanded Russian territory in the Crimea and Ukraine, and three times invaded and partitioned Poland between neighbouring empires. Her reformism froze when the French Revolution erupted in 1789, inspired by many of the principles she had espoused, and she joined a European coalition to crush it.
Rousseau’s self destructive personal life saw the burden of the impossibility of perfection laying heavily having rejected his own children and consigning them to the Paris Foundling Hospital. This form of self destructiveness manifested in Pushkin as he floundered on the twin towers of hope and virtue. Power and Powerlessness with the ruthless Machiavelli streak The Prince again seen as humans fatal flaw. Flea bag with wings.
The strange demise of Rousseau is mystifying still. On the Public theorising he was proof of the power of ideas in placing into the domain of autocracy
Catherine the Great’s intellectual pursuits extended far beyond her collection of art. Exchanging letters over a fifteen year period with French writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire, she was spurred to bring Russia into the modern era through ideas raised by the Enlightenment and its supporters.
What is perplexing about Catherine’s relations with the Russian writers of her day – Radishchev and Denis Fonvizin in particular – is that she did not tolerate the kind of free thought practiced by her French protégées, Diderot and Voltaire.
Rousseau was a fierce enemy of Voltaire and he is not mentioned here in the history of Catherine the Greats love and embracing of French ideas. They played into her quest to involve in her project. The Greek project all of Europe so the reading of Rousseau would be bound into the philosophy around ‘The Age of French Enlightenment’.
It has been claimed that Diderot’s thought was a corner stone of the French Revolution, and while Catherine would never support such free thought in her own country, she supported Diderot financially.
To illustrate this contradiction even further, in 1790 during the French Revolution Catherine sent Radishchev into Siberian exile for 7 years after he published his travel diary A Journey from St Petersburg to Moscow which documented the problems in Russia that surrounded her reign. Alexander Pushkin, the 19th century poet, novelist and playwright, was highly critical of Radishchev’s text, claiming that it did not comply with the poetics of narodnost’ – populism.
Catherine seems to be trying to save her image and legacy to force into the Russian psyche thoughts of a broad Europe.
Yet when we look at the content of Rasdishchev’s Journey today we see that Pushkin’s judgment is unfounded. Radishchev’s book is indeed an encyclopaedia of Russian life of the time. Pushkin’s evaluation may have been prompted by the censorship conditions of absolutism which prevailed after Catherine the Great in unmitigated form, demonstrating the impact of Catherine’s rule on not only Russian writers of her own time, but subsequently as well.
Pascal had written another book for the Church after Pensées he formed another view which liberated him from dogmatic theory. He denounced Christianity by His Vers Libre on mathematics and science reasoning he went towards parthenogenesis and being separate from the need to believe one thing or the other. This magical delusion was Pascals downfall. It meant his best thoughts were not received by the populist and staggeringly they are still there even plays we have not seen or heard of all trapped in a bibliographic cemetery. The mocking tones of the authors seen preeminent like Voltaire were very often favoured due to the splendid cloak they gave to Royalty such as Catherine the Great. Delusion is a wonderful thing Pascal thought. His anti-religious thoughts were consistent with the well known maxim, it is better to believe, just in case. Pyrrhonism of living by thought is a paradox sent to sleep and put asunder by scepticism lent by the creator. That creator is the author of all and us.
Seeing the nothingness of belief in it’s unconquerable reason and the formed reality faced of war and dreadful outcomes for the earth’s inhabitants killing to survive among animals and complacency the compact only civilisation can construct to alleviate pain.
Not to question the religious life but know nothing of the other religious life is a nerveless position. The truth is beyond recognition but it’s invisible cloak surrounds and makes us alive.