close reading of images, poems, pots

I’ve been thinking about why writing on pots works, in preparation for contributing to a talk at the CAA on the 7th June (by the way, come!).

thrown porcelain plate with quote from In My Sullen Art, Dylan Thomas

One of the pleasures of making the work is revisiting the text over and over again, both while making and when using the pots.

The line on this one –  ‘on the ivory stages’ – comes from Dylan Thomas’ In my craft or sullen art. It reminds me of the whole poem – a synecdoche , and as I reflect on it, it changes my mood, and my connection with it deepens.  The poem’s about the act of making – why we do it (“not for ambition or bread “) , which makes it particularly poignant to me. Dylan Thomas reads it well.

It reminds me of TJ Clark’s book The Sight of Death where he looks at and writes about the same paintings over and over again.

TJC’s famous for art criticism in a political context, so was asked “why this?” at a London Review of Books event I attended. His response was that in the torrent of internet images and information, close reading, as in his book, was political. In my mind, this translated as a kind of resistance to consumer capitalism: what happens if you keep objects for a long time? Do you buy different objects? Fewer ones?

There’s more reviews exploring these themes, including Rachel Cooke in the Observer: “The Sight of Death is a sustained attack on what Clark calls the ‘visual flow’”.

In Adam Philips’ Guardian review, he says “Clark has written a book about loss of attention and the possibilities of its recovery. … He implies that whatever we find most difficult to articulate about a painting may be just what is most politically pertinent about it. We should think, he suggests, “about why some visual configurations are harder to put into words than others. And about whether there is an ethical, or even political, point to that elusiveness.””

I don’t understand this very well, but it feels like the right kind of question to be asking.

3 responses to “close reading of images, poems, pots

    • Thanks Claire, and thanks for the Liebster award too! It’s made my day. I’m going to look at your other recommendations too, I haven’t managed to do a bloglist yet of ones I like.


  1. Pingback: the book of the still | carysdavies·

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