These are tough times for sure. However much one tells oneself that the studio is a fine place to ‘self isolate’ (see last post) there’s a need, fairly regularly, to get out and replenish the batteries. I often do so with my pal Simon (see many previous posts!) either on one of our Leicestershire projects or visiting shows – often at hand or more occasionally far flung. One of the latter several years back involved an almighty cock up whereby we planned to set out for the Louvre – Lens not realising it was a French public holiday! Discovering it at the last moment we swerved away north to Bruges and back via Ostend. This enabled us to take in MU:zee in the city. Its a large rambling modern building that looks rather as if it may have been a department store (it was) and as I rambled around I was powerfully struck by several of the Belgian artists represented. Chief among them is of course Ensor but there are fine works by Permeke, Brusselmans and more recent figures such as Jan Fabre and Wim Delvoye. But what really got to me were works by the hitherto only vaguely remembered Léon Spilliaert. His self portrait in particular seemed both haunting and haunted, a study in depression and insomnia. It struck me as easily the equal if not possibly more harrowing than Munch’s The Scream.
So I had been limbering up for a visit to the show of his work currently holed up in the Royal Academy and thinking just my luck as it now seems certain that its run will end before the curfew lets up. Luckily however the Academy have put up a video of the show – not a substitute of course – but something to help out. It’s worth a look, not least if you are a painter now. Although notionally figurative many of his works are of equal interest to someone wedded to abstraction and his range is truly astonishing. It’s a mystery to me that he’s not better known or better regarded – and given that he’s lucked out in London likely to remain so for many. Check out the video so you’re not one of those…and we never did (as yet…?) make it to Louvre-Lens!