Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Sundar Kanta Walker at the Portico Library, a dash to the BBC and a drink in the Lass o'Gowrie

To the Portico Library last night for the opening of Sundar Kanta Walker's final leg in the tour of her fantastic show of paintings, Samsara: The World, The Universe. What a surprise: since the first show in Sale last October, Kanta has added numerous new paintings, some of them huge and all overflowing with vibrant energy - and Kanta is such a little woman, I don't know why she wasn't flat on the floor rather than looking her usual bright-button self.

Some of these new paintings made me shudder in an exciting but disturbing way, and Kanta explained to the assembled guests that the theme of this exhibition is our treatment of the environment and its resultant cataclysmic changes. The picture above is Kanta's vision of a tropicalized Lake District, and others show mountain ranges where the brush-strokes and colour shifts seem dynamically to split mountains between melting heat and desolate uncompromising ice, capturing our sense of the uncertainty of the future in a way which brought my heart into my mouth. But, marvellously, there are pictures too celebrating those things which, if we are not careful, we could lose, and the shot below shows Kanta beside one of them.

I couldn't help thinking there was an interesting culture clash between the urgency of the paintings and the gentility of the venue: live music, a gentle harp and a flute, above us the beautiful recently restored Georgian glass and plaster dome, all around us shelves of old leather-bound books, one wall classified in gold lettering: Polite Literature. And the reading room, where William Gaskell and Roget once sat. I love the place, but there is still an air of nineteenth century elitism about it - the way you have to be let in at the door, the fact that you need a letter of reference before you can ever borrow books and the original club-type membership system still in operation. There's good reason, of course - the books are a special and crumbling resource which need great care and renovation (the library is engaged on a massive ongoing renovation project of the books and the weakening shelves.) But you know me: I stood taking the photo below of the gentleman's-club type reading room, and couldn't help making a connection between nineteenth-century elitism and the state of the world about which Kanta is painting.

And then home for a bite to eat, and out again back to the BBC to talk about the blogstory on Radio Manchester's Phil Wood show, and then across the road to the Lass o' Gowrie and a world Gaskell and Roget would never recognize, where John was chatting to a bunch of ecology students all dressed up as animals (don't ask me why) and who should also be there but Art of Fiction blogger Adrian Slatcher and, guess what, we talked about blogging until chucking-out time.

Kanta's exhibition continues until 27th September.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I wish I'd known you were going to be on the Phil Woods show - I'd have tuned in. I had a little interview with him a couple of months ago and he was so lovely - even though I did throw a cup of water all over his studio because I was so nervous!!


Elizabeth Baines said...

Well, it was very much at the last minute - no time to announce it. And Yes, he is lovely. Not sure I convinced him about the marvellousness of blogs, though!

Adrian Slatcher said...

Yep, good to see you! I've been reclusive for a coupla of weeks so nice to bump into people. Liked the start of the blog story.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think blogs are great!