There was a new comedy programme that started on BBC last week, written by Ben Elton. It’s all about Gerald Wright, a Health and Safety Department chief from the fictional town of Baselricky, somewhere in the south of England. Very funny I’m sure – except it isn’t and it’s had a real panning from the critics. But the premise that it’s hilarious to make fun of people involved in protecting people at work from accidents and ill health has become generally accepted.
In recent year the trend in the media and the entertainment industry has been to mock, misrepresent and ridicule the whole idea of health and safety. This has played into the hands of a government which has an ideological agenda to remove anything that gets in the way of the pursuit of profit.
Well, just in case anyone thinks they’re right, a lack of regulation and a disregard for health and safety led to this
the collapse of a building in India which resulted in the death of a large number of Indian textile workers.
Ben Elton, who made his name as an “edgy” radical comedian really ought to know better.
I’ve enjoyed watching the series of four programmes on the BBC presented by the youthful Alastair Sooke about Modern Art. Each programme focused on one of the great “masters” of Modern Art – Picasso, Matisse, Dali and Warhol, showcasing their work, looking at how it developed over their lifetime and trying to explain their influences and connections and the influence they have had on popular culture.
Picasso (source: Wikipedia)
Sooke is an enthusiastic presenter and explains his points without being too preachy – although I’d agree with the Guardian review that suggested that there was “a touch of Blue Peter” in his style. There seems to be a trend for young, dynamic presenters on the BBC at the moment – we’ve also had Brian Cox, the “rock star physicist”, who seems to crop up all over the place, and Iain Stewart who’s presented a number of geology based programmes. Sometimes their enthusiasm can be a little irritating, but they clearly know their stuff, generally get it over well and may attract some younger viewers (not just old fogies like me!).
Matisse (source: Wikipedia)
I’m sure that some serious art critics would get sniffy and consider the programmes to be “middle brow”, but I found them both entertaining and informative. I’ve only developed my interest in Modern Art relatively recently and have a lot to learn and programmes like this certainly help my education. I found the programme on Matisse particularly interesting as I didn’t know much about him even though I’d seen some of his works in the Beaubourg in Paris, and was familiar with some of his better known paintings. The programme put these in context and allowed me to discover other aspects of his work. There was much more variety – his style changing as he got older – then I realised.
Pictures by Matisse (Beaubourg, Paris)
I knew more about Picasso and Dali. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Musee Picasso in Paris and the Dali Theartre and Museum in Figueres. In both cases there was a large collection which spanned the life of these artists.
Dali Theatre and Museum
The BBC has a website devoted to the series, which has some clips from the programmes, a “virtual exhibition” of major works by all four artists and links to places where it’s possible to see Modern Art round the country. They also have a series of “art walks” – routes around major cities in Britain which focus on public art including sculpture, architecture and other places to see Modern Art.
An excellent programme shown on BBC2 on Saturday. Not too heavy or too lightweight – I guess you could say it was “middlebrow”, but that suited me! Presented by the critic Waldemar Januszczak (try saying that name after a few pints – on reflection try saying it when you’re sober) it looked at Manet’s art and his life. He has always been one of my favourite artists – since I learned to start appreciating art in my early twenties. A number of his paintings are particular favourites of mine, especially Olympia, and despite his character flaws which were explored during this programme (and who doesn’t have those), I admire his republicanism and leftish tendencies, reflected in his painting “The Execution of Maximilian”, even if he was essentially a “bourgeois radical”. That’s better, in my view, than being a reactionary. He did, after all, come from a bourgeois family – his father was a senior judge.
The Execution of Maximilian
When discussing the more famous works such as “Dejeuner sur l’Herbe” and “Olympia”, the progamme “recreated” the pictures with live models. I’m not sure what the intention was in doing this as I don’t think it added to the understanding of the paintings, but I guess it was a device to make the viewer take notice, rather than simply displaying a flat image.
I’m also not sure about the title pf the programme. Did he “invent” modern art? He certainly helped to move art away from the stuffy traditions prevalent at the end of the 18th Century and was a major influence on the Impressionists but I don’t think that he deliberately set out to revolutionise art in the way the title of the programme suggests. I guess that its another device to grab attention.
Despite these reservations watching the programme was a good way to spend some time on a Saturday night at home.
Pictures from Wikipedia