Chris Wadsworth
Percy Kelly - Looking East to the Ennerdale Fells
Writer and Art Consultant

8th August 2014


The Black Square

Just been to a friend’s book launch at The Society of Authors in London. Mark McCrum is a well published writer but, along with many other writers, he has taken the self-publish route for his latest book FEST a murder mystery set at a literary festival  with the characters and location recognisable to regulars at these events.

 With the rise of celebrity culture and an aversion to risk taking, publishers are being much more cautious and more and more writers, many of them well established, are taking the same route as Mark. With the growing popularity of e books and print on demand this is now much easier.  The publishers and agents have held all the power for decades. If you aren’t J K Rowling, a big name celebrity or prepared to write a salacious sex epic it is hard for any writer to make a reasonable living. So I’m watching this with interest. The sequel to Hercules - The Life Class - has been ready to go for ages. I am just holding back from leaving the security of a wise agent, a publishing house with a marketing structure, a good editor and a legal team. I will watch what happens to Fest and let you know.

We went to see Begin Again last week at the Alhambra Cinema in Keswick. This is a fairly lightweight feel good film about a singer songwriter  (Keira Knightly) who is accidentally discovered  by an out of work  disillusioned music executive (Mark Ruffalo) They get a playlist togetherwhich they film  and record on the streets of New York. They market and distribute it themselves after it is rejected by the professionals. Idealistic  and saccharine sweet I admit but the film also makes the point of the advantages of self publishing.

This is the world we live in today. With all the tools we have available almost anything is possible.

While in London I went to the Malevich exhibition at Tate Modern with an American friend who has lived and worked in Russia for many years and is a serious collector of Russian art which made it even more interesting.  Malevich lived through years of dramatic change in Russia. He started painting in the time of Tsar Nicholas II and took part in the Moscow uprising. He worked on through the revolution, the  first world war and communism under Lenin and Stalin. He was strongly influenced by Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Chagal,  by opera and costume design. But he is best known for his avant garde Black Square paintings which were regarded by authority as subversive and banned. At his funeral  in 1935 everybody defiantly carried a black square in homage.  There are 2 of his black squares in this exhibition (the first is now too delicate to travel).

When visiting my friend  in Moscow some years ago, she took  me to the studio of Ygorshina, a tiny bird like painter in her nineties who had lived and worked through Stalin’s stark years of communist repression. Her paintings were emotional, colourful and joyful. But I was sad when she described their excitement when she and her  late husband were invited to contribute to an exhibition in Paris. They gained the necessary permissions and paperwork to ship the work out but on the day it was packed up and ready to be collected the KGB arrived and took it all away.  They never saw it again. She still carried a huge sadness by not knowing what happened to it.

I wish I’d asked her about Malevich – she would almost certainly have known him.




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