The Grizendaph

This week saw Griselda Pollock, the brightest luminary of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds win the prestigious Holberg Prize – the first Art Historian to win it and I’m immensely proud to be working in the same department at the same university.  I nearly approached Griselda many years ago to supervise a PhD I was thinking about surrounding my research on the female sculptor Frances Darlington, but at that stage, I think she was on a temporary break from Leeds for her research. Years later my own project had evolved to something different and I got chatting to Abigail Harrison-Moore on an open day and she is now the theoretical, art historical half of my supervision, with Chris Taylor providing the creative, practical half.

The name Griselda must have lingered in my subconscious all those years ago as I initially named one of the two title characters in my first and only novel Grizelda – with a ‘z’. This was over five years ago now and I feel I must state very clearly that at that stage although I had read of her research interests on the university website and read some of her books, I had never met Griselda Pollock and had no inkling as to her character at all, so my Grizelda was an accidental coincidence. I chose the name simply because it made a good medieval-sounding compound for the title – The Grizendaph of Luddington. (The other main force of ill will in the story was a Daphne). I was ever so pleased with the title when I first coined it and the other artists in the book, set in a city very similar to Leeds talk about the Grizendaph as a singular entity much as people linked Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love as “Kurtney” or Evelyn Waugh and Evelyn Gardner as “Shevelyn”. That was it – the only reason I chose that name – a Grizendaph sounded a bit like a fantastical compound animal from medieval manuscripts and this suited my literary purposes perfectly since my Grizelda hailed from a mock medieval house in a town very like Harrogate.

As the book failed to find any agent or publisher I continually revised it and once I started my PhD in 2018 and remembered Griselda’s prominent role in the arts in Leeds, I began to worry that people might think I was satirising her – of course, I wasn’t. My Grizelda is a horrible character, manipulative, false, superficial and not very intelligent – the very opposite to Griselda Pollock. I was so worried, horrified that this is what people might think that I changed the names in the book and the title. Grizelda became Hildegarde and Daphne, Roberta, the book’s title became Avantgarderobe which happily emphasises some of the themes of image and creative integrity in the novel. The book was to be illustrated with caricatures of the characters by one of the characters who is a caricaturist in the novel. I started another career as this character, Benjamin Blott – who has helped to mitigate some of my financial losses as an artist with his dog drawings. Below are some early trial caricatures of Grizelda and Daphne as they were then and some of the other inhabitants of Luddington – none based on anyone real.

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Grizelda / Hildegarde Collinson

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Daphne / Roberta Olleringshaw

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George Collinson

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Snail McEwan

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Brian and Astrid Fawcett

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Lindsey Potts

 

In any case, it would be lazy just to draw directly from a single real person for a character and all my characters are composites of people and of myself – many of my own faults find focus in the issues in the book and it is not an attack on anyone, more an affectionate skit on various situations in contemporary art at the moment.

Sabotage

Sadly, over the past decade my work, especially my written work distributed through the internet has been subject to occasional sabotage – possibly by an ex (I foolishly dated several programmers) who I believe is also cyber-stalking me. The latest target for this has been this blog. I always proof-read my work and only submit after many careful revisions. Below the posts show many errors (silly things like the lack of a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence), that I (or Word or Grammarly) would never let past the post. The same thing happened when I was writing my biography of Frances Darlington – at the final stage when entering the text into the Booksmart software, I would check and double-check, save the work and the next morning it would be filled with mistakes – this is one reason why the book took so long to produce.

This latest sabotage has happened just as I applied for a number of posts, some of which were editorial. Sadly, I don’t have time to proof-read the entire blog right now but with this in mind, in the future, I will print out all posts from this blog and keep them in a file so that should this sabotage occur again, I can post a scan of the original, corrected text.

Conference Poster & Abstract

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Yesterday I took part in the University of Leeds, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures Postgraduate Researchers poster competition conference. this was a very useful exercise in examining my research questions, determining my research strategy and communicating all of this to the uninitiated! The aim was to focus on one aspect or angle of my research, rather than the main research area of the PhD.

POSTER

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ABSTRACT

The 2016 exhibition “Records & Rebels 1966-1970” at the V&A celebrated the fiftieth anniversaries of various socio-political and cultural landmarks of the 1960s and their expression through music, fashion and art.

While this rebellious culture was certainly revolutionary, aspects of it, namely the retrieval of older 19th-century styles and imagery may be seen as reactionary, e.g. to an enforced modernisation of London in the functional and austere rebuilding of the city following the war, or to an increasingly liberated female workforce. As the streamlined designs of the early 1960s celebrated this concept of modern life, the later 1960s pushed new boundaries in social norms and behaviours whilst simultaneously adopting older forms of representation and self-definition, evoking both female subordinate and intellectual/creative (e.g. Janey Morris, Christina Rossetti).

Within the context of my wider study of these revivals, I will focus upon the shift in the representation of and clothing of women of the late 1960s /early 1970s where designers were reviving imagery of an older world with older values and where the fashions and designs dated to a time before female suffrage. I will present these paradoxical identities within the 19th-century revivals in graphics, fashion and literature of the era.

 

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