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Monday, 4 July 2016

Notes on Blindness, Geoffrey Hill & Ernest Mancoba

Mark Kermode writes of Notes on Blindness:

'Now this superb documentary by Peter Middleton and James Spinney dramatises the life-changing experiences of theology professor John Hull, whose audiotape diaries of his journey into blindness formed the basis of his 1990 book Touching the Rock. Building upon their 2014 Emmy award-winning short film, Middleton and Spinney have created an utterly immersive feature worthy of Hull’s end-quote declaration that “to gain our full humanity, blind people and sighted people need to see each other” ...

Maximising its accessibility, Notes on Blindness is available in audio-described and enhanced soundtrack versions, the latter transforming the film into a singular aural experience. (There’s also a virtual reality project, subtitled Into Darknesscurrently touring UK venues.) John Hull died in July last year, but his spirit lives on in this extraordinary inclusive work, which is as educational, entertaining and inspirational as its subject.'

Peter Bradshaw writes that: 'The tone is sober, unflashy, and Hull’s reflections on God are presented without any hectoring or special pleading. Affecting and profoundly intelligent.'

The Guardian's obituary for Sir Geoffrey Hill contained the following:

'For the Unfallen ... remains a powerful book, astonishing as a young man’s debut; ornate, rhetorical, grandiose in its subjects and themes. Genesis, the very first poem, takes the creation myth as its own creative occasion, beginning: “Against the burly air I strode, / crying the miracles of God” and ending:

By blood we live, the hot, the cold,
To ravage and redeem the world,
There is no bloodless myth will hold.
And by Christ’s blood are men made
Though in close shrouds their bodies
Under the rough pelt of the sea;
Though Earth has rolled beneath her
The bones that cannot bear the light.

For the Unfallen, eventually published in 1959, and all Hill’s subsequent books, dwell on blood and religion; his treatments of violence range from Funeral Music (from King Log, 1968), a remarkable sequence on the astonishingly violent battles of the Wars of the Roses, to his careful and sensitive elegies for Holocaust victims. From his earliest poetry he was intensely interested in martyrs, whether of the religious controversies of the 16th and 17th centuries, or totalitarian regimes of the 20th; and he aimed at a scrupulous weighing of the appropriate words by which their witness could be mediated. By making historical atrocities more immediate, and refusing to abandon the memory of the dead, Hill was also tacitly calling attention to more contemporary political predicaments.'

Sean O’Toole writes on the life of Ernest Mancoba in the current edition of Tate etc. 'Mancoba, who left Africa to study art in Paris in 1938, infused modern European art with a unique African spirit. One of the founding members of the CoBrA group, his unique style is characterised by subtle colours, dynamic compositions and diffuse, enigmatic forms.' O'Toole acknowledges though the significance of Mancoba's Christian faith and the influence of his early arts training at the Christian school of Pietersburg, 'where in 1929 his Bantu Madonna created a scandal.' 'It showed her barefoot with African features, her hand making the gesture made by Bantu girls on nearing the head of the family. This break with tradition was not limited to iconography but extended by implication to the whole Christian world‐view as upheld in the West. Seven years later the Madonna was placed in the Anglican cathedral of St Mary in Johannesburg.'

Also in the same edition, Marco Pasi explores artists, from William Blake and Georgiana Houghton to Matt Mullican, who have been ‘guided’ by forces beyond their control.


Geoffrey Hill - The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy.

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