New battle lines

Of course, Brexit was never going to be just about leaving the EU. Our internal political system is in turmoil. The fitness for purpose of our democracy is under question. Personal relationships have strained or broken.
Everything we took for granted about our country and our political beliefs is shaken. Britain – or more precisely, England – is in the throes of growing pains.
As soon as you hear someone say “Never since the Norman Conquest has England…..” you know they are defending a castle in the air.
And yet…..there has been no confusion in England as great as this since the Civil War, which was not a simple battle between flashy Europhile Royalists and plain russet-coated English Parliamentarians, but a mess of ideologies, prejudices, opportunism, superstition, nostalgia, pragmatism, courage, cowardice, principles, convictions, compromises and betrayals.
The 17th century English Revolution was a great experiment in republican government. There is nothing great or experimental about Brexit – the right-wing reality is a reactionary coup d’état in the interests of the few, not of the many sincere democrats who voted for it.
There is no coherence, no leadership and no civil disobedience yet. If they come, let’s hope they are not in battalions.
Andrew Carrick Gow Cromwell Dissolving the Long Parliament in 1653.
Oil on canvas, 1907. Auckland Art Gallery. Image: Wikipedia
One of the most tortured bodies in this mess is the Labour Party, the country’s only hope for domestic welfare and the protection of public services, which lost votes in the Election because of the leadership’s fudged Referendum policy, and will be unelectable again if it doesn’t support the Single Market.
 “Two things are now clear: Brexit involves a series of political choices, an our future relationship with the EU will be inferior to the one we currently enjoy. Sitting on the sidelines is therefore not an option.
For the Labour Party, the challenge is huge. The majority of Labour voters backed remaining in the EU, but a significant proportion did not. As a party we campaigned to Remain, and most of us do not believe the challenges facing the country are best solved by leaving – quite the opposite – but since the referendum we have failed to reach
a common and coherent position…
So, the choice is clear. We can sit back and wait for the consequences of a hard Brexit to become so severe that it topples this terrible Tory government.
Or we can stand up for those who will be worst affected and fight for membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union.
Future generations will not forgive us for inaction or for perceived complicity in a Brexit that damages our country and our economy.” Catherine West MP
THE VITAL LINKS:

New report: Busting Lexit Myths

The Labour Campaign for a Single Market

and the leaked Government report on the adverse effects of Brexit on Britain


Thank all our gods, he’s here again to cheer up a dreary post: the irresistible Will, of the People:
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel by Manet

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The Autonomous Woman

I’m still looking at her. I lied in the previous post about ambivalence. I know very well that she is informed, not defined, by other people’s abuse.  This post is too long for comfort, but if you want to see Artemisia Gentileschi meet Jane Austen, read on.

marymagdaleneArtemesiaG The Penitent Mary Magdalen 1620-25
Oil on canvas, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence. Image: WGA

“Till this moment I never knew myself”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813

Of all women, why should the Magdalene repent? As a composite of erotic and spiritual love, a triumphant victim of patriarchy who earned her own living, became a player in global religion, and a legendary heroine of romance, we should be honest enough to celebrate, not patronize her.

Whatever the true source of her anguish, the distraught Magdalen is looking into the darkest shadows of her psyche. She is examining her own actions, thoughts and feelings, holding herself to account. We are looking at her at the moment she knows herself.

Gentileschi also cast Mary Magdalene, the sinning woman, as the personification of  Melancholy, an ambivalent attribute.

ArtemisiaGentileschiMaryMagdaleneMelancholy

Artemisia Gentileschi, Maria Maddalena come la Malinconia 1621 -25.
Oil on canvas. Museo del Soumaya, Mexico City. Image: Wikipedia.

The Renaissance began the modern cultivation of melancholy, or predisposition to depression, as a desirable creative condition, on the dubious premise that the more you suffer, the better your art. This has been proved true only in cases where there is pre-existing talent and a strong technique. Intensity of feeling alone never wrote a good book or painted a great picture. greatest struggle is to transmute personal experience into art

Gentileschi’s interpretation of a passive Temperament is characteristically unromantic: the sensual, dishevelled Magdalene is slumped in her chair, looking like a lethargic and sulky teenager, the opposite of her usually dynamic heroines.

Gentileschi (the daughter, not the father, the overshadowed Orazio, a dutiful father and fine painter in his own right) is a colussus straddling art and gender history. Continue reading

Ambivalence

Artemisia Gentileschi Susanna and the Elders 1610 Oil on canvas Schloss Weissenstein, Pommersfelden.
Image: WGA
The first known work of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – c. 1653) is a classic study of sexual harassment. Other painters often portrayed Susanna looking coy, sometimes willing, a starlet enjoying the attention of producers at the pool.
This Susanna is unambivalently saying NO

Some male painters visualized Susanna leading her old, fat, powerful voyeurs on to commit a completely consensual act of physical contact.

  Alessandro Allori Susanna and The Elders 1561 Oil on canvas, Musée Magnin, Dijon. Image: WGA.
No ambiguity here, jusr a compliant girl and a cute dog in a male abuser’s fantasy.

“I have been bullied by men and women, but the first to bully me were women.” Noelle Mackay #NotMeToo

hecate or the three fates blakeHecate or the Three Fates by William Blake, c. 1795. Tate Gallery London.
Image source: WGA

Hecate, sometimes on her own, sometimes three-headed, a triple deity, incarnates the ambivalence of all female power, from witchcraft to motherhood.

Artemisia Gentileschi The Penitent Mary Magdalen 1620-25
Oil on canvas, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence. Image: WGA

Of all women, why should the Magdalen repent? As a composite of erotic and spiritual love, a victim of patriarchy who earned her own living and became a player in global religion, we should be honest enough to celebrate, not punish her.

Whatever the true source of her anguish, the distraught Magdalen is looking into the darkest shadows of her psyche. She is examining her own actions, thoughts and feelings, holding herself to account.

In 1611, when she was about 21, Artemisia Gentileschi was raped by her art teacher (Tassi). She and her father were not afraid of disclosure. During the trial, as part of checks on her virginity, Artemisia was tortured.

The abused women in her mature paintings are strong, introspective, assertive, independent.

Nothing frivolous intrudes on the monumental composition of her paintings, where a constant battle for light and dark is played out with unforgiving realism.

She painted women in moments of terrifying self-knowledge, finding reserves of violent, sometimes murderous, passion they had never guessed before. Her subjects are not victims or martyrs, projecting self-pity or self-promotion. They take responsibility for their actions and emotions. They are heroines, avengers and fighters for justice; they are autonomous women.

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”
Jane Austen Mansfield Park 1814