Roundup: Wavian Influences

–A long-neglected British artist named Frank Bowling is enjoying a renewal of interest in his work. This is led by a retrospective at the Tate Britain which opened on 31 May and continues through 26 August. Another smaller exhibit includes a 1980s work that was influenced by Evelyn Waugh. This is explained in an article by Javier Pes in ArtNet News:
“It would be tragic for Frank to just become a commodity before he is given his rightful place in the canon,” art dealer Paul Hedge tells artnet News. He reveals that he and his colleagues have also been kept busy reading Evelyn Waugh’s tragic-comic novel A Handful of Dust ahead of Art Basel this week because of Bowling.Why get up to speed with Waugh’s satire of the English upper classes, which was published the year Bowling was born, in what was then British Guyana? “Frank’s reaction was all about the way Waugh described the Guyanese jungle,” Hedges says. “He really took exception to that.” As a result, Bowling painted a series of “Cathedral” paintings in 1987 that Hales is presenting in its solo booth at Art Basel.
The Art Basel event is also mentioned in Apollo magazine:
Hales Gallery brings six of Bowling’s previously unshown Cathedral Paintings from the 1980s, inspired by Evelyn Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust (1934) and built up with materials and objects through a process Bowling refers to as ‘cooking’ ($200,000–$400,000).
The Apollo article by Melanie Gerlis also includes a reproduction of one of the work’s in Bowling’s Art Basel exhibit: According to Waugh (1986). The Art Basil exhibitions and other events are open in that city from 13-16 June.
–Waugh’s work has also influenced art in another genre. This is popular music where a rock group known as Vampire Weekend, made up of former Columbia University students, had been profiled in the American Conservative magazine:
Vampire Weekend’s first three albums are heavily indebted to Evelyn Waugh. The band’s song “Arrows” is explicitly about Brideshead Revisited. The lyrics directly reference the book, while the arrows in the title and chorus are a reference to Saint Sebastian, and the music borrows elements from the Brideshead BBC series soundtrack. The band’s second album is titled “Contra,” which is, at least in part, inspired by the line in Brideshead where Charles says he’s with Sebastian “contra mundum.” Ezra Koenig, the frontman of the band, repeatedly mentioned Waugh in early interviews, and has recounted how he once dressed up as Sebastian Flyte for Halloween. While Koenig compared the band’s first three albums to Brideshead, their trilogy is closer in structure to Waugh’s Vile Bodies, in that the first two acts burst with quirky exuberance but build to a dark and bleak third act.


The Guardian reviews the broadcast of the latest installment of ITV’s SevenUp series. This follows the lives of several British children of various class backgrounds from the 1960s to today, There us an update every seven years and the latest is called 63Up. Among those interviewed over the years with increasing interest is Neil Hughes. From a middle class background as the son of two schoolteachers, he seemed at first to have a promising future. According to the Guardian:

He adored literature and, after reading Brideshead Revisited, dreamed of going to Oxford. He got the required grades but flunked the admission exam. “I think I misquoted someone,” he sighs. It haunted him for years. He spent six months hitchhiking to toughen himself up. “When I think of the risks I took, the places I stayed, the people I associated with, I swallow hard.” He ended up at Aberdeen university, studying languages and law when Scottish nationalist students mounted what he calls a “soviet-style takeover” of student halls. “If you were not Scots, then woe betide you. Nobody threatened me, but it was a horrible atmosphere.”

Over the years, after dropping out of university, he was found living in a squat and working as a labourer and a grouse beater but later he seemed to settle down and was serving as a Liberal Democrat member of a town council and also as a lay reader in the Church of England. Although he says he stopped watching the series several years ago, he agreed to be interviewed for the latest series. This in episode 3 of the new series and is available on itvPlayer.

–A trace of Waugh’s influence is found by a reviewer of a new novel Red Line Blues by Scott Seward Smith.  This is about a Washington, DC romance between a conservative “foreign policy wonk” Owen Cassel and  Audrey, a liberal librarian. According to the Washington Times reviewer:

There are moments reading “Red Line Blues” when the hero and heroine reminded me of two Evelyn Waugh characters: Owen as an older, wearier version of Paul Pennyfeather, the hapless hero of “Decline and Fall,” and Audrey as a deeper, more intelligent Aimee Thanatogenos, the beautiful, innocent apprentice mortician in “The Loved One.” Unlike Waugh, who reveled in inflicting pain on his most sympathetic characters, Mr. Smith treats his with an engaging affection and compassion.


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