Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Kore Ignores the Deeds of Artemis

I'm supposed to stand impassive
while the arch-eyed Artemis wades
in with shins thick as cedars, stops
the gobs of her horn-eared dogs
with giants' heads. I have averted
my gaze for centuries, as stone sweat
drips from big-men's armipts when
the canines sink into their brains,
and as if by reflex, their index
fingers gouge out eyes. My mouth
is stretched into the most artificial
grin I can muster, my hair done
in braids, my nipples perpetually
raised beneath the muslin-alabaster -
and my arm, knocked off long ago
by some clumsy jobsworth, still
proffers an invisible hare. I do it
by staring without pupils, so I
cannot see the moon. Last night,
I dared to look - and as the giants die,
a bead of blood runs down my inner thigh.
Poem by Giles Watson, 2013. Inspired by a fortuitous juxtaposition in the Cast Gallery at the Ashmolean Museum: a group of Korai (women depicted in the height of late-archaic fashion, with brightly-painted clothes, holding out offerings of small animals) from the Athenian Acropolis, stand opposite an extraordinarily visceral cast from the Great Altar at Pergamon, depicting the battle between the Giants and the Gods.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Poem by Peter Malin for 5th October

Object     Ennui, painting by Walter Sickert (1917-18)

Gallery 63      Sickert and his Contemporaries


All Over

The scene’s mundane, banal; love’s at an end
In this drab room
Whose sickly d├ęcor wears the ochre hues
Of autumn’s fading.
Here we view this man, this woman,
Studiously absent from each other’s gaze,
Reiterating their thoughts’ tormented libretti
As the room plays and replays
Its sullen symphony of brown.

SHE: We thought love star-begotten, angel-blest,
Needless of nurture: lovers’ grained-in fault;
And so we squandered starlight unconfessed,
Smudged its bright promise to this yellowed vault
Where, joined but separate in the artist’s eye,
We thank our stars there’s nothing left alive to die.

HE:   My gaze aspires to space’s lightless vault,
Aches for the joy of universal dark,
Thinks to oblivion all that was my fault
In snuffing, quenching, love’s defenceless spark.
The artist’s palette paints our lives to brown,
But cannot limn the void where, lost and deep, we drown.

New poem by Paul Surman for gallery reading on 5 October.


A red drift veined in the marble table top,
the plump lustre of those grapes.
Studied inflorescence in a vase,
that knife not carelessly laid down.

The spiralled curl of half-peeled fruit
placed purposely to test the painter's art,
the drop of water that bulges inside
its surface tension. They are not the story.

After obsessive precision, long hours
of patient lingering over details,
they are merely a collection of surfaces,
shine and sheen, transparency and glint.

But painted objects lend weight to the mind

as if they or thought could be grasped

Painting by Claire Peeters 

Room 48