Archive for the ‘symmetry’ Category

Sebastian Barry’s “Days Without End” and Spring flowers (1)

March 17, 2017

It’s not often that you come across a novel that is absolutely riveting and makes you want to write down a quote from every page of the book, but the new novel by Sebastian Barry –  Days Without End comes into this category. You can listen to an excellent Guardian podcast featuring an interview with Barry about his novel and this adds further insight into the book. The novel tells the story of Thomas McNulty, who was among thousands who fled from Ireland when the potato famine struck. McNulty briefly tells us of his arrival in Canada on a ship where “I was among the destitute, the ruined and the starving for six weeks”. The Irish who reached Canada “were nothing. No one wanted us… We were a plague. We were only rats of people”. When McNulty subsequently meets a fellow teenager “handsome John Cole” who becomes his life-long friend and lover, he tells us “I was a human louse, even evil people shunned me”. This feeling of McNulty’s – that he and his kind are worthless – continues throughout the book, and McNulty explains that his and John Cole’s ability to withstand the horrors they see, comes partly from this. The book tells of the boys’ and subsequently men’s lives as dancers dressed up as women to entertain miners, then as soldiers engaged in “cleansing” the frontier of Indians and then as regular soldiers in the American Civil.

Barry’s writing is described by reviewers of the book as “vibrant”, “beautiful and affecting”, “exhilarating” and “vivid”. He is one of these writers with an enviable ability to produce descriptions that make your read them again. Open the book anywhere and you’ll find them. The soldiers eat with “the strange fabric of frost and frozen wind falling on our shoulders”. Other soldiers, sent out to meet an Indian chief and his followers “rode like chaps expecting Death rather than Christmas”. There are detailed battle scenes in the book, but also moments of tenderness and humour. Barry does not shrink from describing mass killing – of Indian men, women and children and of rebel soldiers – but he manages to focus on the personal. In the heat of the battle with the rebels, McNulty reflects “Other things I see is how thin these boys [rebels] are, how strange like ghosts and ghouls. Their eyes like twenty thousand dirty stones”. I am two-thirds through this astonishing novel already and I know that when I get near the end, I’ll want it to continue for another 300 pages. Go and buy it.

 

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Sebastian Barry’s stunning novel

Spring really has sprung around here and there is now an abundance of colour in my garden, with much more to come. The first photo is of a tulip from a vase in the house – my own tulips are biding their time, letting the daffodils have their spot in the sunlight, before they upstage them with a glorious display of colour. As readers of this blog will know, what fascinates me in particular is the insides of flowers and their often surreal appearance. I love the symmetry in this tulip as well as the vibrant colours and the central feature, which could be a creature from a sci-fi film or something inexplicable found by archaeologists in a 3000 year old grave. What do you see here?

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Close up of a tulip flower head (Click to enlarge)

The 2nd photo is of violas on the side of our hanging basket at the front door. The cyclamen in the body of the hanging basket has passed its best. The violas, planted last autumn wore plain green coats all winter and shrivelled in the frost at times. In the past 2 weeks however, they are transformed and show us purple and yellow dresses in a display of sartorial elegance. They are delicate little flowers but have eye-catching, mascara like centre patterns. As the title of this blog post indicates, there will be more Spring flowers to follow.

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Violas in a hanging basket

 

 

M C Escher, Mark Doty and garden shapes

September 25, 2015

A fascinating programme on TV this week, with Roger Penrose examining the work of one of his heroes, the artist/designer M C Escher. In the programme, which is only available to UK viewers on IPlayer. However, for those of you outside the UK, there are 4 clips from the programme (I’m hoping that you can access these). The most interesting to me was Ascending and Descending aka The never-ending staircase. When you look at this print (see below), Penrose notes that “the monks appear to be going nowhere” as the stairs are endless. Escher also produced fascinating tessellations and in another clip, Penrose points out how Escher’s design replicates the angels and devils in the print. For Penrose, this echoes his own mathematical studies of shapes and for the lay person, it presents a fascinating series of replications which seem to blend into each other. An exhibition of Escher’s work is currently on (but ends this weekend) at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Escher's Ascending and Descending (Posted in accordance with fair use principles)

Escher’s Ascending and Descending (Posted in accordance with fair use principles)

The latest Poetry Book Society Choice is Deep Lane by the American poet Mark Doty. These are very personal poems and the poet covers a wide range of topics but I’m enjoying the nature-related poems best so far. In one of the seven poems entitled Deep Lane “Later a storm blows down the moraine/ crisp and depth-charged with ozone and exhilaration” and continues further on “leaves circling in air like the great curtain of bubbles/blown by the humpback to encircle the delicious schools”. In King of Fire Island, the poet tells of a deer which comes to their garden and has lost the hoof of one leg. “A hoof’s a deft accomplishment,/ that hard-sheened shoe of blue-black carbon”.

Having seen the Penrose programme and having taken more photos in the garden, I became more aware of the shapes in the photos. In the first photo, the edges of the gladiolus flower are fan-like or like the edges of a scallop shell.

Gladiolus

Gladiolus

In the 2nd photo, the bee’s wings have several different shapes within the overall shape of the wings, which look as if they might have been stuck on as an addition maybe for a fancy dress party.

Bee close up

Bee close up

In the 3rd photo, the petals of the begonia flower do seem to be replicated, as in Escher’s work but they don’t appear to have symmetricality of Escher’s angels, although there does seem to be some symmetry in the 4th photo – a close up of a hydrangea head.

Begonia flower

Begonia flower

Hydrangea head

Hydrangea head