Thursday, 5 June 2008

Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism

Ok ... so I'm currently reading Wyndham Lewis' The Childermass - well more like trying very hard to get through the damn thing. The premise is intriguing, a modern reworking of Dante's Paradise Lost (this should read as Dante's The Divine Comedy - thank you Phoenix for the correction - my face is as red as this font) set along the river Styx - with 2 rather foppish english protaganists - I'm sure there are embedded stereotypes that I am not getting completely. The language is dense, peppered with adjectival descriptors and curious semantic juxtapositions - it also has an antiquated rhythm of its own ... almost like tackling Shakespeare in the sense that once you get used to the flow of the meter ... your brain automatically parcels the sentences into their composite meanings ...

Ok whilst trying to explain how difficult it has been so far .. I've presented you my reader with an equally inscrutable paragraph which is just my mid-week arvo brain vomitting its vacuous thoughts onto the screen.

Edward Wadsworth - Abstract Composition

Anyhoo, I surfed the web to find out what other people thought about this trilogy (oh yes ... there are 3 separate volumes!). And what I discovered is that Wyndham isn't widely read anymore (surprise surprise) and that he was also known for his paintings or rather for starting up one of Britains last modern art movements called Vorticism!!!

Wyndham Lewis - Workshop

I’m afraid Vorticism doesn’t quite do it for me – where does cubism end and Vorticism start – I can’t exactly see the difference and I will admit this. Also, there’s something jarringly masculine about these paintings and prints – rather than drawing me in (which is kinda the whole point to Vorticism) it disengages me as a viewer.

Bomberg - Jujitsu

Despite the riot of colour in some of these, its all too redolent of propaganda for my liking.

Blast Magazine

Wyndham Lewis: The Crowd

Imust admit that I am enjoying unraveling the intricacies of Lewis’ prose – its very very percussive – lots of aggressive nouns and really dense!!

Excerpt from The Childermass:

"Both pairs of eyes withdrawn into the respective shells, faces towwards the ground, with one movement they now wheel and begin walking in step away from teh quay slowly, Satters with a long-legged slouch, Pullman with a slowing-down of his light-limbed machine, hugging, high-shouldered, his stick. Their feet sink into the exuviae and migrating sand, dust and gypsum, of the riverside, kicking, first one and then the other, a stone or fragment of jetsam of the camp or flood .... Their minds continue to work in silent rhythm, according to the system of habit set in motion by their meeting.

'This is rather beastly, isn't it?' Satters uses the rapid half-voice of confidence, of the social equal and confederate. Pullman, with the same half-voice, without touching his friend with his eyes, jerks his chin up quickly towards the city.


The little word snaps out of its trap as fresh as paint. He snatches his mouth away as he discharges it, crossly fixing the lateral horizon. Beastly - the judgement of the gentleman."



Temasek wrote:

Oops you're quite right. And I think I should be referring to Dante's Divine Comedy ... well whichever has the various levels of hell ... good spottage!!
6 June

Phoenix wrote:

I've never heard of Wyndham Lewis, but it was Milton who wrote Paradise Lost. Dante wrote The Divine Comedy.
5 June


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