A quotation from Eileen Agar about play that I received today and felt I ought to share

14 Jun

I have spent my life in revolt against convention, trying to bring colour and
light and a sense of the mysterious to daily existence. But the English urge
towards philistinism is impossible to avoid, though one may fight it root and
branch. One must have a hunger for new colour, new shapes and new possibilities
of discovery. The twentieth century has begun to realise that most of life’s
meaning is lost without a spirit of play. I play, all that is lovely and
soaring in the human spirit strives to find expression. To play is to yield
oneself to a kind of magic, and to give a lie to the inconvenient world of
fact.
The last to sentences are the significant ones but I have included the lead in
too.

Eileen Agar was a brilliant painter from the middle of the last centuary, perhaps most famous for her association  with Paul Nash

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6 Responses to “A quotation from Eileen Agar about play that I received today and felt I ought to share”

  1. Cath Prisk - Play England June 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    nice!

    artists, art, play, adventure, craft, engineering, destruction, insight. Hmm.

  2. Bernard spiegal June 14, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    Thanks for this, robin. ‘And to give a lie to the inconvenient world of fact’. A sentiment worth clinging to.

  3. plexity June 16, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    I’m keeping this in my cool quotes file.

    I took the appalling and presumptuous liberty of correcting it – one significant typo is ‘I’ in place of ‘In’ – channelling Father Fox, my English teacher from 1967:

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “I have spent my life in revolt against convention, trying to bring colour and light and a sense of the mysterious to daily existence.

    “But the English urge towards philistinism is impossible to avoid, though one may fight it root and branch.

    “One must have a hunger for new colour, new shapes and new possibilities of discovery.

    “The twentieth century has begun to realise that most of life’s meaning is lost without a spirit of play. In play, all that is lovely and soaring in the human spirit strives to find expression.

    “To play is to yield oneself to a kind of magic, and to give a lie to the inconvenient world of fact.”

    The last two sentences are the significant ones, although I have also included the lead-in. Eileen Agar was a brilliant painter from the middle of the last century, perhaps most famous for her association with Paul Nash.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Robin, she was associated not only with Nash but also several other artists and writers associated with surrealism (thank you, Wikipedia, for making me look better-read than I is).

    Bear with me as I develop a half-cocked and poorly expressed thesis, it is, in part, this: that we as a nation are continuously refreshed by immigration. Were we to send them all back, were it possible (given that we would have to start with black people in Elizabethan times, then Huguenots, and what about the Norman French?) then we would be a nation of lumpen Anglo-Saxons huddled in our huts. Thus I find it fascinating that she talks about English philistinism, I think she is correct in her critique. She was born in Buenos Aires to a Scottish father and American mother, lived in London and married a Hungarian. So not a grocer’s daughter from Lincolnshire.

    If we trawl back beyond surrealism we encounter Goethe (1749 – 1832) who was attempting to develop a ‘science of qualities’ (my clumsy phrase) to be on a par with the ‘science of quantities’ (again my own ugly phrasing). We forget that in Newton’s time (1642 – 1727) science was not as we know it, Jim – the term ‘natural philosophy’ embraced much of what we now exclude from our narrow definition of science, and Goethe and others moved freely between what we now know as the twin silos of art and science. Newton was from Lincolnshire, but not a grocer’s daughter.

    But our English merchants eagerly took up our nascent technology and the Industrial Revolution roared into dark satanic being. In the process much of our finer sensibilities (one example John Clare, poet and farm-worker) were sacrificed on the altar of industry and trade.

    Without our pesky immigrants would we have any civilisation left? There is one I would send back, Rupert, architect of Sky, crass persecutor of our public service bastion of civilisation, our glorious, advert-free BBC. The English are famously tolerant, but there are limits.

    “The twentieth century has begun to realise that most of life’s meaning is lost without a spirit of play. In play, all that is lovely and soaring in the human spirit strives to find expression.

    “To play is to yield oneself to a kind of magic, and to give a lie to the inconvenient world of fact.”

    Indeed. Thank you so much for this, Robin.

    Is the tide turning? Is the UK rediscovering that lost meaning? Is our culture once more yielding to a kind of magic?

    God, I hope so.

    • grumpysutcliffe June 16, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      Hello Arthur and thanks for this, I never dreampt that this quote would elicit such a response, b ut I do agree. What other country in the world do you find that the inhabitants spend their time trying to find their un-Englishness (my ancestors were Irish and Hugenots etc) and then condemming imigrants as the cause of all problems!
      Robin

      • plexity June 16, 2013 at 10:01 am #

        Phew. Glad you liked it. I was afraid you would be annoyed by my grammar nerdery.

        I have now posted an amended version on my own blog which I invite you to scan.

        http://plexity.wordpress.com/

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