November 5th, Eric Ravilious


Except it’s not November 5th, is it? It’s November 10th, terrible things are happening in the world and I can’t keep refreshing Twitter hoping to find the definitive, most pessimistic take. I need distraction while my mind works in the background on whether there’s anything any of us can do, and what it should be if there is.

Over the last few years I’ve been buying postcards at museums and galleries and I have a few now:

Mostly they sit there in that box, the box ignored until the next time I have more postcards to throw into it. So I thought I’d try for the next ooh let’s say fortnight (for now) to pick one card a day and write something small about it. Do I remember seeing the picture itself? Is there a reason why I chose to buy this card in particular? Did the picture teach me something? As I always do, I feel like I should apologise: I’m no sort of art critic and this won’t likely be profound. I’ve started by picking one at random but I suspect that won’t last.

Today’s picture is one that I saw in an exhibition devoted to Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery. I always mistrust my own taste, as if I am going to one day be confronted by someone with the correct art opinions and have to defend myself. I do love Ravilious, though, even if he is maybe beginning to look like a John Lewis furnishing department artist to me: he is English Received Taste. The yellow fireworks and bonfire do look flashy against the ochres and slate blues of the rest of the picture, but they’re not really what brings the excitement here. All of his little people are grey, even where they’re lit by the fire but they bring the fun: there’s grown men running full pelt past the pub to see what’s going on and a child wobbling on one leg on top of a building. The four adults looking adult – one of the women wears a cape, a man puts his hands in his pockets – trapped in their triangular garden watch young women dragging boughs to the fire. A man in a hat pokes his head through a roof. Why doesn’t the building at the top right have a roof? Burnt down last bonfire night? And why are all the dancers underneath the catherine wheel wearing animal masks?

I don’t think of myself as particularly obsessed by Bonfire Night, and I don’t write that much online so it’s a little strange that I have two other firework posts: here (God I know, I keep trying to push that parkin recipe, don’t I?) and elsewhere. That second is to the wayback machine archive of my first ever blog, and I’m disgusted to realise that I wrote that page 14 years ago. I meant to point you to the November 4th entry: the post-by-post anchoring is erratic because I used to write that in Notepad and I couldn’t always be bothered to add the anchor link in. It’s erm, very me-in-my-twenties.

 

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