Joan Eardley Mainstream Publications. £9.95 and £14.95. Joan Eardley died twenty five years ago. tragically young and at the height of her career. But the exhibition on show at the Talbot Rice Gallery and the book which accompanies it do much to acclaim Eardley as a prominent British painter ofthe 20th century.
Eardley was a painter who grappled with what was before her in the kind of wind and storm few would walk out in never mind set up their easel. From her tiny cottage in the cliff-hanging village of Catterline. she cast her eyes out to
PORTRAIT or THE ARTIST
AS IT WAS
Naomi Mitchison celebrated her ninetieth birthday in I987 and is considered one ofthe foremost contributors to the literary scene.
AS IT WA S is a new illustrated paperback edition of her first two volumes of autobiography — SJIA LI. TA LR and AL]. ( 'll.-l.\'(}lf Illz’RI'}. £5. 99
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sea. to the skies which clung to the beach in winter and sailed blue in summer. to the jaunty singing beehives in the fields behind and the corn itself. yellow and crusty at harvest time. Eardley was an artist who did not simply paint a landscape. She was an artist who wrestled with the mystery ofplace and belonging. of knowing a wave or a cottage so well that its spirit seemed to possess her at the time of painting.
The book which accompanies the exhibition is not in any sense a catalogue. It is a biography. written by (‘ordelia Oliver. a student of Glasgow School of Art with Joan Eardley and a friend and colleague ofthe artist during her painting life. For some thirty years Oliver has been one of Scotland‘s best known art critics as well as author of books and catalogues on Scottish arts. This is her first attempt at biography and it is a fluent one. While brief (the text can be read comfortably in one or two sittings) her account of Eardley‘s work is penetrating but easily digested. with a generous helping of colour and black and white photographs. not always ofthe best quality. but illustrating most ofher best work.
The story starts with family background. follows through college and travel to Italy and France. colours the Catterline days and gives a summary of Eardley‘s place in Scottish art. While not an academic work. Oliver‘s most enjoyable. well-paced words make Joan Eardley the woman melt into Joan Eardley the artist in a sensitive portrait. allowing Eardley"s own voice (in the form ofedited letters) to enter the scene which with simple beauty describes the landscapes and people she chose to paint. (Alice Bain)
The Joan Eardley exhibition. th is currently on show at the Talbot Rice A rt Centre and the Royal Scottish Academy.
Sore Throats and Overdratts: An Illustrated Story ot the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Michael Dale (Precedent £5.95) What do Fringe administrators do? Unlike the
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‘official‘ Festival supremos they have no say-so in the content of their programme. They do not adapt. direct or produce. They do not circumnavigate the globe during the bone-numbing months ofwinter in search of Swahili MacBeths or Hawaiian Peer Gynts. No one asks them to give interviews except when they are appointed or when they resign. They are not 'creative'. at least not in public. They are. in a word. paper shufflers. as Michael Dale — third of four administrators. from 1981—1985 — concedes in this cheerfully frank scrapbook. Why then do they write books when the chaps in charge of the other Festival don't'.’
It has. I think. to do with the nature of the Fringe which attracts zealots in their thousands. many ofwhom are intensely involved in it for its duration. They are the people at whom this book is aimed. To them it will justify the half-empty halls. the 2am rehearsals. the hunger (ifnot the thirst). the shakedowns packed like bunkless youth hostel dormitories. It is romance. madness. fun. It is a little bit ofcultural history.
Michael Dale writes frothily. at times tetchily. about his four year stint in charge of an office which made a box of matches look like an aircraft hanger. He offers facts. statistics. reminiscence and anecdotes. backhanded compliments and butts on the nose. ungrateful television pundits taking the sharp end of the stick. He jogs through the acts but gives scant comfort to those who come to the Fringe to back winners. His book will be useful to prospective performers and a souvenir for those who have survived the experience for it has at least caught the spasmodic ﬂavour the Fringe. With contributions from Bernard Levin. Miles Kingston. Jim Haynes (Who could have a Mad Hatter's Tea Party without Mad?) and a couple of dozen others and extended interviews with Allen Wright. Jonathan Miller and Rowan Atkinson it is all over the place. and that. too. is fittingly Fringe-like. (Jenni Allen)
FROM STAGE TO PAGE Staging Steinbeck: Dramatising the
Grapes of Wrath Peter Whitebrook (Cassell£12.95) In 1987 an _ adaptation by Peter Whitebrook (in collaboration with Duncan Low of the Netherbow Art Centre) ofJohn Steinbeck's famous novel The Grapes of Wrath won a Fringe First Award. Apparently from the beginning ofthe project Whitebrook kept a diary. pouring out his thoughts and anxieties about making an adaptation work. ruminating over the themes ofthe novel. its characters. the historical background. its language. Much of this is a wearisome rehash of the contents of the novel and is eminently skippable.
Gradually the adaptation takes shape. the negotiations with the fickle Steinbeck Estate fall into place and an American company says Let's make it happen.‘ Whitebrook is good at detailing the fraught exchanges. the dialogue and diatribe. common to all co-operative arts ventures and this aspect of the book is engrossing. The difficulties ofdealing with a company at an ocean‘s remove are presented honestly but not infrequently I found myselfsaying ‘So what'?‘ Were molehills being metamorphosed into mountains'.> l was not convinced that the subject was important enough to deserve a book and Whitebrook‘s writing lacks the splenetic energy which made Simon Gray's How's That For Telling 'Em Fat Lady such a compulsive read.
As the production nears performance there is the almost inevitable breakdown in communication. the feeling ofthe writer losing touch with his creation. his frustration with the actors. the necessity for urgent rc-writes. This is interesting. even at times exciting and recounted as it happens if over-dramatically (‘Now. lam writing this with clenched teeth. I have re-written the Al and Aggie end-of—Scene-Ten re-write in the same manner. My teeth. in other words. have been clenched most of the morning.) But once the show is up and running. being reviewed or not. the journal rather peters out. phutting bitchily when someone has the temerity to give it the thumbs down. (David Crozier)
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62Tbe List 3 — 15 September 1988