Manchester and Wyndham Lewis

I have been back in England a month now, and thought to write up my visit to the IWP North‘s exhibition of Wyndham Lewis, titled Life, Art, War. It would be best to preface this summary of my feelings here by saying that, apart from the well known ‘Blast’ manifesto, and the two issues of that magazine, perused online through the now almost-ubiquitous internet archive, I am not sufficiently familiar with Lewis’s writing and the entire trajectory of his career in writing. Although I do have in front of me electronic copies of Tarr (1918), Paleface: The Philosophy of the Melting Pot (1929) and Hitler (1931) which I may refer to. A survey of the writings will have to remain for another time, and with some difficulty, given significant portions of Lewis’s writings are out of print and/or rare.

Yet there is a great deal more to be said about Lewis than this exhibition’s seemingly meagre entry into the history of Modernism implies, and it belies the fact that Modernism – despite my perpetual need to get down on paper and screen every facet of what it left in its wake – is still a thing that somewhat plagues the now-facile liberal mainstream, particularly in its polical and ideological implications. I would guess the organisers of this exhibition are only partially cogniscant of what bringing back Lewis – from within the safe space of England’s perpetual ‘Great War’ elegizing that is the mainstay of the Imperial War Museum’s funding – might mean. (Was it ever a ‘Great War’? No. It was simply the newest murderous notch in England’s Hanoverian bedpost, the most pristine modern manifestation of what Pound’s explication of the international moneypower could generate. Corpses for taxes, as it were… and no amount of Wilfrid Owens and Siegfried Sassoons – those authors most purely of the microcosm – could smoothe over that background in its efforts toward a genteel grief).

Yet the location does intrigue in that The North has been privy to a greater freedom in its ideological observations and investigations over the period since this not-so-great war (both on the right and the left… lest we forget the place of Engels’s habitation for a good long while). In the last 30-40 years – as with much of England and western Europe – we have suffered the usual liberal streamlining. Perhaps only because the north has been poorer than the south has its ability to encompass a variety of political viewpoints increased. Money, in that sense, then defines the circumference of the ideologically conceivable. And it is a muddy murky business, as ever… this parleying in the purely political (yet to hold the mystical and the-quotidian-political in balance is something worth at least a little thought from artists in this part of the world?)…

If this exhibition might have a mildly diaphonous influence-from-the-right in it then so much the better… yet a short viewing of any recent Morrissey or Marr video – those great and perilously recent sons of Manchester! – would impede one’s hopes for those previous generations’ ability to take on board any positivity that can be gleaned from newer movements in conservatism or nationalism in Europe or the U.S? Still, this would be to conflate Lewis’s conservatism with the conservatism of a Marine Le Pen, or a Donald Trump. A partial slip, at least! But what is it I’m trying to say here? Something geographical… something of an understanding regarding qualities of listening. If you are in England and you an artist you must concede that to a great extent that you are talking to a wall 99% of the time. O.K. And yet that child-of-the-north side of me (I was born in Blackpool, grew up in Bolton) does genuinely feel that the northerner is ‘a listener’, as the Celt, generally, is a listener. The saxons are a great bunch, but they – at least in England’s current psychotopos – have undergone a general levelling-out, particularly since the industrial revolution. They are The Queen’s children, to a great degree. And this could explain why Lewis has not yet been exhibited in a fully ambitious way in London (namely, The Tate Modern, I’d guess… although we have had Tate Britain‘s Vorticist exhibition of late)… but, like Blake, Lewis’s time will undoubtedly come.

There is also something inherently Mancunian, something northern, about the raconteur quality in Lewis. The twisty chancer, mercurial in his brutality, epic in his stubbornness… a man (as Noel Gallagher would have it?) that can turn the base metal of a pack of Bensons and a pair of Adidas into sonic gold. The metaphor is at least slightly opaque. Still, the drift is got. It is a hard world. Study the blotched face of any Deansgate waistrel, and you will see the despair – and the need to opinionate one’s way out if it – made obvious (yet in no way as timidly as our inherited Celtic troubadours; O’Connor, Morrissey and the brothers Gallagher might otherwise picture our world).

Manchester’s spiritualism, if it has any, is of the satirical fever of an Oscar Wilde made down and out. (This, over the more esoteric Yeats). Its angels wear training pants and denim jackets. Their hair can most often be a sarcastic purple. They preside over an eternal Jobcentre of the anima mundi. Very sensual, very physical nutcases, these… and with heaven in their Stella Artois-addled brains, of course. Or are they The Unaging Ones (anaging because they were born old?)… a people who cannot die. They can only get fatter, and more belligerent. And who was it I was reading that reminded me of ye olde psychotopos, aforesaid? Ah, Richard Burton, of all people… in his diaries, and in the middle of an anti-Irish thoughtstream, of all things;

richard_burton_diaries_cover_-_h_2012I don’t expect much from the Irish — a lot that I know so well that I despise them, everything about them, their posturing, the silly soft accents, their literature, especially Joyce, Synge but not Yeats, who writes like a great anglo — original spare strange — yes Hopkins — and I hate their genius for self-advertisement, their mock-belligerence, their obvious charm. For the opposite of all these reasons I love the Scots and the South Welsh and even prefer the English b’god, especially the taciturn midlands and north country.

…on a tangent one has to remember that, earlier in the diaries, when recounting his being asked what ‘the greatest work of literature of the 20th century is’ Burton confesses to replying; Finnegans Wake. (And this be not the first time I’ve seen a Welshman appeal to his fellow Celts through the gauze of the most tamed modern authority of the Anglo-Saxon). But what might he have been getting at with this slippery tip-of-the-hat to “the north country”? On a good day, I can see where he might be coming from. It is something in the language, something in the demeanour of a person. The will to life, passing… its brutalism, its grandeur, its infinite strangeness. The fact that much of it must be met with contempt, with a snear? With silent abandonment to the lunacy of local and central governmance, the will to ignorance most are trapped in. My love is both intense and sparse. I dawdle in St. Peter’s square, along Oxford Road, or among the grotto-like brickwork latticework of the Northern Quarter and Shude Hill. It has changed completely and not changed at all. The shopping bags, like unused halos, knocking against the sides of the already-wrinkled middle-aged… a beauty that is sham, contingent, a rustling of the atheist’s god under the first liminal guitar drone of John Squire’s intro to Waterfall… yet, on the street, never quite breaking into song? Or the song’s disappearance. A curious muffling…?

ManchesterYet a city of song, over poetry, it is… assuredly (a city needs a mass of water… either a great conduit like the Thames, the Ribble, the Humber, even? or it needs the mass aquatic informancy of Norfolk’s marshes, John Clare’s fens, or Cumbria’s lacustrine affrontments to really slow poetry’s heartbeat down to Rilke-time. Because visions need absence of all freneticism… which water dissipates, and by water; Nimue, goddess of memory, assists in bringing the increate soul’s darkness under the attentions of the street-lights’ eyes. In such a way the city dweller is the reader, in commune with a landscape… but it is the landscape, touched by water, which writes what the reader, the city’s inscape, craves).

It would be fair to say that this city’s music has always been plagued in its subconscious by the right. From the band-name Joy Division (in fact most of Ian Curtis’s lyrics!) through Noel Gallagher’s intrigue with all things WWII (when he deigns to pick up a book at all)… on down to Morrissey’s National Front Disco which we are intended to take as being playful and un-ideological. And, in interviews, Morrissey would balk at a rightwing reading of it… “it would mean that… if you were totally stupid”. But the writers of these ditties do subconsciously imbibe of both far right and left, in that they understand (in a non-avant garde way?) how all truth of artistic expression relies on a concentrism, with the centre always beings displaced by the fringe-ripple (which is to take Pound and Lewis’s symbol of the vortex to its most potent form of emblematizing). Yet they are all children of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. It is in the aether up here. You can only get so ideologically far if you’re from a background like this, and Gallagher and Sinead O’Connor have explicitly acknowledged it. And gone as far as they could with what they have. All that gender confusion of the eighties and nineties so obviously – and, for the most – a product of abuse (and now… in extremis, with all these ridiculous LGBT movements etc).

Burnage. Cheetham Hill. Didsbury. Out to Chorley… Bolton… Altrincham’s politesse attempting to shrug the whole psychological mindfuck off… as we enter Cheshire. I’d imagine at least a third of this country’s population have suffered some form of this kind of abuse on a month-by-month basis… then, like some canker, it spreads out to the rest… the more fortunate ones (and then the whole thing mirrored, top-down – and from the other direction – in our ridiculous class-consciousness; the Oxbridgites and aristos; similarly stricken. Or as Mr. Coleridge once pointed out (…and I paraphrase): “the devil is a gentleman”. A spectrum, then, between the deaths of an Ian Curtis and a Noel Trevelyan Huxley).

Burnage

Burnage, Manchester

God’s dualisms are half sadist, half transcendant. He sends the best of his child-genii out from source, and into the bedroom of some modern Gilles de Rais. A Queen Elizabeth II. A Geoffery Epstein. This is the epicentre of northern life’s – and England’s – most eminently grotesque aspect. It is the anchoring for human anger toward god, and of fallen Albion’s very reasonable hatred of him. We imagine our humanity to be transposed onto him. He is not text, he is not any emissary of our very physical expectations (the implication of λόγος – Logos – is not primarily textual although what genius could ignore the primacy of a Gutenberg, or the supernal and speculative power of that oracular cell, or seed, which became the internet… text – as spell – as witchery – is that which is most immediately manifest of God, but always-evidently not God). You must go as far as you can with what you are given. No one held to a standard, a monad. This world is pull and pressure. The most glorious emancipators constantly clash with those most evil. The Aeons, unto their Archons. Otherwise, no lesson. The fruit of experience, lost. Dimmed. All this, so that if I put on How Soon is Now at full blast… a space is held. The crowds and streets, blaring. The noisy silence

…and the Beetham Tower bowing low. Like Pisa. Unto a seething emptiness. A vacant fullness, bustling. But sometimes I see no quality in any of it. A mass blankness. To be filled by something. But not this. Not this? A mithering, a sadism, a glory.. intermingled. The office workers grind their way through years of coronation chicken sandwiches and Starbucks’ lattes… and still no statue raised to Thomas de Quincey? Shelley’s Masque of Anarchy, still not chiselled into the walls of the Central Library…

And yet demeanour implies flux and change, also. The Mancunian is incredulous and open. Humorous in self-abasement, humorous while encumbered by — as Sartre so petulantly offered — the hell of others? An emancipatory abasement? Yet, a song like Live Forever simply will not concur with that, or — more topically? — compute it. But that may well just be the Celt in the Manc? It is what keeps one eye in that chancer’s head on Liverpool, on what could wash up on the banks of the Ribble… for the next importation to be folded into dialect, the charnel-house of wit. (It is not surprising then, that Mark E. Smith was here – at the IWP North – just last week…

and “could you spare a roll-up, mate?”)

Lewis is at least at home then in this Manchester, and under the sensibility described… a man of reaction, of certain extremes, of certain subversions. And yet he also transcends it in many interesting ways. As I will try to articulate.

ilewisp001p1The most disappointing aspect of the IWM North‘s exhibition (if I’m already in danger of repeating myself) is that there is simply not enough of it. I didn’t abase myself enough to enter the rest of their permanent exhibition, but it does seem that the Lewis we have here is packed into an explosive corner of this gigantic steel effigy that is the building, entire (like so much of Manchester now, it is a place of steel… and glass… rather than red brick). What we have is a sparse rendering of each phase of Lewis’s career. By all means, it tracks the entire arc of Lewis’s life… but only a smattering of paintings represent each phase, unfortunately.

The early section of drawings, sketches and paintings are not exactly what one conventionally expects of Lewis. These are of a young man wrestling with London, and with a number of post-impressionist mentors. It is important to remember that Lewis, like Pound, is a child of the nineties, and it seems nothing really disruptional occurs (at least in this selection) until around 1909 with a drawing like The Theatre Manager. And even this, and subsequent drawings and sketches, really do nothing much for me, it has to be said. Then comes Abstract Image of 1912, purportedly the first example of a completely abstract picture in all of western art. This intrigues. Immensely. Yet I’m also at a loss. I’m not much of a cubist, and not even much of a Picassoist (and we are often caught in the bind of being unable to see these first steps into abstraction and partial abstraction through the lens of that latter artist) but it is brutal. Unfinished? And, if unfinished… not very inspiring. An unclean direction, of something possibly affirmational… “una nuova oscurità…”. But it is the paintings that follow, somewhere in the years 1912-15, that fascinate and draw one in. And here it is worth saying that the exhibition is only partially representative of this period. I have hunted around in the bowels of the internet to attempt a clearer picture of it, and am at least mildlly forgetful of which pieces were seen, and which were online (a ‘friendly’ museum guard stopped me taking pictures somewhere in this phase). Without doubt, though the Composition of 1913 and the Vorticist Composition of 1915 (also in Blast, and shown in The Tate‘s Vorticist exhibition) are symptomic of that initial path.

One other possible problem of the exhibition is that it houses quite a few images that are not Lewis’s but attempt to provide context for the advent of Vorticism and the two issues of Blast and its attendant manifesto and other didacticisms. While it is a joy to see the original edition of Blast (with a Black Sparrow Press facsimile, no less) and William Roberts’ post-Vorticist – and now well known – painting; The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel there is a niggling feeling of padding, that I’d much rather have been treated to more unseen or unfamiliar works by Lewis himself, from this period. Alas, none are forthcoming… until we reach the far corner of the room, wherein we’re treated to the two landmark paintings of Lewis’s early life; The Crowd (1915) and A Battery Shelled (1919). The latter impresses the most. It is a supreme indictment of the war, and its inclusion at this location shows a more thorough-going openness to all aspects of debate on that particular war as my earlier comments might suggest. It is also a wonderful example of his innovation in abstract form also serving a social purpose. While I suspect it’s probable that The Crowd may My Sister and I - Nietzschebeen the more influential painting for the European avant-gardists of the time the whole endeavour smacks of an intellectual cynicism I find dull and without import. I often wonder what effect Neitzsche’s delineation of ressentiment (discussed in another piece here) had on both modernist art and writing. In combination with other moods and influences, intellectualism, and a mode of high despair, can be useful in art (I think of Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley or certain of The Cantos where he mixes social critique with a kind of proto-Blakean, proto-Biblical wrath and anxiety) yet, by comparison, The Crowd is simply dry and sarcastic. Unemotional. And perhaps that is key here. Nietzsche, for the most part – and while being important to us in many other ways – had a negative effect on art that came into its mature voice between the beginning of the first war and the end of the second. Lawrence, Eliot and Yeats are all too much prey to Nietzsche, in various ways. (Notice both Pound – in his Redondillas – and Crane – in his prose, published posthumously – registering suspicions regarding Nietzsche…). It is only Joyce who seems to completely escape Nietzsche’s shadow in this regard. The nearest Joyce will come to ressentiment is in the long mid-section of A Portrait… the fire and brimstone lecture by one of the priests. And he gets away with it by a heavy reliance of show, over tell, and wisely makes his point that way. Lewis, regardless of Nietzsche’s influence, does at least register the problem in his preface to Tarr (dated – significantly for us – to 1918, three years after The Crowd was painted). Anyway, without heading into too many literary meanderings, it’s worth saying that I have read and re-read most of Nietzsche, and I take seriously the posthumous production My Sister and I, in which it seems to me that Nietzsche could well have been a kind of proto-Illuminati child or something of this ilk (Richard Burton, even, could well be in a same or similar category) and was sexually abused by his sister. If the book is not by Nietzsche it is still fascinating as a production of the same suspicious line of enquiry, and should not be discounted for that reason (if not in Nietzsche’s conception then in the mind of someone close to him, who was aware of the problem. If his mental life was sufficiently disturbed by such events (and how could it not be?) then this casts a long shadow over much of modernism.

But to get back to my exhibition narrative, though, it might be prescient here to say that, by this point, I can confess to not really having seen anything that has really taken my head off. Things change, however.

NPGingenue

‘L’Ingenue’ (1919)

The mystery and electric charge of Lewis’s life in painting is the stopgap that occurs between the much ignored publications of his magazines The Tyro (1921-22) and The Enemy (1927-29). The former magazine endeavour is represented concomitantly with the disappointing Tyros, A Reading of Ovid (1920-21) which the IWP North has managed to get its hands on… and it is very much in the satirical, witty vein of Lewis’s Blast ethos. He is still struggling here. (Mr. Wyndham Lewis as a Tyro (1921)… another painting from this period is a much greater picture, but I do not remember the exhibition showing this). Also, to this viewer, the satire is getting old. Fast. So there is something essential to the subsequent period of quiet in his production of paintings, especially given the power and expertise of many of those that will follow. And these come with force and verve. Of course, for a writer like me, I am always after some kind of representative seed of a style or phase. And in this department I do think that the exhibition offers an answer to that kind of a question. I believe it to be a portrait that came slightly earlier to the magazine-related images just described. It is L’Ingenue of 1919. An incredible, and deceptively simple, sketch of the film critic Iris Barry. It may well be that I am unfairly isolating it out from Lewis’s other portrait sketches of the time (ah, for a worshipper of the Celtic goddess tradition, to let these subjects be…!) but it seems to have much of the delicacy and precision of much of the great paintings that are to come. In the more intellectual and writerly sensibility the precision of this portrait combines, in a very un-P.C way with his investigation, and critique, of European rightist movements that arguably help him find a new transcendence in painting. Meaning; the figure becomes dominant in him again. But it will not be until the thirties that this aspect blooms in its entirety. (And the most conspicuously absent figure in this exhibition of Lewis’s great portrait phase of the late thirties, unsurprisingly, is his portrait Ezra Pound (1939); although we do have some earlier sketched drawings of Pound. In addition, and in resolute concordance with early 21st century taste in poetry, we do have the portrait of T.S Eliot from the same year. This – along with the portrait of Edith Sitwell – makes for fascinating viewing).

The Reader (1936) - Wyndham Lewis

‘The Reader’ (1936)

Many of the great portraits come at a time when Lewis is particularly broke… and one wonders if – in a period of his most inspiring work – he completed these almost begrudgingly of any will to innovation, which he seems to have laid aside with his former critiques of the avant-garde movements of the twenties. In essence, it is complex, stylistically, to pin down how the earlier sketches and portraits differ from the later ones. It seems a matter, Modigliani-like, of a leap in psychic and technical acuity… so that the inner life fills out the form. The earlier portraits have a gestural, articulated quality whereas the later phase tends more to warmth (as much as is possible in Lewis!) and a more spiritual and rounded sympathy for its subjects; a heretofore-uncharacteristic insouciance. And this advancement in portraiture is easily best exemplified by the Froanna portraits, which, luckily, the exhibition has a fair few of. And they represent his best work, for me. To my feeling, they seem to culminate in The Reader (1936), Froanna, Portrait of the Artists’s Wife (1937… yet, do I recall seeing this at the exhibition? I forget) and Red Portrait (1937), with the last being his finest portrait, in my humble opinion. But I will reproduce here only the first, as I imagine it to be the least seen of these three.

1937 also sees him at work on the painting Inferno, which a Telegraph reviewer confesses disappointment in. I am not that way inclined. Perhaps there would be disappointment if we were to imagine it as part of a series (which the Dantean title would point toward) and yet, even on its own merits it is a mighty painting of sorts. It is also the one painting which really reveals the dynamic of a Francis Bacon to us. The use of imagined space in it has a definite quality of Bacon’s work (not a painter I like, but for the art historians amongst us it intrigues). Yes, it is a shame that a sequence did not come of this. Yet it is also a direction, away from straight-ahead portraiture that was perhaps consciously lost to Lewis himself, or something which he simply failed to capitalise on.

Wyndham Lewis - Lebensraum II - The Empty Tunic

‘Lebensraum II: The Empty Tunic’ (c.1941)

Parallel to – and beyond – this astonishing period in his portrait painting – (into the early years of the second world war) – Lewis is also attempting to understand and summarize his feelings about the main political movements of his day. As with Pound, his feelings about Fascism and National Socialism are complicated. But by the end of the thirties (Auden’s “low dishonest decade”) it seems that, like Pound, his interest in the more positive elements of Hitler’s rise to power have waned significantly. Pound would continue to have faith in Mussolini’s rule but a reading of Lewis’s Hitler (1931) proves that Lewis never shared Pound’s interest in Mussolini… and it leaves one wondering if this was simply a matter of the need for cultural adherence in Pound, with his being firmly and enthusiastically placed in Italy over that period. Without being able to access Lewis’s second book on Hitler, 1939’s The Hitler Cult and How It Will End (not having £325 to spare right now) it is difficult to come to any detailed and objective conclusion… but certainly the sarcasm of that title, and from the commentary I find online, it’s heavily suggested that any journalistic vestage of optimism in this area is now mired in a quietude in him that simply amounts to sarcasm and dejection on the theme of European politics. All this is simply a literary way of approaching the two ink and watercolour prints from 1941-42 entitled Lebensraum, the second of which seems to be his coda to that last mentioned book using Hitler’s well known phrase for the topos the people of his governance required under the Third Reich. Subtitled The Empty Tunic one is left in no doubt that Lewis’s faith in the new Germany has morphed into satire, just as A Battery Shelled was his previous – and much more ambitious – indictment of the not-so-great war… with a ‘leader-figure’ cowering inside a cloud-like/flower-like coat several sizes too large for him. A very Urizenic scene, in some ways.

In terms of political affiliation Lewis, via his novel The Revenge for Love, seems also to have managed to sidestep any faith in that opposite movement of the thirties (so beloved of Auden and Gascoyne) the Spanish civil war, in which he apparently performs a similar lampooning. And, with the final stage of the exhibition, we see him taken up with an entirely unknown phase (to me)… the time in Canada and the U.S where he is producing fewer paintings (and when he does, they are usually to order via the Canadian government arts board) while his production in writings once more accelerate, this time, though, with the complication of the onset of his late blindness caused by a tumour.

So how on earth to summarize?? Which is to say; do I believe Lewis to be a great painter of the twentieth century? And this summation would have to be purely based on what Lewis amounted to pictorially, with these particular works as evidence. Well – in regard to what was seen here – he has produced 5-6 images that are sure to last hundreds of years. And these obviously would be the portraits already described… some of which I’d class as better than certain of Picasso’s best work. But I do not overly like Picasso anyway, so that is perhaps a backhanded compliment… yet I might even say I like Lewis more, in that I like his stubborn hanging on to the figure, and for his finally abandoning himself to the spiritual empathy and visionary restlessness that seems more than partially present in the Froanna pieces. There are also some other portraits on the loose that I’d put up there with his best also (the La Suerte of 1938 would be up there). As for the great painter tag, it remains to be seen. And it remains to be seen, specifically in that we need a much more comprehensive collection, perhaps one that would perhaps only slightly focus more on the period of the late thirties to his death. This seems still to be the real blank spot with Lewis… unless it is simply that there are less paintings in this period to choose from (particularly the post-world war-II years up to his death). A second question would be: what were his failings? And I think these failings would be indicative of the larger question: what are modernism’s failings? It’s also worth saying that some of Lewis’s successes are inexorably bound up in his failings.

Emancipated from post-impressionism he chose to be cold and intellectual, and began, within himself, cycles of rejections of coteries. He seems too willing to hold theoretical stances while not submitting himself to a life of the spirit and emotion. Perhaps the position of being un-epochal was simply too hard for him to bring out in himself (and I would suggest if there are any demands upon the producer of great art then this would be one requirement). In Wordsworth’s phrasing, was he too much of the time? the world too much with him?… and not blithely psychic or empathic enough? Because what I believe myself to distrust in modernism, and partially in politics, is this insistence on reform, on reaction (and – quite contrarily – it is something that Shelley or Milton had, in other very different eras… all these in contradiction to modernism’s morays… yet! against Joyce’s profound rejection of historicity, eerily alike, in some sense. Could it be that Joyce is not modern in any sense, or the only modernist, in this rejection?… as with Keats, and as with Blake). Political will-to-social-adaptability seems admirable in statesmen, and in political movements, and yet less admirable in an artist (who, by being unepochal, becomes the creator of epochs. The social navigations of your average politico have to be so densely internalised in the artist’s imagination that it requires utter immersion in modern forms of knowledge, and the utmost distance from them, simultaneously). We might imagine that comparing the merits of an image from Blake’s Jerusalem with, say, the merits of Lewis’s The Crowd (to choose a weaker example from Lewis). It would probably seem ridiculous. And yet… what would be the conclusion? The answer would be simple… a basic lack of imagination in the latter. A commitment to reportage or intellectual pursuit in the latter. These questions could easily be levelled at Lewis. Many of these questions would have to wait for a time when we have a fuller picture. But – having said this – we come back to Berkeley and to Blake; the problem of any sensual responsibility, in the wider social sense. Lewis emancipates himself from these issues in the greater portraits, and is cousin to Modigliani, in this. His errors are perhaps unreconcilable, in that the trajectory of his life is that much more lingering than the Italian. As with Pound, what he does achieve is a line of highly independent thought in abject opposition to the propagandizing of a war machine that is still with us today. At the very least, he allows us – through his stance on war – to create our own subversive narrative for a higher traditionalism.

As already mentioned, he is very much an artist of cityscape, of crowd psychology… of crowd lunacy etc. In this way Manchester receives him, I guess. But, being from my own Tara; a barbarian of the wider Lancashire – and not being metropolitan, or Hellenic, or Athenian – I feel all this to be more distant in me, somehow. Perhaps I prefer the view of Manchester from Cox Green Road (Egerton, Bolton)… or prefer being lost in these snoring, bourgeois hinterlands (with their own still intact – but different – lunacies). Manchester is a stoney blur on my horizon there… as perhaps London was from Keats’s Enfield?

North of here there is nothing. A mystic privacy, courtesy of the appropriately named A666. Until Darwen. Until Blackburn! But we shan’t go there either. The gods are somewhere in between.

Aindriú Ó Domhnaill, Aug ’17

The Inferno - Wyndham Lewis

‘Inferno’ (1937)

[Other reviews of this exhibition by the usual journalistic suspects can be found here and here.

An archive of more interesting writings on Lewis, via Counter-Currents, is here.

archive.org has a fairly good selection of electronic pdfs of books by – or about – Wyndham Lewis here.

A firey talk on Lewis by Jonathan Bowden at youtube is available here]

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About thefiendjournal

I was born in Blackpool, England and am currently based in Lancashire. Poems have been published in magazines in the U.K, Ireland, France, New Zealand, Canada, U.S.A and South Korea. A pamphlet; "MMV", was published in 2008. Hundreds of poems have been written in draft form, and multiple books are being planned and edited for future release. As well as editing 'The Fiend' I translate, paint and dabble in photography (images of which have occasionally been used here).
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