Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A moral dilemma - the Apache Helicopter commission paper cut

Very occasionally I get an unusual commission to do and the Apache helicopter paper cut commission was one of those. It's only a small piece - a little under A4. I have only seen an Apache fly once and that was when I was down to see my father in Winterslow near Salisbury. I was driving back home, past Wallop and there it was, silhouetted against the blue sky. It must have been on a training flight - it was very low and just hovering! An amazing sight. I was so excited to see it so close. My inner 13 year old tomboy came straight to the surface in the same way it does when I see the super snazzy cars on Top Gear.

But it made me face a moral dilemma......
Making the paper cut was more complex than I expected. Not the design - I had a fairly clear idea of the composition and the feel of the piece - a dominant black silhouette shape with an intimation only of the landscape and the sky. That wasn't the difficulty. As I was cutting one fiddly shapes it struck me hard that these were the missile/bomb holders. I had turned them into decorative shapes. It made me think - what am I doing here? Why am I making this cut - glorifying an object of war? Did cutting the piece and NOT thinking about what is an essentially emotive image make me negate any moral question of whether I should make the piece or not? I thought about it for days. Asked friends and family about what they thought and thought about where the commission had come from -a friend whose husband is an Apache helicopter pilot instructor.

After much pondering I did manage to partially resolve the issue. The Apache is used defensively as well. It's an object that serves this country and its flown by people that I hold in deep respect for their ability, intelligence and professionalism and without these people in the armed forces - where would we be? They actually signed on the dotted line to serve... and that's brave.

So the conclusion? the Apache helicopter cut is a celebration, a symbol for the armed services and not a celebration of the machine for its military hard wear and capabilities for conflict and killing. It's my way of saying I respect you and thank you for doing the job that you do. My way of serving in a tiny, tiny way.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Seeing Manon at the Royal Opera House

Last Monday was a wonderful night out to see Manon at the Royal Opera House in London. Its only my fifth opera, so I am no seasoned ROH visitor! I had always grown up with thinking that opera was elitist and inaccessible. That isn't the case. Certainly the best tickets in the house cost a small fortune, but many seats are affordable than you would think. Even the seats in the Gods where the music is amazing as it travels up can only cost £10. There is a often a restricted view and the seats aren't as posh but still completely worth it to see and hear music of such quality. And there is the great blessing of subtitles too so you can easily read what's going on in the story!

I have been aware of the story of Manon only in my peripheral mind, mainly of it being the name of Jean de Florette's daughter. Seeing the opera completely expanded that knowledge - like all good opera it's a story of love, passion, loss and death. It plugs straight into our shared experiences of humanity and being alive. Anna Netrebko was the soprano with Vittorio Grigolo as the tenor. I simply can't describe how sublimely beautiful they sounded. Netrebko at full belt made my heart swell and there were such tender moments in Grigolo's singing that it felt as though the whole auditorium was hanging on every note, we were all caught in a collective moment and experience of beauty, purity and truth.

I went to see Manon with James Mayhew, the children's illustrator and author. James is a fantastic artist and his company is always lovely. Largely down to his love of art and his broad knowledge about opera. He has lent me many works and very slowly I am beginning to build a knowledge of the greats. I have always loved classical music - along with a bit of rock, acoustic, folk and some heavy metal... I have eclectic tastes! - especially Schubert, Sibelius, Elgar and Beethoven. It's wonderful at last to begin to listen to Puccini, Verdi and now Massenet.

Here are a couple of pictures to give you a taste of the evening...