Art, Aliens and the Astonishing

IMG_0729Pulled inexorably as if by some mysterious force through ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, a tropical garden and most of 19th century Denmark, I found myself directly in front of this extraordinary head. Immediately I felt at peace. At home. I KNEW this face. And that it most definitely isn’t human.

c.4000 year old Egyptian “Head of Priestess”.

My overwhelming sense of technological inadequacy in the face of Denmark’s seriously sophisticated use of electronics in new music felt soothed by this peaceful face. 

It instantly reminded me of Hungarian author Elizabeth Haich’s timeless classic, “Initiation”, a highly articulate recall of a past life as royal priestess initiate in ancient Egypt. She describes the Egyptian priesthood as having heads exactly like these, with small but long, thin bodies and highly developed spiritual powers including telecommunication. Whether taken as fact or fable it makes fascinating reading: thought provoking at the deepest level and unputdownable (as opposed to Musil’s unfinished monster masterwork “The Man Without Qualities”, which is un-pickuppable). She was an accomplished pianist, painter and sculptress as well as author, yoga guru and spiritual teacher.

Here she is (right), looking for all the world like someone’s nice granny, with Yesudian, co-founder of the oldest and largest yoga school  in Europe, based on techniques mutually remembered from the Egyptian lifetime.

The head is part of the truly fabulous collection at Copenhagen’s Glyptotek, fast becoming one of my fave art museums ever. It’s small, but that makes it quickly negotiable and personal, as opposed to the overwhelming tsunami of masterworks that can face you when entering a Prado or Louvre. Like, you don’t feel guilty standing for TEN WHOLE MINUTES in front of something you dig, as I did with this outrageously amazing Van Gogh which made me burst into tears at first sight: 

imgres-1Van Gogh “Landscape from St Remy” (1889). It’s MUCH more impressive in real life. And bigger, obviously.

A sculptor friend of mine insists that truly great art transmits energetic frequencies corresponding to the heightened perceptual awareness of the artist at the time of creation. When a viewer is in a suitably receptive state, he/she can be lifted to the artist’s level of consciousness. I mean, just LOOK at that grass: you can almost feel the wind moving every blade, sweeping in gusts over the landscape, the billowing clouds. It is a heightened reality that reaches for its God with all its soul, one step away from complete enlightenment.

“La Chambre de Van Gogh á Arles” (painted in the same year).  Musee D’Orsay, Paris

Of all painters, Van Gogh touches me the most deeply at the mo. The things he paints become much more than what they represent, resonating with Plato’s theory of universal objects that exist outside space and time in an ideal form.

Van Gogh’s friend Paul Gauguin is well represented in the Glyptotek, mostly from his early Copenhagen period. These landscapes and urban scenes, whilst beautiful, seem strangely at odds with his later brilliantly coloured shagtastic voodoo approach.

“Landscape with Tall Trees” (1883)  A world away from Van Gogh’s ecstatic vision, yet with a shimmering sensual beauty entirely its own.

In his paintings, Gauguin’s children (he had 5) always look a little unreal, ghostlike to me, like characters in a dream. As though he can’t quite admit to their reality. Looking at his domestic scenes, it’s no surprise he scarpered to Tahiti. Poor Mette Gad (wife). Her story remains untold, like that of most great artist’s wives.

 “Clovis Gauguin Asleep” (1884) (not in the Glypto collection). Painted in Amagerbro around the corner from where I live. I love how sleeping child and dream-scape combine in this peaceful but slightly eerie scene.

Not unlike like my favourite saint, St. Christina the Astonishing, who levitated in the presence of sin, my maiden aunt always sniffs disapprovingly in the presence of anything overtly lewd.

“Good heavens”, people must have cried on seeing St. Christina floating high above their sinful selves. “That really is astonishing”.

PG (Parental Guidance) film classifications were invented for her, (or rather, as guide for me re her) but alas they forgot to put one on the big Gaugin retrospective in London a couple of years back to which I’d decided to take her as a birthday treat. The sniff went tubercular at the Manao Tupapau, which really is pretty pervy in the flesh (if you see what I mean).

And I’ve barely started on the Glypto’s world class collection of French impressionists, antiquities, 19th/early 20th century Danish Art, beautiful winter garden, café and heartbreaking Rodins. Not to mention the breathtaking architecture. So I won’t. You’ll just have to go visit.

The spectacular palm garden in the heart of the Glyptotek

But for the road, here’s Rodin’s portrayal of Francesca da Rimini and her lover, sentenced to orbit one of the circles of Hell for eternity for having been murdered as unwitting adulterers without having had time to repent, here swirling out of the marble in their doomed embrace.  Another of my fave scenes from Dante’s Inferno features “pope holes”, a particularly nasty fate reserved for the sinning Pontiff, where one evil pope is buried on top of another. (Doubtless a personal chip put to creative good use).

For the uninitiated, the Glyptotek is next to the Tivoli Gardens, where tourists pay to be strapped into cages suspended on long metal arms, then spun round at great height and with colossal force on a daily basis. You can hear the screams for miles.

Every time I bike past Tivoli I thank God I’m not on this:

That said, I had a marvellous time at Tivoli one Christmas with a bunch of composers. Unlikely, I know, but true. At night, illuminated Tivoli transforms into an enchanted kingdom like the forbidden Pleasure Island in Walt Disney’s film “Pinocchio“.


Composer Gerald Barry, otherwise best known for his complex canonic counterpoint, became addicted to a ride called “Valhalla” where punters get strapped into church pews which subsequently rotate at sickening velocity whilst the surrounding walls spin counter-direction and at variable speed, making it impossible to tell which way up you are at any given moment.

It would be great if more churches were actually like this.


Until that happy day, watch this space for upcoming reports of emerging star Ylva Bergner and her astounding debut composer concert, and how I voluntarily signed up to a year-long ordeal by fire…