Thursday, 3 May 2018

Virginia Woolf, a keynote lecture from Frances Spalding

Virginia Woolf, a keynote lecture from Frances Spalding at Tate St.Ives, April 2018

Virginia Woolf's study by Mary Fletcher

This lecture kick - started the weekend conference and I had forgotten just how enjoyable it can be to sit in a semi - darkened room with 40 other interested people while someone who really knows their subject inside out tells us about it and shows us pictures. Frances Spalding has a lovely voice and gave us a witty choice of anecdotes alongside more serious aspects.

Her title for the talk was 'suggestive images' which applied to Virginia Woolf's  writing as well as to visual art in the current show. 

Frances brought in reference to the present scandalous treatment of the Windrush immigrants and told us how Woolf was politically engaged. Virginia Woolf wrote in the 30's 'thinking is my fighting'. 

The development of buses in London helped women to travel unchaperoned and Woolf liked to wander in the city and observe people. When she was moved to Richmond with her husband Leonard because it would be quieter and more soothing for her mental health Virginia had written that in a choice between Richmond and death she would choose death.

The 'enduring resonance' globally of Virginia Woolf's writing today was emphasised. In 2016 there was an international conference in Seoul, S.Korea.

V.Woolf changed the emphasis in writing a novel, saying that in ‘The Waves’ the important thing was 'a rhythm not a plot'.

The importance of her contact with art by her contemporaries was brought out and also how her childhood holidays in St.Ives remained a vivid presence in her mind years later, mentioned in a letter to her sister,  written in France and received by Vanessa in Rome.

The lecture was in the newly contained space of the Foyle room, which I so much welcome as having acoustics suited to hearing a speaker, unlike most of the Tate spaces.

I studied art and art history at the same time as Frances Spalding at Nottingham University and reflected how differently my life might have gone if like her I had chosen a life of research, history and writing rather than teaching art in a school, becoming an art therapist and alongside all that maintaining my art 'practice' as its called, so much less a viable career but the one I wanted and continue to maintain, remarkably free of fame and fortune, but at last in my studio with 'a room of my own.'

Mary Fletcher.

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