For example :
"There was a large blank wall before his window, painted a dirty yellow and much discolored by the weather; a broad patch of summer sunlight rested upon it and brought out the full vulgarity of
its complexion. Bernard stared a while at this blank wall, which struck him in some degree as a symbol of his own present moral prospect. Then suddenly he turned away, with the declaration that,
whatever truth there might be in symbolism, he, at any rate, had not come to Europe to spend the precious remnant of his youth in a malodorous Norman sea-port."
Confidence (1879), Henry James
After the end of production of Downton Abbey was confirmed, a TV critic for The Guardian wrote that she wouldn't be shedding a tear for this monument to boredom afflicted with a reactionary script, endlessly zigzagging between scores of plotlines.
To ram home her message, she defined the series as 'the most astonishingly clever televisual wallpaper'. In her 'oh-so-clever' article, those terms are supposed to bury the show, beyond the quality of the production and acting performances the journalist had to admit.
Naturally, Gondorla takes these very words as an homage to Downton Abbey.
Gondorla cherishes the style of the Crawleys matching the red sofas in their mansion's library, or Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) in her garden, engaged in acid conversation with Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton), each woman being a flower among the pastel-coloured borders.
The pictorialist photography is stunning and likely to delight for days. And : yes, this visual surface makes for deep subject-matter. It says much about the luxurious obsessions of a vanished world. It succeeded at a cost, which is, after all, better than failures which proved just as costly.
In the epilogue to the film Kaos (1984) by the Taviani brothers, the character who is meant to be writer Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) goes back to Agrigento, his native city in Sicily. The journey is a long one, in a dusty landscape. The family house is empty but well maintained.
Pirandello wears a suit. In the kitchen, he drinks from the tap and splashes his face above the sink. He takes a clean knife, and unfolds the shutters in the sitting room. He opens a window. The branch of an orange tree, then another one, touch his face. They are heavy with fruit, they hit the window panes. Pirandello smiles and picks the orange he is about to peal while seating in a large yellow sofa. He is ready to have a conversation with the ghost of his deceased mother.
(Later, his mother tells the story of a stop-over on an island, when her family was fleeing political repression on board a boat called tartane with a red sail. They land at the foot of a white dune and soon climb it. The short sequence where the children run down towards the turquoise blue sea is a visual feast.)
Gondorla would give anything to blend into the blue faience tiles with naive coiled patterns that cover the walls of the Pirandello's Sicilian kitchen. They are refined and unceremonious, just like someone who drinks from a tap and eats a fruit picked straight from a tree.
Gondorla would also give her soul to be a window hit by the branches of orange trees.
Gondorla is the daughter of the dry Mediterranean south and its precious coolness. But the rapture of Kaos came back intact, and slapped her face a few days ago close to the Atlantic. She was then climbing up on the back of another magic dune, at the Pilat, Gironde, in south-western France.
Pirandello defines himself thus in his autobiographical fragment (1893) :
‘ Io dunque son figlio del Caos ; e non allegoricamente, ma in giusta realtà, perché son nato in una nostra campagna, che trovasi presso ad un intricato bosco, denominato, in forma dialettale, Càvusu dagli abitanti di Girgenti. (…) Càvusu, corruzione dialettale del genuino e antico vocabolo greco Xáos.’
(‘ So I am a child of Chaos ; and not only metaphorically, but in reality, because I was born in the countryside where we had a house near thick woods called in local dialect Càvusu by the inhabitants of Agrigento. (…) Càvusu, a dialectical corruption of the ancient Greek original Kaos.’»)
'A person who from shyness or unpopularity remains on the sidelines of a social activity (as a dance)' (Merriam-Webster.)
True, being a wallflower is not very good for your self-esteem, when the dancing is in full swing without your contribution. Yet, this is Gondorla's destiny, with its decorative unobstrusiveness, to be ignored in favour of sexier, funnier, more everything creatures.
Better creatures, to sum it all.
This is what also happens to María played by Marisa Paredes, in the film Three Lives And Only One Death (1996) by Raoul Ruiz. Luckily for her, the convoluted and mischievous script gives María the opportunity to stand out against a wall in a room, and to exist where, just a moment before, she could barely be noticed, since she was part of a wallpaper with a fussy design.
Today is a hot day by the sea, and I have been thinking about Marisa Paredes, about all the stern and mad acting she gives to Pedro Almodóvar's narratives.
The maze has grown larger when I realized that the Spanish name of the Madrid-born actress apparently literally referred to walls, and more specifically to lean-tos built against the wall of larger buildings.
More recently, Cecilia Paredes, an artist from Peru, fulfills her name in her photographs of wallpapers in which her painted body disappears
I do not know yet how to interpret such a convergence à la Ruiz. The fact is it exists.
cento : a literary work made up of parts from other works
From Latin, 'patchwork garment'
Some musicologists notice that Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) used centones taken from his own operas. Il barbiere di Siviglia includes passages from Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra; Le Comte Ory inserts pieces from Il viaggio a Reims, etc.
Closer to the present day, whoever reads novelist Christine Angot realises that incest is, for the Châteauroux (France) native with a panting style, an inexhaustible subject-matter for centones, as can be seen in L'Inceste (1999) or Une semaine de vacances (2012).
One of the beauties of repeats lies in the fact that meaning tends to disappear when a pattern reoccurs.
Out of sheer laziness, Gondorla constantly centonises its own fragments.
There are several dimensions in this habit :
'Paved like the corridor, and hung with a shabby paper, the first room, where the servant is stationed, is furnished with a stove, a large black table with inkstand, pens, and paper, and benches, but no mats on which to wipe the public feet. The clerk's office beyond is a large room, tolerably well lighted, but seldom floored with wood. Wooden floors and fireplaces are commonly kept sacred to heads of bureaus and divisions ; and so are closets, wardrobes, mahogany tables, sofas and armchairs covered with red or green morocco, silk curtains, and other articles of administrative luxury. The clerk's office contents itself with a stove, the pipe of which goes into the chimney, if there be a chimney. The wall paper is plain and all of one color, usually green or brown. The tables are of black wood.'
Bureaucracy, or, A Civil Service Reformer (1838), Honoré de Balzac (English Edition : Routledge & Sons, 1891)
Terrazzo is a floor or wall treatment made of cement to which marble chips or other ground materials are added. It is usually poured in place. Polishing produces a smooth surface.
With this technique, shiny durable floors can be made on large surfaces. Around the Mediterranean, it has been used since Antiquity. Its Venitian version is famous.
Today Gondorla intends to use the materials and reproduce the effect of terrazzo.
The saturated illustration here shows a mosaic in Lyon, France, full of gold and the crash of ships at the battle of Lepanto. The picture is characterized by frantic shimmer.
Turn off the light, and imagine instead a monotonous gleam for which I have not found any appropriate picture.
Marcel Proust saw in this gleam a characteristic of Gustave Flaubert's style. This remark is to be found in 'Sainte-Beuve and Balzac', a text included in Against Sainte-Beuve, a posthumous collection of essays.
Bringing together the names of three giants of the French novel makes me dizzy. Yet in this, Gondorla's horizon is to be found : in between a monotonous gleam and the heterogeneous.
All is said in few words :
'In Flaubert's style, all the parts of reality are converted into the same substance on vast surfaces, with a monotonous gleam. No impurity has remained. Surfaces have become reflective. All things are rendered on them, but through reflections, without altering the homogenous substance. All that was different has been converted and absorbed. On the contrary, in Balzac, coexist, undigested and untransformed yet, all the elements of a style to come which does not exist.'
Over the years, Gondorla has increasingly been attracted to wallpapers, currently held in relative disrepute (in real life) when compared to paint.
Motifs are endlessly repeated and make any singular expression impossible. Strips are adjusted in a more or less invisible manner, depending on how even the wall is, and skilled the person who does the job.
Wallpaper is reminescent of tapestry, of wall fabric, and painted walls. It offered cheaper industrial versions to those who aimed at social promotion.
In the early nineteenth century, Balzac still wrote 'tendu de papier' ('hung with ... paper'), which underlined continuity in the materials used.
Above all, paper is fragile, and Gondorla loves signs of degradation before complete disappearance.
In the realm of wallpapers, panoramas were the kings of the old society.
From the end of the eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, they rolled out horizontally the ample luxury of their scenes, such as Vues du Brésil, Métamorphoses d'Ovide or Sauvages de la Mer du Pacifique. You look at them from right to left, and back, and linger on the details of landscapes and human figures, without ever losing yourself.
In France, their charm was manufactured in or just outside Mulhouse, Lyons or Paris. Hanging a series of strips required utmost care, while obeying a specific order.
Gondorla may be manipulated in any way you want. Its possible lack of meaning haunts it. So, there's nothing surprising about its being nostalgic : such panoramic wallpapers were so self-confident and serene.