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This week on the Culture Show, we're lurking in the depths of East London
at the Wapping hydraulic power station.
Its days of heavy industry might be long gone,
but it's been preserved as a place to come to eat, drink
and look at contemporary art,
all in a unique late Victorian industrial setting.
Coming up on tonight's show - Somali poetry in Cardiff.
A closer look at your paintings.
And the Hatchet Job of the Year.
But first, Roy Lichtenstein's comic strip-inspired paintings
caused a sensation in the 1960s
and changed the course of American art.
With a major retrospective opening this month,
Alistair Sooke asks, just how well do we really know this trailblazer?
Roy Lichtenstein produced arguably the most instantly recognisable work
in 20th-century art.
We all know his distinctive comic book paintings,
but it took him years to discover his signature style
as he struggled to find his artistic voice in post-war America.
When Lichtenstein was starting out,
New York's art world was completely dominated
by the abstract expressionists.
People like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning.
And in a sense, Lichtenstein was a victim of their success.
Because he found it quite hard to emerge from their shadow.
He was making paintings that felt perfectly competent,
but they weren't really original.
They were hardly revolutionary.
He was in his late 30s, working as an art teacher.
A father of two and husband to an alcoholic wife.
He was as far away from the style that would make him famous
as he could possibly be.
But then in 1961, Lichtenstein surprised everyone,
including I reckon, himself, with Look Mickey,
an oil painting of a couple of Walt Disney cartoon characters.
Here, as if from nowhere,
were the hallmarks of his pop style, his signature look.
Flat colours, restrained palette, bold outlines.
And actually, the use of dots, as well,
to mimic mechanically-reproduced imagery.
The kind of stuff you'd see in pictures,
in newspapers and magazines.
And by doing that, by imitating the real world, everyday culture,
he was bringing reality into the realm of fine art
in a way the abstract expressionists hadn't done before him.
For the next four years,
he entered the most explosive creative period of his life.
Producing some of his most definitive pieces,
including the war series, based on comic books such as
All American Men Of War,
depicting gruff, grim-faced soldiers in combat situations,
full of explosions and sound effects.
And at the same time,
he was drawn to a different series, the Secret Heart series.
That was more about romance.
The obstacles to relationships before they finally bag their man.
The strips that he isolated, the moments he picked from Secret Hearts,
always showed women in a quite passive position.
They're crying, they're stumbling, they hesitate.
They're uncertain. They're unsure of themselves.
They're the antithesis of the really certain soldiers,
the men in the Men of War comics.
It's easy to see Lichtenstein's War and Romance series
as blank and reserved.
What was the point of making big oil paintings of something as throwaway as these comics?
There must have been some level of irony.
Perhaps Lichtenstein was having a pop at gender stereotypes,
the way they're reinforced in popular culture.
But more recently, there's been a suggestion
perhaps there's an autobiographical element to these paintings.
At the time, Lichtenstein's life was undergoing huge turmoil.
He was going through a divorce and he was very angry.
I wonder whether those women are how he wanted the women who'd failed him
and didn't behave like that in real life to actually be.
It's almost like he was getting his own back.
There's a revenge fantasy. A wish-fulfilment fantasy.
So I just wonder whether with these famous images
that we think are so familiar,
which seem to be so removed and so cold and impersonal,
whether at heart, there's something intensely personal about them.
With his paintings gaining great attention,
he also attracted criticism.
His method of tearing out pictures,
assembling them to make a new image,
drawing a copy, then projecting it onto a canvas
left him open to accusations of plagiarism from the art world.
I think a lot of people, when they first see a Lichtenstein,
assume he's copied something wholesale.
But as soon as you start to get a handle
on the creative process that went into these images,
you realise that isn't strictly true.
He's making these subtle tweaks and adjustments.
So that he was right when he said in '63, almost as a defence,
"My work is actually different from comic strips
"and every mark really is in a different place,
"however slight that difference seems to some."
This comic dates from the end of 1962.
Lichtenstein had only been painting in his pop style for a year or two.
To the end of this issue, there's an amazing advert for this contraption.
It says, "Draw any person in one minute. No lessons, no talent."
I bet if he'd seen this, it would have made him smile.
He would have relished this.
There's an example of how to use
this magic art reproducer towards the bottom.
It says, "You can copy all cartoons, all comics."
How perfect is that?
He didn't do many self-portraits,
but if he'd wanted to start doing self-portraits early,
this would have been the perfect source.
Although Lichtenstein is best known
for his depictions of all-American culture,
he did produce more unusual works,
including one of his very few self-portraits.
It's called Self-Portrait.
But what you see in place of his face, there's a mirror
and a blank white T-shirt with no logo.
And there's even a label stitched into the back,
but there are no words, there are no brand names at all.
It's curious, because, of course, traditionally,
portraits are things which supposedly offer insight into the artist's soul, if you like,
but here, there's nothing.
It's blank. It's anonymous.
In one sense, Lichtenstein's clearly saying,
I am a mirror to the culture.
But in another sense, I think he's saying something again about style.
The really intriguing paradoxical thing about this painting
is that even though all of the objects in it,
the T-shirt, the mirror, the blank-ish background,
don't make sense as a person,
we know at once that this is by Lichtenstein.
The way in which it's been represented is full of identity.
This style is reduced to its most essential form in his landscapes.
Often just strips of coloured dots.
It's curious that he's created an aesthetic
which allows him to stamp anything.
It doesn't matter what it is. It could be a comic strip, a tank,
it could be a landscape, it could be a seascape.
You still know at once that it's by Lichtenstein.
We could define the paradox of his paintings as Lichtenstein's law,
when an artist creates an unmistakable style
by appearing to vanish into thin air.
Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, opens at Tate Modern on 21st February.
And on 24th, Alastair Sooke presents an hour-long exclusive show
from the exhibition on BBC Four.
Next tonight, a trip to the library.
Since emerging in the mid-19th century,
crime fiction has become so popular
that it now accounts for a third of all fiction
published in the English language.
Crime writer Val McDermid visits a new exhibition
to trace the development of the phenomenon
and to explain why we still can't get enough of a good murder mystery.
The art of good crime fiction, circa 1928.
"Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
"No accident must ever help the detective.
"The detective must not himself commit the crime."
These are the golden rules laid down
by a Catholic priest come detective story writer called Ronald Knox.
Some of Ronald Knox's Ten Commandments are valid today for crime writers like me.
The one about not allowing supernatural intervention
when you get caught in a tight corner.
Quite right, too. For me, that's just cheating.
But now his rules are pretty much irrelevant.
You mostly would just laugh at them.
Like the dicta that, "No Chinaman should figure in the story."
But then us writers have never liked being bossed around by rules.
Forget Knox. Crime fiction doesn't fit one mould.
It's a rich and diverse genre,
as shown by the British Library exhibition,
which charts its development since the Victorian age.
The very first crime fiction novel was penned in 1841.
Set in Paris, its author was the romantic writer Edgar Allan Poe.
Murders in the Rue Morgue is the ultimate mystery.
The victim's dead inside a locked room. The key's on the inside.
The only clue, a single strand of hair.
And when it's finally revealed, the killer isn't even human.
It's a giant orang-utan.
Early crime fiction was all about setting an intellectual puzzle
for the reader to work out who done it.
By the '20s, there was a fad for jigsaws
to be included alongside the novel
which had to be pieced together for clues.
And then a new breed of crime fiction took it a step further.
Murder Off Miami was a solve-it-yourself crime dossier
devised by Dennis Wheatley.
There was no narrative as such.
The reader was presented instead with an array of evidence
to solve the mystery,
including some human hair.
I actually worked my way through a facsimile of this.
Must be about 35 years ago now.
I remember it being great fun.
I worked my way through all the clues to the solution at the end.
It comes in a sealed envelope.
And I'm glad to say that I got it right.
But I look at it now, and I think,
this was an idea that was 80 years ahead of its time.
How much better it would work in the internet age
with that level of interactivity.
More often than not, the reader is aided by a fictional detective.
Whether hard-boiled PI or bumbling policeman,
or a female sleuth, who first appeared in the 19th century.
One of the earliest was a Mrs Paschal who carried a coat revolver
and thought nothing of ripping off her crinoline
to squeeze through a narrow hatch and climb down a ladder.
She was definitely a precursor of the feisty female PI.
Mrs Paschal is pictured smoking and showing a bit of ankle.
Outrageously daring for the 1870s.
But there's one lady detective that is particularly close to my heart.
Sara Paretsky's Indemnity Only.
That's the book that got me off my arse and writing crime fiction
instead of just thinking about it.
And one villain that has left an indelible mark on the genre
is Sax Rohmer's evil oriental scientist.
Fu Manchu, the ultimate fiendish mastermind.
With the brow of Shakespeare and the face of Satan.
Perhaps it's no coincidence this villain was dreamt up
by an English novelist in 1912,
at a time when the West feared the yellow peril from China.
There's no end to imaginative stories here.
By best-selling authors, titled aristocrats,
even football stars.
Not to mention a racy number by a burlesque dancer.
For more than 170 years, we've been enthralled by the murder mystery.
Today, it's a tradition kept alive by our most popular crime writers.
Now, that's just wrong.
While PD James and Ruth Rendell are still alive and writing,
I can't be a Queen of Crime.
I'll settle for being Crown Princess, though.
Next tonight, National Theatre Wales
is turning the spotlight on creative talent
emerging from one of the largest Somali communities outside Somalia.
Butetown in Cardiff.
Cerys Matthews went back to her hometown
to find out how its multicultural history
is inspiring a new approach to performance.
# Tiger Bay
# Tiger Bay
# It's not very far from the door. #
This is Tiger Bay, or used to be.
Back in the day, the name just fitted somehow.
It was dangerous, ferocious and fun.
It was the best and the worst place to go on a Saturday night.
Bars, brothels, bruisers, this place was teeming with them.
But when the developers moved in a few years ago
with their swanky restaurants and bars,
they wanted to distance themselves from the bad old days.
They renamed it Cardiff Bay.
Somehow, the old tiger had lost its bite
and it was in danger of losing its past.
Once upon a time,
Cardiff was the biggest exporting coal port in the world.
And 54 different nationalities
crammed in here in this little corner of Wales.
Irish, Africans, Europeans, Arabs, Americans
all working hard and playing hard together.
Someone once said you could find the whole world in one square mile here.
But the last coal left Tiger Bay in 1965,
along with most of its workers. But some stayed.
One of the largest groups of people
to make this area their home were the Somalis.
This part of Tiger Bay is called Butetown.
And the first Somali man settled here in 1890 during boom time.
Then, it was a thriving port.
Now, it's one of the poorest areas in the whole of Wales.
Jobs are scarce and for the Somalis and others in Butetown,
life is far from easy.
But it was right here in the deserted docklands of Cardiff
that National Theatre Wales
found inspiration for their next production,
De Gabay, which in Somali, means The Poem.
I have been colonised.
I have colonised.
Speaking all languages, translating you.
I am the cipher you exhale, the parts of you put together.
Cardiff hasn't seen anything like De Gabay.
A promenade performance across 60 locations
with 300 participants over one epic eight-hour day.
And with poetry at its heart.
The tone of my voice speaks the music of your thoughts.
My posture coils and springs,
mimes and sings, the echoing vibrations of your heavens.
My name is De Gabay.
'It all began when a group of young poets
'realised they had something to say.'
'But here in the heart of the Somali community,
'putting on a piece of theatre didn't seem the obvious choice.'
At first we were like, "Theatre? No.
"We're not going to get into theatre. We should stay out of it."
And then people were, like, "No. Have a look at this."
And then we seen a whole different side to theatre.
It was participatory art.
And people put on participatory performances and everything.
And then we thought, "Great! We could do something like this.
"We should create our own show."
Because it's like a nomadic journey around this area of Cardiff.
You're taking people on a trip to people's houses.
We want them to go on a journey
and leave their own identity behind, just for that day.
And we want them to taste the words.
From Wales to Somalia,
to across the world, nation of poets to nation of poets.
One of the major themes of De Gabay is identity
and how young British Somalis are perceived.
Most things I hear these days
are about how people hate things staying the same.
Why are some people so hard to change?
It's the same picture, just a different frame.
There is a negative stereotype of Somali people in Cardiff,
certainly growing up in Cardiff.
And you hope to deal with that head on.
The way we hope to deal with it
is not even by acknowledging it directly.
It's by showing the truth. We're showing that we are artists.
We are poets first.
The way people see me has turned fake.
"Oh, he's Somali, he might be a pirate."
Instead of seeing my scripts and thinking that we're poets.
But, no, people can't take the good with the bad.
They just believe what they see and start to flee
when they see a brother with a bag.
Am I British? Am I Somali? Am I a poet?
Am I a terrorist as you know it?
Tell me how important poetry is to the Somalian culture.
History, normally we see it from books and documentaries.
But in Somali, it's oral.
So a lot of the history that happened at certain times is in poetry.
Not only has it got that really important place in society,
where it's the record keeper, it is a living memory of the people,
it's also fun and enjoyable.
It's a part of entertainment.
A comparison would be almost like slam-poetry sessions
-between poets in Somalia where...
From village to village.
It's the same in Wales, too.
There used to be competitions of poetry in pubs.
This would be in cafes.
De Gabay means poetry and music, too.
-The same thing. The same in Welsh.
-It is the same thing.
# De Gabay, De Gabay, De Gabay, De Gabay, De Gabay
# De Gabay, De Gabay, De Gabay, De Gabay. #
To have two cultures so close, living so closely
and for us not to know that about each other, it's just...
That's why we have said that our elders felt comfortable here.
There was that connection,
but it hasn't been pointed out, it hasn't been labelled.
And maybe that's De Gabay.
It's been absolutely lovely meeting you.
I'm so proud of this. And I really wish you well on 3rd March.
I hope the whole of Cardiff turns up. It's lovely meeting you, Ahmed.
And Hassan. Good luck.
And De Gabay takes place on Sunday, 3rd March.
Now, the remarkable story of two maverick art lovers
who last month finally achieved something
many professionals in the museum and art world thought impossible.
Nobody thought we could do it.
It took 10 years, and we've done it.
We photographed over 211,000 paintings
in 3,000 different locations all over the UK.
In town halls and schools,
in hospitals, big galleries, small galleries,
all of them holding works of art owned by us, the British public.
The vast majority were locked away in storerooms or lofts,
unseen for 20 years or longer.
And we compiled them into 90 printed volumes.
And now they're online, free, for all the world to see.
Nobody's ever done anything like it before.
You can see online, 24 hours a day, every painting you own.
And it's this marvellous record of us!
This could never have been done
hadn't some really rather brave people who were in that profession
risked their reputations on me.
Alan Borg, who was, at the time, director of the V&A,
was key to setting up the thinking of it.
The first time I talked to him about it, he said, "You're absolutely mad."
If he'd been nice and said, "I don't think it's worth your while,"
I think I'd have probably stopped.
But I was so hurt by what he said, that I thought, "Bugger this..."
Oh, sorry. I'll take that back.
It's almost 10 years to the day when I met Fred.
It was a sort of job offer that you really couldn't turn down.
And fortunately, having had no relevant experience,
I was completely oblivious as to how ambitious
and how eccentric an idea this was.
UCL Art Museum is one of over 3,000 collections
that have participated in the Your Paintings project.
And it's an interesting one because it combines
both the museum, university and art school.
So over here, we have two works by Stanley Spencer.
The one on the right is a later work.
It's a bequest to the university.
But the one on the left is one of his student works.
What I think is so important about the website
is it allows you to see the early works,
the less-known works, together with the more famous ones.
In total, there are approaching 200 works by Spencer on the site.
There are hundreds of works by Gainsborough, by Rubens,
by Joshua Reynolds.
The site allows one to see the full picture across their earth.
There are far too many paintings in our national collection for us to show.
In actual fact, probably 80 percent of the 200,000 or so paintings
in the National Collection
are either in storerooms like this
or in buildings where there isn't routine public access.
So one of the big benefits of this project
is that all the paintings, whether they're in store,
whether they're on show,
irrespective of the perceived quality, irrespective of condition,
they're shown on the Your Paintings website.
There are 30,000 paintings where we have no record at all
of an artist being associated with that particular painting.
Here's an example of a painting where we don't know the artist
and we don't know the name of the sitter.
That looks like a very distinctive face.
Someone out there, I'm sure, probably knows who that man is.
One of the great things about this project
is that on the site, there's a little art detective feature.
And if you know something specifically about a painting,
you can tell us what you know.
Hopefully, over time, we'll be able to fill that information in.
I think that there was a realisation in me
that this was a job which just had to be done.
I just had this feeling that if I didn't do it, nobody would do it.
And I suppose I wanted to show my children
that, you know, even aged 60,
if there's something which has to be done and nobody else is doing it,
you damn well get out and do it yourself.
I suppose that was it.
Your Paintings is live now.
And staying online, the Omnivore website
was set up by Anna Baddeley and Fleur MacDonald
to compare and contrast reviews.
Last year, the pair were so frustrated
by lazy, misleading literary criticism
that they set up the Hatchet Job of the Year Award
to celebrate journalism that isn't afraid
to stick the knife into the book world.
# It's the Hatchet Job
# And it's coming for you
# It's the Hatchet Job
# And it's credibly true
# Finest reputation crushed in one blow
# Ladies and gentlemen let's get on with the show. #
We asked Lynn Barber, Francis Wheen and John Walsh
to select the year's best bad book reviews.
They picked a shortlist of reviewers
who weren't afraid to take on the titans of the literary world.
-Titan number one...
Ron Charles of the Washington Post savaged Lionel Asbo.
"Does any other truly great writer make us wonder
"whether his brilliant parts are worth the wearisome whole?"
Ouch! Most of the UK reviews for Lionel Asbo were very polite.
It took an American reviewer to see past the hype.
We book lovers need reviews
by people who know what they're talking about.
Especially when it comes to non-fiction.
Take Professor Richard Evans,
who reviewed AN Wilson's Short Biography of Hitler in the New Statesman.
"It's hard to think why a publishing house
"that once had a respected history list
"agreed to produce this travesty of a biography."
In one fell swoop, Professor Richard Evans savaged the book,
the publisher and the whole industry.
A literary reputation doesn't guarantee
that you're impervious to criticism.
Craig Raine is a poet.
And The Divine Comedy can be described as a poet's novel.
This is not necessarily a good thing,
in critic Allan Massie's view.
"A shameless exercise in marketing old rope", according to Craig Brown.
Claire Harman was not impressed by Andrew Motion's Silver.
"Characters as wooden as absent Silver's leg."
The judges also chose Suzanne Moore's Guardian review
of Naomi Wolf's book, Vagina.
"My problem with Wolf is longstanding.
"And is not about how she looks or climaxes,
"but it's about how she thinks, or rather doesn't."
The winner of Hatchet Job of the Year doesn't get a big fat cheque.
On top of fame, glory and literary recognition,
they also get a year's supply of potted shrimp.
The book that inspired this year's winning review
was Rachel Cusk's Aftermath.
A candid account of her divorce.
It may have got five stars in the Sunday Telegraph,
but Camilla Long of the Sunday Times begged to differ.
"Can a tray of vol-au-vents really be steeped in rejection?
"In Cusk's world, even the canapes are victims.
"She can certainly be overdramatic."
She was on point. She was vitriolic,
and more importantly, she was funny.
A very worthy winner.
And congratulations to Camilla Long.
I just hope she likes potted shrimp.
Next week, Mark Kermode will be revealing the winners
of the coveted Kermode Awards.
But to play us out, here are the godfathers of electronic music.
Named after the German for power station,
Kraftwerk are celebrating nearly 40 years
since they revolutionised the music scene
with a run of performances in London.
So here's a sample of their sold-out residency at Tate's Turbine Hall.
# We're charging our battery
# And now we're full of energy
# We are the robots
# We are the robots
# We are the robots
# We are the robots
# We're functioning automatik
# And we are dancing mekanik
# We are the robots
# We are the robots
# We are the robots
# We are the robots. #
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd