I am sure you have all been sweltering in the heat over these past few weeks – and it isn’t over yet. You’ll know that my passion – apart from film-making – is running so I have had plenty of runs in the sun and it really is something to be jogging along in 40 degrees Celsius. Hopefully, finally we’ll start appreciating the wonders of our planet that little but more and exploit it a little bit less from now on – otherwise we’re in for a tough ride. People have already started growing bananas and avocados in London – which, I know, doesn’t sound too bad but what that reflects is really very worrying. France, for example, is experiencing its worst drought ever.
I have spent so much of my working life making biographies of great artists from the past that I can’t help but wonder what they would make of the way we live today. They had plenty of problems in their own time – health, diet, dentistry issues alone prevent me from ever really wishing to have lived any time but now – but at least they could more or less rely on their seasons to be unchanging. So much of our world seems unstable – will that glacier be there next year, is that cliff about to crumble into the sea, will that crop survive in the new heat (or the increased absence or water)? So, I find I always bring a sense of how my life is now, what I am seeing and experiencing now, to the artworks of the past. Honestly, I think we all do.
I am in to the last 4 weeks of editing my next Exhibition on Screen film – about the life of Edward Hopper (and his wife Jo) – and I know that recent experiences and events in my own life are colouring how I am making this film and how I am seeing this film. So, however absent a filmmaker may try to see, trust me that he or she is always right there, holding your hand as you travel from the first to last minute. For me, what resonates is that my own father was born in New York and met and married my (English) mother there. Thus, the remarkable archive we have of 20s, 30s, 40s New York is a city he would have known and worked in. That guy pushing a rail of shirts down 5th Avenue, that’s my dad. And maybe that woman looking out of the window, maybe that was my mum dreaming of her village in Oxfordshire and the thatched roof cottage in which she was born.
That’s partly why Hopper is so appealing and loved; his paintings start stories but leave you to fill them in and drive them forwards. They are like the opening scene of plays before anyone has spoken the first line. I think his work is wonderful. The film is out in October, and I hope you’ll watch it and agree with me.