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As I was in Barcelona last June for the Sónar Festival, a friend showed me the catalogue of an exhibition titled ‘Hammershøi i Dreyer’ which was on show at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) earlier in the year. From what I saw in the catalogue, I wished I were there for the exhibition. Until then, I have not heard of Vilhelm Hammershøi, nor Carl Theodor Dreyer, not to mention the artistic links between the two.


After my return, I tried to track down Hammershøi’s paintings in London Galleries, only to discover that they are not currently on display – and there are not that many of them. Edward Hopper has always been one of my favourite painters – that indescribable sense of isolation and solitude is something I always find haunting. You look at some of Hopper’s late paintings – Sunlight in an Empty Room (1963) for example – your mind would wonder what goes on outside the picture, the things that are felt but not seen. I get the same feeling when I listen to Sciarrino’s music; I have heard Omaggio A Burri (1995) and Esplorazione del Bianco II (1986) in concert, and they were possibly the most intense listening experiences I have ever had – very unsettling.


Why is Hammershøi’s art so neglected outside Denmark – just as the way Nielsen’s music once was? I know Michael Palin made a documentary called The Mystery of Hammershøi in 2005 for the BBC, which I have not seen. I wonder how much it helped to make non-Danish speakers aware of this marvellous painter.


On a brighter note, most of Dreyer’s movies are now available on DVD; my copies of Ordet (1955) and Gertrud (1964) have just arrived. Something for the bank holiday weekend when I get a bit stuck with the composing.

August 2020
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