In a capitalist society, we’re nearly all hired hands, but the extent of the exploitation is more or less pernicious. Melvyn Bragg’s gritty, Northern, sweeping tale ultimately finds the best option for the ordinary man is to accept a pittance to work above ground rather than to toil in a futile World War I trench or in a narrow coal seam beneath the sea.
Art is at its most powerfully dramatic when it gives voice to the oppressed. By using the device of a play within a play to utmost effect, The Island communicates the oppression of a recent generation by drawing on tragic defiance from classical times.
Richard III manages to be at once resounding royal propaganda and an unsettling reminder of the fragility of the status quo given Elizabeth I’s lack of an heir: the Tudors had rescued the kingdom from the murderous House of York, but they hadn’t secured the future for long.
The cliché is that first novels are always autobiographical. Dutch writer Jeroen Blokhuis instead hides behind the biographical in his verbal portrait of one of the greatest painters his nation has produced.
Le Corbusier has mostly gone down in history as a visionary Swiss urban planner. For the thousands forcibly evicted from District Six in Cape Town, he has a more sinister resonance as the proponent of “the surgical method” – as mentioned in the notorious apartheid-era Group Areas Act – of sweeping away what he saw as chaos and disorder.
From stylised art nouveau temptresses to giant Tintin cartoons, Brussels has an established tradition of putting art on the outside of its buildings as well as inside. The capital’s newest gallery in a former brewery in Molenbeek – the neighbourhood notorious as a breeding ground of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks – captures that spirit.
As if an extraordinary imagination for fantastic, unsettling monsters and a genius ahead of his time for sensitive, naturalistic depictions of ordinary people weren’t enough, Hieronymous Bosch also had a modern knack for successful branding.
Northern Ireland’s permanent representation in Brussels periodically brings to the capital of Europe a sample of Northern Irish culture in a spirit of cross-cultural exchange that risks being disrupted in the event of a Brexit.
An exhibition of the extraordinary output of France’s Henri Cartier-Bresson, hailed as the founder of photojournalism and “the eye of the century”. That is true in the fullest sense of the words, given his exceptional ability to see the telling detail, or, in his own words, to seize the fact related to “the deep reality”.