Than Hussein Clark ”The Paintings of Selma Vaz Dias” at Damien & The Love Guru, Brussels
If exhibitions are an attempt to translate and stage an idea in space, this exhibition might be said to be an an attempt at translating the name of an actress – Selma Vaz Dias – into a kind of portrait within the stage of the gallery. Such a portrait is difficult task -in the words of WH Auden, “Proper Names are Poetry in the raw. Like all poetry, they are untranslatable.” My admiration for actresses I would hope at this point is well known, my affection for this particular actress is perhaps not.
Selma Vaz Dias, born in 1911 in Amsterdam, she came to England aged eleven and was schooled in this country and then: ‘ trained as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (R.A.D.A.) where she was discovered at the age of sixteen for her first West-end part – the lead in Red Rust opposite John Gielgud and Ion Swinley. These were followed by: The Matriarch, with Mrs Patrick Campbell, and a season at the then new Westminster Theatre under Tyrone Guthrie. Notable among the many and various parts she played are: Sara Disraeli in Young Mr Disraeli, the mother in Golden Door on television, Anne Marie in the original production of Thunder Rock and Gisela in Dark Summer. She was the first Solange in Jean Genet’s The Maids, played in the original French at the Royal Court Theatre and later in an English version. Subsequently she played the leading part of Irma in Genet’s world premiere of The Balcony at the Arts Theatre. She also appeared on stage as the Ratwife in Little Eyolf at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith and The Mother in Jaques at The Royal Court Theatre. Well known on films, television and radio, she was the first actress to do an hour’s monologue on the Third Programme – her own adaptation of Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys. Selma translated several plays for television, the Third Programme and the stage. Although of Dutch origin, she had the honour of playing Queen Elizabeth I of England in the first performance in this country of Son et Lumiere at Greenwich Palace with Sir Laurence Olivier. This was her second appearance at The Theatre Royal, the first being in Don Juan or The Love of Geometry with Eric Porter and Moira Shearer.
At Damien & The Love Guru, Brussels
until 24 October 2019