Thursday, June 30, 2016

'Botticelli re-imagined' and Red 124

A real bargain Tuesday Ticket 
As well as our free tour we took advantage of another of the V&A's bargain Tuesdays with a visit to the  'Botticelli re-imagined' exhibition   - just £5.00 and it's quite a thing to see both quantity and quality .

Having recently had a brief session on the Italian great at The National Gallery - it was useful (but a touch overwhelming) to see so much more of the art from him and his workshop as well as examples of pieces that were  influenced by him.

The idea behind the first part of the extensive exhibition is how much of an influence Botticelli  has cast over our present artistic sensibilities - works referencing Primavera and Birth of Venus were in profusion and included works by Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol.
A lovely book
The V&A - All around is splendour

An artist of our times with far more than a passing interest in Sandro Botticelli and a name new to me is Orlan - to be honest if they were contemporaries I fear Orlan might be incarcerated for stalking (and it's not just Botticelli that Orlan has referenced in her life and her work.

As well as the ticket being a bargain at the same time in the V&A shop I got the companion Botticelli Reimagined book to the exhibition for just £10, it's a lovely illustrated volume marked at £40.

Red 124

Berries in their red stage

They'll go redder

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

V&A introductory tour and Red 125

Yesterday we decided to enjoy lunch and an introductory  tour of the Museum - lunch was good nice fresh salads in one of the Arts and crafts rooms - that established the V&A as a new sort of place to see Design and splendour of many types.

A large number of school groups visit

The (free) tour was conducted by a charming lady who was knowledgeable and  approachable - she told us a little of the history.
The V&A was at one stage to be called the Albert Museum  and  there were some pretty staggering figures too  - There's over 8 and a half miles of exhibition space so returning on a regular basis will pay dividends  if you've got the time.

As part of the introduction which focused on the 16th century  we saw a truly  fantastic Islamic carpet purchased on behalf of the Museum by William Morris during a trip to Manchester  at the then not inconsiderable price of £2,000 called The Ardabil Carpet - it's only illuminated for a limited time each hour (and half hour) to help with it's preservation.

After this we looked at some fine Turkish pottery, looking good after nearly 500 years  and we found out courtesy of  our guide how the colours deployed can be used to help date the items.

Full of Violence
Once we'd seen  these two refined items we moved to a far more rudimentary item but this communal example of a Public House sleeping room The Great Bed of Ware has quite a back story, it's referenced by Shakespeare in one of his plays (Twelfth Night) and the type of bed which it is was has meant that the phrase (an adjustment made to eliminate sag caused by a large number of incumbents)  'Sleep tight' has come into our language.

We also spent time looking at the Statue of Samson Slaying a Philistine (around 1562) by Giovanni Bologna (see the photo' left)  - it's marvelous to see and consider that it was been revealed/released  from a block of marble, the violence in the sculpture reminded me of The Hercules Garden Water Fountain At Kew Gardens by Francis Joseph Bosio.

After this we went to take a look in the room where copies dominate (before the days of EasyJet ) there's even a pretty good facsimile 'cast'  of Michelangelo's  David (and a more than  fair copy of Raphael's The School of Athens).

A pretty fair copy of The School of Athens

The V&A has a staggering breadth of works and by the nature of 'fashion' some of the items currently look pretty dreadful and Kitsch  -still I liked this by the workshop of Andrea della Robbia it's called The Lamentation over the dead Christ (from about 1510-15).

Great tour - but hardly came close to scratching the surface of what's going on at the museum.

Not necessarily lamentable

Red 125

Back in the stationary cupboard for today's bit of Red

It packs quite a punch

Monday, June 27, 2016

Mr Christa, STOP Boris and Red 126

I got the chance to chat briefly with Mr Christa as he made  final touches to his colourful work in Radbourne Walk just by Northfield's Allotments -it was done on the initiative of Northfield's Allotment committee and with the agreement of the homeowner whose wall the work adorns.

It's a bit of a departure from his  normal work for the young artist who is part of the 'Made You Look Collective' but he made clear speaking to me how much he'd learned by undertaking the commission.

It must surely be a buzz to see the completed painting  and hear people talking so positively about it.

Mr Christa adds the finishing touches on Monday afternoon.

STOP Boris

There's apparently something of a campaign that goes along the lines of Anyone but Boris (Even Pukka Jamie's on this one ) for Tory Leader  - They say it would be great if he doesn't even make it as one of the 2 names that goes onto the ballot paper that goes out to the Conservative party members

I can understand personally why this would be the case, yesterday  I was talking to one of the  many people working in London from an overseas country, following the  so called Brexit vote - sadly she had been hit hard by the feeling that she was no longer wanted here.

She'd said to her husband "that's it we might as well pack up and go,"  the problem wasn't the need to immediately leave England but her response to this perceived  rejection was so very human.

The idea that regular people should have their lives messed around to enable Tory politicians to play games that may or may not enable them to become the leaders of their party became horribly real to me.

So the idea of rewarding the Tory leaders of the duplicitous 'Leave campaign'  seems the last thing that many of us in the country could support.
 (We're thinking here of people standing in front of busses that have £350m/week written on them) .

I gather that there at the 3 main points that make Boris Johnson questionable for the  leadership of his party and the country.

And that is apart from some pretty severe character flaws identified by journalists like  Nick Cohen (Saturday's Guardian ) and  Sonia Purnell's (with her  piece on the failed  'Brand Boris' in The Times today)

1) Seems he's a liar - examples such as he wouldn't be an MP while he was London Mayor (he's said to have made this statement 17 times).

2) Others feel he's a man without honour - look at how his ex-lover  Petronella Wyatt analyses his character. (oh yes and it appears lied to his boss the then leader of the Tory party Michael Howard about the affair  and when found out he got fired).

3)There's also a rather unsavoury  association with illegal and threatening behaviour see him looking uncomfortable here.

So we'll have to see how that runs and if other questionable stories emerge.

Red 126

Some may say it's an example of sheet music

No it's really good

Last days of The Shad and Red 127

Punk activities at Design Museum
For the last 18 months or so I've been conducting, as a volunteer  a variety of short tours at the Design Museum, it's been fun and the people there- visitors and staff are friendly and pleasant.

A Punky Fish-tank outside the Museum

The Design Museum closes this month in it's Shad premises guise ahead of opening at the improved Kensington premises that are being prepared for this Autumn.

A work that can take you somewhere

I was on my last tours this w/e during their 'Punk retrospective' at the museum and took the opportunity to visit the nearby Anise Gallery, which is a charming little gallery often showing  up and coming artists.

The artist who was featured at the Gallery was Daniel Mullen a Scot  resident in Holland his influences are clearly diverse including Futurism and Mondrian - for me there's something of the 'Op art' of Bridget Riley - the gallery assistant was obviously someone who took an interest in the works too.

Daniel's work here  is actually quite affordable generally Acrylic on Canvas with works starting below £1,000

I'll miss my visits to the Gallery -

Red 127

Apart from the Red feature I love the fact that the lift doors suggest 'Smile'

Sometimes we need to.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

More from Northern Europe at the National Gallery and Red 128

Rembrandt self portrait 1640
This week at The National Gallery it was all about the Dutch.

Now important and highly rated though he is some of the Rembrandts we looked at in The National Gallery earlier in the week left me a little cold, we started with a self portrait made when the artist was about 34 (I thought he looked older)

Rembrandt (1606 -69) considered very much one of the  Dutch masters and  has many works in the Gallery, they include his wife, biblical themes and his housekeeper (who may have been more than this), later work could almost be considered impressionistic showing brush strokes which can convey more than other more precise areas of colour.

The painting has  got none of the identifiers used by some artists to proclaim their trade and skills, in fact to my mind it's skilful but a bit too dull ands understated, nothing much going on in the background.  The face shows fine modelling and Rembrandt  does show his wealth by his 'quality' clothing  the pose harks back to Titan implying his artistic status to be at a similar level.

The artist undoubtedly successful  deploys merest flamboyance is deployed in showing Rembrandt leaning on a wall of sorts - probably used as a promotional tool to convince prospective commissioners of his abilities in

Other works from Rembrandt (below) include his wife Saskia Van Uylenburgh - who is wearing clothes that suggest a shepherdess - the picture it seems (to these modern eyes) is not unduly flattering to his wife's appearance.

Saskia Van Uylenburgh in Arcadian costume

Belshazzar's Feast

The painting of Belshazzar's Feast is more Baroque and shows high drama with characters illuminating the scene - it can be considered to show some influence  of Caravaggio's style.

The paintings of a member of his household (who bore him a child) Hendrickje Stoffels is a far more intimate picture than that of his wife and more tenderness is communicated here too - the adjacent work could also be of the same subject (here 'bathing in a stream').

portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels

And possibly again but here in a stream

Other works form this region and time we looked at were by Pieter de Hooch (1629 -84 so a little younger than Rembrandt) - A musical party in a courtyard was a superbly crated work with a finely framed figure ion the right hand side balancing the activity in some shade on the left.

Nearby is another painting by Pieter called A Woman Drinking with Two Men - this has some fine detail including a seemingly dead  'rodent' on the floor.

A musical party in a courtyard (1677)

A Woman Drinking with Two Men

Amongst the rich portraits we also looked at more bucolic landscapes with a strong Italian influence from the artist Aelbert Cuyp known as The large Dort (he did other similar countryside views too).

The Large Dort (1650 ish) by Aelbert Cuyp

Pieter de Hooch was more prolific than Vermeer (nearby is Vermeer's A young woman standing at a virginal from about 1670)  and thus his paintings are less sought after but he's (to my mind) a similarly skilled artist.

Delft had a massive explosion which is shown in a painting be Edgar van der Poel - A View of Delft after the Explosion of 1654 this painting uses what we'd called a wide landscape format and this gives the dramatic impression - shortened trees destroyed.
The explosion above Fabritius's work

Below this painting is a strangely sophisticated attempt to show a 3 dimensional picture  A View of Delft (this might have required a 'peepbox' to view it effectively)  from Carel Fabritus (A pupil of Rembrandt) who is said to have influenced De Hooch and Vermeer (this seems very likely within the small artistic community of Delft). 

The final picture we looked at was in the form of a work to ponder on in relation to death - A Memento Mori this was by the artist Harmen Steenwyck and is called 'An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life'  - it's loaded with messages about how unimportant worldly goods are - but would be purchased by someone who was wealthy.

Red 128

In a popular retail outlet (ealing branch) I saw these stool type items

Those chair things you can sit on and use for trying on shoes

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Looking back (not far) and Red 129

With Hindsight

Looking back I find that my Blog has reflected  the rise of Boris Johnson - it feels to me now almost inevitable that the figure variously described as a buffoon and a 'Court Jester' (and that's just by his own party) will be our next Tory Leader and PM.
At least Theresa has had hers done.

Sad to hear too that so many of the predictions and warnings made by the remainers are proving to be true - described by Michael Gove as bumps in the road these are likely to lead to real job losses and a decline in living standards for many.

Undoubtedly there'll be some good things to come out of the Brits  extracting themselves from  the Single Market but as Scotland readies itself for another referendum they look to be at best marginal.

 With Westminster tied up on work to reassemble our trading relationships  I suppose the expansion of Heathrow/London airport strategy  is now consigned to the 'not important' pile.

Red 129

This view with it's strong red roses  across to one of my neighbours now forever reminds me of Patrick Caulfield

That deep red rosy colour

Friday, June 24, 2016

We're out and Red 130

Feed the birds
So the population has spoken -I recall Black Wednesday when the markets went mad but this is bigger and was down to a vote- it is certainly not what I wished for but it is democracy and that's a powerful force..

Cameron is to leave and I'm not sure if there's actually a future for the Labour party as it stands, certainly Corbyn always a shaky figure is looking more and more like a man who is not only out of step with his MPs but also the times and those people he seeks to represent - not sure how long he'll 'remain' the  Labour leader in Westminster.

[Interesting to note that Tory Home Secretary  Theresa May who had such a low profile during the campaign is reported to have got herself  a new hairstyle.]

Red 130

Well  while some will be saying it's a Black Friday - in a corner of London's Leicester Square it's forever Friday and Red too..

It is even when it doesn't feel like it

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Your (UK EU) decision and Red 131

Downtown Ealing
Straw poll of shop windows, homes  and commercial premises on my doorstep indicates strong majority for Remain - this could of course reflect the 'shy' Brexiteer and of course getting the vote out is what counts.

What is for sure is that there's going to  be a lot of analysis and lessons learnt from the way the arguments have been revealed and the significance of hammering home points regardless of their truth or not (like the £350m figure)

The use of  totemic slogans  that capture the mass mood (like independence day)  has also been a feature of the playing to the media professionals  search for soundbites.

How is it that some of the mass audience papers have chosen to go with a 'Leave' front page - do the Press have an agenda? (strangely the Daily Mail has suggested leave while it's Sunday sister paper has used its editorial to back the remain).

[Was amused to learn that while David Cameron got a First in PPE his one-time  protégé Michael Gove got a 2:1 in History not too sure if that's where he picked up what economics knowledge he has.]

Red 131

Not usually the colour of a Police Vehicle - this one spotted in the heart of London's government district

It means business

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Our heritage Vs The EU debates and Red 132

Walking around London two aspects of this great modern city illuminate my perspective on the UK - one is our Colonial past - many (now) questionable adventures and excursions, brave men and pursuing government policies to increase influence and empire.

Sir Henry Bartle Frere a proud past
The second is our mixture of people from diverse backgrounds and nationalities making a tolerant rich city   - not without problems but arguably the strongest most coherent of major cities in the free world.

Interesting to watch the unfolding campaigns both in and out around UK's EU referendum campaign - I'm not sure if it's just me but generally same  mantras coming from both sides and they are confirming my own views (so far) as I expect they are for others of both camps .

I did find Scottish Tory Leader Ruth Davidson a very good performer (Now being spoken of as a future leader for the UK party)  - I guess to have reached the heights she has in Politics marks her as somewhat charismatic.

I unlike most of the 'critics' think that Francis O'Grady leader  of the TUC (labour unions) gave a good account of herself too - but how odd for a TUC leader to have such a low profile, how times have changed.

What the 'Outer's are currently offering seems to  me a different set of policies from those that got Cameron and Co. elected - can't see how in all honesty if they win that a further general election could be avoided, worse case scenario this would be run during drastically weakened pound and after a change in Leadership for Conservative party.

London the capital of a  rich diverse present UK 

I feel very uncomfortable with the statements being made by Gove and Johnson regarding what they would do with 'potential' extra funds - do they really plan to improve NHS and other public institutions? - This does not seem to be part of their DNA

The idea that is being peddled is that  those actually voting for an 'Out'  will be doing so to empower British workers and give them a fairer slice of the pie.

Such a change would need to be  put to the electorate and the competing offerings (potentially) would be a view from the Left - Corbyn and the Right Gove/Johnson

Red 132

And here's an other  iconic vehicle repurposed

Not generally an option on a London Bus  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Back to the Garage and Red 133

Rather worrying to see that I was talking about getting the garage sorted out over 3 years ago and have had a set of shelves since February - now 'grasping the nettle'  (but it's stinging like hell).

The shelves and bench

The mess from 3 years ago

What I have a tendency to do (maybe in life generally) is to cram stuff away in a the garage, in no order hoping I can find things and that they'll be of some use in the future - I'm now at the stage where the mess is spreading inwards to 'office'.

The first of the four

Bench and shelves waiting to be loaded

I've put the shelves together and can now start a bit of rationalisation -but it feels like it could be a long haul.

BBC's Tate Telly

Nice BBC programme introducing the Tate extension to the world at large - Seems to me that Andrew Marr has made a pretty good recovery from his stroke (which 'nearly killed him' - The great and good of the Art World were out in their numbers, saw that Antony Gormley  had some sort of leg support but Ian Craig-Martin seemed on top of his game as did Tracey Emin

You can find out and watch the show on BBC iPlayer .

Red 133

And talking about the big names on BBC programme about Tate's Extension here's Red 133

Almost like a Craig-Martin come to life

Monday, June 20, 2016

Plenty of rain, Old Corrie and Red 134

Spinach looking green
The seasons have been a bit hard for me to manage on the allotment - the warmer spring weather was a bit late coming and now we're getting a bit too much of the rain which makes planting a challenge and means weeds are dong fantastically well.
I'm fighting pigeons as well as slugs

Spinach and lettuce now in but celery not something I can write home about and Broad Beans which are usually in profusion were a disaster.

 The other problem is that this weather encourages slugs and snails and washes away the slug pellets.

I've got a fair amount of basil which will be going into pots shortly I hope.

Wonders of YouTube and Old Corrie's

The Dad of one of my School friends (John) was a writer of books and for TV, he was capable of writing for the big screen with a marvelous film Guns at Batasi as well as series and  soaps like Coronation Street.

John pointed me to a 1962 episode that was available on YouTube- it really shows how drama these days is well- less dramatic - and also how our bathroom socialising has declined - take a look if you gat a chance (and is Ken knocked out?)

After a while you forget (or I did anyway) that it's in Black and White and not great quality - there's a real edge to the whole thing  and it feels a long way from the comfortable BBC of the time.

The interesting anecdote from John's Dad  Robert was about William Roach (forever Ken) seems he said   when they met whilst Robert was  on the set as script advisor in 1962 and he told him that he was planning to leave shortly as he didn't want to get typecast.  (no fear of that!)

Red 134

The flags are out for our boys in Europe

Is it going to be a cause for celebration?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

More National Gallery discoveries and Red 135

A strange reflection

Back at National Gallery as we travel through time and space - this time we started with the Diego Spanish artist Velazquez and his famous painting 'The Toilet of Venus' aka "The Rokeby Venus".

Velazquez whose artistry was championed by Rubens long campaigned for his king to grant him a Knighthood and as  a painter of the Spanish King  he was eventually granted the title a matter of a couple of years before his death in 1660

The actual painting shows an elegant nude but the reflection in a mirror  (if that's what it is) held by Cupid has caused much controversy.

This is the only remaining Nude in existence from Velasquez and shows a strong classical sculptural influences, the artist is strongly associated with the Baroque but it is quite possible to question if this particular painting is a truly Baroque work as it lacks something of the excessively sumptuous.
Is it Immaculate?

An example of his more Baroque work is shown (right) The Immaculate Conception with Stars around Mary's head.

The paintings of his King clearly reflect the closeness between ruler and subject - the later work being painted when Velasquez was about 50.

Spanish King Philip IV 1631-2 as a young man
And sometime older and  later (1656)

One of the paintings by Velasquez - a favourite of mine that we didn't look at (and one I'd observed before)  this  is of a less formal style was Christ in the House of Martha and Mary  - it's from a bible story and this uses a quite unusual perspective showing action in two rooms.

All happening in the kitchen

Away from the Baroque it was interesting to see the contrast with luscious works and the everyday portrayed by Francisco de Zurbaran (who worked as an official in Art for the Church)  in A cup of Water and a Rose - 1630 - this is a apparently a very popular work to purchase in the gallery shop as a postcard.

A cup of Water and a Rose

There is a school of thought that although appearing initially simple the work contains much symbolism.

Another interesting artist and a work by him the  self portrait of Bartolome Esteban Murillo  (below) who sadly died following  a fall from scaffolding as he worked on a commission.

The work shows much in the way of artistry (the frame within the work) as well as the tools of his trade.
Self portrait of Bartolome Esteban Murillo

The last artist under the spotlight was Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and his work really stood out against the formulaic work of his time - the main picture we looked at was 'The Supper at Emmaus' which showed Jesus and others as 'normal' mortals.

'The Supper at Emmaus' by Caravaggio

Many of the artistic establishment of the time questioned the value of such works as it went against the accepted styles.

All 3 of the National's Caravaggio's were on show.
Boy bitten by a Lizard

Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist

The Caravaggio paintings seem to signal a new approach to Art and Religion moving to representations that more accurately mirror the experience of the population at large with a  style that is less elitist and 'truer' - be great to see where our journey takes us next week.

Red 135

Another red object that popped out of the sky

Look up! A surprising discovery in a tree by City Hall