Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sir Hans Sloane and the Chelsea Physic Garden

On leaving my last job my colleagues very kindly bought me RHS gift membership which allows for free visits to the Chelsea Physic Garden.
The Chelsea Physic garden is the second oldest 'Garden' of it's kind in the UK (the oldest is in Oxford) - It's a Physic garden as it was created to research and grow horticultural cures for ailments.

Yesterday I did a short tour and learnt some fascinating facts.
1) Agatha Christie doyen of the crime story studied at the gardens and undoubtedly picked up some good methods of poisoning.
2) Apothecaries who at the time of the Black Death remained in London long after the 'posh' doctors fled wore covers on their noses like beaks - hence the term quacks (perhaps)
3) Bruce Forsyth's great grandfather was the man behind the Forsythia (and a bigamist - gosh two mother in laws!)
Sir Hans Sloane an Irish Physician who introduce the idea of drinking chocolate to London and was a philanthropist, who donated funds to the British Museum as well as bankrolling the gardens (ensuring they only paid a £5 a year rent). The gardens  were private until late in the last century when they became a charity.
Reflecting on Richard Wilson
I did pop into the Saatchi Gallery while I was in the Sloane square area, interesting to see a new Lebanese Café chain will be opening premises close to the gallery  soon . Saw my favourite Richard Wilson work again.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Good old Radio 4 and Allotment Challenges

BBC Radio 4

As usual (for me ) Radio 4  has been providing me with plenty of radio content to make me stop and think,these include  

1) Today : Interesting to hear today  Part 3 of the Grayson Perry 2013 Reith Lectures subtitled 
Nice Rebellion,Welcome In! 

In which Grayson continued to debunk the art world, noting how Art had become mainstream and an adjunct to the world of Estate Agents (look at what's happened to Hoxton).

Aleks offer value

2) A programme The Digital Human (this is now in its fourth series)  this week the programme was called  and was about 'Value'. Aleks Krotoski is never less than considered and she selects some great people to talk to  this weeks episode addressed the changes a digital society is forcing to to make about artefacts and  posited the questions (amongst others). 'Why do people collect Vinyl?'  and 'For what reason would they choose to convert their digital compositions to analogue performances?'

and finally 
Happy ever after.

3) Don't Log Off - A great programme that this week took a searching  look at the opportunities for happiness in terms of  human relationships that  the internet is presenting - the actual relationship under the microscope was one that the presenter Alan Dein  has followed for over a year and was between an American divorcee and a Russian women with  children and a hope for a better life - the couple married on this weeks episode - I wonder how that will go?

And On the allotment

the answer?
Sad to report that this weekend (Sunday) I found that again I'd been visited by intruders again deciding to use my shed -he/she/they nicked some stuff and made a mess - I don't think it's worth making it more secure as the shed can always be broken into, what it means is that I need to carry more stuff with me when I go - a shame but not the end of the world (perhaps I should get a metal shed?)

Also the weather has created  mess and further up on the site a tree falling has damaged the fencing.
Tree damaged fence

Monday, October 28, 2013

Richmond Theatre 1984

At the weekend we went to Richmond Theatre to catch the matinée performance of the touring 1984.
Now I've also heard recently of the importance of Dylan Thomas (it's his centenary year next year) and how phrases he'd used had become part of our everyday conversations well to me George Orwell has that in Spades.
Famously Eric Arthur Blair (Orwell's real Monica) was a posh toff who spent time living as a working man and sang the praises of the working class virtues (and vices).
Actually started as 1948
The production of 1984 we saw was very much a play that told us (I think) we were living somewhat in the Orwell's nightmare vision - Newspeak, Big Brother and Room 101 were all portrayed with a menacing dark twist.
The staging was very strong using technology and lighting to great effect. The production chose to go hell for leather with no interval and it was very far from an easy ride for the packed audience.
How far 'Political correctness' and government (and commercial institutions)  surveillance have undermined our personal freedoms is worth considering (continually).

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Digital Art and what Digital does to Art

BBC Click
Most weeks I try to catch the BBC TV news programme 'Click', the show last week was all about Art and very good it was too (depending where you are located geographically you might be able to catch the show with the BBC iplayer which now makes programmes available for up to 30 days when downloaded).
Now the things that are  so interesting about Art and the digital world are
1) The possibilities for new creativity, 3D printers, infinitely variable projects etc etc.
2) Reproducibility both of new and existing works - an 'original' ceases  to mean anything and the super Ultra High definition screens mean that a work from a digital file can produce almost the same experience as the work in the gallery.
Now Art as well as being about a vision of some sort is undoubtedly about commerce and investment so much as iTunes and Netflix have been disruptive to music and film industries so Digital Art will be affected.
What can not be enjoyed necessarily by Art in these new technological viewings is the shared experience and the feeling of effort expended and homage paid these elements along with art of curating mean for me the gallery visiting indulgence will continue.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Allotment feeling like Groundhog Day?

As we move towards November I've started to plant Broad Beans and Garlic in plant pots (they can survive the winter) I've also got Shallots and Onions which I plan to plant directly in the ground, the soil is abit 'claggy' at the moment from the recent rain.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Still your Fan

After what seems quite a long time I have finished I'm your man- The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons and very good it was too. I don't know but it does take me some time to read a whole book these days and I was somewhat astonished to hear Antonia Fraser talk about reading 800 page novels in one day.
To relate some of the things I learned through reading this  well researched biography- Leonard studied Hypnotism in order to get to see the naked female and having been forced back onto the road to rebuild his retirement fund he found he didn't want to retire.
The other thing I would say is that Sylvie has brought something to the book which moves Leonard from the  caricature bed-sitter Lothario  to a human  rounded individual with strengths and weaknesses, Leonard appears to have battled his
personal daemons  and won through by virtue of longevity and his requirement to always deliver the best that he can. Why he should have had the struggles he has is not clear (is it clear why for any of us?) but losing his father at a young age may perhaps have caused deeper scars than was realised.

Anyway a good perhaps great book for all the Leonard fans out there.
I am hoping (perhaps over optimistically) to complete the book I have started about Gustave Courbet in a shorter time.

Grayson's second Reith lecture

This morning I caught the majority of Grayson Perry's second of  four lectures examining Art in modern Britain . |Perry despite his somewhat irritating voice and over the top dress sense makes interesting points in the  'Beating the Bounds' lecture and tried to define some limits to what we can/should consider as art after Duchamp this is not easy and Grayson used humour to deliver some well made points.
I suppose that Perry as others like Warhol, Picasso and Dali feel that there is a need to be a self publicist as well as creative to succeed in Art.
The subject covered  is important in post industrial Britain and I will look out for the next two lectures. 
Interestingly Grayson went to the same school in Chelmsford as my brother Nick - one of the best state schools in Essex if judged by academic results (The King Edward VI Grammar School).
Strangely Dr John Dee who I mentioned after my British Museum visit was also a student at the school albeit when it was the Chelmsford Chantry School before the Royal Charter of 1551.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Visit to the British Museum

Today I visited (perhaps for the first time) the British Museum I was impressed by the size and scope of the enterprise.
I can imagine that a lot of non-UK visitors are surprised at how much of the contents of the enterprise are from colonial and foreign lands.
The scope and ambition of the  Museum is I think unlike other museums I've visited either in the UK or abroad (I am thinking and comparing here the British Museum to the Egyptian Museum  in Cairo Museum and our own  V&A here in London).
I spent some time looking at the display Showing Greek and Roman life that focused on life at around the time of Jesus Christ but also was interested to see the display that focused on the 'enlightenment'.
Dr John Dee who was described both as a scientist and 'magician' at the time of Queen Elizabeth I and Stuart Townley who was significant in the enlightenment project, much of the endeavor was about painstaking collecting cataloging and classifying and he did hsi fair share across the field that is now described as the arts.
Other aspects of my too brief visit were the fantastic 12th Century Lewis Chessmen (see the documentary below) and the selection of Marble materials now known as Tolley Marbles.
Next visit by me will be more focused and I might even try and take in the current 16th Century Japanese exhibition.

Friday, October 18, 2013

My week in the arts including my views on Tate Modern shows by ...

First off if you're around Ealing in the next few days check this out..

Grayson delivers the Reith Lectures 2013

Good to hear a real Essex boy (?) Grayson Perry giving this years Reith Lectures, first one was broadcast on Monday and some salient points made particularly regarding the need to put in some work to appreciate  intent of artists and the fact that time gives perspective on the standing of artists- had a bit of a feeling that there was something of an agenda with respect to the Works of Damien Hirst .
I (unlike Grayson) still like my paintings big and feel that size is important, looking forward to hearing the rest anyway.  

New Art Books

Two new books to add to my expanding library on the subject, one a bargain from local Oxfam Book Shop by the sadly departed and highly respected commentator Robert Hughes his Shock of the New has got to be a bargain at £5.00

Second book was from amazon and is an Alain de Botton collaboration on Art as Therapy with a sales pitch that is..

We often hear that art is meant to be very important; but we’re seldom told exactly why.

Alain de Botton and John Armstrong believe art can help us with our most intimate and ordinary dilemmas: Why is my work not more satisfying? Why do other people seem to have a more glamorous life? How can I improve my relationships? Why is politics so depressing? This book introduces a new method of interpreting art: art as a form of therapy, providing powerful solutions to many of life's problems.

how could I resist? Reviews will follow.

Two artists new to me

Paul Klee

Tate Modern has two major exhibitions on with artists new to me, the first I looked at was the Paul Klee  'Making Visible'. Klee was a half German/half Swiss born in 1879 who was methodical in the extreme permitting the exhibitors to clearly show his development as an artist. Klee died relatively young in 1940 having returned to Switzerland from Germany where he had spent much of his working life with an influential period teaching at the Bauhaus.
Klee was a prolific artist who was an experimenter developing his own techniques including a method to transfer sketches to canvas he was for a time a member of The Blue Rider movement and friends with artists including Kandinsky, like Kadinsky he was a talented musician. Among the techniques that Klee used was pointilism seen in Lowlands and evocatively used in memory of a bird (1932).
Having seen the work of Klee (17 rooms in the exhibition) I am somewhat intrigued and recognise his importance but I was not overly excited, I plan to visit again when the show is less crowded for further consideration.

Mira Schendel

The exhibition of Mira Schendel (1919- 88) and her back story was something more pleasurable for me. Born in Switzerland but raised in Italy as a result of Mira's Jewish blood line she was forced to terminate her studies of Philosophy at the University of Milan she then left Italy to arrive in Yugoslavia and in 1949 emigrated to Brazil.
Her work as an artist was influenced by many (including Klee) and much of her work is 'abstract' but text  also plays a very important part of her creations.
Stand out works for me included Still Waves of Probability (see youtube below) and short Old Testament texts worked into Homage to God - Father of the West.
Again I hope to revisit.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Introducing Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth ..

Today was a day when I was able to  be part of a very special event the elevation of my brother Nicholas to the House of Lords where will sit as Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth . It was interesting to see how the Palace of Westminster functions and share dining space with figures such as Lord Mandelson and Lord Lawson.
Also in the news was the commemoration made for the many losses of lives associated with the coal mining in Wales it being 100 years since the UK's worst mining disaster (nearly 500 lives lost).

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And China becomes an increasingly significant voice in Modern Art

The boys as seen in the Daily Mail 

Good to see that Chancellor Osborne and the clown prince (The London Mayor) Boris Johnson are still failing to sing from the same Hymn sheet - Chinese visitors to the UK  have been suffering from undue bureaucracy and any moves to make sure that they can visit with ease should be supported. I note how important they are becoming in many fields including contemporary art.

China becoming a force in Modern Art (works seen outside London Art college)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Allotment moves to autumn

As we move into the autumn - the preoccupation on the allotment is making sure that the shed is weatherproof and I continue to dig over and remove  weeds and many strawberry runners.
I 've added a small shelf outside the shed window (all wood 'found') and have started the layout of railway sleepers that will form the new strawberry bed I hope that this will limit the spread of those runners in the future - my original intention had been to lay the sleepers flat but am now considering putting them edgewise to make a  higher bed - perhaps something like this

Tomatoes are coming to an end, courgettes practically finished but there seems to be some beans to harvest and butternut squash aplenty.

365 Project

although this wont be the subject for my intended project it soes show I'm thinking - the print is also making me think about anothe printer at the moment the A3 capable  CANON PIXMA iX6550 is looking favourite at around £150 it has some glowing reviews.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Art Under attack and fighting back too

Outside Tate Britain
On Wednesday I visited Tate Britain with intention of looking at the Art Under attack exhibition, the exhibition majors on Religious and Political dissent, Protestantism's removal of Icons and the destruction of overtly political monuments being key themes.
For me I was interested to see how significant a part of the DIA (destruction in art)  Yoko Ono had been and despite much resistance Yoko continues to plough her own furrow.
I also hoped that the artists work would help me formulate the structure of my own 365 project.

Deller on Newsnight

Also on Wednesday I caught  Jeremy Paxman talking to the artist Jeremy Deller, I'd seen Deller's work relating Acid House to Brass Bands at the Tate earlier and found him an intelligent commentator on the short Newsnight piece where he looked back at the Industrial past (with Noddy Holder of Slade) as I think Paxman did.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Week in Media - The Wonder of Wireless and more..

The 40th anniversary of UK commercial radio would have pretty much passed me by without noticing  had it not been for local-ish resident Torin Douglas's presentation last night at the University of West London.
All the stations were local and the speech based LBC started first with Capital a music station a week later, I remember listening to little Nicky Horne as I did (or didn't) do my homework - it was tremendously thrilling to hear an entire LP side without a break (Tubular Bells for example).
Torin related how much of a radio guy he was and that he listened to the launch shortly after getting married- he went on to relate how the competition had helped the BBC improve performance and service.
There was some history too with what was news to me that Bush House had been used for making Commercial radio programmes before the war for J Walter Thompson (advertising group).

The presentation was slick as you'd expect from a seasoned professional with some nice examples of radio history (sadly not including Barrats, Barrats come to Barrats Barrats Liquor Mart )and it was pointed out that radio has continued in the last 40 years to evolve and meet the challenges of TV and new media very effectively.
In other media news- I gather that  newish BBC  DG Tony Hall is refocusing on high end stuff for the corporation and also adding a +1 to the BBC's main TV channel - additions to iPlayer too.

Monday, October 07, 2013

365 day project!

Noah Scalin who wrote the 365 book
3 great books arrived last week (actually 4 but more about that later)
Number One is a short Zen book
Number Two is Leonard Cohen's The Favourite game
Number Three is A daily Creativity Journal (make something every day and change your life) - I'll start that tomorrow in some form.
There's quite a history of these sort of methods to unblock creativity including Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies and this type of work also reminds of what Joe Orton and his partner Ken Halliwell did in  creating  a kind collage from books they misappropriated from Camden Library.
The project by Tom Phillips - Humument is also worth of note.
Phillips who is still alive was a student of the famous (and favourite of Tom Davies) Frank Auerbach, Auberach will have a long overdue retrospective at Tate Britain in January 2015.
Interestingly Auberach was a teacher to Brian Eno.

Through the letterbox recently (2)

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Out of the Shadows: MacDonald Gill at Pitzhanger Manor House, Ealing

Pitzhanger Manor House, Ealing
The Gallery at Pitzhanger Manor House has a real corker of a show on at the moment.
Max Gill did some amazing graphic work for Cable and Wireless and what was to become London Transport.
As well as seeing this fantastic work the exhibition introduced me to the controversy around Eric Gill (Max's brother) who collaborated with Jacob Epstein.

Eric Gill  was famously challenged by Lord Reith,  who as head of the BBC was concerned with the  sculptor's dimensioning of Ariel's reproductive organ (subsequently reduced) which was located at Broadcasting House as part of the sculpture called Prospero and Ariel from Shakespeare's The Tempest.

In fact there's a chance to hear the Radio Comedy by Gary Brown about Eric's clash with the BBC over his famous sculpture this  Thursday 10th October on BBC radio 4 Extra at both 11:15 and 21:15.

Strangely Eric Gill had been scandalised by his younger  brother Max's liaison and subsequent marriage to Max's own god-daughter Priscilla (Johnston) despite Eric himself  being both a paedophile and  dog fancier.

Nice article from the Guardian about the exhibition here.

Max Gill's work included designs that depicted the World War II alliance

Wonderground by Max Gill.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

NHS Trust Governors- West London Mental Health.

Community Shop in West Ealing
On Thursday night I went to a meeting to find out a little more about becoming a  governor for the  NHS  West London Mental Health Trust. The session was held at The Recovery Hub in West Ealing this is situated behind The Community Shop in West Ealing which 
NHS foundation trusts (FTs) are the NHS organisations that provide services in hospitals, mental health services and ambulance services.They provide and develop healthcare according to core NHS principles - free care, based on need and not ability to pay.
It t is the governors' responsibility to represent the Trust's members and to hold the board to account , Governors need the  energy and enthusiasm to help shape the Trust  services and will have the necessary training to carry out the role.

I learnt a little from the meeting about the Mental Health services in West London:

  • around 20,000 patients with an income of £229 Million/year (works out at an average of about £11,000 per 'service user').
  • 78% of the expenditure is on staff.
  • The area served covers Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow and Ealing.

Services are

  • Local (including St. Bernard's which is being re developed)
  • Specialist & Forensic.
  • Broadmoor (The famous high security institution which can hold around 210 male patients and has links with the  Jimmy Saville investigations)

The meeting was attended by memebrs interested in becoming Governors and addressing the meeting were Nigel McCorkell (chairman ), Barbara Byrne Chief Executive and Director of Finance   and Ann Utley Foundation Trust Manager.
During the meeting a 'service user' spoke really movingly about her experiences, although nervous and  uncomfortable she helped to bring focus to the subject.
The woman spoke of how communication was failing and marginalised people were having there services sacrificed (of course) for efficiency.Examples were the closure of the John Conolly wing and the poor accommodation given to the art therapy group.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Kew the autumn and through the postbox

On Sunday we took a trip down for one of our semi regular visits to Kew Gardens.
I was surprised to see a blue plaque that informed of Camille  Pissarro having stayed  at one of the houses on Kew Green (just by the Anthony Worrall-Thompson restaurant).
Through the post box 1
Pissaro (1830-1903) was a great impressionist artist who influenced many others including Van Gogh.
You can see paintings of Kew (and other places) by Pissarrro here.

On the subject of Art great podcast on the definition and alignment of 'Arts' from the philosophy podcast people - if you've got 15 minutes or so take a listen ( Listen to Derek Matravers on the Definition of Art) hearing this led me to the  Tracey Emin on the Desert Island Discs archive a very bright and open woman.