Monday, December 11, 2017

Planting, Snow And Cars

Last week I put in pots some Broad Beans, Peas and Garlic and on Saturday some Narcissus  and  Anemone bulbs in the front garden for some Spring colour.

Selection of bulbs for planting

The border planted

Garlic (from the shops not the garden Centre)

Then 10th December the snow (and debate on why England can't cope with it).

I popped out with my Camera and here are some pictures from round West Ealing
My allotment shed in the snow (plot 202)

St John's West Ealing
A Christmas Card in the making?


On Friday I was chatting with a somewhat 'Senior' woman and cars cropped up as a topic of conversation - she said that she couldn't really see driver-less cars catching on, well I'd earlier taken my own car in for a service, it's about 20 years old and while I was in that 'car' frame of mind I looked at a modern car (I'm going to replace mine soon) - it'd got all sorts of tech, camera for parking - Bluetooth and the like so I can see it happening, if my next car lasts as long as this one has I expect it'll be driver-less and electric too.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

CityLit's looking at Paintings course -Getting to the end

Tate Britain - it's beginning to look a lot
like Christmas  

This Wednesday we were back at Tate Britain for the penultimate group (City Lit Looking at Paintings  course) - Tate Britain has got a great Kitsch-y Christmas look and it was nice to there (less Crowded than National Gallery).

Generally the course has run along the theme of Genres but there's also been a less defined underlying chronological undercurrent and with these last two sessions (next one is at Tate Modern) we're coming (almost) up to date.
Julia shows us a 'near' abstract

So first of all don't get me wrong I do like Tate Britain but there are times when I'm struck by the fact that certainly after the Pre-Raphaelites and before the British Pop Art there was a period where most of what came along did not do it for me - much of it looked downbeat and  was concerned solely with the artist - so it was that what we looked at on Wednesday might have been of significance but was (I'm sorry to say) for was not exciting.

A story of Lizzie

[By the way interested to see that there's a book about the somewhat tragic Lizzie Siddal a muse and model to many of 'The Brotherhood and lover of Rossetti].

We did look at an example of British 'Quasi Surrealism' by Meredith Frampton called 'Trial and Error' which can also be read as a Still life Momento Mori. Meredith was the son of celebrated sculptor George Meredith.

Trial and Error (1939)

We did look at some Walter Sickert works and I do like his paintings but he is almost an honorary European, spending much of his time in France and being the son of a German-Danish Artist.

Sickert was a somewhat restless artist associated with Camden Town Group latterly much of his work was derived from Media images (often The Press) like the picture below of Miss Gwen..., who was a famous actress.

This use by Sickert was long before it became the 'vogue' to use Mass Media in works of Art as Sir Peter Black and Andy Warhol did in the 60's.

I am looking forward to (I hope) seeing more examples of Sickert when I visit the National Portrait Gallery with a City Lit  course in 2018.

[There were stories that Sickert was in fact Jack the Ripper - not sure how much salt is needed with that!]

Late Period Sickert - Miss Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as Isabella of France (1932)

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Taylor Wessing Prize at NPG

An answer to painting?

As I started to write this must say I was rather surprised to find that it's about 3 years since I went to see the winners of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait competition at London's National Portrait Gallery.

The good news is that I think the quality this year  is even higher than before and the subjects yet more engaging.

Goodness how the judges choose - technically they all brilliant to me - but the ones I especially liked were:

1) Fleeing Mosul by Abbie Trayler-Smith (it got second prize) despite the sad subject the work is beautiful and so painterly, the colours are out of this world.

2) Minecrafting by Hania Farrell is another photograph that really did it for me, what was great about this one was the way it referenced works like the recently viewed (by me)  Velasquez's Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (also seen last year).

And the third picture (and a big part of the reason I made the journey into town) was the really exciting...

3) 'One of them is a Human..' by Maija Tammi - what's so exceptional about this is that it's a portrait of Erica (an android) - Tammi is a Finnish artist who has worked and studied in America as well as Finland.

The idea of taking pictures of an Android seems almost a visual 'Turing test' and alerts us to issues that will become more and more applicable as technology progresses.

To be honest the visit to this exhibition really livened me up and made me enthusiastic to make more photographic  experiments myself.

[I was also intrigued by how many of the Portraits' had the subject so centrally]

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Christmas Spirit & Dysfunctional Gov't and Misleading Ministers

We need you Santa

Nice to see some genuinely tacky Christmas lights (thanks Alan Kane) at Tate Britain today - it might be tongue in cheek but it was making people smile..

Be great with a dusting of snow

Nice with a bit of snow

And not making people smile ...

Get a Grip

OK I'm of the view that we'd be better off in EU but my 'beef' at the moment is the mess Theresa and the Tory Ministers are making - any CEO doing as much damage as our PM would be marched off the premises with her belongings in a black bin bag - we keep thinking it can't get worse and then it does

I'm wondering what on Earth happens in the Tory cabinet meetings - obviously no holding David Davis to account or discussions on Brexit (or so Philip Hammond has indicated) - - I guess it's important things like what biscuits they should have and EU decisions are left to Rees-Mogg and failed Tory leader/Loon I D-S?

In a past life I was for a while a union rep and did some negotiating - it was necessary to communicate with colleagues present a united front and have a plan - we've none of these and got people like Crispin Blunt blaming EU negotiators for us not knowing what we want.

Please Please (as they used to say on BBCTV's Points of View) get your act (and team) together Mrs May.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

National Gallery Mop Up

National  Gallery in the November Sun

Well last Tuesday was the final visit to London's National Gallery for the rather excellent 2017 CityLit Course, Looking at Paintings  (still two more lessons to go but at Tate Modern and Britain).

Having visited the 'Genre's as proscribed by the French Academy  it was bit of a 'mop up' of works looking at the truly impressive Ambassadors by Holbein (complete with its own Memento Mori skull), the satisfying Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of  Martha and Mary by Diego Velasquez (nice how this connected with last week's painting of 'Fire' by Joachim Beuckelear ).

Paolo Veronese's 'Four Allegories of Love
So much to see
Little messages

Amongst the Paintings we'd not captured so far were  The Ambassadors (Holbein) was the most impressive, we also spent time looking at  Paolo Veronese's 'Four Allegories of Love' which I wasn't too sure about.

The painting is not helped by the deterioration of the smalt  and for me  it would be good to see them all  as they should have been exhibited (high on a ceiling).

Animals -Stubbs's  WhsitleJacket 

Also good to see Martha and Mary having a sulk - Velasquez 

We were also interested in Animals and Stubbs's  Whistlejacket from 1762 - oddly this painting doesn't look at all dated (perhaps because of the lack of background or other objects/people save for the horse) - Although the fashion was to show jsut the animal I can't help but wonder if it's finished.

George Stubbs was born in Liverpool and lived to the ripe old age of 81.

We took a look too at the floor mosaics at the Gallery entrance (not strictly paintings!) they are by the Russian born Artist and Poet Boris Anrep, the mosaics show 'The Labours of Life, The Pleasures of Life, The Awakening of the Muses and The Modern Virtues'.

One of Anrep's mosaics

Monday, December 04, 2017

At Tate Modern (and Ben Wilson again)

Kevin plays on the swings 

Every few months on a fairly random basis I meet up with Kevin who is an 'old' school friend who I have known for nearly 50 years - Kevin and I have both developed the pleasurable habit of exhibition visiting so it was that last Thursday we spent the greater part of the day at Tate Modern chatting and looking.

Being a 'Friend of The Tate'  means I get the chance to visit (with a guest) all the 'paid for' exhibitions throughout the year at all the Tate venues - Tate Modern currently has two shows, Modigliani the Italian Jewish artist  who died tragically young at just 36 and an exhibition that looks at the Art of Soviet Russia   - Red Star over Russia.

The impressively enormous Turbine Hall is currently the perfect place to arrange a meet as you can watch from the swings that are part of the 'Anywhen by Philippe Parreno'.

After a cup of coffee in the Member's Lounge it was time to look around the popular works on show from  Modigliani- paintings and sculpture were available - Modigliani abandoned sculpture (noticeably African influenced) as a result of the bad effect it had on his health as a Tuberculosis sufferer the dust from the stone seriously aggravated his condition.

On until April next year

Part of the interest in Modigliani is that he was active in Paris at the time of Picasso (and he was in the same crowd) along with other Artists who were breaking new ground in the arts -Looking at his work  I felt that he was perhaps a bit of 'a one trick pony', the work on show was mainly figurative portraiture some of nudes (An early exhibition of his was closed to to the sexual nature of his work).

A great view across a brilliant city

After Modigliani we had a very acceptable snack lunch and then took in some of the new Tate Extension' things like the work of  Marina Abramovic which generally  generate provoke discussion if not unreserved admiration & the view from the top was particularly good in the late November afternoon.

Red Star Over Russia 

Challenging in many ways

The exhibition 'Red Star Over Russia' looking at Soviet Communist  Art was a very different proposition confronting a failed (most I think would say)  Utopia tinged by Torture, Mass Murder and the sublimation of the intelligentsia- Lots of examples of Propaganda  and early  mass media manipulation (Trotsky being removed from news photographs for example) - I'm not too sure that this was an exhibition for Tate Modern and certainly the comments posted outside made clear the subject and angle was not for everyone - this 100 years anniversary has a lot to answer for -  all major Museums it seems feel that they must  'comment in some way' -despite my own misgivings I do recognise that it is  important that we pay witness and observe in the hope of avoiding similar tragic mistakes in the future. 

Lightening the mood (Ben Wilson)

An example of Ben's work

After the Propaganda exhibition a walk across the Millennium bridge was areal mood lifter as we got the chance to see Ben Wilson - Chewing Gum Artist  in action (again)  - he's a lovely friendly man who despite the cold keeps his commitment to his own particular mission on the bridge - Nice one Ben.

He's really approachable and was very happy to chat and have his photo taken.

Ben Wilson, Chewing Gum Artist  and Inspirational Mood Lifter 

Sunday, December 03, 2017

It's RHACC now (and another Ms May)

A selection of my 'Craft/Art'

The Saturday that's just gone (yesterday)  and I was at Richmond Adult Community College - recently merged with Hillcroft it's become RHACC (which for me is a much a less memorable acronym).

I was there last year and quite enjoy it despite making a small-ish net loss I hope to do it again in 2018.

Neat Table Top Easel

The 'Fair' gave me a chance to use my new Table Top Easels that I got via e-bay -I'm really please with them the Essex 242.

Plenty of visitors but perhaps not close enough to Christmas for people to be panic buying (as yet) - there's often voices at this sort of event that feel that if they were on a different stall or nearer something or other perhaps they'd sell more - I'm not sure what the secret formula is but I do have respect for High Street sellers that shift product.

This week there's been plenty of news about US President Trump and is (it seems) ill advised Tweet regarding Far Right UK political group - seems he tweeted to Theresa May (but the wrong one) - I was entertained to find that there's another one too at RHACC responsible for safeguarding.

Another Theresa May 
The Ex-Students were in the Theatre 

I was labelled as a 'Fine Art Photographer'  -I love the place

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thames Water and How should we build a life?

Please- he's gone already

Really annoyed that Thames Water continue to send post to someone who live here more than 20 years ago - not for the first time I've returned letters asking them to remove form the database - expect an explosion (literal) if any further arrives in this style- it serves to  remind me how Thames Water continues to act as badly (or worse) than a state monopoly in so many ways

A Life in the making

But The Good Life is not won by 'Degree'

Interesting to hear Micky Flanagan on  Desert Island Disc recently -quite a different background from mine and a few years younger but what he spoke of resonated - insights were there too, particularly around schooling.

I guess if I was asked to reform the UK's state educational curriculum my focus would be on preparing people to live a 'full life' rather than train them for employment - to be fair for most of my education (as a child and an adult) employment has felt peripheral even though the 'state' may have wished it other.

Be great if more focus was on where I child's interest lay and that practical were accommodated (one of the best things I got was from being a Cub Scout where I learned some basic cookery) and looking after oneself physically and mentally  - other stuff could be learnt as needed, people I know train themselves in Astronomy, History and Gardening because they want to- not just to pass a (stupid) exam, a lot of UK education system is training to pass exams (and not therefore much use  in later life).

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

BBC radio Tony Benn in the chair ( The Joys of Radio)

John Peel was a great Radio Star
Oh the joy or Radio...

Although the Buggles sang that 'Video Killed The Radio Star'  I'm not so sure - there's something special about a great radio broadcaster.

In the psychiatrist's chair was a very good radio format for an in-depth radio interview - perhaps on  a par to that of the  legendary (John) Freeman hosted TV Interviews - Face-to-Face.

At the w/e I listened to an archive edition of the Radio programme which featured Tony Benn.

What came through for me was not only how much Benn had been influenced by his parents but also how important structure had been for him in the achievements he had made- he did at times feel overly serious and moralistic but the life he led it seems followed a clear moral Calvinistic compass and contrasts strongly (I feel) with those in politics now.

[Also enjoying the Andy Zaltsman series on Philosophy - My Life as .. that's currently running].


What it is

Tony Benn was very much an anti EU politician - Dunno' how he'd feel as the chaos seems set to continue with David Davis M.P. Playing (Is he really?) 'The fool' Liam Fox MP  (the man to secure the new export  deals) and rumours of Russian meddling - this and Trump are setting a strange background for the current times...

Monday, November 27, 2017

Walthamstow, William Morris and a Borough of Culture

Last week I and a friend from a previous CityLit course met at the  William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow - of late we've met up fairly regularly to look around exhibitions and museums - it's great both in terms of the visits and the chats that we have.
A former home of William Morris 

This time our trip was to look around a house where the renowned Socialist William Morris lived - we've both been before (me about 4 years ago) - it was really good and as was subsequently pointed out to me May Morris (his daughter) is often overlooked but her life and talents are shown here and were of great interest to me.

A Plaque on the house

The London Mayor's initiative to promote a Borough of Culture (which has created interest in my home borough of Ealing) is also creating some traction in Walthamstow as well.

The idea of the Gallery is I suppose both to celebrate the man and his work - previously it had not really registered that he'd done so much in his 62 years - interesting too to learn that Jeremy Deller was also a fan.
The Borough looking to its heritage 

Looking at the work I was a little underwhelmed by much of the design and philosophy that implied all could aspire to it but the final part of the exhibition made clear that Morris recognised his privilege but wished for others to have what he did - he spoke at demonstrations, made speeches and wrote supporting his Socialist beliefs - I was won around.

Walthamstow is after the £1m too

The Brexit Budget Statement  & The Archers

Am  I the only one to see the current Radio 4 Archers stories as an Allegory against Brexit - who are Matt and his cohorts if not Messrs Farage, Gove and Co?

[Oh yes I think Auntie Chris could be Mrs May - the one who ran through a farmers field!]

Well of course I could be wrong but on a different tack nearly a week on from a barely noticeable Tory budget but a clear statement on the anticipated UK economy performance along with reports of dodgy dealing from those seeking influence with British voters.

So David Davis MP shows his discomfit by  spams of  awkward laughter suggests to the EU negotiators that they should not put  political posturing ahead of the economic good having been part of a campaign based pretty much on this sentiments seems rich but it's not only Davis who is out of his depth Dr Liam Fox racks up the air  miles (without his adviser friend) trying to get countries like NZ and Australia to replace the trade whole created by Brexit  (and in the meantime blaming UK exporters for the mess we find ourselves in).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

At the National Gallery with 'Still Life'

Well the working through genres of painting has brought us to this - Still Life.

Winter at the National Gallery 

Intelligence from the 'academy' (French Intelligentsia in this case) is that Still Life is a lowly form in the world of painting so I think Julia from CityLit  who conducts our  education in Painting  sugars the pill - providing the chance to look at works that are far more than just Still Life(s) - the plural is problematic and so I suppose is the classification.

We did though look at a painting that fit the classification with no ifs and buts -  A painting by Jan van Hysum - Flowers in a Terracotta Vase - the hidden story in a painting like this is that the flowers shown would not all exist in bloom at the same time and it is the artist's work to create a new piece of art that shows this - so perhaps we're seeing something beyond just a still life even here?
Flowers in a Terracotta Vase 

The painting also shows the artist's skill in the way elements are shown 'suspended' mid flight at the base of the vase.

Other paintings that showed the riches of everyday life included Joachim Beuckelear - The Four Elements (around 1570), these paintings though do not just show rich still life subjects - they include portraiture - particularly the 'servant class' as they make purchases for the household but also more subtly parts (in the background) of a biblical narrative - Mary, Jesus and Joseph on their flight into Egypt, and the return of the prodigal son for example.

Beuckelear was from a family of Dutch artists in the 16th Century he worked often in still life genré and  and was hugely  influential  on its development.

Fire (Jesus with Martha and  Mary in the Kitchen)

Water (Jesus appears after the Resurrection)  
Earth - shows the riches from the land

Air  shows produce that we'd now call game and has the (drunken) Prodigal son on a cart in the background 
Caravaggio was also no slouch on showing fresh produce as we saw in his painting Supper at Emmaus - which always impresses me with (what I now know) is a tour de Force in foreshortening  
What a meal to have been present at 'Supper at Emmaus' (1601)
We also saw a sub-type of the genre which is all about the unavoidable mortality of life - Vanitas Still Life by Jan Jansz. Trek.

Vanitas -Still Life  by Jan Jansz. Trek (with that odd full stop) he worked in the 17th Century