Thursday, 29 December 2011
This is a new museum designed by Zaha Hadid. I was keen to see the building, which has had rave reviews. It is a success but the building takes an elegantly low profile. The space is used to display over 3000 transport-related objects, many of them full-size, though I did not see any aeroplanes! Perhaps there were some upstairs.
The museum is a wunderkammer, crammed with wheeled and floating transport old and new - carriages, cars, trams, huge locomotives, ship's engines, and much I did not see. The organisation was definitely "post modern", in that there was no historical theme or particular way to view the exhibits. Just plunge in and enjoy! However everything was carefully, briefly, and interestingly described. Not just for petrol-heads by any means.
Very many of the most spectacular objects had been made on the Clyde, and they were a powerful reminder of what has been lost within a couple of generations. For example, this enormous steam-engine which was used in South Africa for many years. All the wasteland area now surrounding the museum was once dockland and ship yards, and not so long ago.
Best of all, a Clyde-built tall ship was moored outside and it was possible to visit, view the living quarters and imagine the conditions of the crew and see the huge hold. A fascinating video (1920s?) with a voiceover by an ex-sea captain shows the extreme hardships of life at sea. Brilliant.
Tuesday, 27 December 2011
Can collage by Gillian Lowndes
fibreglass tissue, sardine tin, forks and other materials
Gillian Lowndes was a "radical and original ceramic artist" way ahead of her time. In the late 1970s she was using a bricolage technique, fusing together, often in multiple firings, a huge range of materials: "including house bricks, fibreglass tissuem, Egyptian paste, nichrome wire, domestic utensils, dried loofahs and latex, among others". This approach was inspired by time spent with her partner in Nigeria. On their return "The rich textural surfaces of the materials themselves ... quietly filled her imagination".
She described herself as "a materials-driven artist" and her work as "material-based objects, not pre-planned objects".
This information is, sadly, taken from her obituary (19.11.10) in the Guardian, written by Amanda Fielding.
Monday, 26 December 2011
Kauto Star flying at Kempton on Boxing Day
On Christmas evening I was driving home when "plop" "crunch" - the exhaust came off the car. I had to abandon it in a lane. Nothing to be done. But next morning, Boxing Day, I enjoy walking the two miles through the country to meet the car recovery vehicle.
I notice a vast flock of crows gathering on the fields where I used to keep my pony. What is the purpose of their gathering there? Perhaps some complicated social ritual for these intelligent creatures, or perhaps they are seeking shelter from the gale. In summer that is the place where the lapwings nest.
The wind is so strong that it is a struggle to stay on course, but as I walk, ideas and solutions to problems arrive in my mind.
I meet the friendly guy with the pick-up truck, he kindly gives me a lift home, half an hour later he phones to say that I forgot to give him the car key! Meanwhile off he goes on his rescue duties. I am forcibly stranded at home until he is able to pass this way again. No problem, I can spend time at home enjoying the unaccustomed peace of this time of year.
I can watch Kauto Star the beautiful racehorse striding out to win his fifth King George prize. What a sight. Nothing simple in that, of course, it is huge tribute to the skill of his breeders and trainer and rider that he is able to achieve this at the age of 12.
Eventually 7 hours later the rescue man reappears looming out the dark in his vehicle and I hand over the key. I retire to my study to review the past year and sort out papers, Bach on cd player. I fear this will all sound either sad or smug according to your interpretation, but I guess there are some who will understand.
Without thinking about what I feel.
I try fitting words to the idea
Without going down a corridor
Of thought to find words.
I don't always succeed in feeling what I know I should feel.
My thought swims the river only quite slowly,
Heavily burdened by clothes men have made it wear.
I try divesting myself of what I've learned,
I try forgetting the mode of remembering they taught me,
And scrape off the ink they used to paint my senses,
Unpacking my true emotions,
Unwrapping myself, and being myself ...."
Translated from the Portuguese
With thanks to Jane-Anne Shaw who sent me this poem 11 years ago!
Monday, 19 December 2011
Wuthering Heights, on the other hand, is mostly "silent" except for the natural sounds of animals and the countryside and weather. With a few human voices. This, together with the strong photography and brilliant recreation of a harsh Yorkshire farm on the moors, makes for a very realistic atmosphere moving in its bleakness, particularly when Heathcliff is cast out of the family to live in the cattle byres.
The first part of the film is very slow moving, focussing on the relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy, with very many long lingering moments of Heathcliff's profile and Cathy's beautiful round sensuous face. I was not entirely convinced by the strength of this relationship. Newman is really good at portraying young people very powerfully and sympathetically, but I do not think she captured the "soul connection" that Bronte claimed between this couple. We do not get to know Heathcliff as a young man. He is silent much of the time and we have to interpret his expressions. I did not find either character particularly sympathetic.
The environment is overwhelming, both the moors and the farm. It seems much larger than either Heathcliff or Cathy, and in fact Cathy's brother and father seem much more a part of it. Although the photography is very good, the natural world is over-romanticised. Too much lingering again on details such as trapped moths, sprigs of heather, and on splendid landscapes.
The issue of class is also confusing. Cathy is considered the equal of the family in the big house even though she "runs wild". How does this fit into the strict religion of her father? Even as a farmer's daughter she has some fine horses to ride. Reference to social context is similarly confusing - what for example had Heathcliff been doing between his sad departure from the farm and his confident reappearance as an adult?
The fact that Heathcliff is a black man in this film adds to the complication. Newman may be making an effective comment on contemporary Britain, but it is also a cliche to match the Heathcliff character with such a powerful and nonconformist part. Bronte's Heathcliff is the classic "other".
Newman wanted to portray Heathcliff and Cathy as victims of prejudice and of their own passionate feelings. For me these feelings came over as nothing more than would quite naturally occur between two children playing on the farm. More cruel and real was the treatment of Heathcliff by Cathy's jealous brother.
I suspect that Newman is more suited to working in a contemporary urban context, where we recognise meanings and can read the characters immediately - and learn something from her fresh, informed and radical outlook. I did not learn much from this film.
Finally, hey, it is Christmas time! Why do I choose to go to a movie with not one moment of humour or lightness? Because it has had great reviews and this was a rare chance to see it, that's why.. But I have to confess that ultimately I was not able to sit through the whole thing. Just too dark and depressing and a little bit dull.
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
The movie is about the making of the Fifties film "The Prince and the Showgirl", starring Olivier and Monroe, but more deeply it is about Marilyn as a wholly instinctive actress, and the insecurities she experienced both because of her lack of formal training, and because of her traumatized childhood.
At one point, Olivier acknowledges her great presence on screen, and remarks how much pain she must endure as such a completely intuitive performer. But at the beginning he tries to bully her into following the usual rules, with absolutely no success.
Lovely portrait of an artist.
Monday, 5 December 2011
Rose Macaulay, in her magnificent book, "The Pleasure of Ruins", describes the satisfaction of ruins and the catastrophic element they symbolise:
"The literature of all ages has found beauty in the dark and violent forces, physical and spiritual, of which ruin is one symbol. The symbols change; the need does not. Oedipus, Clytemnestra, Atreus, Medea .. all the atrocious horrors of Greek drama, of Seneca, of Dante's Hell, of Tasso, of the Elizabethans and Jacobeans - these have a profoundly ruinous and welcome gloom" (p. 20)
Of course, humanity has not changed, we only have to watch the tv news or go to a multiplex movie to understand that. But difficult to accept that such a need exists, probably in all of us.
Johannes Itten wrote in his book "The Art of Colour"(1961), when discussing analysis of colour theory, that if "unthinking"is your way, then that is the way to work.
Reading the recent obituary of the Czech poet and translater, Ewald Osers, I was reminded of this remark. Osers write that for him, translating poetry was a natural aptitude he could not define:"I don't believe that translation theory has ever helped me to translate.....Without conscious effort a translated line ... would stand ready in my mind."
This, too, reminded me a little of J.K. Rowling's story about how the idea of Harry Potter "dropped into her mind" on a train journey to Scotland. I am definitely no Rowling/Potter fan, but I have to acknowledge the meaning of the work for many.
Saturday, 3 December 2011
I am so impressed by many of my fellow exhibitors. Here are two I particularly like.
Rag Rose (www.ragrose.co.uk) makes exquisite brooches and other accessories from beautifully made fabric flowers. This maker has a brilliant sense of colour and the photo only gives some idea of the quality of her work. The website is more helpful!
The Reworkd Workshop (www.reworkd.etsy.com) uses components from old manual typewriters to make into jewellery such as necklaces, pendants and cufflinks. These are SO clever and witty. I have been wearing one of their pendants since August! It is just a simple typewriter key with the letter "D". I love it.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
He calls it the IKEA novel, "competently written in a simulacrum of fine writing", but unfortunately it is "not original, and not distinctive, and with an inner vision of humanity ..it was invented to please a market and to make money."
What would have become, asks McCrum, of Heart of Darkness or Ulyssess in such a world?
Observer Review, 13.11.11
I passed GSA today and saw how demolition teams are tearing down the ugly modernist blocks opposite Charles Rennie Macintosh's sublime Art School.
Quite a sight, and one that must pluck a heartstring or two, considering alll the labour, angst and creativity that has gone on in these studio buildings. Do buildings contain memories, as some believe?
Monday, 26 September 2011
This week I tried out modelling wax over an armature made from wire, wood and bubble wrap padding.
Lovely medium to work with, yay! This little horse is about 200 mm high. He is watching his human friend (not modelled!) hence the rather hesitant and focussed stance.
Saturday, 17 September 2011
The photography is marvellous. I confess that I will have to read the book or watch film again to totally appreciate the plot.
A rather different scene this morning in my town - the annual Orange March. But much lighter in spirit than it used to be. I did not see any grim-faced men wearing orange sashes and bowler hats. All respect to them, but this was a chance for the young musicians to march to and fro through the streets cheering everyone up.
Thursday, 15 September 2011
I am beginning to enjoy this way of working. Now I see the horse in a different way. He is becoming a bit more bulky and I am going to increase his "top line", in horsey parlance. At the moment I have just placed a strip of bubble wrap on his neck to see if it looks better. I definitely think it does, so I will work from that. He is an Andalusian breed of horse, and they have muscular necks. When they are well trained and ridden, that is.
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
I am using a new material to coat my horse sculpture and make it permanent. As it is made of wire and plaster it is fragile and needs this strong coating to preserve it.
But using this stuff is a completely new experience, with its own "logic" and texture. After the first application on part of the horse I came back 2 days later to find lumps and hard edges set rock solid. Well, that is what I want, ultimately, but in more controlled form!
Also, the fibre content creates a special hair-like surface very like a horse's coat. And if I remove sections of fibre for any reason I find it pulls out like a horse's tail or mane.
It is a whole new relationship. I will have to be patient and listen. As Bernard Tschumi, the architect, remarks (and this is true for sculpture as well, I am finding):
"Architecture as the materialisation of forms not ideas. For me, the nature of materials is far more important than formal concerns. The materials introduce a new logic... construction is a form of constraint that is extraordinarily fertile for invention."
Monday, 12 September 2011
This makes sense to me.
Saturday, 10 September 2011
.. whatever that means. But I take it as the endless hunt for definition or feeling of completion or arrival. Such feelings can only be fleeting but satisfying anyway.
I am currently reviewing my time at art school, the memories of confusion and anxiety are terrifying, but that is as it should be when one is trying something new and/or different.
Meanwhile I am loving the three-dimensional things I am doing (see pictures - currently coating this piece with a resin that will make it more permanent!). I am certainly a material person. Thanks to all those who have supported me in this.
Very sorry I have not got to visit anyone in Perth Open Studios this week. I remember how valuable it was when people came to see me in my studio during Forth Valley Open Studios during June. There has just been such a lot of essential paperwork and forward organisation to do after Edinburgh Fringe and ahead of October break and Christmas season.
Damien Hirst has turned his attention to horses and created a huge sculpture of Pegasus. One side of the horse is flayed to show its anatomy, the other is white and perfect.
Hirst has done other dissection sculptures, notably of a male toy figure and a pregnant woman. I used to think his work pretentious and wrote an entire dissertation to this effect in my final year at Glasgow School of Art.
Now, 10 years late(r), I am beginning to get it. I also am fascinated by what lies under our skin and that of animals.
Thursday, 8 September 2011
Postscript 10th September: They're back!! But there was a weird emptiness the other day.
PPS 15th September. I saw a cat in the garden. That's why they all went quiet.
Wednesday, 7 September 2011
This Japanese clothing company makes wonderful stylish and simple clothing. They can be found on www.uniqlo.com, but at present their website is a bit overloaded because they are launching a new collection designed by Jil Sander. So it might be better to try after a few days.
I have bought heat tech vests from them and worn them practically everyday, winter and summer. For cold weather just layer them and you will be warm and feel comfortable.
They have many stores in London, perhaps other parts of UK too, and also a good on line service.
Another vanity is the sense of equality with famous celebrities. I am now a follower of @Frankie Dettori. Soon I shall try @Cheryl Cole and, probably, @Prince William! But @Robert Peston was my very first choice and that brings me to the most important role of Twitter, that is as a source of information!!!
Zoe Williams of the Guardian writes about the absurdity of tweeting about David Walliams while watching him swimming down the Thames. "To borrow from Audrey Hepburn" she says "it is like drinking coffee through a veil" .. when nothing is "real" unless mediated via facebook and/or twitter! Though actually I myself prefer life as mediated through the "veil" of the printed word!
Sunday, 4 September 2011
Andrey Kurkov (above) and A.D. Miller were speaking (26th August) about their recent novels, which are centred on contemporary Russia and Ukraine, and in particular the endemic corruption.
Kurkhov is a Russian now living in Ukraine. He spoke about his experiences as a writer under the Soviet regime and the need for undercover publishing. His new book, The Milkman in the Night, is an absurdist novel about ordinary and poor people in Kiev trying to make their way in the world by extraordinary devices.
A.D. Miller is English and spent several years in Moscow as journalist for the Economist. His novel is called Snowdrops, a misleadingly lyrical title. "Snowdrops" is actually the term used for the frozen bodies of homeless and other unfortunate people which emerge in the cities when the snow melts. The subject of his book is a young Englishman and his encounters with the corruption of Moscow and in particular two Russian women.
The discussion was chaired by a representative of the EBF, gave both writers the opportunity to read short extracts from their books, and to talk about their personal experiences and their impressions of the Moscovian and Ukrainian society. The discussion was delightful, very witty, anecdotal but full of knowledge and experience. Both loved Russian literature, compared their thoughts about Dostoyeysky, Gogol, Babel and others. A real treat. It is impossible to convey how very enjoyable and refreshing this evening was.
Saturday, 3 September 2011
Conceptual artist Martin Creed, formerly best known for the Amazing On and Off Lightbulb Experience at Tate Britain, which won him the Turner prize, has gone very material with this reconstruction of an iconic flight of Edinburgh steps. Each step is a different kind of marble (I hope I am correct in that, it is what looks like), and that is saying something, for there must be about 60 steps and 4 or 5 landings. Best viewed wet through whatever cause - well, there are quite a few pubs round about as well as a lot of wet weather.
This interesting artist from USA is showing at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. I really liked her ideas and her work because she uses random found markings from the street, any street, anywhere, traces them, overlays them, and creates drawings and paintings from them. The photo here is a large scale piece, not entirely typical of her work, but I liked it. Speaking if her working methods, Calame remarks that she thinks, "but thinking not like thoughts more like experiences"
I went to see the work of this wonderful Japanese photographer in Edinburgh this week. The main part of the exhibition was a spectacular series of "light drawings" made by generating electrical discharges onto film. Sugimoto uses a Van den Graff generator with a discharge wand of 400000 volts to create the "artificial lightning". The question he asks is: "Are these artworks or primal lifeforms?"
He also experimented with very old negatives, 160 years old, by the first photographer, Fox Talbot, and enlarged them greatly. The results (no image available here as light too low in gallery and I was photographing surreptitiously anyway) were ghostly portraits of long gone people, much more haunting than the developed photograph would be. Of these works, he says they express "inner phenomena that painting cannot depict".
Sugimoto is known for photographing architecture. Of modernism, he approvingly says that the abandonment of superfluous decoration was a great step. He photographs modernist masterpieces such as La Savoie by Corbusier with a very soft focus, finding that "superlative architecture survies the onslaught of blurred photography". I will add a photo here at some point. I have his book of architectural photographs.
He did a series of portraits from the wax figures in Madame Tussauds. Only one example was shown here as part of his earlier work. The wax maquette of Henry VIII was meticulously based on Holbein's contemporary painting. Here is Sugimoto's translation, apologies for the blurred and snatched photo, already small.
Wednesday, 3 August 2011
... in July I visited this year's Serpentine Pavilion (Hyde Park, London). Designed by architect Peter Zumthor, it is simply a large wooden rectangular shape with deep overhanging roof on all four sides. This wide roof also provided shelter in the courtyard and created a powerful sense of shelter and comfort, with echoes of the cloister. The wild garden, designed by Piet Oudoff, counteracts the severity and simplicity of the space. Zumthor says "Plants embody everything that I like to have around me: presence, personality, character. They are supple and therefore strong, and yet soft-spoken and gentle; they are fragrant and delicate; they have movement, colour, structure, scale and proportion..."
Tables and chairs lined the walls and provided a completely pleasant place to sit and socialise, with a quiet noise level, looking out onto the sky and the earth, while protected at the same time. Deceptively basic and very effective.
Tuesday, 2 August 2011
(some OK things about this paper after all, it seems). He explains how neuroscience and other forms of research are showing how deeply we are affected by architectural space. In a lab in Los Angeles he gets wired up and placed in front of various different virtual rooms. This experiment shows how much more stressed and depressed he becomes in a small space with low ceilings.
Which is exactly the kind of living accommodation in so many new build housing estates in the UK. We also have the lowest overall size of house in the Europe, apparently. This kind of building frequently economises on the window size as well. Dyckhoff does an experiment in his extremely light flat in London. The window walls are covered with sheets of card which let in the same ratio of light as an average estate home. He spends a week there, measuring his mood, which predictably shifts rapidly downwards.
Yet when we look for houses, the main factors featured are often the number of rooms, not the amount of light or the proportions of the rooms. It need not be like this, according to Dyckhoff. There is no reason why more people-friendly homes cannot be built for exactly the same budget. Watch out for the next programme, Monday nights.
Sunday, 24 July 2011
By chance heard about today's walk across Morecambe Bay Sands in Lancashire. I was driving north from Cheshire to Scotland, and liked the idea of this. So I made my way to Arnside on the coast, together with about 600 other enthusiasts (and their dogs in many cases) and we all set out together out into the Bay - at low water of course!
This area is 35 square miles in size, and when the tide flows, it covers the bay in 30 minutes, making it a most dangerous spot. Today's walk was in support of the Bay Search and Rescue Team, who use amphibious vehicles. Our leader Cedric Robinson, is the Queen's Guide to the Sands (so named after he guided Queen and Consort over Morecambe Bay in a horse and carriage). Cedric is a retired fisherman, and has written his autobiography entitled, "Sandman". Have a look on amazon to find out more about him.
Before a walk he carefully explores the lie of the sand. The sands can shift each day and each moment. Even as we set out today, our route was uncertain and we zigzagged our way to and fro to avoid deep channels of water or soft patches of sand. We could not avoid crossing the outlet of the local river, however, and as one our large group surged across this water. The water reached nearly to my waist and I am 5'5" tall. It was quite dramatic.
I did not have my camera with me (less to carry) so only have these snaps of the river estuary taken on my way home. We walked about 10 miles plus, I should think. It was wonderfully refreshing and therapeutic to splash about in bare feet over the sand, especially after hard week's work at Slaidburn YHA as temporary warden. A real day off!
Thursday, 14 July 2011
To British Museum this week, saw this superb Roman sculpture of a young man riding his horse. It is a masterpiece of harmony which exactly shows the rapport between a horse and rider. The young man is calm and relaxed, the horse is following his rider's gaze and is equally poised and relaxed, while ready to respond instantly.
What a privilege it is to have one's eyes suddenly open to an artwork and its quality. Only possible after much effort expended in the studio attempting to express some of my own feelings about the horse.
Sunday, 3 July 2011
Given myself a weekend off to regain balance and sanity, fantastic. Yesterday to a village near to Edinburgh, where, with a group of like-minded people and the help of a tai chi master, I spent the day practising my tai chi. It took half a day to get into the mind- and body-set, but so healing once it started to happen. My residual aches and pains, caused by tension and anxiety, mostly, melted away. So thanks to all and especially to Dorothy and Dharmamudra. It was wonderful.
Today to Fife and time sitting in the sun watching a charismatic and knowledgeable horse teacher in action with a group of riders and horses. In the blazing sun, equipped with insect repellent and sun cream, fairly blissful just to relax and watch this, without even the stress of having to ride myself and face my inadequacies as a rider. Plus, beautiful horses, especially this one. Insects had bitten her in girth area, so this is why she and rider are practising dismounted! Sun was so strong I could not see camera images on my phone, which is why they are a bit far away. Thanks to all concerned.