03 December 2016

Walking by water

Waiting to change trains at Clapham Junction on a crisp and beautiful day ... watching the flickering shadows as the invisible people move along the platform -


Wednesday, 30 November 2016
Start time: 10:25
Easy 7.5 miles / 12.1 km
Group South Bank
A flat waterways walk following the Thames Path to Kew and Richmond Lock, crossing the Thames to have lunch at Isleworth - pub/picnic. Then the route is along the Capital Ring through Syon Park and the Grand Union Canal to finish at Boston Manor.
Along the path and through the leaves

Lots of rowers out on the water

Glimpse into Kew Gardens

Obelisk in the Old Deer Park marks the Kew meridian, at one time
used to officially set time (later taken over by Greenwich)

Photo-op for a glimpse of Isleworth

Crossing the river at Richmond Lock

In old Isleworth, "a small town of Saxon origin"

The sundial at All Saints Church was restored in 2013

Looking over the fence at Syon House

Interesting structure along the Grand Union Canal, part of Brentford Boatyard?

Lux, calme, et volupté

Heading home

South Africa: art of a nation

The South Africa exhibition at the British Museum is introduced online by some nice little videos. 

I took notes and drew little pictures in my notebook, the pictures getting ever smaller and sketchier.... I don't have a clear grasp of South African history and the exhibition made me want to know more, to put it all into context. Kruger, Smuts, the Boer War ... so much that was so far away from where I went to school; we learned nothing about it. There were nine Xhosa frontier wars, for heaven's sake.

What sticks in my mind is the leather sandals made by Ghandi while imprisoned, and given to General Smuts on being set free; in 1939, as Ghandi celebrated his 70th birthday, Smuts wrote to him that he'd worn the sandals during many summers, and felt humble to be wearing the shoes of such a great man ... or something like that. 

Also, the ballot paper for the first election - I counted 19 parties, and for each the picture of the party's logo, and photo of the candidate. But even so, quite intimidating! People were so proud to be voting....
Partial 1994 election ballot (via)
There was old art and new art - a pebble collected by an Australopithicene, 3 million years ago, because it had accidental markings that made it resemble a human face; it was not a type of rock found in the neighbourhood. Think of that, 3 million years ago... the Makapansgat pebble -
The Makapansgat pebble - an example of early curiosity (via)
New art - lots of it, it swirls in my head and nothing singular appears. Ah, Karel Nel's work - the two ochre squares, red ochre and white ochre -
And conceptual artist Willem Boshoff's Bad Faith Chronicles (explained here) - 11 panels, each with a bible in one of South Africa's official languages -
Detail from Bad Faith Chronicles

02 December 2016

01 December 2016

Poetry Thursday - from Psalm 107, King James Version

JMW Turner, Ship in a Storm (via)

Psalm 107:23-31

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
24 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end.
28 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
31 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

"We who go down to the sea in ships" suddenly popped into my head in relation to the eye trouble last week. Having ready access to a specialist hospital is the secular version of "putting your trust in the Lord" - and having faith in the knowledge and skills of the staff. 

It was such a pleasure to look for and choose an image for this post. I had this one in mind (it's in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) - the guy in the sky is St Nicholas, he of the many miracles -
Medieval art has many ships, and storms (and other delightful diversions). But when it comes to ships and storms, Turner wins, hands down.

30 November 2016

Is it time to break an old habit?

The sewing machine has been out on the table for a couple of weeks now, and I've used it to start some journal quilts. Having the laptop on the ironing board is working well -
During that time, papers seem to have built up into a few heaps. It's getting out of control.

Solution: simply consolidate the heaps -
 ... and deal with it "tomorrow".

Which dawned sunny and energising. I started sorting the papers -
Only to find there are still four heaps - how does that happen?!

Since doing the foundation art course (2009-10!) I've been saving all the explanatory bits of paper collected at exhibitions. Often they are useful in writing a blog post about the show ... but really, they serve no purpose beyond that. Why would I look at them again, unless to sort through and throw out?

Throwing them out can't be done wholesale. I'm in the habit of recording things, and have become lazy in not writing in my notebook, and not blogging every show I've seen. Some of these need to be pinned down. (Or ... do they ...)

Does it matter? Does all one's history need to be retrievable? something to ponder... At the moment it seems better to say less about more, eg one image and a link per exhibition, "for the record" - some, let's face it, are amusing for a moment but leave no other trace. Others, you tell yourself you'll visit them again and have a closer look and deeper think ... but you never do, somehow.

Lack of focus? Trying to do too much? Losing my way? Not sure ...

I love a clear desk and will be tackling those papers again today. Perhaps by sweeping them all into the bin, after all. Because I'd like to get the sewing machine back onto the table - this has caught my eye, or rather I've suddenly looked at it afresh ... it's been sitting right there beside the screen all the while -
Is this the final JQ for 2016? It's nearly the right size, just needs a nice border to get to 8"x10". It has orange and green bits, and can easily acquire purple. It's almost ready to go.

It's time to clear off not just the table, but that design board. If not now, when?

29 November 2016

Drawing Tuesday - Natural History Museum

The Blue Zone at the Natural History Museum includes this gallery of mammals, especially whales -
It could certainly do with a good dusting! Just look at that grey layer on the head of the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus). What makes the big head on this whale are the containers; the case holds spermaceti, which hardens to wax when cold, and below it is "a tissue-filled chamber that also contains high grade spermaceti oil.  The tissue and oil in this chamber are collectively called junk, but that name is unfortunate because of the high quality of oil that is rendered from the contents of the chamber" (via). For the whale, what does spermaceti do? - scientists still don't know; maybe it alters buoyancy. (A sperm whale eats, literally, a ton of food a day - 907kg of fish and squid.)

"Sperm whales were mainstays of whaling's 18th and 19th century heyday. A mythical albino sperm whale was immortalized in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, though Ahab's nemesis was apparently based on a real animal whalers called Mocha Dick. The animals were targeted for oil and ambergris, a substance that forms around squid beaks in a whale's stomach. Ambergris was (and remains) a very valuable substance once used in perfumes." (via)

But I digress; back to drawing. First, swimming with dolphins -
Then, skeleton of the right whale -
The North Atlantic right whales are very rare, only about 450 left in the whole world. Their big mouths are filled with plates of baleen, up to 8 feet long, which act as filters. The whale lifts its tongue, opens its mouth, fills it with water, closes its mouth, drops its tongue, and expels the water through the baleen, leaving the plankton and krill behind. Scientists don't know how the whale swallows. During breeding season they eat over a ton a day - 2600 pounds.

I didn't know that when drawing -
Didn't quite manage to get the entire whale on the page ... but Janet K showed how to overcome the page-size limitation with her grey whale (another endangered species) -
and Carol tackled the grey whale too -
Joyce, Sue and Mags drew a huge coral (thanks to Najlaa for the photo) -



Mags writes about hers here

 Finally, elsewhere in the museum, Najlaa found a Red Powder Puff by the Bauer Brothers -
Afterwards I wandered around the museum and had some "close encounters of the bird kind" -
and noticed that only one of the old-style display cases was left in the Birds gallery; is it, too, doomed? -

28 November 2016

Recent exhibitions

Stumbled on Maria Nepomuceno at Victoria Miro in town - floor and wall based sculptural works incorporating clay vessels and straw braid weaving. The artist is Brazilian. It's on till 7 January (and the way the gallery's door opens is ... interesting ...) -

Really exciting - the colour, the shapes, the materials all working together - we stood in the middle of the room and whipped out our sketchbooks! In all the other exhibitions visited, I took no photos, reckoning they're likely to be on the gallery's website, or elsewhere online.

Abstract Expressionism at the RA - rather a lot of it, and not my favourite art movement ever. The "Violent Mark" room was great, Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell, and some artists new to me, Jack Tworkov and Conrad Marca-Relli (known for collage). Two huge Sam Francis paintings in another room caught my eye - well, they dominated the wall space, and were vivid orange and blue! Revelation of the day was David Smith's early sculptures, before all the 3D boys had to use big sheets of thick metal to be taken seriously.
Franz Kline, Vawdavitch, 1955

Robert Motherwell, Wall Painting No.III, 1953

Conrad Marco-Relli, The Passage (L-L-12-61), 1961
David Smith, Blackburn, Song of an Irish Blacksmith, 1949-50

Not sure if this one was in the show -
Hudson River Landscape, 1951
Richard Serra's drawings at Gagosian Davies Street, till Dec 17th (his sculptures are at the bigger space near King's Cross, till Feb 25th). The use of etching ink gives them a low-level rugged texture.

Ed Rusha's paintings at Gagosian Grosvenor Hill (till 17 Dec) are about form and size - the form of a word is fixed, but its scale is not - but this doesn't hold when words are arranged in a system, when they observe a scale in which the size of the word-as-image corresponds imperfectly to the size of the word-as-concept.
The camera came out again for the fun paintings by Holly Frean at Paul Smith's shop on Albermarle Street -
Sheep, dogs, baboons - go to her website for more images of her work

A detail