23 May 2017

Drawing Tuesday - Petrie Museum

Two men in a boat caught my eye -
 I like how they become shadowy, among the sails-
 To fill in the final few minutes I drew pots, or rather jugs, using indigo inktense pencil and ivory black derwent watercolour pencil. The aim was to add water and see what happened, but I struggle with the waterbrush and left that step till I could use a proper paintbrush -
But I had started with this bit of carving from a tomb which had traces of colour, and a lovely little "teapot" under the table -
 Carol spent the session depicting a vista of crowded vitrines -
 Sue did several drawings on coloured paper - good idea ...
 Apologies for the paleness - Michelle's terracotta doll is a striking shape -
 Mags brought along her "pot-coloured" pencils; see her other drawings on her blog -
 Extracurricular activities -
Sunsets from Mags' holiday in Greece, juxtaposed with details from a finished quilt

In her current City Lit course, Sue made drawings through cutout "windows"
and experimented with materials

22 May 2017

Walking London - Pimlico to Westminster

Walk London is a network of walks accessible by public transport, and London's transport organisation, tfl, has a programme of free guided walks on three weekends a year - in May, September, and February. Events book up fast; when I booked, all the "country walks" were already full, so I went on a "city doddle" - and it was ever so interesting.

Guides Ian and Katie gave just enough information at each of the stopping points, and had portable loudspeakers so everyone (there were 40 or so in the group) could hear. The sun was shining, which is a bonus - even on rainy days the turnout is good.

Of course I took a photo at every opportunity - here are a few of the highlights.

At Pimlico, a ventilator shaft by Eduardo Paolozzi (1982), using motifs from the construction of the Victoria Line -
 Pimlico is the only station on the Victoria Line without an interchange.

Nearby, an illustration of building patterns in the 1700s - stucco for the most expensive; brick upper stories for the middling sort; and all brick for the humble dwellings.
The fake windows were not mentioned - was it to make a nice facade, or to avoid window tax?
 The nearby estate, built in the 1980s, follows Cubbitt's designs 150 years previously and is built on land that was derelict since a flood in the 1920s -
 The fountain is reminiscent of the "sturgeon" motif used for lamp posts along the embankment in the 1870s by Vuillamy.

The social housing of Ponsonby Place is intersected by John Islip street - one arm has been privatised and the other, juding from the black door furniture being replaced by brass, and the better upkeep in general, is starting to go that way -
 Round the back you can see the remnants of the moat around the former Millbank Prison -
(via)
The prison was built in 1821 and demolished in 1892; street layout of the estate on the site follows the lines of the prison blocks.

Also on the prison site is Tate Britain - here, showing bomb damage from WW2, which cannot be repaired because it's part of the building Grade II listing.
Sir Henry Tate made his sugar fortune, we were told, by buying the patent for making sugar cubes - before that, sugar had to be chipped off a block or cone. He was an art collector and wanted to give 65 of his paintings to the National Gallery, but they said they didn't have room ... so he built his own gallery, which was opened in 1897.

Also Grade II listed is the Millbank Tower - 32 stories, built in the 1960s and now about to be developed as luxury flats and a hotel - with a three-story art gallery space -
Behind it you can see where MI5, the homeland security agency, is based. Trinity House and Noble House were built in the 1920s-30s and mirror each other -
It is said to have an excellent canteen - which keeps the spies and spooks from chatting about work in any outside eateries and being overheard.

From Lambeth bridge you can see the new American Embassy behind the trees on the right, and two enormous towers being built on the site of the (now old) New Covent Garden market, which has moved half a mile down the road.
The "cigarette" building has 50 stories of luxury apartments - a one-bed on the 10th floor will set you back £750K or so. It's been called "a stark symbol of the housing crisis". To its left is MI6 headquarters, which until the 1990s had its HQ  at a "secret" location that was "irredemiably insecure" because of the garage, and its petrol, on the premises.

Across the river, London Fire Brigade's art deco HQ are being redeveloped but will include a fire brigade museum -
White Hart Dock lay derelict for many years until an art installation was added in 2009 -
 Round the corner, the Doulton factory building with its amazing tiles was covered in scaffolding -
Under the railway and round the corner, Newport Street is changing, especially the railway arches, whose rents have quadrupled recently - this is the "last garage in Vauxhall" -
 Across the road is Damian Hirst's large art gallery, once a scenery store - it went in and out the huge door -
 Round another corner, this building is rumoured to be the HQ of the metropolitan police CCTV unit -
 It's not far from Old Paradise Gardens, a former burial ground, back in the day when the now-deserted Lambeth High Street was lined with shops and amenities. The gardens received the new gates in 2013 -
They include inscriptions from gravestones and details of plants found in the park.

On the embankment, the benches show (if you look closely enough, above the back foot) the name of their donor - Henry Doulton -
A memorial to the Special Operations Exective,  agents recruited for their language skills working undercover in WW2, 117 of whom were killed, was unveiled in 2009 -
The bust is of Violette Szabo, "young, brave, and beautiful".

Victoria Tower houses the papers of the House of Lords and is taller than Elizabeth Tower, which houses that most famous bell, Big Ben. A three-year refurbishment of the Houses of Parliament means that Big Ben will be silent for a while -
A question - why was HP sauce (yes, named after the H of P, and with the picture on the label) reputedly known as "handkerchief sauce"? It's not in my notes... but some digging on the internet reveals that the name of the originator was Gartons - read the name backwards...!

Last stop was outside St Thomas's Hospital, where the 1972 fountain, by Naum Gabo ("Mr Strings") is an animated version of one of his linear sculptures -
 Down, down, down (3 escalators) to the Jubilee Line at Westminster station, opened in 1999 -
... thinking ahead to a bit of gardening.

21 May 2017

A good day for gardening

Off we went to the garden centre, with such an array, such choice of potted blooms -
Red-hot poker primula and scabious

It's so easy to spend £££....
Geum, fuchsia, spirea, etc, etc
Filling the back of the car -
Salvia, convulvulus, etc
 Finding temporary places (on the gas meters, why not) and thinking about where they will be planted -
At which point it was time to head off into town for a Walk London event - a short walk encompassing the history of the area along the Thames between Pimlico and Westminster. The perfect way to spend a couple of hours on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

I couldn't wait to get home to get on with that planting. Priority was the pot beside the front door - for safety's sake it was bolted down first -
 And here it is, planted up and settling in -
Fuchsia [Tom''s choice], geranium [Gemma's addition], bacopa [for trailing]
Windowboxes might get done tomorrow, shouldn't take long - I leave most of the plants in their pots, so they can be easily exchanged once their blooming is over.

20 May 2017

Of coffeepots and sharp scissors

This page in the latest RA magazine caught my eye -

Why a picture of a coffeepot? Oh, an article on Matisse - his own coffeepot? William Kentridge has a coffeepot, a bialetti, he's using it in one of his animations - that is, in the animation the man, who looks very like Kentridge, is pouring and drinking cups of coffee. Do other artists have attachments to coffeepots? Will keep an eye out ...

In the interests of having a clear space under the coffee table, I had just put some recipe pages from 1996 magazines into the recycling bin (that is to say, magazines published in 1996, though I suspect if all the magazines squirreled away in hidden places in my cupboards were to be collected in one place, and counted, there might well be 1996 or so).

Back out of the bin with those pages and find some scissors and Have A Play. Cut freehand ... what to cut ... ah yes, a vase like the one on the coffee table, another vase, a cup, some fiddly candlesticks [invent a method to get them symmetrical], and of course the coffee pot that's across the room next to the kettle. Thoughts of drawing kettles in the Draw-Paint-Print course at city lit last year... how good it was to have that precise focus.

There's something so nice, so ... homey? ... about a kettle, coffeepot, etc. And cups ... favourite mugs ... but I digress.

It's taken longer to process the photos and write the blog post than to cut the shapes and arrange them - which was "just play".  But I felt some sort of record was vital ...


It's hardly great art - just playing, remember? - and the few minutes spent immersed in doing it has got a few new ideas jiggling around between head and hands. Love the spontaneity and surprise of "drawing with scissors", and the "oh it doesn't matter, just start again" feeling.  I also love how the handles and spouts make the pots into "people" - or rather, how the groupings become little stories in themselves.

19 May 2017

Christopher Le Brun in conversation


Paul Coldwell was asking the questions and making the conversation flow at this event at Chelsea College of Art. I'm a big fan of Paul Coldwell - the crit he gave the book arts group at Camberwell was packed with "things to pay attention to" and his work is fabulous too. Christopher Le Brun I knew less about, but recognised his name as a former President of the Royal Academy.
Le Brun's paintings are not small (via)
... and he's made some big prints - each sheet of Untitled (1986) is 760x1120mm (via)
... but prints in his Fifty Etchings series measure 178x131mm (via)

Horses appear often in his work - "Union" is outside the Museum of London (via)
LeBrun works in different media and someone has written about that ... different disciplines require different concentration and speed. (That made sense at the time, which is why I wrote it down...)

I was also struck by talk of "not-knowing" as a way of looking at the world. In my own experience, sometimes you draw something without knowing what it really is, eg a diseased bone without knowing what a healthy bone looks like, and all you can do is draw what you see. Also I'm thinking of how the early astronomers drew what they saw through their telescopes [some wonderful drawings of Mars in the 19th century] and how that influenced not only what they then "knew", but also what other observers subsequently saw.

Of painting Le Brun said - "Touch - colour - that's what we do."

He advocated putting in "a little kitsch" - for "recognition", natural connectedness.

Touch again when, after working in etching studios and with printing technicians, he started handprinting his woodcuts with a spoon.
from Seria Luda, 2015 - each is 76cm x 56cm (via)

His small etchings need being close to them to show "a world of detail" - it's "akin to reading".

Asked how he inspires himself, he had two suggestions - "hold on to your innocence", what's driving you, what did you first love? and "read and read and listen and think and read and read" and then go and "put colour down".

Le Brun's website has (hidden among the Works) some interesting quotes from interviews, eg:

'I’m highly aware of painting’s layered-ness, what is in front and what is behind; and when you make a sculpture, you can walk around it, so you see the consequences and get in amongst the layers. It has really striking consequences. Like the dark side of the moon – an image that previously only ever had one aspect is then shown to have unexpected potential. '
(Christopher Le Brun, in ‘Interview with CV 16 May 2010’, Interviews: Artists, Patterns of Experience Recordings 1988 -2011, 2011)

18 May 2017

Poetry Thursday - The Trees in Tubs by Kathleen Raine

The Trees in Tubs

Little laurel trees, your roots can find
No mountain, yet your leaves extend
Beyond your own world, into mine
Perennial wands, unfolding in my thought
The budding evergreen of time.

          (from Collected Poems, 1956)

Kathleen Raine (1908-2003) "was a poet who believed in the sacred nature of all life, all true art and wisdom, and her own calling. She knew as a small child that poetry was her vocation.
William Blake was her master, and she shared his belief that "one power alone makes a poet - imagination, the divine vision". As WB Yeats, her other great exemplar, put it, "poetry and religion are the same thing". To this vision she committed not only her poetry and erudition, but her whole life. She stood as a witness to spiritual values in a society that rejected them." said one obituary.

"She had high-minded tastes, among them for such disciplines as neo-Platonism and Jungian psychology, and lamented what she described as the materialistic sensibility of the modern public.", said another.

Her first book of poems, Stone And Flower, was published in 1943, with illustrations by Barbara Hepworth.

I found "The Trees in Tubs" in this book, published in 1989 -
The book has been with me a long time - since May 1996, according to my annotation of when it was bought. It travelled to Canada one year, intended but not given as a gift. I'm glad to have it still. 

17 May 2017

Works in progress

A scrap of silk organza is turning into stitched "chimneypots"

Another scrap made these three

Always in progress - my little garden has self-seeded foxgloves.
This is the view from the stairs as I get out my door key

The view from the street, on approach, shows that the honeysuckle is coming out