26 February 2015

Gone home to roost?

In preparation for the next Fourth Plinth commission, Katharina Fritsch's Hahn/Cock has been removed; it was unveiled in July 2013. The new commission, Gift Horse by artist Hans Haacke, will be unveiled on 5 March. Get a sneak peek here - brace yourself for a very different kind of equestrian statue.

Poetry Thursday - "Sixteen" by Brian Patten


Sixteen, Rimbaud and Whitman my heroes
"PS I Love You" playing in the loud caf├ęs
In a Canning Street basement Adrian Henri
Painting The Entry of Christ into Liverpool
Adrift in an attic, in an ark buoyant with longings,
A map drawn by Garcia Lorca open before me
There was nothing that was not possible
Nothing that could not be reinvented
Ah poetry, at sixteen
Words smelled of tulips and marigolds
Their fumes made sentences
That the bees stole for themselves
- Brian Patten, 1962 from "Jubilee Lines: 60 poets for 60 years" ed Carol Ann Duffy (via)

Brian Patten was born in Liverpool in 1946 and educated at Sefton Park Secondary Modern School. He began to attend and perform poetry at various Liverpool venues, during which time he met Roger McGough and Adrian Henri. In 1962 Patten began to publish his poetry magazine Underdog, in 1967, along with Henri and McGough he published The Mersey Sound, followed by his first major solo poetry collection Little Johnny's Confession. In 1970 published his first book for children The Elephant and the Flower. His many published works include various anthologies, including Love Poems (1981) and Storm Damage (1995), and works for children, as well as extensive writing for the stage, television and radio. He has won several awards and now lives in Devon. 
His archive was acquired by the University of Liverpool in 2007, with the archives of Adrian Henri and Roger McGough. It is complemented by manuscript and printed collections for other Merseyside writers, such as Matt Simpson, and such major literary figures of the 20th century as Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.

25 February 2015

"Exploring Art & Medicine"

First session of a course, run through Mary Ward Centre and tutored by Lucy Lyons, that takes us to places that the public usually doesn't get to go ... but then, how many of the public like drawing medical specimens? Some people are revolted by the thought of "diseased things in jars" and anatomical models, and in fact one person in the class found it all too much - so numbers are down to danger level in terms of the course continuing. If you'd like to join the class, please do so here!

Next Wednesday we'll be at the Pathology Museum of the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, NW3 (class runs 2-5pm) and after that at Barts Pathology Museum, the British Red Cross Archives, Gordon Museum of Pathology, and finally the Old Operating Theatre, SE1.

Today we were at the Hunterian again, looking first at some paintings that were in Hunter's collection - depicting "otherness": a Malay woman, an Inuit woman, two Cherokee men (racially "other"), and also people with disfiguring conditions - dwarfism, endocrine disorder, skin pigmentation conditions -
The art area (via)
Piebaldism (via)
Daniel Lambert (via)
It was Count Boruwlaski, a Polish-born dwarf (1739-1837), who caught my eye (and could dance while playing the guitar, even in old age); he certainly got around in the courts of the day, giving subscription concerts, and at one point met Daniel Lambert. He eventually went to live in Durham, and there's a life-size statue of him in the town hall there.
Drawing from paintings is strange - you'd think it's easier than drawing from 3D objects, but somehow there's less freedom, and perhaps you're your own worst critic of the accuracy. Also, the pencil leaves out much of what a brush full of colour can put in.

I used to use pen all the time, rather than pencil, but even though I don't bother with erasing, doing this with a pen seems a step too far at the moment. (Must have a go...)

Next we looked at "the Irish giant", Charles Byrne, who was 2.31m (7' 7") tall, and betrayed by his undertaker - he wanted to be buried at sea but his corpse was sold to Hunter for £130 -
I was intrigued (or distracted?) by the shadows above his head, overlapping shadows of ribs cast by the bright little lights at floor level -
We also looked at the skeleton of "the Sicilian fairy", Caroline Crachami, allegedly the smallest person in human history -
Double portrait by Alfred Edward Chalon (via)
In the same room was a necklace of human teeth brought from Egyptian Sudan in 1889 by the explorer Henry Morton Stanley, which interested me more than the bones of this sad exploited child (now recognised as having Seckel syndrome) -

The Corryvrechan Tapestry

One of the memorable sights of Edinburgh, for me, was totally unexpected and hanging in the new wing of the National Museum of Scotland -

Obviously by Kate Whiteford - those are "her" colours, "her" shapes - it turned out to be the Corryvrechan Tapestry, woven in 1997 by the Edinburgh Tapestry Company at Dovecote Studios.
Here's a little photo of it being woven, to give you a better idea of its scale -
and on the museum's label are the weavers, with the artist -
The text on the label reads, in part:

"This tapestry was commissioned as part of a scheme to integrate contemporary art into the Museum of Scotland displays. The title of the work refers to the notorious whirlpool to the north of the island of Jura and draws on the artist's fascination with signs and symbols of ancient civilisations.

"Whiteford feels that the tapestry 'reflects the potential energy of both ancient and modern cross currents in the Museum and in contemporary society'. The design highlights links between the Museum's collections and the building, for example the runes at the base of the tapestry refer to our archaeological collections."

Of course I had to buy her book -

24 February 2015

Tuesday is drawing day, wherever you are

Last Tuesday I was enjoying Edinburgh - and aiming to fill a new little sketchbook -
I realised, on the way to the train station, that my all-purpose black notebook was still lying on the ironing board, a silly place to leave something important - who checks their ironing board before leaving for a holiday? Fortunately there was a Paperchase at the station, with a selection of unlined notebooks - despite the many pages, it came at a good price (£3.50). The brown paper wasrather seductive....

After trying out a few different media on the first few pages, I found myself using the soluble graphite for the rest of the book. And developed the aim of filling the entire thing ... which meant I had to "draw like the wind" as we moved around various museums. Coffee shops gave more leisure, but how many coffee cups do you want to draw?
Hmm, always room for improvement... handles are tricky!

Looking back through the hasty pages, a few of my favourites - sometimes because of the ambience and experience and object, rather than the outcome -
Wall of hats at Roseleaf pub
Wonderful deer skeleton (from behind) at National Museum 
At a drawing exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery
Looking south from the flat, with Edinburgh Castle at centre top
That view, for "real"
Waiting for the train to leave Waverley Station
Of course there wasn't always time to draw, or you simply lost the energy to even write a note, so I have a camera-full of images and their labels ... to look at once, and then leave to clutter up the computer??

Still digesting these intense experiences. It will be a nice change of pace to sit quietly and contemplate the object and draw it slowly (there's no hurry to fill the large sketchbook!).

19 February 2015

Poetry Thursday - Vase by Yang Lian


a word eradicates the world
a feather
drifts down

and yet, a bird’s nest
in each of its fragments
preserves the whole

Yang Lian, translated by John Cayley (via)

Yang Liang (b.1955) had an education interrupted by the Cultural Revolution (1966-1977). Working in the countryside, he began writing traditional Chinese poetry. Back in Beijing, he became involved with the group of poets writing for 'Today' (Jintian) magazine, becoming one of the founders of the "Misty" school of poetry and skating on controversial thin ice to the point of a warrant being issued for his arrest. He escaped and now has New Zealand citizenship, and has lived in London since 1993. 

17 February 2015

Tuesday drawing - stained glass gallery, V&A

A gallery not just of colour but also of considerable bling - all that church plate ... and this enormous casket...

This glass from Fairford church in Gloucestershire, made in London 1500-15, "spoke to me" -
So many missing pieces, like a very old jigsaw puzzle! (It's the avenging angel, or what's left of him.) And it was as difficult to fit together right as any jigsaw puzzle. At this point I nearly gave up -
and at this point, after much erasure, too -
My comment is "recognising when spaces aren't the right shape & not in relation to others - but not knowing how to fix it". Starting again might have been the best course? I added some colour (karisima pencils, no yellow) and got this -
And moved on. Intending to collect a few "typical medieval" motifs, I started with the blue rosette and got carried away by the interlocking colours around it -
 so the placement on the page is awkward, and you see only the hand of St Stephen - the focus is on the faces of his listeners -
The glass was made in Germany in 1260-80. Stunning; that wonderful blue...

One of Sue's drawings was this Head of the Patriarch Semei from Canterbury - also very old, and the glass such wonderful colours -
whereas Janet found some "new" glass, designed by John Piper in the 1950s -
In the original panel, and the photograph on the V&A's site, it's not easy to make out the figures of St Peter and St Paul or even of Christ in the middle; the glass was hard to photograph, but you can see a good image here.

Follow-up/research ... looking at more medieval stained glass on line, finding faces
Stanford-on-Avon (via)
and the companion piece to my Avenging Angel -
The apostle Matthias (via)
the latter in an article about the restoration of the two panels, which along with the rest of the glass in the church "escaped iconoclasm but not the weather" - " in 1703 a storm badly damaged the upper part of the great west window and several windows on the south side of the church. These were subsequently repaired, using the fragments that had been blown out and replacement glass, but in the middle of the nineteenth century further interventions were made which were responsible for the removal of the V&A's figures."

For museum display, the clear glass needed to be painted to mute the light from the lightbox behind, and various mediums were tried; glass paint mixed with water and 20% gum arabic was chosen, to be painted on the back. Also, a colour needed to be chosen: "Tests showed that a mix of brown, green and black provided the right level of colour to make the clear glass recede and the medieval glass stand out. It also intensified the colours of the medieval glass, adding to the dominant effect ."