23 July 2014

Ancient trees

From Nineveh - murals from the palaces of Sennacherib (630-620 BC) and Ashurbanipal (c.645BC); now the Assyrian reliefs are in the British Museum.

 Outside the museum, trees look much as they always did -

22 July 2014


The British Museum is famous for housing the Elgin Marbles. Rather less well known are the marble columns that are part of the staircase in the extension at the north side of the building (King Edward VII galleries), opened in 1914 -

Huge columns, sparsely - and mysteriously - veined. How many times have I walked past them and never seen them? I noticed them after spending a little time drawing the profuse veining in this marble jar-
Minoan, 2500-1800 BC; about 10cm high

21 July 2014

Monday miscellany

Suzie Chaney often uses plaster and burnt paper for her sculptures (via)


Love this "diamante poem" by a 6th-grader (via)


If you like to see a city from "up high", here's a guide to viewing points for London. Last but not least comes Greenwich Park - great view across to Canary Wharf, and it's free.


Coming soon to the Euston Road - these electronic eyes will be on the Wellcome building.

"The Wellcome Trust has set up two massive pairs of eyes in the windows of their London headquarters to watch over Euston Road and react to people passing by. The artwork, ‘Eye Contact,’ by Peter Hudson is a video installation made from real footage taken from the eyes of 68 volunteers. The giant screens then recreate digital eye-scapes that consist of over 650 coloured pixels, lit by 16,000 LEDs. These are programmed to change throughout the day — rolling, staring, flirting — before they close at sunset when the building goes to sleep. And if that’s not weird enough, the eyes are set to pop open if anyone passes by at night."


"The Bartolomeu de Gusmão Zeppelin Airport located in the neighborhood of Santa Cruz in the western outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, inaugurated on December 26, 1936 by President Getúlio Vargas.  Before this day the rigid airships were docked at Campo dos Afonsos, where probably Le Corbusier landed [when he visited Rio for the second time, in 1936]. 

"Between 1931 and 1937, Deutsche Lufthansa had regular flights between Germany and Brazil, operated by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin using its rigid airships Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg. As a consequence to the Hindenburg disaster on May 6, 1937 at Lakehurst Air Naval Station in New Jersey, USA, the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin requested to the Brazilian Government on June 17, 1937 the suspension of services. 

"The hangar is the only original surviving example of structures built to accommodate this kind of airships in the world."  (source)

20 July 2014

Art I like - Shelagh Wakely

"An influential British artist" is how Camden Arts Centre describes Shelagh Wakely. And she has done many public commissions, including designs for buildings in Knightsbridge. Yet her name, her work, was unknown to us.

What a treat to discover it! She worked in many media - glass, gilding, thread, wire, unfired clay, plaster, ink on cloth, video ... and drawing, many working drawings for the interesting objects and grand ideas.
Working drawings, and a display of unfired clay objects
Ink on unprimed canvas
Gilded fruit and "ghosts" of cherries
Silk jackets in which fruit was left to dry
Gilded fabric on floor, freshly gilded fruit on trolley (a melon has exploded)
I bought the book and look forward to reading it ... and returning to the exhibition. Too much to take in all at once.

"Art is about adventure, not about making objects to decorate museums," she said. Nor are her objects to be found in museums - everything was packed up in a shipping container, and it was the task of the gallery team to unpack the container and arrange the fragile objects. And to remake the "turmeric floor" -
Curcuma sul travertino, Rome, 1991 (via)

Sadly lost

19 July 2014

Still stripey

(click to enlarge) 
Recently, more and more stripes have appeared on the daily painting. Every now and then I try to amalgamate some of them.

In today's version, some of the colours underneath still show a bit, and the dark stripes have been made into slivers -
This project has been going on for quite a while now, and I'm amazed at how much I look forward to getting into the studio and "doing something" to the canvas.

Now that I'm happier about using paint, it's all about the overpainting, about impermanence, about not needing to know what's going to happen next.

I'm not all that pleased with today's version ... it's rather reminiscent of a type of striped pyjamas I particularly dislike ... and despite a lot of repainting the balance needs further tweaking - but I did what I could with the three colours I squeezed out, and hey, it'll all be different tomorrow...

More slip-dipping

Even though the weight of the slip makes the cloth sag, the pleats stay in

Combining metallic organza with a non-metallic synthetic organza

A few stitches hold the two types of fabric together

Paper helps hold the shape while the slip dries

Centre - fired clay painted with porcelain slip (wonder what will happen...);
front - drinks-cup band punched, folded, sewn (this will be fragile, I think)

Some of the dipped fabrics

... and the rest of the objects

18 July 2014

Out of the kiln

Very exciting to see the first of the slip-dipped textiles -
Metallic organza has discoloured the porcelain
The folded papers had stitching of various sorts to help them keep their shape -

A couple of beads made of wool wrapped around a paper core, then slip-dipped -
Sequin pins were stuck into the paper before wrapping with wool

17 July 2014

Poetry Thursday - I'm Nobody! Who are you? by Emily Dickinson

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –  
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –  
To an admiring Bog!

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) left 40 handbound 'fascicles' of nearly 1800 poems, which she assembled by folding and sewing five or six sheets of stationery paper and copying what seem to be final versions of poems. The handwritten poems include a variety of dash-like marks of various sizes and directions - which were removed by early editors. In 1981 the original order of the poems was restored, thanks to detective work among the smudges and needle punctures by Robert W. Franklin. The "non-meaningful marks" have been the basis of Jen Bervin's "Dickinson Fascicles" (she is interviewed about new formats of poetry books here; "Artist books are so far ranging; I sometimes wish our conception of poetry could be more so," she says).

16 July 2014

Late in the day

16 July ... it's a resonant date for me ... birthday of my only child ... so there is much preparing of cakes and food going on...

And then the actual eating and drinking.... a Salade Nicoise, spicy bean balls, butter bean salad, and something with cucumbers and olives...

Followed by a lemon and almond cake...
and far too much rumptious jollifciation of he vinous kind throughout...

15 July 2014

Bank of England museum

"The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street" is one of the sobriquets for the Bank of England. Designed by Sir John Soane in 1788 as a one-storey building, it had to be enlarged (1925-39) and is now seven storeys. A very few bits of Soane's design remain, the secure exterior especially - the wall is 12 feet thick in places -
In the entrance to the museum is a mosaic - perhaps by Boris Anrep (his mosaics installed in 1955 have now been moved to a different building) -
At the foot of a 7-storey staircase - elsewhere in the building - is a Roman mosaic, found when the basement was excavated during the 20th century rebuilding. Another Roman mosaic found on the site was acquired by the British Museum in 1806.

An enthusiastic school group of 14 year old boys in blazers and striped ties were also visiting - wonder how many of them will be the bankers of tomorrow?
Displays cover the history of the building and its important people, and the history of British currency.
The 1994 £50 note showed a Bank Gatekeeper [a job done by women in WWI) and the house on Threadneedle Street owned by the bank's first governor.

Among the "curiosities from the vaults", a small temporary display, were these gold bars, one a Coronation tradition, the other minted in the Roman empire -
On the opposite end of the bling spectrum, a bundle of one-rupee notes, bound together to be used for larger transactions; they (it?) were washed ashore from a WWI shipwreck -
Also curious was a selection from the exams that prospective bankers (or rather, clerks) took in 1906 as part of their recruitment - the £.s.d. arithmetic seemed fiendish, and the geography would flummox many a student today - wonder how those lads would fare -
"Divide £739 11s. 11d. by 556." 
"A bankrupt pays 13s. 6d in the £, and his assets amount to £1,458; what is the amount of his debts?"
"A man sold £7000 3 per cent. stock at 90 and invested the proceeds in a 4 per cent. stock at 108. What was the change in his income?"

"Name in order the seas and straits which a vessel would traverse in sailing from Dover to Sebastopol."
"Trace the course of the following rivers: - The Loire, the Mississippi, the Rhine, the Seine and the Vistula."

Pix of the bank itself can be seen here (and elsewhere) - including the gold vaults!

14 July 2014

Monday miscellany

Pattern-making with the colour dictionary
(while using it to find colours for a painting)


"We live in a time when we are inundated by images: pictures, language, videos, stories, music, bodies.

"99% of those images are made for one reason: to get you to buy something. We artists are responsible for that tiny sliver of images that can be made for every other possible reason: cultural, spiritual, political, emotional.

"In an age of image overload, this is a sacred responsibility."

from Making Your Life as an Artist by Andrew Simonet - available as a free pdf download here.


The "top 20" animal sculptures in London  don't include my favourite, the horse by Dame Elizabeth Frink on Piccadilly. (Perhaps the fact that it has a rider takes it out of the category "animal sculpture"?) Pigeons foul it, passers-by and coffee-drinkers ignore it ... but it gazes out as though something requiring attention has just occurred.


I'm fascinated by the search terms that lead people to my blog. "Milk in my mind" - ?? - had to check that out - and found an image I recognised, from a post called ... Milk on my mind ... 

Google's selection of images for that search term was rather dire - what better test of my theory that "there's always something interesting to be found" than to find that "something"? So I idly kept scrolling till this came up - wow -
It turns out to be granite (from here) - "Art! Made for you by millions of years of life!"


Drat, missed it


It's been 30 years since smoking was banned in London Underground trains (9 July 1984). I well remember the nastiness of having to go into a smoking carriage when the non-smoking carriages were unsqueezable-into. And smoking was banned on platforms in 1985. But it took till the King's Cross fire of 18 November 1987, and the death of 31 people and life-changing injury to many others, for people to take the smoking ban seriously.
1970s photo by Bob Mazzer
A smoking ban on buses followed - 1991? - it used to be that the top deck held the smokers (and you're still expected to take your dog up there). It took a while for some people to understand "no smoking" and my early-teenage son worried that I'd get beaten up by someone "dying for a cigarette" after telling them off.

Mainline trains became totally smoke-free in 2005.

And now when someone comes inside from a smoke break - smelling like the Underground used to - it's such a nostalgic thing ... (not).