31 July 2015

Alexander McQueen at the V&A

Well done, V&A, with the Alexander McQueen exhibition "Savage Beauty". In the last week, advance tickets have all been sold, queues for day tickets are long, opening times have been extended till midnight ... and there have been queues at the membership desk, people becoming Friends just so that they can go see the show.
Ever-lengthening queues to become a V&A Friend and have access to the exhibition
As a Friend I've been to the show several times with different friends. Is it heresy to say that, first time I saw the exhibition, I didn't enjoy it? Crowded, dark, hard to read labels, too much to take in ... especially in the (crowded) "cabinet of curiosities" room -
But in subsequent visits the novelty had worn off and it was possible to see, to take in, more ... to revisit favourites, to look closer, to see things that had gone unnnoticed ... this head-dress for instance -
See lots more photos at fashion.telegraph.co.uk.

These "wearable" jackets were among my favourites -
whereas Plato's Atlantis, the final room and McQueen's final show, left me cold -
The "japanese" collection was full of interest - beautiful fabrics, inventive cutting, strange details (underskirt of shells; molded hessian bodice; sudden realisation of straightjacket; etc etc) -
The exhibition is an intense experience, in which you have no idea of the passage of time, or that it might be daylight, even sunlight, when you emerge. 

Exit is via the gift shop, which segues into the bookshop, where I found a few books for future browsing, perhaps even immediate purchase -
Several of the items on display were described as "cuirasses"

Classic books by Janet Arnold; fascinating

Wonderful bedtime reading, or even just looking at the pictures
696 contributors! The book is based on a questionnaire...intriguing and tempting

"It seems to have your name on it" said Karen. So it came home with me.

30 July 2015

Poetry Thursday - Herbsttag by Rainer Maria Rilke


Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Rainer Maria Rilke

A compilation of translations can be found at thebeckoning.com.

Rilke's dates are 1875-1926; he is widely recognised as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets. I confess I haven't read a lot of his poems, certainly not in the original - and some of the nuances of this short poem are lost on me. (But, fortunately, others not; beautiful, deeply-shadowed images....)
Portrait of Rilke by Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1906 (via)

29 July 2015

Here and there in Kew Gardens

On Mondays, the Shirley Sherwood botanical art gallery and the Marianne North gallery at Kew Gardens are closed, but there's still lots to see - for instance, a group of three chinese pheasants stalking round in the undergrowth of the pinetum -
Their stripey hairdo of neck feathers is worn asymmetrically by the hipster in the group. (Have a look at this image, taken by Kevin Schafer.)

In search of "a typical Canadian fir tree" Heather and I spent a long time searching out tree labels and discovering the differences between fir and spruce, cedar and pine and larch and redwood and yew. It's still rather confusing, but this one turned out to be a larch -
This one, though, I've forgotten  - the photo shows new cones and, further down the branch, those from last year which have opened -
Somewhere along the way we saw this swathe of hydrangeas -
and later, at the other side of the gardens, among the famous trees is the stone pine (this shot is looking up through some branches) -
 In between, reflections of papyrus in the waterlily house -
In the gardens planted and maintained by the first-year students on Kew's diploma course, Heather pointed out how the basil leaves looked so much like fabric -
and I indulged in a spot of nostalgia over straw flowers, which my mother grew to use in wreathes and bouquets and other everlasting decorations -
Exit via the gift shop, of course - in this case, passing various herbal-flavoured chocolate bars, beautifully packaged and ... irresistible ...

28 July 2015

Drawing Tuesday - Reading Room at the Wellcome Collection

Looking around the Reading Room, one of the first things I saw was the collection of Georgie Meadows' textile work, her "stitched drawings" in jars ... rather high up, therefore hard to see the details -
I found a chair with a good view of another cabinet (also rather high up, on top of a bookshelf) and eventually tackled the anatomical wax moulages (waxes showing injuries or pathological changes in the body; these are c.1930) and Jane Jackson's plaster and wax models, also from the 1930s (another of her models is here) -
Too high up and too far away for comfortable drawing, but after the "medical drawing" course I found these depictions of pathology interesting, and am still searching for what to use, and how, for depicting undulations in smooth surfaces. This attempt used compressed charcoal. The three "people", faintly done with pencil, are a boy with rickets, a woman with Cushing's syndrome, and an elderly woman (is old age a disease??).

This wonderful machine with its unknown components allowed for drawing from a distance and then getting closer. That's a sort of scientific approach: from the distance you formulate the hypothesis, sketch it out; then you test it by looking carefully and closely and readjusting the parameters -
The intriguing contraption is the Pohl Omniskop x-ray machine from Germany, 1925-35. The chatty attendant showed me the features of the machine - the patient was positioned on the board, which could be moved (with counterweights and a motor) into a variety of positions. The screen and the cathode ray tube behind it could be moved along the body, and also around the body. It hardly looks comfortable, and doses of radiation were high, but this was cutting-edge technology at the time.
Ernst Pohl, inventor of the machine, was a technical autodidact. In 1902 he founded a firm making medical and surgical instruments, with an early focus on x-ray technology. By the 1930s he had filed 150 patents in various areas, and his colleagues and students went on to found other medical instrument firms. The Omniskop was developed in the 1920s and came to be used internationally. In 1947 Pohl received an honorary doctorate from Christian Albrects University in Kiel, where he had been taken by his mentor in 1899.

I went on to look at the levers etc that were used for adjustments -
Other objects of interest were this gas-driven prosthesis for a thalidomide child in the 1960s - the irony being that when it was being worn, the child couldn't use its own hands -
 and this blown-glass model of the ebola virus -
which is displayed along with other models from Luke Jerram's glass microbiology series -
It was the jars and mortars that caught Mags' eye -
She drew the glass with hard and soft pencil, as light-on-dark and dark-on-light -
 and the wooden mortars to show their woodenness -
The chair under the stair appealed to Janet (drawn while she was sitting in its twin) -

and later she drew the chair I was sitting in, near the x-ray machine -
Sue started with some appealing objects from the amulets cabinet -
 and moved on to these -
 straightjackets and their shadows -
Latest must-have item: a holder for chunky graphite sticks -
DO try this at home - use your non-dominant hand for (warm-up) drawing -

27 July 2015

Fab floor

Is it inlaid linoleum? It's at the ICA, on the way to the upper galleries.

26 July 2015

Street art, Hackney Wick


Clever use of "holes in the wall"

It goes round the corner

More birds

"Strongly graphic"