South London Girls

I got stood up again for a visit to a gallery. My friend Steve had succumbed to a lurgy and was confined to bed. So for a second time this week I visited an exhibition alone, for the second time this week I enjoyed it immensely.

Bridget Riley


There were more coincidences. Reading the biog of Bridget Riley (it was her exhibition at the Hayward I went to today) I saw she was born in west Norwood. Quant was born in Blackheath. So they were both south London girls. Both received part of their art education at Goldsmiths, just three years apart.

That may not seem much of a story, but compared to the nonsense being bleated about a ‘crisis’ in the royal family with the Sussexes deciding to relocate and withdraw from public life, or the desire of some deranged few to mark Doomsday with the sound of Big Ben, it’s mega. I’m being more than a touch unfair about the royal story, but the one that the tabloids seem keen to deny is that they have kept up a relentless stream of negative stories about Meghan Markle all characterised by an unsavoury flavour of racism.

Anyway back to the art. Riley’s work is mesmerising, and makes my eyes go funny. It’s meticulous and cerebral, yet playful and perceptive.
I love this spiral, it seems to twirl and shimmer. It feels alive, changing, moving as you look. I forgot to take my camera, only had my ‘phone, and now I have reduced the size of the photo files, they’re not as sharp as I’d like.

Spiral

Spiral: detail

How does an artist conceive of something like this? Fortunately we got a little insight.

Spiral plan

Continue reading

Frank Bowling

I’m at das Boot so posts over the next few days are likely to be boat themed. But tonight I want to share some photos from the Frank Bowling exhibition.
Go if you can. It finishes next week.

These pictures of dying swans in the first room arrested me.

Dying swan

Dying swan

It just got better and better. Continue reading

The Mumbot

I do hope her creator has copyrighted her, because I think the Mumbot has the potential to be a global star.
My cousin Russell told me about her a while ago. He had been doing a workshop with adults who had a range of mainly invisible disabilities. They were making super heroes out of old packaging, one woman had very firm ideas about what she was making, The Mumbot.
As her design became clear, Russell worried about safeguarding issues, but by the end of the project hers was the creation he wanted to buy.
We talked about the Mumbot again last week, and again I looked at the photograph. Since then, I have had a yearning for my own Mumbot. It’s been a stressful few weeks for one reason or another and I feel the Mumbot could be just the super hero for our times in general and for me in particular. Continue reading

Bench Mark

I met my cousin Russell today and we enjoyed a walk in the Surrey countryside not far from where we both grew up. It was fabulous. If we weren't related we probably shouldn't know each other, and that would be a loss inmy life. He is, I think, eight years younger than I am, supplanting me in my position as the youngest of the first cousins on my father's side of the family. His mother, my Aunt Madeleine, was the youngest of the four siblings, and always in my father's eyes young Madeleine.

 

We had a lot of family chat. Russell is the spit of his father Frank, and his son is spit of Russell, but there are moments when he says or does something, when he stops and looks with his head very slightly lowered, when he is my father to the life. As my Aunt Kath saw my father in gestures and expressions of mine, I am guessing that anyone watching us might have guessed our relationship.

 

The purpose, or perhaps that should be the stimulus, for the walk was my desire to see the bench Russell was commissioned to make that is installed on the Hurtwood on the Greensand Way. We walked through the morning, then just as my stomach was starting to rumble we reached the Hurtwood. And as we walked the short rise, there it was.

The weather, which up to this point had been kind, and bright enough to make me regret not bringing sunglasses, clouded over and the wind blew cold. I added an extra layer, then another. But the setting was wonderful. We looked out over a valley in the Surrey Hills. Russell produced a paintbrush to dust some if the sand away, and we sat down to eat our respective lunches.
A woman appeared in bright dress, Nordic walking and accompanied by a very lovely Labradoodle. It turned out the Labradoodle, Paddy, was not hers, but borrowed for her Friday walk.

But Is It Art?

Our Tasmanian adventure is almost over. This time tomorrow we’ll be at Hobart airport, waiting to board our flight. It’s been short but sweet and we have packed a lot in to a few days.

More by luck than judgement we visited the important historic sites shortly after arrival. As I said, our accommodation is in Battery Point. Trying to find Tourist Information we strode the streets around Salamanca, finally making it through the doors minutes before closing. Our conversation was swift and to the point; we explained what we were thinking of doing, asked for relevant information, and advice on anything else we should do. Sorted. Battery Point has a Sculpture Trail. Without actually following it, we have managed to see most of it. It’s a great way to get acquainted with the area.

As well as Salamanca, Battery Point and Mount Wellington, we have also been to Port Arthur, a one hundred acre site of a convict penal colony, today a disorientating mix of the beautiful and the horrific. Along the route to get there we kept passing rusty sculptures; a tractor, a fish, a horse and many more. Much as I should have liked to add something similar to my own home, the practicalities of getting it back to Melbourne, let alone Walworth, made that a non-starter. However, I find that they come in various sizes, so I have a diminutive rusty Tasmanian Tiger who will fit in a plant pot. Result. Continue reading

Art Changing Lives

I listened to Ken Robinson and others talking this afternoon. Thanks to BBC iplayer I was able to hear a Radio 4 programme that had gone out this morning, In His Element. It was about his role in helping to develop Derry City (stroke city as it is often called, not because of the high incidence of cerebral haemorrhages, but because depending one which side of the political divide you stand it is Derry or Londonderry.
If you’ve not heard of Ken Robinson before, I should tell you he is an educator, an inspiring speaker, ex Professor of Education at Warwick and Ted Wragg’s natural successor. If you’ve not heard of Ted Wragg, you have some wonderful catching up to do. He was a splendid man; warm, witty, fantastically intelligent. When he died several years ago, I cried and felt I had lost a friend.
But I didn’t mean to talk about death. I meant to talk about creativity and where it lies in our lives.
Ken Robinson definitely believes in the power of creativity. There’s a very famous TED talk by him, that I urge you all to listen to. Go on, it’ll improve your lives. I’ll put a link at the end of this, or even insert the video. See how I spoil you. He’s not talking about sticking sequins on a piece of card, which is al too often how creativity seems to be defined these days. It has a far wider scope. A scope that the good people of Derry and the South Bank both understand.
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Art Changing Lives


At the South Bank you can see art improving people’s lives. It is accessible, thought-provoking, fun. All around people are smiling. Whether because they are being given opportunities to learn something new:

Learning to Juggle


And don’t you just love a man who carries a toy rabbit around in his pocket? Continue reading

Him and Hirst

I’ve never really got Damien Hirst’s work. Years ago when he was emerging as a name, I went to the show at the Serpentine Gallery. The friend was with got very excited about the sheep in formaldehyde. I didn’t. But then I always disliked the pickled dissected rabbits and other things in the biology lab at school.

The children seem to love Hymn which is displayed outside Tate Modern. To me it just looks like an oversized teaching aid. Informative, but please explain the art.

Makes an interesting photo though.