Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Rembrandt at the BM

May 26, 2019

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A more profitable use of gallery time than looking at Scully can be found at the British Museum where they are showing two free exhibitions in their prints and drawings room.

On arrival I was still reeling from an extraordinary concert at the Wigmore Hall so I was in the perfect state to receive the accumulated wisdom of another of the greats of humanity, Rembrandt.* The BM has assembled a comprehensive selection of works that illustrate Rembrandt’s development as an artist land philosopher. You can follow the way in which he adapts his technique as he matures within broad thematic groupings of landscapes, biblical scenes, portraits etc. Combining visiting this show with watching the excellent BBC4 doc Looking for Rembrandt that’s still available online is the best free entertainment currently on offer in London.

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One of the self-portraits on view in the BM’s Rembrandt show

By the time Beethoven and Rembrandt had finished with me I was ready for something less complex. Which the artists’ postcards exhition in the next room definitely is in parts. There are complex works but also straightforwardly flippant and fun things which made it an ideal way to wrap up a cultural afternoon. And no longer having the energy to go through all of the works on offer – about a couple of hundred or so from dozens of different artists – means that I’ll return soon to look at the ones that I missed.

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What I liked about the postcards exhibition, in contrast to the technical virtuosity of Rembrandt, is that it reminded me that creativity can be simple. With a pen, an idea and a postcard you can make something provocative, or funny, or moving. And something that is both public and intimate at the same time. Rembrandt is a must-see but don’t neglect the less obvious dispkay next door if you’re in the BM.

#art #London

*Andreas Haefliger had performed Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas No. 30 and 32. Performed though is a very underpowered word to describe what he did to PS32, where in the final movement he pulled around the tempos so wildly that it felt like he might skid out of control in the rapid, jazzy central section but then ended in a feeling of utter calm and warmth that I was in tears. The Wigmore audience responded magnificently. That’s why it’s the best venue (in my limited experience) in the world.

Sean Scully

May 24, 2019

It requires a sense of self importance on a tragic scale to place a Turner masterpiece between two lollops of sub-Rothko wank.

Resto 34 Rosso Pomodoro, Covent Garden

October 14, 2018

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Having been to the extraordinarily good Mantegna-Bellini (I’d say it’s a must see) the previous Friday we returned to the NG for the Courtauld Impressionists. This too is an impressive show. If you haven’t been to either the Courtauld or the National Gallery before. If you have there is literally nothing new to see save for a fancy book created by Mr C to show off his impeccable taste. Since we have a membership for the NG we didn’t have to pay for the tickets (although in a way we kind of had as part of the membership).

There’s a questionable morality around making people (i.e. the British public) pay for something they already own and can usually see for free. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an upside to the sectioning off of these masterpieces behind a pay-wall. Seurat’s Bathers can be revelled in in all its glory without the usual accompaniment of tedious selfie takers and listless tourists getting in the way.

Bringing the two collections together also allows for excellent juxtaposing of works in fresh ways. I was especially struck by two Daumier illustrations of episodes from Don Quixote, especially as the Courtauld’s picture is usually rather inaccessibly hung high up above a chimney breast. But the fact that major paintings like ‘Bathers’ (and many others) are not available to the public throughout the year sticks in the craw somewhat.

So I consoled myself with pizza. Rosso Pomodoro I haven’t been to for some time. They pride themselves on being a Neapolitan outfit and so it was satisfying to get a round of fried stuff to share up front. According to my son Naples is the Glasgow of the south, a place where they’d deep fry their own offspring if they could sell them through a hole in the wall.

The calamari was excellent – squid rings and octopus childers in a fluffy batter. Less enjoyable (though very tasty) was the seaweed croquette. This was more croquette than seaweed. Delicious and fluffy but definitely bringing to mind the potential implications to my arteries of eating so much fatty food.

It was a good job I was hungry as the quattro stagioni that followed was a generous chunk of pizza that overflowed with high quality toppings, especially in the cheese department. The dough is fermented for 24 hours and this tells in the finished product – it’s not often that I want to eat every last portion of a pizza crust but on this occasion I did. Even if ultimately I didn’t manage it; it was with regret that I had to call an end to my struggle.

The service was very good throughout and in seats with a view of the misguided fools queueing to get into Dishoom we were in an admirable place to people watch the parade of human traffic through Covent Garden of a Friday night. It’s worth giving RP a go if you want a change from PExpress.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Isokon Gallery, Hampstead

September 5, 2018

Last night I attended an excellent lecture by a good friend, John Law, drawing on material from his latest book 1938: Modern Britain. His thesis is that many of the aspects of modern life that are popularly believed to be post-War phenomena, for example big screen television, were actually in use in the late 1930s. If you want to read more about his work you can go to his homepage here.

The lecture took place in a new location for me, the Isokon Gallery in Hampstead. The Gallery is part of an apartment block which dates from 1934 and therefore was a natural fit for John’s talk which in part dealt with the early career of Basil Spence and his contribution to Modernist pavilions at the Glasgow Imperial Exhibition of 1938.

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Isokon Gallery – they have much better photographs at their website

I would have liked more time to explore the bijou exhibition which the gallery is hosting on the creators of the Isokon development – a pioneering social experiment as well as being an architectural landmark in the history of London – and the many creative people who lived either in the block or very nearby. Just scanning the names reads like a who’s who of the inter-War avant garde.

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As well as panels with information on the lives and careers of the artists, writers, architects and patrons associated with the area there are also examples of their work. You can see in the photograph above items of furniture which embody how theories of rational industrial design translated into beautifully practical pieces for the home. For example, the bookcase above was specificallydesigned for that quintessential 1930s object, the Penguin paperback.

The gallery is open Saturdays and Sundays until their exhibition season ends in October and is FREE. You can also take a peek inside the apartments on Open House weekend on the 22nd and 23rd September. Well worth a visit.

Resto 24 Dear Pizza, Highbury

August 5, 2018

Another meal, another pizza. But this time the Italian vibe started earlier in the day with a visit to the Estorick. If you don’t know the Estorick you should familiarise yourself soonest. A perfect museum to visit if you have a spare hour in north London, it has a small but perfectly formed collection of 20th Century Italian art with temporary exhibitions that are of an exceptionally high standard in terms of curation and novelty.

At the moment they have two exhibs, so even more reason to go than ever. On the ground floor the rooms are given over to original artwork for Campari, ranging from the late nineteenth century to the 1990 World Cup (my favourite piece – a football themed jigsaw which put me in mind of not just Toto Schillaci but also Georges Perec).

Early Campari ads. Thirsty again.

Futurists working at the command of fascist era booze mongers turns out to be a match made in heaven for the visual arts. And having been subjected to around 29 images of Campari it was difficult to resist a cocktail in the gallery’s very peaceful garden. (Service 10/10, we didn’t eat.)

I was less keen on the neo-futurists’ interventions in the permanent galleries. Their anti-capitalist rhetoric was a bit one note for me, though entertaining in parts. Irony ladled on irony can be very wearing, especially when funded by the Arts Council. But I’d still recommend it for its variety of approach (music, video, sculpture).

And so to dinner. A shortish stroll to Dear Pizza who lured us in with their promise of a garden. Strictly speaking I’d say it was a yard. But an awning-covered yard on a hot day is rather pleasant. The cooking was higher quality than I was expecting – octopus arrived with a very good sauce. The pizza was excellent (can you get bad pizza any more? Oh yes, p***a h*t), as was the service.

What a great day, and spent in our own manor with no need to get the tube.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

The Crouch End Festival and Alfred de Musset

June 10, 2018

As anyone who read the post on Marivaux and last year’s Crouch End Festival piece, Corbyn Island, will know in adapting pieces I like to do some half-arsed research in the milieu of how the originals came about. And in contrast to Corbyn Island the update of A Door (Should be Open or Shut) is nevertheless a period piece rather than being located in contemporary Britain. Mid-century London wasn’t too much of a stretch for the update and fortunately the background and context for Musset’s play, Il Faut Qu’une Porte Soit Ouverte ou Fermée, was less unfamiliar to me if only because I’ve been something of a Delacroix obsessive for some time.*

Where’s the connection with Delacroix? Well, of course they’re both French Romantics though working in different disciplines, but the connection is much more personal than being inspired by the same mid-nineteenth century ideas. Delacroix was a great friend of the musician Frédéric Chopin and his lover, the writer Georges Sand. And Musset was previously a lover of Sand.

It was good to hear that Paul Kildea’s new book on Chopin’s Piano is in part concerned with recovering Sand’s reputation (in popular writing that is, it’s been a task undertaken with relish by feminist academics for decades) from its traducement by followers of Chopin (and Musset, especially his brother Paul) who have trashed her literary reputation largely out of unthinking misogyny.**

So as well as reading de Musset’s work I’ve been reading Delacroix’s diaries (an ongoing project over the past few years***, Sand’s memoirs and Paul de Musset’s (very) partial biography of his brother.

Props for 'A Door (Should be Open or Shut)

Props for A Door (Should be Open or Shut)

What did I take from this reading into the new production? Our production is set in 1940s Soho and when I realised that the production of Absolute Hell  would be using pretty much the same setting, and running at the same time as us, I was rather fearful that people would think that I’d been inspired by that. But in fact I was inspired by de Musset’s own life.

De Musset himself was a drinker. A serious drinker. As in he died of it. But this aspect of his life doesn’t bleed into the literary works that he created so I decided that to make the connection with his life I’d update the play from an aristocratic salon to somewhere more modern. Since we had a pub bar as a set it seemed natural that the setting I’d update it to would be one of London’s drinking clubs of the 1930s/40s.

Although there are references to Soho stalwarts such as Francis Bacon the model I was actually thinking of wasn’t the Colony Club. Rather I had in mind Foppa’s, which appears in A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell. So we’re more in 40s Fitzrovia than 50s Soho. To someone who never knew either in their prime Fitzrovia offers a rather more literary locus which looks back to the 19th Century (and de Musset) rather than forward to the late twentieth and Jeffrey Bernard. Although the female lead is an artist.

A fun part of the production has been assembling props – a 40s Woodbine astray, an old-fashioned bottle of scotch, a cigarette case and a whiff of 40s in the costume of the characters. And the cast – Anna Rogers, Matt Griffin and Ruari Johnson – have been extraordinarily successful at bringing Musset’s characters to life in a faux-Fitzrovian setting.

If you’ve read this far why not book a ticket now to see the show? You can visit the Crouch End Players website or email cepfestival@crouchendplayers.co.uk 

Thanks to Paul Travis for the photo of the props, and for other shots of the preview night.

#Theatre #London #crouchendfestival

* I’ve written about him before and I’m looking forward to visiting the blockbuster show of his work at the Louvre later this month.

**You can listen to an excellent podcast with Kildea here.

***i.e. the French unedited edition lies next to my bed. And has done for some time! The Phaidon edition in English is what I’d recommend if you want to read pretty much the best writer on art of the nineteenth century as well as one of its key practitioners.

Resto 8 The National Café, Trafalgar Square

March 3, 2018

I’ve reviewed the restaurant on this site before but it’s had a reboot under a different management since then so it does count as a new restaurant. Out has gone the dark wood and red leather banquettes. In comes a more Scandi vibe with pale furnishings and sleek cutlery. They can’t do anything about the windows (obvs) but it does make for a sunnier feeling room even on one of the coldest days of the year.

They’ve also increased the bar area making this a good place to meet if you want somewhere peaceful and reasonably priced on a Friday evening in the West End. I had a glass of wine before looking at the Degas and Murillo exhibs (both free, both excellent) and then returning for dinner in the restaurant.

The restaurant is still a bit ghostly of an evening, there were a few other parties but they were dotted across the room. Queen’s greatest hits on the sound track (the whole evening, I was fortunate enough to catch Another One Bites the Dust twice), while a marginal improvement on U2 and Eddie Reader, was definitely surplus to requirements.

A pre-theatre menu of two courses for 17 quid seemed a bargain. Beetroot salad to start was excellent, with a good lashing of goat’s cheese and plenty of veg. Main of pheasant* was a good portion of leg with yummy crispy skin and a slather of pumpkin for moisture. However, that was it. I should have twigged that anything beyond what was described on the menu was going to have to come from the sides (at £5 a pop) but it wouldn’t have done any harm for the waitress to have asked if we wanted any stodge. A bottle of viño verdhe was very good – in fact the wine list was the star of the show and I wanted to try any number of them – but for carbs I had to pick up some crisps on the way home, which I guess saved me four quid. But I would have preferred my spuds on a plate and daintily boiled and buttered.

* Apparently it was actually guinea fowl. How unreliable I turn out to be on the edibles. But not the music.

7/10 (again)

#Food #London #Art

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Frantz Reichel and French Sport

February 17, 2018

Just a quick post to flag up a forthcoming paper that I’ll giving at the Institute of Historical Research on one of the neglected figures of early twentieth century sporting history.

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The photograph above is of the memorial to Frantz Reichel, Olympic champion, French Rugby Union captain and the doyenne of French sports journalists for the first 30 years of the twentieth century. Although neglected now it was a significant intervention into the urban fabric of Paris when it was erected in the 1930s.

I’ll be talking about the symbolism of Reichel’s memorial, the surprising story behind its design  by Tony Garnier, and the turbulent story of its destruction under Nazi rule.

If you’d like to come along to the paper it will be in the Past and Present room at the Institute of Historical Research in Senate House on Monday 26th February at 5.30 p.m. Entry is FREE.

More details can be found here … http://www.history.ac.uk/events/event/15430

Or if you’d like to know more contact me @finsburyparker

#frenchhistory #France #History #sporthistory #IHR #tonygarnier

Affordable Art Fair

October 19, 2017

I haven’t got round to my full Estorick post yet, in fact I’d like to go back before I tackle it, so in the meantime my art focus falls on the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park. This is my third art bunfight of the year after the RA’s Summer Exhibition and the Venice Biennale (not that I was in any danger of buying anything at that!) and I was there at the invitation of my talented friend, Nick.

Nick Kobyluch – not just a talented artist, also a fine centre back.

I’ll spare his blushes and briefly state that he does fine landscapes that are topographical without being pedantic. See the depiction of Elephant and Castle tube over his shoulder to discover how he finds the ray of sunshine in even the gloomiest London locale.

And the Fair? I’d recommend a visit if you’re in the area. Like all of these kinds of things you can get a bit art blind by the 100th stand but there is plenty of good stuff for the discerning eye. I was most taken with the photographs of delapidated buildings by Dan Oude Elferink. The temptation to take one home was strong but I reckon it best to approach purchases without free wine in the tank and we decided to visit the Ranen Art Gallery at a future date.

Punters queue to bag up their art. We kept a cool head.

Try and get there early if you can as the aisles get tight as the evening progresses, and no one likes tight aisles. As it was two knobhe … err, art fans spilled my drink while looking at the walls rather than where they were going.

A relatively clear aisle, it looks safe for beverages. But watch out, those red trouser guys come out of nowhere.

And is it affordable? Well it’s a relative term isn’t it. Some stands have prints (and originals) for sale at under a monkey but most featured works are four figures and above as far as I could see. So if budget is an issue for you follow the racecourse golden rule and keep your maximum stake in one pocket and your taxi fare home in the other. 

Bram Bogart at Vigo Gallery

September 20, 2017

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It feels a long time since I wrote about something other than food on here. Not because I’ve been culturally droughted of late, I’ve just been writing other things. I’m also preparing a fairly chunky piece recommending membership of the London Library in the semi-flippant style of my Southwark Jury Service post.

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An old-fashioned desk in the London Library. I think someone stole my laptop?! Just kidding.

So this is a quick post to recommend the Bram Bogart show at Dering Street’s Vigo Gallery. This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about Vigo; due to a family connection it’s a gallery whose fortunes I follow more closely than most. However, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t flag up things that they do that I think a wider public might enjoy. As I’ve said before the private galleries of London are an intellectual resource that is underused by those not in the art world but who have an interest in culture.

And the Belgian artist Bram Bogart is a case in point. Bogart developed as an artist after World War Two and was part of the move of Arte Povera (which reminds me I should get to the Estorick sometime) towards simplicity of colour and radical interventions on the plane of the canvas. While some, like Fontana, went in for slashing the canvas in order to break the surface Bogart treats the canvas as a basis for sculptural creations, pushing the paint out towards the viewer in a more extreme version of, say, Van Gogh’s heavy impasto.

The works collected in the two rooms at Vigo come from a later stage in Bogart’s career when he had moved away from the minimalist colours of AP and embraced vibrant colours, mixing paint with glue to achieve billowing effects on the canvas. If you visit the show, and I hope you will, you’ll be met with a riot of colour that would elevate even the lowest spirits crushed by a combination of a rotten global outlook, the cruel chill of September in London and the very hell that is trying to walk on Oxford or Regent Street.

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Bram Bogart, ‘Zonzucht’

You can see the sculptural aspect to his work in the above photo but as ever I advise you to see these works in the flesh if you can. Taking photographs of paintings really is the most redundant thing in the world. If you want a record of something write about it, or pull a more professional image down from the net for your personal use. Unless you want to illustrate a hurriedly written blogpost of course! But do go to the Vigo if you can, they have an excellent booklet to accompany the show which talks far more articulately about Bogart’s work than I can!

#Art #London


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