Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Chris Cooper on Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
Brian Micklethwait on Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
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Michael Jennings on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
Brian Micklethwait on Tim Marshall on 'Sykes-Picot'
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Most recent entries
- Slam City Skates in Covent Garden
- And in Other creatures news …
- Cat proximity awareness
- Looking up in the City
- Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
- Leake Street photo session
- Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
- Azure Window broken
- Beltane & Pop van parked on the South Bank yesterday afternoon
- New River Walk
- Die Meistersinger was very good
- Spring in Islington
- ROH Covent Garden here I come
- Today’s plan
- Photoing the faces of strangers (or in my case: not)
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Category archive: Painting
Before we entered the Royal Opera House to endure and eventually to enjoy Die Meistersinger my friend and I wandered around Covent Garden, and chanced upon a shop selling artfully decorated skateboards, in other words looking like this:
As soon as I was inside this shop I asked if I could take some photos, and they said: snap away. So I did. I took the above photo first, which gives an idea of what it was that got my attention. And then I took a lot more, of which the following were the least worst:
I know. Lots of reflections in the shiny surfaces of the skateboards. But, you get the pictures.
A cat is involved (1.3 in the above clutch). A rather rude cat, but a cat. At first, I thought I ought to hurry the posting up and have this ready for last Friday. Then I thought, no, wait until next Friday. And then I thought to hell with that, I’ve nearly done it, I will post it when it’s done.
These artistically enhanced boards have all the relaxed and unpretentious exuberance of graffiti, of the sort I most regularly observe in Leake Street under Waterloo Station. You don’t have to read some idiot art-speak essay to find out what the hell this or that skateboard is “about”, even though it is sometimes obscure. “SHAKEJUNT”. “HAND IN GLOVE”. “FIVE BORE”. “FLIP”. You probably have to be a skateboarder to get what words like those mean. Which probably explains why I like the giant TV remote the best. That I definitely understand.
However, a magic ingredient that separates these skateboards from graffiti is that the skateboards come with added property rights. Once you’ve painted your own particular skateboard, that’s how it stays painted. Which means you can really go to town on it, make it really great, confident that some other artist won’t paint over what you’ve just done.
There is also the fact that a skateboard, unlike graffiti, can be moved hither and thither, which means it can be bought and sold. This means that politically sane people will gravitate towards decorating skateboards and political ignorami will prefer graffiti, property rights and civilisation being things that go hand in hand, as do attacking property rights and barbarism. Sadly, this does not necessarily mean that the skateboard art will be better, because mad artists are often better than sane artists. Plus, you can now add the magic of digital photography to graffiti, thereby preserving it. But as art objects, these skateboards will, unlike graffiti, be profitable and permanent.
Here’s the final photo I took, complete with the guy who said I could take all the other photos, despite knowing I wasn’t in the market for a decorated skateboard, but was merely interested in an art gallery-ish way:
I asked this guy for a card or something, so I could put a link to the place here, as I have done, see above. He didn’t have anything on paper. But then he thought: have a bag:
And that’s how I knew what the shop was called and where to find its website.
I hope this posting doesn’t do any harm to this enterprise, for example by diminishing its street credibility. Do things still have street credibility? Or, to put it in more recent parlance, is street credibility still a thing?
Leake Street is that tunnel under the Waterloo approach tracks, filled with an ever-changing display of grafitti. And of photoers photoing it.
Yet more evidence of how digital photography has encouraged temporary art, by making it digitally preservable. What we see is videoing, I think. But we can be sure that a straight up still photo of the final result will be included in the photography process.
Note the silver paint, on top of what was there before. If the previous occupant of this spot (in the Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel) didn’t have what he had done photoed, he has only himself to blame.
Don’t ask me what the graffiti means.
Friday is my day for cats and other creatures, but it is also David Thompson’s day for more substsantial collections of all this weird and wonderful on the internet, and one ephemeron (ephemeros? ephemerum?) in his collection today is this:
Brutalist colouring book. Because concrete needs colour.
I followed that link.
Brutalism lovers, sharpen your cold grey and warm grey pencils and add some colour to some great concrete constructions. First edition of 500 hundred copies. Each copy is numbered.
Ooh. First edition. Numbered copies. Very arty. Sign of the times? I want it to be.
I have long thought that the brutalities of brutalism could use a bit of softening, and actually, a lot of softening. With colour. Bring it on.
Someone who agreed with me, from way back was, actually, would you believe?: Le Corbusier. He was into bright colours to soften the brutalities of his brutalism, from the getgo.
(See also: these colourful kittens. No softening needed there, but it was done anyway.)
Or maybe it has been invented and the answer is it’s called lots of little flat screen televisions.
This thought was provoked by seeing this picture, at Mick Hartley‘s:
There’s nothing wrong with this Big Thing that painting it entertainingly wouldn’t put right, in fact very right indeed. It could become a well-loved landmark, if only it was spruced up a bit, with some bright colours. This Big Thing is called the Edificio Torres Blancas, and it is in Madrid. In Spain they like bright colours, right?
But, what bright colours? The answer is to copy what they now do in Trafalgar Square, with that Fourth Plinth. In Trafalgar Square, they have solved the problem of what to put on the Fourth Plinth by keeping on changing it. That way, everyone gets to like some of the objects they put on the Plinth, and that way everyone who dislikes what is there now can comfort themselves with the thought that it will soon be gone. All can photo the ones they like and ignore the rest. Eventually, a winner may be declared. Eventually, a thing will be put there that seems to right, to so many people, that it will be decided to keep that thing there for ever.
That’s what they should do with the colouring of the above Big Thing in Madrid.
So, techies, get to work. What we need is a new sort of paint that you just slap on, but whose colours, down to the minutest detail, can then be controlled by a big old computer at ground level.
Or, this is already possible, as the advertisers are now proving with their changeable screens, and all that it missing is that this is, for a mere building, as opposed to a commercially profitable message, for the time being, too expensive.
Also, maybe the architect is still alive and vetoing any such notions, insisting that his masterpiece remain blancas, or failing that then at least grey all over. Time will soon correct this sorry state of affairs, if state of affairs it be.
Photoed by me in Leake Street (where this cat was later to be seen), in July:
And what a very appropriate word it is, for the point I am about to make. Which is that although this new Graffiti Style of painting has now upstaged the old My Kid Could Do That Modernism of an earlier era, the two styles both have in common that they are, among other things, trying to baffle you rather than inform you, unless you are part of an inside clique which gets it.
In his book, The Painted Word, Tom Wolfe wrote about this earlier sort of bafflement, the sort where you had to know what the theory was that was embodied in whatever random daub you were looking at in an Art gallery. The new Graffiti style actually gives you words, literally. But, you only know what they mean if you know what they mean.
But at least there is some real skill on show, in the form of how the words are presented. They at least look pretty. Your kid probably couldn’t do it, unless he’s one of the ones who does.
Leake Street, October 19th. Probably still there, as of right now, but quite possibly already painted over.
I do not know why the cat is saying: “4”. Some sort of golfing reference?
I’ve been photoing the Pavlova Statue outside Victoria Station for a long time. On the left here is how she was looking, on a particularly sunny day ten years ago:
But look at the state of her now, as shown on the right. I got quite a shock, I can tell you, when I came upon her about a fortnight ago, looking like this.
The Victoria Palace Theatre is being refurbished.
Yesterday I again went to the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral, but the early onset of the dark surprised me, and the light (which I depend on rather a lot) was too dark and too horizontal and shady for very good results. But I still like these two shots, of the new Wembley Arch, testing my zoom lens to its outer limits:
I particularly like the version on the left, with that little bit of sun slashing through a gap in the clouds, off to the left as we look. I include the one on the right because of the contrast. In itself, it would not really have deserved a showing. For once, a crane intrudes, in the left hand picture, and I am not happy.
It occurs to me that when people started taking photos like this, just as blurry but in black and white, maybe it got the painters thinking. They could both imitate the blurriness, but also do it in colour, as the photographers for a long time couldn’t. Et voilà. Impressionism.
What the tower on the left is, I do not know.
I just opened up my camera to look at the latest snaps I’ve been snapping, and it turns out that, last Friday, in addition to fretting about my meeting and then being pleased about my meeting, I also, while out shopping for my meeting, took this:
If you like that, then you should definitely be a regular visitor to this blog. I’m thinking of postings like: this, this, this, and this. To name the most recent ones with pictures of a similar sort. Trawl back through his archives and you’ll find many more.
In fact, I reckon that had it not been for Mick Hartley’s infuence, I would probably not have taken my photo, of this Hockneyesque, Hartleyesque sort.
Now that it’s been decided that we shall Brexit, Dezeen reports on what creatives have been creating to mark the event. Here are the two images they reproduce which I think are the most striking:
Both of these images are intended as expressions of regret that Britain has voted for Brexit, but neither quite say that, or not to me. What, after all, is so great for a balloon about being stuck in a whole bunch of other balloons? It’s creator says: “sad day”, but it doesn’t look that sad to me. It just looks like a change. If he was merely describing, relatively objectively, what had happened, then I guess: fair enough.
As for the disintegrating, weeping Union Jack, that would work far better as an expression of regret, in the event that Britain had voted Remain rather than Leave. It is national flags like this one one that the EU has been working tirelessly to replace with its own flag. Very odd. But, a striking image nevertheless.
One of the more intriguing consequences of the not-now-so-very-recent (what with another one coming along) Scottish independence referendum (which happened in September 2014) was that, rather suddenly, the world (by which I really mean: I) suddenly found itself (myself) contemplating the idea of the Union Jack flag disappearing into the history books. Had Scotland gone separate, the Union Jack would surely have had to be redesigned. I would not have regretted Scotland detatching itself from England, in fact I would have voted for this if I could have. But, I would have regretted the passing of the Union Jack, if only because it is such a great design, so recognisable that it is capable of being endlessly mucked about with, while still remaining the Union Jack.
The new, non Scottish version of the Union Jack might have looked a bit like the bag on the left here, as we look:
That snap was snapped in 2015, after the Scottish referendum, but I don’t think those designs have anything to do with politics. They’re just simplified and rather dull variations on the Union Jack theme. The one on the left just happens to look a lot like the Union Jack minus the Saltire. (Saltire is the Scottish flag, right? Yes.) But what does the one on the right signify? In terms of the flags that go towards the Union Jack, it takes the blue stripes from the Saltire and turns them into a background for the red bits of the Welsh and English flags. So actually, it’s just a blue bag, with bits of red Union Jack-ish stuff on it. Maybe there was also a red one with white Union Jack-ish stuck on, to complete the red white and blue set. I might never have bothered showing the above photo here, if it hadn’t been for the Saltire subtraction angle.
I had already been snapping Union Jack snaps, since quite a while before that moment of the Union Jack’s possible moment of disappearance. I long ago added “funny things being done with the Union Jack” to my mental photo-category list, alongside such things as bald blokes taking photos, utilitarian and commonplace footbridges, taxis covered in adverts, Big Things seen from a long way away in among foreground clutter, and so forth and so on. But, since that earlier referendum, I have been taking photos of Union Jacks with particular zeal.
Here are a couple of very recent Union Jack snaps I did. The first is of some flip-flops, on sale at the Parliament end of Westminster Bridge:
I reckon it’s the cellophane that gives that its artistic effect.
And here is a London taxi wing mirror:
That taxi décor isn’t part of an advert. It is just a taxi decorated with the Union Jack.
And then, while I was ruminating on a posting along these lines, came this piece of graphic Union Jackery, from the Spectator, to decorate their decision to back the Leave campaign in the forthcoming EU referundum:
This reminded me of a picture I took in East London five years ago, of some Art:
I could continue, with yet more Union Jack snaps, but I will end with some more Brexit propaganda. Still on the flying theme, just before I took the above snap of how fabulous Britain will be and will feel if we Leave, here, taken just moments earlier, is another Artistic-type picture of how ghastly things will be and will feel if we Remain. That’s the EU there, trying and failing to take wing, because its bureaucracy is far too big and heavy and its wings far too feeble and misshapen, crushing us as it plummets to earth:
Are you thinking that there really needs to be a Union Jack on that car, to make this point even clearer? But that’s exactly point! The EU scrubs out the Union Jack. Look! The Union Jack is nowhere to be seen! The EU has totally obliterated it! What could be clearer?
Slightly more seriously, the EU’s rulers will not be happy until they have driven the Union Jack into the history books, not by breaking up Britain, but by swallowing it and turning it into either fuel for itself, or shit. The only Union they want, and want celebrated with a flag, is their own.
A new crossrail station is being completed, and Centre Point is being given a makeover. I doubt it will look any different, but you never know.
Any decade now, Centre Point’s exterior will burst into colour. But Centre Point right now, temporarily wrapped in this and that, is as colourful as it is likely to be for a decade or two yet. A generation of monochromist modernist architects still has to die, before colour can really start happening in London. At present (see the previous photo) Renzo Piano is the only fashionable architect being colourful.
While I’m showing you pictures of that rather angly station entrance, here is another, taken moments before the one above:
Lots of signage of various kinds there.
For another view, looking down Tottenham Court Road, of this strange station entrance, see photo 3.2 of these.
As regulars here know, I am fascinated by unusual vehicles, and by almost all commercial vehicles. Whereas cars tend to be reticent about making any sort of personal statement, commercial vehicles have to communicate. They have to radiate an atmosphere. They have to dress themselves like they’re going on the pull in a nightclub. Well, they don’t have to. But most commercial vehicles are an opportunity to do marketing, so why turn it down? And these vehicles consequently radiate as many different atmospheres as there are commercial purposes being pursued in and with them.
Here are a couple of vans I spied today:
Both are somewhat self-conscious, I think. There is a lack of earnestness here, a certain ironic distance, a certain slightly bogus artifice, not to say Art, involved.
But, all part of what makes wandering about in London such an endlessly entertaining pastime.
Sausage Man website here. I tried googling “Oliver London”, but all I got was a lot of stuff about a stage musical. The small tricycle van looks oriental to me, and that its presence outside an oriental restaurant is not coincidental.
People talk about how “nothing says London” quite like … and then they say something that happens quite a lot in London or gets eaten quite a lot in London, or some such very London thing, assuming you already know that that’s what it is.
I contend that nothing says London quite like a big sign, saying “LONDON”. With that, there’s no ambiguity.
Here is a LONDON sign – well, more like a painting – that I photoed in Goswell Road late this afternoon:
That particular sign saying LONDON is a bit cleverer than your usual LONDON sign. The more usual sort of sign saying LONDON would say LONDON even more clearly, by just saying LONDON.
A bit more seriously, I’m surprised you don’t see that particular game played with the letters of the word LONDON more often.
Goswell Road is not a familiar place for me, in fact I don’t believe I’ve ever walked along it before. It’s all rather arty and designy, in an urban decay kind of way. That big LONDON sign has a definite Pop Art feel to it. Unlike the sign saying CAR PARK. Arty signs and car parks both being what you do when an urban site becomes temporarily vacant. The usual rules about what is proper don’t apply.