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Category archive: Sculpture
The are two photos which I took last Monday. The one with the bright blue sky, me looking up, was taken in Wigmore Street. The one looking down, was taken from the ME Hotel Radio Rooftop Bar.
They are photos not so much of roof clutter, as of roofs, roof in all their elaborately designed glory. But, you can spot the late twentieth century incursions:
The aesthetic impact of radio and television aerials does not seem to be much discussed in the architectural world. It could be that it has, and I merely haven’t noticed, but I don’t think that’s it.
Here is what I think is going on inside the heads of architectural aestheticians, on this subject. The deal we will make with you mindless philistines is: you can have your damn aerials, because we know that if you are not allowed, by us, to have your damn aerials, you will hut us down and burn us at the stake. But, we refuse to talk about them. We will not incorporate them into our aesthetic theories of how things look, and should look. We will not see them.
Which is how we got from the above scenario, where everything on the roof is elaborately designed, but the first few aerials have crept into the pictures, but have not been seen by the architects and their aesethetic guides, to this:
Yet still, they don’t see it and they don’t talk about.
Really, really weird.
I’ve been pondering roof clutter for a while now, but the more I ponder it, the more weird the phenomenon is.
What this reminds me of is a distinction that my sociology teachers at Essex University all those years ago made much of, that between the sacred and the profane. The sacred stuff here is the regular “architecture”, the walls, the windows, the roofs, the interiors, and so on. All of that is sacred, and is accordingly obsessed over, every tiny square inch of it, every subtle colour change, just as priests obsess about every word in a prayer.
But those aerials are profane. They don’t register. They aren’t architecture, any more than a tracksuit worn by a impoverished member of the congregation in a church is a sacred vestment, the details of which must be argued about by bishops and theologians, or the sales pitch being done over the phone on Monday morning (by someone who had been devoutly praying on Sunday) is itself a prayer. That sales pitch is profane. Forget about it. Don’t even think about it.
Those aerials, in among the sacredness of all those designed chimneys and roofs and little towers, are profane. And hence invisible. Aerials are designed, by aerial designers, to make sense of radio waves. But they are not designed to be looked at. They are a pure case of form following function. Architects ought to love them, if they believed their prayers. But they don’t because what is there for architects to add? Nothing. The job has all been done, by profane aerial designers.
Well, I don’t know. I’m thinking as I go along here, but writing it anyway. Which is all part of why I have this blog. At this blog, I am allowed to be wrong. This is a thinking allowed zone, you might say, a place where the thinking does not have to be done before the blogging begins. This is, you might say, a profane blog.
Just now, there is some particularly choice stuff at Colossal:
An Abandoned Bangkok Shopping Mall Hides a Fishy Secret
This is fish being farmed in an abandoned basement.
Click and enjoy.
I love to look at modern buildings, before they are finished and covered up. All sorts of strange things are to be seen, that may or may not soon disappear from view.
What, for example, is this peculiar structure, which I photographed this afternoon, on the south side of Oxford Street?
Here is the original shot I took, before I cropped, rotated, and so forth:
I include that because there may be clues as to what the Thing is from its context.
But what will this Thing end up looking like? Will it be covered up? Will ladders be involved? I don’t know, but I’ll keep you posted.
I’ll also do something obvious that I failed to even attempt this afternoon, which is I’ll try to photo whatever signs on the site I could find, that might enable me to chase down a website with maybe a mock-up of what the final Thing will look like. I keep telling myself to do this kind of thing, and telling other digital photographers that they should do this kind of thing. But today, I was not concentrating on photography, I was concentrating on shopping. Trying to buy a new jacket. And I forgot to search out signs. Mistake.
But correctable. I can go back. London is what I love to photograph and if I get it wrong, I can try again. If the weather is bad I can wait until it’s nicer. It’s not like this Thing is in a foreign city I was in last month, and I’m stuck here never being able to photo those signs. I can go back there, find those signs, if they are there, and chase down that website, if it exists.
When I say “back”, what I mean is, looking up its arse, at its bollocks:
Here is the same beast from its better side, together with some history, such as why it’s called the Coade Lion.
It’s one of my favourite London statues, especially when it lines itself up with the Wheel.
And here is something else feline, spotted in the place where all vehicles of interest to me seem to be spotted these days, Lower Marsh:
It’s the Bobcat E50, as you can see in my photo if you look carefully enough.
So, what is a “bobcat”? I saw a TV documentary recently about honey badgers, and they are nothing to do with regular badgers. So, is a bobcat a regular cat nearly, or a regular cat not at all? Does it merely look or behave somewhat like a cat, to some rather unobservant people? It turns out bobcats are cats. Wikipedia has a picture of what it describes as “bobcat kittens” (which ought surely to be: bobkittens). They look exactly like regular cat kittens.
Wikipedia is reasonably reliable on non-politically-controversial topics, but I was rather expecting the bobcat wikipedia entry to have a clutch of propaganda in it about how bobcats are an endangered species and how this is all the fault of people, capitalism, etc.. But actually the bobcat news here, according to Wikipedia, is quite good:
Although bobcats have been hunted extensively by humans, both for sport and fur, their population has proven resilient though declining in some areas.
See also, this strange guy. I like the Police Academy movies, in which he appears, despite him rather than to any degree because of him. The only thing I do like about him is that he omits the terminal e from his surname, thereby making it that tiny bit easier for me to make people spell my surname right.
This kind of thing is why I keep going to dezeen:
Engineering firm Arup has produced prototype 3D-printed steel construction joints that could be used to create more efficient structures.
Arup says it has produced a new design method for creating “critical structural steel elements” for tensile structures – a development it believes signals “a whole new direction for the use of additive manufacturing in the field of construction and engineering”.
A glimpse of much architecture to come, I think.
First impression: don’t much like it. Gormley is very hit or miss, and this looks to me like a miss. But, it’s only a tube ride away, so what’s for me to lose if I go and check it out? I might like it more in, so to speak, the flesh. Not that it looks very fleshy.
What strikes me, when I look at these two pictures, is how much more sculpturally interesting the purely functional artifact is, compared to the “sculpture”.
Wikipedia on it, here.
More pictures here. Plus, this:
To celebrate the 38th anniversary of the liberation of Da Nang, the government of Vietnam has constructed the world’s largest dragon-shaped bridge over the Han River. Not only is it the steel bridge the largest of its type in the world, but it is covered in over 2,500 LED lights - and it breathes fire!
Inauguration report, and another great picture here:
I think that’s terrific. I just went looking for new bridges, not having done this for a while, and this one jumped out at me.
I am very fond of the ballerina statue at the top of the Victoria Palace Theatre. I recently photoed it with a red crane behind it, that being one of my favourite recent snaps.
This afternoon, I photoed it again, again with craneness:
From 1911, the year after its rebuilding to its present design by Frank Matcham, the Victoria Palace had a gilded statue of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova poised above it. This was owner Alfred Butt’s homage to the dancer he had spectacularly introduced to London.
The tribute was not appreciated by the superstitious ballerina, who would never look at her image as she passed the theatre, drawing the blinds in her car. The original statue was taken down for safety reasons in 1939 before the blitz and has completely disappeared. It is not known whether it is in someone’s garden or was turned to wartime military use, such as bullets.
The Victoria Palace moved into the new millennium with an adventurous building programme; enlarging the Foyer, WC facilities and increasing the dressing room space, whilst maintaining all the feel and character of a historic building.
In 2006, a replica of the original statue of Pavlova was reinstated to its original place above the cupola of the Victoria Palace and her gold-leafed figure once again gleams above us.
Blog and learn.
I photoed this piece of sculpture just over a year ago, on May 1st 2013. It’s just outside Southwark Park, in the middle of the Rotherhithe Roundabout, having been put in place to celebrate the Tour de France hitting London in 2007. It is the work of Heather Burrell
Burrell later did another cyclist sculpture, for the 2012 Olympics. Based on photos like this one, I don’t (or maybe that should be wouldn’t) like it nearly so much. The curviness of the 2007 work is most agreeable. The flatness of 2012 is just tacky and trashy, or so it looks to me. Seeing this latter work for real might make me think differently, but I doubt it.
Indeed. It was a rather grey and grim day, but at least I didn’t get part of the Big Blue Cock in sunlight, and the rest in shade, as I did when I visited the Big Blue Clock earlier, when it was sunnier:
This being the sculpture beneath which Goddaughter 2 and I met up the other day. I think you will agree there can be no doubt about you having got to the desired spot, if the desired spot you have selected is: beneath the Big Blue Cock.
I include the sign under it so you can find out all about it, if you wish to.
What I like about the Big Blue Cock is that it is an undistorted cock, rather than a cock that some artist has played silly buggers with the shape of. In other words, I like it for the same kind of reasons I like the Gormley Men. Only the blueness is a strange. But then again, you often get oddly coloured animals, such as in toy form. And anyway, making a cock in an exactly realistic colour would probably be too hard.
Although, I don’t know why this is not done more often. We could surely now make statues of notables, and get the colours exactly right. Why do statues have to be in only one - very unrealistic - colour?
Spent the afternoon and evening out with Goddaughter 2. On our travels we encountered a poster advertising the movie Noah. My opinion of Hollywood action movies is that they shrink all stories that they start with back to just the one story which is the same story every time. I asked if that was true also of Noah. Yes, replied Goddaughter 2:
It is basically Transformers with a boat.
LOL. As in: I actually did. Goddaughter 2 also sounds like an action movie, I think.
When I should have been taking my early evening nap, we were instead watching Cosi Fan Tutte at the Imax, and I struggled to stay awake. Not that it was bad. If it had been bad I would have just gone to sleep. But it was good, so I kept on postponing my nap, for about four hours. The result of all this is that I am too now tired to be saying anything more than what you just read.
Well, one other thing. We met under the Big Blue Cock in Trafalgar Square, my thinking in choosing this spot being that you aren’t going to get it wrong. There are no other Big Blue Cocks in London, and you can’t miss it.
We both like it very much.
On Monday I was in Trafalgar Square, and photoed this statue:
I was in a hurry, and had no time to dwell on what it said on the plinth, but it seemed to be saying “JACOBVS SECVNDVS”, or some such thing. So, could this really be James II? I proceeded to my Event and forgot about it.
But just now, seeking a quota photo, I looked it up, and yes, it is James II.
Description of it:
Sculpted by Grinling Gibbons or one of his pupils this is considered a very fine statue. It is a pair with that of Charles II, James’s brother and predecessor, at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, in that they were both commissioned by Tobias Rustat.
Even better description of it:
A strong contender for the title “campest statue in London”, this statue has seen more sites than most, starting off in Priory Gardens, the centre of Whitehall, the forecourt of the Admiralty and now here.
I knew that the Romans tended to be held in higher esteem in former times than they are now. But I didn’t realise that James II in particular was such an admirer of the Romans.
Was it James II’s decision to be dressed like this? It had to be a decision he approved of, or would have approved of, because Tobias Rustat was an exact contemporary, and a servant of Charles II. I.e. not a man who would have done anything to offend Charles II’s brother monarch.
Blog and learn.
As for the camp thing, James’s face in this statue does remind me a bit of this bloke.
LATER: I see that James II regarded himself as the king not only of England, Scotland and Ireland, but also of France. Odd.
This evening I visited New Zealand House, for an ASI do. On the way out, I passed this bust, with “FREYBERG V.C.” on its plinth:
Inevitably, when you stick up a photo of such a notable, you do some googling. Not only was Freyberg awarded the VC. He also scored four DSOs. My Uncle Jack got three of these, but this is the first time I ever heard of anyone getting four. It seems that sixteen men have won four DSOs, with just two of these (Freyberg and Frederick Lumsden (who died towards the end of WW1)) getting four DSOs and a VC.
Blog and learn.
I see that another of the DSO four-timers - but no VC, although he was recommended for one - was Group Captain Tait, who succeeded Cheshire (VC) as commander of 617 Squadron (aka the Dam Busters). Tait lead them when they flew from Lossiemouth to Norway and sank the Tirpitz. I remember reading about Tait when I was a kid, because the book I read about the Dambusters wasn’t just about the dams raid but recounted their whole war.
In Germany. Done just with paint. Excellent, I think. Found here (scrolling down is highly recommended). Which I found because 6k recently linked to the same site, concerning something else, also very entertaining.
I read recently that there is some insane plan afoot to ban classic cars from London, on account of them all having the wrong kind of wicked global-warming-type engines or some such crap. I hope this plan is strangled at birth, but it is just the kind of plan that may not be.
Meanwhile, I here celebrate the occasional presence of beautiful antique cars in London with some photos, of a beautiful antique car:
That’s a Sunbean Talbot that I spotted in Lower Marsh, on July 6th of last year, which was an appropriately sunny day for photoing a Sunbeam.
Here is a close-up of the front, crop from what I originally snapped, for legibility. Click for even more legibility:
As you can see, STAR stands for Sunbeam Talbot Alpine Register. I reckon if you drive around in a fancy car like this you are fair game for internet searching, so I tried to see if I could find other photos of this exact car, who owns it, etc. But I failed. My commenters are typically cleverer at this kind of thing than I am, so, as I often say here: Anybody? Is it someone famous?
Only this here today, but that is mostly because I have finally ended my dry spell at Samizdata, with a posting that I started writing only with this little place in mind.
The thing that most pleases me about this latest effort is that I finally managed to pin down exactly what it was that I so liked about those Gormley Men, whom I photographed in 2007 and finally got around to blogging about here in 2011.
Here is part of what I just put at Samizdata:
I still remember fondly the time in London, in the summer of 2007, when the dreary concrete of London’s South Bank Arts district and nearby parts was invaded by a small army of naked metallic Gormleys. The many identical Gormleys were not, in themselves, especially inspiring. But look on the bright side. Nor were these Gormleys bent-out-of-shape semi-abstract grotesques, mid-twentieth-century style.
Bingo. Not heroic, but at least not villainously anti-human.
And although in themselves ordinary, the Gormleys were often standing in very interesting and inspirational places, high above the streets, up on the roofs of tall buildings:
A photo there, of a Gormley on the top of the Hayward Gallery.
Stick anyone on a pedestal – in general, look up at them – and they look more impressive. They look like they deserve to be looked up to. This positioning of all those South Bank Gormleys suggested (yes yes, to me – I admit that all this is very personal) ordinary men at least looking, very admirably, towards less ordinary and more inspiring far horizons. Some of the Gormleys were looking downwards, but most were looking out ahead. What all these Gormleys were not doing was just standing in Art galleries, staring miserably at their own feet, with signs next to them full of demoralising Art-Speak drivel. They raised the spirits of of almost all of those who gazed up at them.
I included in the above paragraph a link to this earlier Samizdata posting, about the difference between how the same sculpture looks, depending on the angle you look at it from.
A great deal of creative thinking consists of putting two things that you have already thought about next to each other, which previously you had only been thinking about in different parts of your brain.
The Gormley Men were ordinary, neither heroic nor villainous. But when looked at from below they looked more heroic than they really are. So to speak.