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Category archive: Sculpture

Friday September 21 2018

The high point, literally, of the expedition that GodDaughter2 and I made to Kew Gardens back in August was our exploration of the Great Pagoda. 

From the top of the Great Pagoda, you can see the Big Things of Central London.  But what the Great Pagoda itself looks like is also worth examining.

Here is an early view we had of it:

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And here is how it looked when we got closer:

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The Daily Mail describes the Great Pagoda as Britain’s First Skyscraper.

Now look how it looked when we got closer still:

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So, what are those sticky-outy things on the corners of each sticky-outy roof?

That’s right, dragons.  And we’re not talking merely inflated dragons.  These are solid looking and scary.  You couldn’t kill these dragons with a mere pin prick, and you wouldn’t dare to try.

Most of the Great Pagoda dragons look like this:

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We discovered when we got there that the recent restoration of this Great Pagoda had, only a few weeks before our visit, been completed.  We got very lucky with that.

Read more about these dragons, and about the Pagoda that they now guard, in this Guardian report.

This Great Pagoda, London’s very first Big Thing, was built by Sir Wiiliam Chambers in 1762.  The dragons were a feature of the original Pagoda, but in 1784 they were removed.  Being made of wood, and following a burst of wet weather, they had started to rot.

Wikipedia says that Kew Gardens was adopted as a national botanical garden in 1840.  Would that be when the Pagoda was opened to the general public?  Whenever exactly that was, Kew Gardens and the Great Pagoda have been what we now call visitor attractions for quite a while now.

During World War 2, the Great Pagoda was used to test bombs.  You can still see one of the holes they made in all the floors, to allow the bombs to fall.  Keeping that for everyone to see now is a nice touch, I think.

Kew Gardens contains lots of greenery, and green stuff on sticks.  What do they call those things?  Trees.  Kew Gardens has lots and lots of trees, of many different brands.

So, on the left here, the hole in the floor.  On the right there, the seat made from many trees:

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And in the middle, the seat, seen through the hole.

But back to those dragons.  The old rotting dragons have now been almost entirely replaced by 3D printed dragons, which look solid but which are actually far lighter than the timer originals.

On the lowest roof, right near the ground, there was a different sort of dragon, which looked like this:

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I wonder what the story was of that one, for there did indeed seem to be only one such blue dragon.  Had the original plan been to make all the dragons like that one?  But did its structural weakness cause them to abandon that plan, and go with the other darker green dragon with its scary red tongue, and with its rather more solid wings?  Don’t know, but whatever the story is, the winning dragon design is pretty good also.

Everything about how the Great Pagoda looks, inside as well as its exterior, says: class.  This is a visitor attraction that I warmly recommend.  There is no lift, not originally of course, and not now, but the steps, although quite numerous, are at a comfortably mild angle - rather than, say, like the ones in the Monument.  Even better, each flight of steps you go up causes you to reach another actual floor, of the sort you can stand on, with windows looking outwards.  So, oldies like me can go up two floors, say, and then have a comfortable breather, without blocking anyone else on the stairs.  If we are on the right floor, we can even use that multi-treed seat (see above).

The weather on the day that GD2 and I visited Kew Gardens was not perfect.  The dragons look rather dark and menacing in my photos.  But that look works, I think.  And as days out go, this day out was pretty much perfect.

Wednesday September 19 2018

Yesterday I was in Victoria Station, and as I emerged from it into … that mess of activity outside the front entrance, I noticed that the light seemed particularly appealing.  At first what got my attention was the combined effect of the mess in the foreground, in the dark, and the assorted Medium Sized Things in the background, totally missmatched and just jambed down together in the London style, all illuminated.  (See photos 1.1 and 1.2 below.)

But then, I found myself zeroing in, yet again, on Pavlova.  What got me noticing her was that, finally, I seemed to have found the right moment to photo her with that big concrete lump that calls itself “Portland House” behind her.  I have done this a lot, but it has never worked until now.  This time, there was a shadow behind Pavlova, while Pavlova herself, and the dwarfed-by-modernity theatre on the top of which Pavlova dances, were both picked out by the light, a combination of circumstances I have never before encountered, or if I did I didn’t notice.

I took many photos of this effect.  Partly because I can’t decide which one I like best, and partly because I think these photos look good when small, here are 3x3=9 of them:

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Maybe the Wikipedia entry for Portland House does say who originally designed this unlovely edifice, but if it does, I couldn’t find that.  Wikipedia does note, however, that Portland House is a miniature rip-off of the Pan Am Building in New York, now called something else.

Further googling got me to a piece by Mike Higginbottom entitled Pan-Am’s London sibling.  He rather likes it.  Plus, he name checks the now pretty much forgotten architect of said sibling: Howard Fairbairn & Partners.  Modern Movement hulks by big name modernists sometimes have a certain in-your-face impact and memorability about them.  But this hulk has always seemed to me to epitomise Modern Movementism at its dreariest.  It’s not even “brutal”, just big, bland and boring.  I greatly prefer Nova, the red diagonalised Medium Sized Thing nearby, which is also to be seen in photos 1.1 and 1.2 above.

Saturday September 15 2018

I was summoned to Chateau Samizdata (which is in South Kensington these days) for lunch today, which meant that when I walked past that Bartok statue at lunchtime today, the light was behind me, rather than in front of me and behind Bartok.

So I was able to have another go at photoing him:

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But with rather mixed results.  The change in lighting made a lot less difference than I had been hoping.

I spent the late afternoon and the evening (a) doing stuff at home, and (b) keeping track of the climaxes of two competitions, this one, which was won by pianist Eric Lu, and this one, which was won by the Worcestershire cricket team.  Which means Worcestershire have had a mixed season, having also been relegated from Division One of the County Championship.  It was like them winning the FA cup but also getting relegated from the Premier League.  However, getting relegated from Division One of the Country Championship makes far less financial difference than dropping out of the Premier League.  So Worcester are probably now pretty happy.  Counties doing well in one format but badly in another is quite frequent.  They all say that, of course, they want to win everything.  But in reality, they prioritise this and neglect that.

Tonight, Radio 3 played the last two Leeds Piano Competition concerto performances, the three others having been played last night.  I will be checking out the performance of Beethoven 1 from last night, because, while they were waiting for them to pick the various prize winners, they played part of a chamber music performance by the guy who had played Beethoven 1, which sounded excellent.  Also, this guy came second in the overall competition, so he’s pretty good.

Tonight’s Beethoven 4, from winner Lu, was excellent, albeit somewhat more subdued than I think Beethoven had in mind when he composed this piece.  Lu’s was a very “private” performance of what was actually, I think, written as a rather public piece (about private feelings).  But that’s very much a matter of (my) opinion.  Given what Lu was doing, he did it very well.  Besides which, who would want all concerto performances to sound the same?  Beethoven might have been surprised by Lu’s delicate and subtle performance, but that doesn’t mean he’d have minded.  On the contrary, he would probably be amazed and delighted that people were still playing the thing at all.

Tonight’s other concerto, the Schumann, was similar in artistic intention to Lu’s Beethoven 4, but to my ear it involved a few too many wrong notes.  The Radio 3 commentators didn’t mention these wrong notes, but I don’t think I imagined them.  I think they chose to ignore them.

Bartok wrote three Piano Concertos, each very fine in their contrasting ways.  None of these were played in the final of the Leeds Piano Competition.

LATER: I’ve just been listening to another county game, just started on Sept 18th, and I realise that the piece I linked to about Worcester getting relegated was dated 2015.  Theoretically, they could still avoid relegation this year.  But they’re not going to.  They’ve just been bowled out for 94 by Essex, and they are about thirty points shy of safety, with Yorks and Lancs both having to cock it up big time for them to escape.  As it is, Worcs and Lancs both look doomed to the trop.  But, in theory, Worcs are still in with a chance of avoiding this.

I am very sorry to have misled you, in the unlikely event that I did, and that you care.

Saturday September 08 2018

Earlier in the week, on my way to St James’s Park tube, and again on my way back home from St James’s Park tube, I photoed what I described to Google as a “concrete pump”.

This concrete pump was helping to build a clutch of apartment blocks where the old New Scotland Yard used to be, before New Scotland Yard moved to a new New Scotland Yard, back where the original Scotland Yard used once to be.

I got enough images to suggest that a “concrete pump” is indeed what this extraordinary contraption is, but not enough to suggest that I had named the contraption correctly, using the preferred words of those who deploy it.

Nevertheless, enjoy.  I did, especially the close-ups of the joints.

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All this, just to be able to squirt concrete from a lorry into a hole.  (I’m guessing, from the invisibility of building action behind all the solid fences, that his concrete was for the foundations.  This being where concrete, as opposed to steel on its own, still seems to be essential.) And with a big long arm like that one, with all its joints, I’m guessing it can reach all sorts of complicated and out-of-the-way spots.  (If you guess that I do a lot of guessing when I see something like this, then you guess right.)

There must be a reason why they don’t use a flexible tube, but have to make do with a rigid tube, but with the occasional rotating joint.  So elaborate are those joints that they end up looking biological rather than merely mechanical.  So, as with the previous posting, also about technology rather than biology, I have categorised this posting as, among other things, “other creatures”.  (I’ve also added “sculpture” to the category list.  Does regular sculpture come any better than this?  Sometimes maybe, but not very often.)

The concrete itself must be a marvel of blending and general wonderfulness.  Able to travel as a near-liquid along this elaborate pipe, under (guess) great pressure (another guess: that’s why the pipe has to be made of metal rather than of something bendier), but then able, at exactly the right time, to solidify in the deep cylindrical holes into which it is squirted.  At which point it has to stay solid for ever.  (Is something added, at the critical moment, to make it solidify?)

There is much that is very wrong with the world.  This sort of stuff is what is very right with the world.

Monday September 03 2018

So I went looking for interesting new bridges, as I do from time to time, but found nothing interesting that I didn’t know about.  Like I say, the bridge news these days is when they collapse.

So I gave up on bridges, and instead thought about doing a posting about the Brunel Museum, which I visited on Saturday.  There is, of course, a website.  But there is also a Wikipedia entry.  And look what I found there.  That’s right, it’s the Royal Albert Bridge, Saltash, made smaller and sittable upon, with a train:

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I’m pretty sure that, while waiting to be told about the nearby Brunel tunnel under the Thames (set in motion by Brunel’s dad Marc), I and my two pals were sitting sipping our drinks within a few feet of this bridge-bench.  But it was dark, and I only found out about it just now.

Here are two things I did see:

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On the left, a bust of Marc Brunel, in the little museum.  On the right, a photo of son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the famous photo with the huge chains behind him, projected onto the extremely grubby and deranged wall of the place where we listened to a lecture about the tunnel.  The guy is saying: “Well, you just can’t get the walls these days.”

No, he wasn’t.  He was saying something I didn’t catch because I wasn’t concentrating hard enough to make it out.  That being because the acoustics of this strange vertical cylinder in the ground were about as reverberationally bad as acoustics are able to be, and I could only make out about one in three of the words spoken by the guy, despite him being an actor who enunciated very clearly, and despite him standing about four yards from where we were sitting.

But despite all of the above, it was a fun evening.  Basically (a) because of the company, and (b) because now, when people ask me if I know anything about the Brunel Museum in Bermondsey, I can now say: Yes.  I’ve been there.  And because I had fun photoing.

Friday August 31 2018

Today I had in mind to tell you about the dragons that adorn the Great Pagoda in Kew Gardens, which is the Pagoda from the top of which you can see the Big Things of London.

But I spent today paying attention to cricket, and fretting about whether enough people would attend my Brian’s Last Friday Meeting, that happened earlier this evening, so I did not manage to say anything here about the above mentioned dragons.  Too complicated.

Now that it is late evening, and the meeting has successfully concluded (thank you Vera Kichanova, terrific), I only have time and energy to tell you about these two particular dragons, which are inflated and made of plastic:

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What these inflated plastic dragons tell you is that Kew Gardens, in addition to being a place of Outstanding Scientific Interest, is also what is now called a Visitor Attraction.  A place, in other words, to which children are glad to go to rather than rebellious about being made to go.  And there is nothing like friendly inflated plastic dragons with goofy smiles on their faces to make children feel welcome.

I, meanwhile, have no particular objection to visiting a Visitor Attraction.  Before I had a digital camera, I used to be snobbish about going to places which other people in large numbers also liked.  But since acquiring my first digital camera (I am now on about my seventh) and since acquiring the hobby of photoing other digital photoers, I find that my former distaste for Visitor Attractions has melted away.  The more people there are at a particular spot (and if they can bring their children without their children objecting, there will be more people) the more chance there is that there will be people photoing, and that makes me happy.

So: hurrah for the inflated plastic dragons of Kew Gardens.  Which I also quite like myself.

Tuesday August 14 2018

On that same photowalk with GodDaughter 1, five years ago, that I mentioned yesterday, and a bit earlier than when I took yesterday’s photo, of her and her shadow and my shadow, I took these photos:

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You can see how that little mind of mine was working, can’t you?  That being one of the amusements of me taking so many photos that comes across years later.  I can now see exactly what I was thinking, in a little photo-moment, five years ago.

I encounter an interesting sculpture.  (I find that I like sculpture more and more, provided I like it of course.) Then, in the distance, I see a favourite Big Thing, in this case the Big Olympic Thing.  I line up the Big Olympic Thing up the sculpture.  I line it up again, this time including only that very recognisable top of the Big Olympic thing, and putting that right on top of the sculpture, like a handle.  Good.  Nice one.

Then I draw back, and take another shot that provides some more context, while being careful to keep the Big Olympic Thing present, to one side.  What I do not do, regrettably, is photo any sign or caption which told me about this piece of sculpture.  What is it?  Who did it?  When?  Why?  What’s it of?  There must have been some clue I could have photoed.

Happily, this is the twenty first century, and a little descriptive googling ("sculpture clasped hands” or some such thing) got me to places like this, which tell the story.  And it’s quite a story.

Sunday August 05 2018

Yes, every time I visit my friends in Fulham Road, I get out at South Kensington tube, a bit early, and I photo, and then sit on the plinth of, the Bartok statue.  Follow that link to find out why it’s there.

Context, caption, and the prettiest photo I photoed of this, this time around:

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Music is made up of melody, harmony and rhythm.  What I like most about Bartok’s music is the harmonies, of the more “beautiful” and less strident sort.  Too many instruments, too loud, or a piano on its own ditto, and he loses me.  In other words, I basically don’t like Bartok’s music that much, but I sometimes very much like the sound that it makes.  I especially like the very beginning of the Concerto For Orchestra, the Piano Concertos (especially number three), and the string quartets.  Oh, and I really like Bluebeard’s Castle, provided the singing is bearable.  I especially like the in-English CD I have of it that came attached to the BBC Music Magazine about two decades ago, in which Sally Burgess sings superbly.. Memo to self: listen to that again.  I presume that Bluebeard himself is the usual industrial drill noise that almost all such singers perpetrate for a living, but it will be worth it for Ms Burgess.

This is the recording I mean.  Click on that, and you will discover that you can listen to it too.

Thursday August 02 2018

On August 2nd 2013, exactly five years ago today, there was a clutch of orange umbrellas above Lower Marsh.  (Also (see bottom right), 240 Blackfriars Road was under construction.) I don’t believe I mentioned these umbrellas at the time I photoed them, and now, I can’t google my way to any sort of explanation of them.  But, I think I recall investigating them at the time, and I think they were some kind of advert for an art gallery.  This guy agrees that these umbrellas were indeed there, then, but he doesn’t say anything about them either.

Anyway, here they are, as I photoed them then:

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The bottom left one looks to me like the head of some kind of oriental feline creature.

Monday July 30 2018

imageOn osprey dives for a fish near Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Says Peter Schramm:

… hier hat es im richtigen Moment Klick gemacht ...

Which sounds about richtigen.

Thank you Mike Fagan.

In the Twittered version of this photo, the claws of the Osprey at the bottom of the photo are chopped off.  The result looks like some kind of medieval sculpted gargoyle with big ears and sunken eyes.

This is one of those postings where I need more blurb, to stop the photo bashing into the posting below.  This is that blurb.  I hope.

Well, it is now.  I needed a bit more, in case comments have to be got rid of.

Sunday July 29 2018

Two things got my attention just now on Twitter, both, I think, very funny.  I didn’t actually LOL.  But I did smile.

First up, this quote:

It is always bittersweet when your relatives bid you fond farewell as you leave for Edinburgh, and only you know how much you are about to defame them for comedic gain.

And next up, this cartoon:

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The latter of these two jollities goes way back, and I suspect that the script and the visuals were done by different people.  But the first one is bang up to date, and I am hence able to direct you to who originated it, which I like to do.

This, on the other hand, baffles me:

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I recognise financial commentator and funny man Dominic Frisby, on the left there.  But why do Frisby’s shoes have lightbulbs in them?  Who is that other bloke, and why are the two of them waving their fingers like that?  Why are they sitting in the eyes of a giant skull?  Also, what on earth does this have to do with Brexit?  What is it that Remainers have said about such a scene as this, to the effect that it couldn’t happen, or would happen less?  Are the above two gents, like the provider of the quote above, in Edinburgh, for the Festival?  And have the Remainers said that the Edinburgh Festival this year would be a flop?  Yes, that must be it.

LATER: Just noticed where it says spikedmath.com in the cartoon.  So I guess that’s where that started.

EVEN LATER: This:

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Also:this.

Sunday July 15 2018

It continues to be hot, and so the quota photos continue.  At least this one is relatively recent.

I walked to Parliament Square last Friday morning, and caught the fag end of the anti-trump demo.  What the demo had consisted of at its height, I don’t know, so my impressions of what went on in Parliament Square, just after the Trump blimp had been brought down to earth, and just before it was deflated by its minders and put in a van and driven away, don’t necessarily mean much.  But for what it’s worth, it all seemed pretty feeble to me.  There were lots of placards saying how much the holders of the placards hated Trump and wanted him to go home, drop dead, fuck off, etc.  But they didn’t seem to want any particular policy to change.  They just hated Trump.  And his tweeting.

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The whole atmosphere was strangely relaxed.  It made me think I wasn’t the only non-sympathiser present, attracted to the demo by the Trump blimp, and by the general desire to see what all the fuss consisted of.

When the weather cools down, I might manage some more thoughts about all this anti-Trumpery, for Samizdata, but I promise nothing.

In my photo, it looks to me like Trump owns them, rather than the demoers doing anything to him that he need worry about.  But then, I don’t sympathise.

Friday July 06 2018

And here are two of the best of them, recently photoed by me:

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When I was there, about a week ago, there were six elephants in Sloane Square in all.  But today is a busy day, so two is your lot.

They will, according to this, be there until July 18th.

Monday July 02 2018

I like these sculptures.  But I didn’t encounter them in a park, the way they are at the other end of that link.  I encountered them on the ground floor of the Cheesegrater.

And, of course, photoed them:

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The ground floor of the Cheesegrater was only pretending to be a park.

Saturday June 23 2018

Yesterday I walked, in bright sunshine, along Victoria Street to Parliament Square, and then across along the river, ending up at the top of the Tate Modern Extension.  In total, I took one thousand four hundred and seventy two photos, most of them at the top of the Tate Modern Extension, and most of those of my fellow digital photoers.

But here is just one of the photos I took yesterday, not of another photoer, and not anywhere near to Tate Modern:

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That’s the statue of Oliver Cromwell, outside the Houses of Parliament.  Read more about it here.

Usually, the background behind this photo is complicated Parliementary architecture.  But just now, work is being done on this architecture, so Cromwell’s background is unusually plain and unfussy, like Cromwell himself, I believe.

I like temporary stuff.  And a nice variation on temporiness is when the temporiness is in the background behind something permanent, like a statue outside Parliament.