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Category archive: Art

Thursday May 12 2016

I love signs.  They communicate a lot, by their nature, but they are not considered Art, so they aren’t preserved.  They come and go, and stuff that comes and goes is how a photographer who is only an okay photographer makes his photos count for something.

So, I gathered together all the sign photos I took, to do a big collection.  But that was taking too long, so I picked out the long thin ones, and here are those ones, in chronological order.  I really did take the first one first:

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Click on each to get the bigger pictures.

No coincidence that two of them - arguably three of them - are in English.  There’s quite a bit of English to be seen in French shops, just as there’s quite a bit of French in English shops.

Byrrh is the local drink of Thuir.  It’s a lot like Port.  I’d link to the website, but it makes noises that you have actively to silence.  I hate that.

What “lefties” means, when on the front of a shop, I have absolutely no idea.

LATER: This was all done in great haste, and I neglected to mention that the “lefties” sign is actually in Spain, in a big shopping centre we visited (and got stuck in because of traffic jams all afternoon (don’t ask)).  But, I still like the sign and am still baffled by it.

Thursday April 21 2016

Circumstances had placed me at the Angel Tube.  My business was concluded and the weather was wondrous.  So, where to next?  There is a canal near there, but I didn’t fancy another canal walk, so instead I just walked along whatever road presented itself to me, in the general direction of the Big Things of the City (one of them (the Heron Tower) having been turned blazing gold by the early evening sun).  The road turned out to be Goswell Road.  A place of slightly down-at-heal struggle, where you felt that for some, the struggle wasn’t worth it, but for others, maybe.  That kind of in-between sort of a place.  Not as affluent as you’d expect for something that close to the City, but trundling along as best it could.  Big, shabby-modern university buildings.  Building sites.  Ethnic shops.

And then in amongst all this middlingness, a glimpse through what looked like a shop window, into a world of money-no-object designer gloss and nouveau riche ostentation.  What is all this stuff?

It all looked rather Zaha Hadid, especially this shiny but strange object, presumably for sitting on:

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And hey, look, there’s a picture of Zaha Hadid.  This is obviously a place that takes Zaha Hadid pretty seriously, and is very saddened by her recent death:

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Zaha Hadid, I should explain, is the world-renowned starchitect and designer, who recently died at the shockingly young age of 65.  When a starchitect dies at 65, that’s like a rock star dying at 22.  At 65, starchitects, rather like classical conductors, are just getting started.  The thing is, starchitects need power, and their target demographic is old decision-makers, so they tend to be old too.

What was this rather strange place?  I stepped back to see if there was any clue on the outside.

Here was a clue:

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Good grief.  This is an actual Zaha Hadid place of work.

I crossed the road, to photo the whole thing:

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To be more exact, this is not the one place where Hadid and all her underlings did everything.  This is the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery, which opened in 2013 (I now learn), which would perhaps have been open for me to walk into had I encountered it earlier in the day.  The place displays many of Hadid’s numerous designs for Small Things, like furniture, lamps, sculptures, jewellery, paintings, and suchlike.

Considering what a wacky designer Hadid was, that’s a surprisingly prosaic building, isn’t it?  I’m guessing that it was not built specifically with her in mind, but was adapted.

So, no wonder that this place now contains memorials to Zaha Hadid, like this:

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There is some reflection of the outside in this next snap, but it gives you an idea of what the place as a whole is like, and what kind of stuff is in it:

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Frankly, for me, all this indoor small stuff does not show Hadid at her very best.  For that, I think, you have to go outside.

Her only building in London so far is the Aquatics Centre, which I photoed, very hastily, when I visited the top of the Big Olympic Thing.  Had I know then that Zaha Hadid had been about to die, I would have taken more photos of this building, and more carefully:

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I would, for instance, have placed it in a gap in that safety netting, rather than just randomly.  Another time.

But notice that even in that casual photo, the beauty, I think, of the building still asserts itself.  It’s like a sports helmet, of the sort worn by cyclists, and by some cricketers.

Even more remarkable is this amazing ancient-modern juxtaposition:

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This is now, apparently, nearing completion.  It might be worth a trip to Antwerp, just to see it.

Zaha Hadid’s underlings are going to try to keep the Zaha Hadid enterprise going, at least the architectural bit.  Good luck people, but you’re surely going to need it.

The rumour I heard is that Hadid was “difficult” to work for.  Maybe this was just an example of that law that says that bossy men are masterful, but bossy women are bossy.  But maybe she really was difficult to work for.  If so, this difficulty looks like it was all of a piece with the sorts of designs she created.

The thing is, Hadid was not some logical, everything-has-a-reason systematic, machines-for-living in, presider over a system of architectural problem solving.  She was the kind of architect who unleashed drama, excitement, at vast extra expense, if what you’re comparing it all with is a big rectangular box.  You only have to look at her stuff to see that any logic involved is just an excuse for a cool looking design.  Why does it look that way?  Because I, Zaha Hadid, say so, and I’m the boss, that’s why.  I make beautiful shapes.  Other people like them and buy them.  Deal with it.

That’s going to be a hard act to replace.

Wednesday April 20 2016

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:

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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.

Monday April 18 2016

Indeed:

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For the uninitiated.  I did once sit through this piece, when it was on the radio, but my mind wandered.  I blame the performance.  I also fondly remember the Gramophone (I think) review of a recording of it: a blank column.

Sunday April 03 2016

Incoming from Darren (to whom thanks also for various recent comments):

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Saw this White Van story and thought of you.

Outstanding.

The artist, known only as Mr Konjusha is 22 and from east London.

His work has been spotted at various locations since he started drawing on the vehicles about three weeks ago. He said he had worked on 10 vans so far.

I think the whiteness of White Vans is all part of their appeal.  If they are white and clean, they look really clean.  If they are white a dirty, they look really dirty.

But if they are white and dirty, but if the dirt has been turned into art, what are they then?

Once again we have here an art form which is greatly encouraged by cheap digital photography.  Would Mr Konjusha be so inclined to exert himself thus, were it not possible for his efforts to be quickly and easily recorded and equally easily shared with an admiring public?

Judging by what he says about how he was trying to put a smile on delivery drivers’ faces, he started doing this just for a bit of fun.  But if he likes the fame and the attention he is now getting, he’ll perhaps continue for a while, more than he would have done in the previous century.  Maybe, thanks to all the attention, his next job will be in advertising.

What’s the betting someone turns this dirty art into something that will actually get printed, nice and cleanly, onto a nice clean van?

I’ve included “cats and kittens” in the category list because the guy says that some of the faces he does look like hybrid human/lion faces.

Wednesday March 02 2016

Photoed by me, when I visited Barcelona in the summer of 2005:

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This began like as an advert, but has mutated into Art.  It seems to be quite a big deal, over there in Barcelona.  My picture is of it supported by a structure which has since been replaced.

I have been a bit ill.  Still am, rather.  Hence this rather random posting, even by my random standards, and hence also the fact that although I tried to find out what this owl originally advertised, I pretty soon gave up.  Anyone?

I was going to put up a picture I took of the Sagrada Familia (the big spikey Gaudi cathedral), with cranes.  But the internet is full of pictures of the Sagrada Familia, without cranes, and also with cranes.

Sunday February 21 2016

imageI have been reading Martin Geck’s biography of Bach (translated into English by Anthea Bell).

The question I now bring to Bach is: What did he think he was doing?  Worshipping God?  Being Beethoven before Beethoven?  More the latter than I had realised, it would seem.

Here is an excerpt not from the book itself, but from my English paperback edition’s introduction, by John Butt:

One idea that immediately emerges from his biography is that Bach’s relatively provincial Eisenach background was something that he never fully relinquished. In other words, he plumbed the greatest depth of experience from a relatively modest environment.  Ironically, this gave his music much value in later centuries.  Had this music been truly fashionable or cosmopolitan in its own age, over- filled with local relevance, it would surely have sounded dated in later years.  But Bach’s strikingly profound exploration of a limited world somehow translates well to subsequent eras.  The historical material is relatively easily assimilated by any to whom it is alien, yet Bach’s treatment of it is the most penetrating and challenging imaginable.

Another point that rendered him such a ‘hardy traveller’ in later ages is that he did not cultivate a deliberately idiosyncratic personality.  This biography shows us that his principal means of learning was the traditional one: study and improving exemplars. As Geck observes, Bach spent many years working on the same few works, and the exact beginning and ending of the process cannot (and should not) necessarily be traced. It is as if the composer is aiming for a perfection that is not humanly achievable.  The very openness of these works, coupled with their intense perfection, somehow gives them a momentum that carries them into the future.

Idiosyncratic his compositional personality may not have been, but there is no doubt that Bach’s personality was extremely strong.  Geck reveals an extravagant, ‘virtuoso’ character in Bach’s fiery encounters with the council of Arnstadt.  As a virtuoso, Bach seems to wish to say as much as possible all in one moment, and this develops into a more mature dialectic, between the cultivation of the greatest intensity of expression and the greatest degree of order in his music.  Geck discerns Bach’s search for ultimate truth in his basic compositional philosophy of ‘all-in-one’ and ‘all-from-one’ (his deriving of the entire composition from as small a number of elements as possible).  Once again, this relates to Bach’s development of the most intense musical vision from a straitened environment.

Did Bach thus cultivate a sense of individuality, a sense of autonomous art, within the context of what was basically a traditional craft-like activity?  Geck suggests that there was a real sense in which Bach’s music performed a covert social function somehow sublimating, his professional problems and the various contradictions of his age, such as between church and art.  In this way, Bach’s music does indeed relate to the German tradition of the following century, not least the art of Beethoven, which similarly articulates a special kind of humanity by transcending the difficulties of life.

Art as social climbing.  Discuss.

It certainly worked for Bach.  (And Beethoven.)

Tuesday February 16 2016

I still can’t really get used to it.  I refer to how, when I see something intriguing, and photo it, I can look at it when I get home and look it up.

So, for instance, the day after David Bowie died (and the day that the news of his death was all over London (and presumably lots of other places besides (that day being a particular good day for me and my photoing (call Hemingway!!!!)))), I came upon this intriguing sign, outside a Church near Waterloo Station:

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Hm, that looks interesting, I thought, as I perused this photo this morning.  I must get inside that, some time Real Soon Now.  Maybe I’ll go visit the place this afternoon.

And then I realised.  This is the twenty first century, and I can get inside it, right here in my kitchen.

When I did, I encountered another of those pictures in which whoever did it is deciding which of London’s Big Things are worthy of inclusion in his picture of London’s Big Things:

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As regulars here will know, these non-photographic assemblages of London’s Big Things are a big thing, for me, here, just now (those Boris bikes with Big Things on them also having been snapped on this same David-Bowie-died-yesterday day).  Is there any city in the world with the sheer number of very recognisable Big Things, ancient and modern, that London now possesses?  I reckon that for both quantity and quality, London’s Big Things have all other cities grovelling in self-abasement.  But, what do I know?  I only really know London.

Another thing I can’t quite get used to is that whenever I have a question that I don’t know the answer to, and to which google may not be so suited either, I can ask the Samizdata commentariat.  I must ask them this, Real Soon Now.

Asking about the Southbank Mosaics Gallery and asking about London’s Big Things
A still life and a cat cushion in Kentish Town
Two mice and a cat on a Wicked Van
The laboriousness-to-effect ratio at Colossal
Anonymous guys taking (and making) pictures in Trafalgar Square
Coloured lights in bottles outside the RFH
Phil Tufnell paints cats!!!
A rather argumentative van
Cats and cricket – cats and drones
Two strangers photoed by Mick Hartley and shown there (and here) without their permission
Old London by the Buck Brothers
Seaside muralist
Snohetta does zig zag roofs for competitive cities
A Shiny Thing by Frank Stella Hon RA
Big 4
Marc Morris on how the Bayeux Tapestry ought not to exist
CATable at the Building Centre
From a cat cushion to Bill Murray and a nude to a demon horse sculpture that killed its creator
Anish Kapoor photoed next to his big shiny balls
Hand done photos
Golden Gate being built – Severn Road Bridge ditto – C20 photography – Hitler’s paintings
Hirst’s Hymn outside the Tate Gallery
Non-faceless architecture in Rome
How the internet is cheering up Art
As found not-art
The Poppies (2): The crowds
The Poppies (1): What they look like
Shard shots
Why I am a point-and-shoot photographer rather than a Real Photographer
The illustrations for Christian Michel’s talk this Friday (plus some thoughts from me)
Photographers in Tate Ancient
Tate cat
Out and about in the sunshine
Cats … on scaffolding … with shadows …
Umbrellas!
Colossal fun
I see cats
Homer Simpson on Thames
Lego bridge in Germany
Finally working out what I liked about those Gormley Men
Art has its uses – but where did it have its uses this time – and what is it?
Temporary art made of brightly dressed people
Good question
Popography
Sandcastles that will live for ever
Digital photography as telepathy
David Byrne on the constraints of artistic form
Smaller is more legible – big is more fun
Owl at Canning Town railway station
Edwin is a bad person
Stairs Thing outside St Paul’s
Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Rothko Toast
So painters also used to “take” pictures
Hong Kong housing that looks like abstract art
A mannequin in Tachbrook Street sheds light on the nature of perception
Lunch at Gessler at Daquise
Wandering about afterwards
Art without Artists
Cheap hippos are hard to find
An afternoon in Croydon
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom internet headline of the day
Flat cat
Photographers at Eros and Art in the tube
A happy British Summer Time to all my readers
Hockey Stick art
A pill that turns sweat into perfume
Release Ai Weiwei
Gormley’s South Bank Men
Blue Men on a boring building in Borough High Street
Quota photo by someone else
Tiny Cardboard Box People Appear All Over Singapore
Everyone?
Spray can girl in Leake Street
A good bit about the future of art galleries and how to rescue good bits
Biker shadow
Scaffolding ball
Large areas the same colour on the first first day of spring
The right to photograph
Abstract satellite expressionism
The Min-Kyu Choi folding three point plug
Structural decoration
Cat blogging and Gormley blogging
The Wheel through some Art
“Dying is a fulltime business. You haven’t time to do a lap of honour.”
More random links
A little drunk blogging
“… the idea is to remain ignorant of how dumb you look …”
Is the contemporary art bubble bursting?
Cat Car
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
If it’s not Art it can be rather fun
An abstract view of Kings Place
Lump art and dinner in sky
It only takes One Rich Lunatic
John Carey on Shakespeare and the high-art/ popular-art distinction
Keith Windschuttle on history - truth - Robert Hughes
Official bias
Two adverts in the tube
French cats
3D!
Photos are better
Art is always a value judgement
Classic car thinness
Sounding like a different country
Girls these days flashing their cleavages it’s disgusting don’t know what the world’s coming to …
There’s a crack in the cracks at Tate Modern
Three proper photos … and three Billion Monkeys!!!
Photography is not dead
Underground art
Flashdrawing
Deceiving the eyes of Paris
It only takes two idiots
Man may not sit on Art bed and be photoed by Billion Monkey lady friend!
Venus undistorted
Venus by the river
Tate Modern Extension
Genius
Wichita line (and colour) man
Skill and Post-Skill
The Million Dollar Homepage
Date art