Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Art

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.

Thursday May 24 2018

In Quimper, the city in Brittany which I recently visited on account of having friends who live there, I photoed this:

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My camera’s ability to notice details that I didn’t notice at the time …

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… immediately enabled me to learn who did it, and what else he has done.

I love the internet.

Friday May 11 2018

When you go by train to Quimper from London, you start by going by Eurostar to the Gare du Nord in Paris.  And when you step outside the main entrance of the Gare du Nord, you find yourself next to a big red bear with wings.

Although I noticed this big red bear with wings when I first got to Paris, I only photoed it on the way back, a week later, when I and GodDaughter 2’s Mum were in less of a hurry between trains and when the weather was much better.

Also, on the way back, we didn’t suddenly see the big red bear with wings.  We could see it as we approached the Gare du Nord, and I had my camera ready to go, as it had been all afternoon:

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I quite like this big red bear with wings, but I am less sure about whether I admire it.  It seems like a mixture of too many unrelated things.  The lots-of-holes style of sculpting, which I associate with 3D printing, is one thing.  Making a bear look like a bear is something else.  And then, there are those wings.  On a bear.  Wings with holes in them.  The idea of the wings is that they turn the bear into an angel bear.  Something to do with global warming and the melting icecaps, I read somewhere and then lost track of.  The artist, Richard Texier, is not big on logic.  He prefers to stimulate the imagination.  To evoke magic.

The big red bear is called, see above, “Angel Bear”, and it has an inescapable air of kitsch abou it, to my eye.  Like something you’d buy, smaller but still quite big, in a posh gift shop, for far too much money.  I prefer a bull that Texier has also done, in the same 3D printed style.  No wings.  Much better, to my eye.  Cleaner, as a concept.

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But still a bit gift shoppy, I think.  Which is another way of saying that I bet these big old animals are by far his most popular works.  I suspect that Texier may be a bit irritated by this.  He likes being popular and he likes these big animals.  But he also likes his more abstract less gift shoppy stuff, and wishes the populace liked them more too.  Things like this:

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I found both of those images at the Richard Texier website, at this page.

Despite my reservations about the big red bear with wings and my preference for other Texier works, I can, when I look at his big red bear with wings, feel Paris trying.  Trying to become that little bit less of the big old antique such as, compared to London, it now is.  I mean, you can’t miss the big red bear with wings.  Personally, I don’t find it to be wholly successful.  But it is holey.

Tuesday April 03 2018

A reason I like to put my photos on a blog, rather than just shove them out to the world on Flickr or Instagram or some such thing, is that I often like to say complicated things about them.  I like to say why I like about them, basically.  For the photos I show here, this blog is about what’s in the photos, as well as just photoing itself.

I also like explaining the photos.  Often it isn’t obvious what they are off, or where the thing they are of is.

Distressing though it is to contemplate, not everybody in the world is able to live in London, the way I do.  Some of these unfortunates read this blog and view my photos.  Not knowing London, such persons require explanations.

Take this photo, for instance:

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Very pretty, I hope you agree.  But where on earth is it, and where was it taken from?  It was taken from the top of the Tate Modern extension, which is the brick building in the middle of this photo:

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What we also see in that photo is the big old tower of Tate Modern, and in the foreground, one of London’s more interesting railway stations, interesting because it is on a bridge.  I love that about it.  Especially if it encourages other bridges to be building, say out east, which also have buildings on them, like old London Bridge once did.

But I digress.  Which is another reason for sticking photos on a blog.  On a blog you can digress all you want.

So anyway, back to that photo at the top, of the staircase with all its shadows.  Where would that be?

Well, here’s another photo taken from the exact same spot, at the top of the Tate Modern extension, which puts the staircase in context and shows where it is.  It is right in the middle of this view:

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Or consider this rather banal view, also to be seen from the top of the TME, this time looking south:

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On the right are those flats, whose inhabitants have been complaining about being looked at through their big windows, with its big lift shaft on its left.  And further over to the left, further away, we see the three-eyed tower that is Strata, or the Razor as some call it.  Why do I show you that?  Because this ...:

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… which is what I saw by moving along a bit to the right, and looking at Strata through the lift shaft.

How would you know what that was, if I didn’t explain it?

And there’s more explaining to be done.  What is that odd brick pattern, reflected in the glass of the lift shaft, through which Strata is to be seen?

Well, here is a closer-up photo of the TME, taken around the same time, but when the sky was white rather than blue:

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Click on that and you get a closer look at that brickwork.  Or better yet, just look at this even-closer-up photo of it, that I took, also on the white sky day:

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I actually like this brickwork a lot.  It makes this extension both blend in with the old power station that Tate Modern used to be, and yet makes the new building distinctive.  In general, this extension has a highly individual look about it.  As I think I’ve said here before, Art I can take or leave, but I do like the new buildings they build for it.  Yes, see also here.

Thursday March 22 2018

I’m reading Deidre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Equality, the final volume of her Bourgeois trilogy.  I hope that in this volume, at last, I will read evidence concerning McCloskey’s thesis about how the Great Enrichment came about, which is that it was ideological.  She keeps repeating this, but keeps flying off at other tangents.  Wish me luck.

Interesting tangents, mind you.  Like this one, which is a most interesting prediction, concerning the future of Sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 70-72):

Know also a remarkable likelihood in our future. Begin with the sober scientific fact that sub-Saharan Africa has great genetic diversity, at any rate by the standard of the narrow genetic endowment of the ancestors of the rest of us, the small part of the race of Homo sapiens that left Mother Africa in dribs and drabs after about 70,000 BCE.  The lower diversity outside Africa comes from what geneticists call the founder effect, that is, the dying out of genetic lines in an isolated small group, such as those that ventured into west Asia and then beyond. The founder effect is merely a consequence, of the small samples dribbling out, as against the big sample of the Homo sapiens folk that stayed put in Africa. Any gene-influenced ability is therefore going to have more African extremes. The naturally tallest people and the naturally shortest people, for example, are in sub-Saharan Africa. The naturally quickest long-distance runners are in East Africa. The best basketball players descend from West Africans. In other words, below the Sahara the top end of the distribution of human abilities - physical and intellectual and artistic - is unusually thick. (Yet even in Africa the genetic variability in the Homo sapiens race appears to have been thinned repeatedly before the time of the modest emigrations, by population crashes, such as when the super volcano Toba in Sumatra went off, suggestively also around 70,000 BCE. It reduced our Homo sapiens ancestors to a few thousand-a close call.)

The thickness of sub-Saharan abilities at the high end of the distribution is a mere consequence of the mathematics. Greater diversity, which is to say in technical terms, higher variance, means that unusual abilities at both ends of the distribution, high and low, are more common. Exactly how much more depends on technical measures of genetic difference and their expression. The effect could be small or large depending on such measures and on the social relevance of the particular gene expression.

The high end is what matters for high culture. Sub-Saharan Africa, now at last leaning toward liberal democracy, has entered on the blade of the hockey stick, growing since 2001 in per-person real income by over 4 percent per year-doubling that is, every eighteen years. A prominent Nigerian investment manager working in London, Ayo Salami, expects an ideological shift among African leaders in favor of private trading as the generation, of the deeply socialist anticolonialists born in the 1940s dies out.” The 6- to 10-percent growth rate available to poor economies that wholeheartedly adopt liberalism will then do its work and yield educational opportunities for Africans now denied them.

The upshot? Genetic diversity in a rich Africa will yield a crop of geniuses unprecedented in world history. In a century or so the leading scientists and artists in the world will be black-at any rate if the diversity is as large in gene expression and social relevance as it is in, say, height or running ability. Today a Mozart in Nigeria follows the plow; a Basho in Mozambique was recruited as a boy soldier; a Tagore in East Africa tends his father’s cattle; a Jane Austen in Congo spends her illiterate days carrying water and washing clothes.  “Full many a gem of purest ray serene / The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear.”

Monday March 05 2018

Yes, here’s another crowd scene, photoed later on the same expedition as I took that earlier crowd scene.  (But don’t follow that link.  Quicker just to scroll down.)

We are now at Tate Modern.  I’m there to get to the top of the extension tower and to photo London.  But I pause briefly, to photo this scene:

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And later, I chance upon this forgotten photo, and stop, and look, impressed.

I could expand upon the idea that Tate Modern is amusing for lots of people to be in, regardless of the “art” which is the supposed purpose of the building.  For many, me included, this “art” is of no consequence.  The place is what matters.

Although. Presumably someone thinks that those bits of metal in the foreground of the photo are art.

But I think I am thinking of something else, with this photo, and with that earlier one.  What do I like about crowd scenes?  In interesting places?  Interestingly lit?  With colourful backgrounds?  I don’t know.

I think it may be the agreeable sight of people who are all recognisably human, and all doing things that humans do, just as cows do what cows do or birds do what birds do.  But, they each do these things in their own ways.  They are not on parade.  I like roof clutter for this sort of reason.  A crowd is, you might say, a clutter of people.  There are no rules about exactly how they must walk or stand or sit or sprawl.  There are merely places where many people find it agreeable or necessary or convenient to be doing such things, but each in their own particular way and particular shape.

But, not sure yet.

Saturday February 17 2018

I still get cheques through the post, and then I insert these cheques into my bank account by going physically to my local physical branch of my unlocal bank and by handing the cheques over to a cashier.  My bank, however, doesn’t like this.  Just like Tesco, they want me to do the work.  In Tesco’s case they now demand that I become my own check-out person and operate their computers for them.  So, it’s Sainsbury’s and Waitrose for me, from now on.  Bye bye Tesco.  In the bank’s case, they want me to do their work for them while I sit at home.  But, I like the exercise.  In the huge bank queue, I get to read a book concentratedly, because there is nothing else to do.  Good.

All of which is a preamble to the fact that when I came across this, I LedOL:

“Are you aware that you can now do all of this online?”

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Genius.  K. J. Lamb, well done.

One of the many techniques they use to put you off actually going to the physical local branch of your Big Bank is to keep changing the people behind the bars.  And these total strangers are constantly, and insultingly, asking you to prove that you are who you are.  Well, madam, I’ve been banking with your bank for the last half century.  Who the hell are you?  Please could you give me proof that you actually do work here?

Someone should make a movie about a twenty first century bank robbery, where the robbers, who are disgruntled ex-employees of the Big Bank that owns the bank branch they bust into, bust into the bank branch, overpower the witless bunch of newbies who happen to be running the place that day, and park them all in a back room for the day with tape over their months, and then the robbers run the bank all day long, while one of their number hacks into the mainframe computer of the Big Bank that owns everything, and sucks all the money out of it.  The point is: none of the customers who visit the branch while all this is happening would find it in the slightest bit odd to be confronted by a bunch of total strangers.  That would ring no alarm bells at all, because this happens all the time.

Monday February 12 2018

The relationship between, and influence of, photography on artistic painting has always been intimate, and profound.

I can remember when landscape and figurative painting was everywhere.  That would be about fifty years ago and more.  But now?  Do any “important” artists do this any more?  Not many, is my distinct impression.  If there is any “realism” involved, it is usually realism with a twist, and often some kind of violation or distortion.  That guy, who was perfectly capable of terrific realistic painting, was one of the leaders of art out of mere realism.  “Psychological”, instead of literal, truth.

A big part of why this trend out of realism happened is to be found in pictures like this one, of a fire, done recently by 6k.  6k didn’t even have his “camera” with him, when he photoed this.  But, says he, “my phone did ok”.  More than ok, I’d say:

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I recall speculating along these lines recently, at a party.  Painters don’t do the “beauty” of the “real world” any more (I said), in fact (I said) they don’t really do “beauty” at all any more, because now everyone can do great pictures, just by going click with their phones, and everyone now has a phone.

My companion illustrated my point for me by immediately taking out his “phone” and showing me some amazing landscape photos on it that he had taken that very day.  They were stunning.  His point, and mine, is that this required no very great skill on his part, just a half decent and half alert eye for something worth photoing.

So it is that “art” has not so much “advanced” into its various alternative realities of abstraction and conceptualisation, but rather has retreated into these things.  Chased out of doing beautiful recreations of reality by technology.

Everyone can now do beautiful “art” with one click
Elina Cerla
Strange home decorating photo
Shazam for art
Tilbury (2): Pop faces on a footbridge
David Starkey on how Handel trumped Shakespeare
Nadar takes photos from his giant balloon
Manet (and Nadar?) makes Olympia look like a photo
Nieuwerkerke
Funny words – baffling words
David Hockney likes having servants!
Ross King describes how Louis Napoleon became the most important man in the world
How Pablo Picasso (and Picasso’s wife Jacqueline) saved the life of Lucien Clergue
A lot of people used to go to see the paintings in the Paris Salon
Solving the puzzle of pictures
Ross King introduces Meissonier
An interruption ends
A disruptive book about nineteenth century French painting
Taxi with tree
Dr Salter’s imaginary cat statue
Tattooed photoer
Digital photography has made trophy views more valuable and New York skyscrapers taller and thinner
Sculpture with greenery
How Michael Tanner both misunderstands and understands Turandot
Just how Polish Chopin was and how he played
A photo-session in Tate Modern
Art is strange
Luxury
Bronze Osbert Sitwell at the Tate
A picture of a book about pictures
Fish in Orchard Place
Slam City Skates in Covent Garden
IKEA furniture – Lego furniture?
I’m too knackered to tell you why I like this
Shopping Trolley Spiral beside the River Lea
An Underground sermon
Some temporariness being immortalised
Up early – blogging early – elephant sculptures
Mosaic diversion
What I’ll be talking about this coming Friday
3D printed jewellery by Lynne Maclachlan
Lighting up the bridges of London
A photo of nothing
The painted word
Graffiti cat
The art of taxi advertising
An enlarged Dinky Toy in Belgravia
When the people are the Art
1666 remembered - with another fire
David Hockney comes to Pimlico
Keeping their distance
A pig and two dogs
The right moment and the right alignment
The new Tate Modern extension from inside Blackfriars Station
The Union Jack’s near death experience(s?)
The Sugar Land selfie statue
Art comment
Horizontal French signs
Looking in at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery in Goswell Road
Van Art
John Cage does Sudoku
Dirty art on White Vans
Barcelona owl
Bach’s development of the most intense musical vision from a straitened environment
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