February 1: Tools of Endearment

Today saw the “opening” of an installation by Kalliopi Lemos. It was supposed to be starting at 6, but when I arrived a bit before that time, it looked as if it was all over. The pieces were lit up in low-key purple (presumably a nod to the suffragettes); the artist was having her photograph taken; it was starting to rain icy needles. A tourist jumped into the big shoe to have her photo taken, and was shouted at by a member of the NOW Gallery staff. There wasn’t much of a crowd, but it was pretty cold outside the O2. I think maybe a party was going to happen inside the Gallery, but I didn’t have an invitation.

The collection (which is apparently going to grow) is based on the idea of forcing conversation about the role of femininity in society and more particularly in the field of public art work. It is an interesting idea. I just wish the pieces themselves were more exciting.

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January 4th: Writing

I mentioned a few days ago that I was planning to write about a couple of my characters this year. So, I was browsing through Twitter, and up popped an interesting challenge that an artist has set herself (check out the details here ). She has specifically asked for her art to be shared, so here is the first in her series of illustrations.

It triggered an urge to revisit Billy, an old character of mine, which in turn led to a 1000-word opener to what might be an interesting fill-in of a major gap in his story. I’m not posting the link to the story, as I keep my writing persona away from here, but I haven’t written anything new for a long time, so I feel it is worth mentioning.

January 3rd: Reading

Last year I wrote about almost everything I read. This year, I’m only going to mention things I have really liked.

So, to start the year, I treated myself to a full set of Bryan Talbot’s Grandeville graphic novels.

I loved these books. I gave them 5 stars on Goodreads, and wished I could have given them more. They are beautifully drawn, and full of Easter eggs that made me smile each time I spotted one. Asterix and Obelix make a brief appearance. Tintin’s dog Snowy features in one of the books. And there are bears. Paddington Bear. Rupert Bear. Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear (!)

If you don’t know these stories, imagine a mashup of Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Lestrade (the Rupert Graves version); add in an alternate history setting and a steampunk style. Oh, and the lead character is a badger.

It sounds weird. It is a bit weird, but not as weird as you’d think. There are some very bad villains (I won’t spoil it by telling you just who the worst villain turns out to be), and some clueless coppers. There is also a LOT of gory death. This is not a children’s comic.

The five books form a story arc, which is completed at the end of the final book. I want more though, and I hope that sometime in the future, Archie LeBrock will return.

Week 37

Theatre

Arts Theatre

Samuel Becket: Waiting for Godot

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This is a play I have waited for a long time to see. I dearly wished to see Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan as Vladimir and Estragon, but that was not to be. This version was Irish through and through, and had some moments of comedy breaking up the bleakness. I found Pozzo and Lucky very irritating, but Didi and Gogo were excellent.

Once again, I found that I had been moved to a stalls seat (always a problem for me in these little theatres, as it usually involves negotiating a LOT of steps) because of a small audience. I really wish that theatres wouldn’t do this. And this time they were very high-handed about it -as if they are granting you the great privilege of paying £50 for a cold, noisy seat in a half-empty theatre.

The play itself was good,  but the cast must have been as fed up as the audience with the noise leaking in from the basement bar next door.  I can’t recommend this as a venue, sadly.

Art

Illustration Cupboard Gallery

David McKee: 50 Years of Mr Benn

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I like Mr Benn, and was pleased to see this exhibition.

The pictures were mostly straight from the books, with some animation cels. The gallery is very small and tightly packed. There were three other people in the main room when I was there, and it felt like a crowd.

IMG_0925My favourite item was a design especially commissioned by Turnbull and Asser (the tailor next door to the gallery).  It is Mr Benn as James Bond, and is going to be a silk pocket square that is sadly just too small to be used as a neck scarf. (I popped next door to enquire, just to be sure).

 

Week 36

The Arts can often be an antidote to the grim reality of life. At other times they can be cathartic, allowing release.   This week’s outings were all produced by women, and all addressed the hard parts of life.

Theatre

Dorfman Theatre

Lucy Kirkwood: Mosquitoes

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This play has been the season’s hot ticket. A complete sellout from the beginning of the booking season, only two tickets allowed per customer, and only very occasionally appearing in the “Friday Rush”. I managed to bag the single ticket on offer for the performance I saw, and it was well worth the effort I had gone to in order to get that seat.  Olivia Colman was absolutely wonderful as the most damaged (and damaging) relative anyone could ever have. Scientific themes threaded through this excellent play, but it was accessible to the non-nerd.  I loved it.

Art

White Cube: Dreamers Awake

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A very comprehensive feminist surrealist exhibition, curated by Susanna Greeves and featuring work by (amongst others) Tracy Emin, Mona Hatoum, Sarah Lucas and Louise Bourgeois. There were some beautiful works, some very peculiar works, some that were hard to look at. None of it left me unmoved.

Dance/Video

Rosie Kay Dance Company: 5 Soldiers

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This piece was staged during a local festival back at the beginning of the summer. I wasn’t able to get to it then, and so was really pleased to see it being live streamed from an actual army base this week.

The dance shows the progress of five soldiers through their training and deployment. The interaction between the recruits and their officer, and between themselves were very well portrayed, with some difficult moments between the sole female soldier and her male colleagues played out effectively. One of the soldiers suffers a life-changing injury during deployment, and this is addressed well.

 

The female perspective made all of my “culture”  difficult to look at this week. There seemed to be a specific harshness about life itself in these pieces.

Week 35

This week signals the end of summer.

Exhibitions

Somerset House

Perfume

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I was a little worried about this, as I have an aversion to strong perfume, hovering around physical discomfort and sometimes actual breathing difficulties if the perfume assaults me in a confined space. However, the ten perfumes were presented in a way that made them pleasant and not overpowering.

 

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My favourite in the “blind” smelling was presented in a confessional-style cell., and reminded me of the smell of old churches. I later found out it was Incense:Avignon, created for Comme des Garçons, with base notes of Frankincense.

 

 

Also at Somerset House

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This was a strange little exhibition of faked artist biographies and portraits, alongside found objects and strange manipulations of everyday items. It was quite amusing and filled some time on a rainy day.

Art installations

Royal Festival Hall

Peter Lazlo Peri: The Sunbathers

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This piece has an interesting history. It was made for the 1951 Festival of Britain, and installed on the South Bank. After the festival was over, the work was lost until very recently, when it turned up in the garden of the Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath. A crowd-funding campaign was launched and the work was restored and installed inside the Royal Festival Hall.

It was smaller than I expected, although not tiny by any means. I liked it.  Sadly, the exhibition is temporary, and will soon be taken down.

Marianne Heske: Gordian Knot – Necklace

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This is another temporary installation at the Royal Festival Hall, which I was pleased to see on its last day in situ. I liked this very much. The macabreness of the dolls heads juxtaposed with the mathematics of the Gordian knot appealed to the geek in me. I would wear a necklace like this.

Water

The Edmund J Safra Fountain Court at Somerset House is a lovely example of a water feature that the public can get wet in. On the day I visited, it was pouring with rain and chilly, so I was able to take a picture of an unusually empty courtyard and “dancing fountain”.

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I crossed the river from one dancing fountain to another. Jepp Hein’s Appearing Rooms is less pretty, but more exciting. If you don’t correctly anticipate where the next “room” will appear you can get very wet. It was still raining when I was there, so again, I got a picture of an empty fountain.

Books

SUMMER reading challenge

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The idea was to read all six of the books before August Bank Holiday, and I achieved it with a couple of days to spare. I may set myself another mimi-challenge later in the year, but for now, it’s back to my main 100booksin2017 challenge.

Reading

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These two bring my total so far to 71. I am well on track to meet my target.

Harry Hole is one of my favourite detectives, and I thoroughly enjoyed this continuation of his sober life with Rakel and Oleg, despite spending the first part of the book thinking he was dead.  Hard Cheese is an interesting and amusing “locked room” amateur detective mystery, well worth a read, and yes, there is cheese.

 

Week 34

Went for a walk in the park this week.

Galleries

Serpentine Gallery

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-I had been looking forward to this exhibition for a long time, and I wasn’t disappointed. There was a bit of everything, and I was particularly pleased to see the “Brexit” vases, as I had been following the process of their production on TV and various social media.

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I particularly like Perry’s large tapestries. Last time I went to an exhibition of his work I treated myself to a set of plates with images from his “Map of Days“. This time I treated myself to a silk scarf depicting his “Red Carpet“.

Water Features

This is a new category for this blog, but there are a lot of these about, so it’s worth mentioning any of note.

Hyde Park: The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain; The Italian Gardens; Two Bears drinking fountain.

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My picture shows the water on show in one small part of the park. I liked the Italian gardens, with their very formal lily ponds and fountains; I liked the quiet end of the Serpentine, away from the boats and crowds; I liked the two little bears hugging each other on the drinking fountain, which I was surprised to find actually working.

I really did not like the Princess Diana fountain. It seemed to be not much more than a paddling pond, and was full of people when I was there. Maybe I might have liked it more up close. But I would have been giving myself a hill to climb back up on a hot day, so I took my picture from a distance.

Public Art

Hyde Park has two of the most famous and least inspiring statues in London, and I can’t leave this blog without mentioning both of them.

img_0679Peter Pan is famous, and I am a little ashamed that I hadn’t seen this statue before. Now that I have seen it, I have to ask what all the fuss is about. It is the sort of thing that you might find in your auntie Maud’s garden ( if it was a little smaller). I think it counts as an example of ghastly art.

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The Albert Memorial is truly awful. I shudder every time I see it. It was marginally better before it was cleaned up and re-gilded. I’m just pleased that it does not lie on any of my regular routes through London, and that I don’t have to see it too often.

Week 23

Theatre

Duke of York’s Theatre

Lee Hall: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

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I’m not an enormous lover of musicals, but this was new, and with the promise of music by ELO, could have been very exciting. Sadly, the dialogue was so profanity-heavy that I couldn’t really engage with it fully. The acting was good, the all-female cast and band did their job well, but it was sad to see all the characters were stereotypical “convent slags”. I’m afraid I couldn’t like this show.

Museums

The British Museum

Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave

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The Hokusai exhibition was lovely. Many iterations of Fuji-San, of course, but so much more. There were a large number of Hokusai’s notebooks, and it was interesting to see the background work. I particularly liked the two large panels which were apparently the interior ceilings of carriages, one of which was reproduced on the mandatory silk scarf (which I duly bought). Once again, I was surprised that the main draw for me was so small. The famous Great Wave was tiny – hardly bigger than A4, but very beautiful.

Events

Senate House, UCL: 1984 Live

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This was a one-off all-day immersive event. A whole host of celebrity readers taking a chapter (ish) each. There was a bit of acting, some clever use of projection and lighting, and the slightly disturbing presence of “party” members dotted around. The star was the Senate House building itself – Orwell’s inspiration for the Ministry of Truth. I think my photograph has captured its air of menace very well.

Books

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This week’s reading was varied – a “light crime”, a psychological study of a possible criminal, and a prize-winning dystopia.

The Power is an interesting take on the differences/similarities between men and women. This might have disturbed me more if I had been a male reader, I think. It won the Baileys Prize, and while I am not sure it is great literature, it was an enjoyable read.

McGlue was a more difficult read, more “literary”, and less satisfying in its lack of firm conclusion. I don’t usually like first-person narration, but I liked this short novel very much, and will seek out more by this author.

The second Grantchester book was more interesting than the first. It moved away from the known (via TV episodes), seeing Sidney arrested in East Berlin, and finally resolving his long-term love interest (no spoilers for the TV show here).

Audio

Bob Dylan: Nobel Lecture

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Bob Dylan finally got round to making his Nobel-winner’s speech. You can listen to it here , but be prepared for long descriptions of Moby Dick, All Quiet On The Western Front, and The Odyssey. I’m not sure he is taking the prize seriously.

Public Art

Maggi Hambling: A Conversation With Oscar Wilde

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I’m not sure how I feel about this piece. The idea is clever – a bench whereon a conversation could take place, but it is a little too coffin-like for my taste, and Oscar’s bust is ugly, ugly, ugly. I have never seen anyone actually sitting on this, and I am afraid I didn’t sit down either.

Pop Culture

 (And a bit of Maths)

Dandelion’s retirement

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Crayola, the crayon manufacturer, has a new blue crayon coming online. It is a new pigment and needs a new name (the suggestion box has closed, and I really hope we don’t get Bluey McBlueface). Because of the new crayon, one of the old colours has to be retired, in order to keep the number of active colours at 120. Why 120? Well, the boxes hold multiples of 8 crayons…

Anyway, the crayon to be retired is Dandelion, a rather nice shade of yellow. I checked my own box of 24, and there it is. We used to call dandelions “wet-the-beds” when I was a child, and I am delighted that the French obviously still do.

Week 19

Another “exhibitions” week.

The Wellcome Collection

Electricity: The Spark of Life

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This was surprisingly comprehensive for a free exhibition. The exhibits spanned the whole of human history, from lightning to modern power generation, and included art as well as artefacts. “Pure” science was well-represented, and Galvani loomed large. The film of a frog in zero gravity was oddly sad, but it was an interesting inclusion. The exhibition itself was well laid out, following a timeline from ancient to modern. Well worth seeing, even if you are not science-minded.

The British Library

Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths

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This is the second Russian-revolution-themed exhibition I have visited in this centenary year, and despite it having no Kandinskys for me to drool over, it was by far the better experience. Obviously, as a library exhibition, the main focus was on text and illustration, but there was enough archive footage, flags and realia to make this really interesting and worth the admission fee. The layout was exemplary. It was not possible to miss anything, there was ample seating for those who, like me, need a rest now and then, and the exhibits were very well chosen. My only gripe is  the prohibitive cost of even the paperback version of the catalogue.

Public art

Eduardo Paolozzi: Newton

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This is one of my favourite pieces of public art. I do like a big bronze, and this one has a sense of gravity (heh). It sits on a huge plinth outside the British Library, and I couldn’t walk past it without taking a snap.

J C F Rossi: The New St Pancras Church Caryatids

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Another favourite of mine. I was surprised to discover that they are made of terracotta, around a steel core. They look very much like ancient stone. The church faces on to the Euston Road, and is grade 1 listed, so these ladies will be around for a while.

Books

Only one book this week, and it was a disappointment.

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I like Inspector Montalbano a great deal, in both his TV incarnations, and I expected to like this. Sadly, the book does not read well. It feels like a caricature of the TV programme, rather than a “proper” crime novel in its own right. I know the books came first, so I imagine this must be a poor translation.  Catarella comes off particularly badly, and that is a shame. Even the food descriptions are poor. I don’t recommend this.

Week 18

An arty week this time. And some books, but no theatre.

Galleries

NOW Gallery: The Iris – Rebecca Louise Law

Menier Gallery: The UK Coloured Pencil Society – Annual open exhibition 2017

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The Iris was lovely. Obviously, by this (the last) week of the installation, the flowers had dried and yellowed, but somehow, I think this improved the work, making it into more than a floral arrangement. This is a fairly new gallery, and I shall be keeping my eye on what happens here.

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The pictures in the UK Coloured Pencil Society’s show were all very well executed, and clearly the prize-winners deserved their medals, but I prefer my art a little more abstract than any of the pictures on offer here. It was an interesting half-hour though, as there were several artists actually creating work while I was there.

Public Art

Today I spotted three works dotted around the Greenwich Peninsula.

Alex Chinneck: A Bullet from a Shooting Star

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The top picture shows this as it actually is today, taken from as close as I could get to the same position as the bottom one, when it was originally installed. I like it. Even though it is just an upside-down pylon.

Morag Myerscough: Colourblock Cranes

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You can just about make out the colours in my picture (top). I hadn’t realised that this was an art installation, as these are all actual working cranes, being used in the building of their surroundings. A clever idea.

Also in the top picture, you can see a granite “tramline”, which is supposed to be a longitude line. There are a number of these, separated by one-tenth of a second of longitude, interspersed with plaques showing various time-related facts. The picture below is one of my favourites.

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Yes, those are my boots. I have not been able to find out whose idea these lines and plaques were, but the granite tiling in the square was installed by Cundall (civil engineers).

Pop culture icons

The Alessi “Juicy Salif” juicer. A triumph of form over function. It spills juice everywhere, and you can’t use detergent on it or it turns itself, and every lemon thereafter, black.

But it is so beeyootiful!

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Books

Three this week, including the CCCP Cook Book that I mentioned a few weeks ago, and from which I plan to never cook anything. It does give an interesting picture of the bleak and awful kitchen landscape of The Soviet Union.

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The other two books are crime novels (well, one is a novella).

Legion is a clever concept. A schizophrenic whose hallucinations have hallucinations. I really enjoyed this, and I want more. Cold Storage, Alaska is a gentle story that reminded me a little of an old TV series called Northern Exposure. I enjoyed reading it, and again, would read more if it became a series.