Friday, June 27, 2014

At the Saatchi

Deborah and I finally got to see the Saatchi Gallery, meaning the previous two times I visited London the gallery had been closed. It has shifted from its original location and now occupies the former Duke of York's Headquarters in Kings Road.

The new gallery is not as large as the previous building but there are multiple levels and the ground floor has the most perfect light in which to exhibit art work. This was such a relief after seeing many of London's museums displaying work in such poor light. But athough this is a conservation concern, it also defeats the purpose of looking at art and appreciating subtleties of tone and colour.

The exhibition we saw was titled Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America. The top picture shows Deborah standing in the first room where the work of Rafael Gomezbarros was on display. It felt like being in Gulliver's Travels but the ants are made in the shape of human skulls which adds another dimension to the reading of the sculptures. In the bottom picture I'm looking at a painting by Ivory Coast artist Aboudia Djoly du Mogba which is the artist's response to the election violence in the city of Abidjan where armies of children terrorised that city.

The exhibition was a mixture of paintings, sculpture and photographs and more information can be found on the Saatchi website HERE

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Watt's Chapel

One of the highlights of our recent UK trip was a visit to the Watt's Chapel in the village of Compton in Surrey. It was designed by Mary Fraser-Tytler and she, along with other community members, formed the Compton Potter's Arts Guild and were inspired to build this chapel just near the cemetery. It was a very village affair, with over 70 people working on the construction, but under the close guidance of Mary. It took 2 years to build and was completed in 1898. George Frederick Watts, who was Mary's husband, not only funded the project but created a painting for the altar, titled The All-Pervading. As the photographs show, the influence of art nouveau, Celtic art and Mary's original imagination created a memorial that is truly outstanding.

It was a very grey day when we visited the chapel and the light was poor inside, but even so, it was clear to see what the people of Compton, and in particular, Mary Fraser Tytler achieved. Visit HERE to learn more about the amazing Watt's Chapel.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

From Sue's Book of Poems

In this post, I thought I would share some of the poetry of Sue Verney, a musician and writer who lives in London. I thought this selection of work encapsulated satire, wit, humour and visual truth. Thanks Sue!

Dreaming of America.   (after John Schlesinger's 'Yanks' )

First the Lindy Hop and then the Jitterbug.
He throws me over his shoulder, as we swing around.
'Gee', he says, 'You're as light as a feather'.
I've never danced like this before.
' Baby,' he says,'You've sure got rhythm for a Lancashire gal'.
Now a slow number and I lean close to his uniform.
I'm glad I wore my red dress,
it makes me feel years older.
He leads me outside into the churchyard.
It's a summer night and the grass
still looks green under the moonlight.
It should show up in the colour film
we're making. I want it to be shown
the world over. I will be a star.
Action shot again: He says,
'Honey, how about we go down to the Blue Lagoon?'
'Oh yes, I reply, 'But that's just a pool.
It's a warm night. We could go on down to the sea.'
'Baby', he says, ' I'll carry you there'.
He lifts me over a gravestone and there is
the dark blue sea and a beautiful little boat.
Full technicolour now. Not yet morning
but the lighting is up to the camera crew.
Now we must act passion and discretion.
I will be so real and grown-up.
'See the little waves', he says.
'I do,' I say. 'And do you feel them, Honey?
Like England. .U.S.A... England... U.S.A.
all the way across the Atlantic?
'Oh yes, Barney,' I say.
'Slowly and gently, Honey', he says.
'Such a peach of a boat, a little British boat,
a cute little puddle jumper'.
I'm insulted!  I can jump more than puddles!
But his voice is so soft and low.

Black or White Wedding.

 I'm fed up with all this white wedding stuff
Your baby father want pure virgin bride
And you at the altar like big cream puff?
Preacher and all be laughing inside
at you with net curtain over your face;
But showing the baby's no disgrace.
Wear your red dress, and walk in with pride
with that handsome black fella at your side.
Aunty Della will do up your hair.
Honey, you'll be the smartest black pair!
Now come on in and help stir the cake.
The biggest one your Momma can make,
pack full of raisins and best dark rum,
reminding guests of Jamaican sun.

Winston say he wants five tiers high?
Three is enough and you tell him why.
When you both cut it, it must keep stable.
Sky scraper cake will collapse on the table!
I'll finish the icing the day before
and deliver it round to the church hall door.
The rest of the party you want your own way,
so I'll see you both, Darlin, in church on the day.
Winston in grey - and you in whatever..
I'll wear my pink and hat with a feather.

Now Winston's gone booked them a big white car.
White flowers, white linen, that boy'll go far.
Will Rosella take heed and step out in red ?
She has enough guts in her heart and her head.
And I have some mischief to chuckle and plan,
three pounds of black currants to boil in the pan.
When the icing is ready,  I'll pour in the juice
the wonderful taste will be my excuse.
A dark velvet cake on a bright silver stand -
let blackcurrant icing become the new brand!


Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
isn't there a woman in it?
Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
who will cook the Sunday roast?

One in three, and three in one -
but without a woman,
you can't have a son.

Three in one and one in three -
one is neutered and two are He.
Is this mystic misogyny?

Yellow Fox

In the day it's daffodil time,
in gardens, on the green,
in the shops and stalls.
At night, under the street light,
a bronze fox crosses the road,
his coat glowing as he stops
to consider us. He looks
us straight in the eye,
with his matching yellow eyes.
A dog fox, with a white front.
He grooms himself, unafraid,
then trots quickly off,
to forage rubbish bags,
sniff hutches, hunt on the Heath.
He glides along the pavement,
flagging his fine brush,
which glints of gold.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Agatha in London

When Deborah and I were walking around London, we came across this sculpture by Ben Twiston-Davies on Cranbourn Street in the West End. It contains not only Agatha Christie's portrait, but  characters and scenes from some of her books. Since Deborah and I are fans of the Poirot series, starring David Suchet, it was a nice surprise to suddenly come across this homage to one of the most famous of writers. The unveiling took place in 2012, marking the 60th Anniversary of The Mousetrap, a play based on her book of the same name. It's the longest running play ever. Since the West End is known for its theatres, having the sculpture where the play is performed is so fitting. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Great Anton Walbrook

From the Red Shoes (1948)

From The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

One of our favourite actors is the great Anton Walbrook. Everytime Deborah and I visit London we visit his grave at St. John's Church in Hampstead and make sure it's in good condition. 

Born in Vienna, he had a stage and film career in Austria and Germany but he eventually settled in the UK where he made perhaps his most famous films. He came from a family of actors spanning 10 generations, but his father took this tradition in another direction when he became a circus clown. 

Walbrook was a very emotional actor, but an emotion held in check giving the impression he could erupt at any minute. This created an inner tension in his performances that is always fascinating to watch.

Some of his best films are - 

Gaslight (1940)
49th Parallel (1941)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
The Red Shoes (1948)
The Queen of Spades (1949)
La Ronde (1950)