Sunday 31 August 2014


It's been too hot to go for walk but now temperatures have dropped and at a 'cool' 32oC we walked up to the end of the first pier in the marina and back.


The sunset was spectacular.


I envied the swimmers - there's nothing like being in the water as the sun sets. It's something we have not done this year, well, not yet, anyway

this man coming out of the water was reduced to a silhouette


so many different shades of gold


in the marina the water was on fire


On the way back we came across these two women and what a wonderful image this is - mother and daughter they told me and they were very happy to be photographed

Working boats - a very welcome sight in the middle of all these rich people's toys

a wonderful evening.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Henri Matisse - The Cut-Outs

Henri Matisse - The Cut-Outs, at Tate Modern.
'It is no longer the brush that slips and slides over the canvas, it is the scissors that cut into the paper and into the colour. The conditions of the journey are 100 per cent different. The contour of the figure springs from the discovery of the scissors that give it the movement of circulating life. This tool doesn't modulate, it doesn't brush on, but it incises in, underline this well, because the criteria of observation will be different'. Henri Matisse.
Even though Matisse had used cut paper shapes before to work out the arrangement of objects in his paintings, it was during the last 17 years of his life, when health problems, limited mobility and declining strength meant that he could not paint anymore, that he turned to the cut-out method as an art form in its own right. The results are stunning: exuberant, intense, with a simplicity that is essential to their charm, the cut-outs are pure, matte, unmodified colour, not inflected by brush marks. Created solely by the movement of the scissors and the selected hue, the cut-outs are a celebration of life. Brancusi said that 'simplicity is complexity resolved' and the cut-outs are a testimony to that statement.


Matisse was fascinated by dance throughout his career. During this period, cut paper was still a way of experimenting, a means to an end, and he made efforts to keep the technique a secret.


The Fall of Icarus, 1943

The white figure of Icarus is a negative shape cut from the central black strip of paper. Icarus is surrounded by jagged yellow stars.

This cut-out relates to Jazz, even though it was not included in the book. Jazz was published by Teriade. The original idea was for Matisse to illustrate poems, but the flowing hand-written notes he made as he worked on the cut-outs were eventually chosen as the accompanying text instead. This was a turning point, enabling Matisse to see his cut-outs as art works in their own right. Disappointed that in the published book the cut-outs seemed to lose the contrast of different surfaces layered on top of each other, Matisse said that printing 'removes their sensitivity'.

You can see more of Teriade here and more of Jazz here.



Matisse's studio assistant Lydia Delectorskaya recalled the starting point for Oceania: 'Matisse had cut out a swallow from a sheet of writing paper and, as it distressed his to tear up this beautiful shape and throw it away, he said, he put it up on this wall, also using it to cover up a stain, the sight of which disturbed him. Over the following weeks other shapes were cut out and put up on the same wall'.
Matisse pinned cut-out birds, fish, coral and leaves directly onto the wall of his Paris apartment without knowing in advance what the outcome would be. His inspiration was a visit to Tahiti sixteen years before. 'It's as though my memory had suddenly taken the place of the outside world', he explained. 'There, swimming every day in the lagoon, I took such intense pleasure in contemplating the submarine world... With my eyes wide open I absorbed everything as a sponge absorbs liquid. It is only now that these wonders have returned to me, with tenderness and clarity'.


Amphitrite, 1947

Tree, 1951

The Thousand and One Nights, 1950


Creole Dancer, 1950
Creole Dancer is based on sketches he made of a dancer invited to perform in his studio, and was made in a single day using left over pieces of painted paper.

Zulma, 1950
For the first time, in Zulma, he gives a sense of depth in a cut-out composition, with receding space suggested by the angled table on which the figure leans. Made and exhibited when Matisse was eighty, Zulma was widely praised for its radical approach, hailed as the most youthful work in an exhibition of far younger artists.

Blue Nude I, 1952

Blue Nude II, 1952
Blue Nude III, 1952

Blue Nude IV, 1952

The Blue Nudes are perhaps the most striking example of what Matisse called 'cutting directly into colour'. Here the scissors both create the outline of the figure and carve contours into it. The paper's flatness coexists with a sense of the figures' intertwined limbs. Cutting is a way of drawing and sculpting at the same time. Matisse's assistant Lydia Delectorskya described his work on a cut-out figure in these terms: 'modelling it like a clay sculpture; sometimes adding, sometimes removing'.


I have included here reproductions of the four Blue Nudes grouped together as they were in the shop as it's helpful to see them together and note the differences.

Blue Nude with Green Stockings, 1952

The Parakeet and the Mermaid, 1952

Large Decoration with Masks, 1953
This was made as a design for a ceramic panel. 

The Snail, 1953
With the Snail Matisse pushed the technique further away from representation than ever before, but described it as 'abstraction rooted in reality'. The rotating paper shapes radiate out in a spiral, echoing a snail's shell. Working on an earlier snail, he talked about becoming 'aware of an unfolding'. Unusually, the individual shapes are not carefully scissored, but roughly cut and sometimes even torn.


Christmas Eve, 1952
In the exhibition we saw the cut-out model and the resulting stained glass. Matisse had long been interested in the connection between his cut-outs and stained glass. He said of his designs for Jazz, 'I cut out these gouache sheets the way you cut glass: only here they're organised to reflect light, whereas in a stained-glass window they have to be arranged differently because light shines through them'.
'By creating these coloured paper cut-outs, it seems to me that I am happily anticipating things to come. I don't think that I have ever found such balance as I have in creating these paper cut-outs. But I know that it will only be much later that people will realise to what extent the work I a doing today is in step with the future'.

Tate Modern booklet on the exhibition.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

On the terrace

It's rained twice in the six weeks we've been here and that's 100% more rain than we normally get all summer. It was a deluge. I have not seen rain like this before. Not easy to capture with my basic camera, but I gave it a go.

Cleopatra got a real hammering.

The best times on the terrace are as the sun sets. We get the most amazing skies.


We're on the third floor and in terms of views, this is the worst floor. The first and second floors get to see our fairly quiet street and lots of trees. The fourth floor get views of the sea. What we get is the ugly roofs, with their aerials and solar heaters. 

The sunsets make up for it though. A glass of wine, quiet  conversation and it's bliss.
As the sun goes down, the bats come out, circling in front of us. I remember the bats from when I was a child, except that then I would see them from our garden rather than the third floor of an apartment building. What is it about bats? Why do they hold such fascination?



We then have a very late evening meal followed by a few games of backgammon. It's so nice we prefer it to going out.

Sunday 24 August 2014

Vouliagmeni Bay

'An immensity, sometimes azure and often green, extends as far as the boundaries of the heavens: it is the sea'.

Charles Baudelaire

 Vouliagmeni beach has been our preferred choice for the last two weeks

it's a very large beach that extends for over half of the bay: parts of it are very crowded but we go right at the end which is very much quieter - if we get there early enough, we can get some shade

a very rich person's plaything in the mouth of the bay

the colours of the pebbles always at their best when wet

and the sun shining on the water forms glorious patterns

such a pleasure to look at

lots of little fish in the water

and the patterns on and in the water can get quite psychedelic 

the sea is very shallow for quite a long way  

lots of water birds in the bay, mainly gulls


 they are very tame, quite used to people

and like people, they like staring into the distance

glad I managed to get one during flight

when it gets too hot some people find ingenious ways to keep cool - she does this every day

we can see the lake from where we sit

looking closer - the space of what was left after the roof of the underground cave collapsed

This is by far our favourite place to swim in the Athens area.