Wednesday 29 September 2021

Sperveri, or Bridal bed

Sperveri, from Rhodes, 17-18th c., at the Benaki Museum.

A rare kind of tent which isolated the sleeping platform from the lower sitting area and hid the bridal bed from prying eyes.

This is the best preserved and most spectacular of the few comparable surviving examples from the Dodecanese. One of the reasons why Sperveris did not survive, is that often, women needed fabrics, so  after their weddings were over, they would use parts of the sperveri to make cushions for their house, or a dress for their daughters, etc. 

It's tiny. I always think that beds in National Trust properties look small, but this is super-tiny - at first we thought it was for one child.

Sperveri is also a dance done at a wedding on the island of Rhodes, sung and danced as part of the dressing of the bridal bed.

The polychrome vegetal motifs, flower-vases and peacocks are worked in the Dodecanesian raised stitch. The overall pattern has echoes of Byzantine splendour, and neo-Hellenic aesthetic orientations.


Monday 27 September 2021

Takis at the Niarchos Cultural Centre

Takis - Cosmos in Motion  

at the Niarchos Cultural Centre.

A double pleasure: seeing 46 sculptures by Takis as well as visiting this iconic building and its wonderful park. We had a wonderful day. If you want to find out more about the building go here and here

We entered the building and moved on to the Agora

the national library on our right. If you want to learn more about the library go here

We walked along the reflecting pool

and half-way along, across the water, we could see two of Takis' sculptures

Panayiotis Vassilakis - known by the nickname Takis - became one of the most original artistic voices in Europe in the 1960s. He remains a ground-breaking artist today. Born in 1925 in Athens, the self-taught artist began by studying ancient sculpture before moving in a radically new direction. During WWII, Takis was active in the Resistance in occupied Greece and faced political persecution during the Greek Civil War that followed. To escape the stifling political climate and pursue his artistic career, he moved from Athens to Paris in 1954. While living in Paris in the mid-1950s, he started exploring the sculptural possibilities of electromagnetism. For Takis the 'visual qualities' of his work were irrelevant. 'What I was obsessed with was the concept of energy'.

Looking back at the reflective pool and the building in the distance.

At the other end of the reflective pool, three more sculptures.

In 1959, Takis made a leap from figurative art to a new form of abstraction, based on magnetic energy. He suspended metal objects in space using magnets, giving lightness and movement to what is usually gravity-bound and still. He was fascinated by the waves of invisible energy that he saw as 'a communication' between materials. Art critic Alan Jouffron described these works as 'telemagnetic'. 'Tele' meaning 'at a distance', suggests their relationship to technologies such as television and telephone.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Takis incorporated radar, antennae, aerials, dials and gauges into his sculptures. Although he approached these materials with knowledge about engineering and science, he consistently defined himself as an artist geared towards mythological thought. In his hands, technologies of warfare e and environmental destruction became monuments of beauty and contemplation: 'My desire as a sculptor was to learn to use this energy, and through it, to attempt to penetrate cosmic mysteries', he explained.

He produced various 'telemagnetic' installations in the early 1960s using plinths, walls and the ceiling of the gallery. The installations challenged the traditional conventions of sculpture. Waves of magnetic energy move through these spaces, holding the individual elements in suspension.

Aeolian, 2000, (painted iron, aluminium)

Aeolian, 2000, (painted iron, aluminium)

Aeolian, 2000, (painted iron, alumiiium)

Early in his career, Takis began experimenting with how to use energy and movement in sculpture. 'What interested me was to put into iron sculpture a new, continuous and life force'... The result was in no way a graphic representation of a force but the force itself. Marcel Duchamp described Takis as 'the happy ploughman of the magnetic fields'.

At the end of the pool we turned left and entered the park.

This is a park for walking and enjoying. Wide avenues make walking easy whilst the planting is all around you

in this part of the park it's ancient olive trees

but flowers too

This path leads to the building and there was a group of Takis sculptures on our right

Photovoltaic Signals (painted iron, polystyrene, bronze, photovoltaic flashing light)

Aeolian Signal - Firework, 1957, (painted iron, aluminium)

Aeolian Signal - Firework, 1957, (painted iron, aluminium)

Flower, 1978, (painted iron, bronze)

Flower, 1976, (painted iron, bronze)

We could see another sculpture in the distance

Aeolian, 1986, (painted iron, polysterene)

We reached the paved path that leads to the top of the building which is perched above this 32 metre artificial hill

Grasses on either side of us, and the air vents reminding us that we were in fact walking on the roof of the building

Spheres - Mercury, Mars, Earth, Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn, Neptune (Iron, copper, painted iron, iron, inox, inox)

We had reached the top and if we looked back the view was spectacular: we could see Lycatettus Hill and the Acropolis - clearer once I zoomed in

We started walking around the roof of the building - this is the outdoor cinema area, they show films most evenings in the summer

We moved around to get some sea views which did not disappoint - the Floisvos Marina


We did not linger but started walking towards the park again, as seeing the sculptures was the priority

We were not disappointed - three more ahead of us

Signals, 1979, (painted iron, bronze)

Takis' Signals resemble radio receivers. For him, they are 'like electronic antenna, like lightning rods... They constituted a modern hieroglyphic language'.

We had reached the side of the building

here, the park's irrigation system is very clear

Electric Barrels, 2012, (photovoltaic panel, electrical circuit, painted iron, lamps, battery)

Throughout our exploration I kept thinking that we must visit the park at night, as the illuminated sculptures must be stunning

another one in the distance

Aeolian, 1987, (painted iron, polysterene)

Spiral, 1986, (painted iron)

Spiral, 1986, (painted iron)

Signal - Archimedes Screw, 1972, (painted iron, bronze)

Lots of flowering plants and herbs here - I think this is a buddleia but I was not sure

flowering thyme - the scent was heavenly

a pomegranate tree

and two more

they're about to ripen and should be hitting the shops soon

This structure was apparently set up for a concert - no access when we visited which meant we could not go and see the labyrinth

an apple tree

very pretty

At first we thought that these mirrored cubes were some kind of art installation but they are the guards' huts, and they are dotted everywhere by the many entrances to the park

We arrived at the interactive part of the park - lots of different areas for kids to play

This is the standing sheep

the sheep that is resting is next to it

We reached the Parabolic Reflectors - there are three sets around the park

There are two in each group at a fair distance from each other - one of you stands by one and the other at the other one. You can talk to each other using a normal voice and the other person can hear you. Great fun

So, Ken walked to the far one and we had a conversation

more fun for kids

These move so it's a great balance exercise as you step from one to the other

Lots of gigantic chess boards around

as well as smaller ones

getting ready to play

We got to the fountain which must be such fun in hot weather

the sign recommends wearing non-slip shoes when playing here

past one of the cafes

don't know what this lawned area is for but it was out of bounds for us

Another set of Parabolic Reflectors and we had another play

The Dance Chimes

Ken managed to play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Then, the Wind Pipes

The Turning Stone is always fun

as is the Ferrephone

Finally, we could not get this bench to play the Chopin music it's meant to.

We had seen and done everything, and it was time to go home. A great day.

If you want to read about Takis' exhibition at Tate Modern, you can see it here