Wednesday 28 December 2022

The Little Buckland Gallery

The Little Buckland Gallery, Broadway.

Just a few pieces of what was exhibited, the Ashraf Hanna being the star of the show.

Ashraf Hanna 

Hilary LaForce, Medium Fragile Landscape

Neil Wood, Grower IV, (bronze)

Neil Wood, Mother and Child II, (bronze)

Hilary LaForce, Large Chartreuse Tea Bowl


Saturday 24 December 2022

The Kingdom of the Snow Queen - a fairy tale

Merry Christmas to you all! 

The Kingdom of the Snow Queen at Blenheim Palace was one of the best Christmas extravaganzas I have ever seen.

The entrance to the Palace where the lights around the majestic entrance constantly changed colour.

The Christmas tree in the entrance hall was massive, standing on mirrors so that the reflections doubled its size

and then, we entered the glistening Land of Snowflakes filled with a silvery frost-covered forest

The Land of Snowflakes was extremely realistic: it was -3oC outside when we visited and I can't say that it was much warmer inside - fans blasted out cold air and we were literally freezing.

We reached the end of the corridor

and entered the first state room

If you look carefully enough you will spot Gerda the mouse, the main character of the story that the whole display is centred around. She is sitting on the sofa. The Snow Queen has put a curse on Gerda's friend Kai and is keeping him captive. Gerda is on a mission to find Kai and rescue him. 

We were instructed to look for Gerda in every room we entered, but even though we looked really hard, the only time we managed to spot her was in this, the first room.

In this room, which is the enchanted garden, Gerda is kept by an old lady who tells her that Kai will arrive soon, which, of couse, as in the best of fairy tales, is not true.

We slowly moved from room to room, each one more magnificent than the other.

Gerda hears of a Prince that might be Kai from a raven she meets. The Prince and Princess hear her story and feel sorry for her as the Prince is not Kai. They give her a gold carriage and warm clothes to help her as she continues on her quest.

The search continues... 

We were told that we would find Gerda sitting on one of the many reindeer in this room, but we could not find her. The little boy standing next to us became quite frustrated in his search for Gerda, but in the end he gave up, and asked his dad to carry him on his shoulders.

Gerda meets the Lapland woman and the Finnish woman, who both have information on Kai. Writing the information on fish skin, the Lapland woman informs the Finnish woman how to help Gerda. Totether they send her in the right direction.

When Gerda finally arrives at the Kingdom, she finds Kai, trapped by the Snow Queen. Firstly, Kai must spell out the word 'eternity' before his release.

Ken, ready to take off.

We moved slowly through the Kingdom

which was full of Christmas trees

and polar bears

The end of our journey was when we reached the Snow Queen who graciously smiled and talked to us.

The end of Gerda's journey was when she found Kai. She gave him a rose. Kai cried tears of happiness as the rose reminded him of home. In the flow of his tears the mirror that the Snow Queen had put there, floated out of his eye and the children escaped, heading home. 

A happy ending as in all good fairy tales.

Thursday 22 December 2022

Fayoum at the Ashmolean

Fayoum at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Fayoum portraits are the most astonishing body of painting to have to come to us from the ancient world, remarkable for their social importance and for their quality as art. They are a type of naturalistic painted portrait on wooden boards attached to upper class mummies from Roman Egypt. They belong to the tradition of panel painting, one of the most highly regarded forms of art in the classical world. Fayoun are the only large body of art from that tradition to have survived.

Surviving examples indicate that they were mounted into the bands of cloth that were used to wrap the bodies. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. In terms of artistic tradition, the images derive more from Greco-Roman artistic traditions than Egyptian ones. Some aspects of the mummy portraits, especially their frontal perspective and their concentration on key facial features, strongly resemble later icon painting. Two groups of portraits can be distinguished by technique: one of encaustic (wax) paintings, and the other in tempera. The former are usually of higher quality.

Most of the mummy portraits that have survived have unfortunately become detached from their mummies. There are two examples at the Ashmolean however, where the portraits are still attached to the bodies:

looking closer (apologies for the poor quality of the photographs, but they are behind glass and it's really difficult to get a clear picture)

looking closer

There is a rare fayoum at the Ashmolean, something I have not seen before:

It's a double-sided panel from a tomb in Roman Egypt. The same woman appears in two portraits. On one side she wears a modest brown tunic with a red band, a gold crescent necklace and hooped earrings threaded with pearls. Her hair is close cropped.

On this side she has acquired a mantle and an elaborate hairpiece with corkscrew curls.

Monday 19 December 2022

Still frozen

After 10 extremely cold days, today is the fist time that the freezing conditions have eased: overnight the temperatures rose from minus to 14oC!

Here, some photographs from two days ago.

Despite the ice on the roads and pavements, it's been a great pleasure going for walks as it's been mostly gloriously sunny. Parts of the river Leam were frozen, 

the birds walking or standing on the ice.

The pond in the Mill Gardens.

The most spectacular sight was the two sets of fountains in Jephson Gardens.

Looking closer.

The second set of fountains.

Both sets of fountains.