Monday 29 April 2024

Misty London

Very misty in London last week when we visited Tate Modern.


Saturday 27 April 2024


It's that time of year again and we decided to explore a small wood full of bluebells near where we live. Along the main road is this building and we took a sharp left into a small complex of buildings that surround the mill.

Across the road is this house

with an unusual garden gate - I can't figure out what the animal on the right is, but it's definitely interesting

Then, the Mill House - quite grand

the mill

The river next to the mill

it's a gorgeous building

the wheel

one more view of the mill

the River House

Look at these roots

Looking back I noticed these amazing windows - must be the River House?

Two minutes later we parked the car and started walking - this field leads to the woods

Through the gate

and we're in

almost immediately - the first bluebells

they are gorgeous - as is the smell that is all around us

We come across some fallen trees that block the path - we've had quite a few storms recently

it's such a feast for the eyes

This path leads to the village of Leek Wootton and it's a mile and a half long

They are everywhere 

I love walking through woods - but at this time of year it's really special

Once we got to the village we turned around and walked back to our car. We must do this again soon, as the bluebell season is so short.

Wednesday 24 April 2024

The Art of the Selfie

The Art of the Selfie

at the National Museum, Cardiff.

When the Musee d'Orsay approached the Cardiff Museum wanting to borrow La Parisienne by Renoir, the Museum were reluctant at first. La Parisienne has been in the Welsh collection since 1952 when it was bequeathed by the Welsh patron of the arts and Impressionist collector Gwendoline Davies and is one of their prized exhibits. In the end it was agreed that the Musee d'Orsay would reciprocate by sending Portrait of the Artist by Van Gogh which is now the centrepiece of an exhibition that poses the question: 'Is a self-portrait the original selfie?' 

The exhibition looks at self-portraits the explores just some of the watys that artists have presented a face to the world. From the 1600s to the present day, these works reveal not just how artists see themselves, but also how they wish to be seen. Self-portraits are about much more than physical appearance. They are a way for artists to explore identity, a means of self-reflection or self-interrogation. They can tell us not just what the artist looked like, but about their life, environment, and even their state of mind.

Portrait of the Artist, 1887, (oil on canvas)

This is one of around twenty self-portraits Van Gogh painted while living in Paris between 1886 and 1888. There, his painting style changed radically, combining the influence of Impressionism, Japanese prints and the science of colour theory.

As a struggling artist, Van Gogh couldn't afford to pay for models so he used a mirror. He uses complementary colours - blues and oranges, reds and greens - in long brushstrokes which converge at the centre of the canvas to form his distinctive features. Each of Van Gogh's many self-portraits is different. They give us insight beyond the popular myths surrounding him. The portraits reveal a focused and diligent artist, ambitious and hopeful for his painting in spite of the mental health challenges he faced.

Anya Paintsil, Blod, 2022, (acrylic, wool, synthetic hair, alpaca, mohair and human hair on hessian)

David Jones, Human Being, 1931, (oil on canvas)

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Studio, 2020, (archival pigment print)

The mirror is usually an invisible presence in self-portraiture. It becomes visible in the constructed images of Sepuya. This solidarity print was created by the artist as a fundraising effort in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Proceeds from sales went to organisations in America that fight for Black lives and queer lives.

Angus McBean, Self-Portrait, (silver gelatin print)

The artist superimposes himself against his own silhouette, creating a dual self-portrait.

Bedwyr Williams, Bard Attitude, 2005, (C-type print on dibond)

Brenda Chamberlain, Self Portrait, 1936, (oil on canvas)

Francis Bacon, Study for Self-Portrait, 1963, (oil on canvas)

Bacon approached his portraits as an expressive response to the human form. He challenged the idea that portraiture should offer a direct likeness, aiming instead to capture the essence of his sitters. He painted himself many times. In later life these became expressions of grief and loss.

Cedric Morris, Self-portrait, 1919, (oil on canvas)

Shani Rhys James, Direct Gaze I, 1997, (oil on linen)

Edgar Holloway, Self Portrait, 1932, (etching on paper)

Holloway was a self-taught artist. He learned his etching technique by studying the work of both Rembrandt and Augustus John. Like these artists, he used self-portraiture to explore aspects of his personality.

Augustus John, Self-Portrait: Tete Farouche, 1906, (etching on paper)

Rembrandt Harmeneszoon Van Rijn, Self Portrait in a Velvet Cap and Plume, with Embroidered Dress, 1648, (etching on paper)

Edna Clarke Hall, Self Portrait as a Girl, 1899/1900
                              Self Portrait, 1920  (crayon on paper)

Here are two interpretations of the artist's face: one in youth, the other with experience of life's complexity. Clarke Hall was a prodigy who went to the Slade School of Art aged just fifteen. Her hopes of a career were ended by marriage at the age of 19.  She continued to draw but struggled to reconcile her self-identity as an artist with the expectations of marriage and motherhood. Only after suffering a breakdown in the early 1920s was she able to reclaim this identity.

Sunday 21 April 2024

Art 100

Art 100 at the National Museum,  Cardiff.

An interesting initiative: a display of the most popular artworks from the whole collection of the museum. This is how this initiative was explained to us:

Whose art is it anyway?

Wales' national art collection belongs to everyone, but in the past, only a few had the power to decide what's collected and how it's presented.

Is this fair? Who gets to choose what we see?

The curators at Amgueddfa Cymru selected 100 art works from our collections that we shared on Instagram, encouraging followers to like, comment, and share their favourites. Valuable lessons were learned and surprisingly, some works we thought would be popular didn't resonate online as much as contemporary pieces. From the responses, we compiled a shortlist of the most popular artworks, now on display in this gallery.

During our visit the museum was packed, and there were lots of school trips of students of all ages. The most well-behaved ones were this group: they were engaged, attentive and interested.

Now the collection:

Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (History), 2002, (plaster, polysterene and steel)

Books are repositories of our shared culture. This work was made by casting the space around a set of bookshelves. The books themselves are absent, only their ghostly traces remain. Whiteread has created a series of these sculptures that act as a form of memorial. Untitled (History) suggests how easily collective memory can be lost.

Gwen John, A Corner of the Artist's Room, 1907-08, (oil on canvas)

John paints a self-portrait with no-one in it. The discarded clothes and open book suggest an invisible presence, while the muted tones and simple forms convey a life of calm, order and self-containment. 

Thomas Jones, Buildings in Naples, 1774, (oil on paper)

With its dusty blue and silver-grey tones and unusual cropping, this small oil sketch looks refreshingly modern but was actually painted in the 18th century. It was a private study, never meant for display. Its jewel-like quality has captured public imagination.

Richard Deacon, Tall Tree in the Ear, 1983-84, (galvanised steel, laminated wood, canvas)

Deacon calls himself a 'fabricator' who makes 'fabrications' by assembling parts rather than using traditional sculpture methods of carving or modelling.

Kevin Sinnott, Running Away with the Hairdresser, 1995,  (oil on canvas)

'A momentary slip into fecklessness... a mature scepticism towards youth's arrogance'.

David Mash, Multi-Cut Column, 2000, (beech)

Conscious of our human impact on the natural world, Nash's environmentally sympathetic sculptures explore the potential of wood. The multi-cut in this beech-wood column have been allowed to naturally crack and warp to produce the different textures and shapes.

Laura Ford, Glory Glory, 2005, (mixed media)

Cedric Morris, Golden Auntie, 1923, (oil on canvas)

Morris has painted his partner Arthur Lett Haines in a suit and bowler hat walking through a strange, dreamlike city-scape.

Peter Prendergast, Blaenau Ffestriniog, 1993, (oil on canvas)

Blaenau Ffestiniog is a centre of the north Wales slate industry - the town is surrounded by a man-made landscape of quarried slate-tips.

Bridget Riley, Kashan, 1984, (oil on linen)

Kashan is a truly interactive work, reflecting how we perceive colour in nature. The irregular arrangement of stripes creates a visual effect which Riley calls the 'horizontal spread of coloured light'. This perceptual field surfaces when colour groups merge in the eye of the viewer, shimmering and pulsing, shifting with every blink.

George Shaw, The End of Care, 2013, (humbrol enamel on board)

Shaw has createtd a rich body of works around Tile Hill, the suburb of Coventry where he grew up. The End of ... series captures the decline of a mid-20th century housing estate, common throughout the country. This painting features the site of a demolished care home.

Denys Short,  Chapel and Tip, 1960, (oil on canvas)

Painted in about 1960, this work has an incredible poignancy in light of the 1966 Aberfan disaster, when a collapsed coal tip killed 116 chilcren. Here, children play at the foot of the Chapel in the shadow of a looming tip - a precarious symbol of both community prosperity and unimaginable devastation.

Kyffin Williams, Storm, Porth Cwyfan, 1995, (oil on canvas)

The painting displays Williams' well-known technique, that of thick, monochrome impasto, broadly applied with a palette knife. It is used here to evoke the drama of a rough sea.

Betty Woodman, Diptych: The Balcony, 2007, (glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, paint)

Adam Buick, Massive intertidal Jar, 2015, (stoneware with Waum Llodi clay, natural bluestone plinth)

Buick incorporates local materials in his moon jars. This one has Waum Llodi clay splashed on the surface and a plinth of natural Pembrokeshire bluestone.

Clare Woods, Hill of Hurdles, 2010, (oil and enamel on aluminium)

Woods often focuses on overlooked elements of landscape - from stagnant pools to thick undergrowth. Locations are photographed at night and collaged to create the painting's final composition. The high gloss finish contributes to Woods' description of her work as 'supernaturally charged'.

Claire Curneen, In the Tradition of Smiling Angels, 2007, (terracotta, gold lustre)

The gold lustre on these two angels symbolises the preciousness of blood and reminds us of our mortality, but their gentle, mysterious smiles make them a comforting presence.

Elizabeth Fritsch, Blown-Away Vase, Over the Edge, Firework XII, 2008, (stoneware)

Lucie Rie, Set of four cups and saucers, 1958, (porcelain)

Lucie Rie, one of the greatest 20th-century potters, escaped Nazi-occupied Vienna in 1938 and settled in London where she earned success with her refined modernist style of ceramics.

Frank Bowling,  Caesar's Plume, 1975, (acrylic on canvas)

In 1973 Bowling began a series of abstract works known as 'poured paintings'. Canvases were set-up at a 45-degree angle and paint was poured down the surface to create marks and patterns led by chance. In 2005 Bowling became the first black artist to be elected as a member of the Royal Academy.

Martin Parr, Snowdonia, Wales, 1989, (pigment print)

A couple with contrasting priorities; one takes in the breath-taking landscape of Eryri 
National Park, whilst the other, seemingly obvlivious to the views outside, catches up on tabloid news.

Clementine Schneidermann, Charlotte James, It's Called Ffashiwn, (Look It Up), Merthyr, 2016, (C-type print)

The girls' funereal, gothic clothing paired with their sombre, self-assured expressions provokes an element of timelessness that makes them appear older than their years.