Archive for the ‘art’ Tag

This is The End

The End by Heather Phillipson

The 4th Plinth on Trafalgar Square has proved to be a brilliant lens for Britain to look at itself through. The commissions are so varied that taken together they are also a rich record of British identity and state of mind at different times. Each commission takes into account the resonance of the location and its relation to surrounding public art, buildings, environment and the history linked to them. 

Heather Phillipson’s ‘The End’ is a worthy addition to the chain of public art that has temporarily inhabited the free plinth. It looks particularly good against blue sky and the collapsing gobbet of cream topped by the falling cherry matches the colours of the Canadian flags behind it on Canada House / La Maison du Canada. 

On one side is a huge fly, undermining any initial joy at the prospect of some kind of knickerbocker glory. On the adjacent side is a drone, on a different scale, with moving propellors.

a backdrop of the National Gallery

What does it all mean? There’s a sense of imminent collapse. An indication of rottenness. And a strong hint of surveillance.

The stalk paralleling Nelson’s Column

‘The End’ officially took up residence on the plinth on 30th July 2020, the 13th commission there (the first was in 1998). At 9.4 meters height it is the tallest so far and one of the brightest. 

The drone transmits a live feed of Trafalgar Square at www.theend.today Here’s what it looks like right now, the eye of the sculpture itself:

What’s the legal status of those two people? Is it legit to spy on them for artistic rather than security reasons?

The artwork reflects Trafalgar Square’s heritage and function as a place of both celebration and protest, as well as its highly surveilled state.

VE Day (8th May 1945)
Anti-Lockdown protest (26th September 2020)

Phillipson came up with the idea in 2016, in the shadow of Trump’s election and Brexit. 

“For me, we’ve been at a point of some kind of entropy for a long time. When I was thinking of this work there was a sense for me of an undercurrent that was already there … this feels like a continuation of that.”

It was unveiled in the middle of Covid19 year, delayed a few months by the pandemic. The perfect temporal setting for the piece. 

This is the end

Beautiful friend

This is the end

My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end

Of everything that stands, the end

No safety or surprise, the end

I’ll never look into your eyes again

Can you picture what will be?

So limitless and free

Desperately in need

Of some stranger’s hand

In a desperate land

Jim Morrison & The Doors ‘The End’

Despite the title the artist does not envision the work as a dead end. 

“In the end there is the possibility of something else forming. There’s the chance of radical change inside any ending… there is potentially hope for something else.”

The artist

‘The End’ ends in Spring 2022.

The End

The hidden beauty of the world

“Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of Poetry and Other Essays

The same is true of street photography and Instagram at its best. And of Art in general.

Shot on my phone on exiting the BBC – both men have ciggie in hand

Pictures for Finn

After Lunch (1975) by Patrick Caulfield [1936-2005]

After Lunch (1975) by Patrick Caulfield [1936-2005]

Foyer (1973) - Patrick Caulfield

Foyer (1973) by Patrick Caulfield

The Splash (1966) by David Hockney [1937- ]

The Splash (1966) by David Hockney [1937- ]

A Bigger Splash (1967) by David Hockney

A Bigger Splash (1967) by David Hockney

California Bank (1964) by David Hockney

California Bank (1964) by David Hockney

Ed and Mariane (2010) by Julian Opie [1958- ]

Ed and Mariane (2010) by Julian Opie [1958- ]

Graham Coxon (2000) by Julian Opie

Graham Coxon (2000) by Julian Opie

Darcey Bussell (1994) by Allen Jones [1937- ]

Darcey Bussell (1994) by Allen Jones [1937- ]

Finishing art works [quotation]

Glen Head Glencolmcille watercolour painting by adam gee

Glen Head, Glencolmcille

When I was on a painting holiday in Glencolmcille, Donegal in the summer I found myself thinking about how do you know when you have finished a work of art? When are you just noodling? It’s a key question for artists in all disciplines.

The French poet Paul Valéry put it well and WH Auden boiled down Valéry’s words to this:

‘A poem is never finished; it is only abandoned.’

Paul_Valéry_french poet -_photo_Henri_Manuel

Paul Valéry – photograph by Henri Manuel

W H Auden English poet

WH Auden

Background on this quotation and its attribution.

I recently heard, in connection with my Art Vandals project, about the occasion when the French Impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard in his later years was arrested in the Louvre with a small palette and brush, retouching one of his paintings. The security guards grabbed him – he was shouting “But I am Bonnard! It’s my painting!” – and they responded “The painting is in the Louvre. It’s finished!”

Quotation: Working at Art

emile zola quotation

It ain’t easy…

Or is it for some people?

10,000 hours…

Or the right gene combo?

A Good and Purple Heart

This is an extract from a really uplifting and heart-felt blog post by a 52-year old mature student at Yale, ex-military, James Hatch.

In my opinion, the real snowflakes are the people who are afraid of that situation. The poor souls who never take the opportunity to discuss ideas in a group of people who will very likely respectfully disagree with them. I challenge any of you hyper-opinionated zealots out there to actually sit down with a group of people who disagree with you and be open to having your mind changed. I’m not talking about submitting your deeply held beliefs to your twitter/facebook/instagram feeds for agreement from those who “follow” you. That unreal “safe space” where the accountability for one’s words is essentially null. I have sure had my mind changed here at Yale. To me there is no dishonor in being wrong and learning. There is dishonor in willful ignorance and there is dishonor in disrespect.

The full text is here

It’s a brilliant springboard to make 2020 a year of bridge-building, connecting, withholding judgement, seeing what’s good about people and ideas.

building-bridge-lorenzo-quinn

Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn’s ‘Building Bridges’ at the 58th Venice Biennale at the entrance of the Arsenale in the Castello district – May 2019

 

20/20 Vision

Here’s a thought for 2020 and the new decade…

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. [People] to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, [are] as good as dead: [their] eyes are closed.”

Albert Einstein

glasses-vision clear trees nature

Quotation: the merit of craft

“First learn to be a craftsman; it won’t keep you from being a genius.”

Eugène Delacroix

picasso-early-work Self-Portrait 1896 age 15

Picasso – age 15 (1896)

pablo-picasso-self-portrait 90 years old June 30 1972

Picasso self-portrait – age 90 (1972)

 

Picasso self-portraits chronology

4 places worth visiting in Vilnius

I was in Lithuania last week working on ESoDoc, a workshop and development space for social documentaries. The last time I worked on it was back in 2010 in Tenno, Northern Italy. We were based this time in the National Library of Lithuania and between sessions I adopted my favourite role of flâneur.

1. The National Library of Lithuania

the national library of lithuania vilnius 1919

Its classical grandeur dates back to 1919, the year after Lithuanian independence from Germany and Russia. It sits next door to the modern parliament building which stems from Lithuania’s second independence day, 11th March 1990, the first of the Baltic States to break away from the USSR.

Lithuania parliament vilnius

An important emblem of Democracy

The books in the main atrium are cleverly decorated with black covering on their spines to create the faces of various key literary/historical figures.

Lithuania national library vilnius

2. Knygynas VAGA book shop

Knygynas VAGA bookstore book shop Vilnius lithuania

Knygynas VAGA book shop

A book shop where you can get strudel – what’s not to love? Really enjoyed hanging out here. Had to speak German as the strudel lady couldn’t speak English. We struggled a bit trying to identify pumpkin.

I picked up two Lithuanian novels in English here: Cold East by Gabija Grušaitė (“A new voice that disrupted Lithuanian lierature”) and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (a Lithuanian American, author of the very successful debut Between Shades of Gray).

3. The Republic of Užupis

uzupis republic vilnius lithuania

Border of the Republic

A hippy, bohemian quarter a bit like Chrisiania in Copenhagen. The name means “other side of the river” – it sits in a loop on the far side of the Vilnia. It declared itself a republic in 1998 – it has its own flag, currency, constitution and ambassadors (including my friend author Charlie Connelly who it turns out is their UK ambassador – I believe drink may have been involved in precipitating this appointment). They change the flag every season – it is currently blue for Winter.

uzupis flag vinius lithuania

Winter – blue, Spring – green, Summer – yellow, Autumn – red

It began life in the 16th century as a mainly Jewish area. WW2 reduced the Jewish population of Vilnius from 58,000 to 2,000. The Soviets then destroyed the cemetery up the hill from Užupis.

Now it’s mainly an artistic area, albeit a gentrified one at this point. Between the War and Independence in 1990 it was the realm of the homeless and prostitutes, very neglected. Needless to say, the artists moved in and made it cool and meaningful. Gotta love the artists. It still has a certain charm and some good street art. It seems to have been set up as an artistic provocation, to prompt important conversation. The Republic’s independence day is 1st April.

4. The Ghetto

the site of the great synagogue vilnius lithuania

Site of the Great Synagogue

Vilnius had two ghettos during the Nazi period – the small and the large. They both got liquidated (or “liquidized” as one Lithuanian tourist website has it) by Nazis and Lithuanian police shooting tens of thousands of Jews in the forests around the city. Above is the site of the Great Synagogue where 3,000-5,000 worshippers could be accommodated. It was damaged in the War but the Soviets were the ones who finished the job in the mid-50s, turning a magnificent building into an architecturally insignificant kindergarten (in the background above). I had an interesting chat with a Polish woman at this sign. She told me how poor all the Poles were before the war. Just like the citizen of Neulengbach in Austria (location of Egon Schiele’s studio) who told me how poor the Austrians were.

mural old jewish quarter ghetto vilnius lithuania

Commemorating the inhabitants of the ghetto

Despite these dark shadows I enjoyed the ghetto area in its autumn colours. I could sense the people. I sat in an open area reading a Lew Archer novel and sucking up the vibes. The city has peppered the area with monochrome murals of the former citizens, with QR codes linking to some basic information. I wonder what this fella would have made of QR codes…

mural old jewish quarter ghetto vilnius lithuania

QR codes schmoo R codes

I vote

I made this to mark the announcement of the results of the European elections

picasso portrait vote election

Inspired by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Berkow. He went to Finchley Manorhill school which was on the same site in North Finchley as The Compton where one of my boys went.

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