London planes land at Victoria Embankment Gardens.

No, they didn’t miss Heathrow. These are London plane trees at the Victoria Embankment Gardens in London, where I recently took shelter from a thunderstorm. Instead I got rained on from on high by ready-made sculpture; manna from heaven.

It was an eerie light because of the storm. The grass under the trees looked nearly white, both with the storm, and through being parched dry from lack of rain.

The trees were shedding their bark profusely, something they do naturally apparently, not down to the dry weather as I first thought. I nearly got hit on the head at one point!

The resulting debris on the ground took on sculptural qualities reminiscent of body parts; here a back-bone, there an arm, is that an elephant trunk?

Security Breach at Russell Square!

 

020818 - Security 1Jumping out at Russell Square tube station, I noticed these doors at the end of the platform and was immediately drawn in by the arrangement of the security seal tape, and it’s constant removal and replacement along the vertical openings of the doors.

020818 - Security 2There is something paradoxical that the seals have been put in place and removed so many times. The cabinets being broken into, and then taped over again and again, as if some drama, a crime thriller is taking place with the repeat button firmly pushed down.

020818 - Security 3The vertical arrangement also reminds me strongly of the “Hanging Soap Women, 2000” sculpture by the Polish artist Miroslav Balka, of which, I believe, half of it is in the Tate Modern collection, and half of it is at the White Cube Gallery, after the original length was cut in two. This beautiful sculpture made of a large quantity of used bars of soap in lots of different colours and strung up along a metal cable is well worth hunting down to have a look at. It does have an underlying message as well, which has got absolutely nothing to do with what is going on in Russell Square, but perhaps you can see the connection.

020818 - Security 4Back to the mystery of what is going on behind these doors!

What makes it so worthwhile for somebody to break in so many times, risking capture, torture, possibly even death, and yet still persist?

 

Finding Adam Dant at The Map House.

Finding The Map House is easy if you have a map. I thought I would try my hand at cartography and draw you one:
260718 - Map House 1

OK – not very good, but it should get you there.

I’ve always been interested in maps, whether they are modern day Google maps, Ordnance Survey maps, or ancient maps way back before the globe, when they thought that the world was flat, and if you sailed too far west you would fall off the edge.

Adam Dant’s exhibition “Maps of London & Beyond” was only on for a couple of weeks or so, and I went along on the last day. The maps are social, satirical, and very observantly drawn with a bunch of history thrown in for good measure. Drawn painstakingly in pen and ink with watercolour tinting these are very witty documents.

260718 - Map House 3The Maps and views he depicts are so detailed and full of tiny observations of everyday life, it is evident that he has been to “St James’s Square,” “Sloane Square,” or wherever, spending time with a sketchbook, and keeping his eyes open. Wonderful.

Other maps are themed, such as “Shoreditch 3000” showing the archaeology of the area, looking back from the year 3000. “Museum of the Deep” details all the shipwrecks in the Thames estuary – it is a crowded place!

My favourites were one called “Argotopolis” which shows the topology of London slang, and another called “London Enraged” which maps out all the riots and upheavals in London throughout history ranging from Boudica in AD 60, to the Brixton riots of 1981, 1985, and 1995.

260718 - Map House 2The Map House itself is fascinating enough. It is not a wide frontage onto the street, and you enter as though into a ship’s cabin of a room, but it reaches back a long way with various staircases going up and down onto different decks. It is like being on a sailing ship. With walls adorned with maps and charts, you can easily imagine yourself at sea. All you need is a ship’s wheel to steer, and a parrot on your shoulder. Well worth a visit, even if the Adam Dant exhibition is sadly now finished.

Trying to understand deckchairs.

I’m sure that there are plenty of comedy acts about putting up deckchairs and failing. It seems to me an equally impossible job to draw them successfully. Perhaps I haven’t the patience.

230718 - Deckchairs 1In London’s Green Park (or “Brown Park”, or “Straw-coloured Park”, as the heat-wave seems to have repainted it) the deckchairs have already been put up for you, but as I was idly drinking my coffee, I could see a game of Cat and Mouse going on, as people dodged around trying to avoid paying the attendant with his ticket machine.

230718 - Deckchairs 3When you are trying to draw or paint them, the deckchairs always seem to have too many bits of wood, or frames, and does this interlock with this, or that? Do they go in front or behind the canvas seat?

And what about the stripes? Deckchairs always seem to be striped. Yet more lines to get entangled with when drawing! Always a mess, but fun to draw all the same.

230718 - Deckchairs 2Deckchairs are never that comfortable to sit in anyway I find, and there is always that fear of imminent collapse as you sink into one, and the difficulty of getting out in a hurry as the deckchair attendant draws near… –  “OK you win, here is you £2.80 for an hour…”

Personally, I prefer to sit or lay on the grass anyway. So much less hassle. I like the easy life, although I do think I need to set myself the challenge of drawing, or painting, deckchairs again sometime – keep going with my attempts until I can get the hang of it…

230718 - Deckchairs 4Not there yet!

 

Embracing Yorkshire weather

We’ve been up in North Yorkshire for the last few days, and the weather has been wonderful in it’s contrasting forms, from bright sun on a frosty morn, to heavy snow showers.

The 3 images above, although totally different from each other are also related, in that they are all images of fleeting moments in time, and none of them exist anymore. I am also not responsible for any of them, although I do make a guest appearance in one of them.

The picture of shadows on the left, elongated by the low sun and downward slope of the hill was taken by my wife, Jane, on a walk towards the river Nidd in Darley. Can shadows be art? Why not – you have shadow puppets on stage performing, and as so often in Richard Long’s work, the photograph is the only record of the artwork that is left.

The leaves in the snow have been arranged like a roulade. It is in fact a large collapsed snowball that had been made by hands unknown on the Stray in Harrogate. The snowball was rolled under trees and the leaves that were on the ground stuck to the snowball as it was trundled around making this pattern when broken open. Is that an animal looking at me?

Lastly, we have the snow sculptures sat happily on the parapet of a Harrogate railway bridge as dusk settled around us. Hail, the unknown artists!

Somebody who has a fine feel for depicting the weather is Katharine Holmes. She was a near contemporary of mine at Newcastle University, who lives and works in Yorkshire. There was an exhibition of her work at Harrogate’s Mercer Art Gallery that we went to see whilst we were there. She has an assured style; a handling of oil, and acrylics that gives her paintings a real innate and naturalistic feel whatever the weather, wherever the place. I loved her sketchbooks on display, with the ink drawings occasionally reminding me of some of the work of former Cumbrian artist Percy Kelly.