Art and about

Wednesday, April 27th 2016

As we go ‘out and about’ in North London, we continually encounter changes in the street art scene as existing works are replaced by new ones or new locations attract artists. On some days we might see one new artwork and on others, several. Rather than write a separate blog post for each new single work or small number of new works, it seems sensible to collect them and publish them in batches. Below you will find 28 pictures of artworks ‘collected’ on six different days.

I am posting them without captions or comments but with the date at the head of each group. This is because the street art scene is always changing and what is here today may not be here tomorrow.

Monday April 4th 2016

Street art

Street art

Street art

Friday April 6th 2016

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Sunday April 10th 2016

Street art

Monday April 18th 2016

Street Art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Saturday April 23rd 2016

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Wednesday April 27th 2016

Street art

Street art Street art
Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

By the time you read this, some of the works shown will already have disappeared and been replaced by newcomers. The scene is ever-changing and ever-evolving.

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Ancient market and modern art

Saturday, April16th 2016

We had no special plans for today and so we started off with a leisurely breakfast at Pret A Manger in the what is now called the Angel Centre (it used to be called the N1 Centre) and then wandered across the road to the bus stop. But whither from here?

‘How about the Tate Modern?’ said I. ‘We haven’t been there for a while.’

And so it was decided.

We changed buses at London Bridge and while we were there took quick look at Borough Market.

Borough Market

Borough Market is of course famous and has been famous for a very long time, at least since the 13th century to which its origins as an organized market have been traced. Fruit, vegetables and food products of every kind are to be found here and can be bought retail or wholesale.

Borough Market

The market is held under cover in special premises recently refurbished and altered to allow for the building of a new railway bridge for London Bridge Station.

(The above picture is a scan shot and the lady in the left foreground can also be seen near the middle of the picture!)

Borough Market

It’s a little difficult to say exactly where the market begins and ends as it spills out into streets and spaces around the main premises.

Floral Hall Portico
Floral Hall Portico

In Stoney Street is this curious construction, now a part of the market but obviously distinct from it in style. It is a metal framed structure painted metallic silver. It is Grade II listed.

As you might guess, it is not original to the market. It comes, in fact, from Covent Garden. Covent Garden’s third theatre, now known as the Royal Opera House, was built by Edward Middleton Barry and opened in 1858. (The previous two theatres had both been destroyed by fire, a common fate of theatres.) Beside his new theatre, Barry built an iron and glass structure called the Floral Hall, intended to serve as a concert hall annexe and winter garden. Let Historic England take up the story (see here):

While the main theatre remained little-altered after its construction, the roof of the Floral Hall had to be rebuilt after fire damage in 1956 which resulted in the loss of its lofty glass vaults and dome. In the early 1980s a huge extension programme was embarked upon at Covent Garden and as part of this the southern portico of the Floral Hall was taken down in the early 1990s and put into store. It was subsequently re-erected to form a frontage (opened 2004) to Borough Market in Southwark.

NOT my favourite building
NOT my favourite building
The preposterous Shard seen from Stoney Street

And so to the Tate Modern. The gallery occupies the former Bankside Power Station, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott and built between 1947 and 1963. The cathedral-like Turbine Hall allows the display of large sculptures and is impressive in its own right. As well as its own collection of artworks, the Tate has a rolling programme of temporary exhibitions, making it a place to visit again and again.

My tastes in art tend, I admit, to be somewhat conservative. I admire and enjoy the great paintings and sculptures of the past which, being largely figurative, seem easier to understand. Modern and contemporary art left me bemused and I tended to be dismissive of it. In more recent times, however, my feelings have changed. I have become more ready to take time over works that seem at first sight (and perhaps even at subsequent sights!) incomprehensible. I don’t claim to ‘understand’ every work I see (in any case, what is it we mean by ‘understanding’ a work of art?) but every so often a work ‘speaks’ to me in some strange way that makes that particular visit to the gallery memorable and worthwhile.

What follows is a selection of the works on show in various galleries, chosen because they attracted my attention and (let’s be honest) were amenable to being photographed.

Embryology
Embryology
Embryology
Embryology
Embryology
Magdalena Abakanowicz, 1978-80

This work by Magdalena Abakanowicz is so huge and complex that it needs to be seen from all possible angles. The top photo was taken with my iPhone 6, using the panorama setting, the others with my usual Panasonic Lumix DMC G6.

This is a work that I imagine would be described by the Saatchi Gallery as it describes Richard Wilson’s installation 20:50, that is, as ‘site specific’ with ‘variable dimensions’ (see here). The shape and layout of Embryology cannot be fixed and must surely be different wherever it is set up anew. This is somewhat unnerving to the art viewer used to paintings and sculptures of fixed shape and size that never change. How do we understand a mutable work of art? Surely, its meaning must be sought elsewhere than in its present, and temporary, shape. The Tate’s description of the work will be found here. The size of the work is all the more impressive when we consider the difficult conditions under which it was produced.

Spreadout Ron Kitaaj
Spreadout Ron Kitaaj
Frank Bowling, 1984-6

If you are old fashioned like me, you instinctively expect painters’ canvases to be ‘pictures’, that is, to show scenes or figures that can be recognized and named, such as ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’, ‘horses in a field’, etc. Painters still do paint like that but only some of the time. Many paintings are not ‘pictures’, not in the conventional sense, anyway. This can be puzzling: how do we know how to react to it if we don’t know what it represents? I don’t know the answer to that so I am going to side-step it and tell you what the label says:

This work displays Bowling’s interest in paint as ‘organic matter, pliable and beautiful’. The complex texture is the result of foam, shredded plastic packing material, Christmas glitter, costume jewellery, plastic toys and oyster shells being embedded into the surface. Bowling began as a figurative painter, studying alongside R B Kitaj – referenced in the work’s title – at the Royal College of Art. He has talked about his move to abstraction as a process of ‘unlearning’.

untitled: upturned house 2
untitled: upturned house 2
Phyllida Barlow, 2012

What is this piece by Phyllida Barlow: is it a sculpture, an installation, a model, or what? Perhaps all of these or perhaps something unique for which all existing terms are but approximations. It’s derived from a house, yes, but has been turned topsy-turvy, as if the parts of a conventional house have been dismantled and then put back together any old how, like a piece of flat-pack furniture assembled by an idiot. Here is what the Tate has to say about it.

An American Tribute to the British People
An American Tribute to the British People
Louise Nevelson, 1960-4

This piece and the one below are both by Louise Nevelson (1899-1988), made of metal and wood, respectively. While sharing an obvious family likeness, they are quite different in conception and therefore in what they say to us.

Black Wall
Black Wall
Louise Nevelson, 1959

What I find intriguing about these works is that when I look at them, I feel that I almost recognize what they are but that the identity remains dancing tantalizingly just beyond my mental grasp. The top one says ‘machine’ to me and the bottom one says ‘furniture’, but neither is a machine or a piece of furniture. Or are they? The artist liked to compose her works with objects found in the streets while walking around New York City. Here is what the Tate has to say about An American Tribute to the British People and Black Wall.

From Surface to Surface
From Surface to Surface
Susumu Koshimizu, 1971, remade 1986

This work by Susumu Koshimizo reminds me of the section of the DIY store where they display the ready-cut lengths of timber for shelving and so on. But no DIY store has shelves cut to designs like these. Each one is different but cut as accurately as if done by a machine. Is this just a whimsical exercise in cutting planks into different shapes? It seems not and that there is serious purpose driving the work. See here for the Tate’s succinct explanation.

Breath 5
Breath 5
Giuseppe Penone, 1978

At first sight, Giuseppe Penone’s Breath 5 could be mistaken for an amphora. Is that accidental or intended? I imagine that it is accidental because it is claimed to represent the imagined shape of a breath of air exhaled from the artist’s mouth. The impression is supposed to be that of the artist’s jeans-clad leg. You can read the label for yourself here.

Maiastra Maiastra
Maiastra
Constantin Brancusi, 1911

Unusually, this piece by Constantin Brancusi harks back to rural tradition and folklore. The label explains as follows: ‘While working in Paris Brancusi retained a strong association with the traditions of his native country, Romania: Maiastra exemplifies this inspiration. The polished form evokes a golden bird with miraculous powers, which featured in Romanian folk tales. The carved bird-like forms of the stone base relate to more rustic folk decoration. Emphasising an idealised connection with nature, Brancusi originally set the whole sculpture on a high wooden column in the garden of its first owner, the photographer Edward Steichen.’

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
Umberto Boccioni, 1913

I liked this sculpture of a running figure because it reminded me of all those pictures expressing speed in early 20th-century advertisements for cars and petrol. That’s what we have here: a figure deformed by the speed of its movement, though there is a little more to it than that, according to the label text.

Who owns what?
Who owns what?
Barbara Kruger, 2012

You might at first mistake this poster-like painting by Barbara Kruger for a advertisement for slimming pills or perhaps old fashioned roll film. That is deliberate, of course. Once a commercial graphic designer for glossy magazines, Kruger uses the techniques of advertising directed at consumers to question the assumptions of consumerism, turning the guns back on themselves, as it were. More here.

Babel
Babel
Cildo Meireles, 2001

Coming upon this work by Cildo Meireles in a darkened gallery, is like stumbling at night upon an alien spaceship. I think it is the only artwork in the collection that makes a noise and a continuous noise, at that. It is called Babel in an obvious reference to the Biblical story of mankind punished for its arrogance by being cursed with different languages and thus becoming mutually incomprehensible.

Babel (detail)
Babel (detail)

The tower consists of radios, each tuned to a different station, each pouring out its never-ending stream of speech. It is not only the different of languages that make for incomprehension but also the multitude of voices demanding our attention so that we cannot pick out and understand even one among the crowd. Here is what the Tate has to say on this interesting work.

The Thames viewed from the Tate Modern
The Thames viewed from the Tate Modern

Before leaving the Tate Modern, we usually pay a visit to the viewing balcony that overlooks the Thames and gives you a view that reminds me of the old hand-drawn maps of London. The balcony is not large and you sometimes have to wait a while to get to the front in order to see (and photograph) the view but it is worth the wait. (Click to see a larger version of the picture.)

Tas Pide, Globe Walk
Tas Pide, Globe Walk

Before turning for home, we strolled to nearby Globe Walk and enjoyed a late Turkish-style lunch in Tas Pide. We felt we had earned it after our interesting but somewhat challenging visit to the Tate Modern!

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Highgate and the Hornsey Lane Bridge

Sunday, April 3rd 2016

Where the buses pause
Where the buses pause

Having spent the morning in leisurely fashion, in the afternoon we went for a stroll in Highgate Village. We’ve been here on sundry occasions before and found that little had changed. The photo shows where South Grove (running away from you in the centre of the photo) meets Highgate High Street. Some of the buses pause here before continuing on their way.

Highgate United Reformed Church, Pond Square
Highgate United Reformed Church, Pond Square

Further down the hill is this large church with a slender tower or steeple. Today it is known as the Highgate United Reformed Church but it is connected with the history of religious dissent and nonconformism in England. Briefly, those who objected to the terms of the 1662 Act of Uniformity, left the Church of England to found their own churches and educational institutions. Ministers of the new Dissenter chapels were not allowed to live within 5 miles of the city boundary and, as Highgate was situated sufficiently far away, many dissenting groups settled here. This church was built by Congregationalists in 1859. (If you want to know more about these tedious religious disputes, you will find information online, e.g. here and here.)

Small house Cholmley Park
Small house Cholmley Park

We were intrigued by this small house sited on the corner of a road called Cholmley Park with the main road which, slightly confusingly, changes its name from Highgate High Street to Highgate Hill at this point. I have no knowledge of when this house was built or what its original purpose was though I suspect it might have been a gatehouse at the entrance of the estate of Sir Roger Cholmley who acquired a swathe of land here in the 16th century. If I find out more I will add an update.

Church of St Joseph
Church of St Joseph (Roman Catholic)

The dissenters may have found Highgate a good place in which to live but other religious groups also planted their establishments here. This rather striking edifice is the Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph with a school attached. It was built in 1888-9 and is now a Grade II* listed building.

Old Highgate Presbyterian Church
Old Highgate Presbyterian Church

This tall and stately ecclesiastical building stands on the corner of Cromwell Avenue and Hornsey Lane. I instinctively looked around for the board giving the name of the church but couldn’t see one. Then I realized why not…

Old Highgate Presbyterian Street (detail) Old Highgate Presbyterian Church
Old Highgate Presbyterian Church
Now residential

The church was built in 1887 and called the Highgate Presbyterian Church. in 1967, however, the Presbyterians joined with the Congregationalists in Pond Square to form Union Church, Highgate or the United Reformed Church as it later became. Now superfluous to religious needs, the church was sold and is today residential.

Hornsey Lane Bridge
Hornsey Lane Bridge

We now continued along Hornsey Lane and came to the road bridge to which it has given its name. When arriving at the bridge for the first time, you may wonder why it is needed but…

View towards the City from Hornsey Lane Bridge
View towards the City from Hornsey Lane Bridge

…a look over the rail soon shows the answer. The difference in height between to upper and lower levels is such that without the bridge, a long and circuitous route would be needed by traffic that can today run straight across the bridge, hardly noticing that it is there.

A previous bridge had been built here by John Nash in 1813 but it was replaced by the present one built between 1897 and 1900 to the design of Sir Alexander Binnie. It is Grade II listed.

Bridge lamp
Bridge lamp

The age of the bridge is obvious from the care taken with the aesthetic elements, for example this beautiful lamp with an heraldic dolphin curling around the stem. A bridge built today would no doubt be at least utilitarian in appearance if not deliberately ugly.

Suicide prevention
Suicide prevention

The height of the drop from the bridge to the road below is such that unhappy souls seeking to end their lives have made use of it to commit suicide. It has thus been necessary to install a barrier to prevent this happening.

Hornsey Lane Bridge aka Archway
Hornsey Lane Bridge aka The Archway

This photo, which I took in December 2009 (see Colder than I expected) shows the bridge from the road below. It is also known as the Archway and that name has come to designate, not just the bridge, but the whole of the local area. Though small in comparison with some other road bridges, it has a character of its own and is a much loved landmark.

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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