Looking at art in Birmingham

Thursday, May 7th 2015

Our trip to Birmingham today is motivated by an exhibition being held in Birmingham’s Museum and Art Gallery, about which more anon.


Marylebone Station
Our preferred route to Birmingham

To go to Birmingham, we prefer to take the train from Marylebone (you can also go from Euston) and alight at Moore Street or Snow Hill, depending on our ultimate destination. Marylebone is a pretty station (it opened in 1899) and tends to be less crowded and less frenetic than Euston.

The Commuter
The Commuter
John McKenna, unveiled1996

We disembarked at Snow Hill Station, whose best known resident is probably the silver painted aluminium sculpture by John McKenna entitled The Commuter. Wearing a bowler hat and carrying brolly and briefcase, he is obviously intended to represent the more traditional members of the business community. He is now firmly associated with this station but I have heard that he was originally intended for Canley Station in Coventry. Canley, though, is not in a business area whereas Snow Hill certainly is, so perhaps our Commuter moved here to rub shoulders with his own kind.

Collecting for the RNLI
Collecting for the RNLI

We discovered a temporary resident, this handsome seafaring gent who was collecting for the RNLI. In return for a modest contribution, he graciously consented to be photographed. The irony was not lost on him that Birmingham is often quoted as the place in England that is farthest from the sea!

Station entrance
Station entrance
Snow Hill, Birmingham

We left by Snow Hill’s somewhat discreet entrance and found ourselves in the heart of the city. The next thing we saw was an art gallery and were tempted to go in. It was a commercial art gallery, that is, a gallery that exists to sell works of art, not to exhibit them for the pleasure and interest of the public. However, we were met and welcomed and encouraged to look around. There were paintings and sculptures, many of them very fine and I enjoyed my tour very much. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed.

As well as seeing some beautiful works is art, I also learnt something that I had not realized before. I had assumed that the works on display in commercial galleries were all unique and original works, hence the high prices. I now realized that while this might be true in some cases, increasingly often it is not. It is very easy these days to make high quality prints of paintings and even copies of sculptures. I think all the works we saw were copies. I am not criticising the sale of copies (provided, of course, that the customer is informed that they are copies, not originals) and from an aesthetic point of view, I suppose the copy is ‘as good as’ the original. Rightly or wrongly, though, I don’t feel the same awe and admiration in looking at a copy as I feel in looking at the original.

School of Art
School of Art
Birmingham City University

Birmingham is a city where there are so many picturesque and beautiful buildings that I could spend all my time photographing them and never get to my destination. Here is just one fine example, built in 1881-5 and now home to the Birmingham City University’s School of Art. As you might guess, it is Grade I listed.

Surrounded by glass
Surrounded by glass
The new threatens to overwhelm the old

I was intrigued by this pair of buildings that have become completely surrounded by modern ‘fish-tank’ design blocks but have, so far, survived. The Arts and Crafts one on the left dates from 1897 and its Venetian Gothic companion from 1880. Both are Grade II listed.

Transporter
Transporter
Transporter
Transporter
Keiko Mukaide and Ronnie Watt, 2012

We made our way to the museum. In a light well hangs this large work of art. The top view shows it sideways on from the upper floor. The others show it at various angles from below. It is a collaborative work by two artists, Keiko Mukaide and Ronnie Watt.

Crossing to the exhibition
Crossing to the exhibition

It turned out that the exhibition we had come to see was not in the main building but across an open space in another building. In the picture you can see what look like tram rails and I am guessing that this area, now a large yard, was once a street.

The exhibition is entitled Love is Enough: William Morris and Andy Warhol. I must admit that I had misgivings about this exhibition. William Morris and his group were true artists but Warhol? Having seen the exhibition and been enchanted by one half of it, I have to say that my misgivings were fully justified. In my opinion, it is almost an insult to William Morris to put him together with Warhol. Photography was not allowed in the exhibition and I therefore have no pictures with which to justify or at least support my judgements, so I had better say no more except that I enjoyed one part of the exhibition very much.

Winged Figure II
Winged Figure II
Lynn Chadwick, 1959

After viewing the exhibition, we toured the rest of the art gallery. Here follow a few of the items we saw, saw of which I have shown you in previous posts. Above is a winged figure by sculptor Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003). Wikipedia’s Lynn Chadwick describes his work as ‘semi-abstract’ which, I suppose, is a fair evaluation. I can relate to some of his sculptures better than others but usually find his work intriguing and attractive. The label on the above work speaks of Chadwick’s period of service with the Fleet Arm Arm and concludes that ‘Chadwick’s work reflects the emotional aftershock of World War Two and the growing fear of nuclear conflict’.

The Warrior The Warrior
The Warrior
Henry Moore, 1954

Henry Moore’s reclining female figures are found in many galleries and sculpture parks. A male figure in the posture of a warrior was a somewhat new departure for the artist according to a letter that he wrote about the work in 1955. A relevant quotation from the letter, casting light on the genesis of the work and its meaning for the artist may be found of this page of the Henry Moore Foundation.

Spring Spring
Spring
Alan Bridgwater, date unknown

This is one of my favourites works in this gallery, Spring by Alan Bridgwater. The artist was born locally (1903) and spend most of his life (d.1962) in the area. According to the label, ‘The style suggests an influence from Cubism and new modes of representation by artists such as Georges Braque…’ That may be so, but there is a naturalness and elegance to the figure that is charming and that I do not see in Cubist representations.

Portrait Bust of Madame Renoir
Portrait Bust of Madame Renoir
Pierre Auguste Enoir, 1916

We associate the name of Pierre Auguste Renoir first and foremost with painting and with the Impressionist movement. Here he ventures into sculpture and in a thoroughly realistic mode. Aline Victorine Charigot was born in 1859 and worked as a seamstress. With others she modelled for Renoir and, though 18 years his junior, married him in 1890, remaining his companion until she died in 1915. Renoir painted her on several occasions and this bust, done a year after her death, is his memorial to her. It differs from the usual memorial bust in its everyday naturalism that captures the real woman rather than an idealized symbol. It is a touching tribute.

Bust of the Emperor Commodus
Bust of the Emperor Commodus
Florentine School, early 17th century

The sculptor of this bust is not known but it belongs to the Florentine School and was made in the early 17th century. Unlike other more famous Roman emperors such as Augustus, Nero, Caligula and Claudius, Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus (AD 161-92) is relatively obscure. As his first two names suggest, he was the son of the philosophical Marcus Aurelius with whom he was co-emperor from 177 to his own accession in 180. Commodus ruled for only 12 years before being assassinated. See Wikipedia’s Commodus for more details. It is difficult to know how closely the bust resembles the real man but it certainly gives off an aura of power and hardness.

The Round Room
The Round Room
Birmingham Museum and Art gallery

The Museum and Art Gallery possesses features of beauty and interest on its own account, not least the fine Round Room. This is a large chamber, hall or gallery, round as its name indicates, though much bigger than the word ‘room’ would seem to suggest. A notable feature is the ceiling dome that infuses the space with daylight. It is impossible to photograph this gallery with a single frame and I have captured part of it by  stitching a number of images together. The dark patches in the bottom left corner could have been trimmed off but by doing so I would have lost parts of the picture that I preferred to keep.

Lucifer
Lucifer
Jacob Epstein, 1945

The walls of the Round Room are lined with an impressive array of paintings but the focus of the room is unmistakeably the centre of the floor where stands Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of Lucifer. People entering the room are naturally drawn to it and walk around it. Inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the sculpture of the fallen angel exudes despair rather than wickedness. The figure is human but larger than life size and possesses a presence that compels. See also A library in Birmingham.

Entrance
Entrance
Great Western Arcade

Leaving the art gallery, we made our way, slowly and with detours, as per usual, to the station. Along the way we encountered the magnificence Great Western Arcade whose grand entrance you see above.

Interior
Interior
Great Western Arcade

The Arcade was built in 1775-6 as a place for elegant shopping. It has entrances at either end which is of course convenient for access but also tempts people to walk through on their way somewhere else and to be drawn in by shop window displays. One can imagine how animated it must have been in the days of stovepipe hats and long dresses. Somewhat quieter these days, it is, happily, a Grade II listed building and for now protected from the vandalism of greedy developers. Because damage in World War Two bombing necessitated rebuilding, the Colmore Row entrance and the roof were rebuilt in a form different from the original. It nonetheless remains a beautiful legacy from the Victorian era.

Angel drinking fountain
Angel drinking fountain
Originally at Christ Church

Near the cathedral, mounted on a column, is a drinking fountain with an unusual angel motif for decoration. The fountain, now Grade II listed, was originally attached to Christ Church and was installed some time in the later part of the 19th century. When the church was demolished in 1899, the fountain was moved here. A plaque beneath the bowl records this move and the fountain’s restoration in 1988. The metal cups are long gone and the fountain no longer provides water, a circumstance that renders slightly ironic the Biblical quotation being displayed by the angel: Whosever drinketh of this water shall thirst again but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give shall never thirst (John IV, 13 & 14). A fountain recorded in Bristol made to the same pattern seems to have been destroyed or lost.

St Philip's Cathedral
St Philip's Cathedral
St Philip’s Cathedral

My last photos were a few of Birmingham’s cathedral, dedicated to St Philip, as we passed through its grounds on our way to the station.

Although this was a short visit, it was a substantial one on which we had visited two galleries and renewed acquaintance with some old acquaintances. We shall no doubt have cause to return in the not too distance future as this city continues to have a lot to offer the visitor.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Some sculpture and a hawk

Wednesday, May 6th 2015

We are having an in-town day today. For one thing, there is an exhibition we want to see and, for another, it’s pleasant to take things easy sometimes!

The first item on the agenda was to have breakfast and for this, Tigger fancied going to Giraffe at King’s Cross Station as they serve a passable vegetarian breakfast.

A Harris hawk
A Harris hawk
Helps keep the station free of pigeons

The cafe is on the upper level at King’s Cross Station and as we headed for the stairs after breakfast, we encountered the beautiful bird pictured above. She was perched on the handrail at the end of the terrace where there was a good view of the whole departures area. She was with her handler who kindly allowed us and other admirers to take photos.

Harris hawks are not natives of the British Isles but are popular with falconers. Both King’s Cross and St Pancras Stations are patrolled by falconers as a way of preventing pigeons from coming into the buildings. I previously wrote about meeting one in St Pancras Station (see The sheriffs and knitters of Nottingham). In both cases I asked, with some trepidation, how many pigeons they caught. “None!” was the answer from both falconers. They asserted that it was enough for the hawks to be present for the pigeons to stay away. I don’t know whether that is true or whether they say that to pacify softies like me.

Redevelopment behind King's Cross Station
Redevelopment behind King’s Cross Station

We walked up the slope behind King’s Cross Station but instead of going by the pedestrian path, called Goods Way, we went up between the new buildings. These consist mainly of office blocks and will no doubt make someone very rich.

Regent's Canal and Granary Square
Regent’s Canal and Granary Square

Keeping uphill by either route brings you to the Regent’s Canal where a bridge leads over the water into Granary Square. At top right in the photo you can just see part of the huge warehouse that was once used for the storing of grain, hence the name of the square. Today, it is one of the sites of the University of the Arts London.

King's Place - ground floor
King’s Place – ground floor

This time we did not tarry in Granary Square but made our way downhill to King’s Place. This large building is very well situated beside a main road (York Way) and a basin of the Regent’s Canal called Battlebridge Basin. The upper seven floors of the building are given over as office space but the ground and lower floors can be accessed by the public and are worth visiting from time to time to see the various art exhibitions that are held there. We sat and rested a while with refreshments from the cafe.

Couple 1
Couple 1
Terence Coventry

Afterwards, we went for a walk around the outside, beside the canal, as we usually do. Here we find a number of sculptures and these change from time to time so there is always something new for us to see. There are two commercial galleries in King’s Place and today at least, all the sculpture were placed by one of them, Pangolin London, and all were for sale.

Man with  Raised Arm
Man with Raised Arm
Anthony Abrahams

Dates were not given for most of these sculptures which, I assume, means that all are contemporary, made “just now” and brought in for sale. Something that struck me was that all of them are more or less figurative. The one that isn’t does at least represent a geometrical form and can therefore be considered to have an identity as an object. I am aware, of course, that this could be the result of a selection bias on the part of the gallery but I am hoping that what it also means is that art is returning to a more figurative paradigm after experimenting (for too long, in my opinion) with abstract forms. We can but hope.

Voyager
Voyager
Charlotte Mayer

This is the geometrical form that I mentioned above. We could see it either as a ‘pure’ spiral form or as a stylized model of a mollusc with a spiral shell. How the title, Voyager, fits the shape is an exercise left for the reader Smile

Jacob's Ladder Jacob's Ladder Jacob's Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder
Steve Hurst

This sculptor seems to do a lot of work on the theme of war, in particular the First World War. Here, though, he chooses a Biblical theme, that of Jacob’s Ladder, but the figures on the side panels look like skeletons wearing old style British military helmets, again echoing warlike motifs.

Ozymandias: King of Kings
Ozymandias: King of Kings
Anthony Abrahams

This profile in bronze by Anthony Abrahams references the famous poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. If you want to refresh your memory, you will find a copy of the poem here.

Vernal Figure
Vernal Figure
Ralph Brown, 1957

Unlike the others, this sculpture is given a date, 1957. The label also tells us that it belongs to an “Edition of 6”. Similar mentions appears on the labels of other works. I assume this means that the Vernal Figure appears in several copies. It’s not at all unusual for that to be the case in the world of sculpture. There are at least 28 full-size copies of Rodin’s Le Penseur, for example. Perhaps, as the quality of 3D printers improves, it will one day be possible to order a famous sculpture online and “print” a copy of it in your own home. Does the possibility of copying sculptures diminish their uniqueness?

Inside Out I - III
Inside Out I – III
Peter Randall-Page, 2014
Click to see a slideshow

This one also has a date and is marked “Unique”, which I assume means that there is only one of it. Buy this, and you enter into sole position. That’s no doubt reflected in the price. (No, I don’t know how much these cost.) You might be forgiven for thinking that it is made of plastic but the label tells us it is bronze. If you click on the image you will see a slideshow of different views of it.

Regent's Canal and Battlebridge Basin
Regent’s Canal and Battlebridge Basin

King’s Place stands at the entrance to Battlebridge Basin, once a port for loading and unloading goods from barges but today moorings for houseboats and pleasure craft. The London Canal Museum is here too. In the picture, the basin is to the right and the canal continues on, passing to the left of the drum-shaped building.

From here we travelled to Brunswick Square and the Foundling Museum. Interesting as this, historically and socially, in its own right, our reason for visiting it today was to see an exhibition of sculptures by Jacob Epstein. Epstein lived for a time in Bloomsbury, more or less opposite the Foundling Museum, so holding the exhibition, entitled Jacob Epstein: Babies and Bloomsbury, in the Museum is quite appropriate. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed so I cannot show you any of the exhibits. These were mostly portrait sculptures of his children, of the children of friends and of the women in his life. (Epstein’s love life was too complicated to go into here but there are plenty of accounts online starting with Wikipedia’s Jacob Epstein.)

Some of the works in this exhibition were in the Epstein exhibition in the New Art Gallery Walsall that we visited in June last year. A look at Bingeing on Epstein in Walsall will give you some idea of what we saw today.

Queen Square
Queen Square

Near the museum is a garden square called Queen Square. We went in to take a look and found a couple more sculptures (unfortunately, not by Epstein!).

In Memory of Andrew Mellor
In Memory of Andrew Mellor
Patricia Finch, 2001

Both works are memorials, the first to Andrew Mellor, by Patricia Finch, purchased by Friends of the Children of Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Queen Charlotte, Consort of George III
Queen Charlotte, Consort of George III
Sculpture unknown, c.1775

The second memorial sculpture gives the square its name. It was previously thought that this statue represented Queen Anne and the square was accordingly named Queen Anne Square. Later, opinion changed, and it is now thought that the regal lady is in fact Queen Charlotte, Consort of King George III. The statue is not here by chance, either. King George, you will remember, was subject to periods of insanity and, according to a story, was for a while resident near here in the house of the medical practitioner attending him. In one corner of the square there stands a pub called the Queen’s Larder and, according to the same story, the Queen rented a store room in the cellar of this pub to keep the special food needed by the patient. True or not, it makes a good tale and explains why Queen Charlotte still lurks in this small garden square in Bloomsbury.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Chichester: art gallery and ship canal

Tuesday, May 5th 2015

Today’s jaunt is to the ancient city of Chichester in the county of West Sussex. According to legend, Sussex came into existence in AD 477 when a man called Ælle arrived on the south coast with three ships and wrested control of the country from the locals. Whatever the truth of that, a kingdom was certainly carved out in the south-east of England and called Suþseaxe (‘suthseaxe’), that is, [Kingdom of the] South Saxons. In modern times, it has been found convenient to divide this large spread of land into two parts, West Sussex and East Sussex, each a county in its own right.

Chichester became the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom and, turning to legend once more, we learn that Ælle named it after his son Cissa. Adding to his name the Anglo-Saxon word ceaster, used to designate an old Roman settlement (whose remains are still to be found under the city centre), we arrive at Cisseceaster, ‘Cissa’s town’. (In Anglo-Saxon, ‘c’ before ‘i’ or ‘e’ is pronounced like ‘ch’ in modern English). With the coming of Christianity, Cisseceaster became a see and, with the building of its cathedral, a city, today the tenth smallest in the UK.

Chichester Station
Chichester Station

We arrived, as usual, by train, and disembarked at Chichester’s small but busy station. The railway line crosses a road just beyond the end of the platforms (the train in the picture is crossing that road now) and when trains are about, the road is closed with level-crossing gates. Vehicles are stuck until the gates open but pedestrians can either wait, or, if they don’t mind the climb, cross overhead via the pedestrian bridge.

We have visited Chichester several times before (see, for example, Roman baths and modern art in Chichester), so today I spent little time photographing the town, saving my energies for other things.

Figure (Walnut)
Figure (Walnut)
Barbara Hepworth, 1964

This sculpture in walnut by Barbara Hepworth introduces our first destination in Chichester, the Pallant House Gallery. All art is interesting (though I am not too sure what to make of Hepworth’s strange shapes) but we had come to see a specific exhibition, Leon Underwood: Figure and Rhythm.

As far as its own collection of artworks is concerned, Pallant House generously allows visitors to take photographs as they please but in the case of visiting exhibitions, whose works and therefore copyrights they do not own, photography is not allowed. I am therefore unable to show you anything of the Leon Underwood exhibition. If you wish to gain some idea of this artist and his work, you could perhaps look at Leon Underwood (Wikipedia) and pursue your interest from there.

Grantchester Road and Newton after Blake
Grantchester Road and Newton after Blake
(Painting) Howard Hodgkin, 1975
(Sculpture) Eduardo Paolozzi, 1993-4

After visiting the exhibition, we went on a quick tour of the permanent collection. There we saw a few old friends. This window alcove has been cunningly used to house two works of art. At the back is a painting by Howard Hodgkin, entitled Grantchester Road. The label tells us (in part) that ‘In this painting of the interior of Sir Colin St John Wilson’s house in Cambridge, Hodgkin has included himself, half-obscured by a vertical black pillar, almost to give a sense of scale as in an architect’s drawing’.

The object in the foreground is  by Eduardo Paolozzi and is a maquette or model for his sculpture of Newton that resides in the forecourt of the British Library in London. (See Sunny Saturday.) This is a rendering in three-dimensional sculptural form of the drawing of Newton by William Blake. (For example, see here.)

Regarding Guardian 2
Regarding Guardian 2
Dhruva Mistry, 1985

We were surprised to encounter this work, Regarding Guardian 2, in the upper gallery because we had previously observed it at the bottom of the stairs. It is a fascinating piece. Would you call it figurative or abstract? I suppose it partakes of the qualities of both because while it represents some sort of creature, making a believable case for its existence, we know that such a creature does not exist and that the piece must therefore have a symbolic meaning. One of the gallery’s documents has this to say about it:

In Regarding Guardian 2, sculptor Dhruva Mistry has used a range of symbols to describe his religious beliefs and explore ideas about transformation. These symbols are personal to the artist but are also open to interpretation by the viewer:
• Why is the Guardian blue? What do you think it symbolises?
• What sort of animal is the Guardian? Why does it have wings and horns?
• What does the skull symbolise and why does the Guardian have its hoof on it?

You may recall that I have previously photographed other guardian figures by Mistry, namely the pair in Victoria Square, Birmingham (see A library in Birmingham).

The Cathedral from a gallery window
The Cathedral from a gallery window

I liked this view of the Cathedral through the window of one of the rooms in the gallery. There is something of the quality of a Dutch interior about the photo except that there is hardly any interior visible! Avoiding over-exposing the view through the window was the main issue.

The 34 Gallery
The 34 Gallery
Various artists, 1934

This fascinating item has all the charm of a dolls’ house. It is a model of an art gallery, complete with works of art. The difference between that and a dolls’ house, in which every object is a pretend version of the real thing, the objects here, though miniature, are real works of art, made by well known artists. (Please click on the image to see a larger version.) I think the best thing is simply to repeat the explanation given on the label:

This model modern art gallery provides a remarkable microcosm of English painting and sculpture from the 1930s. The brainchild of art dealer Sydney Burney, it was originally created for the exhibition ‘Children Throughout the Ages’ at Chesterfield House in London in April-May 1934 in aid of the Greater London Fund for the Blind. It remained hidden in a suitcase for many years, until it was brought to light and the model galleries recreated for Pallant House Gallery. Sadly a few of the original exhibits are missing, including miniatures by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, John Nash, Ben Nicholson and Charles Vyse.

Contemplation
Contemplation

We left the Pallant House Gallery and took the the streets once more.

South Street
South Street
Looking towards the Chichester Cross

We had lunch at the Buttery, a cafe restaurant situated in a restored late 12th-century building that belongs to the cathedral estate. The Buttery is in South Street and as we left, I took the above photo, looking north towards the Chichester Cross. Its Wikipedia entry describes it as ‘an elaborate Perpendicular market cross’. It marks the centre of the city and from it radiate four roads named after the main points of the compass, North, South, West and East. You will find a closer picture of the cross here.

Chichester Ship Canal Basin
Chichester Ship Canal Basin

We now turned south and  followed the street to where it becomes Southgate and then across the railway line when it is Stockbridge Road. Here we find the beautiful Chichester Ship Canal Basin.

A wildlife haven and an amenity
A wildlife haven and an amenity

Opened in 1822, this relatively short canal joins the city to the sea at Chichester Harbour. It was abandoned in 1906 and became a rich natural habitat for wild life. With its commercial past behind it, the canal is being restored and maintained both as a wildlife corridor and as an amenity for pleasure use.

Walking along the tow path
Walking along the tow path

We had to keep in mind the return to the station to catch the train home but we had time to go for a walk along the tow path. We were fortunate that it was a sunny day as this made the scene all the brighter and more cheerful.

Mallard Ducks resting
Mallard Ducks resting

The ducks also thought so, as witness this group of Mallards resting in the sun on a landing stage. Besides duck, we saw coots, moorhens and black-headed gulls.

Looking along the canal to the swing bridge
Looking along the canal to the swing bridge

Perhaps because it was a week day, it was very quiet along the canal. We saw few people and only one cyclist1 and it was a pleasant area in which to wander.

Looking back the way we had come
Looking back the way we had come

Here we are looking back towards the basin, having walked along the tow path that you see on the left. How did I manage to apparently stand on the surface of the canal to take this photo? I cheated, of course. In order to install the bridge, two projecting piers had been built, one on either side, and I am standing on one of these.

Poyntz Bridge
Poyntz Bridge
Named after a major stockholder

In order to provide crossing points but still allow for free movement of shipping, swing bridges were installed. They are robust constructions of iron. This one is dated 1820 and called Poyntz Bridge, apparently the name of a major stockholder of the company that built the canal. He may lie easy in his grave knowing that his name lives on.

Black-headed gulls seeking food
Black-headed gulls seeking food

One of the pleasures of the walk came from the birds. In many places such as this, feeding the birds is discouraged or prohibited altogether. Not so here. At the shop in the basin, along with postcards, you can buy bags of special food. It is labelled as suitable for fish and birds. I am guessing that it is made  from some formula that does not pollute the environment and that what the birds miss, the fish will clean up.

The food comes in the form of small pellets and we soon discovered that the duck, coots, moorhens and the black-headed gulls are used to being fed. They gobbled up the food as fast as we could toss it to them. The black-headed gulls were the most spectacular. They are as capable as other gulls of floating on the water but they are so agile in flight that they can catch food in the air or pick it off the surface of the water without touching down. They engaged in what I could only describe as ‘dancing on water’: they would swoop down, hover over the water with their toes dipping in, and pick up the food from the surface. As they bounced up and down, pecking at the food, with their feet on the surface, it really did seem as though they were dancing on the water.

Nesting coot Nesting coot
Nesting coot

In certain places along the canal there are important reed beds and these provide good nesting places for coots. Coots built their nests on the edge of the water or even on it in clumps of weed which they may supplement with rubbish collected here and there. I imagine that the canal locks ensure that the water surface never exceeds a certain level and that the coots have learned that they can safely nest in these positions without risk of flood. Though fearful of predators, they were more than happy to paddle over to us to receive the food we had to offer!

A last look along the canal
A last look along the canal

We had not come very far along the canal but had to think about turning back to catch our train home. This is a fine place in which to ramble, with the added attraction of being able to feed the birds and thus see them close up. Now we have found it, perhaps we will come on another day and devote more time to exploring the canal and perhaps reaching its end at the sea.

________

1I have already said that I deplore the policy of mixing cyclists and pedestrians on the same path. This is a particular problem on canal tow paths which are usually narrow.

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From Leicester Square to Rennie Mackintosh

May 4th 2015

Tigger is on holiday from work this week, so we will be able to get out and about a bit more than usual. Is it a “staycation”? Yes and no. It’s a vacation and we staying at home but we intend it to be a fairly relaxed time, compared with our usual staycations. Today’s jaunt started in Leicester Square and ended in Portland Place. Why Portland Place? I’ll tell you when we get there, though the title contains a clue.

The Gielgud Theatre
The Gielgud Theatre
Once known as the Globe

Leicester Square is in the heart of London’s theatreland and, as you spin on your heel, you see around you more theatres than you can shake a stick – or a camera – at. One of these is the handsome Gielgud Theatre, currently offering The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, surely one of the longest titles to be squeezed onto theatre hoardings for quite some time.

This stately building first opened in 1906 under the name of The Hicks Theatre, after Seymour Hicks, the playwright and theatre manager who commissioned it. This name lasted only three years, being replaced in 1909 by The Globe Theatre, by its new owner, American impresario, Charles Frohman. This name fared better, lasting 88 years until 1994 when, to avoid confusion with the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, it was renamed in honour of the famous actor John Gielgud.

The Apollo Theatre
The Apollo Theatre
The first Edwardian theatre

Just a few seconds’ walk along Shaftesbury Avenue is a theatre with sunshine in its name, so to speak, though Apollo was also the god of music, appropriate because this theatre was designed as a musical theatre. It opened in February 1901 and, owing to the death of Queen Victoria in the preceding month, is the first theatre to be opened in the Edwardian era.

Rupert Court
Rupert Court
Once called George Court

This is Rupert Court, part of the area’s 18th-century development and comprised a mixture of residential and retail premises. It was originally called George Court, presumably after King George III, the then reigning monarch, but I have no idea when and why the name was changed. What’s special about it?Nothing much, really, except that it is typical of the courts, lanes and alleys that survive between the main thoroughfares.

Shakespeare Statue and Fountain
Shakespeare Statue and Fountain
Giovanni Fontana, c.1874

Where there is talk of theatre there is bound to be mention of Shakespeare. Dominating Leicester Square itself is a fountain whose centrepiece is a stature of the author of Romeo and Juliet. The statue (I don’t know about the fountain) is the work of Giovanni Fontana (c.1821-1893) who was born in Italy but was naturalized British in 1871.

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
Giovanni Fontana, after Peter Scheemakers

The sculpture is a reworking of the memorial to Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner (for example, see here), which was the work of the Flemish sculptor, Peter Scheemakers (1691-1781). It would have been carved some time before the square opened in 1874. Whatever the artistic merits of the sculpture, the pigeons find it a useful vantage point for spying out the local area.

Queen's House
Queen’s House
‘No frills hotel’

Shining whitely in the sunshine, the Queen’s House displays a Portland stone façade in French Renaissance style. Then named the Queen’s Hotel, it opened in 1899 and was, by all accounts, a luxurious establishment. Since those halcyon days, alterations have been applied and the building put to mixed use. Despite a change of name to Queen’s House, it is again a hotel, run by the Premier Inn chain. The company describes it as a ‘no frills hotel’, though you will have to pay around £180 a night for a single room.

Vue Cinema
Vue Cinema
Replacing Daly’s Theatre

The mechanized equivalent of the theatre is the cinema. in 1893, Daly’s Theatre opened on this site and continued in business until September 1937 when it closed. It was sold to Warner Brothers who promptly demolished it and built a cinema in its stead. The Warner Theatre, as it was called, was itself demolished in 1980, except for the façade, which was incorporated into a new cinema forming part of the Warner Village Cinema chain. In 2003, the chain was bought by Vue who continue to run the cinemas under its own brand name.

Vue Cinema relief
Vue Cinema relief
Sight and Sound
Edward Bainbridge Copnall c.1938

Ignoring the inevitably garish publicity material and brand name, I think the façade is actually quite classy and its Art Deco heritage is proclaimed by the two reliefs. By Edward Bainbridge Copnal (1903-1973), they represent Sight and Sound but I do not know which is which.

The Hippodrome
The Hippodrome
Once a theatre, now a casino

This extensive structure started as the Hippodrome Theatre. It was designed by the famous theatre architect, Frank Matcham, and opened in 1900, just at the end of the Victorian era. In the gable halfway along, you might be able to make out the words CRANBOURN MANSIONS. Accounts are a little vague on the subject but it seems to be the case that part of the building was a ‘gentlemen’s apartment block’ – hence the ‘mansions’ tag. I believe there were also retail units on the ground floor but how the building was apportioned between theatre, apartments and shops, I do not know.

The Hippodrome theatre survived until the 1950s and then closed. In 1958, the interior was demolished and Bernard Delfont’s nightclub, Talk of the Town installed. A number of clubs under different owners succeeded one another and the building briefly (2008-9) recovered its persona as a theatre under the name La Clique. In 2009, the establishment was again taken over by new owners and became the Hippodrome Casino. Theatre has again abandoned the site unless you count the 180-seat cabaret.

Nelson's Column and statue of Sir Charles Napier
Trafalgar Square
Nelson: E.H. Baily, c.1840
Napier: G.G. Adams, 1855

We passed through Trafalgar Square, where I took this photo of Nelson’s Column or The Nelson Monument, as it is properly named, and the statue of General Sir Charles Napier. The column was completed between 1839 and 1842 but I have not found a definite reference to the date of Baily’s statue. It was presumably done around the same period.

There are a number of permanent sculptures in Trafalgar Square, such as those photographed above, each standing on its own support or plinth. Curiously, one plinth has been left empty since the building of the square. It was supposed to be occupied by an equestrian statue of William IV but this never materialized. The empty platform has come to be known as the Fourth Plinth and has more recently found a new use.

Gift Horse
Gift Horse
Hans Haacke, unveiled March 2015
Click to see a slide show

This use is to serve as a display point for a succession of works of contemporary art, usually commissioned specially for the plinth. These works, being contemporary and often controversial, contrast – not to say clash – marvellously with the unified and somewhat conventional environment of the square. The current incumbent of the plinth is not all there. By that I mean that the figure, entitled Gift Horse, is indeed a horse but present only as a skeleton. That’s not all, though. The artist has added a message to the work and this is what exercises the minds of people who worry about such things. The message involves the ribbon attached to the skeleton’s front legs. It displays the ticker of the London Stock Exchange. I’m  sure that’s terribly serious and thought-provoking and says something wonderfully ironic about our contemporary world but it goes right over my head. I’m happy to stick with the horse as a horse, albeit skeletal. (Click on the image to see a slide show.) This City A.M. article shows previous works that have occupied the plinth.

Admiralty Arch
Admiralty Arch
Sir Aston Webb, 1912

And so on to The Mall, that broad, straight road that leads to Buckingham Palace. The Trafalgar Square end is entered and exited through  an extraordinary gate. Curved in form, it has three central arches, though only the left and right arches are used for traffic. Originally attached to the then Admiralty Building, it was given the appropriate name of Admiralty Arch. It was intended as Edward VII’s commemoration of his mother Queen Victoria but whatever its origins, it is a remarkable structure and justly famous. (The above picture is a stitched composite of several photos and as a result the perspective looks slightly exaggerated to the eye. I rather like this, however, as it gives an impression of the scale of the building. It is best viewed by clicking on the image to see a larger version.)

St James's Park Lake
St James’s Park Lake
A waterfowl paradise

We progressed into St James’s Park and walked beside the lake. It was a warm and sunny day, so we sat on a bench for a while and watched the waterfowl. The lake was crowded with birds and the path with people, many of them were anxious to feed the ducks, geese, coots, moorhens and any other birds that happened by. The birds were fully complicit in this plan and gathered along the edge of the water to receive their tributes.

An unusual concentration of coots
An unusual concentration of coots
There’s enough food to go round

This cooperative performance produces the unusual sight shown above. You would never normally see so many coots so close together. Coots are very territorial and tend to chase away other coots that trespass on their territory. I’ve seen them even go for larger birds such as ducks. The fact that so many tolerate being together in a small space must be explained by the easy availability of food.

Coot chasing an interloper
Coot chasing an interloper

That is not to say that there were no disputes at all. Every now and again there would be a flurry as a male coot decided to chase what he perceived as an interloper. The head of the pursuing coot is stretched forward and this is an aggressive posture meaning “I’m coming for you!” Happily, these threats rarely result in a physical clash between the opponents. It’s enough for the interloper to be chased far enough away for the chaser to be satisfied.

Coot Red-crested Pochard
Moorhen Shelduck
Four water birds
Mouseover for names

I spent a while photographing the birds and show four examples above. (Put the cursor on a photo to see the name of the bird.)

All Souls Church, Langham Place
All Souls Church, Langham Place
John Nash, consecrated 1824

After that pleasant interlude, we took to the streets once more, heading in leisurely fashion towards our next intended destination. We passed a couple of famous landmarks along the way, the first being All Souls Church, Langham Place, which was designed by John Nash and consecrated in 1824.

Broadcasting House
Broadcasting House
George Val Myer, early 1930s

The second was the Art Deco Broadcasting House, purpose-built for the BBC. It was designed by George Val Myer and completed in the early 1930s shortly after the first scheduled radio broadcasts had been made. Myer likened his design to that of an ocean liner and one can see some similarity. The decorative sculpture and its artist, Eric Gill, caused controversy from the outset and this still continues. To start with, Gill carved the sculptures in place, poised on scaffolding. He was accused of being indecorously dressed, causing embarrassment and annoyance to passers-by.

Prospero holding Ariel
Prospero holding Ariel
Eric Gill

Over the door is the now famous sculpture showing Prospero holding Ariel. Originally, Ariel had a rather larger male appendage and Gill was told to reduce its size. One story has it that when there was rain, the organ acted as a conduit for water, dribbling it onto passers-by.

Ariel between Wisdom and Gaiety
Ariel between Wisdom and Gaiety
Eric Gill

Worse was to come. Eric Gill has been accused of sexually abusing children and his reputation as an artist has suffered accordingly. There are repeated calls for his sculptures, especially that of Prospero holding Ariel, to be removed from Broadcasting House. On the positive side, this has provoked a debate on the question of whether an artist’s behaviour in life should influence our opinion of his art. Should the sins of the artist be visited on his works?

Decorated doorway, Portland Place
Decorated doorway, Portland Place

We had come to Portland Place to visit the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and more particularly, their exhibition Mackintosh Architecture.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was a talented architect who produced a set of unique designs, both on the scale of whole buildings and on the smaller scale of decorative details and furniture. Whereas other architectural styles tend soon to be classified as ‘of their’ era and to be superseded by new schools and movements, for many people, Mackintosh’s designs are as valid today as when he created them.

Admission to the exhibition is free and photography is allowed (without flash). However, as much of the exhibition consists of pictures and plans, I took very few photos. There were a couple of things that tempted me, though.

Models of proposed house designs
Models of proposed house designs

In a display case was a set of models. These were architect’s models of houses designed by Mackintosh that had never been built. Each was quite unique and no two were the same or even similar.

Tigger's favourite
Tigger’s favourite

This one was Tigger’s favourite and I could imagine us living very happily in a full-sized version of it!

There is perhaps something a little sad in contemplating houses that never came into being, stillborn houses, as it were. On the other hand, I recalled that at least one house, not built in Mackintosh’s lifetime, has been brought into being – his House for a Art Lover. So perhaps one of more of these models will one day be turned into real dwellings.

Scotland Street School, Glasgow
Scotland Street School, Glasgow
Architect’s drawing

The other item that attracted me photographically was the above architect’s drawing of the Scotland Street School in Glasgow. Mackintosh designed the school and it was built between 1903 and 1906. Demographic changes led to the school’s closure in 1979 and the Glasgow City Council had the happy idea of turning it into a museum. As the Museum’s Web page says, ‘The building is a must see for Mackintosh fans, as a fantastic example of his architectural​ style. With many features built into the stonework and staircases, there is something to admire around every corner!’ We certainly enjoyed our visit (see Glasgow 2012 – Day 12) and found it admirable both aesthetically and in practical terms.

Main entrance, RIBA
Main entrance, RIBA

The Mackintosh exhibition was a high note on which to end today’s ramble. The evident interest still being shown in this architect’s unique style gives me hope that the current vogue for ugly novelty will end and that a new architecture will emerge that enhances our living environment instead of degrading it.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Brighton: street art and other bits

Saturday, May 2nd 2015

It was a rather dull day, not ideal for a seaside excursion, but there’s always plenty to see and do in Brighton and we hadn’t been there for a while so off we went.

St Pancras Thameslink
St Pancras Thameslink

Our starting point, as usual, was St Pancras Station – or St Pancras International, as it is styled since the Eurostar came here – and the Thameslink platforms on the lower level. Being down below, these platforms have something of the claustrophobic feeling of London Underground stations and we miss the old Thameslink station a few yards along the track that was above ground.

Street art in Gloucester Road
Sinna One
Ten of Swords
Street art in Gloucester Road
Sinna One (left) and Ten of Swords

We walked down the hill from the station, as we usually do, and encountered our first street art of the day in Gloucester Road. The wall belongs to 87 Gloucester Road, a property currently occupied by a gallery called Art Schism (Web site, Facebook), and so I imagine it can be considered part of their display. The painting on the left is by Sinna One and is a tribute to H.R. Giger, the Swiss surrealist painter, sculptor and set designer who was a member of the special effects team that won an award for their work on the film Alien. The second painting bears the caption ‘ALL THE MORE TOMORROWS X’. It is not signed but it is entitled Pallas Athene and is by Ten of Swords. (There seems to be little information on this artist and all I have found so far is here.)

Blue figure
Blue figure
Artist unknown

Off Gloucester Road runs Trafalgar Lane, a passage between utility buildings and the back gardens of a row of terrace houses. There is plenty of art to be found here. Inevitably, some paintings have been defaced with graffiti. The blue figure is rather intriguing: I am not sure whether what the figure holds is a mobile and whether she is using it to make a ‘selfie’ or the photograph the viewer. Reminiscent of Picasso in his ‘Blue Period’, perhaps.

Kneeling woman
Kneeling woman
Unknown

This gorgeous figure, with her cloud of white hair, occupied a considerable expanse of wall and the easiest way to photograph her was to take a number of partial pictures and stitch them together later. The only problem with that is that it tends to exaggerate perspective effects but that hardly matters here.

As a reminder, when I indicate that the artist is ‘unknown’, what I mean, of course, is that I don’t know who the artist is. I’m pretty sure that the street artists all know one another and recognize one another’s work. My label ‘unknown’ is therefore a confession of my own ignorance, not an assertion that the artist is anonymous.

Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte
Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte
After Jacques-Louis David
Artist: Banksy?

I suppose that in Trafalgar Lane it is not unexpected to find a portrait of Britain’s great opponent of the time, the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The picture is clearly based on the 1812 portrait of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). The original is a full-body portrait (for example, see here) in which Napoleon has his hand inside his waistcoat, whereas here, the hand is visible and appears to be showing a ‘thumbs up’ gesture. The work is not signed but several sources credit it to Banksy. Originally, the entire left arm was visible, including a bright red jacket cuff, but the lower part has subsequently been painted over.

Mary Jane
Mary Jane
Snub23

This painting also appears in Trafalgar Lane. It is by an artist who signs himself as both Snub and Snub23. If you take a look as his Flickr account, you will see that this figures comes from a stable of similar ones. The title is intriguing, though. Who is Mary Jane?1

Not exactly street art...
Not exactly street art…
Horse on the wall of the Waggon & Horses

The pub is called the Waggon & Horses and the painting of a horse on the wall is therefore entirely appropriate. It is done in minimalist style, using black paint on a white background, in a manner reminiscent of Chinese drawings in ink.

Upper Gardner Street
Upper Gardner Street
Saturday Market

During the week, Upper Gardner Street is an ordinary residential street with cars parked along the kerb. At weekends, it becomes a street market for what might be politely designated “Second-hand items”.

Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens
Trendy shopping

Next to it, the narrow Kensington Gardens presents two rows of shops selling clothes, accessories, books and jewellery, with the odd food bar here and there.

Royal Pavilion and its grounds
Royal Pavilion and its grounds

We made our way to the Royal Pavilion, whose gardens, though apt to be crowded at weekends, are still a delight. Would Brighton have come to possess the importance and popularity it now has without the Prince Regent’s adoption of it as his refuge from a stuffy royal court and an increasingly insane father? Possibly, but by turning it into “London by the Sea”, he set Brighton on a course to fame that it still enjoys.

The Museum
The Museum
Home to some important collections

We visited Brighton Museum which, together with the Art Gallery, houses some important collections and holds frequent exhibitions. (There is also a cafe which serves food and excellent cakes!)

The Featherstone-Kite Gentleman's Flying Machine
The Featherstone-Kite Gentleman’s Flying Machine
Rowland Emett, 1962

One of the fascinating exhibits in the museum today was Rowland Emett’s Featherstone-Kite Gentleman’s Flying Machine which he built in 1962. Not only does this contraption possess a kind of fantastical beauty but it also engages in a balletic display of movement. Emett was famous for his weird but delicate machines – often designed to perform some simple task in a very complicated way – and his drawings appeared in many newspapers and magazines. This YouTube film shows the machine in action recently in Brighton Museum while this British Pathé News item shows a 1969 ‘flight’.

Queen's Hotel
Queen’s Hotel

And so to the seafront, where there are still palpable remains of an age when Brighton was a fashionable and elegant watering place and the promenade lived up to its name. Surviving from those days is the Queen’s Hotel, built in 1846 and still going strong. Despite the name, I doubt whether Queen Victoria ever stayed here. After all, she had that fancy palace up the road, though barely had she begun to adapt it to her use when she and Albert discovered that they preferred the Isle of Wight as their getaway retreat.

The Thistle Hotel
The Thistle Hotel

If the Queen’s Hotel is Beauty, then the Thistle, a few yards further along the front, must be the Beast. An all too typical example of modern in-yer-face design by architects who understand nothing about aesthetics and seem unable to distinguish between hotels and prison blocks, it does Brighton’s seafront environment no favours, though I suppose that the willingness of big business to invest vast sums of money in such ugliness at least proves that Brighton, as a resort, is as popular as ever.

The beach and the pier
The beach and the pier

The beach is, of course where all the fuss about Brighton as a resort started. Or rather, all that healthful salt sea water that lapped so becomingly at said beach. From then on, fishing boats were out; bathing machines were in. The bathing machines soon disappeared, however, but the fishing boats continued operating from here for quite a while longer. In fact, they were still here, and so was the accompanying fish market, when I was a kid in Brighton. Now, the only fishing boats left are those you see in the picture and they are exhibits belonging to the Brighton Museum of Fishing.

In the distance is the Palace Pier, built 1891-1901. Well, that’s what it was called then. In more recent times, its owners decided to rename it Brighton Pier. Happily, the pier has won Grade II* listed status which should protect it from developers and other despoilers. I note, too, that the English Heritage listing refers to it as the Palace Pier.

Palace Pier
Palace Pier
Close up

Piers are difficult things to photograph. This is because they are low but long – often very long. This means that you either photograph them close up, as above, and lose all sense of their majestic length, or…

The Palace Pier
The Palace Pier

…you photograph them from a distance and end up with a tiny distant image that loses resolution when you zoom in. The answer is to photograph it close up, but in sections, and then stitch the sections together. That way you get both the whole pier and a decent amount of resolution. (Click to see a larger version.)

The Penny Arcade
The Penny Arcade
or Mechanical Memories

We went down onto the beach and saw this wonderful place. Regrettably, I cannot show you inside because photography was not allowed. When I was a kid, the Palace Pier had an arcade full of machines that you operated by putting a penny in the slot. Look on this site to see what a pre-decimal penny looked like. They were 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) across and at decimalization were worth about 0.4 of a decimal penny but that was still quite a lot in terms of my weekly pocket money. The machines provided games of various sorts, music with automaton musicians, automaton fortune tellers and animated scenes, such as a Haunted House or an execution by decapitation. To generations brought up on Flight Simulator and Grand Theft Auto, these look clunky and simplistic but they were very cleverly designed and in an age without electronics, satisfying. Mechanical Memories has managed to save some of these machines and put them back into working order. You hand over some modern money in return for a handful of old pennies and off you go. We had fun. Yes, we did. We soon used up all our pennies but, so what? We can have another go on our next visit.

Under the pier
Under the pier

After frittering away our pennies, we went for a little walk along the front, passing under the pier. This might be described as the seamy side of pier life, but it provides the solid foundations for the huge structure above. Those Victorian engineers knew their business.

Under the pier - looking seawards
Under the pier
Looking seawards

The pier has stood – and withstood – for over a hundred years. During the Second World War, it was feared that the enemy could use the piers (there were two in those days) as beachheads for an invasion. Destroying them was out of the question so a section was removed from the middle of each of them in order to provide some sort of obstacle to putative invaders. Fortunately, the invasion never took place and the piers were repaired and put back into service.

Gulls engaged in social flying
Gulls engaged in social flying

We saw that there were a lot of gulls flying around the pier head. They were not feeding but flying around and around. I call this activity “social flying” because I think it has something to do with establishing one’s place in the group and the pecking order. They use places like this because the updraught from the wind meeting the solid pier gives the gulls a cushion of air so they can fly back and forth, round and round, barely flapping their wings. We decided to have a go at photographing some of them in flight. Here is a selection of my photos.

Gull in flight
Gull in flight Gull in flight
Gulls engaged in “social flying”

It’s fun to try to catch them with the camera. You have to wait until one comes fairly close but then it will be moving at speed making it hard to keep it in the frame. I will admit that there’s more than an element of luck in getting a good result.

After having fun with the gulls, we walked up the road to the bus stop on the other side of the aquarium (a place we intend to visit one of these days). There we caught a bus to the station. During this part of the year, so many people come to Brighton at weekends that it’s wise to leave early. Later in the evening the trains are often packed with standing room only. In the event, seats were available and we enjoyed a comfortable ride back to St Pancras.

________

1Any information in response to my queries and uncertainties will be welcome and will be duly acknowledged (unless the informant requests to remain anonymous).

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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King’s Cross Station

Friday, May 1st 2015

This evening on the way home, we decided to eat out. The newly developed departures area of King’s Cross Station includes a retail section, as is common in stations nowadays. We supped in a restaurant on the upper level.

King's Cross Station
King’s Cross Station
A view from the restaurant
Photo by Tigger

I am not divulging which restaurant we chose but it is one we have visited  before. It was therefore a disappointment that the meal was mediocre and it will be some time before we patronize that establishment again, if ever.

The view of the station with its fascinating tree-shaped roof support was some consolation, perhaps. I wasn’t in a photo-taking mood so Tigger took this with my camera. She took it in four parts and I stitched them together to make the above full version.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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A little walk around Spitalfields

Saturday, April 25th 2015

We decided to take a little walk around the Spitalfields area. There is always plenty going on there and the neighbourhood is interesting in itself. Today it is part of the City of London but in the past it has been the arrival point of several waves of immigration and continues to be so still today.

Spitalfields...
Spitalfields,…
..an area of contrasts

In times past, the Huguenot silk weavers set up their looms in houses in these streets and today it is a stronghold of the Bangladeshi community. Houses built in the 17th century stand cheek-by-jowl with modern office tower blocks.

Sculptures of bakers
Sculptures of bakers
Sculptures of bakers
Philip Lindsey Clark, 1926

Historical traces abound as here where this splendid set of four sculptures of bakery workers decorates the front of a 1926 building that was once the Nordheim Model Bakery. The artist was Philip Lindsey Clark.

Sandy's Row
Sandy’s Row

Broad thoroughfares heavy with traffic alternate with narrow alleys, passages and courts, still alive with small shops and taverns as they were in the 17th century.

One door for men... Another door for women
One door for men and another for women

On the corner of Artillery Lane and Crispin Street, we found two doors or, rather what had been doors but were now windows. There was one for men and another for women. But why?

The Providence Row Night Refuge
The Providence Row Night Refuge

Because every evening, from 5 pm, up to 300 men, women and children would seek a place to sleep here. This was a Catholic charity that opened in 1860 in Providence Row but moved here in 1868. Its facilities were unusually good for the time and once in, people could stay for up to three weeks, though in theory they needed a reference to say that they were people of good character worthy of such support. Later the building became the Convent of Mercy but is today used as a student residence under a new name, Lilian Knowles House. The original charity, now known simply as Providence Row, continues to work for the homeless.

Brushfield Street
Brushfield Street looking towards All Souls

We crossed Brushfield Street and entered Spitalfields Market, emerging from the other side of it into Lamb Street. Here there is a small open area with benches.

Vortex
Vortex
Barbara Sandler, 1999
Click for slideshow

Here we found a sculpture. It is called Vortex and it was made by Barbara Sandler at the behest of St George PLC, a development company. (Click to see a slide show of views.) From one side it looks entirely abstract but from another side seems to represent a crouching man.

Evoca1
Evoca1
Pixel Pancho, 2015

We were now heading into street art country and in Hanbury Street found this large panel, apparently entitled Evoca1 and signed by Pixel Pancho. The artist is Italian and seems very prolific, as you can see for yourself on his Facebook and Flickr pages. (I had to remove obstructing bystanders for this photo – see below.)

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson
Unknown artist

In the doorway next to the painting is a three-dimensional figure. Lounging drunkenly with a drinking vessel in his hand, this seems to be an effigy of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. I do not know of any embarrassing incidents in this man’s life involving booze but Johnson has been known to boast of his capacity for alcoholic beverages – for example, see here. I do not know who the artist is.

Handstanding guardsman and Big Bird
Hand-standing guardsman and Big Bird
Martin Ron and Roa

In a nearby yard, two large paintings grace the end of a building. The monochrome big bird is probably by Roa, well known for his large animals. The hand-standing guardsman is signed by Martin Ron. You may notice that this painting runs over a white framework incorporated into the building. Whereas the guardsman is painted over the framework, as though this does not exist, his jacket, in contrast, is folded over one of the crossbars. Both images have already been encroached on by graffiti, much as bread, if not protected, acquires mould.

Red Profile
Red Profile
Artist unknown (to me)

A few yards further along Hanbury Street we find this red head in profile, seemingly severed but held on a green support, girt with a golden chain. The face looks alive but is it perhaps a glove puppet? The left end has been partially obscured by a set of eight paste-ups. The artist is unknown to me as I could see no signature. These paintings succeed one another fairly quickly (as a glance at Google Street View quickly affirms) and next time we pass this way, I expect another painting will occupy this space just as it has itself replaced what preceded it.

Wall becomes art gallery
Wall becomes art gallery
Hanbury Street

Still in Hanbury Street, this wall has been turned into an art gallery. While most of the paintings could have been made by artists standing on the pavement, some intrepid souls have placed objects higher up, presumably by using ladders. (Click to see a larger version.)

Busted!
Busted!
Or…
Artist at Work

A few more steps along the road and we came upon an artist at work. I used the caption ‘Busted!’ because when he saw me taking the photo he looked rather guilty. Possibly he thought I was collecting evidence or something. He calmed down when I enquired how long it would take him to complete the work (three to four hours) and we parted amicably. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask his name… You can see on the ground between us a set of stencils. He had used these the sketch out the main lines of the painting.

Whole wall painting
Whole wall painting
Commissioned?

This painting occupies a whole wall. It is so perfectly finished that I suspect it has been commissioned. What it lacks in spontaneity and the vigorous but loose brushwork of typical wall art it gains in precision of line and perfection of finish. I could see no signature. (Click to see a larger version.)

Van art
Van art
Art that moves
Click for slide show

Most street art is static. It may get painted over after a few days or weeks but, in the meantime, it stays where it is. But there is also art that moves. The first time I saw what I then characterized as a “graffiti van” was in 2007 during our trip to Paris (see here). Since then, I have seen more and more painted vans and the one pictured is but a single example of a growing trend.

Figure in a doorway
Figure in a doorway
Mondi Studios

In Princelet Street, a doorway is home to a rather angelic figure by Mondi Studios. While the figure itself and the artist’s name are original, I suspect that some of the additions are later intrusions. Mondi seems rather fond of full-bosomed ladies with angel’s wings.

Portraits
Portraits
Kaes (left) and Tizer

Finding ourselves in Brick Lane, we revisited the yard of the defunct pub Seven Stars (see Floating books and wall art (2) ). The yard seems to have been taken over by someone as a car park but its walls continue to display an ever-changing parade of wall art. The pair of portraits above are by Kaes (aka Jay Caes) and Tizer, respectively.

Face in profile
Face in profile
0707

In the above mentioned post, you will see a panorama shot in which an artist is preparing a section on wall for his painting. The above is very possibly the work that followed and is signed by 0707. The two portraits above this one are to the left of 0707’s painting and if you look at the panorama, you will see that they are not yet present. (I suspect that the smaller face at bottom left is an intrusion.)

Chick's head
Chick’s head
Artist uncertain

This sensitively drawn head of a chick is signed “HOR ROR”. I have not found an artist of that name but there is a group called Horror Crew. Is this by one of them?

Crowd scene
Crowd scene
Misha Most

In one corner of the yard and obstructed by a parked car (and by someone else, as I explain below), is this complex crowd scene by Misha Most. Cheerful civilians are hedged about by grim-faced soldiers. A warning about possibly futures, perhaps.

At weekends, there are many people viewing the street art and taking photos. That’s fine, and I am happy to await my turn, moving away as soon as I have finished to let others have their go. This afternoon, however, we were dogged by a couple who seemed to consider it acceptable to stand or sit in front of paintings while discussing their photos. They obviously thought themselves more entitled than the rest of us. I had to wait quite some time for them to move so I could get the above picture. They also got in my way when photographing Evoca1 (see above). In fact, I was reduced to taking the photo with them in it. If you can’t see them, that is because I applied a little editing magic and managed to eradicate them but if you look closely at the picture you might see the traces of how I did it…

Star
Star
Artist unknown (to me)

Next to Misha Most’s painting is this one, the word “STAR” formed by inflated letters. It is so well done that you almost expect to see yourself reflected in the shiny surface of the letters. As a realstic representation, it could not be bettered and shows both observational and artistic skill. Unfortunately, I do not know the name of the artist.

Behind bars Head with dragonfly
Three-dimensional figures

As well as paintings, there are three-dimensional figures. Should we call them ‘sculptures’? Or perhaps ‘installations’? It doesn’t matter what you call them. They are there to surprise, amuse or mystify us and ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’.

Door of 47 Brick Lane
Door of 47 Brick Lane

Before we took the bus home, my attention was caught by number 47 Brick Lane or, rather, the door of that establishment. What looked like an abandoned shop claims to be Suzzle, ‘British restaurant · Art gallery · Deli’, according to its Facebook entry.

Female face
Female face
Dank aka Dan Kitchener

The rather haunting painting of a female face is signed by Dank, the brush name1 of Dan Kitchener whose Web site you will find here.

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1I assume that if a writer can have a pen name, the name under which he publishes his writing, then an artist can have a brush name with which he signs his paintings.

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