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