Thursday, September 10th 2015
We had heard that there was a special exhibition on at the Tate Britain and thought to have a look at it.
The first part of our journey took us to Lambeth where we got off the bus and took a few photos. This is Lambeth Bridge. Though well established now in the family of London bridges, it is fairly young, having been opened in 1932. The Victorian bridge which preceded it was not successful and had to be demolished. How did people cross the river before a bridge was built? The road that reaches the bridge from the north gives us a clue: it is called Horseferry Road.
The Thames twists and wiggles in a picturesque if somewhat untidy way and when we stand on Lambeth Bridge looking upstream, we are looking almost due south. On the North Bank (so called despite the fact that it is on the western side of the river here) is the tall structure known as the Millbank Tower. The other tall building you can see is on the South Bank (actually on the eastern side of the water) and is St George’s Wharf Tower, sometimes referred to as St George’s Tower or Vauxhall Tower because it is near the station of that name. It is a 50-storey apartment block, another of London’s absurdly tall buildings. As if to underline that fact, two people died when a helicopter crashed into the tower in January 2013. This, of course, will not prevent greedy developers continuing to build such monstrosities, disfiguring London’s skyline and doing nothing to alleviate the housing shortage for ordinary Londoners. (A one-bedroom flat in the tower will currently cost you £1,150,000.)
Looking downstream, the largest tower near the centre of the image is the Victoria Tower at the south-west end of the Palace of Westminster and further along you can see the Houses of Parliament and the famous clock tower familiarly if incorrectly called Big Ben. The clock tower has had several names during its 157-year life, the latest being the unprepossessing ‘Elizabeth Tower’ in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The building standing on piles in the water on the right of the picture is a gift shop and cafe. We stopped here for a cup of tea before moving on.
Opposite the end of the bridge is Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The complex comprises buildings of different ages so it is not possible to give a single age for the whole palace. In the picture you see the red-brick Tudor gateway of about 1490 built by Cardinal John Morton. The grey tower (1377) belongs to what was once the Church of St Mary-at-Lambeth and is today the Tradescant Garden Museum.
The name Lambeth is of Anglo-Saxon origin. Its derivation was for a long time disputed but the general opinion today, relying upon a document on 1088 in which it appears as Lamhytha, holds that it was once a landing place (hythe) where sheep were either disembarked or loaded (or perhaps both).
We made our way to the Tate Britain art gallery to see an exhibition entitled Fighting History. Unfortunately, though understandably perhaps, photography was not allowed in the exhibition, so I cannot show you any of the works that we saw. Here instead is a selection of pieces from the rest of the gallery.
This work consists of 9 cone-shaped gauze structures like funnels hanging with their pointed ends dipping into circular dishes of dye. The idea, presumably, is that the dye has flowed down and through the funnels. Or maybe not. There are no clues. A review by Adrian Searle in the Guardian may help. (Or not.)
Henry Moore was commissioned to produce this work for the Barclay Secondary School in Stevenage New Town and two other casts were made, which reside in New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Britain, respectively. I was interested to read that Moore proposed mounting the sculpture on a turntable so that all parts of it can be viewed. Whenever possible, I photograph a sculpture from several angles to compose a slideshow of views.
This bronze by Henry Moore has a mythic quality to it. Moore stated that it made no reference to modern-day Royalty but to an ancient idea of Royalty, the concept of power in primitive kingship.
Lowry was a much more varied artist than I think is generally recognized but his paintings of cityscapes with crowds of people are known and loved by the public and are immediately recognizable as his work. There is a spontaneity and liveliness about this picture that I like, as though the artist were discovering the scene as he painted it. This may indeed be the case to judge from what he wrote about it in a letter: ‘This is a composite picture built up from a blank canvas. I hadn’t the slightest idea of what I was going to put in the canvas when I started the picture but it eventually came out as you see it. This is the way I like working best’ (1956).
One of the more intriguing pieces in the gallery was this one. There is hardly any information about it other than what its label says, ‘100 Kev. Truck scanned crossing the border’. I assume that this is the lorry equivalent of what happens to your suitcase when passed through the scanner at the airport. The human figure visible in the body of the lorry is no doubt a sculpture, not a human being. The work is full-size, that is, the same size as the lorry itself. (Click on the image for a larger view that, however, does not do it justice). The slight distortion is caused by the image being projected onto a curved surface.
J.M.W. Turner is another painter who produced works in a variety of styles, some realistic and some highly imaginative and experimental. Here are two contrasting works of his.
The full title of this painting is Rome, from the Vatican.Raffaelle, Accompanied by La Fornarina, Preparing his Pictures for the Decoration of the Loggia. This was painted on Turner’s return home after his first visit to Rome and reflects his deep interest in the city and its history.
Turner had a passion for the sea and the drama of storms and ships at war. This picture about a shipwreck captures the violence of stormy waters and the struggle of fragile humans to survive in it. The white foam of the waves is cleverly used to group the people and their boats within the lowering darkness of the stormy scene. No one could do more to represent the frightful lurching movement of the boats in a static painting.
There are several works of Jacob Epstein in the Tate of which there follow three.
These two works are carved on opposite sides of the same piece of stone, though with two decades between them. I think I can do no better than to reproduce the Tate’s explanation of these them:
Sun God was carved in 1910 when Epstein and Eric Gill were planning what Gill described as a ‘sort of twentieth-century Stonehenge’ of monumental sculpture on pagan and erotic themes at Asheham House, Sussex. Probably intended for this unrealised project, it is one of several works by Epstein exploring the power of the sun and influenced by Egyptian art. In 1931 Epstein carved Primeval Gods on the reverse. Although the massive square-shouldered figure draws on influences from African sculpture, Epstein’s work in the 1930s also shows his engagement with younger British sculptors, among them Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.
I have photographed this monumental work before but it never ceases to impress me. It reflects the story told in the Book of Genesis (32, 24-32) of Jacob wrestling all night with an unknown assailant who, in the morning, reveals himself to be an angelic messenger from God. The sculpture shows the angel supporting an exhausted Jacob whom he blesses for not abandoning the unequal struggle. Epstein has studied Genesis and made several paintings of scenes from the narrative. The coincidence of the name Jacob may also have had some significance for the artist.