Friday, June 2nd 2017
The Estorick Collection is a small but fine art gallery (and one of my favourites), residing in a Grade II listed Georgian house near Highbury and Islington Station. The gallery is currently hosting an exhibition entitled Giacomo Balla: Designing the Future, and so we went along for a look.
Our first stop, however, was at Pera, a cafe near the gallery where we had breakfast.
The Estorick’s exhibition information tells us, inter alia, that ‘Giacomo Balla (1871-1958) is one of the undisputed masters of modern Italian art. An important exponent of the Divisionist style, he went on to become one of the five signatories of Futurism’s initial painting manifestos of 1910 and was a pioneering figure of European Modernism, being one of the first artists to aim at the transformation of everyday life in accordance with avant-garde aesthetics.’ The exhibition features 116 of Balla’s paintings, items of furniture and garments. I include a small selection (not necessarily the most famous).
Although the exhibition dates this picture to 1895-6, other sources give an earlier date of 1887 which, if correct, means that the artist would have painted it at the age of 16 or 17.
In 1897, Tolstoy had published a work entitled What is Art and this was translated into Italian in 1900. The book, with its broad definition of art was appealing to Balla and his fellow artists as being in tune with their own ideas.
Balla was fascinated by light and sought to explore its nature in his paintings (c.f. Turner) as in this Futurist scene.
Though Balla had written quite decisively that in the age of photography ‘the pictorial reproduction of reality no longer interests, nor can interest, anybody’, he nonetheless occasionally produced figurative works, like the one above. It seems to me unusual how one of the two people has almost been cut out of the picture, concentrating attention on the central figure. Although this is a painting and was presumably painted as we see it, it leaves me with the impression that the original has been cropped from the left as you might do with a photo.
Balla sought to insert art into all aspects of life in accordance with a Futurist principle called ‘total art’, and to this end designed clothes and furniture. Above is furniture that he designed for a child’s room.
This curious, though perhaps not unattractive, object is a stand for clothes. I am not sure quite how it is used but perhaps working that out is part of the fun!
After viewing the Balla exhibition, we took the London Overground to New Cross Gate and explored the local streets looking for street art. We found plenty but probably missed a lot as you don’t know what’s there unless you happen to find it! Also I tend only to photograph artworks that I like or find interesting.
This fanciful piece of work in Harefield Road is by Claire Kastruc, as a label along the bottom edge indicates.
It now started to rain but, happily, there was a cafe nearby and we took shelter within, to wait out what we hoped was only a passing shower.
Our hopes were realized and, the rain having stopped, we were able to continue. On our way we met a friendly white cat. Cats that are completely white like this one are likely to be partially or completely deaf but we were not able to form an opinion of this cat’s hearing.
This large and impressive piece of work is by Dale Grimshaw. It is partly obscured by trolleys but that is one of the hazards of viewing street art: the sightline to a painting is often interrupted by parked cars (e.g. see below) or other extraneous objects. While I have been known to remove small objects such as coffee cartons or empty bottles, I don’t touch larger encumbrances as this may be considered as interfering with private property (and in extreme cases construed as criminal damage).
The end wall of this house is dominated by a realistic, if giant, representation of a coat hanger, complete with the rail onto which it is hooked. It is signed by Artmongers.
Here follows a case mentioned above, that of a painting whose access is rendered difficult by parked cars. Is there anything we can do about it? Well, maybe…
Roy Ayres by Richard Wilson (original)
Because the painting is large, I needed to distance myself from it to include all of it in the photo but this was not possible because of parked cars. (If I went far enough away to include the whole painting, the cars would have obscured part of the picture.) In despair, I took a sideways shot as shown above.
Later, in my ‘studio’ (that is, sitting at my desk in the front room!), I thought I would try to rectify the view. Below is what I came up with. Do you think it is an improvement or would it be better to stay with the sidelong view? I know which I prefer.
Roy Ayres by Richard Wilson (edited)
This is the photo as I have ‘straightened’ it. Straightening cannot add information that was not in the original so there is still some distortion present but I think the result is reasonable. If you do too, then you might like to read the next paragraph, otherwise skip it.
How was it done? I expect you can do this sort of thing with Photoshop but I don’t have Photoshop. What I do have is ICE (Microsoft Image Composite Editor), a useful free application. Its purpose is to stitch separate frames together to make a complete image (see my post on this topic, Stitching photos to make a panorama). Although it does have the ability to rotate edited images, it will only do this as part of the process of making a panorama. It will not edit single frames. How do you get around this? Quite easily, actually: just load your photo twice and pretend you want to stitch both frames together! Before stitching, click on the drop-down menu on the right and select ‘Rotating motion’. Stitch the photos and then use the Roll, Pitch and Yaw settings at bottom right to correct the perspective. This technique is useful, among other things, for correcting converging parallels. I must warn, though, that this method doesn’t always work well as it can introduce distortions of its own. It you have a crooked picture, just try it and see whether it works.
We took a long bus ride all the way north, across the Thames to Aldwych. Before catching the bus that would take us home, we stopped off at the Delaunay Counter. Inspired by the classic Viennese cafe, the Delaunay offers coffee, tea, drinking chocolate, ice cream dishes and cakes, to mention but a few of the items on the menu. You are served at your table by attentive waitresses. The place is often packed and for obvious reasons: it’s such a delicious place to go. A visit here rounded off our outing nicely.