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. (Update: the artist is, of course, Fanakapan.)

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.

________

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.

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

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Springfield Park and a mosque

Saturday, Arpil 28th 2015

We decided to have a leisurely in-town day today and so we took time over breakfast. For this we went to the Gallipoli Cafe & Bistro in Upper Street, where they serve a tasty Turkish breakfast. (For us pesky vegetarians they kindly exchange the sausage for grilled haloumi.) The interior decor of the cafe is very elaborate as the picture below shows.

Gallipoli Cafe & Bistro, interior
Gallipoli Cafe & Bistro, interior

The picture is made up of several photos stitched together so there is some distortion and a bit missing at top left but I think it gives a good impression of the cafe interior.

After breakfast, we set out to find somewhere where we could wander and explore. An idea came to mind: when, on those sad occasions, I have to take Freya to the cattery, our train crosses a green expanse studded with bodies of water. I had often wondered what it was. Today, I was able to find out by the simple process of going there!

Springfield Park in context
Springfield Park in context
Click for the Google Map

The green area is called Springfield Park and it is in Hackney, in Upper Clapton, to be precise. Click on the above map to see a Google Map of the area. It is easily reached by bus and provides a charming setting for strolls, jogging and athletic pursuits.

How did such a spread of pleasant greenness (it is also a local conservation area) survive amidst the inexorable spread of the city? Briefly, in Georgian times when the area was still open country, there were once three family houses here, each with its own land. The whole estate came up for sale by auction in the early 1900s, by which time the surrounding area had been built up. A group of philanthropically minded local businessmen bought the property to ensure its survival and the London County Council later took it over. It is now in the care of Hackney Council. Two of the houses fell into disrepair and had to be demolished. Of the three, only Springfield House remains and today houses a cafe. You will find a little more detail on the Wikipedia’s Springfield Park page.

Springfield House
Springfield House
Now a cafe

Today it is accepted that parks have an important part to play in the conservation of wild life. But wild life is not only to be conserved; it is also to be enjoyed. For this, a park has to be designed so that it attracts wild creatures but is also comfortable for humans to move about in. This requires a compromise between ’wildness’ and convenience, for example in the provision of pathways and benches.

Springfield Park

Springfield Park, it seems to me, has achieved a successful combination of rough areas where wild creatures can feel at home and tidier parts where people can walk and observe. The crow in the above photo was happy to pose… as long as I didn’t venture too close.

Here are some more scenes from the park.

A natural-looking lake - with a fountain
The fountain

A nice example of compromise: a natural-looking lake but with a fountain! The fountain probably helps aerate the water for aquatic creatures as well as looking pretty.

Once a bowling green...

This was once a bowling green but today the pavilion is boarded up and the grass has been cut by a machine following a spiral path. It is no longer a flat green but a spread of rough grass. Perhaps it is being allowed to return to a more natural state. (I wonder what happened to the bowls players, though.)

Old tree

This old tree stands still unclothed from winter, its muscular limbs showing its age and its successful weathering of storms. Will it burst into new life or has its day passed?

Trees in blossom

Other, younger, trees nearby were already covered with blossom which shines brightly in the sunlight.

The River Lee Navigation

The River Lea passes this way but where it runs through the park it is called the River Lee Navigation (note the change of spelling). That is because it has been modified and managed to make it suitable for sailing on. Large numbers of barges were to be seen, most moored and obviously serving as people’s homes. One must admit that it is a pleasant spot to live in.

The waterside pub

If ever one gets tired of the greenery and the water, there is always the pub on the other side of the river…!

The broad path

A broad path or track runs along the river. It is used by walkers and joggers and, less happily, by others (see below).

A apir of mating swans

We saw a pair of swans on the water. They were doing their mating dance, their heads rising and descending in unison.

A heron fishing

We also spotted a heron fishing in one of the quieter streams which abound in this area which is part of the Walthamstow Marshes.

Railway bridge

Looking back, I could see the railway bridge and the very trains that carry Freya and me to and from Chingford.

In the photo you also see what I referred to above as a less happy sharing of the path: cyclists. Now, I have nothing against cyclists provided they follow the rules and do not come into conflict with pedestrians. The problem is that local authorities are creating more and more shared spaces, that is, paths that are used by both cyclists and pedestrians. This doesn’t work. On tow paths and tracks such as this, there are notices saying “Cyclists give way to pedestrians” but, generally, cyclists do not give way to pedestrians. They may ring their bells (which, with my hearing loss I usually don’t hear, anyway) and blunder through groups of walkers. Far from “giving way”, they are likely to shout at you for obstructing them. Cyclists and pedestrians need to be on separate paths. When will government at last understand this?

After our pleasant walk through the park (and, to be fair, the cyclists we met on the broad track caused us no problems) we caught a bus to Dalston. It was time for a late lunch and we knew where we wanted to go. We had started the day with a Turkish breakfast and so we continued with a Turkish lunch at Evin Cafe Bar in Kingsland High Street. We have been here before (see Cornish fishermen and the William Morris Gallery).

Before catching the bus home, we walked up the road and photographed the spectacular Turkish mosque, Aziziye Camii. Yes, I’ve photographed it before (see A stroll along Ermine Street) but it’s worth photographing again!

Aziziye Camii Mosque, Newington Road

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

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Some art from the Saatchi Gallery

Saturday, February 11th 2015

I am not sure when we last visited the Saatchi Gallery but it must have been a while ago. We thought we would go there today and see what was being shown. The current exhibition is Pangaea II: New Art from Africa and Latin America but in addition there are some other works on view including one, a favourite of mine, that is on permanent display.

Street scene: near London Bridge
Street scene: near London Bridge

We went by a rather circuitous route, just for the fun of it, crossing the Thames at London Bridge and changing buses in Southwark Street where I took the above photo. Food enthusiasts might recognize that we are close to the famous Borough Market.

The Hop Exchange
The Hop Exchange, 1868

Opposite the bus stop is the imposing Hop Exchange (opened 1868). Last year we were lucky enough to see inside and take a few photos (see Saints, hops and a pavilion). Hops are no longer bought and sold here and the magnificent building serves as offices.

On arrival at the Saatchi Gallery, rather than view the exhibition in a systematic way, we did what we usually do, taking the lift to the top and working our way down. There was a lot to see and it would be impossible to cover it all, so what follows is a selection of samples.

Casa Tomada
Casa Tomada
Rafael Gómezbarros, 2013

One small room was given over to an exhibit that we had seen before but which I like and was pleased to see. Though previously shown in other exhibitions, it fits in with the current one as the artist comes from Colombia. A crowd of giant ants swarms over the walls and the ceiling. Though their structure is simple – each is made from a pair of casts of a human skull joined together with a cloth-wrapped body with twigs for legs – they look realistic, if huge.

Casa Tomada (detail)
Casa Tomada (detail)

This work belongs to a class whose dimensions are given as “variable”. That is because the exact configuration of the work at any showing depends on the size and layout of the substrate, by which I mean the surface or surfaces to which it is fixed. The first time I saw it, the ants were swarming over the walls of a larger gallery but they have also been seen on the outside of buildings and in other contexts, dismissing the concept of an artwork of fixed shape and size. For more information on Rafael Gómezbarros and Case Tomada, see here. The title comes from a short story by Julio Cortázar about ants invading a house and means, literally, ‘house taken over’.

Nude VI
Nude VI
Alexandre da Cunha, 2012

Why a group of three hats would be called a ‘nude’ I do not know. On some days that would bother me and I would have to try to find out. Today I am not in a bothering mood so I will just let it be. And so, indeed, with the rest of the exhibits that I show, commenting if I have something to say about them and not doing so if I haven’t. Anyway, for some more about Alexandre da Cunha and his hats – sorry, nudes – and other works, see here. Incidentally, this work sits somewhere in between a painting and a sculpture.

Broken City
Broken City
Alejandro Ospina, 2012

Some of the paintings in this exhibition are rather large. When you photograph them, you necessarily reduce them to whatever size the format of your blog (or computer screen) permits. You inevitably lose a good deal of the work’s drama and impact. That is why in some of these photos I have included some of the wall and the floor in an attempt to communicate something of the size of the work. It probably doesn’t succeed but, hey ho, we try.

You perhaps know my reluctance to embrace non-figurative works1 but maybe I am becoming soft because I quite like Broken City. And it isn’t really completely non-figurative: I think if you look at it carefully enough you do see suggestions of a city. Or is that like seeing pictures when staring into the embers of a fire? More about Ospina and his art here.

Untitled heads
Untitled heads
Aboudia, 2014

There were a number of paintings in the exhibition by Aboudia but this set of heads particularly attracted my attention. There is a family resemblance to them all but they are all different, one from another.

Untitled tête
Untitled tête
Aboudia

I called the set Untitled heads but I don’t think they have a collective name. Each seems to be called Untitled tête. Aboudia is from the Côte d’Ivoire and presumably French-speaking, hence the ‘tête’. By why ‘untitled’? Doesn’t French have a perfectly good phrase for that (sans titre)? Or perhaps ‘untitled’ is considered a technical term that requires to be left in English?

Large gallery - now the shop
Large gallery – now the shop

This is one of the largest spaces within the Saatchi and used to be used to advantage in showing the more gigantic works or collections. It has the added merit that you can view it both from floor level and higher up. To my surprise, this premium space has mutated into a shop. All galleries and museums like to have a shop and these no doubt make valuable contributions to their income but it seems a pity to use this space for such a purpose. Perhaps it’s a temporary measure and that big works will make a triumphant return in the next exhibition.

Barco
Untitled
Barco and Untitled
Federico Herrero, 2008

A couple a bight and colourful paintings by Federico Herrero. The top one is called Barco (‘Boat’) and the lower one is untitled. Barco does look vaguely boaty but we have no clues to guide us in the second one. To judge for the Saatchi’s discussion of this painter (see here), it has something to do with jumbled and chaotic towns such as San José where the artist grew up. It looks a bit more cheerful than Ospina’s Broken City.

Tout doit disparaître/Everything Must Go
Tout doit disparaître/Everything Must Go
Jean-François Boclé

This is a gigantic work of art as you can perhaps tell from the relative smallness of the people grouped at the far end. It is a rectangular heap of 97,000 blue plastic bags – the sort of bag that you may use to line your rubbish bin at home or in the office – each filled with unknown contents. The title suggests a clear-out, whether of rubbish or unsold goods, perhaps prior to quitting a business. Whatever the exact narrative, the meaning is clear, I think. The vast size of the heap suggests a catharsis of gigantic proportions. The artist, Jean-François Boclé, is originally from Martinique but currently resides and works in Paris (more here). For my money (and I am speaking euphemistically as there is no admission charge at the Saatchi), this was one of the more striking and fascinating exhibits, despite its simplicity of design. Of ‘variable dimensions’, it has appeared elsewhere in different configurations.

Perna and Woman with Dog
Perna and Woman with Dog
Eduardo Berliner, 2009

Eduardo Berliner lives and practises in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His paintings are figurative and sometimes disturbing (e.g. see Handsaw on his Saatchi page) – not that I would criticize him for that because one of the jobs of the artist is to disturb us and shake us out of our complacency. The two paintings above intrigue me for their unconventional viewpoints and the realism of the treatment. The closeness of woman and dog is cosy almost to the point of obsessiveness and there is a strange feeling of eroticism, especially in the right-hand picture.

Gallery

One of the many things that can be said in favour of the Saatchi is that it provides plenty of space, as the above view shows. There is no overcrowding with works jostling for position.  Works may nestle together in close proximity if they are supposed to, otherwise they are spread out and given room to breathe.

Gambler 5
Gambler 5
Ephrem Solomn, 2012

I have chosen just one work from this  room, a characteristic example of the portrait works of Ephrem Solomon from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). His figures are outlined in black, as though they were line drawings in paint, and the colour black abounds in their clothing, contrasting with yellow and grey backgrounds. They are watchful and unsmiling as though confronting an anxious present and a future without promise. (More here.)

Entre Dos Aguas
De mis Vivos y Mis Muertos
Entre Dos Aguas
and
De Mis Vivos y Mis Muertos
Jorge Mayet, 2008

These two artworks puzzled me at first sight. They looked so real that I was almost convinced that the artist must have dug up real trees and carefully brushed away the soil to preserve the root structure intact. On the other hand, they were so small, that it was hard to believe that they had developed such an extensive spreads of roots. Or were they perhaps the result of a sophisticated bonsai exercise? The fact is, however, that Entre Dos Aguas (‘Between Two Waters’) and De Mis Vivos y Mis Muertos (‘Of My Living People and My Dead’) are both fabricated out of wire, paper and some other materials. So are other pieces of a similar kind. The result is remarkably lifelike, though miniature, testifying to Jorge Mayet’s sharp eye for detail. (More on the Cuban artist here.)

Graphis - Loggia
Graphis – Loggia
Diego Mendoza Imbachi, 2014

The theme of trees is explored also by Diego Mendoza Imbachi but this time in the form of large painted canvases. The willowy yet strong trunks lead to eye upwards to branches, twigs and leaves that spread with the airy delicacy and intricacy of the finest lace. These drawings are as remarkable in their way as the three-dimensional objects made by Mayet.

Graphis - Natura
Graphis – Natura
Diego Mendoza Imbachi, 2014

Our gaze is drawn up (‘up’, in imaginative terms, deep into the canvas, in real terms) as to a glow of sun hidden behind cloud, a strange light of reverie. Are we seeing the present or the past or perhaps looking into the future? Maybe it is a mixture of all of these, of reality mythologized.

The Poetics of Reflection
The Poetics of Reflection
Diego Mendoza Imbachi, 2014

A tree turns into a space rocket. Or a space rocket sprouts branches. Which is it and does it matter, anyway? The hard categories of physics become malleable in the mind, and the grace of the artist is to make metaphor take shape before our very eyes.

20:50
20:50
20:50
Richard Wilson, 1987

While all the preceding works belong to the Pangaea II exhibition, my final work, Richard Wilson’s 20:50, also known by some as The Oil Room, is one of the few works that is on permanent display in the Saatchi Gallery. The title is a viscosity rating, that for a grade of engine oil. The exhibit consists of a room half full of used and discarded sump oil with a narrow metal walkway (not accessible by the public) leading into it. The black surface of the oil reflects the upper half of the room, causing a dizzying sensation when you first see it. Gradually you work out what it is you are seeing and thereafter it becomes familiar but (for me, at least) always extraordinary.

Our viewing of the “Oil Room” concluded our visit to the Saatchi Gallery but we shall return to see the next exhibition and, all being well, many exhibitions after that.

________

1For one thing, if the work is non-figurative then the artist, or his/her apologists, can recount any nonsense they like about what it means and you can’t contradict them. All interpretations of a non-figurative work are equally true and logic dictates that something that means anything you like it to mean actually means nothing at all. The meaning of an object is defined as much by restrictions (i.e. by what it cannot mean) as by what it purports to mean. Putting that succinctly: no limits; no meaning.

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

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