Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Stroll Along The Thames

Though I have never seriously lived in London  it has all ways been a part of my life and now that I live abroad visiting London becomes a nostalgia trip revisiting old haunts. West London with the Thames meandering through several large parks has always been a favourite one.

Last weekend I took a stroll from Hammersmith bridge along the river to Barnes. To feed the desire for nostalgia a pint in the Dove at Hammersmith was essential, even though it was only 11am.

The river passes alongside the Fullers Brewery and  Hogarth House and on to Chiswick Old Cemetery famous for its  rather boring monument  to Hogarth situated right next to the church of St Nicholas. 

  Few people realise that in the far reaches of this graveyard against a wall lies a sarcophagus containing the remains of  a painter much more to my taste - James McNeil Whistler.

The message bronze plaque near the sarcophagus is a sad comment on our age. 

The four bronzes survived 60 years before finally being stolen but when replaced in our time didn’t even last a year. I am sure if they had been in Italy they would still be there. While like most Europeans the Italians don’t really have much time for art or religion in their daily  lives they still hold a deeply rooted reverence and respect for both. 

After paying my respects to Whistler I strolled on along the river to a place that was truly life changing for me 25 years ago -  the Bulls Head, Barnes.  It was here listening to musicians such as Stan Tracey, Peter King and Don Weller that I fell in love with British jazz, an obsession that initiated  the  creation of  The Appleby Jazz festival in Cumbria which incrementally took over my life for 18 years.

Though I no longer function as a jazz promoter I try and catch up with the musicians and the music when in London and the day before my stroll down the Thames I had travelled down to Dorset with Alan Barnes to attend a concert he was performing with Don Weller and Art Themen.

And the day after I spent a very pleasant afternoon in the Princess of Wales, Primrose Hill listening to Art Themen. The immense quality of British jazz has never received its true appreciation - but that is for another blog.  Meanwhile here is a taste.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Kandinsky Exhibition in Pisa

We took a train ride to Pisa to visit the Kandinsky Exhibition .

It focused on his work up to the early 1920's.and highlighted the influence of Russian folk art and his connection to other Russian painters of the time. It was a fascinating exhibition and an opportunity to see many paintings I have not seen before.  

 The vibrance of the colour even after nearly 100 years was fantastic and it seemed  that whether painting totally abtract or in representational mode which he did at the same time he produced very good paintings. It seems that right from the beginning he grasped the essential fact that painting is about coloured pigment on canvas.

Alongside the Kandinskies were paintings by many other Russian artists of the period none of whom I had ever heard of and it gave you the impression that pre World War One Russia was where modern art really started,  and while the English were suffering the Pre-Raphaelitism and other  victoriana, and protesting about the decadence of post Impressionism the Russians were exploding with great energy, exploring ideas that were breaking free from the stagnation that  European art had got into. 
It could be that many Russian painters were still so connected to their history of folk art and Icon painting that  releasing  the grip of purely representational painting came easier to them.

The  painting above by  Mikhail Vrubel, was painted in 1901.He was a  painter of amazing abilty whose total individuality has meant his exclusion from being  included in the story of the progression of modern art.

He died in a Mental hospital in 1910 aged of 54.

Another Russian painter that impressed me was.

Unfortunately the exhibition ended with the start of Kandinsky's Bauhaus years, where his work began to have more well defined boundaries.

The exhibition is on until February and I firmly intend to revisit before it ends.

Pisa was also a visual  delight as usual.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Four Piece Sculpture in White Marble

Still waiting for the new marble to be delivered to the studio, this is Italy, things happen when they happen.
I crated up my last piece, which was constructed with 4 interlocking pieces of marble. Taking it apart and reassembling is risky as marble is so easily damaged, so it will now stay crated until exhibited, whenever that might be.
This a photo of the clay original, which is only about 25cms high. 

From this I used  sheet plaster to construct a copy with all dimensions doubled.

 We had fun collecting the half ton piece of greek marble.

 It was cut into blocks.

 I proceeded to copy each gesso piece into marble,  with two extractors sucking away the dust.

 A block and tackle was essential to safely fit the pieces together.

 First fitting.

 The finished sculpture

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bardiglio and the Michelangelo Quarries

This is a Maquette for the next piece I intend to carve. 
Today I organised the cutting of a large block of Bardiglio marble which I shall use. 

 Bardiglio is a grey marble and the piece probably came from the Cappella quarry above Seravezza. 

In 1518 Michelangelo took his marble for San Lorenzo in Florence from these quarries at Cappella. He was also responsible for  building  the road down the valley to  Seravazza  from where it was transported to the coast, shipped to Pisa, then  put on barges and floated down the |Arno to Florence.
I recently read his letters and came away with the impression that he was great “whinger” according to him nobody ever did what he wanted and they were all out to cheat and rob him. He complained that the Pietrasantese took his money but didn’t do the work promised. He wrote  to the Pope asking to return to Florence as he hated staying  in Ruosina, a dark little town at  the bottom of the steep valley, where he said  it rained all the time and that the wine was foul.

The grey Bardiglio is quite a popular stone among sculptors working in the area, being a nice alternative to  the Carrara marbles that are common here.

Jacques Lipchitz used when he was here

And recently  Julia Vance a very good Norwegian sculptor, working at Studio Sem in Pietrasanta  used it for this piece.

I hope to get started sometime next week.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My First Blog Post

This is me behind my recently finished sculpture, sculpted in white greek marble in the Italian town of Pietrasanta, Tuscany.