Bauhaus at the Barbican

Urgent not to get caught up in the rush of Olympic cultural traffic we headed down to London a week and a half ago to take in a little Bauhaus enlightenment.

First up, the Barbican centre couldn’t have been beaten as the ideal location to showcase the pieces.  For it’s audacious, individual and peerless which just adds to the uniqueness and impress factor of exhibition as a whole.

So, post a 10.45eees in the café where we chowed down on an oversized brownie (what a shame), an oversized muesli bar (gee the pain), two smoothies and a coffee, we headed to the 3rd floor to take in the show.

Luckily, we’d arrived for Opening so explored additional pleasure by being able to get up really close to each creation. Furthermore, the short text specifics furnished throughout the exhibition space was sufficiently detailed to provide the reader/visitor with a background to what they were currently perusing, though luckily not too academic that you’d feel overwhelmed. Rather, interested in perhaps learning a little more by way of purchasing the catalogue…or visiting Google once you made it home.

With my scribbling pad at the ready, it wasn’t hard to find some really beautifully produced items from the sculptures, paintings, fonts, photographs and textiles (not a the complete list either)on display, so many in fact I had to be ruthless and cut down my bullet pointed list below, otherwise I shan’t be getting dinner out on time, and you can just imagine the fallout that would generate.

So here’s a severely slashed ‘Top Appealers’ listing

  • A rare treat, Wassily Kandinsky’s questionnaire to students querying their matching of basic geometric forms with one of the primary colours and requesting a rationale for their answer.
  • Slightly sleep not preparing toys and puppets. My personal favourite,the Crowned Poet (1919) – very caesaresque, created by Paul Klee for his son.
  • Farkas Molnar’s design for a single-family house 1922
  • An exquisite chess set – Josef Hartwig (1922)
  • Josef Albers’s photographs. At times a little wacky, however also some tremendously beautiful, look for ‘Pius and Schifra Ascona VIII’  (1930)
  • Gunta Stoelzl – Five Choirs ‘Jacquered weave’ created in cotton, wool, rayon and silk (1928). 1.5m x 2.5m in size, though note these are my calculations and I’m probably not as talented at estimating as I should be.

So much is so right about this exhibition

The final word…It was enlightening, really enlightening…so even if you do have to muscle through the Olympic cultural traffic you’ll be thrilled you did.

It finishes 12 August 2012

The Capture of the Westmorland

Trying to come up with a travel plan with a difference?  Ever wanted to go on your own Grand Tour? Well, The Ashmolean just might be the destination that fits, especially on a Wednesday afternoon @ 3.00pm, as I recently discovered.

It’s simples as a Meerkat might say, educational and incredible to realise just how very lucky King Carlos III of Spain was and how very unlucky some young chaps from Britain were in terms of the goodies on display.

‘Please explain’ as Pauline Hanson once (or maybe on many occasions) said.

OK in laycat terms then…the exhibition focuses on the cargo of The Westmorland (an armed merchant ship), which sailed through the Mediterranean in the late 1770s and was captured by the French on route to England.

The perishable yummies on board the ship, such as the parmesan cheese and olive oil were sold locally, however the bounty of luxury goods; books; paintings and antiquities were sold to the King of Spain, whom forwarded the majority of these to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid and in an attempt to make my limited knowledge even briefer…happily after a huge amount of research and locating of these precious pieces, the Ashmolean can now provide people like me, with a wonderful opportunity to view the kind of things young wealthy chaps on their own ‘Grand tours’ tended to spurge on.

Being me, I scribbled down several items that I feel deserve special mention – though prior to viewing my list – what truly blows the mind (and thank you Patsy for pointing this out).  Putting these paintings and drawings in context and recognising that this period pre-dates the digital camera, really cements the significance and impact of the artworks, particularly for those at home whom perhaps would not get the opportunity to make the trip.

A few things you’ll discover – Francis Basset – apparently the fellow whom lost the most of his goods in transit ‘spent lavishly’.

Look out for:

  • She’s so beautiful – #112 – The Cumaean Sibyl ca. 1777
  • Potentially a gift for your lady friend (or Mother) – #78 – an incredibly detailed fan
  • Six pretty perfect, especially in terms of the stillness and dryness they portray – watercolours, produced by John Robert Cozens.
  • In the first exhibition room, a really attractive, dare I say Hot Bloke painting – #101 Portrait of an Unknown Man ca. 1777
  • An exquisite marble table top
  • The Not as Hot Bloke – Carlos III, though referred to as a ‘kindly ruler’ – which is obviously a lot more important.
  • And amongst the impressive to graze upon books, a wonderfully rare one, containing new botanical research belonging to Lyde Browne.  Really look out for this for the two pages of illustrations displayed are superb.

Finally and back to the recommendation of attending on a Wednesday at 3.00pm.

Well, the Museum puts on its own tour of the exhibition (another one of Patsy’s great ideas), at this specific time.

And in terms of our experience…our group numbered seven and our guide made the exhibition come alive.  For she introduced us to roughly 20-25 pieces in different areas, providing us with a sufficient backstory, whilst imparting the value and importance of these highly-prized goods in context with the period and the people whom had their treasures captured.

The exhibition runs until 27 August 2012.



The Real Thing

ETT and the West Yorkshire Playhouse @ The Oxford Playhouse

Attending in my usual position of little to no knowledge of the production I was about to play audience to, (aside from banking on the ETT to furnish yet another masterpiece), we three headed out and attended a Tom Stoppard play, 29 June.

And happily, I was in no way having to defend my judgement. It was superb from start to finish  The script well-crafted and cleverly considered, the staging a terrific fit and the actors – truly talented individuals.

Additionally, it’s not often I find myself rooting for the couple whom get together when married to others…possibly never…though when the chemistry is this good and the sentiment overpowering, my internal desire to defend the constitution of marriage from outside forces, crumbled completely and I found myself desperately hoping that Henry and Annie’s relationship would work. The Casting was so perfect with a capital P.

I was even thrilled by the audience, for not only did they cross a good seven decades in the age stakes, pretty much everyone I peered upon looked knowledgeable, some kind of edgy, others definitely Observer readers – the kind of people I’d like to somehow (I’m working on it) ‘just bump into’, strike up a conversation with and talk plays, exhibitions and books. I’m sure that I could have learnt a lot from the crowd.

However, back to the best bit – the play. Mr Stoppard, I own up I haven’t seen many of your works, though now I’m definitely on the lookout.  You are a really gifted man. Thank you for sharing it.

And dear English Touring Theatre you can’t put a foot wrong. Bring on Friday, 5 October and The Sacred Flame.

The Word is Out

When compiling a list of things to do before you die – please really consider visiting Hydra.

I shan’t be more persuasive, rather I’ll just supply you with the facts.

Firstly, I’ve had the immense great fortune of being here for just over three days and we have extended our stay, just so we can experience maximal enjoyment.

There is absolutely no point of beating around the bush, I love Greece and have ever since arriving for my first time, 24 April 1993 – just two weeks prior to turning 21.

It’s a place that never ceases to amaze and if I’m counting correctly this is my sixth adventure here – with each journey always starting with a flight into Athens and at least a day and night visiting places of such awe as the Acropolis, Agora and more recently, the Fabulous with a capital F – Acropolis Museum. Then it’s out to the Islands and as there are so many beauties to choose from, there’s more than enough to please everyone.

Thus my newest experience finds me in what appears to be very much the Greek Riviera.  For, from the moment you see the port come into view, you know you’re on a winner, this place is not only picture postcard with an assembly of 18th century buildings positioned along the quay (and a tiny way up the hill), but it’s also free of traffic – both mopeds and cars that is – aside from one garbage truck and possibly one other vehicle on the whole island – it’s the land of the donkey and mule (which unfortunately I haven’t found a good enough reason to utilise…yet…) or if you’re interested in heading out for a swim around the island, there are boats aplenty.

And your options for culture – there’s the Hydra Cinema Club, The Koundouriotis Mansion – a top treat for an appreciation of 18th/19th century architecture and furniture, traditional costumes, some impressive artworks, view over the sea and a wonderfully kind and helpful lady at the front door who can answer all questions fired her way. And other spots I’ve yet to view – though I really shall.

And briefly, beach/swim life is so satisfying. Today found me hanging with the tiny fishes at Agios Nikolaos – the kind of secluded beach you always wished for and really does exist.

Furthermore, Hydra’s restaurant pleasure – I’ve yet to find one I wouldn’t recommend.

I’ll post in greater detail in ‘Top Shelf Destinations’ at a later stage – though I guess I wanted to share the word.  Greece is just as beautiful as she has always been, unfortunately not enough tourists are here (this sounds strange saying this…).  It’s true though, Greece needs you, the restaurants, boats, bars, hotels, rooms aren’t as full as they deserve to be.

You can swim all day long in the most clear and warm of waters; embrace super salad and seafood and an abundant load of tzatziki; marvel at some of the fashions on display; forget what day it is within a day of arriving; never feel inhibited in swimming costume (or minus half a swimming costume) and truly love just being here.

Christian Louboutin – a quick update

I’ve just returned from indulging myself completely in a fabulous showcase of Mr Christian Louboutin’s craftsmanship at the Design Museum.

Happily, I easily sold my product based on the lure of ‘partial nudity’ (though it wasn’t really) to snare a willing companion (read husband). So both of us headed off this morning and spent approximately one hour marvelling at the inspiration and design of these globally identifiable and cherished pieces of pleasure, art and wearable fashion.

The brief introduction recommends to the delighted viewer that he designs for every woman’s ‘inner showgirl’ and from the selection on display you can see that this observation is pretty spot on.  For instance, if you are a furry goat boot girl – it’s covered. Or maybe you’re more the 5 inch stiletto heel kind of a lady – you’re so catered for. Or alternatively, why not experiment in a thigh high snake skin beauty (or the equally beautiful Metropolis in red leather with metal spikes)…. Your pleasure appears simply to be his pleasure and he wants to make you really happy.

I found myself mentally preparing a list of my personal favourites (just in case), with these tending towards the sparkly side of showgirl. Most edging towards a 1940s appearance and so aptly identified as Batgirl, Cotton Club, Galaxy Pass though two more beauties really require mention and though they weren’t sparkly, they so qualify for special mention, Carnaval (2009)  – a soft pink with petals of loveliness ensemble and the Salopina Strasse (2008) – a spectacular red satin and peacock feather pair of happiness.

It was lavish, it was indulgent, it was a perfect daydream. Hurry though, as it finishes 9 July 2012.

The Way I Found Her

Rose Tremain

First off, I feel it vitally important that I create the scene of my consumption of this particular treat.  Why? Well, for the most part I was either participating in riding the Sydney System – the eighties term for the capital of New South Wales’s train provision, or sitting (almost comfortably), in coach class on Malaysia Airlines.  Partaking in a little companionless travel and finding myself escaping easily into and absorbing the tale. Diverted only and occasionally by the ‘water, orange or guava’ drink offer indicated by the exquisitely attired flight attendant, or the hum of the train tracks as we picked up pace and sped through the Inner West.

Narrated by a 13 year old chap (Lewis), who’s spending the summer of 1994 with his mother, as guests of Valentina. The latter being a woman whom simply oozes off the page.

Prepare yourself for sensory hyperactivity.  For not only can you see, smell, hear and taste Paris, you can touch her and feel the heat rising from the pavements. Your only respite from the midday temperatures, find a spot under some trees, armed with a small glass of something very very cold. Lewis’s selection often being an Orangina or a Shandy, mine more likely to be a glass of Fanta Lemon or Sauvignon Blanc.

Lewis’s undeniable courage and perhaps at times, stupidity leaves you no options, except to turn the page.  His thoughts on his father’s summer project, though disparaging, astute and his commitment to Valentina is so immersed in teenage adoration that I found myself almost aching to feel so passionately and so single-mindedly once more.

I very much doubt it was the author’s intention to get me pining for a little step back in time time, though Lewis’s behaviour is so uncompromised and disinterested in the sensible, it’s incredibly appealing.

Additionally, this story explores a plethora of experience, both adult and adolescent and I found myself assigning each character, according to their attitude to Lewis, to either being a potential friend or non-friend candidate for me. Dad you’re in, Sergei you’re in and Valentina’s mum you are definitely in.  Alice, sorry you’re a little too self-absorbed, so you’re not in.

Lewis – one thing I should really let you know – and I bring this up because of a couple of reviews I read post completion of the book.  Though you are potentially a little cleverer than most of your peers (and this is where a couple of negatives appear to stem from, daring to suggest that this lends itself to you being less than believable), I won’t hear a word of it.  I think your intellect is a credit to you and I was relieved to discover that fellows your age, are interested in spending their time translating select French texts and learning about Existentialism.

And just one more thing. Rose Tremain you never cease to amaze. Your ability to constantly produce works that are so varied and engaging always makes you a super author to pick-up and REALLY enjoy. Thank you.