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Tue, 25 Jun 2013
Saxon Churches
# 07:27 in ./general

I was wanting to visit Houghton Hall and see a few paintings from artists like Velázquez, Rubens, Rembrant and Poussin. These pictures are over here on loan from The Hermitage in Russia, the pictures having been sold by Sir Robert Walpole to Catherine the Great in the 18th Century.

Unfortunately, the exhibition is sold out for almost all the open days. I'm kicking myself for not booking weeks ago. It just shows that galleries and museums are full everywhere, not just in London.

Old churches might have to do for now. East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) has hundreds of old churches, many medieval, many over 1000 years old. This is St Nicholas, Dereham in Norfolk.

One of the unusual things here is Withburga's Well in the church grounds :

The churchyard contains the ancient monument of St Withburga's Well, supplied by a spring that is said to have issued forth from the burial place of Withburga, one of the four daughters of King Anna of East Anglia who reigned in the 7th century. Saint Withburga laid the foundation of a church and convent, the first Christian settlement in the area in the year 654.

The church as it stands is Norman, from the 12th Century.

The centre of Dereham itself and the High Street has seen better days: it seems to be mostly charity shops, take-away restaurants and hairdressers. Much like many high streets now. But round the corner and behind the main roads there are some very pleasant and good looking buildings and greener areas. Away from too much traffic.

Sun, 23 Jun 2013
The Royal Academy - Summer Exhibition
# 06:50 in ./general

The Royal Academy have their annual Summer Exhibition at the moment, not that we seem to be having a summer this year.

A great show. Art from floor to ceiling and a massive number of things to see, from paintings and drawings, to sculpture, photography and architectural designs and models. I actually wished I'd had some binoculars when I strained to see a bit of detail on some pictures hanging high up. It's good to see so many different works from so many different artists.

One room was devoted to six large Grayson Perry tapestries called The Vanity of Small Differences: very impressive and funny although slightly depressing as a window on the modern world.

Above: Grayson Perry, The Adoration of the Cage Fighters, 2012

Each of the six images, to a greater or lesser extent, pays homage to a religious work. Including Masaccio's Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece, Rogier Van de Weyden's Lamentation and three different paintings of The Annunciation by Carlo Crivelli, Grünewald and Robert Campin. The images also reference the pictorial display of wealth and status in The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck and Mr & Mrs Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough.

Olwyn Bowey RA, Shopping for the Garden

I only spent a couple of hours there but could have spent all day. It would be great if the Academy allowed re-entry like the Queen's Gallery does.

I also wish it was easier to link to a few pictures I really liked but the RA seems very keen on securing the art, so no photographs inside and few found online. One artist I was unfamiliar with was Olwyn Bowey, who paints rough but detailed pictures of plants, and plant arrangements. She has a few paintings on display, all impressed me.

Bill Jacklin, Snow, Times Square

Another was Bill Jacklin, who paints a diffuse form of light and movement, perhaps Grand Central, or Times Square in New York. Very evocative and atmospheric.

I got to the show on opening (10am) on a Friday and it got quite busy by 10:30. A very popular show and I bet it can get a bit crowded at weekends.

Fri, 21 Jun 2013
London Streets
# 14:56 in ./general

From The Economist :

Six major estates own large parts of central London (see map). They have done so for centuries; the Grosvenor family first acquired land in Mayfair and Belgravia in 1677. Until the 1990s most of these estates were run in a broadly similar manner.

Regent Street is owned by the The Crown Estate, a "property portfolio" that traces its origins to the The Norman Conquest.

Over the course of the centuries, large estates have tended to be broken up to some extent, especially those that relied on farming, or some other industry in decline. But if you were lucky enough to have seized, been gifted or purchased land in an up and coming urban centre like the west end of London, you have been very lucky indeed.

Sun, 16 Jun 2013
Llewellyn Alexander - Rejects of the RA
# 16:03 in ./general

I went back to the Llewellyn Alexander gallery to have a look at their Not the Royal Academy show. I love the smaller gallery because you can get much closer to the art, and there's often a lot more of it, packed into a smaller space. If you get there early, as I did, you miss crowds as well. Paintings everywhere.

All the works got a rejection for the Royal Academy show, but as you will see, not for any lack of skill. In conversation with one of the LA gallery proprietors, even they have to reject some, which is always a difficult thing to do: that would be a double rejection sadly. This is usually purely due to the lack of space or a piece being too similar to others already chosen.

I'll have to go back for another look: lots to see. Some favourites are below (all on sale).

Trevor Rowe
Summer at East Hampton
Acrylic on Canvas

Mark McLaughlin
Summer Evening, Ballintoy
Oil on Canvas

Margaret Heath
Fishing on Tal-y-Llyn
Watercolour on Paper

Robin Elliott
The Cliff Edge
Oil on Canvas

Michael Sofroniou
At Home with the Cats
Oil on board

Margaret Heath
Lands End,Summer Evening
Watercolour on Paper

Martin Pinder
Brighton Pier
Oil on Board

Paul Liddiard
Towards Dartmouth
Acrylic on Board

Wed, 12 Jun 2013
The Royal Academy - Not
# 20:43 in ./general

The Llewellyn Alexander Gallery has a show on at the moment called Not The Royal Academy. I passed by this evening on the way home from work and stopped to look in the window. I'll be going back to have a proper look as soon as I can because so much looked great.

Mark McLaughlin : Westminster

Check it out - four pages of paintings to browse and good stuff on every one.

Mon, 03 Jun 2013
# 20:47 in ./books

A Hilary Mantel book and one of the best I've read. But what to make of it? That's a little harder. This is an easy book to read and one I enjoyed immensely, but it was obvious there was a lot more under the surface here.

I'm not one for the "humorous" book at all, but there were times that I really did laugh aloud reading this. The rural catholicity of the story and situations conjured up by Mantel were almost Father Ted territory. And as she says in an interview after the book, the story has a child-like quality, maybe wondrous and at times naive, but very affecting.

The novel's language and style is pure Mantel though. A simplicity of style, the usual conciseness of the language and the beautifully constructed sentences. I can't really find fault with the book.

So, what is it about? A stranger arrives in a small northern village and his presence effects changes in the ossified community. As the book reminds us in an afterword, Robert Fludd was an English alchemist and the alchemist's aim was transmutation. Superficially, this was base metal into gold, but the occult transformation desired was always expressed as something spiritual. As Mantel points out in the afterword, catholic children are already infused with such a "magical" transformation as part of the doctrine of transubstantiation: the miracle of the bread and wine turning into the real body of Christ.

Despite the above, the book is not heavy going in any way and is a pleasure to read. Very funny as well. I think I'll look forward to reading it again in a year or so.

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