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Sun, 31 Jul 2016
Towne's Last Call
# 15:54 in ./general

The British Museum's prints and drawings room is one of my favourite parts of the museum. It's quieter, away from the hustle and bustle of some of the more popular areas, and the hordes of the mobile-phone obsessed.

The Light, time, legacy exhibition closes in a couple of weeks. I had a final browse at Francis Towne's wonderful watercolours of Rome and Italy, painted in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Right: Temple of Bacchus in the Distance, Francis Towne, 1780. View outside Rome (source)

Towne didn't get on so well with the Royal Academy of the day (no election for him). Many there looked down at the artist who also taught art, and Towne and others seemed to think of them as a metropolitan elite (echoes of today). Sometimes, the ancient ruins were seen as warnings not to repeat the mistakes made by the romans that lead to their corruption and fall.

Finally online, the Paul Mellon centre now has an amazing web site devoted to the man and his work. Worth the wait :

Sat, 30 Jul 2016
Gut Feeling
# 13:23 in ./books

by Giulia Enders

This is not a big book, and it's written in a bright and breezy way that is very easy to get through. I like a good science book but normally stay away from anything too funny or humourous; but I actually found myself smiling, and in some cases even laughing. She definitely has a way with funny asides and descriptions (of things normally swept under the carpet, or into the toilet, as she might point out). Case in point, near the beginning is a section How does pooing work? I think this is worth considering.

Enders has a scientific background, doing a medical doctorate at the Institute for Microbiology in Frankfurt, so has some expertise in the field. She describes a lot of very interesting research done in the past few years that have really highlighted how important our gut health is to us. We are home to trillions of bacteria, most in our large intestine, and this alone is a staggering fact. There might be more to having a "gut feeling" than we think, especially when we factor in the enteric nervous system, a "second" brain that runs through our body and is tied to our gastrointestinal system. Our gut bacteria and their health might govern a lot of things, from diabetes, to obesity, to stress and depression. This also makes diet very important.

Enders is a student who's become a minor celebrity in Germany, where the book became a bestseller on its release two years ago. She's interviewed on YouTube as well (a good, brief overview of her work). Great book to read and quite eye-opening in the implications for our health. Listen to what your gut is saying.

Sat, 23 Jul 2016
Tin Glazed Earthenware
# 20:17 in ./general

I was at the V & A last weekend, this time looking at Ceramics, inspired by Byatt's Children's Book. The potter's craft is lovingly articulated in her novel.

I've seen and admired this stuff before, but I do like this Italian renaissance Maiolica. Some of it has a real quirky charm, as well as being beautifully painted.

The term 'maiolica' was used in 15th-century Italy for lustrewares imported from Spain. The V&A has one of the greatest collections of Italian maiolica in the world; the Museum holds more than one thousand of these rare and precious objects.

Wed, 20 Jul 2016
Dream Land
# 19:46 in ./books

The Childrens Book
By A. S. Byatt

I read Possession a while ago, and loved it, so have been wanting to dip into more Byatt books. This was almost as good and like all good books, I looked for reasons to sit down and carry on reading. It is beautifully written and extremely moving in parts.

The story follows a bohemian family, parents, children, friends and acquaintances, for a few years of the late 19th century and into the early 20th. The Wellgood family is a mix of Fabian Society socialists, artists, writers and dreamers, with the mother, Olive, doing most of the earning writing books full of magic and myth. She also writes a story book for each of the many children she and her husband have, weaving their own tale of magical journeys and shape-shifting animals and humans. The real world is boiling with economic and class conflict but many artists of the time were inventing their own worlds. As one of the boys says of all the poverty around, why can't we do something about it?. There's a lot of art, and a lot of discussion but the organising and action is not always present.

The paths of the characters sometimes cross with those of real historical people, like Rodin, Wilde, Shaw and the Webbs. The milieu is one of social improvement, Morris' Arts and Crafts movement and some Utopianism. We watch and partake in the building of the new Victoria and Albert Museum. There are some wonderful descriptions of the craft and art of pottery, and the method of moulding and firing clay. The V&A is a grand museum with a lot of good pots to have a look at.

How do we get out of dreamland? Hic Labor, hoc opus est he said.

"In this task, the labour lies" from Virgil's Aeneid.

Great book, and I've now queued up another of hers: Ragnarok.

This is not the first time I've read Byatt and wished I'd done so on an ereader, so I could highlight a word or phrase and find out what it means. I was not distracted from the enjoyment of reading though, and where I could, I placed a "tag" on the page and checked for meaning later, as with the Aeneid quote above. Some books deserve a bit of study.

Sun, 03 Jul 2016
Royal Academy Summer 2016
# 19:24 in ./general

Time for the 2016 Royal Academy Summer Show, one of the big art events every year. Another being the Not the Royal Academy at the Llewellyn Alexander gallery of course.

I went a couple of weeks ago to have a look and, as usual, some excellent things to see, as well as a lot of stuff I didn't like, or didn't see the point of. Always an interesting show though.

The galleries are worth a browse. The works are generally a lot more expensive than I usually see in other places, a function of this being the ACADEMY and these artists are often better known, with a history i.e. most have "made it". Good luck to them.

Left: Hanging from the ceiling, hundreds of LCD screens are alive, flickering and changing. This is The Portrait of Sakip Sabanci by Kutluğ Ataman.

Detail: "a multi-image work of some of the thousands of people, from all walks of life, whose paths crossed Sakıp Sabancı's in some way."

Big rooms, high ceilings. Pictures hanging higher up are hard to see properly though.

Below: This was a very large painting, well done and very arresting.
RA! by Andrew McIntosh

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