Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Downward Gaze

I saw the Lucian Freud Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery with a friend one Friday evening. I think it's great when museums and galleries open in the evenings. It's the kind of thing I want to do on a night out. This exhibition is open late on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and for these last few days, until 27th May, it will be open until midnight. 

I found Lucien Freud's paintings both beautiful and unsettling.

I love the way he paints flesh. The colours he uses are amazing, when you get close you see so many different colours including greens and purples. He paints skin as I think it should be painted, with character, aged and contoured. I don't want to look at smooth taut skin that only exists on airbrushed models. Who really looks like that? I also like the way he uses his brushstrokes to follow the contours of skin and limbs, accentuating shadows, creases and dimples.

The unsettling bit was trying to figure out Freud's relationship between him and the people he painted, particularly in his earlier paintings, he often appeared to be looking down on them. We walked around the exhibition and realised that alot of his subjects were painted sitting slightly below his eyeline, he seemed to be looking down on them. In his self-portraits, he appeared to be looking down on us too, with a slight downward gaze, we stood just below his eyeline. 

Perhaps this didn't mean anything, but in much of his earlier work, he seemed to me to looking down both on the people he painted and us, as viewers looking back at him in his self portraits. It was quite unsettling and got you thinking about different reasons he might have perhaps done this.

Despite loving his work...  I didn't really like the way he was looking at me.

However we did have a good night out and hope that late night opening in museums and galleries will long continue. But to see this exhibition, hurry as there are only three days left.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Boat Trip

We took a Thames Clipper downstream. We began our journey at London Bridge City Pier. There was no shortage of viewpoints. We started here.
HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf.

The view looking back.
The Shard, HMS Belfast.

The Clipper crossed the Thames to the Tower of London.
When I was little the 'Bloody Tower' caused great amusement, just being able to say it out loud without getting told off for swearing was great fun.

We passed under Tower Bridge and looked back at the Shard and City Hall.

Then we had to take our seats as the captain put his foot down. We sped along past moored sailing boats with the Gherkin and the Nat West Tower in the background.

We sped past HMS Ocean, which at 125foot wide squeezed through the Thames Barrier last week. It's here to protect London during the Olympics. 

We passed by Greenwich and the newly restored Cutty Sark.
I cheated with this photo, it was taken on dry land later in the day. 

As we headed downstream the O2 came into sight. 

Then we rounded the bend to see the new TFL cable car crossing the Thames and Antony Gormley's Quantum Cloud. Both huge structures.

We got off the boat at North Greenwich Pier and watched the cable car practising. No passengers yet as it isn't quite finished.

We chatted about value for money, apparently the cable car cost 6o million pounds, "that's 10 million less than Real Madrid paid for Christiano Ronaldo".
I love the way these pictures human contrast scale, us, the figure in Antony Gormley's Quantum Cloud and the gondolas, each being able to carry 10 people.

We had a little walk around North Greenwich and got closer to the O2. 

"It feels like we're in the future", said my 12 year old. I know what she means...

Not a bad value for money trip. All this for the price of a single ticket on the Thames Clipper
Next time I think we'll head upstream.

Since writing this post, the cable car is up and running. Great views and especially good as the city lights come on in the evenings. 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Unexpected Connections

Learning in museums can be all about making personal connections.
Sometimes people make the most unexpected connections.

A secondary school girl spoke to me the other day,
"See that dog's head?"

" brother's girlfriend looks like that."

It got me thinking, which dog do I look like?

You may be thinking, just the heads? One little boy, struggling with the idea of just the heads, was saved from the brink of tears when a quick-thinking gallery attendant reassured him that all was OK because the dogs were still intact, their bodies behind the wall. He left happy. 

If you would like to see the collection of dog's heads and perhaps decide who they look like. Visit the Natural History gallery at the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Urban river walk...

...In Catford.

We went for a walk by the river...

...where the rivers Pool & Ravensbourne meet.

There was something for everyone.

Bird spotting...

...this is where the Nuthatch live.

Tree spotting...

...we think this is a Hornbeam.


And paddling...

...they ended up a lot wetter than this.

We also saw two jet fighters overhead...
 ...practising, air security for the Olympics.
(Sorry no photos, they were too far away and too fast)

The Riverview Walk is part of a longer walk. The Waterlink Way... 

...where we could have walked, or cycled, all the way from Sydenham to the river Thames.

That post was two years ago. Now two years on and I walk/run this route every week. Love seeing how everything changes with each season, lovely spring blossom recently.
Plus even been treated to sightings of a Kingfisher and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

You can also download video and sound works made in response to the river, 'Here Comes Everybody', either here on the website here or scan the QR code on a plaque on one of the bridges with a smartphone when you're there. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

What would your birthday cake have looked like during wartime?

Visit the Imperial War Museum in London to see this great exhibition A Family in Wartime.

A Family in Wartime tells the story of the Allpress family during the Second World War. They lived in Stockwell, South London. The exhibition documents their family life during the war, and hence tells many a family story looking at the impact the war had on everyday life, such as feeding a family, maintaining a house and garden, doing the laundry, going to school, commuting to work, not to mention birthday celebrations.

There is a beautiful small-scale model of their family home as it was during the war, made by a model maker, the husband of one of the Allpress daughters. You can view it from every angle, the bedrooms, the living room, the kitchen, the Anderson shelter and even the inside loo.

We loved this exhibition, imagining our lives in the Second World War. We sat in the Anderson shelter and imagined what it would have been like to spend the night in there, discussed who would have which bunk and how we would have assembled it in our garden. My kids were quite impressed when I told them that I had found scraps of corrugated iron when I had been digging in the back of our garden (a London terraced house) when they were little. They must have been the remains of an Anderson shelter. The Second World War has been a piece of history that they have been able to relate to and connect with personally and being at this exhibition helped that to happen as they got to see genuine artefacts for themselves.

Having thoroughly enjoyed studying the Second World War at school, we went to this exhibition  a week before their 9th birthday, to be confronted with the question, "What would your birthday cake have looked like during wartime?" A timely question.

The answer, well with sugar rationing, icing on cakes was banned during wartime from 1940, to conserve sugar. They certainly wouldn't have looked like this...

Thank goodness sugar is not still being rationing now. In fact it came off rationing in 1953, 8 years after the war had ended.

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