Onwards And Upwards

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In 2012 Much Wenlock’s Olympian Games Committee commissioned a series of five artworks to mark the town’s founding connections with the modern Olympic Games[**].

You might describe them as stone ‘tuffets’, though they are rather larger and lumpier than Miss Muffet’s seating arrangements. Local school children contributed creative notions and designs for the tops. This one now sits in the town square (after a few years getting grubby on the Linden Field) and is my favourite. Cultivate our hidden talents, it says, and if we can – plant a tree.

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[**] see earlier post on Wenlock’s connection with the revival of the Olympian Games HERE

 

 

Square Up #18

Iced!

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The other morning I found the frost had left this ice skin on the very top of the garden water butt. We’ve had days of rain and it was filled to the brim with downpourings from the old privy roof. Most  curious, I thought. It looks like a pile of actual leaves, some reedy plant, say. Or else in some mysterious way the water’s surface had replicated, as it froze, the flattened leaves of the Crocosmia that grows a few feet away over the fence. So does this mean that a common or garden water butt can make art; or create, when the elements conspire, its own version of monochrome digital images? It would seem so. I herewith proffer the evidence.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: close-ups 

This week Cee gives up lots of close-up inspiration. Please pay her a visit.

Dear John ~ A Household Treasure

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We see it every day. Or do we? Do we actually see, as in look and engage? We certainly pass by it night and morning and at times in between. It hangs on the bedroom wall, beside the spiral staircase, this portrait of John Lennon by stellar photographer and photojournalist, Jane Bown. And how do we come to have this particular treasure?

From 1949 and over the next 6 decades Jane Bown (1925-2014) was the The Observer newspaper’s photographer (The Observer being the sister Sunday paper of The Guardian weekly i.e in the days before its 2008 sell-off). Some time in the early 2000s, not long after we had repatriated ourselves after eight years in Kenya and Zambia, and were living in Kent, The Guardian offices in Farringdon Road, London, announced it was having a small exhibition of Bown’s work, not only portraits but also the chance to look at the contact sheets from particular shoots. There would also be the opportunity to  buy one of the limited edition reprints. So: one Saturday morning we took ourselves off to the capital by train, not a small event for two dislocated souls not then caught up with the way things worked in the home nation.

The key thing about Jane Bown’s work is she always used natural light – never deploying flash or even using a light meter.

Famously reluctant to talk about her working method, Jane once admitted that for the brief moment when she looked at somebody through a lens, what she felt could best be described in terms of an intense love.

Quote from the Guardian Print Shop site.

But to go back to the earlier question of how far we engage with the objects we surround ourselves with. Doubtless many have sentimental attachments – gifts, mementos, inherited items from loved ones; some are domestic tools, artefacts for cooking, home maintenance, cleaning, eating, and therefore deemed essential; others are specially acquired assemblages: dolls, snow globes, china pigs, model cars, snuff boxes, original art, books, orchids: stuff. Of course, given the quantity of possessions most of us house, if we gave due consideration to each and every one of them each day there would be no time to do anything else. There could be an element of the King Midas curse in this?

And the portrait of John Lennon? There is no doubting that when his presence is fully acknowledged, the times I stop and behold, he does feel like a presence. The keenness of gaze is almost too poignant. I start wondering what he might say to us now – in these times ‘of lies, damn lies, and statistics’. I’m thinking he might tell us to WAKE UP!

You can see more of Jane Bown’s magnificent work HERE,  HERE and HERE.

 

Lens-Artists: Everyday objects

Out Of The Archive: A Favourite Piece Of Historical Sleuthing

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The family who lived in the Palais de Masena

Believe me, the family gathering depicted in these two murals has more tales to tell than most. They could be the very depiction of Tolstoy’s famous opening to the tragic novel Anna Karenina: (And I paraphrase) all happy families look alike, but the unhappy ones are unhappy in their own inimitable way.

The original post Nice Family? En famille at the Massena Palace continues HERE

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So what spurred me to discover more about these set-piece murals wherein members of an elite Nice family gaze at one another across a palace staircase? Silly question really. It was the mysteries that cropped up – once I paid them closer attention.

For instance why has the blue-bloused woman of the second mural adopted such a vulgarly aggressive stance when the keys hanging from her waist suggest she is mistress of the house, the chatelaine? And who is the droopy waif leaning on her shoulder?And why are so many people lurking, or peering between marble columns. And who is the lovely woman with the macaws and exotic tapestry; is the blue-bloused woman’s look of contempt from across the stairwell meant for her? But most of all, one has to wonder why this family would commission well known French artist François Flameng to show them in this way? Was he having a joke at their considerable expense?

The proposed explanations are in the original post so I won’t repeat them here. But I will tell you that the family members are all descended through intermarriage from three ordinary men, plain soldiers, Masséna, Murat and Ney who through courageous acts rose to prominence in Bonaparte’s army, were appointed Marshals of Empire and thereafter acquired all manner of riches and other grandiose titles.

But the reason this archive post is one is one of my favourites is because the sleuthing involved was so fascinating. I was astonished at how much could be gleaned from a few hours trawling the internet. It seemed like magic – lead after lead revealing a few more snippets about a world distant from me in time and space. And I thought then – this is the world wide web at its best; this is what its creator intended: to share knowledge and information; to open minds and eyes; to enthrall, educate and entertain in positive ways. It could still be like that, couldn’t it…I mean without the hate and fakery?

July Squares #19

The Blue Of Marc Chagall

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For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Chagall was one of life’s shining stars. According to Wikipedia he is described by art critic Robert Hughes as a ‘quintessential Jewish artist’. Yet such a description is truly too confining for a creator who saw his work as ‘not a dream of one people, but of all humanity.’ To me, an unbeliever, his work speaks of spirit – the soaring, transcending best of us that comes with a wry but kindly smile and, above all, forgiveness (for ourselves and for others).

The stained glass in the photo comes from a window in the auditorium at the Musee National Marc Chagall on Cimiez Hill in Nice, one of the loveliest little art galleries of the world. The hill, too, is surely a place of creative hallowed ground: just up the road from Chagall is the wonderful Matisse museum. Both artists were magician-shamans, masters of colour, form and light – their works the manifestation of their spirit-journeys that ever invite us to rise to the occasion and follow.

Chagall was still working in his nineties, his last commissioned work (I’ve just discovered) is the north stained glass window of Chichester Cathedral in Sussex, England. I feel a pilgrimage coming on. In the meantime another detail of the Nice window:

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When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is.

Pablo Picasso

July Squares #2

Reflections Intentional And Accidental

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C-Curve by Anish Kapoor and reflective puddles courtesy of the rain god; photo taken several freezing Decembers ago in Kensington Gardens. You can spot the Farrells looking a bit stiff – centre twosome on the left.

Lens-Artists ~ Reflections  Patti set the challenge this week. Her fantastic photo of the Chicago Bean sculpture by Anish Kapoor reminded me that I had photos of his work too.

Turning Accident Into Artwork?

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I am not sure why he who lives in my house interfered with the washing machine hose, thus causing said machine to disgorge all over the utility room floor; and not once but twice due to the rinse and spin cycle. I think it was something to do with the fact that he had stored some of his bookbinding card on top of the washing machine, (he being in need of a flat surface that was relatively dust-free beneath the counter top) and earlier in the week was having a sort out in that vicinity, fishing out supplies that had slipped to the back, and thereby dislodging water exiting hose.

I was upstairs writing while all the repercussions of this earlier manoeuvre were happening, and so blissfully unaware of the downstairs flood. It was only as I was coming downstairs to get the washing out of the machine, that I heard loud exclamations from bookbinding man. ‘What on earth’s been going on in here,’ he says. I have no idea, I say, but I note the accusatory tone that suggests I might have been responsible for whatever it is.

By now I have reached the flooded utility room. Oh, no! I think. The washing machine’s given up the ghost after 18 years. But diagnosis will have to wait. First there is water mopping up to do. Luckily the floor is covered in quarry tiles so there is no particular damage done. The only casualties are the dustsheets that are kept under one of the cupboards. The downside is we don’t discover this till later, by which time they are very fusty.

In the meantime, after pulling out the washing machine from its slot, investigating its innards, the penny is beginning to drop in the mind of bookbinding man. ‘I think it’s my fault,’ he says meekly. ‘I must’ve dislodged the hose.’ Then he says brightly that at least it’s good to know we don’t need to buy a new washing machine, and that we also now have a very clean floor, even in the places where we don’t normally clean it.

The day is saved then, but for the washing and airing of dustsheets. And as the sun is shining I go out and take a washing line photo. Look! The garden is putting on a shadow play.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

 

Lens-Artists: Just for fun

Out of Chaos…

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Everyone knows chaos is the the starting point for creation. In Andy McKeown’s light show ‘Fractured Light’ chaos was the creation. It filled one of the cavernous warehouse floors of Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury. Multiple projections of coloured lights and Flax Mill images danced on the walls and cast-iron pillars of this eighteenth century prototype of the skyscraper.

I wrote about this historic building way back in 2013 when Friends of the Flax Mill were hosting an open day.  (See Pattern For The Skyscraper ).  The place is vast, and has stood empty for decades waiting for some clever scheme of ‘adaptive re-use’ that will make restoring the building viable. It has ghosts of course – of the many poor children who once provided ‘slave’ labour here. The light show, at least, lifted the spirits after we had toiled round dank, windowless chambers, and up narrow stairwells that reminded me of Tolkein’s Mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings. Luckily, we met no orcs.

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For some great exterior shots of the Flax Mill see Jude’s post for last week’s Thursday’s Special, and take a look at Andy McKeown LightWorks.

Daily Post Photo Challenge: Chaos

Bears In Central Park: Who Knew?

Group of Bears by Paul Manship (1889-1966)

There was wall to wall sun when we visited New York in early June a few years ago. In fact it was so hot we spent most of our week there in Central Park trying not to melt. But the full-on sun certainly lit up these magnificent bronze bears. They are affectionately known as ‘The Three Bears’, and may be found at the Pat Hoffman Friedman Playground at Fifth Avenue and 79th Street. The work was gifted to the Park by Samuel N. Friedman in memory of his wife – a fine dedication all round.

You can find out more about  Paul Manship (1885–1966) at this link.

 

Daily Post: Shine

‘Bench’ with a mission

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We’ve time and talents, not to be buried~

Plant a tree, and you give the future a present ~

 

Over at Travel Words’ Bench Series 44 Jude is charging us to find a bench with a message or an autumnal theme. This may not  be a bench as such, but it does have a message and a seasonal acorn. Also, along with the inspirational motto, it was designed to provide a perch and meeting point for the town’s passing visitors.

There are four more of these artworks-cum-tuffets sited around the perimeter of Much Wenlock’s Linden Field, the venue for the Wenlock Olympian Games since the 1850s. The works were created in 2012, the year in which the International Olympic Movement acknowledged Much Wenlock’s historical connection to the modern games by naming one of their one-eyed, androgynous mascots ‘Wenlock’.

Anyone remember he/she/it? Perhaps better not to. The mascots were apparently conceived by a committee, and delivered into the world by a company in Telford. The intention was well-meaning: not to make reference to an identifiable ethnicity, gender, or known human disability.

Here on home ground, members of our local William Penny Brookes Foundation decided to mark the town’s Olympics connection by commissioning community sculptor, Michael Johnson, to work with local school children, and Wenlock poet, Paul Francis. Their brief was to celebrate the life and work of the Wenlock Games’  founder, Dr. W P Brookes. If you click on the Michael Johnson link you can see the other four pieces. The designs on the bronze panels were derived from work by the town’s school children.

The frame is stainless steel with  stone side panels and bronze sections on top. Every tuffet has a piece of thought-provoking text, each one relating to William Penny Brookes’ major contributions to the town’s wellbeing.

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I love the idea of them, although I’m not too sure about the weathering capacity of the stone component. I just wish they were sited in places where more locals and visitors might see and appreciate them, and indeed sit on them for a spell: perhaps on the High Street, in the Square, on the Church Green opposite the doctor’s former home.

Anyway, this particular tuffet definitely has a mission to propose. Should you choose to accept it, please note, this tuffet will not self-destruct, but the world might be happier.

I’m thus leaving you with a view down the Linden Walk that borders the field and was planted by Dr. Brookes over a century ago. It is a joy to walk here whatever the weather, and whatever the season. So yes: more trees needed.

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We’ve time and talents, not to be buried~

Plant a tree, and you give the future a present ~