Tuesday, 1 October 2013

miscellaneous art works inspiring photo essay

It's been a busy couple of weeks including, in no particular order, finishing Warhorses of Letters Series 3 and the first draft of this year's Mighty Fin show, writing my first short story (we'll see where that goes), keeping on researching the Dazzle sequel and a couple of other things.

But the main thing is that I had a massive meal at a friend's house and walked home down Willesden Lane. This is one of London's four or five most magnificent streets, as you can see from the above block of flats.

Irony! Isn't it hilarious! Etc. The thing is, above the bleak plate-glass of the lobby entrance are four little heads poking out like renegades from a very different building or an episode of Doctor Who:


What was the architect thinking? Was he being witty? I think he was (or she was). But the last one, even within the context of this being an odd quartet, is particularly odd. What sort of a mask is that? And what sort of hat? Is it a desert warrior? Or a ninja? I don't know. These figures are surprising, thought-provoking and, frankly, to me, pleasing. Hence: art.
The new shop over the road from the above. The pun would have worked better as Grillas, if we're being pure, but I think they made the right decision because people might not have got that Grillas was anything more than a snazzy spelling.

A missed trick, though: no gorilla branding.
If you go to Ghent to see the Van Eycks's Lamb of God (and you really should, because it is A. Mazing and B. Eautiful), you might fancy a wander round the Cathedral of St Bavo, where it lives. St Bavo is not one of the top saints. His dad was called Pippin and Bavo was no-good when young, and although he reformed, I think a lot of other saints reformed more. He is the patron saint of falconry.

Anyway, one of the other art works in the cathedral is this:
Really? Look more closely at the bit of cloth. That's dead faces. This is a very, very creepy sculpture.

Who was Damiaan? He went to Hawai'i in the late 19th c., ministered to lepers and died of the disease. He is the spiritual saint of lepers and outcasts, he shares his feast day  he seems like he was fantastic guy and in spite of all that this sculpture is still very, very creepy.


In Bruges, we saw a lot of great pictures by Flemish Primitives. One of the most interesting things about them was that the collection was big enough to show how, say, Gerard David, trotted out a load of standard pictures, bish, bash, bosh, and they're ok, but then someone would pay him real cash and give him a major altarpiece to do, and he would concentrate, and the result would be a whole different kettle of fish.

Basically, human beings are not always at their best. Think of that the next time you slag someone off for missing an easy chance at the far post.*

I'm not sure who painted this next painting, which is in the Groeningemuseum, like most of the Primitives. You only get a vague sense from my photo, but God is being really twinkly and proud, and Jesus is doing a massive 'Daaaaaad! Don't embarrasssssss me!' expression as he leans away. It's properly funny, even before you notice the bowling ball.
Finally for Bruges: outside the Sint-Janshospitaal Museum was a sculpture called Pax. You can't get a sense of its serenity-slash-melancholy from any picture, but it is absolutely excellent.

* Petworth House in Sussex is full of Turners. Lots are great. One, of Shakespeare's Jessica, is widely regarded as among Turner's biggest duffs. A critic on its first hanging described it as 'a lady getting out of a large mustard-pot'. I see what he means.

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