Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Photography of John Turner

There's a wonderful article on the BBC website about the finding of an old suitcase full of photographs, which prove to be a glimpse of the past and an insight into a person.

Read the article here.

The photos are the work of John Turner, a property manager who died in 1987, and who loved taking photos, but never made a big thing of it to his family.  It was only when he died that his talent was discovered, with images of London from the 1930s to the 50s, and the ordinary people and places of Soho and the street markets.

John seems to have had a need to have a creative outlet - there was a catalogue from the first surrealist exhibition in the 1920s in London in his possessions when he died.  did he long to be a bohemian artist?  Take a look at both the Surrealist overtones and the humour of this shop window scene.

 Bond Street, London, 1960 - John Turner

He certainly has an eye for the quirky and the spontaneuous, getting close to his subjects with his camera, in a way that suggests he was easy-going and non-confrontational, making them feel at ease and allowing them to be natural.  It reminds me very much of the work of ordinary nanny-by-day, photographer-on-her-time-off, Vivian Maier.  

 A woman collecting for the PDSA charity, Regent Street, London, 1955 - John Turner

Apparently he only took one exposure of each subject, so he waited to compose the scene and get it just right, or pressed the trigger at the right moment.  (Maier similarly went out with only one roll of film on each photo expedition, observing and taking one exposure of each subject to tell the story of her journey, until the film was completed, then returning home.)  

Look at how he's managed that capture of the perfect moment here.  Not easy with a cumbersome old camera.

 Passing in the street, London, 1956 - John Turner

Similarly, some of Turner's photos have a certain detatched feel, a voyeur or an observer, although his are more playful than Maiers'. 

 Policemen seen from above on Charlotte Street, London, 1934 - John Turner

Hers have a certain sadness at the heart of them, his are playful. Hers are, I feel, like a very controlled cry, saying 'I matter, I am here.'  

Both are a way of saying 'there is more to us than people normally see'.

Neither collections were designed to be exhibited.  They were purely private.  A lot of the photos of both Vivian and John were never developed in their lifetime.  There was just a deep personal need to document and create.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Which Five Would You Choose?

I don't go a bundle on Simon Schama as an art historian, but this is an interesting little exercise from the rather clunky 'Civilisations' programme on the BBC.


Schama picks his top five paintings, and gives the reasons why he considers them to be masterpieces.  It's a nice, wide selection, with good arguments for their inclusion.

He chooses...

Las Meninas - Velázquez

In terms of a royal portrait, it's certainly an audaciously modern and unique take - the King and Queen are just distant ghosts in the mirror, trapped by the frame, whilst the artist and the act of creating their image takes centre stage and the minor characters of the court spill out in a procession of vigour and life across the canvas.  We are the King and Queen, in fact.  That's almost an act of treason!  Sovereignty lies in the people.  It's a hugely intelligent, modern and influential piece.

The Night Watch - Rembrandt

I saw this earlier this year in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.  It's stunning, and crackles with energy and movement.

The Ceiling of the Wurzburg Residence - Tiepolo

Now, I've been to Wurzburg a few times, but I've never seen it.

The Madonna of Loreto - Caravaggio

I'm right on board with this one.  Caravaggio rocks.  For sheer 'how did he do that?', no-one touches him. Painter of the people. 

and lastly

Starry Night over the Rhone- Van Gogh

Schama argues that the reason it's there is for sheer sizzling, cosmic at-one-with-universeness, and I can see that.

See what you think!  

Which paintings would you choose?

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Yes Fan Convention and Yes at the London Palladium, Sunday 25th March 2018

Well done everyone, here we are at the last leg. Brace, brace, because this one's an epic.

Yes, today is the biggie.  Fan Convention (massive thanks to Brian Neeson) AND last concert. It's a big coming together, and also the big letting go.

It starts with British Summer Time contriving against us, with the clocks going forward an hour (although some people put their clocks an hour back by mistake..).  Having had about 10 minutes of sleep, we have to leave the hotel before breakfast to do a Yes Bus Tour of London.

The 4 hour bus tour is an absolute hoot.   Abbey Road, Advision Studios, and to my deep pleasure, the house where Something's Coming was photographed, which sadly, I've always wanted to see. Seriously.  Here it is.

(Although we weren't taken to here, which was photographed at the same time and must be very close by, as the band are all wearing the same clothes, right down to the sunglasses still hooked into Jon's pocket.)

Thrillingly, the bus tour also involved being taken to the demolition site that was Blaises Night Club, where the only known picture of the band with Tony O'Reilly was taken (rather oddly) in a sauna.

Then it was back to the Palladium just in time for the big moments of our two favourite tribute bands.  Seyes...

and Fragile, with the lovely Claire Hammill, who I last saw on tour with Jon Anderson.

Even Roger Dean was persuaded to sing.

There was a display of Roger's iconic artwork, plus memorabilia.

I've got this single!!

Here's Roger's original 1972 artwork for the sleeve notes of Close to the Edge, showing how he papered over a mistake in the credits.  It's all hand-drawn! Even the lines round the edge.  I can't tell you how exciting it was looking at the original of the thing I've owned for decades - it was like looking at the original artwork for Lucienne Day's Spectators.

Here's Roger signing my CD (even though I can't play a CD)...

book signings by famous authors with excited fans...

band Q&A... 

It was a jam-packed day.  So after dinner and a couple of glasses of champagne, it was time for the final show of the tour.

Wait, who's this here to introduce it?  None other than the very droll jazz-tastic ex-drummer of early Yes, Professor William Bruford.

And we're off.. "Welcome to Sunday Night at the London Palladium!" shouted Steve.  We looked down at our 'Yes Bingo' cards and ticket the first box.

I'm sure by now you can tell which songs these photos are from.  Yours is No Disgrace for starters.

Even from where I am sitting in Row G, I can see that there is a tear in Jon's eye.

"Mouse One - I've told you before - light up your fag...PUFF!!!"

It's scary how far you can zoom in from Row G.

Yikes!  Who's this?  Oh yes, it's Trevor. 

Now, to be fair, some people heard the voice of an angel, authentically singing Tempus Fugit like it should be sung. 

I heard 'Squaaaaaaaaawkkk!!!" 

A crowd mercifully on its feet and down at the front for the encore.

And that's it.  All over.  Thank you, gentlemen, thank you.

The parting of the ways.