Friday, 30 May 2014

Fire Crews Leave the Art School

A week after the fire, the fire crews which have been in attendance 24 hours a day have finally left the Glasgow School of Art.

Grateful crowds gathered to give them a heroes' send-off with cheering and applause.

There was even a piper.

Now it's down to the serious business of what has been lost, what has been saved, and what can be restored and rebuilt.

Bearsden Cross War Memorial

I was out yesterday photographing the war memorial at Bearsden Cross for a future drawing project that I have in mind.  (Joan Eardley drew and painted in the same area when she was young.  There are some drawings that she did of New Kilpatrick Cemetery.)

This is something that I saw every day when I was growing up, and I loved it dearly. I didn't know until decades later that my own grandfather sculpted war memorials (which you can read about HERE).

The War Memorial stands at Bearsden Cross at the busy junction of the Drymen and Roman Roads (and if you want to photograph it, you have to take your life in your hands, as the best view is from the middle of the junction). 

It was unveiled on Saturday 14th May 1924, and features a bronze group by sculptor Alexander Proudfoot of two 9 foot figures which stand on a 15 foot pedestal of Portland Stone, from down in Dorset.  That's quite an imposing pile.

The group represents 'The Triumph of Sacrifice'. There was comprehensive coverage of the unveiling ceremony in The Glasgow Herald of 16th May 1924, Page 5. In a note to the newspaper, the sculptor Alexander Proudfoot wrote:
'The Bronze group shows a winged angelic figure supporting the figure of a stricken youth.  The figure of the Youth represents the sacrifice of the nation's youth and the winged figure symbolises the National Consciousness of the sacrifice and also the Victory.  The head of the winged figure turns towards the Youth expressing by the action the divine regard and preciousness of the sacrifice.' 

I knew nothing of these sentiments when I was little.  In fact, they all sound somewhat jingoistic.  I loved it because, although it was a memorial to war, for me it had a huge emotional sense of security and trust.  It was my statue, not anything to do with war.  Because who wouldn't want that sort of very tangible love and support and affirmation, and from an angel? 

In fact, looking at the statue for the first time close up through the telephoto lens of my camera, I can see that there is a little smile, almost of reassurance or contentment, on the face of the youth.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Thistle Run 2014

I was out on Sunday with my mini for the Thistle Run, the biggest annual mini rally in Scotland.  My mini is the only car to have completed all 15 Thistle Runs.

This year, 182 cars travelled from Newtongrange to Eyemouth.  Ok, I know, not exactly Paris-Dakar...
There were some amazing minis to be seen.  Here's something you don't see every day.  Fingers on the buzzers....

Any ideas?

Take a look at the badge, the external hinges, the quarter lights....

It's an Australian Clubman, and an upmarket 'S' model at that.

(Although, to be strictly accurate, all Australian Mini Clubmans built after 1973 aren't actually Clubmans.  The Clubman was a specific model that was only manufactured as such in Australia for less than two years, after which the Clubman name was dropped and all Minis became Leyland Minis.)

However, a mini rally isn't all about super-rare cars or mint-condition concourse models.  It's this sort of mini which makes the heart beat faster - mostly out of sheer fright at the thought of the four people who travelled up from Somerset in it.

 This photo really doesn't convey the...airiness, shall we say....of its condition.  

Love it!  I drove all the way to Italy in a car like this.
Actually, that's not true.  Mine was a whole lot worse.  I'll have to find the photos....

 An engine bay full of hay.  Respect!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

After the Fire

I was at the Art School on Monday, where there are still firemen and police.  Apparently there are still heat spots in amongst the timbers, so the building isn't safe, although some charred artefacts were being carried out and taken down the hill to the McLellan Galleries.   

 There is still a very strong smell of burnt wood, like a bonfire.  

A crowd of people are standing around, looking concerned, watching some men dangling in a small cage on an inspection crane.  

It's like anxious relatives gathered round the bed of a very sick relative, waiting for news.

Apparently so much was saved (90% of the building structure and 70% of the contents) because the firemen had practiced for years with models of the Grade 1 listed, sprinkler-free building.  So they knew exactly where to fight the fire, and set up a human shield with hoses to form a fire-break to stop the blaze spreading into other parts of the building.  Hence you can see the clear delineation here.  

When you saw how fierce the fire was, and how it was jumping through the building up stairwells and along timbers, that was incredibly brave stuff.

The library is all gone.

The Hen Run is all gone too - this is the view from Sauchiehall Street.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Glasgow School of Art on Fire

Horrible, horrible, horrible to see this.

Mackintosh's masterpiece going up in flames before your very eyes.  It's like watching the Mona Lisa burn.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Whistler Etchings at the University of Glasgow

Here's an interesting article about Whistler's etchings, a huge collection of which are held at my alma mater.


James McNeil Whistler

The University of Glasgow has the biggest collection of the works of James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) , thanks to some nifty negotiations with Whistler's sister in law, who inherited the whole caboodle after his death.  

As a major printmaker, the Whistler Etchings Project is a collaboration between the University of Glasgow,  the Art Institute of Chicago and the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, to fully catalogue his entire collection online.

Whistler with his etching press in Paris

James McNeill Whistler, The Doorway (1879/80)

Access further information and the online catalogue HERE.

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Story of Women in Art

I'll be tuning in to this tonight at 9pm on BBC Two...

It's the story of why there are so few women in the history of art.   It starts with a trip to the Vasari Corridor in the Uffizi in Florence, which is filled with portraits of artists - but only 7% are by women.  Basically there's no Old Mistresses, only Old Masters, not because of a lack of female talent, but because of the obstacles strewn in front of them by... men...!!  .(shakes fist).

The programme discusses why women were confined to subordinate roles of models and muses in art rather than the makers, and it's sad to think of the generations of women who have been unable to fulfill their artistic roles in society because of society.  

Professor Amanda Vickery marches seductively round Europe in a variety of curiously lumpy outfits,

                                                                       (Copyright Matchlight Productions)
looking at women who did actually manage to break through the barriers to use their talent, and who painted the soul and crafted the fabric of the world around them through sheer bloody-minded tenacity.  

Here she is again.

Prof Vickery certainly makes for an engaging narrator, but a curiously unknowledgable one.  For, astonishingly for someone presented as the 'expert' of an art history programme,  Prof V is neither an artist nor an art historian.  Nope, she's a lecturer in British social, political and cultural history. Which is a a bit like having Prof Brian Cox presenting a programme on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

So whilst Amanda makes you empathise with her subject matter, and appreciate the courage of the women who did defy convention, she is a curiously uninformed presenter.  She gets excited over sculptor Properzia di Rossi's clunkily thick-limbed carvings, comparing them to Michaelangelo.  They're not like Michelangelo..  

 Properzia de’ Rossi, Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, Cathedral of San Petronio, Bologna, 1525-1526

Her judgement of what is 'good art' is therefore skewed by the fact that it's done by a female.  Just because a woman has broken the mould to make it in a man's world, doesn't mean all female art is all 100% astonishing.  But unfortunately the Prof doesn't have the art history clout to be able to make an informed decision on this. 

So why have Amanda front the series?  Because (a) she's a professor, and hopefully nobody will notice she's actually just a random professor, (b) she's got just the right amount of informed gravitas, if not the necessary knowledeable depth, and (c) she looks jolly nice in a frock.  

"Amanda’s greatest weakness is a love of clothes," chirps the last line of her website homepage ( thus undermining any sense that the woman might actually have a brain.  Have a look at her photo above - hand on hip in a minxy frock in a dining room.  No cliches there, eh? 

The fact that a non-expert has been chosen to front a programme on women in art fundamentally undermines the whole 'let's finally take women's art seriously' premise.  Which is a real shame. 

Anyway... the programme covers di Rossi, the first female sculptor, Sofonisba Anguissola, who painted at court and was admitred across her long life by both Michelangelo and van Dyke; Lavinia Fontana (who combined a career with being pregnant 11 times), Clara Peeters, and Judith Leyster who gave it all up at 26 to get married.  Pah.

Judith Leyster, The Jolly Toper

And, of course, the woman whom Germaine Greer called, in her clunkily leaden tome The Obstacle Race,  'the magnificent exception' - radfem heroine, Artemisia Gentileschi.  Read more about her in my blog HERE.  

Artemisia Gentilieschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes (Oil on canvas, 1620) 

Despite being raped by her tutor, Artemisia testified against him during a 7-month long-drawn out trial, during which her reputation was dragged through the mud.  She eventually resorted to offering to be tortured with thumb-screws to prove she was telling the truth - risking ruining the very hands with which she painted to prove her innocence.  

Now that's bravery.


Read more in the producer's blog HERE.

If you've any interest in art, tune in.  If you've any knowledge of art, shed a small tear.

And Prof V - if your greatest weakness really is your love of clothes (rather than your lack of a degree in Art History), then please, get some decent foundation garments. 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

20/21 International Art Fair Opens

The big art fair event at the Royal College of Art in London opens today!

I've got work on the Duncan R Miller Fine Arts stand, so do drop by and see it if you're in London today or over the weekend.

Here is a link for a  FREE TICKET FOR TWO to the fair, saving £16 - just print out, go, and enjoy!

For more information, go to the art fair website HERE.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Paisley Art Institute Exhibition Opens

Back from my trek around the country with Yes!  so feeling rather dull and ordinary just now.

however, I'm just in time for tomorrow evening's opening of the Paisley Art Intitute Annual Exhibition.  It's the 126th show, and promises to be the biggest and best.  

And amazingly I've got 5 paintings in this year.  Five!!  So it's all very exciting.

Winter Afternoon, Trafalgar Square (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)

Two Cranes, Bristol Harbour (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

SS Great Britain with Yachts, Bristol (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

Botallack (Mixed, 23 x 23)

Lilac Waves (Oil, 10 x 10)

The show officially opens on Saturday 17th May at the Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, and continues until 22nd June.