Saturday, 28 January 2012

Every day evocations

Hands up if every time you do a simple everyday task it reminds you - relentlessly - of someone in your life? It is funny how our daily lives in all their repetitive glory conjure up people from our lives unbidden almost faultlessly. For instance every time I change the duvet on the bed I am taken back to 18 years old and my first duvet on leaving home and the time I was advised to tackle the awkward job by a friend. Every 10 days I almost always find myself in a reverie thinking about her - she died quite young sadly. Until I moved to internet banking she was also summoned when I worked out my spending using her suggested method - she was definitely an organised person.
duvet stress

glass milk bottles
In some ways it is sad when the catalyst to this memory changes. I no longer reminisce about my uncle when I wash milk bottles [he advised use cold water] as I use cartons now and I miss that prompt.

Many of the triggers are food related. The last meal I shared with my father was scrambled egg on toast and so cooking that will always bring his memory to the fore. My grandmother and her lovely rock cakes are an association recently revived by my partner's cake making craze. Gooseberries and box hedges make me think of an aunt I was very fond of as a child who had a wonderful garden. Pipe smokers take me straight to my grandfather who enjoyed his pipe right up to his death at 94!
box hedge

Sometimes it is hard to work out why an association is there at all. When I play Scrabble it almost always makes me think of a particular family I worked with as a social worker.

Of course - and this is for another blog - there are many sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures that also have associations but for now I just wanted to look at everyday things that were links to important people in my life.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

7 people I would like to meet

A perennial blogging favourite that I have been prompted to think about by Arlee. I have chosen real people and to make life simpler they are all dead. I think it would be good to imagine them together round  table chewing the fat though when you read my selection you will see there might be some linguistic challenges!

William Morris
William Morris
William Morris was a nineteenth century English textile designer, writer and socialist associated with the Pre Raphaelites and he lived his life with such passion and with a vision of beauty and harmony. My house, like many, is full of his designs 120 years after his death.

Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft, a writer and philospher from the eighteenth century  is considered to be a founder of the feminism. Not sure how she would feel about how women have fared in the ensuing centuries.

Sophocles was the most famous playwright of his day ( 496-406 BC) and a rare long lived member of this list. He is best known for one of his Theban plays and his story about  Oedipus. He would be speaking in ancient Greek but let's imagine there is a translating device involved here!

Marie Curie
Marie Curie
As a nineteenth century Polish scientist Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for her pioneering work  in the field of radiation. She went on to win another Nobel Prize in a different science and only one other person has ever achieved this. A driven woman with grit and determination for a whole lifetime.

 Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
Diego Rivera was a Mexican painter who became famous for his murals which portrayed the lives of working people. Wish I had known about him when I visited San Francisco 20 years ago where his some of his murals are now in a gallery. His political views and their inclusion in his art made his career a checkered one. If he came to a meeting it would be good to have Frida Kalho, his most famous wife along too [ he had others as he was somewhat of a womaniser]. Frida, also Mexican who was most known for her self portraits. A tortured woman, she was disabled first by Polio and then by a traffic accident. Their relationship was tempestuous and any event would be interesting with the two of them there.
Frida Kahlo

Diego Rivera

George Orwell

George Orwell 

Born at the turn of the century Eric Blair, using his pen name George Orwell is an inspiration because of his biting satire and dystopian novels like 1984. He lived a short but never dull life and he unwittingly left us several words that have entered our vocabulary especially "Big Brother," "Room 101," and  "thought police,"

Kathe Kollwitz

Kathe Kollwitz
I know this one is number eight but I sneaked Frida in under Rivera's cape. Kathe Kollwitz was another imaginative artist with an eye for the common man the lives of whom she depicted in sometimes harrowing misery and without the sentimental approach many of her fellow artists were adopting.  Another person ahead of her time with a feeling for her fellow man. I would like to show her one of my sculptures inspired by one of her charcoal drawings.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Eyes are playing tricks again

I wanted to get down some initial thoughts about Trompe-l'oeil or trick of the eye which has been a theme running through the art world since it was possible to create such effects.

I am thinking about such classics as Rex Whistler's work at Plas Newydd in Wales. This enormous reception room painted by a young Rex - he died in 1944 at only 39 years old - has his mural along the entire wall and it can only be appreciated in situ to see how the images distort and appear to re-present themselves to the eye. It is so important to listen to the guide and the story of the mural too and it is the domestic detail that appeals the most - the pipe he left in the far end of the picture still smoking because he was coming back. All the petty jealousies and the intrigue of the time!  Every bit of the mural has a story behind it...                                                                                                                                                                      

Rex Whistler's mural at Plas Newydd
The brain is so good at filling in the gaps and seeing what it wants to see - we know that from all those popularised psychology tests using partial words and outline pictures with their multiple perspectives, of course. These artists take things to a different plane though. What about people like Kurt Wenner and his pavement art - this one is in Belgium. How would you feel coming across this renaissance rabble in your local street?

Kurt Wenner pavement
Detail Plas Newydd mural
Apart from playing with our perceptions of 3D these artists are also telling stories and sometimes the messages are very dark as they are
here. Sometimes our own Bristol born Banksy, revered by many 12 year old boys as a grafitti artist, nudges towards Trompe-l'oeil with his works which seem to be inspired by natural decay to make often darkly humorous points about society which are sometimes allowed to stay like this one at a clinic for sexual diseases.
Banksy - at the clinic 
Or the ironic workman cleaning graffitti picture...
Banksy dry humour
Some wonderful Trompe-l'oeil is now available to drape round ugly buildings being renovated thanks to advances in digital technology. Look at this Brussels building I photographed a while back - so clever. It certainly brightened my day.
Draped building Brussels

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Don't talk to me about Life

I have been musing about people's positive and negative attitudes to life having been acutely aware of the difference these attitudes make to those around them since childhood. My parents, for instance were at the extreme ends. To Dad waiting at a busy road to turn right in the car meant "We'll be here all day" or "Well never get out of here" and to Mum it meant looking for an opportunity and a "chance to shine". If the weather turned dull and it started to rain to Dad it meant "it's set in for the day" and to Mum it meant it was a "clearing up shower" or if there was a smidgeon of blue in the sky she used the hopeful  "enough to make a Dutchman's pair of trousers" saying. When I was older she and I even had a jokey way of imagining what tiny strips of blue sky sky were enough for which Dutchman's apparel!

random pouting child
My brother  tended to his Dad's side as a child in the optimism-pessimism stakes and we felt it most keenly on holiday. His moaning, pouting lips were dubbed as "Lips to Penzance" [we were mostly in Cornwall in the early years ] and I later re dubbed this in my own children as "Lips to Kettering" as we were midland based.

As an 18 year old I went on a boat trip to Denmark. 18 hours at sea and 4 hours in the country in effect. All the people I went with moaned the whole time about how BORED they were and I left them and joined another group who were dressed up in animal skins as some kind of history group and we danced all the way there and back through storm and calm. I had a whale of a time! It taught me a valuable lesson I think.

There is something quite amusing about taking a pessimistic view on things though. We all love characters like Eeyore and I have plenty of Eeyore like people in my life...more on conspiracy theorist another time perhaps.

Eeyore - why does it always rain on me?
Another character that amuses me is Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhikers Galaxy to the Galaxy with his entreaties.."don't talk to me about life"  and his moans that he has "The brain the size of a planet  and all I get is "Open the door Marvin"".  
Of course we all have days when we have every reason to feel negative and days [or moments even] when we feel unaccountably cheerful or miserable. Even though we might like to think we are in control of our emotions I think how we view life is overwhelmingly down to the chemical changes that are going on in our body and not a lot to do with how the others around you are behaving.