I rarely get to visit London, too rarely in fact, so going for two days in a row last week, felt like a big treat and reminded me that it’s not really that far and I should be more organised and less lazy and visit more often… Yes, it’s mad busy. Yes, I end up walking for too long… but it’s so vibrant and inspiring and buzzing.
This time I joined No 2 child’s art trip – who’s officially not a child because he’s driving! (watch out) – and had a fabulous time. (I did ask and was ‘allowed’ to go. Very gracious of him. He has great teachers and young people are fun to be with, AND me and No 2 had a lovely time too. Bonus. This post might end up being very photo-heavy… but it was that kind of day… visual stimulation galore.
First stop the Tate Modern.
First exhibition: Dora Maar. She had a fascinating life… worth looking up.
She learnt her trade from Man Ray, she was a WWII photographer, a model… I mean… you name it. She’s done it. Awesome.
Next up, something totally different – which is why I love the Tate so much – June Nam Paik, one of the first ‘electronic’ artist… if that’s what you want to call him. He was a visionary, playful, deep… Fascinating to learn about him.
We had some free time to wonder around the rest of the gallery…
On Friday my husband and I – in the tone of the Queen’s speech please! – popped into London to visit the Studio of Paul Vanstone.
Have you ever been into a sculpture Studio? Nah, me neither. Paul makes LARGE pieces and works with marbles and stone from all over the world. Stunning pieces millions of years old…
I first saw his work a couple of years ago at the Chelsea Flower Show and I knew that Mr M would have liked it too…
I love how different the various typed of marbles are, the above black one is from Marocco, the white one is a Carrara marble from Italy… from the same quarry from where Michelangelo used to get his stone… I mean… c’mon!
Every piece had its now personality, almost… even when they had the same shape… not too are ever possibly the same… nature’s miracles.
I really love the tall slender abstract female figures. They’re so strong and dignified… they remind me of ancient temple statues… but from the future… does that make sense? Timeless, yes, they look timeless to me.
And this one too… very midcentury, don’t you think?
Paul is a very interesting gentleman full of interesting stories… he used to work with Hanish Kapoor, has had a studio in Italy, sold sculptures all over the world… and can recommend a lovely Italian restaurant in Notting Hill for lunch! (Where I tried to buy a shearling coat like the one worn by Christine Keeler in the BBC program ‘The Trial of Christine Keeler”… without success.)
It isn’t, it’s only a telegraphic account of my Saturday adventures when together with my parents, I visited Gloucester Cathedral – always a pleasure btw – such an incredible building…
I was really curious to see the moon installation right in the middle of the big nave… awesome… It’s a 7m (23feet) spherical, helium inflated structure created by Luke Jerram and illustrated with photos of the moon by the NASA Lunar Reconnessaince Orbiter. It’s simply mesmerising. The incongruous location increases the wow factor I’m sure, but you just can’t stop looking at it… it’s magical…
… it’s so realistic… it appears almost suspended in mid air…
Isn’t it amazing?
After that, we had tickets to visit the library I never knew existed… you know me and books, right?
Well, the story goes like this: back in the 1400 the Benedictine monks realised that keeping the books they were studying/copying whatever, in the cloister wasn’t a good idea. Extremely cold temperatures and dampness wasn’t good for them or the books so they build what at the time was the first purpose built library in a monastery in the whole of the England. They built a sliver of a building hight between two other buildings’ roofs and there they studied and collected many precious books.
When Henry VIII ordered the dissolutions of all the abbeys, he turned St Peter’s into a Cathedral instead and because it was, even then, famous for its music and choir, and he was rather keen on sang celebrations he kept the library as a school for the chorister to learn latin and so on so they could read the songs etc etc. It was 1541.
Unfortunately the books held in the library at the time got all taken when the old monastery got pillaged by a bankrupt Henry; he might have set up the school and kept the church but he made sure that anything of any value got taken away… The library remained and the collection is slowly growing with time, although none of the books are from earlier than the 1600s.
Still super cool, panelled in wood and full of old books. Heaven.
We’re back in Tokyo for just over 24 hours and after travelling for two weeks the city feels familiar: the noise, the smell, the sounds… it’s why I love travelling so much, this feeling that even the most diverse place can be a little bit like home.
We have a wonder through the city at night and in the morning we headed to the ‘Team Lab – Borderless‘ installation to be amazed. And amazed we were.
It’s like being a kid… room after room of lights and images that mess with your perception a little and at times make you feel you’re in Avatar… know what I mean? Surely you must have wanted to live in that world?
I’ve just said goodbye to the boys for the their first day of school, Lilli – the ferocious beast – is snoring on the sofa already, the builders coming to take down the terrace with their pneumatic hammer have not arrived yet so all it’s calm and quiet in the house. Today it all begins again: the early rides to the bus, the rugby matches, the night training, the homework… my lessons won’t begin for another couple of weeks and whilst I’m really looking forward to going back to college, I know I’m going to relish these last few ‘slow’ days.
A short train ride from Hiroshima took us to Okayama – famous for its peaches apparently – where we took the ferry to Naoshima Island, famous for its art museum. If you like contemporary art this place (and the other Island Teshima) are a must.
We were staying in Benesse House, a hotel/museum place right on Seto Inland Sea (Sea of Japan for the Japanese, China Sea for the Chinese… you pick), designed by the amazing architect Tadao Ando.
For some bizarre reason I have no photos of the outside of the place… and only a few of the inside…
It was a very serene place to stay. The rooms weren’t smartly designed full of clever use of space, great views and comfortable beds.
That afternoon we visited the Chichu Art Museum (designed by Tadao Ando too) which shot up to the top five of the best buildings I’ve ever saw; entirely underground and yet entirely illuminated by natural light…(which means that the light and feel change throughout the days and with the seasons…), it’s just breathtaking. Unfortunately they don’t allow you to take photos but please check the website because it’s worth seen. I once watched a ted talk by a museum curator explaining the battles he went through with the board of his museum about putting their collection on line; he said something that really stuck with me and I whole heartedly agree with him. He asked ‘which is the most famous painting in the world? The Mona lisa, right? everybody knows what the Mona Lisa looks like and yet… it’s the most visited painting in the world. Why?
I strongly believe that people taking photos and showing them to friends doesn’t stop people from wanting to visit… quite the opposite. The Chichu museum is hard to explain in words. The feeling of the place, the light, the sounds… these don’t come out in a photo but people know that which is why they visit in person…
Anyway, check it out. And go visit. There’s a giant room containing 4 of Monet’s waterlilies huge paintings that is spectacular.
After that back on the courtesy bus (in all these places you can hire electric bikes, but we were too late for it) to another small but perfectly form concrete masterpiece, the Lee Ufan Museum. (Another Tadao Ando masterpiece)
The Benesse Museum – not to be confused, with the confusingly Benesse House Museum, is also filled with interesting pieces.
The next day, after a visit to the Yellow Pumpkin – never queued to photograph a pumpkin before, quite an interesting cultural experience let me tell you, hordes of Japanese girls going totally nuts over it…
Another ferry ride took us to Teshima Island, where we had lunch in a local joint and had our first ‘shaven ice’
The main reason for this trip was visiting the Teshima Art Museum, the most amazing and bonkers idea ever. Basically the building IS the installation…a joint effort between the artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa a soft, cavernous building dedicated to water drops. Yes, drops. You take off your shoes, enter the space, no talking and just feel the air swirling around you from too large circle cut out in the ceiling and focus you attention of little water drops emerging from the ground, joining each other, sinking back down… Absolutely compelling. You take off your shoes, enter the space, no talking, and just feel the air swirling around you from too large circle cut out in the ceiling and focus you attention of little water drops emerging from the ground, joining each other, sinking back down… Absolutely compelling.
Again no pictures allowed but I managed to sneak a few for your benefit
… Even the boys were quite taken by this… it was the most peaceful of places.
Enough art for now, you can stay in the islands for many days as there are many more installations/studios/museums to see… they deserve a trip all of their own but sadly this is all we have time for… tomorrow Kyoto!
I was running errands on foot on the hottest day of the year so far so when I passed the city museum, with his cool inviting atrium… it was a no brainer!
I love The Wilson, it’s always beautifully curated, the permanent gallery is very interesting and it has an amazing shop full of beautifully crafted objects by local artists. Definitively worth a look if you need a present.
Anyway, I made my way to the second floor to see the space dedicated to Katy Welsh, the current artist in residence (till August 25th).
A joyous sense of colour, screen printing, mix media, fabric, paper, block printing… all combined with a nod to Matisse, and the Bloomsbury Group…
I loved it.
It’s not a big exhibition, but it’s a delightful way to step out of ”life’ and take a breath or two in the peace and quiet. I highly recommend it.