Florence & Venice

Well I wanted to go to see the quattrocento masterpieces in the Uffizzi Gallery in Florence and many of my friends had been more than enthusiastic about Venice so we did a 2-centre holiday which was , of course , exhausting .


One of those places everyone should go to – like Paris , Istanbul ? Firstly if you know anything about art history or English literature a lot of what you see will be familiar – the tall buildings with classical proportions neatly plastered and painted in warm colours , the red tiles on the slightly sloping roofs above the many roof gardens/terraces and lifting your eyes further up , the Tuscan landscape so often seen in the background of Renaissance Annunciations & portraits . And yes it looks just as good in real life as in many an English watercolour or as described by Elizabeth Barret Browning . A surprise was that the obviously modern buildings also exhibited classical proportions and thus fitted in and managed to be pleasing to the eye – even concrete blocks of flats . In fact my son said he had not seen so many examples of the Golden Ratio all together before .

Secondly the Uffizzi is (as it boasts) one of the greatest Art Galleries in the world . Of course I went to see the obvious Botticellis ;

Primavera (Spring)

The Birth of Venus

Both of these are bigger than I imagined and luckily were hung high up so that you could see most of each despite being  several feet deep in people listening to tour guides while endlessly taking photos . Anyone would think that there no photographic images available anywhere ! Or silly non-information about these 2 very pagan icons if that is what you want . Most importantly they are so much better in real life than in a reproduction – they are indeed staggering to contemplate . Unfortunately the Uffizzi has no seating where the paintings are , so looking properly (ie for long enough at a time) is difficult . There were many other Botticellis ; my son particularly liked this fresco from a villa –


and I this with yet more pagan/classical references !

Pallas (Athene) & the Centaur

But there were also Fillipino Lippi , Giotto and Uccello’s wonderful battle scene which again was much bigger than I had imagined . Downstairs they had later stuff which was less to my taste – especially a whole room devoted to decapitations ! But also many portraits and Titian’s Venus – beautiful .

If there were no paintings the Uffizzi would be worth a visit for the marble statuary – including Roman originals and the long wide corridors largely housing them (the paintings are in rooms off to the side) . These corridors or galleries also looked a little familiar and then I realised that almost every “country house” I have ever visited in England was trying to imitate the painted ceilings , the inlaid marble floors and the processions of marble statuary…..but the original is just better – or maybe the climates clash too much !


I fear I was less entranced here because oddly it was again familiar . I have read so much in the way of romantic nostalgia for its faded glories and ‘raddled’ beauty and lately also about how it will sink beneath the Adriatic due to faulty engineering or (more likely) climate change , that the dilapidated state of so many buildings was no surprise . Indeed Venice is so obviously largely dependent on tourism that I suspect things are kept at just the right level to ensure romantic decadence but prevent complete disintegration . Me I don’t like decay , sorry .

The most glorious thing I saw in Venice was St Mark’s Basilica and this was unexpected . All the photographic images I had ever seen made it look like a more than usually OTT wedding cake . But , no . In real life it is sumptuous , magnificent and clearly a case of Venice showing off when at the height of its power – but not OTT . If you get the chance spend some time looking carefully at the façade before going inside . They have lovely scale models explaining its building and repair at different times . You can see these by way of stairs which are more reasonable than most English church towers’ – I never did get all the way up St Paul’s ! – and also let you up behind the horses on the façade . But not behind the lion which is St Mark the Evangelist’s symbol and so all over the place . The best reasons for going inside ? The gold mosaics on the walls and inside the domes and the floor which can only be described as marquetry in stone . Some of the sections were put together to produce a trompe l’oeil effect which was positively Escheresque !

And here is Jen-Li Shih’s beautiful stainless steel rhinoceros  which we found in a park near where we were staying . It is currently the Venice Biennale for architecture and a sculpture exhibition was part of it . My partner’s photographs :


Artist’s first page of his website



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July exhibition at The Healing Clinic , Merchantgate , York

2D pieces framed by HJP

These 2 collages and 2 drawings were the only new work shown in the end because I had great difficulty finding stuff I had already made , never mind getting new stuff done !

The exhibition was originally going to be for 2 weeks , then until the end of July – now it is going to be up until someone else books the space or I want to take it down .

Here is the usual stuff I exhibit – looking better than usual in this venue !


Posted in ceramics, Drawings, Plates, Textiles, Uncategorized, Vessels | 2 Comments

More oddments : GDPR & exhibition

Firstly re the GDPR law coming in to force on May 25 & originating in the EU :

I was alerted to the fact that it might affect blogs by EU citizens by this blogpost . Note particularly his reply to the 1st comment :


Since I do not sell from my blog nor do I own the website it seems unlikely that I am intended to be included in the new more stringent data protection regulations however it is worth saying that I do not see the email addresses of my followers or commenters . If they are visible on the old admin. page as nannus says then I undertake not to look – supposing I could find it ! So I cannot share or use the information and WordPress is responsible for storage . I hope all of you out there are satisfied with this and are happy to continue commenting & following .

Secondly I have an exhibition coming up at the end of June – the dates are not yet final . With the venue I will have to concentrate on 2d stuff so I hope my son will find time to do a few more of his nice frames for some of my large collection of drawings & collages – all as yet unshown . I also hope to complete another tile panel a bit like this one –

It would be a bit more complicated because I used the tiny amounts of test ash glazes to do it and there were far more than 3 as here . I may also have time to do another felt or two . I have some ideas……..

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Oddments – exhibition , watercolour , musings

Nine nude figures

Pendant in Egyptian style

Ceramic plate

Left – seated man . Right – dancing figure .

The exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds until February 18 is “Becoming Henry Moore” which shows many early works (1914-1930) juxtaposed with sculpture felt likely to have influenced him – contemporary , classical and ancient/non-Western – the British Museum category . I’ve only had time for a quick look as yet but I was intrigued by these early (1921) pieces :



















Firstly I have only ever seen sculptural designs and his famous drawings of people from WW2 in air raid shelters by way of 2d work before . Secondly I wondered why he largely gave up colour ? Anyway I’ll go again when I have more time .

The watercolour learning process continues . Well I hope that is what is happening . Here is my uncompleted sleeping cat , Memphis as it happens .

Sleeping because they stay still longest like that – I’ve never managed ‘action shots’ of any cat . Unfortunately I didn’t get enough detail on the initial crayon drawing and then got too interested in mixing the colours . She looks too gingery in this photo but it isn’t bad for the background to her tabby patches . I should have sketched out the decoration on the background cushion too – I was too pleased that I got the dark brown accurately of the velvet one on the right .

Since I have not succeeded (yet again) in being accepted for a PhD course I have been wondering why I keep trying ? Here are some possible reasons :

1 I’m still trying to impress my deceased parents – and competing with my father who never completed his .

2 I’m a glutton for punishment – you can spend months on application forms and drafting research proposals which is a waste if you don’t get in .

3 I’m not used to failing applications for courses – jobs are a different matter !

4 It would be an excuse for not getting on with work and trying to sell it ie spending 3 years writing 1000s of words which perhaps no one will read is less scary than exposing myself/my work to gallery owners .

5 It would somehow validate my choosing to be an artist at all .

Yes they all sound pretty bad !

Incidentally I cannot disrecommend York St John University enough . If they thought I was utter crap they could have told me at once instead of getting me to repeat information which I spent hours entering carefully on their online application form and depending on me to record their own email correspondence . So if you apply there keep screenshots of every page of the form and save all emails from them . It might save some aggravation . You might even get in and then be able to see their facilities finally !

Posted in Drawings, other artists, paintings, Plates | 6 Comments

….& downward – when it comes to watercolour at least

OK I did this some months ago while staying at my son’s place so I just had watercolour pencils to draw the leaves’ positions and the tiny box of Winsor & Newton half pans to complete them .

Sweet pepper leaves – Sept 2017    

I then also did this to try and get some control over merging and distinct colours . Perhaps a silly idea ? I can’t get the hang of ‘wet on wet’ and don’t understand how the layering works when it does . If I’m only doing this to provide myself with raw material for collages – my current obsession – maybe I don’t need to get the hang of anything . However my best collages have been put together from pieces which weren’t rubbish to begin with .

I’ve looked at others’ work and even the odd book – the last one actually said that painting was drawing with paint ! At least I’m clear on that – I know I can draw but not paint – despite endlessly being told by tutors that it is ‘just marks on paper’ – has that ever helped anyone , I wonder ? I was attracted by watercolours because of great familiarity with watercolour crayons (Caran d’Ache) and wanting to do backgrounds and colour mixing with the same or better brilliance & transparency . All I had at school were poster colours/gouache which were of course matte & opaque . Later at Art School we had the cheapest possible acrylics mixed only with water so they had a similar disappointing (to me) effect . At a proper Art Shop I realised that many different media have been developed for acrylics so that many effects are possible in fact . But watercolours are very compatible with the equivalent crayons so I went for that .

As to my idea of doing garden studies as the plants & weather changed , that really hasn’t worked out . I’m not good enough or don’t actually like what’s there that much . I got in the habit of taking snapshots rather than drawing anything . In the end I had more than 20 so-called reference photos but didn’t want to turn them into drawings or paintings . I’ve done one which probably exemplifies the problem .



I don’t know when I took this or why exactly . When I draw things I always start from the centre with whatever is the most important bit to me . A photograph shows up all the irrelevant bits which a drawing (and ideally any resulting work) would leave out !



As to the attempt to draw and then paint this – oh dear !





So photographs are not at all helpful to me in drawing or my struggles with painting . No more snapshots because it’s too cold outside or I can’t be bothered to get a chair out of the garage . Anyway what is our lovely sunroom for ? Not just breakfast !

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I’ve been meaning to post about an exhibition in York and my continuing attempts to learn how to use watercolours for some months . However a rather grim Autumn and winter culminated in a 2-week stay in bed over the festive (supposedly) bit and a currently slow recovery .

The Exhibition

Nash, Paul; Winter Sea; York Museums Trust

It was entitled ‘Paul Nash & the Uncanny landscape’ and curated by John Slezack . The best thing about it were the examples of work by Paul Nash and  his brother John in the left hand inner room . This included graphic work and photographs as well as the paintings which for both , followed on from their WW1 work . I wasn’t convinced by the association of the quotation from ‘The Uncanny Landscape’ (essay or book?) with Paul Nash or any other of the interwar British landscape painters . Landscapes are often uncanny , not because of war but because artists find what they are looking for in them as in all other subjects (cf Goya , Dali , Fuseli , Caspar David Friedrich) . And British landscape painters are not and have never been any more romantic or realistic than any others (NB Constable who was neither) . Slezack must have been chosen for his eminence (he cut up black & white photos of Hollywood starlets at the RCA in the 1960s) but I don’t see why he was particularly suitable to curate this exhibition -altho’ anyone would jump at the chance of being associated with Paul Nash , obviously .

Just look at these !

The exhibition continues until the 15th of April this year .


Don’t Forget the Diver – drawing with newsprint


  The Corner 1919

Harbour & Room 1930

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Berlin 2 : 2 museums and an art gallery

1 The Berggruen Museum

This was built especially to house the collection of its namesake . He was of German Jewish family and emigrated to the USA before WW2 . There he had a selling gallery and began to collect , partly through his friendships with contemporary artists like Picasso . He brought himself & his collection back to Berlin after WW2 once he had ‘made his peace with Germany ‘ . The nice thing is that unlike modern collections by millionaires all the pieces are room and house sized – you could imagine the 2D works hung in any normal room and the 3D in an entrance hall . They have thus arranged the works in smallish (for a gallery) rooms so that you can go all the way round and then on to the next room without getting lost . Once finished with a floor you are back at the attractive spiral staircase to decide whether to go up or down , all clearly signposted . I was pleased to see Giacometti’s cat .

Only it was actually displayed near the low ceiling so I was looking up at it – as if on a garden wall ?

The revelation was really the Paul Klees . I had not seen any of them in reproduction but then they were (with 1 exception) not in oils which seems to count for so much . So , ink drawings , lithographs , watercolours – floors of them so here is a randomized sample :






On the highest Paul Klee floor was this Alexander Calder mobile which demonstrated what I hadn’t ever noticed before – the obvious influence of Klee on Calder . At first I thought it was a Klee venture into 3D and wondered why I didn’t know about it !

2 The Pergamon Museum

This was in the throes of renovation like the Altes museum on the same square . As I understand it the Pergamon has archaeological stuff from the ancient Near East and the Altes ‘antiquities’ from Classical Greece & Rome but there was definitely Roman stuff in the Pergamon too . Anyway we were there to see the famous Ishtar Gate and something called the Aleppo Room . Here is the first :

I have seen photos before but they hadn’t prepared me for its size – so maybe this won’t either for anyone reading ! It is huge , beautiful and awe-inspiring . The facing is glazed brickwork in golden yellow , white , green , blue and turquoise – the last 3 giving the dappled effect to the background behind the animals . I was interested that the turquoise bricks were clearly the characteristic copper-alkaline colour first used in Egypt for faïence and later known as mohamedan blue for its ubiquity in Islamic pottery . I’m sure I read that the Babylonians didn’t have it then (~600BCE) , the technical brilliance exhibited by the glazed bricks being put down to control of firing . It would have been simple – they traded with Egypt and must have had copper salts available to get the bright green glaze which would have been high in lead salt based fluxes . To get the turquoise to sky blue you would use a much higher proportion of alkaline salt fluxes to lead . Attempting completely lead-free glazes is a very modern concern . Anyway the Ishtar gate was the southern gate of Babylon leading to a processional way echoing the design of the gate . This has been partly reconstructed as well ;

I can’t remember how long it was originally but it was 30m wide ! I don’t know who if anyone gave permission for all this and other parts of buildings to be moved to Germany but I guess they had as much right as colonial rulers like the British & French . Certainly German archaeology was very important in the Middle East in the late 19C & early 20C .





This is the ‘Aleppo Room’ which turns not to be part of a palace but of the house of a Syrian Christian merchant . I can’t remember the date of it (!) but it is painted wood with Biblical texts in Arabic . From the style I’d hazard 13C – 15C ? It has been reconstructed in a room with temperature and humidity control and then put behind glass walls so that you can walk right in and look at the work fairly closely although photographs are rather difficult as you can see .

3 Galerie im der Körnerpark

This was very near the Airb’n’b flat we were staying in in Neukölln in a tiny little park which nevertheless had a fountain and café which was just closing as we visited . The little contemporary art gallery is open until 8pm – most days I think .

Nika Oblak & Primoz Novak

This exhibition entitled ‘And now for something completely different’ – which I can’t remember seeing anywhere – consisted of a series of videos showing on the front of boxes most of which have elastic rather than rigid sides . In each video at some point the action on the screen escapes the box or attempts to . Eg in the above still the pair have unfurled the ‘reality’ banner onscreen and when they lift it up it appears above the screen as it is disappearing from the video space . The pieces here go all the way from fun to disturbing . My son’s rather good idea was that the first one done must have been when the pair try to escape from the box and you see perfectly synchronized stretched points appear in the elastic sides and top as they punch & kick . When she bangs on the front the glass does not move but you hear a ‘ting’ sort of sound . I think that video is the best &/or the most paranoid .

So just 177 museums/galleries to go for the next visits……

Posted in Drawings, Figurative sculpture images, non-figurative scupture, other artists, paintings | 2 Comments