30 November 2021

I was born in the 1900s

What is this thing lately where people refer to periods of history as "in the 1600s"? Is this yet another example of dumbing down, for people who don't understand "in the 17th century"?* I am even hearing those presenters on the BBC antiques programmes using this, even Susie Dent on Countdown when she talks about etymology

Let me explain... Often, whilst watching a TV programme or reading a book, I see/hear a sentence akin to "the mid-1800s was a busy time for industry" so I expect to hear about the late Georgian innovations, the Regent's Canal, etc. But then they start talking about the railways and the Great Exhibition and I realise they mean the middle of the 19th century, the mid-1850s, the Victorian era. 

Similarly, "in the late 1600s" is really confusing – this could now have two meanings. It could be alluding to either the first or the last decade of that century! It's extremely frustrating and confusing, and creates a situation where information might be incorrectly shared because the terminology is vague. I have even heard presenters on TV programmes using both styles within a five minute timeframe. Eh? What? When?!

Dates stamps on buildings, from the 1800s 1900s (ha ha). This collection of images originally appeared in Dec 2011

However, whilst this new cover-all century-wide style seems to be becoming commonplace when referring to the dim distant past, I notice it is not being applied to recent history. A comparison I use to try to put a halt this silliness, is to point out to my contemporaries that we must have all been born in the 1900s (er, the Edwardian era)!

Oh, and don't get me started about the insertion of rogue apostrophes/possessives such as "Jane was born in the 1960's. No no no!!!  To clarify: the 1960s is an era (plural), Jane is wearing a 1960's dress (of that era/possessive).  I hope that helps, ha ha.

*perhaps this is for people who also cannot read a map, who don't understand where north is and how once you know that and have established a simple point of reference the rest is easy.

14 November 2021

Summer Show 2021 and Late Constable at the Royal Academy

I've seen a lot of art these past few weeks. And it's all good.

Last week I went to the Royal Academy Summer Show which this year is not restricted to a few weeks in the summer . It's a riot of colour and sort of reflects all the street art and road crossings that are brightening up the City at the moment.* I also like that this year's show has a greater percentage of textured, textural, handmade pieces such as collages and interesting things made out of found, recycled or collected objects. 

So absorbed was I that I only took a few photos and these include, top left, a sculpture by an artist friend, Jaana Fowler. I couldn't take a snap of my mate Johnny Bull's framed print because it was set so high on the wall – hey JB; well done re all those red dots!

And so to the small, but very absorbing, Late Constable exhibition at the RA which I visited on the same day as the Ron Mueck show in nearby Dover Street,

This interested me because I really like John Constable's sketches and preliminary work, more than I do his finished paintings which I often find a bit over-egged, chocolate boxy and twee. This show has some marvellous before and after comparisons (guess which ones I like best!) and lots of his weather studies – rainbows, storms, clouds etc, which reminded me of my A-Level art years when I was trying myself to master a decent cloud-painting technique, with an idea to produce an indulating old-style rollercoster (man made) against a backdrop of cumulonimbus (nature). I never quite got the hang of the clouds and I sort of gave up. Instead I made a simple graduation in the background that I wan't really pleased with. I must have dumped the lot or left it all in the plans chest there because, having just looked through my 6th form sketchbooks and other works I have saved from that era, I can't find any ref of that at all, and I now wish I'd been able to view Constable's efforts when I was a teenager to see how he too struggled to capture the ever-changing Great British sky.

It wasn't just the paintings and sketches that intigued me. We were at first perplexed by the studs and sliders on some of the frame (top right, above), something that we'd never noticed before but surely must be reasonably commonplace. We decided the sliders must be the closing mechanisms and the studs must be little handles to enable the front section, including the glass, to be flipped forward to allow the canvas to be loaded from the front, rather than from the rear which how modern frames are constructed. Please correct me if you know better.

There's plenty of time to see both exhibitions – The Summer Show runs until 2nd January 2022 and  Late Constable until 13th February – both ticketed. However, there are galleries and exhibitions at the RA that are free and well worth a visit. I'd particularly recommend the Collections Gallery on the first floor at the rear (easier via the Burlington Gdns entrance) where there are some marvellous artworks. Also, in the low level linking corridor adjacent to the toilets and lovely cafe, there are some absoultely stunning pieces of sculpture. Find out what's on at the RA here.

*Tbh, I'm not eally keen on those colourful crossings – the ones outside the RA along Piccadilly are looking really mucky these days. There's a good reason roads are a grey colour!

11 November 2021

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Ron Mueck at the Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery – Wow in all respects

I had no idea about this superb gallery until I walked inside the door of this unassuming, yet beautifully renovated, Georgian house in Dover Street earlier this week. My friend and I had gone there to see the impressively realistic sculptures created by Ron Mueck and neither of us were ready for the place to be, what has been quoted as, possibly the loveliest gallery in London. 

As we entered Thaddaeus Ropac's gallery we were immediately impressed by the gorgeous wide hallway that leads through to a large room at rear of the building where three of Mr Mueck's pieces are displayed, a room I assume was once used for soirees, dancing or entertainment. Above the receptionist's desk in the hallway there is a gorgeous lightwell in the ceiling that offers tempting views of the floors above and I imagined young ladies looking down dressed in ballgowns, giggling as their party guests arrived.

Ron Mueck's pieces arranged over the ground and first floor, accessed by a superb marble staircase. His works are always oversized or undersized, never lifesize, and I find them absolutely fascinating, which is odd because I am not a fan of photo-realistic paintings. Perhaps it's the scale thing. This exhibition is a selection of 25 years' work and I distinctly recall my sense of awe the first time I saw Dead Dad at the Sensation exhibition and his overly-large Crouching Boy within the Body Zone at the Millennium Dome, in 2000. 

Another bonus – a room immediately to the left of the front door contains a small Marcel Duchamp exhibition – oh what a provocative naughty boundary-pushing man he was!

Everything about this gallery is worth going to see. Oh, and it's free. What's not to like?!