Posts Tagged ‘Shobdon’

Blackpaint 106

April 7, 2010

Victoria and Albert Museum

Visited here today to see the new Medieval Galleries again, but, once more, got diverted to the Cast Rooms to see the astonishing Shobdon Tympanum again (see Blackpaint 17), the Santiago de Compostela gates with Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel- and then a jump to the Annunciation and the Christ story, progressing upwards.  You have to “read”from top left to bottom, then bottom right to top. 

Checked the cast of the David statue and, yes, I’m afraid his head and neck do now look too big to me (see Blackpaint 99 and 104) – but, far worse, he now bears a facial resemblance to David Cameron.  You don’t believe me? Imagine the hair trimmed and slicked back, some pudge on the torso, a tight white shirt with top button just undone…

Islamic Art

Waiting for my partner to return from the quilts exhibition, wandered round the Islamic treasures from Iran, India, Pakistan and Turkey.  As an abstract artist and lover of modern abstract art, I should be bowled over by these exquisite carpets and hangings and decorations but I was not (apart from those beautiful Mughal miniature paintings).  There was nothing for my eye to catch on, no roughness, asymmetry, chaos,  just harmony, order, beautiful workmanship, perfection.  I want just the opposite – disorder, bad taste, violence, anarchy; if its figurative and old, I want dragons, tortures, martyrdoms… 

So, we went to look at the multiple tortures of St. George, in the Retable (is that right?) in the room with the Raphael Cartoons.  George was, among other things, being burned, boiled alive and sawn in half, before the beheading which finished him off – one can imagine the executioner thinking “Why didn’t we do this in the first place?”

By far the best Cartoon, I have always thought, is “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes”.

After this, to prove that Blackpaint is not one of these people locked into either art or science, but happily inhabits both intellectual spheres, we were taken by our youngest to the Science Museum.  There I was staggered by the steam machinery on the ground floor – I’ve always found them beautiful, but for the first time, they looked very Heath Robinson to me, all improbable pistons, levers and boilers and wheels and lovely, rough, black metal surfaces. 

I had the Higgs Boson, Super symmetry and Schrodinger’s Cat explained to me and bought “Stiff”, a book about the “life” of corpses with, inter alia, descriptions of guillotinings – which brought a nice symmetry to the day.

Blackpaint

07.04.10

Blackpaint 17

December 16, 2009

V&A Mediaeval Gallery

To the above today; the usual saints (Margaret with her dragon, Catherine (no wheels though), Ursula and her virgins being dismembered and stabbed, the six “Proto Martyrs” being beheaded for preaching in Marrakesh – new atrocity to me – Stephen in glazed terracotta with white stones stuck to his head, crucifixions, depositions, assumptions, a German death of the Virgin Mary with a crowd of bearded men fussing round her, vaguely reminiscent of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. 

For my money, the best thing in the galleries is a screen from Hamburg, done by Master Bertram, showing 45 scenes from Revelations.

Cast Hall

On to the fabulous, quiet, gloomy cast hall, the room with the two halves of Trajan’s Column and there found this staggering thing, the Shobdon Tympanum, done about 1100 in a Herefordshire church.  I’ve never seen anything like this woman in her sailor’s T shirt, with her smaller companions entwined around her like something a sculptor from the 40s might have dreamed up.

National Portrait Gallery

Nothing in the Tudor bit to touch the portrait of Thomas Cromwell, done by Holbein or maybe his workshop.  Piggy features, iron determination, that sure line and sharp relief of Holbein.  Nearby, Nicholas Bacon, surely the ugliest face in the gallery.

Upstairs, Ross the Arctic explorer, who turned back when he saw the mountains in his way – they turned out to be optical illusions.  Also Burnaby, the Boy’s Own soldier,  stretched out on a divan, smoking a cigarette, a bit like Stephen Fry as the general in Blackadder.

In the first 20th century bit, I thought the outstanding (or most interesting) was Patrick Heron’s TS Eliot, the Joyce, Wyndham Lewis’ Ezra Pound and a self-portrait by Ithell Colquhoun, who is new to me.

In the last section, the portrait of David Sylvester and the Sid James by Ruskin Spear.

Still struggling with my stripes – too crowded, needs some space in there.

Listened to; Gil Scott-Heron’s Johannesburg.

“I hate it when the blood starts flowing,

But I’m glad to see resistance growing –

Tell me what’s the word? Johannesburg!”

Blackpaint

16.12.09