Friday, February 25, 2005

There is snow business like snow business!

Oh yeah baby, it is snow time again in London and this year I was better prepared than last year. Better prepared meaning I was not acting like a five-year-old and running around in circles chanting songs composed on the spot about snow.

I was really cool, calm and collected and limited myself to hustling Jac out of bed to look at the snow and taking photos from my window of my snow-covered view. This year I got to view the snow falling from a few storeys up though which was cool. In the space of my 40 minutes getting ready you could really see the different styles of snowfall ... it wafted down, slammed down AND come down kinda horizontal.

I do think that my three morning companions were a little shocked that I took photos of them though; the stocky guy in the bottom flat who has breakfast in his white towelling dressing gown each morning, the guy in the top flat with his two huge Mac monitors in his home office and the shy guy in the middle flat who keeps on ducking out of sight when I pass my window ...

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Timeshare Knowledge

I have a few plans to implement this year and I am going to ask for nominations for one and offer the other one as a kind of timeshare offer.

Two of my resolutions are to read more non-fiction and to subscribe to magazines that provide contemporary commentary.


AIM: Read two non-fiction books a month on History and Literature / Ideaology, choosing areas of the world that I have no specialisation in (ie not Britain or Western Europe).

METHOD: Turn the pages.

EQUIPMENT: A learned, yet easy to read tome that covers a good chunk of the history and literature / ideaology of the area chosen.

April – China and Mongolia

May – India

June – South East Asia

July – Scandanavia

August – Eastern Europe

September – North Africa

October – South Africa

November – South America

December – Central America

Essentially I am taking recommendations. I do not have a wide enough knowledge of these regions to know who the scholars are and which publications are the most authorative or well-written. If you have read a book you would recommend or an author I should follow up, please let me know.


AIM: Subscribe to four magazines a month that provide a range of commentary on contemporary scholarship in my area of interest, on international politics and on the environment.

METHOD: Turn the pages.


The New Internationalist on a three month trial as offered in the Big Issue
The National Geographic which has a special offer
The New Yorker
History Today

Once again I am taking recommendations AND, in an exclusive deal for the Londoners, I am offering to share the subscription costs with anyone who wants the magazines as well. If you have always fancied subscribing to one that you think may be of interest to me, let me know.

***This sharing of subscription offer is open until the 15th of March***

Friday, February 11, 2005

A beautiful, dancing gypsy doll.

The National Portrait Gallery is my favourite place in London, mainly because my passion is people and a good portrait displays the artist’s ability to render in paints what I seek to render in words. However, the National Portrait Gallery has two other excellent qualities that endear it immensely to me – it hosts a free lecture and a free musical performance each week. I have listened to lectures on Dandyism, Chinese Opera and writers in residence in Antarctica. I have listened to Cole Porter Jazz tunes, medieval Christmas Carols and, tonight, a collection of works for guitar, violin, flute and voice influenced by or composed in Spain.

The recital was by young artists from the Concordia Foundation, an organisation I am rapidly becoming a fan of as the amazing performance I saw tonight has impressed me with the calibre of their pool of creative talent. I was given the great pleasure of watching four performers who will be commanding very large fees if I want to see them again.

A quick google search informed me that if I wanted to admire Morgan again I would have to be a member of the Royal Society of Medicine and pay £50.

The four artists that performed for us this evening in the Regency room of the National Portrait Gallery were so skilled on their instruments you had to imagine at least two other musicians behind each one, helping to produce such multi-layered melodies. Entire songs passed where voice, flute and violin melded into one exquisite note, the guitar running like a heartbeat, pulsing beneath the flawless silken sounds. As if undeniable talent were not enough to keep the audience riveted to their seats, the musicians were surely four of the most beautiful people you could assemble. Tonight I was captivated by the soprano Sarah Gabriel, Anna Cashell on the violin, the flamenco flutist Cristina Granero and Morgan Szymanski on the guitar.

Sarah was statuesque and queenly with a luscious figure topped with a face of classic English beauty and elegant blonde hair. Readying herself to sing, her blue eyes seemed to flash from one character to the next, preparing her voice for the story ahead. As the notes rippled into our hearing, her voice became a flashing, cascading torrent of shivers down your spine.

Anna was an exquisitely doll-like Irish girl, small and young enough in her russet curls and slender porcelain limbs to seem a child. The music that exploded from her instrument was inspired, transcendental and moved her face to verge on tears at one moment and then to be seemingly transfixed by inspiration at others.

Cristina was a Spanish beauty with a silken black shawl and silken black hair dressed with a red silk rose. Her performance was a mesmerising style in which the music seemed to travel from her tapping feet, up her swaying body that seemed on the verge of dancing, to rip itself in violent peals from the silvered length of the flute. Her playing was extraordinary, the notes coming faster and clearer than it could be thought possible, the high notes making you jump in pain.

And Morgan was the Mexican Gypsy King dressed in an impeccable grey suit with slender fingers and long nails. Dark and handsome, he had flashing white teeth in his trimmed goatee and the whites of his eyes glowed as he bent his gaze upon the guitar languishing in his embrace. As the throbbing, intricately plucked heartstrings of the performance, the guitar and her lover were engaged in a passionate embrace and partnership, creating the kind of music that made tears stand out in your eyes.

All four artists performed solos and in groups, each piece able to make the crowd shiver before they could even consider clapping. The pieces were exquisite in their intent, performance and in their perfect compatibility with both the instruments and the theme of the recital. Taking their second bow in a room of crashing waves of applause, the four young musicians had to be conscious that they had just created 45 minutes of pure joy for the audience in front of them.

Complimenting talent with talent.

I had been seated in the front row of the audience for the performance and remained behind for a little while, savouring the pleasure of the previous minutes. As I got out of my seat I was approached by the two elderly ladies sitting across from me. I was sure I had seen them before in my travels and I had certainly noticed them sketching quickly during the performance.

We quickly established that all three of us attended approximately the same events, but Gwyneth and Joy had come up with a unique way of thanking those whom they watched perform. Both ladies had produced a lovely sketch of each performer, and afterwards, took it to them and asked them to sign it. I watched each of the four artists be melted by this gesture, smile delightedly and chat away to the two women, charmed by the gift of art for art.

I myself was inordinately pleased when they showed me the sketch they had done of me, fur collar around my neck and face transformed by the music. They had caught me during the flamenco piece and my gaze was on the gilded ceiling, swirling red skirts and clicking black heels revolving in my eyes. The sketch stays with Gwyneth until I next see her, but the knowledge that my deep pleasure lives on in more places than just my head, is a reassuring one.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Yes thanks, I am being served ...

I have a new job.

It is one of those jobs that make you wonder what you did the night before to deserve it. The tube ride is a relaxing 40 minutes from door to door, including trains that ran on time and uncrowded carriages of good looking men in suits. Exiting the tube I am met by the clean, green scent of the breeze off Green Park, the route to work taking me through the quiet streets of St James past shops that sell that indefinable edge that makes the posh and rich look right.

The office is serene and elegant; wood panelling, original artwork, lush carpets, silver service, three butlers, a wine cellar and a corporate curator. My own office has two windows, an armchair and brass plate on the door that is shiny enough to check my reflection in. There is a full cooked lunch each day in the dining room and I am already in possession of complimentary tickets to exhibitions that employees are entitled to.

This is the kind of job I imagined London to be able to offer, but I did not realise that I could get into it without an interview and still get paid for it. The crowning glory of my new position is that I support an Australian woman, which means I finally have a boss that understands my working style and ethic.

I think I may be forced to stop whining about London now.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

February Museum Calendar

Shakespeare's Globe


The 2005 summer theatre season at Shakespeare’s Globe has been announced as The Season of The World and Underworld. Three plays by Shakespeare - The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale and Pericles – will be joined by an adaptation of The Storm by Plautus. This Graeco-Roman comedy has been adapted by Peter Oswald whose previous work for the Globe, The Golden Ass, was a huge hit in 2002. In addition to these productions, two company projects will explore voice and the use of masks on the Globe stage.

The Season of The World and Underworld, which begins on 6 May, will examine the influence of classical Greece on Shakespeare’s works. The season will finish on 2 October with The Tempest. It will be Mark Rylance’s final performance as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe.

The Natural History Museum


Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Tickets £5, £3 concessions, £12 family
The power, beauty and extremes of nature are all captured on film in this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. Celebrating its twenty-first year, this annual competition, organised by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, is the largest and most prestigious wildlife photography competition in the world. The resulting exhibition reveals the drama and variety of life on Earth, showcasing an unforgettable selection of images ranging from serene landscapes and amazing insights into animal behaviour to thought-provoking scenes illustrating our impact on the natural world.

Darwin Centre Live is a varied programme of free events where Museum curators and researchers talk about their work, recent scientific discoveries and the Museum's vast collections.

THIS WEEK – check back for weekly programmes
A series of free Evolution Week events
Saturday 5 - Saturday 12 February
When scientists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace proposed the theory of evolution by natural selection, nearly 150 years ago, they changed the way we see the world around us forever. Join a week of free events celebrating the discovery that explains the relationship between every organism on the planet.

Anti-Valentine's Day
Monday 14 February, 2.30pm
The female praying mantis bites off the head of her chosen male while they mate. Some female spiders eat theirs, and some male anglerfish permanently fuse with females, becoming parasites. Love in the animal world can be nasty, dangerous and lethal. Join us for a look at the less romantic side of Valentine's Day.
Places are free, but must be booked in advance on 020 7942 5555.


Diane Maclean, Sculpture and Works on Paper
In partnership with The Royal British Society of Sculptors
April-October 2005. Admission: FREE

Sculptor and environmental artist Diane Maclean has created a site-specific Sculpture installation for the Museum in response to our science collection and Building

Face to Face
28 May - 18 September 2005. Admission: FREE
James Mollison's beautiful and emotive ape portraits highlight the vitality and Intelligence of these magnificent and threatened animals, and their similarity to humans.

9 July 2005 - 26 February 2006. Admission: CHARGED
Celebrating the natural and cultural power of these extraordinary gemstones, this blockbuster exhibition will showcase some of the world's most impressive diamonds and will reveal the fascinating story of their evolution from deep in the Earth to the red carpet.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2005
October 2005 - April 2006. Admission: £5, £3 concessions, £12 family
Organised by the Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition is the most prestigious and successful event of its kind in the world.

Science Museum

Future Face
Future Face asks questions about the human face and identity and considers what faces might look like in the future. As digital faces become as 'real' as live ones, and as even face transplants become a reality, how will our notions of identity be affected? Drawing from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, the Hollywood Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Wellcome Trust and the Science Museum, the exhibition will feature over 200 historical and contemporary photographs, paintings, multimedia installation and objects.

The Dana Centre
Alternative medicine meets alternative science
February sees another packed month of events at the Science Museum's Dana Centre. We begin with the return of Punk Science, celebrating Einstein Year in their typically unique fashion. We also take a look at colonising space and tackle issues including nanotechnology, eating disorders and testing complementary and alternative medicines.

Imperial War Museum

Great Escapes
This special exhibition features some of the extraordinary escape attempts made by Allied servicemen from German prisoner of war camps in the Second World War and will look at the fact and fiction surrounding The Wooden Horse, The Great Escape and Colditz. Interactive and hands-on displays will allow children and adults alike to try on disguises, forge an identity pass, crawl through an escape tunnel, find out fascinating facts about escape attempts, and use their ingenuity to make their own escape from Colditz.

The National Portrait Gallery

Madame Yevonde : Goddesses and Others
Bookshop GalleryTo mark the seventieth anniversary of Madame Yevonde's historic exhibition Goddesses and Others, this display of stunning colour photographs from the 1930s features society figures of the day dressed and styled by Yevonde as subjects from Greek and Roman mythology.

Lee Miller : Portraits
Wolfson Gallery, Admission £7/£4.75
Lee Miller (1907-77) was one of the most extraordinary photographers of the twentieth century. A legendary beauty and fashion model, Miller became an acclaimed surrealist photographer in her own right. This exhibition presents 120 of her black-and-white portrait studies and includes intimate portraits of Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst and Marlene Dietrich.

Frida Kahlo : Portrait of an Icon
This selection of fifty photographs of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-54) includes both black and white images, and some previously unexhibited works in colour, from throughout her life. They follow the artist's transition from precocious child to famous artist, documented by many leading photographers of the twentieth century, including Lola and Manuel Bravo, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham.

Thursday 3 February, 7pm
Anna May Wong
To coincide with the display Anna May Wong: The London Portraits, Louie Chow, Sally Lai and Diana Yeh discuss the Asian-American star's work within its historical context, whilst also reflecting on the portrayal of Chinese women in contemporary visual culture.

Friday 4 February, 6.30pm
Andra Sparks Jazz Quintet
Five superb musicians come together to explore a wide range of wonderfully crafted standards and contemporary compositions.

Thursday 10 February, 7pm
Film: The Lives of Lee Miller
Free, but tickets required

To mark the exhibition Lee Miller: Portraits this film, produced by her son Antony Penrose, traces the forces and personalities that shaped Miller's remarkable life and career.
(55 minutes)

Friday 11 February, 6.30pm
Concordia Foundation Music Series: The Influence of the Folk Idiom on Classical Music
The violin, guitar, flute and voice have long been associated with folk music. Morgan Szymanski (guitar), Sarah Moule (soprano), Anna Cashell (violin) and Cristina Granero (flute/flamenco), perform music from around the world including Spain, Mexico and Russia, and demonstrate the effect folk music had on composers such as Villa Lobos, da Falla, Stravinsky, Bartok and Piazzola.

Thursday 17 February, 7pm
The Prehispanic Heritage of Frida Kahlo's Paintings
Curator and writer Dr Elizabeth Baquedano explores the influence of Pre-Columbian art on the work of Frida Kahlo, as well as the enduring inspiration she drew from Mexico's cultural and natural heritage.

Friday 18 February, 6.30pm
New Noise
The British duo New Noise was formed in 1999 and combines the beautiful sounds and effortless pyrotechnics of oboist Janey Miller, and the dramatically explosive and virtuosic playing of percussionist Joby Burgess. New Noise performs an eclectic mix of classical, electronic, jazz and contemporary music.

Thursday 24 February, 7pm
'The Legendary Lee Miller'
Free, but tickets required

Antony Penrose, son of Lee Miller and Roland Penrose, discusses the life of Lee Miller as both artist and muse.

Friday 25 February, 6.30pm
Jane Gordon and Jan Rautio
This talented duo perform Faure's Sonata in A major, Op.23 alongside Robert Hanson's Sonata for Violin and Piano.

National Maritime Museum

SeaBritain 2005 is a major year long celebration of the sea, culminating in the Trafalgar Festival with events marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson's death. Events of all sizes will be taking place all over the country throughout the year, including the NMM's own Nelson & Napoleon exhibition.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Beauty is a journey through the V&A's extraordinary permanent collection. Design guru Stephen Bayley takes you on a tour of 26 V&A objects that he finds beautiful, from Canova's chillingly erotic 'Sleeping Nymph' to the austere industrial geometry of a Bauhaus desklight. The trail has been designed to excite speculation and stimulate debate rather than define this ever present, but fugitive, subject.
Admission free

Spectres : When Fashion Turns Back
Starts 24 February
Through the clothes of leading, cutting-edge designers, Spectres explores the influence of the past on the present and illustrates how the power of the historical muse shapes fashion today.
The exhibition brings together beautiful historic costumes by designers such as Christian Dior and Elsa Schiaparelli, with clothes by today's leading designers including Jean-Paul Gaultier, Dries Van Noten and Hussien Chalayan.
Admission free

Style and Splendour: Queen Maud of Norway's wardrobe 1896-1938
Queen Maud of Norway, daughter of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, was renowned for her fashionable style. Her clothes document an extraordinary era of fashion history, from the decorative but elaborate dress of the Victorian era to the streamlined chic of the 1930s.
This display includes some 50 outfits comprising elegant evening dresses, smart tailored suits and simple day dresses, sporting ware, sumptuous state gowns and accessories.
Admission free

International Arts and Crafts
Starts 17 March
After the phenonmenal success of Art Deco, International Arts and Crafts will be the highlight of the spring calendar. Don't miss the opportunity to book for advance tickets to this spectacular show.
The Arts and Crafts movement was one of the most far-reaching, influential and popular design movements of modern times. Emerging in Britain in the late nineteenth century, it was quickly adapted in America, continental Europe and Scandinavia, until its final manifestations as the folk craft movement in Japan.
This will be the first major exhibition to explore Arts and Crafts as a truly international style. 300 objects from museums and private collections around the world will be on display including furniture, textiles, ceramics, jewellery, paintings and sculpture.

There are free gallery talks every day at 13.00.

The National Gallery

Caravaggio : The Final Years
Starts 23 February
Caravaggio (1571 - 1610) was at the height of his fame as the most original and powerful painter of his day, when in May 1606, he killed a man in a duel. With a capital sentence on his head, he was forced to flee Rome, never to return.

During the remaining four years of his life, Caravaggio's art underwent a dramatic transformation as he moved restlessly from Naples to Malta to Sicily. He continued to use intensely observed realism and dramatic lighting to endow his paintings with a compelling sense of actuality. However, the mood of the pictures became more introspective as he probed the human condition more acutely and with greater sympathy than ever before.

This exhibition will concentrate on this relatively little known period in Caravaggio's career. It will bring together paintings from the remote centres in which he worked so that his profound late style can be fully appreciated for the first time.

There is a calendar of events for this exhibition here.

Wednesday Lates
The Gallery is open late every Wednesday from 6-9pm. Come to the Sainsbury Wing foyer for live music, talks & bar.
2 February: 'Cupid's Arrow'
An evening of talks and tastings to get you in the mood for Valentine's Day with harp and flute music featuring the current Royal Harpist, chocolate-dipped fruit tastings, guided Tours at 6pm and 6.30pm, foyer bar serving Prosecco and Bellini cocktails and a 6.30pm Special Lecture - Talking Points: Conservation by David Bomford - A fascinating insight into the world of painting conservation at the National Gallery.

Tate Modern

Joseph Beuys
Actions, Vitrines, Environments
Starts 4 February

Joseph Beuys is considered to be one of the most influential figures in modern and contemporary art and this is the first UK exhibition dedicated to his work.

Believing that art had the power to shape a better society, Beuys communicated his often radical social and political views through three main activities - actions, vitrines and environments. His 'actions' or performances are explored through records of these momentous events and several vitrines, presenting objects which Beuys considered to be socially significant are on show. Also featured are a number of Beuys' large-scale 'environments', including his seminal work The Pack.

August Strindberg
Painter, Photographer, Writer
Starts 17 February

Celebrated as a prolific writer of plays, novels and poetry, August Strindberg was also an extremely radical painter for his time.

Turning to painting when his capacity as a writer failed him, Strindberg found inspiration in the awe-inspiring landscape around his native Stockholm. He painted the waves, rocks and ever-changing skies in a vast array of colours and moods. Although landscapes in subject matter, these works can also be seen as symbolic self-portraits offering an illuminating insight into the mind of this often-troubled genius.

Tate Britain

Anthony Caro
Sir Anthony Caro is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest living sculptors. Surveying fifty years of Caro's career, this major retrospective at Tate Britain features the seminal steel sculptures from the early 1960s, through to his most recent works.

Don't miss the chance to explore his large scale 'sculpitecture', Caro's architecture-inspired sculptures which include a major new commission, created especially for Tate Britain.

This exhibition presents a wider and more comprehensive assessment of the work of this pre-eminent artist than has ever been seen before.

Turner Whistler Monet
Starts 10 February
Turner Whistler Monet is an extraordinary exhibition which draws on the influences and relationship between three giants of nineteenth century art. This exhibition has already been a huge success in Toronto and Paris and its arrival at Tate Britain is eagerly anitcipated.

JMW Turner, James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Claude Monet each changed the course of landscape painting and this exhibition, featuring 100 paintings, watercolours, prints and pastels, traces for the first time the artistic dialogue between them. The exhibition is sponsored by Ernst &Young.

Whistler and Monet were friends and collaborators who shared a deep admiration for the work of Turner. Their work and aims made a vital contribution both to the development of Impressionism, the art movement that emerged in the 1870s, and the evolution of a symbolist landscape. On close examination, a pattern of themes and variations begun by Turner appears to have been developed in the artistic interchange between the younger artists Whistler and Monet.

For artists committed to working from nature and seeking beauty in contemporary environments, industrialism and its pollution presented an aesthetic dilemma. They directed their focus increasingly on transient effects of light and weather and revisited their subjects under varying conditions, experimenting with innovative painting techniques, adapting the tentative quality of the sketch, delicate veils of watercolour wash, and the chalky quality of pastel to their oil paintings, which led to accusations of lack of detail and finish. The exhibition focuses on views of the River Thames, the Seine and the city and lagoon of Venice, works which were controversial in their own day but are now seen as some of the most poetic, evocative images of nature ever produced.

The exhibition is divided into six thematic sections beginning with a room displaying some of Turner's oils and watercolours that were on view in London when Whistler and Monet visited and from which they went on to develop their own distinctive effects. This is followed by a room showing Whistler and Monet's early views of London, capturing its unique atmospheric conditions and beginning the transition from a realist to an impressionist approach to landscape. Whistler's Nocturnes, magical and dreamlike paintings of London by night, are given a section of their own.

Monet's paintings of Mornings on the Seine echo the Nocturnes and are displayed along with Turner's views of Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, showing both artists working in series. Whistler and Monet returned to London in the 1880s and 1890s and these later views of the city form the next room. It includes the extraordinary views of the Houses of Parliament by Monet and Whistler's charming lithographs depicting his panoramic view from the Savoy hotel. The exhibition closes with the three artists' visions of Venice. From Turner's watercolours of vast lagoon expanses, shimmering light and reflections to Whistler's shadowy forms and distinctive light effects to Monet's synthesis of the two, all three artists found inspiration in this sublime city.

St Paul's Cathedral

St John Passion
16 March, 6.30pm

The London Mozart players, St Paul's Cathedral choir and chorus combine to perform JS Bach's masterpiece in English. Admission is free, this is one of the few free performances of this work in the world.

The British Museum



The British Film Institute
Geffrye Museum
The Royal Academy of Arts
The Royal Academy of Music
The Royal Academy of Dance
Curzon Cinemas

Exhibition closing dates – free unless otherwise indicated.

13/02/05 Silhouettes / Room 16 National Portrait
13/02/05 Future Face / 1st Floor Science Museum
20/02/05 Schweppes Prize 2004 / Porter Gallery National Portrait
27/02/05 Beauty / Victoria and Albert

23/03/05 A Blueprint for Life / National Portrait

17/04/05 Wildlife Photographer of the Year / Natural History / ticketed

02/05/05 Joseph Beuys : Actions, Vitrines, Environments / Tate Modern / ticketed
08/05/05 Spectres : When fashion turns back / Victoria and Albert
15/05/05 August Strindberg : Painter, Photographer, Writer / Tate Modern / ticketed
15/05/05 Turner Whistler Monet / Tate Britain / ticketed
22/05/05 Caravaggio : The Final Years / National Gallery / ticketed
22/05/05 Frida Kahlo: Portraits of an Icon / National Portrait
30/05/05 Lee Miller : Portraits / National Portrait / ticketed

24/07/05 International Arts and Crafts / Victoria and Albert / ticketed
31/07/05 Great Escapes / Imperial War / ticketed

18/09/05 Face to Face / Natural History

01/10/05 Diane Maclean, Sculpture and Works on Paper / Natural History

08/01/06 Style and Splendour: Queen Maud of Norway's wardrobe 1896-1938 / Victoria and Albert

26/02/06 Diamonds / Natural History / ticketed