Archive for the Art Category

The Wilmington Giant, Eric Ravilious

Posted in Art, Sussex with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2015 by mysearchformagic

This week I visited an exhibition dedicated to the short life of mid twentieth-century artist Eric Ravilious at the rather lovely Dulwich Picture Gallery. Ravilious spent much of his life in Sussex, and many of his best works are views of the South Downs and the charming countryside that lies around them. Images of winding country lanes, travellers’ caravans and rolling hills recall a magical rural England, reminders of a time now long past.

, Eric Ravilious

I particularly loved his painting of the Wilmington Giant, which can be found on Windover Hill just outside the village of Alfriston.  While many things may have changed since Ravilious painted this scene in 1939, the Wilmington Giant, also known as the Long Man, remains steadfastly the same. He’s been there since time immemorial, and will not doubt still be there for centuries to come; huge, silent and mysteriously magical.

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British Folk Art, Tate Britain

Posted in Art, History, London, Museum, Sculpture with tags , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2014 by mysearchformagic

It’s hard to know how to define the term ‘Folk Art’, the subject of a current exhibition at London’s Tate Britain. It is often created by self-trained artists, although I should think many of its makers would not think of themselves as artists. Some of it could be described as ‘craft’ as opposed to ‘high art’, but many of the objects in the exhibition were created using incredible skill and effort. A number of the pieces on show were linked with local traditions and customs. Some of them are downright bizarre. But, as you have probably guessed, a fair few of them were also pretty magical.

A wall of shop signs in British Folk Art at Tate Britain

A wall of shop signs in British Folk Art at Tate Britain

The show gets off to a great start with an impressive yellow wall lined with a selection of shop signs of all shapes, sizes and dates. One takes the form of a giant shoe, fashioned and stitched perfectly from leather just like its normal-sized counterparts. A wonderfully enigmatic sun hangs at the top of the display, looking down on the gallery visitors with a hint of a smile.

A cockerel fashioned from mutton bones in British Folk Art, Tate Britain

A cockerel fashioned from mutton bones in British Folk Art, Tate Britain

Another highlight of British Folk Art is a beautiful life-size cockerel created out of mutton bones by French prisoners of war during the Napoleonic era. Each of its feathers is intricately and individually carved, transforming the most basic material into something lively and enchanting.

A straw effigy of King Alfred in British Folk Art, Tate Britain

A straw effigy of King Alfred in British Folk Art, Tate Britain

Definitely the most extraordinary object in the exhibition is this life-size straw effigy of King Alfred. Reminiscent of the terrifying final scene in cult classic The Wicker Man, it’s hard to get a sense of just how imposing and spooky this figure is without encountering it in person. All the more reason to check out British Folk Art at Tate Britain, and experience a branch of the arts that, despite generally being overlooked, often retains an ancient, even mystical sense of wonder.

An iron shop sign in the shape of a sun from British Folk Art, Tate Britain

An iron shop sign in the shape of a sun from British Folk Art, Tate Britain

Details on visiting British Folk Art can be found here.
All images copyright the Tate.

The Spink, Charleston Farmhouse

Posted in Art, Gardens, History, House, Sussex with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2014 by mysearchformagic

Following my climb up Windover Hill, I made the short journey west to Charleston Farmhouse. This beautiful place was once home to artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and played host to their circle of bohemian friends, now better known as the Bloomsbury Group.

The interior of the house, with its murals, painted furniture and fascinating collection of art and objects, is definitely magical. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside, so I wasn’t able to capture that magic for this blog.

The house and garden at Charleston Farm

The house and garden at Charleston Farm

However, the perfect English cottage gardens more than made up for that loss. A riot of colourful and perfume, the gardens of Charleston Farmhouse are an oasis of peace and quiet. It was while wandering through those gardens that I came across a small orchard. Hiding in the shadows of the surrounding trees, I found a strange, rather magical sculpture.

The Spink in the garden of Charleston Farmhouse

The Spink in the garden of Charleston Farmhouse

Further research has revealed that this sphinx-like beast, which is carved out of a large stack of bricks, was created by Vanessa’s son Clive Bell in 1931 and is known as the Spink. Just like the mythical beast that it is named after, the Charleson spink is a bit of an enigma, loitering silently in a quiet corner of the garden.

What is it thinking? Your guess is as good as mine…

Tintern Abbey Seen by Moonlight, Peter van Lerberghe

Posted in Art, Church, History, Museum, Ruins with tags , , , , , , , on May 5, 2014 by mysearchformagic

Today I’ve been to the Ruin Lust exhibition at London’s Tate Gallery. It was a bit of an odd hotch-potch to be honest, and despite its theme, was sadly lacking in magic.
I was however rather taken with this early 19th Century watercolour by Peter van Lerberghe from the Tate’s own collection. Created at a time when exploring romantic ruins was all the rage, the painting captures a group of brave tourists discovering the Gothic delights of Tintern Abbey by torchlight.

Tintern Abbey seen by Moonlight, 1802 by Peter van Lerberghe

Tintern Abbey seen by Moonlight, 1802 by Peter van Lerberghe

It all looks like great fun. I’d love to do it myself, although I might not be bold enough to teeter along the top of the ruins like some of these visitors. And to be honest, I don’t think Cadw, who now take care of the picturesque ruins of Tintern Abbey, would be very keen!

Modern Bestiary, Domenico Gnoli

Posted in Art, Illustration with tags , , , , , on April 3, 2014 by mysearchformagic

Domenico Gnoli was born in Rome in 1933, and displayed artistic talent at a precociously young age. He spent some time studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in his home town, but never completed the course and decided to travel the world instead.

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Gnoli ended up in London, where he soon established a reputation as a theatrical set designer. By the mid 1950s he was in New York, where he worked as an illustrator for magazines.

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These magical images are from a set he created in 1968, entitled Bestiario Moderno (Modern Bestiary), or Cos’è un mostro (What is a monster). They are beautifully drawn, and hauntingly surreal.

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I think the flat fish in the bath is my favourite. It’s a little bit sad, and very, very strange.

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Gnoli sadly died in New York, aged just thirty six years old, soon after opening a show of his paintings at a major gallery in the city. He left behind only a few completed works. But these weird, wonderful drawings are certain quite a magical legacy, don’t you think?

Leonora Carrington: The Celtic Surrealist, Dublin

Posted in Art, Dublin with tags , , , , on November 5, 2013 by mysearchformagic

I have always made it my rule to only blog about places that I have actually visited myself, or exhibitions that I have viewed in person, but this week it is time to break that rule. After all, I will make any excuse to include some paintings by one of my favourite artists, Leonora Carrington.

Leonora Carrington, Ulu's Pants, 1952, Oil and tempera on panel, 55 x 91 cm, Private Collection, © Estate of Leonora Carrington / ARS

Leonora Carrington, Ulu’s Pants, 1952, Oil and tempera on panel, 55 x 91 cm, Private Collection, © Estate of Leonora Carrington / ARS

These works are currently being shown in Dublin, and are featured in Carrington’s first major retrospective in Ireland. I can only dream of going over there myself to see it, particularly as it includes her masterpiece The Giantess, but this time it just isn’t going to happen.

The Giantess, 1947,Tempera on wood panel, 117x68cm,collection of Miguel Escobedo

The Giantess, 1947, Tempera on wood panel, 117x68cm, collection of Miguel Escobedo

Still, I can always dream. And of course, if you find yourself in Dublin before the end of January then you have to visit the Irish Museum of Modern Art and let me know just what I am missing!

More details about Leonora Carrington: The Irish Surrealist can be found here

Tomorrow, Elmgreen & Dragset

Posted in Art, House, London, Museum with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2013 by mysearchformagic

There’s been outrage in Kensington over the last couple of weeks. Passers-by can’t help but notice the enormous billboard outside the world-renowned Victoria and Albert Museum announcing that a luxury flat is for sale within the museum itself. Shocked locals are calling up to express their disgust at the idea that part of this historic institution is being sold off. A few people have been in touch expressing an interest in buying it. All of them have been informed that the billboard is an elaborate wheeze created by artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset as part of their latest installation, entitled Tomorrow.

Controversial hoardings outside the V&A, London

Controversial hoardings outside the V&A, London

I was lucky enough to attend an evening private view of Tomorrow this week. Typically of Elmgreen & Dragset, the installation involves a complex back story – in fact they describe the work as the set from an unrealised film.

The opulent drawing room of Tomorrow All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

The opulent drawing room of Tomorrow
All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

Grand galleries which once housed the V&A’s tapestry collection have been magically transformed into a vast apartment, the home of ageing architectural academic Norman Swann. Born to a wealthy family, Swann has never quite lived up to his potential; none of his designs have ever been built, and now he is old and washed up, out of money and being forced to put the apartment on the market. Visitors to Tomorrow are invited to stroll around the huge, rather soulless chandelier-lit space, taking in the massed ephemera of Swann’s long life.

A strange figure cowers in the fireplace in Tomorrow All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

A strange figure cowers in the fireplace in Tomorrow
All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

But things are never quite what they seem in Elmgreen & Dragset’s world. Take a look beyond the expensive antique furniture and opulent oil paintings and you will notice lots of strange details dotted around the installation. A crack snakes it way across the huge dining table, cutting through the plates on top and the chairs which sit around it. A lifelike mannequin of a schoolboy cowers in a fireplace below a painted portrait of himself. A spooky dummy in a French maid’s outfit stands frozen in the hallway. A gilded vulture leers expectantly over Swann’s luxurious bed.

The luxurious bedroom of Tomorrow All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

The luxurious bedroom of Tomorrow
All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

Elmgreen & Dragset provide visitors to the show with a booklet which they have written themselves, a script to the so-called ‘unrealised film’ for which this apartment is the set. I prefer to dream up my own narrative to fit the scene. As you wander around Tomorrow it is impossible not to let your imagination ramble through all sorts of bizarre, magical connotations. What the script that you concoct will look like, well who is to know? The possibilities are tantalisingly endless.

The cracked dining table, Tomorrow All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

The cracked dining table, Tomorrow
All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

Elmgreen & Dragset’s Tomorrow will be open until 2nd January 2014 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington.
http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/tomorrow-elmgreen-dragset/