Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mindfulness - A Sunday Sermon

This is Mull from Iona, taken years ago on one of our best holidays. That day has gone into memory as  perfect in every imaginable way, full of fresh and beautiful experiences. Minutes before I took this picture, with a very old battered SLR, hence the scratches, we heard a corncrake in the long grass by Iona Abbey. You rarely see them, but their call is unmistakable. Earlier in the day we had taken a boat to Staffa, glorious island of Fingal's Cave fame, and sat on the grassy cliff top accompanied by puffins, possibly the bird least frightened by humans, watching kittiwakes and skua swirl around. The boatman was the tourist's idea of  'a character'', a charmer who appeared not to have a care in the world, but actually had lost his son in that tragic drowning of three youngsters in the channel between Mull and Iona the previous Hogmanay I think. His manner, gentility and humour were impressive, even if you'd not known his history which we only found out later of course. So, all in all a day that touched many depths of emotion.

If you click on the heading to this blog, you will get to a video of a Sunday Sermon we attended run by The School of Life. It was given by Professor Mark Williams, one of this country's leading research scientists into the benefits of Mindfulness. If you can spend the time to listen right through you may be able to see why we appreciated the talk. And you may wonder what the connection is between our idyll on Mull and his wise words.

On the face of it, they are not linked, but actually one of the reasons that day was so special was that the whole time I was 'in the moment', relishing how I felt, what I could hear and see, the colours, all those qualities which attracted the Scottish Colourists, without for one moment thinking of the past or future. This is Mindfulness - living in that moment entirely. It should be approached openly, lightly, gently, with acceptance and awareness, and then you'll get more than you bargained for.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Tobias and the Angel

Filippino Lippi (painter) Italian, 1457 - 1504. Tobias and the Angel, c. 1475/1480 oil and tempera (?) on panel

I suspect my fascination with this story was inspired by Salley Vickers book Miss Garnett's Angel which artfully combined a modern story in the glorious setting of Venice, with this tale from the Apochrypha - that is, books which "Wickedpedia" (I meant that) say are useful but 'not divinely inspired'. And there I was thinking apochryphal meant a nice story but not necessarily true. This painting is in the National Gallery in Washington, and I quote from their website:

"This painting is based on the Book of Tobit which tells the story of Tobit of Nenevah. Tobit is described as a man of good faith who suffers from blindness and poverty. He sent his son, Tobias, to a distant city to collect money he had deposited there, and hired a companion to accompany the youth. The companion was actually the archangel Raphael in disguise. Their journey was successful: not only was the money recovered, but medicine made from a monstrous fish Tobias encounters along the way cures Tobit's blindness" 

There is more to the story than this. Tobias find a wife, Sarah and it all ends up rather well. The dog is always there, by the way. And the fish always features but is varying sizes. It is rather tiny in Tobias's hand in this one.

Many wonderful images have been made of this story, and it is thought this might have been because young sons of merchants were being sent out into the big bad world to do business.

So, one day I am going to find as many images of the story as I can and make a little album, or even a book of them. Then I have to move on to St Jerome. Once the gravity of my course is over I shall be free to explore whatever I like. What a wonderful thought.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Back to the 50s

The Festival of Britain is a vague memory for me, one of primary colours, earnest and worthy displays which bored a 9 year old. I can't imagine, or rather I can, why I wasnt' allowed all the fun of the fair at Battersea, but I can only remember the Skylon and trudging through endless educational exhibitions.

 This mural by John Piper was one of the many artworks commissioned for the Festival, celebrating a revival of spirit after the austerity of the war. It is called The Englishman's Home and is currently displayed in the underwhelming surrounds of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Piper was past his abstraction phase when he produced these images of what he saw as archetypal English homes. Brighton and Hove are there, castles, cottages, villas.

So last week I went to see it, as it is so rarely displayed. Despite being in a dull place with the ceiling vents or something intruding it was well worth the visit. Originally it was on the outside of the Homes & Gardens pavilion.

I can't say I remember it, but am glad to have caught up with it, and it will serve as a useful comparison with a Lanyon mural.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Here is Lulu - occasional guest chez Jackie. Adorable little lady who was a rescue dog, having produced many litters of puppies presumably abandoned as past her best (only 5) and now the much loved family pet of Cherry and her kids.

Because of her lovely white coat, she and I are supposed to suit each other. And her welcome on two legs every morning was something that set the tone for the rest of the day.

Below is Lulu about to demolish David Beckham - her easily destrucable toy. Butter wouldn't melt, eh?

Our house is really too small and the garden far from escape proof (one of her little games) so it is not easy to have her. I just wish she could meet Pepsi. She has a friend in the village here called Snowy who has a lovely life with her humans.

So, Pepsi, as promised, pictures of a Westie - none of that boring academic stuff. But might have to revert tomorrow!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Shock at the White Cube

As I have never been to a Chapman Brothers exhibition, this show at White Cube came as quite a revelation. Critics are talking of the 'same old, same old' but for a virgin viewer the shocks were strong, the implications and influences stark and ironic. The basement gallery at White Cube Mason's Yard is peopled by life-size (well slightly larger than life to me) mannequins dressed in Nazi storm trooper uniforms, performing an explicit sexual act in one group, being shat on by a pigeon in another, or peering at the artworks on the wall, specifically engravings which had been 'enhanced' bearing all the marks of being Goya's Disasters of War. Then you suddenly remember Hitler's Entarte Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition held in Munich in 1937 and sure enough you find an image which links these two far apart exhibitions.

But the difference is that the Chapman armbands are 'smileys' and the faces and hands are black with ravaged skin on the face which looks almost maggot eaten.The room is crowded with these hideous presences and it is disturbing but arranged in such a way that nervous laughter is near the surface. 

Also interesting to me was the ground floor gallery with 47 constructions on plinths. Most were made of painted cardboard and reminded me at once of the constructions of Peter Lanyon, my dissertation topic. As one piece of work it was beautifully curated, being arranged to create a totality of view. The brothers worked separately, so the work only came together in the gallery. It is not important who made which, but with these it is quite clear that separate artists have a different approach, some being quite roughly made and others more meticulous.
A visitor to the exhibition was interested in buying one of these sculptures and didn't understand that it was one piece.

So as a Chapman Brothers newbie, I have to say I was impressed. But then, what do I know?