Saturday, 27 August 2016

Inspiring Impressionism | Daubigny | Monet | Van Gogh

Inspiring Impressionism | Daubigny | Monet | Van Gogh
25th June − 2nd October 2016
Scottish National Gallery | £11 (£9)

It is not often you discover an artist that you had never heard of, but is actually really really good.

Yesterday I had planned to listen to Darran Anderson discuss High Rise (by JG Ballard) at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Unfortunately when I checked Twitter he was stuck at Charles De Gaulle airport and was going to miss his sold out event. I was already taking a half day off work, so I found myself with a morning to fill in Edinburgh. I swung by the Royal Scottish Academy (the big neoclassical art gallery on the Mound that is nearest to Princes Street). There was an exhibition on Daubigny and the Impressionists, so I went to see that.

Like most people I am familiar with the Impressionists, and have various books of their works. Although the paintings reproduce well, and the movement was an overdue shot in the arm for moribund landscape painting, seeing the paintings in person is often an underwhelming experience. The works can come across as flat and decorative. Daubigny I had never heard of, and I presumed it was an opportunity to hang some familiar impressionist paintings from local galleries along with some musty predecessor

As it turned out Daubigny was an absolute revelation. He is one of those rare artists where is it hard to consistently identify the works as all being by the same artist. He had a sense of humour, sketching his life in a boat that he used as a floating studio, he could do the detailed landscapes in dark tones that are familiar in countless galleries, but also blast out painted sketches that captured some momentary light effect with the setting sun or suchlike. He loved to experiment with paint, getting effects that are quite remarkable. 

He was capable of capturing the light, detail and mood of a scene. Often I would slip off my glasses and the blurred image before me could pass for the reality of a day in France long ago, but there still before me. To my taste generally his works showed the weaknesses of the neighbouring impressionist works, though there were a few where it seemed that Daubigny had raised their game too. 

With Daubigny the reproductions do not do him justice, there is no substitute for the real things, a highly recommended exhibition, offering an opportunity to see the range and power of a major artist and the influence he had on art history. 

I do rather wonder whether it was Daubigny who was the model for the painter Elstir in Proust, although Wikipedia suggest Monet as the model.








Friday, 29 July 2016

Book Review - Architzer 2016

I normally post reviews to Amazon, but this book is published by Phaidon, exclusively available from them, and therefore not currently available to review of Amazon.
Architizer 2016 - review
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Architizer is the website to go to for endless photos of amazing new buildings and projects. This is their second 'best of the year' book of projects, though how the precise parameters of the year are defined seems unclear. 
I thought that this was a far stronger collection than the previous volume, although it lacks the obvious projects (I only recognised a couple) it resolutely avoids ‘starchitecture’, focussing on firms rather than individuals, with an inspiring mix of projects from across the world, and beyond (Mars). The text is brief but shows more consistency than the previous volume too. 
There are a few recurring themes, multigenerational living, cantilevered chunks of building, and the sun is always shining. Many of the houses look like those intriguing Japanese offcut shaped homes.
But there are few projects here without something that is novel and inspiring, from the big to simple conversions.
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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Hidden Gardens of the Royal Mile

Hidden Gardens of the Royal Mile Guided Tour
2 July 2016
14:30 assemble outside John Knox House, £8.00 book online

This particular tour was one of the various offerings provided by the Architecture Fringe 2016, running during July 2016. Having said that Jean Bareham who gives the tours runs them fairly regularly so it should not be too difficult to find an alternative offering. Jean also offers other like themed tours and has written a short books of the Hidden Gardens of the Royal Mile. Relevant links attached below.
If you are looking for epic formal gardens then this is not the tour for you, however if you are keen to get behind the facades of the Royal Mile, as the buildings tumble their way down the slope from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace then this is wonderful. There are a couple of gardens that are quite professional and amazing, while others are not much more than areas where a few paving slabs have been lifted and some welcome greenery squeezed in.
The combination of the Old Town alleys and courts with little pockets of green is really rather wonderful. Likewise Jean could not be bettered as a guide, she seemed to know everything and everyone.
There was plenty of talk about Patrick Geddes and a separate tour is available devoted to him. Understanding Geddes is impossible without seeing and walking the Old Town that inspired him.
There is something noble about gardening, quietly and unostentatiously creating something of beauty for others to enjoy. On the one hand it is sad to realise just how fragile these dear green places are, but encouraging to see how much of an impact a handful of gardeners can still make to positively enhance one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

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Pop-up Cities Expo

Pop-up Cities Expo
Tuesday 21 June - Sunday 17 July
daily 10am to 10pm
Mound Square, the Mound, Edinburgh

Five cities from around the globe, have each contributed a pavilion for this pop up expo on the Mound in Edinburgh. The Ideal Hut Exhibition was here earlier in the year, and it strikes me that some more permanent means of enclosing the area might be useful if there is going to be a regular series of these events.

Each pavilion was a very fancy hut. It was the Dutch one that most caught my imagination, made of pipes it was appropriate to the site, fun and great to look at. The others will doubtless all have their own admirers, and it was nice to see something relevant, edgy and different here in Edinburgh. The exhibition was attracting a diverse and interested audience when I was there, suggesting that there is a ready audience for more pop ups.
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Sunday, 29 May 2016

Hidden Door Festival

Hidden Door Festival
Friday 27 May to Saturday 4th June
12am to 6pm free, 6pm to midnight £15
Courtyard off King’s Stables Road
8-20 King’s Stables Road
I will include a note on this for sake of completeness, I am so not the target audience for this sort of thing. This is one of those hidden courtyards that persist in the city. Presumably used for some vaguely council purpose it has been converted to a short lived pop up festival site. It was relatively easy to find, head to the Grassmarket then take the road round by the rock face of the the castle on the west side of the Grassmarket.
You enter via a dark curtained twisty corridor, every other exhibition these days seems to entail going through some curtains to gain entry. Inside the courtyard some installation art, a bit Occupy, some street food stands, a couple of bars. Although there were a few folk about the place was not terribly lively when I was there, but if you are happy to use a portaloo and drink wine from plastic cups, then this offers an urban alternative to festivals. There is a full programme of events, so this could be good place to hang out for a mix of art culture and drinking.
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Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show 2016 = Evolution House

28th May – 5th June 2016
11:00 – 17:00
Edinburgh College of Art, 74 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh

Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show 2016 = Evolution House
As ever this covers a variety of disciplines, some of which lend themselves far more to exhibitions than others. Design Informatics seems a relatively new addition, and there were some interesting ideas on display, for example a forlorn bin chasing someone while another bin ran away from people.
The jewellery was strong, with the tactile creations like luminous deep sea creatures by Wanshu Li being the most novel. I also liked the botanical illustrator who used plants to inform her jewellery.
As ever Illustration was a highlight for me, particularly the little self portraits and notebooks. If I were to criticise then it might be helpful to force the illustrators out of their comfort zone a bit more. They seemed to be reinforcing their existing styles rather than redefining their boundaries.
Overall the standout for me was the product design, with a strong selection of strongly evidence pieces, starter kits for coral reefs, a surf board made from cigarette ends, a lifebelt that could make potable water, a siren that could put out fires, basalt ceramics, that were both thought provoking, attractive and often quite covetable.

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Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show 2016 = Main Building

28th May – 5th June 2016
11:00 – 17:00
Edinburgh College of Art, 74 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh

Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show 2016 - Main Building
This is probably the starting point for most visitors to the Degree show. On the way in you spot a few oversized children’s toy sucker arrows. The main atrium is well used with the performance costumes, which are displayed with some real exuberance. It was nice to see some futuristic and different stuff, nice as steampunk is, it can be overdone at these things.
I thought that the photography was particularly strong and as ever persevering to the remote corners of the West wing can lead to some very evocative room sized installations. My perennial favourites are the animations. However I really wish that they would just upload them all to Vimeo for people to enjoy. I watched two,
GNOME by Ben Cresswell
which was dark strange and really rather wonderful 

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which packed an involving story into a short running time. 
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I did not see much painting, traditionally strong, but this is probably because I missed those galleries. It would really take a few visits to get the best out of this show.

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