Category Archives: Art

V&A Dundee

We were under the impression we were the last people on Earth to visit the new V&A in Dundee. Or, I know some exceptionally cultured people, as ‘everyone’ had mentioned going to, or having been to, the new V&A. Even Pippi managed to fit in a trip to Dundee when she was in Scotland. And Dodo and Son celebrated his thirtieth with a trip to Dundee. As you do.

Pippi mentioned how convenient it was that it’s right next to the station, and it made me wonder how I could not have seen it being built, all those times I changed trains just next to the fledgling V&A. But I realised it was all hidden behind scaffolding and in the dark you see nothing.

The Resident IT Consultant said how it’d be good to go before the Ocean Liners exhibition ended, and I silently concurred. Which is why we went two days before the end, me thinking Friday was bound to be better than the weekend. Maybe it was, but it looked like the whole world was there. Which is odd as I thought they’d already been. Not that there is a rule against going more than once, of course.

We will probably go again.

As I said, the place was heaving, mainly with other old people, and mostly speaking with an English accent.

I hope this was why the place felt as if it could have done with being bigger. The café in the middle was definitely too small. An army of helpful staff improved things, but searching for a table at which to drink tea and eat their gorgeous scones was hard. Actually, I found enough table space. It was just that the chairs had gone walkies, and even as I watched, more chairs went off to join their friends at small tables with too many people around them.

The Ocean Liners exhibition was interesting, but I didn’t linger. The crowd effect meant I couldn’t reach to see or look in peace and quiet. But that was fine. I left the Resident IT Consultant to study it in detail and went to sit outside. Good thing I did, as it meant I didn’t miss the postman. My postman. He was there too. (He’d probably hoped for a Witch-free day…)

Lovely though they were, the scones didn’t last us all day. We had hoped for lunch in the restaurant, but it was booked solid until 3pm, so we went back downstairs, to the moving chairs. The brie croissants were nice, if somewhat soggy. (I’d have put the brie underneath the tomato slices.)

Tay Bridge

A quick look at the Tay Bridge from the balcony, and then we did the Scottish Design exhibition, which was much better than reviews had led us to expect. Wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

Then it was time to go home, before the Friday travelling crowds made it impossible.

But I’d go back for the scones alone.

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Room for art

I knew exactly where the painting was going to go. Even before it arrived in the post, planning my birthday gift to the Resident IT Consultant – who likes trains – I knew it would go on the wall, just outside the door by his desk.

Railway station by Rachel Ward

Six months on, it is still leaning against the wall, next to the television. This is less to do with me being lazy and more because I can’t bear to stop looking at it. Where it is now, I see it every time I sit down in my armchair. I like looking at it. I, too, like trains and railway stations and all that stuff.

And let’s face it, I bought the painting because I liked it. Not entirely selfless. The Resident IT Consultant generously said it could hang somewhere better [for me]. But where? In a house that really wasn’t made for more art at all, I first bought this streetscape, which I had great trouble finding space for. It now hangs next to my desk, but I had to re-home the calendar that used to live there.

Street scene by Rachel Ward

Rachel Ward, who painted both pictures, is a dangerous woman to know. I first met her in her role as a YA author, nearly ten years ago. Those books were good. Now, she paints at least as much as she writes. And she takes photos.

Where some people can barely get out of bed in the morning, Rachel takes the dog for a walk and before my Weetabix is hot, she has put that morning’s photo harvest on Facebook. They are good photos, of attractive landscapes and streetscapes. So as well as painting, Rachel turns some of her photos into cards. And Christmas cards… (You can find her art here.)

As for the railway station, the jury is still out. Where to hang it? Do I need to be able to stare at it in long daily doses?

I suspect the answer is ‘yes.’ The ‘where’ is still unknown.

From cake to Cecil

The whole thing began with cake, but I forget quite how we ended up on the subject of homemade versus bought cake, and the effect of certain television programmes. But when we really should have been tidying books, we got lost in odd – and old – memories, much to the surprise and interest of Daughter.

It was my madeira cake – back in 1982 – which led us to my old friend No Filmstar. It was he who admired my cake so much he reckoned it had to be an M&S cake. For some reason Daughter required more information, and slowly, step by step, we arrived at the sculptor Cecil Thomas.

At first I couldn’t remember his name, but the Resident IT Consultant knew we’d looked him up before, in a past where there was no Google. But with the few facts we had, Daughter eventually found him and his impressive work and reputation.

Having known so little back then, it was interesting learning more. I met No Filmstar soon after Thomas’s death in 1976, and whereas he was mentioned now and again, I never knew any real facts. No Filmstar was one of the somewhat strange individuals hanging out in Queensway, back in the day when the young witch began witching.

So we moved sideways from the sculptor to the other people, including Dulcie and Mrs MacLean, and I remembered more about Mrs Hop and Cyril with the guinea pigs, and the old couple with the dog, and I realised what an odd life these people had, eating out every night, because they hadn’t the means to cook where they lived (most likely just a room). It seemed a bit glamorous then, but now I feel mostly sorry for them.

It’s the idea of being so ‘posh’ that you don’t go to work – other than charitably – but live ‘frugally’ off an inheritance, which inevitably dwindles as you go, that seems strange.

As always, I wish I could get the photos out, but I stuffed them all in a box when we moved, so can’t easily find individual ones, and the last letter I received in connection with these people I threw out a couple of months ago…

Except, Dulcie the 1st, who was eventually replaced by her niece Dulcie the 2nd, recently caused Bookwitch to receive a contact email from someone who could turn into Dulcie the 3rd, if her name wasn’t something else.

And I know none of this makes sense. I’m merely reminiscing. There was a Russian spy – whose name I forget – in there too.

We met by Picasso

It felt like something straight out of a Gyllene Tider song. I did wait by Picasso, and we were indeed in the same small town Per Gessle sings about in Småstad. That’s because singer Lena Andersson and I grew up in the same small town as Per, and my suggestion that Lena and I should meet by Picasso was more a matter of practicality, than me being clever. It’s a big statue, there are seats to sit on (I am old) and it’s across the street from the church café that I felt might be a good place for some ‘fika.’

And had it not been for my plumber who phoned me on my mobile to ask where to send his invoice, then the local radio station would have lost its star turn for the day. Lena is back in Sweden this summer to stage a come-back, and she has been interviewed by everyone, everywere. During two months she will have covered great parts of the country and she will have sung in lots of places and been interviewed in many more.

So while I was spelling my address out to the plumber, Lena got her phone out and looked at text messages – as you do – and discovered that she needed to get her skates on to get to an almost forgotten about live radio interview on time. In fact, she couldn’t make it to the original venue (her parents’ balcony), so quickly switched to a nearby park, as she’d cycled into town.

Luckily we had drunk our tea and coffee, and eaten.., well, never mind what we’d eaten, and chatted about being foreigners where we live and about coming ‘home’ and whether our husbands are tidy men when left on their own. (No comment.)

I had forgotten to ask Lena if she could bring a copy of her new CD Open Your Heart when we met, but luckily she did anyway, and I’m listening to it as I write this. (I’ll tell you more about that later.) Her voice hasn’t changed much from the days of gospel singing over the skipping rope in the late 1960s. Neither has she, which is nice.

Halmstad Library, Lena Andersson on the radio

Woman in Gold

What surprised me the most about Woman in Gold was how much it was about the war. That might sound stupid, but I’d mainly thought about the process of getting a stolen work of art back now, long after the war. And the trailer had been mostly lighthearted, with clever and amusing lines.

Woman in Gold

Don’t misunderstand me; I believe the film was better for all its background, reminding us – and in the case of Daughter, showing for the first time – of what went on in Austria not only during the war, but before it as well. Without it, Maria Altmann could have seemed to be simply greedy and grabbing. In a way this was one of those occasions when you feel that both sides are both right and wrong. Were it not for the fact that Austria took away Maria’s right to the life she was living, when they pulled the rug out from under her feet. As I think she said, it wasn’t so much getting the painting of her aunt back, as getting some recompense for what they did to her family, breaking it up, and killing most of them.

Woman in Gold

I had looked forward to seeing more of Vienna, but in the end it was almost painful. I appreciated seeing the old Vienna, as Maria knew it when she grew up. I’m not Austrian, nor quite that old, but I could recognise some of the life she lived.

Had not realised that Daughter didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, but then it had been some years since we read about Maria and her Klimt painting in the news.

Woman in Gold

I enjoyed Woman in Gold, and more so for it being so European, and not just Hollywood gloss. Helen Mirren can do anything she puts her mind to, and Ryan Reynolds was a lovely Randol Schoenberg. Good to see so many actors employed who are not necessarily English language household names, but who were able to portray Austrians in a believable way.

Criminals, and their other work

I can still recall my shock and surprise at the Post Office – where I had once worked – finding the member of staff at the counter was an old colleague of mine. Fresh out of jail, she must have been. I had heard she had been found guilty of helping herself to money from people’s savings accounts. It was all the more ironic to me, as this colleague had been the union representative and she had railed at us younger members of staff for not taking things seriously enough.

But there she was, back with her hands in the till, so to speak. Obviously no one else would want to employ her, and Swedish state employees had pretty secure job rights back then. I’m guessing they couldn’t sack her. You know; court, jail, back to work.

There is a Swedish singer I quite like. I’m not an active fan, but enjoyed his music as a child, and in recent years there are some albums I have and listen to. He was – I believe – jailed for drug crimes in the intermediate period. I don’t read gossip magazines, and living in exile it’s hard to keep up with all the news.

It didn’t worry me, nor did it surprise me. I don’t go around thinking his singing is connected with his private life or whether he is a nice person. The songs are the same, with or without the drugs/jail connection. Equally, I don’t feel my childhood enjoyment of his music has been tainted by the drugs news.

But perhaps you can tell where I’m going with this? Rolf Harris; a man I have admired and whose work I have enjoyed for so long.

When the news first appeared about the accusations of sex crimes, I hoped they were wrong, and worried about what would happen. Now, though, I couldn’t care less about him. Not only have I made the journey from fan to non-fan, but it all seems very plausible and far easier to ‘accept’ than I ever thought it would.

You see films where the other convicts spit in the food served to child abusers. I’m guessing this is what I’m feeling. There are crimes that you can see as merely crimes, and then there are other crimes that are something else entirely. I have to admit that I never worried too much about what to think of Gary Glitter. As a teenager I liked his singing well enough, but that ended and his criminal career has not caused me to dwell on what I think of him.

In both cases there are young people who have been abused. That’s very important to remember. But then there are the fans, who possibly never saw their star perform live, or at least never spoke to them.

We have a past, that now has changed. We liked someone we would never have liked, had we known. When the news first appeared, I didn’t know how I would feel about my Rolf Harris CDs.

I do now.

They will have to go, just like all everything else this man created in his life, and which people all over the world are ditching. Either because they want no connection with him, or because you can’t continue enjoying what you once liked.

So many children – and adults – have had their memories tainted. I have decided to let my earlier blog posts remain for the time being. I somehow feel I don’t want to be forced to erase my own past, even though my feelings and opinions have changed. And now I understand why Rolf Harris looked so stiff and was in such a foul mood at the last concert at the Lowry. I was just too polite, and too much of a fan, to draw attention to it.

I shouldn’t have been.

My big fear is finding out who will be next. I very much doubt this is all there is. We will find more heroes with feet of clay. The question is who.

When.

Ascension art

I remembered the rock. It was enormous, and just by artist Rosa Ekelund’s front door. That’s how I knew we’d gone to the ‘wrong’ artist’s house. We had followed the other cars up the hill, and ended up at Kätie Nilsson’s instead. She had the most marvellous view from her windows, which isn’t surprising considering we’d gone some way up from the coast. And she was an interesting artist too. Main problem was too many people and me too close to the paintings (I’m old, so don’t see too well if the distance is wrong). I liked the way she’d displayed some of her smaller pictures. I’ll copy that at home.

Ascension weekend is just coming to a close, and in my part of Sweden Ascension means art for four days. Artists open their studios and people come and look. And buy, if they feel inclined. We don’t often manage to be here at the right time, so it was a bonus to discover we’d picked the right week.

After Kätie we did find Rosa Ekelund, and her enormous rock. I’d like a rock like that, even if it is inconvenient to have one in the middle of your drive. Rosa does colourful women, mostly, and also paints on slate and driftwood. We could easily have bought a slate with thrift on. Or the Madonna and child, on Rosa’s garage wall. Or the large oyster-catchers. If we had enough money and walls, which we don’t.

On to Eva Norrgren at the apple farm, where I had a narrow escape. She had a lovely – and small and not too expensive – picture I liked. Luckily it had already been sold. Nice looking farm building, which was at least as much fun to see as the art.

We finished the day at Helmut Witt’s ceramics workshop. Daughter and I both eyed up the large mugs. We have the ‘smaller’ ones already, but clearly felt thirsty enough to want a larger version.

So we went to Göstas for afternoon tea with a sea view, in the sunshine. It’s not always nice, but this time it was perfect. Good tea and nice cake, and everyone got what they wanted. We wouldn’t have minded taking the furniture home with us, but resisted the urge.

The next day we looked at the art at Särdals Kvarn, even though it wasn’t part of the weekend event. We had more tea, in more nice surroundings. And then we went to see Thomas and Ulla Frisk and their art, which is always a highlight for me. Thomas paints large oils, and we don’t have room for more, even though I’d happily build a wall down the middle of a room just to hang one of his grey, industrial oil paintings. Or maybe a wash basin. I already have the toilet.

Thomas Frisk

Once we’d got this far we found we’d overdosed on the art and the teas. There were plenty more places to go, but we had no energy left for anything. Not even for Mjellby Konstmuseum. Even though it was free entry, and it had a great looking exhibition on.

Another year, another Ascension.