Saturday, 25 June 2011

After the Fact... London with Arta

After the better part of a week spent in London hounding the streets for a home to rent for the year, I was left with one free day to spend with Arta. The three of us headed off to Leicester Square, to the half-price booth to get theatre tickets for the last night. The plan was to head in different directions: Arta wanted to see "Love Never Dies" again, and Wyona wanted to spend her last night with "Dreamboats and Petticoats".

Ten minutes before hitting the Tube station, we'd had a long talk about how to meet up with each other if we got separated... the easy answer is of course just to look back for Rebecca's hair. :-) In a moment of irony, the two women went through ahead of me, and my Oyster card ("bus pass") denied me entry (I had run out of money and hadn't noticed).... the line up to re-nourish my depleted Oyster card was long, and the women were gone...Arta, though, in typical Arta way, had decided for fun to see how easy it was to find me, and had noticed I was gone. They came back, spoke to me through the barricade, and we sent Wyona ahead to wait in the ticket line up while I lined up for the Oyster card. Nice start to the day... way to practice finding each other after getting lost.

Just proving that different paths do not always run at the same speed, Arta and I somehow still managed to arrive at the Leicester Square before Wyona.

Go figure. 

So... tickets purchased, we split up for the day: Wyona to visit her favourite scarf sellers (What?! More scarves?!), and Arta and I to visit the National Gallery.

One of the recent 'installations' at the national gallery is the "Eco Art" outside. VERY westcoast!

They have planted grasses and small mossy growing things all over one of the walls of the building.

Not sure how visible it is in the shot, but the effect from some ways back is a bit like a Georges Seurat painting... it just looks like a lovely watercolour painting. Pretty groovy!

Arta and I have not spent much time in museums TOGETHER (as adults, that is... i certainly spent time following in her path of educational exploration as a know, "fossil rock walks in downtown Calgary", "identify bat guano in fish creek park", etc).

But it was a revelation to see that she is just as bad as me in her desire to consume til your belly/brain explodes.

In between our own wanderings, we took in the 10:30 and 2:30 guided tours, each of which offered a more close exploration of 5 or maybe 6 paintings.

Christ Healing the Blind Man by Buoninsegna
We started out looking at some panels from an alter piece done by Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1255-1260 – c. 1318-1319), the most influential Italian artist of his time.

The first one we saw has Christ healing the blind man. 

It is fun to look at the conventions for telling story through image: here, you see the blind man both before and after being healed. 

The panel that goes beside this one has Christ appearing to the apostles.... when they are set along side each other, you can see that the "healed" blind man is looking up at the body of Christ in the panel along side. 


We also learned that this was painted on wood, which was then covered with linen, and then covered with plaster to make a smooth surface to paint on. The paint was egg tempera, which would give you vibrant colours, albeit without tons of nuance: the paint would dry very fast, so you only had a short time where it could be pliably worked). 

Annunciation of Mary
In the afternoon session, we returned to Duccio, to look at another painting of the Annunciation (Mary getting informed by the angel that she was going to have a baby....). 

We listened to a nice discussion about the number of people who would have participated in making the painting.

Different artists in the studio would have done the people, and the buildings (would would have had painters specializing in buildings)

Then we moved up a hundred years, to spend time with the Spanish Bartolomé 
St. Michael Triumphs Over the Devil
Bermejo's 1468 painting "St Michael triumphs over the devil". This one is in oil, which explains the greater nuance and emotion captured in the paint. We also learned more about just how much gold leaf there was on the original. First there was a 'cartoon' of the painting... like a paper version laid over top of the prepared canvas. then someone would poke holes through it onto the prepared canvas below, so that the outline of the painting was transferred there. Then the gold specialist would be next, and would cover certain part of the painting with a red glue, over which was laid tiny pieces of gold flake. The gold would then be further pressed it into the wood with some kind of embossing tool, so that the painting would be even more luminescent when seen in the candlelight of the darkened church. Only after all the gold pieces were laid down would the artist come into to paint the figures and images in the scene. When you look at it now, there is not so much gold, and the background looks reddish... that is just the red glue stuff (which had some special name i have forgotten) showing through. If you click on this link, so will get the picture on the national gallery's website, and can zoom in to get a closeup of the monster! The feminist in me was so happy that the guide did eventually take us to a painting by a woman artist! Here were looked at a painting by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755 - 1842). This is a self-portrait of her, but she is also showing off her skills as a painter by making hers a version of a similar painting by Rubens, on the right of the gallery and which you can see beside her in this post. What she was doing here was making a 'calling card'.

Self Portrait of Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

She is showing herself AS an artist, showing off all the skills she has, letting male viewers know that she can make their wives look this good but that they needn't worry about leaving their wife alone with her. I also like how she is holding her hand out, encouraging them to give her a commission! There was more, but I am getting tired. :-) which was just what happened to us too! So.... in between the two guided tours, we went for a "Talk and Draw" session. Here, they set up 40 chairs in front of one painting.

Artist: John Constable
In this case, the painting was John Constable's "Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Someone talks to you about the painting for 20 minutes, then they give you two drawing tasks, to practice some of the techniques that were used in the drawing. They hand out these nice big easels for you lap, boxes of pastels, pencils, conté, etc. So we had two tasks. First to draw a single tree from the painting by building up layers of colour (ie. start with black, go over with red, with brown, yellow, etc). Second task was to show perspective in the same way (ie. capture the darkening woods in the distance). I will confess, we both had to come to terms with some of our limits! hahaha. And yet, it was totally fun, so sit, listen, draw, and laugh. At the end, they had people set their drawings at the front to compare what people had produced. We also then had to head to the bathroom to wash the evidence of our crimes from our fingers (stained by the pastels). I felt very much like Lady MacBeth! We did bring our drawings home and showed them to Wyona at the end of the night. I will not be more specific re which of the drawings below belongs to Arta and which belongs to me... but I think Wyona was arguing that one of the paintings looks less like 'the woods', and more like a Judy Chicago plate! You can see that neither of those two women was taking my artist production very seriously.


They are never appreciated while still alive...

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