What is the painting?

Reminds-me-ofDuring a recent visit home my daughter was trying out my new, preloved camera and the new, also secondhand, prime lens. You can see she was having a go at capturing the ‘infinite’ reflections disappearing down the tunnel created by a pair of mirrors opposite each other.

However, when I saw this photograph downloaded from the memory card it immediately reminded me of a very famous painting. My daughter’s photo had not remotely been an attempt to copy the original Manet painting. That would have been a technical feat, with the intriguing image the artist achieved on canvas, but I do think there is a familiar quality about this photo’s composition. I think that my daughter’s fringe, the mirrors and the cluttered sideboard are also significant details. A little slice of life imitating art, don’t you think?

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The Bar at the Folies-Bergeres, by Edouard Manet

‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergère’ (Un bar aux Folies Bergère) – Edouard Manet. Oil on canvas. 96 cm (38 in) × 130 cm (51 in) Courtauld Gallery, London

 

 

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The Romantic Rose for Valentine’s

Romantic-rosesWhen folk consider flowers for Valentine’s Day, the perennial favourite is the red rose. I think there is something intensely romantic about a single, velvety, dark red rose, but if I were to be receiving a bouquet of roses, I think I would prefer pink roses.Romantic-roses-2The bonus with giving or receiving roses is many are fragrant too, with most of the old fashioned varieties perfuming a whole room with their beautiful, rich scent.

Of course, as you may have already guessed, I don’t just love old fashioned pink roses, but pink blooms in general and find them a great source of inspiration for my flowery silk scarf designs. And with that in mind, here’s a jug of last summer’s dahlias providing just such stimulus!

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Hooking a cushion cover

Adams-Blue-clupIt may no longer be as necessary as it once was, but recycling old clothes, offcuts and remnants can only be a positive way of limiting our modern, wasteful ways.

BV-beginningI have a box filled with remnants of my painted silk. Mostly small pieces too small to be individually sewn into anything useful, but large enough to be cut into strips and hooked into hessian.

BV-doneNaturally, most of the weight of the silk I use when painting is too fragile to hooked into a rag rug, but it is definitely sturdy enough to be made into a cushion cover.

Hook-group.jpgI have combined the painted silk scraps with dyed wool, old dyed cotton t-shirts, remnants of velvet and strips of various mixed fibre textile oddments all found in my rag bag.Working-photoThe finished cover kind of resembles my original photograph that I used as the basis for the design.

Hooked-work

Posted in Contemporary Culture & Design, Hooked textiles | 18 Comments

Verdi: A Philanthropic Maestro

Casa-di-RiposoLast week I posted a piece about my recent visit to the Royal Opera House to see a rather passé production of Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’. During the interval I recalled that last year my father and I had visited the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti in Milan. Also known as Casa Verdi, this is a home for retired opera singers and musicians, and it was set up by Verdi in 1896. It is also the place where both Verdi and his wife, the opera soprano Giuseppina, are buried.

Verdi commissioned this building to be a home for those musical people who, one way or another, had fallen on hard times during their latter years, often occurring when they could no longer perform for a living.

verdi's spinet

There is a small museum within the building displaying various paintings and objects that belonged to Verdi such as this spinet.

The home was open to residents on 10th October 1902 a couple of years after Verdi’s death and it was supported by bequeathed funds from the royalties received from Verdi’s operas. However, these royalties expired in the 1950s and the home is run now on income from Verdi’s property investments, donations and contributions from the residents. The residents, or guests, as Verdi preferred them to be known, each have their own room and some have views that overlook the inner courtyard, pictured above in the top photograph. The windows are those in the wings to the left and right side of the central complex which contains the communal rooms.

verdi's piano

Verdi’s grand piano still played by some of the guests of the Casa di Riposo.

A recent (3 January 2018) social piece in the Financial Times written by Hannah Roberts interviews one of the guests, the 95 year old opera singer, Luisa Mandelli. From the piece I read that the current average age of guests is 89 years old. And, when I visited, we were shown the small but elegant concert hall where the guests could get together either to perform, or to listen to music, and then share musical discussions.

Concert-HallFor the guests at Casa Verdi keeping up with their musical interests is seen as very important for maintaining robust cognitive abilities as well as offering a good quality of life. Verdi is recorded as saying that he thought his fame would only last about 30 years after his death. How wrong he was and it isn’t just his wonderful music, but also his thoughtful philanthropy that keeps his memory alive.

Butti-Verdi-statue

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Perhaps time for a new production

ROH-Covent-GardenThere is an age-old question how do you present a masterful work of art created in the nineteenth century to a contemporary audience. Grand opera, like much of Shakespeare, is often concerned with universal themes of the human condition. Stories of tragic love, betrayal, and death are presented for our entertainment. Verdi’s famous opera Rigoletto is one such example.

ROH-ticketsFor a Christmas treat my father and I recently went to see Rigoletto at the Royal Opera House. This is the David McVicar production first staged in 2001. The staging admirably sets the mood. It is simple, dark and foreboding with much in gloom. Perhaps it is a bit too dark, as I would like to have had brighter pools of lights for the solos and duets so we could actually see the singers’ faces.

Very-dark-setDavid McVicar’s production is a no holes barred, most deliberately sleazy, with a capital ‘S’, production. Yes, Rigoletto, from the Victor Hugo play, shocked its original nineteenth-century audiences in Italy to the point where it was banned. However, for a twenty-first-century audience we are fine with a probing light illuminating the depravity of absolute power that is displayed by the medieval Duke of Mantua as he exploits his subjects in a virtually lawless manner. We are not, as the nineteenth-century folk were, troubled that their social order would be disturbed by this politically provocative opera.

Rigoletto-impressionNevertheless, this 2001 production is problematic today as far as contemporary gender politics is concerned. As Verdi scored, there are no ‘singing’ parts for the female members of the chorus. In opera terms that means all the women of the chorus are simply littering the stage as objects. In this case to be used and abused, they have no voice, therefore no agency. Despite no collective female singing, there are four solo female parts. These characters appear to stand for the virginal (Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda), the whore (Maddalena), the old nurse/matron (Gilda’s nurse) and the aristocratic lady (Countess Ceprano). I suppose standard females rolls reflecting the nineteenth-century commonly held view of the place of women in society. This is despite the fact the record shows many women worked in factories as well as working as servants, or on the land or in trade. And, working women were also evident during the medieval period in which Rigoletto and indeed this production has been set.

So what can Rigoletto offer its 21st audiences? Verdi wrote it in the music, it is the psychology of humankind; those flesh and blood traits that cross the centuries and with which a modern audience can identify.

RigolettoAttempting any tweaking sanitization of Verdi’s Rigoletto would be utterly pointless and the wonderful music has so much to convey not least the loving relationship between a father and his cherished daughter as well as all that bravura, dramatic evil. However, in this particular production subtlety is absent. Of course, nobody would want to dismiss a work of art because it reflects the mores of a different time, but I think this nineteenth-century piece could have been given a more reflective interpretation.  Surely, it is time the ROH invited a new director to tackle this magnificent tragic opera with a fresh, more nuanced production.

someone-stoodOne very positive aside, was the discovery (well, for me) of a new voice, the young bass Andrea Mastroni, most certainly one to follow in the future.

 

Posted in Contemporary Culture & Design, Treats | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Contemporary Decorations

TurquoiseTomorrow is the last day of Christmas and traditionally all the festive decorations will be taken down.

Going-blueSince early December there has been a contemporary Christmas Tree erected outside the University of Suffolk on the Ipswich Waterfront.

Blue-green-tree-IpswichFeaturing a gradually changing lighting scheme it has attracted plenty of attention and quite a few people have been taking photographs.

green-goldIt is interesting to see non-traditional displays. This one is all about lighting up the winter evenings as it references a traditional tree without being a chopped down fir.

Going-greenI saw it being erected and was unsure about its appearance, but once night fell and the lights were switched on I thought the subtly changing colours were rather beautiful.

Scale-tree

Hard to grasp the scale, but easier with a human in shot!

Christmas is about traditions, but it is pleasing to see new contemporary, festive interpretations too.

 

Posted in Contemporary Culture & Design, Ipswich, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Claire – Outrageously flamboyant

Claire-GraysonFrom 4 November 2017 – 4 February 2018 the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool is hosting the exhibition ‘Making Himself Claire: Grayson Perry’s Dresses’. Regular readers of this Blog will know I am a big fan of Grayson Perry and his work. And, Claire is a force of nature.

Claire Turner Prize dress

Turner Prize dress, silk satin, polyester and computer controlled embroidery, designed by Grayson Perry, 2003.  Worn by Perry as his alter ego Claire when he collected the Turner Prize for Art in 2003.

The Exhibition is displaying ensembles designed by students of Central St Martins for this world-famous,  cross-dressing artist as well as outfits designed by Grayson Perry himself.

Sarah Hall Central St Martins

Dress, printed polyester and wool, designed by Sarah Hall, Central St Martins, London, 2009. Deliberately unsettling imagery reflecting the designs of Perry’s ceramics which often have darker meanings upon closer examination.

Angus Lai and Grayson Perry

Dress, printed polyester satin, designed by Angus Lai, Central St Martins, London 2014. And Angus with Grayson Perry in a similar dress in a shorter length. Photo David Levene for The Guardian

A friend of mine recently went along and took some photos to share with me as I can’t get to Liverpool to see these fabulous, outrageous creations.

dress and matching bonnet

Dress and matching bonnet, printed and appliquéd cotton, mixed fabrics and ceramic buttons, designed by Grayson Perry, 2008.

The Exhibition is taking place in the Craft and Design Gallery of the Walker Art Gallery.

high priestess cape grayson perry 2007

High Priestess Cape, silk satin, rayon and computer controlled embroidery, designed by Grayson Perry, 2007.

There is a perennial question ‘Is it art or is it craft?’ that bothers some folk, but I think we can say that both in his Turner Prize winning work, and, his personal expression as Claire, it is all first rate visual culture with no need for post-medieval boundaries.

Here’s a short video from the Walker Gallery of Grayson discussing the Exhibition.

 

Posted in Contemporary Culture & Design, Cultural Objects, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

New Gift Boxes

Christmas-displayMost of the scarves I sell are bought as gifts. And, whether my customer is buying from me in real life, or online, I carefully fold each scarf within acid free tissue paper and place it in a box. Now there is more to boxes than just simply being a cardboard container.

Originally I chose a pale blue and black box design with a blue and black image on the lid. It was okay, but I always felt the boxes were too deep for a silk scarf.

Agnes-Ashe-signature-boxesLast year I changed my supplier and now have plain matt black boxes the appropriate depth.

Initially, I added my pink and black colourful logo to the lid. However, I didn’t think it really worked, so .  .  .

Box-old-logo-label.  .  .   for my recent outing selling my work at ‘British Crafts at Blackthorpe Barn’ I decided to change the design for the lid to give a more muted appearance.

New-box

Mind you, the rest of my display was so full of colour, pattern and ornate props, I doubt anybody noticed the appearance of the boxes!Display-props

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Golden Hour in a Fine Urban Park

Golden-hour-leavesAlthough Ipswich, a town of about 134,000 people, is not a large place it has some beautiful parks. Recently I went along to Christchurch Park for the first time. The so-called golden hour for taking photographs may be a great time for capturing a weak wintery sunset and the fabulous rich colours of the last leaves, but it was a bitingly cold afternoon.

Christchurch-Pond-at-sundownNevertheless, despite my fingers becoming stiff with cold, I managed to take a few interesting photos. As I have already mentioned previously my favourite park in Ipswich is Holywells Park, however probably the most well-known park is Christchurch Park.

Originally, this parkland was the grounds of the Augustinian Priory of the Holy Trinity founded around 1177.

View-back-to-townHowever, the land has changed ownership several times since it was seized by the Crown as part of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. The park is also the site of the beautiful, late-Tudor mansion, Christchurch Mansion.

Christchurch Mansion winter golden hour

Christchurch Mansion. Red Tudor brick built between 1548 and 1550. The mansion’s upper storey was rebuilt after a fire in 1674 and some remodelling was carried out in the 18th century by the Fonnereau family.

The Mansion’s last private owner, Felix Cobbold, gave it to the community in 1895 on the condition that the Ipswich Corporation purchased the rest of the associated property within which the mansion was set. And, as an urban space open to the public, it has belonged to the people of Ipswich since 1895.

The park is slightly bigger than Holywells Park with more open spaces and vistas, and consequently feels less intimate and domestic than Holywells. It is more like a traditional urban park, but still offers a restorative green space within a five minute walk of the town centre.

Christchurch-Park-Pond

Posted in Ipswich, Suffolk | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Old hands and newbies

BB-OneLast weekend and again this coming weekend I will be selling my work at ‘British Crafts at Blackthorpe Barn’. The venue is a fantastic, timber-framed Suffolk barn dating from about 1550. Over its long history the Barn was used for threshing and storing grain. Indeed, the Barn was still used as a grain store up until 1985. It is a beautiful airy space with the massive timbers supporting a 30 metre long, thatched roof.silk-scarves.jpgDuring the course of the weekend it was a pleasure to meet so many people, especially some very talented crafting folk not least my neighbours, Karen, of Karen Risby Ceramics, and, Kerry, Kerry Richardson Designer Jeweller.Karen-and-KerryA big thank you to these experienced and accomplished designer makers for their warm welcome to this newbie to ‘British Crafts at Blackthorpe Barn’.

BB-Insta

Posted in East Anglia, Scarves | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments