Monday, 21 April 2014

Park life contin.

Location:Sutton Park

A bit more German culture

Via cinema, Midland Arts Centre (thanks to ARTE ) TV company from the Easter Music Festival in Baden Baden, with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle with a wonderfully moving Elgar Cella Concerto, young soloist (they so often are these days ...) Sol Gabetta, and the Rite of Spring, powerful and clear, as well as a cleverly interwoven Ligeti piece and Wagner Overture (Lohengrin Act 1).
There were no problems with the transmission, sound and picture quality excellent, even too effective as all the coughing was broadcast too (and there seemed to be an outbreak of something in Baden Baden, perhaps the audience should have taken the waters beforehand ... ).
Rather more downbeat, Downfall (Der Untergang), the film, on TV: I caught the last half which proved grimly fascinating in its portrayal of the last throes of Hitler and his inner circle, denying the reality of defeat till almost the last, and unrepentant of the terrible acts it instigated (even ordering the execution of disloyal officers hours before the arrival of the Russians). Perhaps most disturbing was the devotion inspired in Hitler's followers, genuinely prepared to follow him to the grave rather than trying to escape.
Bruno Ganz played a weary, angry, obsessed and socio- or psychopathic all-too-real monster with no time for feelings other than his own, no time for the millions who died due to his raging notions, his savage prejudice and resentment. Hardly an easy role ...


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Class Societies: Japan and Britain at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Japan in the era of the Samurai: not just the forbidding Samurai swordsmen, of whom there are reconstructions here, but the wonderful Netsukes and other accoutrements and paintings or tapestries.  High sophistication and skilful art, underpinned by a society of strict order, where said Samurai really could chop off your head if you were a member of the lower orders and didn't show appropriate respect.
Even the Tories aren't that bad.
On to Grayson Perry, a genial character with an edge to his satire that's as sharp as a Samurai sword in the series of tapestries researched and designed by him and combining a Madonna-and-child Jesus narrative with the Hogarth Rake's Progress.  The rise and fall of a character in modern Britain.
Both in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery at the moment - and free entry!

Incidentally, the Museum building dates from the great era of civic endeavour under Tory Joseph Chamberlain, and free entry to many museums in the UK is thanks to much-maligned former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown (as is the Gift Aid initiative for adding extra money to charitable donations.  That's one that would never be thought of by George Osborne).


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Over the Thames

On the bus crossing the Thames, South Bank area.


German Art in London

Royal Academy- "Renaissance Impressions", chiaroscuro woodcuts from the collections of Georg Baselitz: see RA website.

British Museum - "Germany Divided", works by Baselitz and his generation from the postwar Germanies.

National Gallery - "Strange Beauty", German Renaissance art at the National Gallery.

German art has perhaps enjoyed a, er, Renaissance in Britain, as shown by a fine survey of nineteenth century works from the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin on loan to the London National Gallery in the 1990s (?). (I remember visiting this with a friend after returning from Berlin where the Gallery was under renovation).

The fact of three parallel exhibitions of works, from Renaissance times through to the post-World War Two Germanies, must be a sign of increasing awareness of specifically German contributions to Western Art across the centuries.
German artists at one point apparently took their lead from the more popular Dutch.
Altdorfer, Grünewald produced fascinating individual work sometimes criticised for "ugliness", and Albrecht Dürer of course is a major figure from any viewpoint with superb detail and precision of anatomy and nature.
Holbein was adopted by Britain in the same way we took on Handel / Händel in music two centuries later. His painting of fabrics in his portraits really is stunning, how can this not be "beautiful".

The double billing for modern artist Georg Baselitz involves woodcuts and prints he collected with those he produced himself alongside works by contemporaries from the 1960s on. The British Museum has the latter, with an enjoyable contrast of earlier Chinese landscapes in a neighbouring room. Edgy, anxious drawings of strange figures and and not comfortable viewing but they do give a feel for a kind of state of mind of that generation of artists.

The light-and-shade chiaroscuro wood blocks in the Royal Academy show Baselitz's interests, and while quite grim in some cases - Hercules clubbing a hapless figure to death - the detail and skill is striking.

Location:London, UK

Friday, 18 April 2014


To "In the Navy", Village People.

"With the Vikings,
We will always be at sea,
With the Vikings,
Helmets there for you and me,
With the Vikings,
Shields and swords at the rea-dy,
With the Vikings ... !"