Sunday, 12 November 2017

Arty Stuff

Various art related posts, brought together into one place.


Jul 2019 : Had a look in the Art Gallery in Wynmondham, Norfolk and found an exhibition of textiles, photgraphy and art by Yr 11-13 students at Wynmondham High Academy. Was hugely impressed with their skill and imagination, a lot of interesting and thought provoking work. Wynmondham High Academy have kindly given permission for the images below to appear on this blog. BFTF wishes all the students well in the future!

Artist : Annie Elliot

Artist : Chloe Littlewood

Artist : Ciaran O'Brien

Artist : Keri Kennett

Artist : Scarlet Smith


Rather liked these murals at the shopping centre in Luton

Mural in Luton 1/2

Mural in Luton 2/2


Really liked this installation, entitled "Sentinel" at Castle Bromwich, Birmingham - home to wartime Spitfire production.

The Sentinel, Castle Bromwich, Birmingham

Saw some artwork by Claes Gabriel recently - very interesting stuff. The picture below really doesn't really bring out that the little circles are like small domes in the surface. Check out his Facebook page.
Artwork by Claes Gabriel

Close up showing 3-D ness of surface

Complex (and surprisingly heavy) paper folding sculpture by Eliza

Aug 2016 : A visit to the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh

BFTF recently visited Edinburgh and, almost by chance, took the opportunity while there to visit the National Gallery. It proved to be a good decision as there were some beautiful artworks there. Definitely a place to visit if you are in that great city. You can read more about their collections here.

Below are a few of the paintings that particularly caught BFTF’s attention, together with the thoughts and questions they provoked in BFTF’s mind…

Niagra Falls from the American Side (Frederic Edwin Church, 1867)
Niagra Falls from the American Side

Like all the paintings shown in this post, this was painted In an age when there was no video or cinema, and photography was monochrome and in it’s infancy – so paintings and prints were perhaps the only way people could get a feel for how far off places looked.

Niagra Falls detail.
Expect they got a bit muddy getting to this observation point

Intrigued by the couple in the small observation lookout. Who are they? Did they get their clothes dirty getting to the observation point?

Poplars on the Epte (Monet, 1891)
Polpars on the Etbe, Monet
A nice painting but, on reflection, only really took a picture of it because it was by the famous Monet. (more info here)

Poplars on the Edbe detail

A detail showing the paint strokes.

Still life of flowers in a sculpted vase (Jan van Huysum, c.1718)
Still Life

An incredibly detailed painting, undertaken in oils on a copper base. Can’t help but be impressed by the technical expertise required to paint this. One wonders how, without todays speedy transport links, it was possible to get all those flowers in one place before the blooms had faded.

Still Life detail

A close up of one of two of the flowers only makes it look even more awesome!

Olive Trees (Vincent van Gogh, 1889)
Olivers, van Gogh

Certainly an arresting painting.(more info here).

Oliviers Detail - looks like Vinny was in a bit of a hurry!

Paintstrokes really interesting to look at, one wonders how van Gogh choose the colours, what his palette looked like, how he chose his colours, whether he ever ran out of a colour(and what he did then)?

The Riva degi Schiavoni (Venice) Antonio Canaletto, c.1745
The Riva degi Schiavoni (Venice)

What a detailed painting! One can almost imagine stepping into it and talking to the characters on the waterfront. The building on the left is the Doge’s Palace, the local seat of power, which is now a museum, and across the Bridge of Sigh’s can be seen the Venice prison, which looks rather plush on the outside, although the interior is no doubt very different.

The Riva degi Schiavoni (Venice) detail.
"You sir, are a cad and a bounder!"

Really like the detail and care taken over portraying the people in the scene. Wonder what they are talking about.

A view of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi (Bernardo Bellotto,1746/7)
A View of Verona by Bernardo Bellotto

Bellotto was a nephew and student of Canelletto, and it rather shows in his style of painting.

A View of Verona by Bernardo Bellotto detail.
Mafia involvement resulted in yet another overdesigned footbridge...

This painting brings out the engineer in BFTF ! How was the bridge and ramp made? How long did it take? How many people? More info here

Art Cabinet with Anthony van Dyck’s ‘Mystic Marriage of St Catherine’, (Willem (Guillam) van Haech, 1630)
Art Cabinet, Willem van Haech

There is an awful lot going on in this painting. Apparently Most of the artworks depicted in the painting can be identified, though the collection as a whole is an imaginary one.

BFTF couldn't remember the name of this painting and was having trouble identifying it online, so called the Gallery. A VNL (very nice lady) instantly identifed if from my garbled description and advised the name of the painting and the artist. Good stuff, Scottish National Gallery!

Art Cabinet detail.

Wonder what the Moor and the Italian are discussing regarding the globe, and noting the navigational instruments casually laid on the floor.

Oct 2014 : Non Sign II

BFTF has been fascinated to read about the "Non-Sign II" art installation at Blaine(WA) on the US-Canadian Border.

It is designed by artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo at the Lead Pencil Studio (see also here) and is a kind of anti-billboard, consisting of white space through which the changing landscape is framed by an intricate network of welded 0.8"(20mm) diameter blackened stainless steel rods.

Non-Sign II

It ranks highly on any reasonable scale of awesomeness!

BFTF asked Lead Pencil how the installation was constructed and how the designers were sure it would not fall down.

They were kind enough to respond, saying that they had confidence due to previous experience with the technique and pointed out that whilst the steel rods were thin, the spans they crossed were short and that the structure had a high strength to weight ratio.

Lead Pencil also kindly allowed use of the images in this post, which come from a gallery of pictures by fabricator Ian Gill.

This video (also by Ian Gill) gives some understanding of how the separate parts of the installation were prepared at the Lead Pencil studios and then joined together on-site (very cleverly, check it out at around 1m15sec).

Almost as interesting as the installation itself is the way it was funded - through the rather wonderful US Government's "Art in Architecture" program. This is run by the US General Services Admininstration (GSA), who state that:
"GSA reserves one-half of one percent of the estimated construction cost of each new federal building to commission project artists. A panel composed of art professionals, civic and community representatives, the project’s lead design architect, and GSA staff meets to discuss opportunities for artists to participate in the building project. This panel reviews a diverse pool of artist candidates and nominates finalists for GSA to evaluate. Artists who receive federal commissions work with the project architects and others as members of a design team to ensure that the artworks are meaningfully integrated into the overall project."

BFTF asked Nottingham Council whether they have a similar scheme and, if not, perhaps they should start one!

Detail during construction, showing welds between rods

The completed installation - something for drivers to ponder
 as they queue at the Border Crossing !

Image Sources: All used with permission from Ian Gills Gallery

2013 : Some artists BFTF thinks are rather cool...

Simon Bull
Simon gained recognition early on in his career for his detailed etchings and watercolors, but in the early nineties the artist developed and began using bold colors and a more gestural painting style. This transition signaled a major turning point for Bull who has since been characterized as a colorist. He has held exhibitions throughout Great Britain and in cities ranging from Amsterdam to Hong Kong and currently lives and paints from his studio in the Monterey Bay area of California.
Bright Morning Dew (used with permission from

Carole Baker
Carole trained as a Graphic Designer and ran her own business in design and marketing for 18 years before becoming a painter full time in 2002. Her vibrant landscapes have been exhibited in gallery shows and open exhibitions throughout the UK.

"Bright Secret",  used by kind permission of Carole Baker

Ann Blockley
Ann is inspired by flowers and nature, inspired by the gardens and countryside close to her Cotswold studio. Her work is exhibited in galleries throughout UK.

"Foxglove Cottage", used with kimd permission of Anne Blockley

Lachlan Goodie
Lachlan paints some hautingly beautiful landscapes and cityscapes, somehow conveying a great deal of emotion in a very few brushstrokes.

'Summer day's harvest' (click to enlarge) Image by kind permission of Lachlan Goudie

Apr 2013 : Turner - Painting the Industrial Revolution

Great programme on BBC2 (9pm, Fri 26th Apr 2013) entitled "The Genius of Turner - Painting the Industrial Revolution".

It described how the artist J.M.W Turner (1775-1851) lived through - and painted -the Industrial revolution. The introduction of steam power in factiries, trains and ships were all documented by Turner in wonderful paintings.

The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up (click to enlarge)

It is worth remembering that the train he painted in 1844 was one of the first vehicles that could transport a man faster than a horse could run - truly this was the dawn of a new era.

Rain, Steam and Speed and the Great Western Railway (click to enlarge)

As this was a time when there was no distinction between the arts and sciences (and scholars were often interested in both), Turner used the latest scientific thinking in his paintings, for example the work of Herschel on the nature of the Sun, and of Luke Howards work in classifying clouds.

Top notch telly. Well Done BBC.

Image Sources
Rain, Steam and Speed and the Great Western Railway
The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up

Feb 2013 : Star Wars, Pallets, Physics and Music at Light Night 2013

BFTF and No3 son happened to spend a little time at the “Light Night” event in Nottingham City Centre recently and have to say that it was a rather wonderful event.

There were numerous outdoor and indoor events, of which BFTF was only able to visit very few (in particular, BFTF was gutted that he did not catch the Daleks in front of the Theatre Royal). You can get a flavour of the full extent of what was available here,

No3 son was chuffed to see Star Wars characters by the Robin Hood Statue and even more chuffed that Darth Maul agreed to his challenge for a light sabre fight…

No3 Son vs Darth Maul, the Force was with the young Padawan...

Another installation that BFTF caught was the “Physics Buskers” crew on the front of the Council House. These volunteers from the Physics department of the University of Nottingham were demonstrating, amongst other things, how light sources differ spectroscopically and why the sky is blue.

Magic, by Phyics...

No3 Son, entranced by the spectrum of a lightbulb

Physics Buskers was popular, could this be a Jim Al-Khalili effect?

The Architecture department at the University of Nottingham had brought along their “Fleeting Retreat” installation that was made from pallets and binding, which you can read more about here.

The Fleeting Retreat

And, lastly, BFTF and No3 son were also at the, surprisingly good, school band performances at St Peters Church…

The School Bands played material ranging from O Fortuna to a song by Iggy Pop!

Jan 2013 : The Snow Art of Simon Beck

Simon Beck, 54 hails from the south of England but spends his winters in the French ski resort of Les Arcs creating beautiful gemetric desings in the snowfields around the resort.

An example of Simon Beck's Snow Art

An alumni of Oxford University, Simon works as an orienteering mapmaker (converting maps to a form suitable for orienteering) and, even as a young person, had an interest in geometric designs, commenting that “I used to draw a lot of geometric designs, used spirograph a lot, and made polyhedral.”

His internet home is on Facebook where you can find pictures of his work as well as an interesting set of interviews, a few points from which form this blog post.

Simon made his first snow design in 2004 and his designs typically take about 10 hours to create from start to finish - making it a challenge to complete a design and still have daylight to photograph it, indeed Simon comments that “ and are often based on classic mathematical constructions such as the Mandelbrot set, Koch curve or Sierpinski triangle, Simon suggests that a good beginners design are “Sierpinski triangle, flower of life, stars formed by surveying the corners of a polygon and joining them up”

A design based on the Kock curve

All images used by kind permission of Simon Beck.

Nov 2012 : The Chair

The latest in the series of CafĂ© Scientifique talks was quirkily named “The chair - Just somewhere to sit?” and was presented by Clive Edwards, Professor of Design History from Loughborough University (School of the Arts)

Prof Edwards described how their was much more to a chair than just a place to sit, pointing out that they were also used for ceremonial, travel and other uses - and that other parts of the world used other ways (such as squatting or sitting cross legged ) of relieving pressure on the legs.

He then described four ways in which a chair could be viewed, namely :

Authority / Status : Consider the use of “Kings Throne”, “University Seat” or “Judges Bench” as examples of how specific types of chair have particular stus.

Identity : Consider how what the type of chair we buy says about us.

Discipline / Domination : For example, the use of the “electric chair” and the lack of chairs in Victorian prisons.

Comfort / Relaxation : Consider what shape of chair is comfortable, and the use of ergonomics to design comfortable chairs.

Prof Edwards went on to point out that Humans were not really designed for sitting in chairs and that it was only really in the 17th-19th centuries - with the advent of mass transit - that any significant thought was given to the ergonomics of chair design.

He also commented on how the genders prefer different types of chair, with males preferring tilting chairs while females prefer rocking chairs and added that one of the most ergonomic chairs (if not necessarily the most practical) was the “womb chair” which had been designed based on the observation that women often side curled up with their legs beneath them

Womb Chair

To close out his talk, he mentioned that “The Chair” by Galen Cranz was an interesting book on the subject if people wanted to research further.

However, arguably the best bits of the event came in the Q&A session that followed….

In answer to a question about how long metal chairs had been in existence, Prof Edwards mentioned that the Romans had made a folding (!) bronze chair, of which an example survives and is known as “Dagoberts Throne

Throne of Dagobert

Dagobert? That is a name that BFTF is sure he has heard before. . .

In response to a question about the most ergonomic chair, the Prof mentioned the Balans Chair, in which one kneels (although the weight is still supported largely through the buttocks)

Kneeling Chair

Incidentally, there is also a chair known as a “saddle chair” that aims to improve posture in a similar way. The Wikipedia entry states that the chair seat is either solid or divided and that, winningly, “A divided seat reduces pressure on the genitals and lowers the temperature in the genital area.”

(Genital Friendly) Saddle Chair

One of the audience commented that they had been given a very expensive chair at work, only to find it rather uncomfortable, and had switched to an £11 chair from IKEA which he found much better, and now uses a big rubber ball, which is the most comfortable of all, and allows him to move around his workspace easily. However, he is now working at home and wonders whether a big rubber ball would have been allowed at the office.

A rich vein of discussion was found in the topic of “chairs that are not comfortable” - and it seemed that architects were particular culprits of this crime, with (expensive) chairs from Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright being mentioned, as was the 19th century Astley Cooper Deportment chair, which was designed to correct childrens posture - but was actually often used as a “naughty chair” in schools because it was not comfortable and did not allow children to slouch or move around.

Charles Remy Mackintosh Chair

On the other hand, some timeless, and very comfortable chairs discussed were the traditional wooden Windsor and Bentwood chairs, with 50million Bentwood chairs produced between 1859 and 1930. Another comfortable chair, and one that give the person using it a feeling of power is the “Barcelona Chair”, so called because it was designed for the Barcelona exhibition.

Bentwood Chair

Barcelona Chair

As a parting comment at the end of the event, Prof Edwards mentioned that “The Chair Blog” was a place worth visiting to see more about chair design, adding that it did contain quite a few chairs whose primary purpose seemed to be to look unusual.

Image Sources Womb Chair, Throne of Dagobert, Kneeling Chair, Saddle Chair, Charles Remy Mackintosh Chair, Windsor Chair, Barcelona Chair

Apr 2012 : Tour of the Theatre Royal Nottingham

BFTF had the chance to tag along on a fascinating tour of the Theatre Royal(official website here), Nottingham recently. With David Longford and Caroline Pope from the theatre’s education department as guides, the tour literally “went behind the scenes” of the theatre, gave a glimpse into its history and delved deep into its innermost workings.

David began the tour by explaining that, back in 1865 when the theatre was built, the view from it down towards Market Street would have been very different. The houses would have been dilapidated, almost slums and Market Street was a narrow, badly surfaced lane known as “Blood Alley” because of the risk of a slipping or sliding cart running over a pedestrian.

The theatre was built by John and William Lambert, local lace merchants who loved drama and wanted to give something back to the city. It cost £15,000 (equivalent to over £1.5million today) and was completed in the astonishingly short time of 6months.

The architect was Charles J Phipps and the Theatre Royal was only his second commission. However, it was very well received and resulted in Phipps gaining a number of further commissions elsewhere in the country. Theatres at that time were lit by gas, and contained numerous gas pipes serving all the lamps in the building. This was something on a fire hazard and it was only a matter of time before tragedy would strike. . .

The Theatre Royal

The inevitable happened in the Theatre Royal in Exeter, also designed by Phipps, which was built in 1886. Only a few months after opening, a naked gas flame ignited some drapes and fire spread quickly. Many people, especially those in the upper gallery, could not escape, while others were crushed in the stampede for the exits. In total, some 186 people lost their lives.

It provoked Parliament into introducing more stringent safety precautions in all British theatres. Nottingham responded to the disaster and legislation by hiring the well known theatrical designer Frank Matcham in 1897. Matcham introduced electrical lighting to the Theatre Royal, raised the stage and generally refurbished the theatre. He also designed the Empire Palace which was built on the site where the Royal Concert Hall now stands.

Whilst in the foyer, David pointed out that it would have looked very different on the opening night in 1865 - each of the doors was for a different “class” of ticket and a series of interconnecting staircases ensured that the classes did not have to suffer the indignity of having to interact with each other.

Foyer area

The common people, with the cheapest tickets, didn’t come through the front doors, instead, they had to come in through an entrance at the side of the building, then under the theatre to their places in the stalls, which were standing only and packed pretty tightly (the theatre held some 2,500 people when opened as opposed to the 1100 that it can accommodate in its current all-seater configuration.

The Theatre Royals dead posh auditorium

May 2014 : Minecraft

Some time ago, bought No3 Son (at his request) a licence (~£18) for the online game "Minecraft". The "creative" mode in the game is awesome and really allows ones imagination to run riot - for examples check out the creations here.

Meanwhile, the Danish government has sponsored the creation of a model of Denmark in Minecraft! Genius!

No3 Son isn't quite at that level yet, but BFTF was impressed to see that he had made a pretty groovy roller coaster, which can be seen below.

There are almost no words to describe how badly BFTF wishes he had a spare week to spend making stuff in Minecraft (sigh)

A roller coaster - in Minecraft.
BFTF wants to have a go!

Mar 2014 : Doodles

A post of doodles (like, you know, what did you expect?):

Admittedly, perhaps a bit more than just "doodling"

2012 : Piano Busker

Just a note to say that I saw "The Piano Busker" in Notts town centre this weekend. He is VERY, VERY, VERY good.You can find out more about him at his facebook page:

Nov 2012 : Kings of Pastry

The unremittingly outstanding BBC4 recently aired a award winning documentary entitled “Kings of Pastry” which covered the preparations of top French pastry chefs for the “Meilleurs Ouvriers de France” (MOF) competition.

Part of the Storyville series, the programme focused mainly on Jacquy Pfeiffer, a chef working in Chicago as he prepared for the three day event, which is only held once every four years.

The MOF is a test of the chefs ability to work against the clock , making a range of confections ranging from small chocolates to ornate sugar sculptures a few feet tall and weighing several kilograms.

The chefs spend years preparing for the event, thinking about the confections they will produce and honing their skills - and for several months before the event they practice their recipes and check to see whether they can work within the timeframe allowed.

The event is not a tournament with just one winner, it is a competition to see who meets the standard required - and all those who are good enough receive the right to wear the prestigious blue, white and red striped collar worn on their chefs jackets.

The programme was mesmerising from start to finish, both for the dedication of the 16 contestants and for the skill and sheer physical hard work required to achieve success.

This isn't a sugar sculpture. . .

. . . THIS is a sugar sculpture

Note : Spoiler Alert !

There was heart-stopping drama too, not least when, on day three, Philippe Rigollot was moving his beautiful sugar sculpture. As he gently placed it on the worksurface, a piece at the top of the sculpture fractured, toppled over and brought down much of the construction like shattered glass.

Understandably, Phillipe was distraught and walked out of the building. He considered quitting but then remembered some advice that he had been given “No matter what happens, see it through to the end” and returned to the kitchen to see whether he could reconstruct at least a token sculpture.

The MOF judges (all top chefs themselves), who had spent the competition looking over the contestents shoulders to see what they were doing now tried to help Phillipe regain his composure. One said “Phillipe, go for it. Your are good at making ribbons. Make one”. Another said “Phillipe, you know how to blow sugar, Do that, it will give your piece volume”.

Heartbreakingly, the judges had tears in their eyes as they made these comments, which only made it more difficult for Phillipe!

In the limited time available, Phillipe managed to prepare a sculpture that, to BFTF, looked pretty impressive.

But, given that there had been many comments from the contestants saying that any mistake would leave ones chances of achieving MOF status in tatters, it seemed pretty clear that Phillipe was now only along forth ride.

Phillipe and his sugar sculpture, just before disaster struck

At the awards ceremony, the judges making the announcement said that he wanted to give all 16 contestants MOF status, but it had not been possible to do so. He read out the list of those who had made the grade :

David Capy, Arnaud Larher, Angelo Musa, Christophe Rhedon…and….Philippe Rigollot

Wow! BFTF certainly did not see that coming ! One of the judges explained that they had been impressed with Phillipe’s perseverance and his performance on the first two days had been good enough to make up for his below standard sugar sculpture on the final day.

Truly a great piece of programming. Perhaps one day, all telly will be this good.

The programme closed by showing Jacquy Pfeiffer, now retired from MOF competition, back at his pasty school in Chicago - and by mentioning that the Philippe Rigollot later opened his own patisserie, whose rather scrumptious website can be found here.

Sugar Sculpture from Wikipedia
Screenshot from Iplayer, used as "fairuse", copyright BBC