Review: A new era: Scottish Modern Art 1900-1950 (curator’s talk)

Today, at lunchtime, Alice Strang, Senior Curator at the National Gallery Modern (Edinburgh) gave an introductory talk on her newest exhibition: A new era: Scottish Modern Art 1900-1950.

The thesis of the exhibition is that Scottish artists were responding to the modern influences of European painting fast, through their own work and through courageous and daring exhibitions by SSA and RSA – responding much faster than heretofore thought, and often speedier than their English counterparts.

Samuel John Peploe "Tulips and fruit"

Talk on A New era: Scottish Modern Art 1900-1950

Beginning with the Scottish Colourists, Alice Strang pointed out that when J D Fergusson moved to Paris in 1907, his painting immediately changed – particularly his colour palette.  He was influenced by painters such as Picasso, whom he met and whose work he saw.  Fergusson was a link for other Scottish painting friends to also come across to Paris and see the new exciting ways of painting for themselves.

In displaying the above slide of Samuel John Peploe, 1912, “Tulips and Fruit” Alice Strang pointed out the influence of the lines filling in the coloured areas in the painting – like Van Gogh, whose work Peploe would have seen.  (I also felt that the strong lines were like woodblock lines within a print).

The Futurists were an influence on Scottish artists, with Stanley Cursiter seeing the first exhibition of Futurist paintings in the UK, in London – and choosing to exhibit two of them, alongside his own painting in the 1913 SSA exhibition.  We were given an opportunity to see the delightful play of light and fragmented viewings so beloved of Cubism, in his picture “Rain on Princes Street”.  (It was especially appropriate to be viewing this within a stone’s throw of Princes Street itself.)

Stanley cursitor

Stanley Cursiter – talk slide – “Rain on Princes Street”

As well as showing how Modernist art movements in France affected styles of painting and sculpture, we were shown how the paintings themselves reflected real places (in Edinburgh) by studying a photograph of a particular street location at the time, then flipping on to the next slide to show the painting of the same location.

Radical Edinburgh

Among the interesting evidences for Scotland being more advanced in its art than previously thought, Alice revealed that the first Edvard Munch exhibition in the UK took place in Edinburgh, in 1931.  In this decade, Edinburgh was awash with educators invested in forwarding new and exciting art styles: Hubert Wellington (Principal of Edinburgh College of Art), Herbert Read (Art Historian and Professor of the Fine Arts at Edinburgh University, 1931-33), and Stanley Cursitor (who was Director of the National Galleries).

Among the many artists featured in the exhibition are names I’ll need to investigate further, I was busy scribbling them down: James Nigel Mcisaac, Tom Pow (inspired by Braque), Thomas W Whalen, William Crosbie, William CrozierWilliam Johnstone, Keith Henderson, Benno Schotz in sculpture and sisters Anna and Doris Zinkeisen.

The one hour talk was generously jampacked with references, intriguing digital slides and local information from the curator as to the size of the actual artworks in comparison to the size they displayed on the screen.  As a starter, it definitely left you wanting more, and I look forward to exploring the exhibition itself, soon.

IMG_3963Funnily enough, with a touch of the sublime to the ridiculous, as I emerged from the dark interior of the Hawthornden Lecture room, right in front, through the glass windows was a view of the funfair which has sprung up in Edinburgh for the duration of the Christmas holidays: a bold yellow and red helter-skelter.  I have a sneaky feeling that the modern artists we’d been hearing about would have loved this circus-like brashness, juxtaposition, colour and movement.

 

And a final note of how life meets art – I was meeting a friend immediately after the lecture, in the Portrait Gallery.  While we were talking, my eye kept wandering to one portrait on the wall of the dining-room.  In writing up this blog post, I’ve just discovered its likely to be this portrait by the painter…. McIsaac, one of my new names to investigate!

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silent movie, clown, Buster Keaton, Neil Brand

Review: Neil Brand Presents Buster Keaton

Last night, I went to see a Buster Keaton movie, ably accompanied by his musical partner for the evening: Neil Brand.

It was an early Christmas treat for me – and it was terrific in that quiet, enjoyable way of being served a delicious meal, where every course is a delight, but the chef isn’t in the room, waving his hands and being dramatic about it.

Right at the start, Neil introduced us to the public face of the actor – but explained that actually there were quite a few Busters in his own lifetime – and that the relaxed way he is represented in this photo (featured at the top of this post) belies the fact that Buster treated life as something to be attacked with energy.

As the first clip began to roll on the screen, Neil naturally began to play the piano alongside – no big dramatic announcement – it just happened, and was a beautiful, natural segue.

The “Silent Movies” of course weren’t silent when viewed – there would be a pianist, or organist playing – or if it was a posh cinema for the release of a major new film, perhaps sometimes a small orchestra.  The film itself had “titles” where a piece of card with words on it would appear on the screen, interrupting the moving picture – to let us know what was being said.

The first half of the night was introducing Buster the man and some delightful clips of his short films (the one in which he’s changing into swimming togs in a cubicle together with a large, hectoring man, where there is barely space for one skinny man is a particular joy).  It’s viewable on Youtube, but with an unsubtle organ accompaniment which I personally don’t enjoy so much as live piano accompaniment.

The full-length film being shown last night in the second half of the evening was “Steamboat Bill, Jnr“.  This is a classic – it is THE one where he stands, stone-faced, and the front of a house topples over him – his body going through an upstairs window.  It was a genuinely dangerous part of the movie.

This particular film was what began Neil Brand on his accompanist career – it was the first film he played music to.  He’s now able to play along with the film without having a musical score on the piano.  In fact, he teaches other people to accompany silent movies – and gives the same advice as to us the viewers – “Just hang with the main character – hang out with Buster Keaton.”  And then we simply spent the next hour with an ingenious, charming clown who made us laugh, gasp and watch in wonder.

Although I’m a Buster Keaton fan, have read Paul Merton’s books “Silent Clowns” (which features Keaton, among others) and though our family have a DVD of “The General” and watched it many times – this presentation by Neil Brand still had fresh joys to offer.

So – keep an eye out for silent movies with live accompaniment at your local independent cinema – they’re becoming more frequent.  And if Neil Brand is making a presentation – do go out and see it, even if it’s -5 degrees at the bus stop on the way home! (which it was, last night).  It will be worth it.  Here’s a taster introduction by the man himself.

writing notebooks

Never too old to begin writing career

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Josephine Corcoran

Read this and share it with anyone who thinks they’ve left it too late to be a published writer.  It’s not!  Never!  Write what is in you to write.

Click on link below to read an entire article by Josephine Corcoran, bursting with stories of writers who began a serious career later, mostly in their 50s – and who are still writing and developing further as writers, today.  There’s a sense of beginning, not ending.

via My started late, stop-start writing “career”

photo, Jennifer Watt, Sculptor

Sculpture: Jennifer Watt

The best art needs little explanation: here are Jennifer Watt‘s sculptures – you only need to look at them for a moment for them to speak to you.

sculpture, dancers, Jennifer Watt, sculpture

Dancers sculpture by Jennifer Watt http://www.jenniferwatt.isendyouthis.com

 

 

 

“Dancers” A sculpture of two figures dancing.

Limited Edition
30cm x 50cm x 25cm
Edition of 6

£3,500

 

1861529

La Grande Fete, Sculpture 208

1873834

The Walk, Sculpture 122

Sculpture in three sets of two figures, that can be arranged in a circle or in a line as photograph.

Limited Edition
Cast Aluminium Resin
35cm x 40cm x 10cm
Edition of 25

£900

 

 

 

 

Figurative sculpture of an adult and child suitable for indoors or outdoors. In bronze resin on a green slate base.

Limited Edition
53cm x 30cm x 22cm
Edition of 25

£850

 

1862183

Protege, Sculpture 112

 

 

 

 

Sculpture on green slate base suitable for the garden.

Limited Edition
‘Cast Slate Resin’
76cm x 23cm
Edition of 25

£750

 

(Note: you can get an idea of the scale of these last 2 pieces from the featured photo of the sculptor with her works: you can see them on the right of the picture.)

Jennifer Watt was born in Dumfries, Scotland, and has returned to live near her birthplace.

You can find out more about her sculpture at her website or Instagram site

Memorial

I happen to have come across these sculptures on the anniversary of remembering a good friend’s wonderful mother.  The loss is still painful.  Perhaps an appropriate way to remember someone is with a beautiful piece of art or sculpture – I’ve also seen a stunning example of a woven tapestry of a lake landscape commissioned and made to commemorate a GP who was also a keen canoeist, which was gifted to the doctors’ practice by his family.

Creative Takeaways

You can use Jennifer’s sculptures as a prompt for writing creatively.  In her artist’s statement, she says “I search to create work which achieves an emotional response.” I certainly find her work inspires emotion and is easily readable.

If I were an organisation with a garden or entrance way, I would invest in her figures – they are surprisingly inexpensive, with many suitable for outdoor as well as indoor display.  (You can get an idea of the range of sizes of her figures in the featured photo of Jennifer with her works)

Fly through a book: “Moonshine: Dreamwork Artists after dark!”

The private artworks of 49 Dreamwork animators have been drawn together into a book – at a reasonable price, considering it’s glossy and with colour pictures throughout.  There’s a Flip through view by Parka (an Amazon reviewer) below.  His review is at the bottom of this screen over at Amazon.

You can find a longer blog post on this book, together with a video of interviews with some of its artists, at a blog post earlier today.

There are 49 artists featured in the book – as you can see, the styles vary hugely – this would be a wonderful inspiration book for art education departments and students.

The artists featured are awardwinners at the Annie Awards – annual animation awards – the 2017 list of nominees has just been announced (awards ceremony in February).

Creative Takeaways

If you’re interested in breaking into the animation world (or know someone who is), well worth bookmarking the Annie awards and trying to catch the winners on DVD. Excellence inspires excellence.

Or, just to keep up to date on good films, from general interest – keep an eye on Annie Awardwinners and try to see the films which attract your attention.

Creative prompt: pause the video showthrough of the book at a random page, and use a picture on it as a jumping off point for your own creative making.

Moonshine, Dreamworks, animator, painter

What art do animation artists love to make?

Just today, came across this lovely little video about the art which Dreamworks animation artists make in their private life – and an exhibition of it – great variations in styles and materials.  The cherry on the cake, for me, is an endearing comment at the very end from Jeffrey Katzenberg that he’d love to live among the art on the 3rd floor of  the Musee D’Orsay m, Paris (the Impressionists).  My feeling exactly, when I first encountered it, I practically had to be prised away with crowbars.  And I had to revisit the next day.  Hands up anyone else who had the same reaction?

After watching this, it is clear that animation artists are indeed fine artists – and they love to paint and draw.  All the time.  Even while waiting in a queue for something too mundane to mention.  Keenness and enthusiasm is right there.  One painter even dislikes selling her art to someone unless she knows the purchaser, she feels such a personal bond with her pictures.

Huge talent quietly shown here by: Sam Michalp, Nicholas Weis, Griselda Sastrawinata, Christian Schellewald, Paul Duncan, Marcos Mateu, Nathan Fowkes.

The book itself will be featured in my next blog post.

 

Poem: “Snow” by Louis MacNeice

Louis MacNeice (1907-1963) was one of Northern Ireland best-known poets, and an exciting radio playwright and producer in the early days of BBC drama.  A friend posted this poem of his today on social media – and it’s too good not to share.  If you have snow today outside your window – well, perhaps this will make even more sense to you, and you can enjoy the poem’s sense of colour, distinctive aloud light, smell and taste.

SNOW BY LOUIS MACNEICE

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

You can hear the poem read aloud (not by its writer) here.

(both poem and reading were found at The Poetry Exchange website).