Friday, 25 July 2014

A fairy tale in an enchanted setting

Vouliagmeni Lake, near Athens.


I have written about the lake in Vouliagmeni before, and you can see the post here where I described the lake and how I feel when I am there, but where I also drew juxtapositions between the lake, which is a lacuna, and Barbara Kingsolver's novel The Lacuna.

Swimming was not the reason for our visit this time, however. We went to see the play Ondine, written by Jean Giraudoux, and performed by the Naan group. When we got there we found out that the play was not going to be performed in the lake itself, but the Small Lake. When I told the official that we did not know the Small Lake existed, he said that no one did, this was the fist time that it had been opened to the public, specifically for this performance.

We sat by the lake and had an early supper. At 9:00 we made our way to the small lake

It's a very small lake, tiny, and this made the whole experience immediate and very intimate

four rows of seating on two sides and the rock majestically rising on the other two

the stage on the right was partially submerged in the water and most of the action happened either on that stage or in the water


we were enchanted the whole time - it was a magical experience. I sat on the edge of my seat and did not want the performance to end.

Very clever lighting


that enhanced the rock

Ondine is a passionate love story.

Auguste and Eugenie are impoverished folk earning a living on the edge of a lake in the Black Forest.

A baby they found at the water's edge when their own child was lost has grown up to become a strangely enchanted creature they have named Ondine (or Little Wave)

Impulsive, frank and filled with wonder, Ondine is a creature of water and air, riding the storm at night, spontaneously performing little feats of magic and driving her aging adoptive parents crazy with her whims and unpredictability.

The arrival of Hans, a knight in shining armour changes all that. Ondine falls in love with him

and despite warnings from her watery friends from the lake's nether regions, she determines to marry him.

Her parents try to make her see sense

 but to no avail

she's head over heels - her face lights up whenever she sees Hans

and she will listen to no one

This ethereal spirit creature crashes headlong into the petty squabbles and paltry deceptions of human affairs.

One can get hurt that way, and she does.

The two worlds don't mix.

Hans betrays her

and she's heartbroken.

Her mentor from the watery deep, known simply as the Old One, furtively monitors Ondine's travails,

finally offering perfect amnesia as the kindest absolution.


I felt privileged being in this very small, intimate, natural space which is a wonder.


A few more shots as we were leaving


This rock is amazing


I wish they would open up the small lake for swimming


and hopefully there will be other productions


You can see here how the stage is partially submerged


Finally, on the way out, the main lake.

A wonderful evening.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Barnett Newman at the Stedelijk

Barnett Newman at the Stedelijk, Amsterdam.
Newman is considered an Abstract Expressionist, though his monochrome fields of colour might at
first appear to be examples of Minimalism. He considered himself an intuitive artist: 'I start each painting as if I have never painted before', he said. He recommended that viewers stand close to his works to experience physical and emotional sensations so as to elicit a sense of self within the universe. Using masking tape to paint narrow, vertical bands within the fields of colour, Newman divided the canvases, thereby providing a means of visual focus. He referred to these lines as 'zips', describing them 'as bands of light' that bring 'the entire thing to life'.
Like that of other American Colour Field painters, his art was created in reaction to the atrocities of WWII. With the void and light as his visual references, Newman explored the relationships of people and the absolute.
Who's afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III, 1967-68
Newman began the series Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue I-IV without a preconceived plan - it was a voyage of discovery. He had planned the first work to be larger than any he had done before
and to be completely asymmetrical. He painted the canvas red which led him to add yellow and blue, 'the only colours that would work'. In so doing, he confronted the historical use of primary colours, and he particularly looked to Piet Mondrian, his forerunner in abstraction. Newman thought that Mondrian had wrongly attempted to bring these colours into balance, but, in contrast, he had no ambition to achieve balance. Instead, he wanted to invite the viewer to experience the explosive force of the colour red. In fact, Newman wanted to use imbalance as a way of freeing the trinity of primary colours from its art-historical burden.
In this painting the dominance of red is emphasized by a horizontal format. He used resilient loom-wide cotton, a material intended for the production of military tents. He integrated the fabric's rough texture into the work, allowing it to remain more or less visible beneath his painted layers. He painted the red in four separate layers to create an opaque colour, of which the top layer was characterized by vertical brushstrokes. The narrow strip of yellow is thicker and the blue is more transparent so that both colours contrast more emphatically with the red.


a closer look

Cathedra, 1951 (oil and acrylic on cotton)

Newman achieved the intensity of Cathedra by applying six separate layers of paint, each consisting of different blue pigments. The result is a richly nuanced pictorial surface - a carefully blended field of colour that conjures spatial illusion. Cathedra, or Throne, refers to the blue of the heavens and the throne of god, described in the Old Testament. With his title, the highly spiritual Newman wished to convey the connection he felt with the higher, mysterious forces of life while in the process of creating Cathedra. In 1997 the work was badly damaged by a visitor to the Stedelijk Museum. The  prime objective of the restoration process was to match Newman's original colour layering method as closely as possible.


Right Here, 1954

The Gate, 1954
The contrast between the bands of light turquoise, dark brown and black suggests that the viewer of this work is about to step through an open doorway and into an endless space. The title Newman gave
this painting ('to help the public out', as he said) invites a religious interpretation. The 'gate' of the title refers to the tabernacle in the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Modern art the Rijksmuseum

Modern art collection at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

A very small collection as there was no modern art at the Rijksmuseum, and they had to start from scratch.

 Baas, Marten, Grandfather Clock, 2002
This sculpture stands at one of the entrances of the museum

An LCD screen is installed as the face of the clock: it shows a 12-hour movie in loop of a blurred figure of a man continuously indicating the time by drawing the hour and minute clock hands with a marker directly on the screen. The combination of the human-size of the clock together with the image of the moving blurred man creates an optical illusion of a real man standing inside the clock - a figurative personal specialist telling the time. The inscribed script in this design is to trick the viewers into absorbing that false impression. And they do.

Le Corbusier, Model of the Philips Pavilion, 1957
At the invitation of Philips, the Dutch electronics firm, Le Corbusier designed a pavilion for Expo 58, the world's fair held in Brussels. The concrete building was coated with aluminium paint. Inside there was a multimedia show with film, coloured light and electronic music by Yannis Xenakis. Planes of colour in the entrance set the tone for the 'electronic performance' inside, which attracted one and a half million visitors.


Ferdi, Wombtom, 1968
Ferdi wanted to create a playful and liberating 'environment'. The sexual symbolism of her furniture sculptures literally becomes palpable when one touches the soft synthetic fur. The Womtomb lent itself to 'happenings', 'performances' and interaction. The vulva-like opening forms an entrance to the sheltered interior. It is simultaneous a cosy tomb and a womb.


Marlene Dumas, The Last Supper, 1953

During the Last Supper, Christ shared bread and wine, symbols of his body and blood, with his disciples. This was how he announced not only his crucifixion, but also that he would live on in his disciples. Dumas took the liberty of making of him a solitary, empty figure, above whose head new life appears in a 'cloud' of foetuses.

Yves Saint Laurent, Mondrian Dress, 1965
The abstract geometric visual language of De Stijl in the 1920s inspired a new generation of artists forty years later. The French couturier Yves Saint Laurent won international success with dresses inspired by the paintings of Piet Mondrian. This is the most elementary model of the six variants presented by Yves Sait Laurent in 1965.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

A disappointment and a delight

I thought I would have a break from posting on Amsterdam, (which we visited at the end of June), and on Greece (which is where we are at present) and write about a day we spent in London in July.

The purpose of the visit was to go to The Serpentine Gallery to see Marina Abramovic. When we got there however, we found out to our great disappointment that the gallery was closed on that day. We wandered around Kensington Gardens instead, and had lunch at The Magazine, Zaha Hadid's new extension of the Serpentine, and that was the delight.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day, so wandering around the park was lovely.

We particularly enjoyed the Italian Garden


and its fountains

but also the reflections in the Round Pond.


This white arch looked familiar, we had seen one like it at Compton Verney so we assumed that it's by Henry Moore.


First stop, the Serpentine, but it was closed for two days, lots of scaffolding, so no point in taking a photograph


Next, we crossed the bridge, and arrived at the Serpentine Sackler gallery, the 1805 brick gunpowder storage building on the right, and the new linked pavilion designed by Zaha Hadid on the left.

The elegant roof is made from PTFE-coated glass-fibre woven fabric, its super-smooth moulded look a complete contrast to the brickwork of the 19th century building
It's a wondrous place - there is a lightness to the whole building as if it's about to float away
the brick of the old building is in contrast to the smoothness of the new, but they complement each other beautifully

as do the sculpted columns with their smooth moulded surface

but the wonder is seeing the columns as you walk in - it's like liquid light pouring down from the ceiling on to the floor

it is truly awesome

Some of the critics have been really scathing about the extension, and I really cannot understand it.


Being in there was a real experience: it's light (some critics said they found it dark!), airy, architecturally interesting,

but even if it was none of the above, just that light pouring in, is enough - it's stunning

flowing, organic forms


looking out

flowers on the tables in Alvar Aalto vases.


Finally, the washrooms are cutting edge as well - hot air came out of the Dyson taps after we had washed our hands.