November/December Diary

I am combining November with December. Sorry for this, but I had a difficult November & decided it made sense to do both together.
My love of art exhibitions was reduced to only two visited.
1st visit: Royal Academy to see ‘Jasper Johns’. This artist, along with Larry Rivers, was always a favourite of mine – someone I discovered in ‘Art International’ magazine, bought in ‘Better Books’ off the Charing Cross Road when I visited London as a student at Coventry School of Art. I was looking forward to the exhibition and seeing ‘Target’, a painting which so influenced the way we worked in the 60’s, using stencilled letters and numbers. Although it brought back such intense memories, I didn’t feel it had stood the test of time and now looked quite dated. Nevertheless, for nostalgic reasons, living at home without any responsibilities & the fun of being at art school, I enjoyed the show.

Jasper Johns

2nd visit: Pace London to see ‘Impulse’ – American Abstract painting in the 1960s & 70s. On entering this exhibition we were taken aback by a woman on a mobile phone across the room talking extremely loudly (later we noticed she was a member of the staff working behind reception!). After us both glaring at her in disgust she got the message & left us to look at the work in peace. It was an interesting show & I particularly liked Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, and Sam Gilliam. Their work, unlike J.Johns, had worn well. Noland’s shaped canvases & Morris Louis’s use of acrylic paint on unprimed canvas all so new to us when first seen in the 60s. Interestingly mentioned in the notes was how jazz was a source of inspiration to these artists. We were also well into jazz after hours in the art school painting studio, playing records while we worked on our primed hardboard with house paints. A fellow student, Frank Fennell, played with his father in a small band at various Warwickshire clubs . Our favourites at the time were John Coltrane (who  I was fortunate to see in concert at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester), Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Ornette Colman.

Kenneth Noland                                                   Morris Louis

We now come to December. Before Christmas we went to Tate Modern to see the Modigliani exhibition, an artist I have always loved. An extremely well displayed show, especially a room showing many sculptured heads on plinths, which was fascinating to walk amongst & get such a powerful close-up of the facial features. Being troubled by the after-effects of childhood tuberculosis, dust from carving aggravating his breathing, he abandoned sculpture. Another room was full of his famous female nudes. He made these paintings for male buyers & their sensuality suggests changes in the lives of young women who were increasingly independent in the 1910s. The models making eye contact with the viewer, their make-up hinting at the influence of female film stars. Apparently the nudes proved shocking in 1917 & at one showing a police commissioner wanted them removed on grounds of indecency, finding their pubic hair offensive. Traditionally, in fine art, nudes were hair-free.


Amedeo Modigliani

We also saw ‘Red Star Of Russia’, an extremely well displayed show featuring work collected by graphic designer David King. So much to see & read – various visits would be needed to take it all in. There was an a very good video at the start with David King explaining how he put the collection together. I particularly liked a set of lithographs by El Lissitzky, one called New Man. Many of the exhibits had lengthy titles, these being as important as the work.

El Lissitzky                                                Nina Vatolina

Another morning in December, in a back street near Southwark Cathedral, we came upon the site of a burial ground called Crossbones. Back home I read that for centuries it was the outcasts’ graveyard for the area formerly known as The Mint, one of London’s poorest and most violent slums. By the time it closed in 1853 it held the remains of an estimated 15,000 paupers. It’s now a garden of remembrance & we were fascinated by the railings outside covered with ribbons & personal memorabilia, creating a curtain of colour & texture.

The second week of December we met with our friend Andrew from Norwich to see the Cezanne Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. This is such a wonderful exhibition with over 50 of his portraits from collections across the world. I loved the portraits of his son Paul whom he nicknamed ‘Le Boulet’ or ‘Little Dumpling’ – so beautiful & sensitive. This is an exhibition not to be missed & is on until February.

Paul Cezanne

After leaving the Cezanne exhibition we walked to a favourite restaurant for lunch, passing Notre Dame de France, a church off Leicester Square we had never seen before, although we lived in the West End for many years. Inside we were surprised to see an Ambusson tapestry called ‘Paradise on Earth’ by Dom Robert, a friend of Jean Cocteau who also had a beautiful mural he painted in ‘Our Lady’s Chapel’ in 1959 with simplified lines in very muted colours.

Jean Cocteau

The Sunday before Christmas we went to the candlelit carol service at St Peter’s church, Vauxhall. I so enjoy going to this service as it’s where my mother’s funeral was in 2014 & it always brings back memories of what a great mum she was. The carol service, lit with the congregation holding candles, is so beautiful and a very serious way to start Christmas. After the service mince pies and mulled wine were served.

We like to get out at Christmas, and on Christmas Eve we walked to and around Brockwell Park. The walled garden so quiet & still with various flowers still out.

Before our lunch on Christmas Day we drove to Battersea Park & walked through it to the River Thames, looking so grey. Beside the river the large calm ‘Peace Pagoda’ monument cheered us up on a rather dull drizzly day.

I loved getting a coffee bean grinder Christmas present this year. I have started to drink coffee after 40 years. In the past it always disagreed with me, raising my pulse. But cutting back on sugar I now find I can drink & enjoy it. Along with the grinder I got a milk frother, so I am set now for some great coffee.
The following week is a winding down & recovering time from a busy Christmas.

So the end of this year & my final 2017 journal. I wish everyone reading this a very happy & healthy 2018.