Friday, 30 December 2011

Dickens' Ghosts

Still on the subject of ghosts, the British Library has a small exhibition in The Folio Society Gallery A Hankering after Ghosts: Charles Dickens and the Supernatural until 4 March 2012. Small, but free (title link). A Christmas Carol must be the most famous ghost story of all time. Above, Ebenezer Scrooge meets Marley's ghost.

Curious Warnings

Award-winning British sci-fi and fantasy artist Les Edwards, alias Edward Miller, has updated his two websites for 2012 with news and new artworks. His major project this year was illustrating Curious Warnings; The Great Ghost Stories of M.R. James, edited by Stephen Jones, published by Jo Fletcher Books (to be released on 26 April 2012). The anthology includes 10 monochrome paintings and 10 line drawings. Shown is his frontispiece for Curious Warnings: The Gate Keeper (2011). Les also had his pen drawing of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine included in the British Library exhibition Out of this World; Science Fiction, But Not As You Know It. CLICK for the Edward Miller website.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Louvre Kerfuffle

Have restorers at Le Louvre made a pig's ear of Leonardo da Vinci's The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne? Two French art experts have quit Le Louvre's advisory committee over the restoration, which they claim has been over cleaned and is now too bright (title link). I tend to agree. The painting looks as though it needs an XnView gamma resetting to give depth to the dark areas. The child's shaded tummy seems to have vanished too. Another Brillo pad job. Groan!


A second BBC trailer did the biz for me in recent days: Earthflight. This is the latest BBC nature series, which begins this evening at 8pm on BBC1. It uses spy cams on the backs of large birds flying over 6 continents, starting with North America (title link). Many intimate flying shots such as the one above are also included.

ACE Junk

In my opinion, anyone who claims that these two Pratt & Whitney TF33 P9 engines decommissioned by the United States Air Force are a work of art is a liar and a charlatan. Step forward Turner Prize nominee Roger Hiorns, based in London. He was commissioned to produce this junk by the Art Institute of Chicago last year. It seems the museum didn't want to hang on to it. So, with a little help from Corvi Mora and the Henry Moore Foundation, Roger donated it to Arts Council England. And ACE accepted it! I would have sent Roger packing. Hasn't anyone told ACE that space costs money? The first showing in the UK of this colossal junk is in The Sculpture Show at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. It's name is Untitled (title link). If Government needs to make further savings in grants to the purported arts in 2012, ACE is asking for it.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Kinetica Art Fair

The next Kinetica Art Fair is from 9 to 12 February 2012 (title link). Tickets cost £8.00 or £15.00, which seems very expensive for a load of rather silly installation thingies. Art that moves has been common since the advent of computers with graphic capabilities. It's becoming increasingly intrusive with animated adverts on many websites. This graphic is Dianne Harris's neon heads from last year's show, photographed by Alex Robertson.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Great Expectations

I've commented on the BBC's inability to produce trailers that make its forthcoming programmes appear worth viewing. Here's an exception. The trailer for Charles Dickens' Great Expectations creates the impression that David Lean's 1946 masterpiece has finally been equalled in quality. Gillian Anderson's beautiful, ghostlike Miss Havisham adds new depth to the character, her voice a delicate balance of charm and menace. What idiot jilted this terrific lady? Oscar Kennedy as Young Pip stands suitably entranced before Miss Havisham as though hypnotised by a snake. But can any girl surpass Jean Simmons as young Estella? I can hardly wait to view Episode 1 of Great Expectations tonight on BBC1 at 9pm (title link). Above: Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham and Oscar Kennedy as Young Pip.

Driven to Draw

Here are two drawings from an exhibition in the Tennant Gallery of the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Above is a detail from a magnificent Portrait of A.H. Mackmurdo (1945) by Sir Frank Brangwyn RA. To the left is a Life Drawing of a Seated Female Nude (1917) by RA student Winifred Broughton Edge. Driven to Draw: Twentieth-century Drawings and Sketchbooks from the Royal Academy’s Collection continues until 12 February 2012. Click the title link for more information.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Last Masterpiece

No, I haven't suddenly got religion for Christmas. ArtDaily (CLICK) reminded me that Domenichino’s The Adoration of the Shepherds is the last Masterpiece A Month to help celebrate this year's bicentenary of Dulwich Picture Gallery in London (title link). The Governors of Dulwich College flogged this oil painting in 1971 to raise funds, despite an outcry. It was bought by the National Gallery of Scotland, which lent it to Dulwich this month. You have until 8 January 2012 to view it.

Remy the Rat

Why is it that people who live in palaces feel obliged to give us all messages on Christmas Day? If they just said "Merry Christmas, peasants" it would be enough; but no, they must deliver sermons. I shall seek my Christmas message from Remy the Rat this year. Here's the lad himself holding the Oscar® he won in 2008 (the Chinese Year of The Rat) for best animated feature film Ratatouille (2007). It starts on BBC1 at 4.50pm, followed by The Gruffalo's Child, which also looks good. ITV1 has another Oscar-winner Happy Feet (2006) at 3.10pm, but I can't tolerate all the adverts. I'll have to put up with them during Downton Abbey at 9pm. I'm hooked.

Merry Christmas

Click the title link for a heartfelt Christmas message from the Singing Sewermen (and girl) of Thames Water, which serves the London area. Cool it, bag it, bin it.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Dog Tease

If you haven't already seen it, click the title link for the Ultimate Dog Tease, which was the most popular YouTube video in the UK this year. The lip synchronization is quite good for amateur work. Dog lovers note the mutt's tail is wagging the whole time. CLICK for the UK's Top 10 YouTube hits.

Oleg Shuplyak

Ukrainian artist Oleg Shuplyak specialises in portraits hidden in landscapes or dramatic scenes. This one is Voyeur, which is supposed to depict Sigmund Freud. His nose is a naked women kneeling on a rock. If you're bored with Christmas TV shows, click the title link to view more of Oleg's deceptive paintings.

Happy Birthday

London Art News is 6 years old today, still previewing major art shows in London and cocking a snoot at the British Anti-art Establishment, still campaigning against a variety of things from shark fin soup to badger culling, still bemoaning pretentious art-dealer blurbs and still cracking a joke here or there. Sometimes I even get round to a little graphic design too.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Reward Increase

Last Tuesday I reported on the theft of Barbara Hepworth's Two Forms (Divided Circle) from Dulwich Park in south London, torn from its base by scrap metal thieves (CLICK). Today Barbara Hepworth's granddaughter, Dr Sophie Bowness, added £4,000 to the £1,000 already offered by Southwark Council for the return of the sculpture and the arrest and conviction of the thieves (title link). My guess is that it is already too late. These criminals have heavy lifting gear and they aren't going to hang about. They had a criminal scrap merchant in mind when they stole the sculpture. The police are useless - they never recover these stolen works - and so is the law. Unless Government gets its finger out, we won't have any public metal sculptures left in London.

Face Britain

Kids on holiday cracking you up? How about getting them to join Face Britain created by The Prince's Foundation for Children & The Arts. The project is part of the Olympic Cultural Festival and has the active support of HRH The Prince of Wales. Everyone taking part will help to break the Guinness World Record for "most artists working on the same art installation". Just click the title link to find an online drawing package for kids.

Your Paintings

I first mentioned the Public Catalogue Foundation back in 2007 (CLICK). By 2009 it had catalogued all the 2,500 paintings owned by the V&A Museum in London (CLICK). In June of this year the PCF teamed up with the BBC to launch Your Paintings, an online catalogue of the Government Art Collection, to be tagged by the public (CLICK). It is now more than halfway through the 200,000 paintings in the collection. This sumptuous portrait of Marchesa Maria Serra Pallavicino (1606) by Peter Paul Rubens is one of the latest to be added to the online database (title link). She was the wife of a banker! Occupy Wall Street, forget it. You're fighting history.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Lenticular Clouds

Here's something you won't find in a landscape painting. Not the wind turbines, but the Lenticular Clouds, a rare cloud formation seen over West Yorkshire today. Some people thought they were UFOs (title link).

Eugene von Guérard

Landscapes have been rather sparse on the London art scene lately. So here's a beauty from Down Under: Eugene von Guérard's North-east view from the northern top of Mount Kosciusko (1863) which is in New South Wales, Australia. This painting is also a pedant's dream. It was actually painted on Mount Townsend, the second highest peak in Australia, not Mount Kosciusko, the highest. And the spelling Kosciuszko was officially adopted in 1997. This is one of the landscapes in a major retrospective of the artist's work Eugene von Guérard: Nature Revealed at the Queensland Art Gallery until 4 March 2012, admission free (title link). CLICK for another fine landscape.

Designer Crafts

Peeping into the new year, the next exhibition at The Mall Galleries in London is Designer Crafts at The Mall 2012, which runs from 6 to 15 January (title link). It is presented by the Society of Designer Craftsmen and includes ceramics, furniture, jewellery, glass and textiles. All work is for sale. Admission is stiffer than usual at £4, but this includes a catalogue. Silver surfers pay £2.50. Shown is a detail from Eyes 2 by An Myung Nam.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Banksy in Mayfair

The latest Banksy appeared in London yesterday, halfway up an abandoned building in Mayfair. The stencilled, spray-painted mural shows a woman and her supermarket trolley plunging to the pavement. A comment on Christmas shopping? A second Banksy has turned up on another empty building near Canary Wharf. It reads: "Sorry! The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock". True. Oh well, it's helping to save the planet's finite resources. Click the title link for both graffiti.

St Mary Major

A vandal attacked the bronze central door of St Mary Major Basilica in Rome on Monday, making a fist-sized hole in its depiction of The Annunciation. For some reason best known to the artist, the angel Gabriel is giving a middle-finger salute to the elegant, mannerist Virgin Mary. The vandal was collared, whether by Vatican guards or by local fuzz is unknown. The 5th-century basilica is one of four in Rome that are under the jurisdiction of the Vatican.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Hepworth Stolen

This sculpture by Barbara Hepworth - Two Forms (Divided Circle) - is the latest work of public art to fall victim to metal thieves. It had stood in Dulwich Park in south London since 1970. Stolen for the scrap value of its bronze, it is insured for £500,000. Southwark Council has offered a £1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the thieves (title link). It's high time Government toughened up the law against criminal scrap metal merchants.

Star Wars TOR

The cost of producing top computer games has become unbelievable. Electronic Arts is reputed to have spent more than $130m (£87m) on developing Star Wars: The Old Republic, released today (title link). SWTOR is a role-playing prequel to Star Wars with the usual mix of lightsabers and robots. Will it grab a slice of the lucrative gaming cake from the likes of World of Warcraft? CLICK for the SWTOR home page to decide for yourself.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Routemaster Whoopsie

Having visited London this weekend for a photo shoot with Mayor Bouncy Boris, the prototype London Routemaster bus ran out of fuel on its way to Millbrook Testing Ground in Bedfordshire. It has a hybrid diesel-electric motor which is charged when the brakes are applied and somebody forgot to fill it with diesal for its motorway journey. Ho, ho, ho.

Van Dyck In Sicily

For the first time ever the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London is bringing together all 15 surviving paintings made by Sir Anthony van Dyck when he stayed in Palermo. Van Dyck In Sicily: Painting and the Plague 1624-25 brings some important loans from the USA (title link for video). This painting of Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness (c.1624-5) has been loaned by the Houston Baptist University in Texas. The Black Death struck Palermo in 1624 and killed many people. The survivors credited Saint Rosalie with saving them. So Van Dyck painted at least two major works depicting Saint Rosalie interceding with God on Palermo's behalf, surrounded by cherubs, her eyes rolling up to Heaven. (Give the punters what they want.) The exhibition opens on 15 February 2012 and runs till 27 May 2012.

BP Pledges £10m

Oil giant BP has pledged £10m over the next five years for its continuing sponsorship of the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and Tate Britain, all in London (title link). An 8,000-strong petition was handed to the Tate calling for an end to BP sponsorship; but Sir Christopher Frayling, former head of Arts Council England, has warned that arts bodies cannot be "squeamish" about where their money comes from in the current financial crisis (CLICK). I've illustrated this post with the winner of Greenpeace UK's 2010 competition to find a new logo for BP (CLICK). It says it all.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christmas Hates

In a recent survey of 1,000 adults, satnav firm Tom Tom found the Top 12 Christmas hates:
1 TV schedules
2 Cliff Richard’s Millennium Prayer
3 Traffic jams
4 Shopping
5 Relentless festive music
6 Writing Christmas cards
7 Eating/drinking too much
8 Drunken office parties
9 Realising you need to diet in January
10 Driving to the in-laws
11 Stupid jumpers
12 Spending time with family.
My current pet hate is BBC celebrities doing daft things and inviting everyone to be "one of us".

A&I Winner

The winners of Artists & Illustrators Artist of the Year 2011 have been announced (title link). The overall winner is Raoof Haghighi with this most unusual portrait Roya. The face of this slender young woman is hidden and she appears to be trapped, barefoot, leaning against a wall and yearning for the exit. The psyche of the subject is painted, rather than her facial features. Powerful psychological stuff. I can't help feeling sorry for her. And yes, it is a painting, using traditional oil on canvas, despite its photographic realism.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

App For Artists

Canadian firm MARA3D (Mobile Art Reference App 3D) has created its first mobile application for artists: MARA3D: David Giraud Male Anatomy (title link). This is a 3D reference guide to unlimited images of male anatomy models which offers multiple poses, layers of detail and unlimited viewing angles, making artistic perspective, angles, dynamic lighting and shading faster and easier than ever before. Not a bad price either: $3.99. MARA3D Male Anatomy is available now for Apple® iPod touch®, iPhone®, and iPad® on the Apple iTunes App Store (CLICK). Female Anatomy MARA3D by David Giraud will be out early next year.

National Trust D/base

The UK's National Trust has launched a huge online database of its collection, which includes everything from mundane historical items to some of the finest art treasures in the world. As an example, here is a Tazza painted with the judgement of Paris, Castel Durante (c.1525) currently on display at Polesden Lacey in Surrey (CLICK for a larger graphic). The Trust also includes the personal collections of former owners, such as Sir Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling, Beatrix Potter and George Bernard Shaw. It has taken nearly 15 years to get more than 700,000 items online, and the work is still on-going. Click the title link to dip into this massive new international resource.

Friday, 16 December 2011

RSPCA Photo Awards

The overall winner of the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2011 is 16-year-old Will Nicholls with this photo of a red squirrel surprised in Keilder Forest. Will was presented with his award by wildlife filmmaker and TV presenter Simon King at a ceremony in the Tower of London today. The Telegraph has posted a slide show of the top entries (title link). Watch out for a stunning skyscape The Early Birds by 8-year-old Scarlett Martin.

Golden Globe Anis

BBC News' coverage of nominations for the Golden Globe awards fails to mention the shortlist for Best Animated Feature Film (CLICK). So here it is:
The Adventures Of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
Puss In Boots

Click the title link for the full list of nominations and winners (when the HFPA website is updated).

Gulnaz Update

This is 21-year-old Gulnaz and her young daughter who was born in prison. A fortnight ago I posted news of this story with a sarcastic speech bubble issuing from Afghan President Hamid Karzai (CLICK). Since her pardon for the heinous crime of "adultery by force" (being raped) she has been locked away in a women's shelter, which she finds worse than prison. Caroline Wyatt tracked her down for a BBC interview (CLICK). Gulnaz is as much a prisoner of Islamic misogynist culture as she was as a convicted criminal in jail. She doesn't want to marry her attacker, who is serving a 7-year prison sentence for raping her, but is prepared to do so for the sake of family honour. She demands her attacker pay her family a substantial dowry and find a wife for one of her brothers. She has been warned that her brothers may kill her to regain family honour, but believes they are good men, a naive view when statistics released by UK police for 2009 reveal 2,823 honour attacks on women, 500 in London (CLICK). Immigrants bring their bad habits with them.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Banksy's Cardinal Sin

Banksy's latest sculpture has gone on display at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. It's called Cardinal Sin, a bust of a priest with bathroom tiles to create a pixelated face for anonymity, Banksy's comment on all those child sex abuse scandals which have rocked the Catholic church in recent years. It stands alongside 17th Century religious art (title link). So long as Catholic dogma demands celibacy, priests will abuse children.

Mary In The Pink

Two years ago I reported on St Matthew-in-the-City's Christmas poster "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow", which caused outrage in Auckland, New Zealand (CLICK). Reverend Glynn Cardy has done it again. This time the church billboard shows a worried Virgin Mary holding a positive pregnancy test: Mary is in the Pink (title link). The Rev. wanted his festive campaign to avoid all that "trite" and "sentimental" slush which surrounds Christmas. Maybe it's time he became an atheist. Or a pagan. There's nothing trite or sentimental about green men, robins, holly and mistletoe.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Gwen John Find

Quite by chance, Prof. Anna Gruetzner Robins of Reading University in the UK discovered 23 watercolours by Welsh artist Gwen John gathering dust in Princeton University Library. The US university didn't know it held these paintings, which had been given to Arthur Symons by the artist in 1920. American painter and art collector AE Gallatin acquired Symons' papers and the Gwen John watercolours from Symons' widow, then bequeathed them to Princeton in 1951 (title link). They are on display at Princeton in the Firestone Library until 31 December (CLICK).

Badger Cull

In the teeth of scientific advice, cock-up prone Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has decided to start culling badgers in England in 2012 (title link). I guess this is what she meant when she promised last year's Tory party conference she would "play hard ball".

Eduardo Relero

The Telegraph has posted a slide show of the 3D pavement art of Argentinean street artist Eduardo Relero, who has painted pavements in Rome, Germany, France, Spain and America (title link). Here he poses with his work Palabras (Always Within) at the Malpais Festival in Lanzarote, Spain. There's a distinct touch of Hieronymus Bosch about this one. CLICK for his blog.

Gormley's Chair

If you crave publicity and have money to burn, Antony Gormley is your man. UK charity English Pen commissioned Gormley to create this rusty iron chair to mark its 90th anniversary. Witness (2011) now clutters up the piazza in front of the British Library, unveiled yesterday. An empty chair has symbolic importance to English Pen. At its annual conference it represents a writer who is unable to attend because he or she has been imprisoned, threatened or killed (title link).

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tricycle Art

Tomorrow the gallery at The Tricycle Theatre in northwest London opens Hercules Brabazon Brabazon, an exhibition of 35 of the Victorian artist's watercolours and pastels (title link). These paintings have been generously donated to The Tricycle by collector Al Weil to help overcome its funding crisis caused by Government cutbacks. Arts Council England slashed The Tricycle's funding by £350,000 this year. The exhibition runs until 7 January 2012, when it it will move to the Pyms Gallery on Mount Street in London W1 until 8 February, prior to the paintings being auctioned. This could be your last chance to view them before they vanish into private collections.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Confucius Prize

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has had a rough week, what with mass protests against vote rigging (title link). So he may find some consolation in winning the Confucius Peace Prize for promoting peace in domestic and foreign policy, especially his stand against NATO's bombing attacks on Libya. Here's the lad himself doing a jig with two of his smallest fans in a massive painting depicting world leaders and celebrities. The award ceremony took place in Beijing. It isn't endorsed by the Chinese government (Confucius was neither a communist nor a capitalist and the current Chinese regime is both). A rival for the Nobel Peace Prize? Not if it hands out awards to ex-KGB thugs running what is virtually a one-party state with rigid control of the media.

Christmas Campaign

Here's a Christmas advert which isn't designed to fleece you, but to save your life. The subtitle reads: "More than half of all house fires start in the kitchen." However, more detailed analysis by London Fire Brigade into the causes of fires in London found that 25% were started by young people who generally lived in smart rented flats, earned more than £40,000 a year and had university degrees! They totter home after a night on the booze, start to cook a belated dinner, then crash out in an armchair and leave their dinner to burn. London Fire Brigade's advice is to grab a takeaway on the way home (title link). If you fall asleep in the middle of a burger, no harm is done.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

UN Climate Deal

South Africa's International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, chairwoman of the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, managed to gain a deal on global warming after extended hours of haggling, but it's mainly promises, promises, promises (title link). Did you know that the final instalment of David Attenborough's Frozen Planet series won't be shown in the USA, because his warnings on climate change are considered too controversial for Yankee audiences? How's that for Democracy in the Land of the Free? The fat cats who control the US media want its population to remain ignorant of global warming, so they can carry on making big bucks out of polluting the planet.

Royal Barge

Here's an anonymous artist's impression of the royal barge Spirit of Chartwell, which will lead a thousand boats along the River Thames from Battersea to Tower Bridge to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee next year. Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh will sit on ornate chairs under a gold canopy. TV's Rachel de Thame has the job of creating red, gold and purple floral displays using flowers taken from the Queen's gardens. All that this costly frippery needs is Handel to compose music to make the proceedings go with a swing. Will it take the punters' minds off recession, unemployment, the euro crisis, bankers' greed, mad Muslims, C of E hypocrisy, protest marches, illegal immigrants and all the rest of it? Gladiatorial combat and triumphal marches did the trick for Ancient Rome. Maybe this will do it for London....

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Condom Shooters

Now I've seen it all, having just viewed a trailer for Privates (CLICK). The above screenshot from Privates shows condom-hatted troopers firing lasers at dastardly sperms flying overhead. The little devils get everywhere: vagina, anus, between your teeth! The aim of this tacky computer game, designed by Dan Marshall of Size Five Games in Norbiton for Channel 4, is to teach teenagers about sexually transmitted diseases. The target audience seems to appreciate the game, because it won a BAFTA children's award in the secondary school education category (title link). You can download it to a PC for free. I'll leave you to find out where from.

A New Dinosaur

Here's a turn up for the book or, rather, for the Natural History Museum in London: a "new" dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous Period which had lain neglected in the museum's collection for 90 years. It has been named Spinops sternbergorum in honour of the two men who unearthed the fossils in the depths of the museum's collection: Charles and Levi Sternberg. The illustration of the beast is by Dmitry Bogdanov. It's good to see the artist being credited. Click the title link for details.

TPOTY Winners

The Travel Photographer of the Year 2011 awards have been announced. The overall winner is Louis Montrose, USA, with a mixed portfolio of colourful African pictures and black and white photos of the Day of the Dead. The winner of the Best Single Image in a Spirit of Adventure Portfolio was Franco Banfi from Switzerland with this outstanding photo under broken ice of a Beluga Whale in the White Sea, Karelia Region, Northern Russia (detail). The Telegraph has posted a slide show of 44 top entries (CLICK). The title link takes you to the TPOTY winners gallery of 152 photos. The exhibition will be at the Royal Geographical Society from 21 June to 19 August 2012.