A Travellerspoint blog

Art for arts sake, money for Gods sake (2)

overcast 10 °C
View To the shoe factory on claptonisgod's travel map.

After a quick review of the previous blog it was clear that I had missed so much of what might also fall under the term 'art' and that I should rectify that. I really didn't believe too much in that jet lag stuff, but here I am blogging at 4.30am, wide awake - well, time will tell.

London, Paris and Rome could be considered some of the fashion capitals of the world, and whilst it is not something I get the least bit interested in would suggest that it is everywhere. Not only on the streets and boutiques but revered and highlighted in museum collections and displays. Florence has an unparalleled fame for its leather. As most of you will know, I have had a long association with museums and art galleries over the past 30 years, and my interest often goes beyond purely looking at the artwork or material on display. I love that there are new facilities being built and opened to display of human history, and I often find myself evaluating the smallest details of labels (alluded to in the previous blog), lighting, the way in which galleries are set out, how easy are key works to access, and simple things such as what are the toilets like and would I buy coffee there again. Whist I try to hide all of these 'associated' and peripheral evaluations whilst on-site, I do find it hard. It is one of the reasons that we went to Margate to see the new Turner Contemporary Gallery, which is both architecturally stunning and holds a nice collection of Turner work. Even the display of the Queens collections at the Tower of London is a stunning assortment of both interesting and macabre material associated with the Tower over a 1000 years. Who couldn't find an object that really connected with them?

And I think this is the great thing about touring Europe, the collections are vast (as they have been accumulated over millennia) and the facilities, whether old or new, are cared for and loved, and more than often are open to the public for a small fee. It is with this in mind that I add to my ramblings of yesterday. As everywhere, there are 'art' related objects. Even the hotel in which we stayed in in Rome was the remnants of a 2nd Century building. Yes re-modelled many times, and now a Hotel and working Chapel, but the artwork, the ceiling frescos, the sculpture, both inside and out, punctuate all of those re-models with staggeringly beautiful work. Maybe not your Teipolo, but breath taking none the less. Religion has left us with some beautiful iconography, whether you believe in the teachings or not.

One of the glaring omissions from blog 1 was the work of Bernini. Gian Lorenzo Bernini was responsible for some of the greatest sculptural work (outside of Michelangelo) of any Renaissance sculptor, and his work got quite a reinterpretation through the Dan Brown books. Sharon, as a reader of those books had a new found interest in the work, and I had studied him (as a special subject) at art school, so it was great that we could share in the locating of, and enjoyment of this artists work. Probably the highlight was seeing the St Peters Baldachin and the Fountain of the Four Rivers. We even cast a coin into the Fontana della Api and posed under the sculpture of David. We did however miss Apollo and Daphne and The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa as both were off display for conservation.

Conservation now forms part of many displays in museums and chapels with some being undertaken with full disclosure panels talking about the work being undertaken, and windows through which to see both the work and the workers, and in some cases (such as the Vatican Museum) where a special glass room has been constructed through which you can watch the conservator cleaning a Bernini model. This gives viewers a new way of looking at art.

I didn't mention that I love glass and so it was great to get across to Murano to see the craftsmen at work. If it hadn't been for Sharon talking to strangers it would never have happened, but the stranger represented the city of Venice and was promoting travel to the island through giving out free taxi tickets. We had already decided that the boat trip was too expensive however as it turned out we got to Murano and from there got a free taxi ride to Burano where exquisite lace is made. Mind you we did buy a very beautiful piece of glass over a wine or two provided by the factory. So if you're travelling look out for opportunities that might present themselves. Take a credit card.

It would be easy to travel the globe and see painting in the highlights. See all of those paintings we have been brought up with on our calendars, and they are all festooned in these wonderful collections, and others. They are in corner churches, and now in some cases relocated to the shopping mall so you can get a dose of art whilst you're shopping. There are city tours which will take you on the most wonderful journey through the city depositing you at small chapels, which happens to have a Carravagio inside, or a bust by Bernini or a ceiling fresco by Raphael. We took the 'hop on hop off bus' in most of the venues we stopped at and hiked from the stops to places of interest. Take good walking shoes as even though you are in 'fashion' towns, comfort is all important when you may walk 5-6 hour, or more a day.

I love art, and I love creativity. If you are intending to travel, and as part of that travel to see an art gallery or two, be selective, know what you want to see and why. If it's the Mona Lisa then be prepared for the 'I saw it' experience as you will never get close enough to really enjoy it. There are stunning works in the same gallery which are disregarded as we search for the ideal. Pace yourself as it can be overwhelming, room after room of ceiling frescoes or family portraits (as in the Queens residence at Hollyrood Castle). And if you want to get a real buzz out of the visit buy an audio guide as the real stories and the real understanding of art and culture is through the experts.

Sometimes you even get a nice welcome at the beginning. Prince Charles welcomed us to Hollyrood Castle. Thanks Charles. Depressing place to live, but there you go.

Posted by claptonisgod 07:31 Comments (0)

Art for arts sake, money for Gods sake (1)

When writing blogs you imagine that they're for your friends and family, but then you meet someone who is reading your blogs because they liked the titles, and you are then confronted by the thought that they don't know the author. So for this blog I can tell you that it's written by a full-time artist who has a painting and art history background, who is travelling to the UK and Europe for the first time to see some of the paintings and artworks he has only seen on projected 35mm slides in an art history seminar, or in the coloured pages of art history books. Particular artists and works that I have been inspired by, and as an artist, of techniques that I have admired and attempted to replicate in my own art over the years. For those who don't know me see; www.davidwoodings.com

So when planning the trip there were a few 'non-negotiable' visits for me, either with Sharon, or flying solo. One was the Louvre, and the other was the 'Late Turner - Painting Set Free' at the Tate Modern. We both agreed that a trip to the Vatican would be great for both of us. I had also wanted to see the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh [where in 1985 I could have been appointed Chief Registrar - had I the money to travel to the interview. That would have changed a lot of things in our lives!]. With limited time in each city we were visiting I was happy to spend most of the time doing the tourist thing of seeing the key sites, and if anything else came up, well that'd be great. And there were exhibitions and galleries in every city that would (for me) have taken many hours to journey through [the great label reader that I am]. Most travelling exhibitions get about the world, and I always hope that they'll get closer to NZ. London exhibitions included 'Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War' at the Imperial War Museum, and 'Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915 - 2015' at Whitechapel Art Gallery, and in Rome there was 'Norman Rockwell' at the Palazza Sciarra, and Ed Rusca at the Gagosian, and of course the new Henri Cartier-Bresson gallery.

So what did I see. Well first up was a trip to the Tate modern to see turner.

Posted by claptonisgod 17:12 Comments (0)

Romans the greatest recyclers?

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What to say about such a complex ancient city that is 3500 years old.  We arrived by train to Termini Station and although training is the way to go for travelling in Europe we where hit first with graffiti everywhere.  I have to say this coloured our initial feelings about the city and it almost seemed like everyone was too busy to care about this great city.  Even the cities cleaning vehicles were covered in graffiti which was a source of amazement for David who couldn't help photographing them.  However over time as with many of the cities we have visited ....Rome wrapped it's arms around you in a loving embrace and we were connected.   

The first place we visited was in the area of Geruselum where we were living.  It was church Saint Geovanni in Laterano linked to John the Baptist and we just stood there with our mouths open.  This was free to visit and you paid a donation for an audio guide, which we did.  The history of the place was amazing.  What facinated us initially was how buildings were often built from the bits and bods of the  unwanted masonary from other buildings....hence our heading. Also how after the decline of the Roman empire a bulding needed to either be connected to Constantine the Emporer  (who encouraged christianity) linked some how to the church if it was  to survive. So much was smashed, melted down and disposed of in the rise of christianity.  There ancient ruins which appear in the unlikeliest of places are intertwined with a modern cities need for efficient transport. This is one of the  reasons for their only being two subway lines.  This city is built on top of ancient Rome. A local told us that Rome has the same volume of rain as London but it comes less often and for only about 2 hours at a time.  When it rains however it rains so hard that an umbrella will not shelter you.  This fast volume of rain ensured that many of the ruins were covered in soil over time from the seven hills so that many buildings could be built on top of others by using the early buildings as the foundations.  We saw one working monestry on our Segeway tour (which was fanstastic but that is another blog), it was five levels above ground and was built on an ancient Roman building which was three levels... it was really hard to fathom. We would sit there looking at reminents of past lives dated from Romes hayday (in BC).

We thought about how young NZ is as a country.  We do not want to take away from our history as it is very important to us as a people, however this Roman stuff is pretty heavy (as they said in the 70's). We kept considering how a civilisation which was so far ahead of others in the world at the time, with over a million people, when all of Europe may have been 25 million, could eventually disappear....   We also learned that the walls that looked like they were just rocks thrown together with cementy stuff were actually just that.  The ancient Romans would look around at the debris and just bung it in a wall...It did the job and kept the place tidy. We also learned that the cobbled roads which were probably the most bumpy we had come aross in our travels, are the result of the heavy rains and the clay soil. The clay expands to cope with the heavy rain and then sinks again.  

One of the things that Sharon noticed about Italian men was that they really cared about how they looked. Scarves, hats, colours they knew they looked great in and obviously made an effort.  Rome was a little more relaxed than Florence but there was still an Italian style everywhere.  

Rome was pretty easy to get anywhere you wanted. The subway although limited to two lines was very easy to understand and you could pretty much walk everywhere. There were stunning mountains everywhere with our favourite being Bernini's large fountain in the Piazza Navona. It's connection with four main rivers of the world....Danube, Nile, Ganges and Rio del Plata and it's sheer beauty on a sunny Rome day ensured we stayed in this spot for quite a while just absorbing the atmosphere. The art work the architecture and the history of the place make you just want to understand more and of course return...so we did what you are supposed to do and threw our coins into the di Trevi fontana. If the story is true we will be lucky enough to return and explore further.

Posted by claptonisgod 18:09 Comments (0)

New Deli transit nonsense

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Before we start talking about Rome, it seems fair to ruminate on the issues created by transit stops, only as the New Deli one yesterday brought it home that they are hopelessly inefficient.

We have so far in our travels stopped in Sydney, Bankok, and now New Deli (and soon as w approach a flight home - in Brisbane), and to be fair we looked for opportunities to break the flights up as part of the travel, but yesterdays complete farce has to be described to be appreciated. if John Cleese had written and directed it, well it would be a Youtube hit.

We were flying from Rome to Taipei which required a stop in New Deli (as much to let off passengers as anything else, but that did result in probably 50-75 of us becoming 'personna non gratia' as soon as the wheels hit the tamac). As was typical (and co-ordinated the flight crew alerted us to where we were to go, and that's when the nuts fell off the trike. After receiving transit cards (which looked as if they had been scrambled in a hat and then thrown down on the table, in a similar way to the rules of 'Pick up Sticks') and a march of some distance we were herded into a now smallish room with what looked like a museum collection of x-ray machines. A nice Indian man in uniform urged us to form an orderly queue (unknown at any airport I have ever been in), and to make haste. Then another nice Indian man asked that we form seperate queues, one for men and one for women. Now this may have been for cultural reasons, but turned the place into complete confusion as women swapped children with bewildered men who then swapped paperwork and passports with the women.

At this stage you would be thinking that at least some people were going through the x-ray machines, but you would be wrong. They were either taking an age to warm up (being valves rather than computer driven, maybe?), and the now 6 Indian army personnel were seemingly swapping orders on what to do next. All this would have been fine had not at least 3-4 more plane loads of 'transit' passengers not now been added to the line. Amongst the chaos was a cleaner with a broom and a shovel cleaning around the machines and moving the military from side to side as he nonchalantly went about his business. Then the action began, god help us. Sharon was in a different queue and some distance behind where I had gotten to, but with the machines now working she and the 'womenfolk' sprinted past our less competent set of staff who were grappling with the manual return of about 30 small plastic bins into which all the gear had to be placed for x-ray. There appeared to be two sizes of bin and this resulted in the pile becoming unstable if packed inappropriately (as it seemed was always the case).

Eventually Sharon made the front of the queue they grabbed her passport and pushed her through a human x-ray machine that seemed to have no function, then into a covered and closed off booth in which a 'private frisking' was undertaken. Her passport was looked at by three staff and eventually her ordeal was complete. I on the other hand was still 25 people away from making the front and I watched as Sharon headed up the escalater and gone. The x-ray machine was the slowest I have ever seen, and regularly stopped by the Indian military whilst a conversation would then transpire. The line of people now behind me now had no end. I decided to be ready, took the belt from my pants, big mistake as now I had a hand full of things for the x-ray machine AND had to hold my pants up. At some point, when I thought the world would end before I made the machine, it was my turn to wait for the return of a plastic bin into which I would place all those things likely to activate the machine. That done, I walked to that machine and awaited a beconing. Much like the second coming, it was long overdue when it arrived. At this point I realised that the machine did nothing and I would succomb to yet another full body search (non-cavity, fortunately) before having my bags and vestments returned. At this stage in contrast to Sharon, my passport had not been looked at, at all, although the willingness to stamp the transit card was all too evident with the 4 stamps it had.

Now I could join Sharon (once I had reattached the belt - so as to avoid a cultural incident). She was waiting at the top of the escalator, and I could see the amusement in her face at the events that had unfolded. It was now our challenge to get to the gate to rejoin the flight.

This is the crazy part of the ongoing story (if the first wasn't chaotic enough), it appeared that the 'transit' process had come from a plane landing and disembarking its passengers at one corner of the 'vast' airport, and had planned for embarking to take place at the furthermost corner from this point. When we reached the travelators the sign said that gate 14 was 14 minutes away 'by travelator!' and we could soon hear the voices of the flight crew urging us on (as if we were in the last 200m of a mile race) as we were holding up the flight. Bugger off, I'm travelling at my own pace now. We have no idea how many people didn't make the flight. The whole process, nearly an hour that I'll never get back.

And I think that's the bit that's so ridiculous. We had no intention of visiting India. If you'd left us on the plane none of this would have been necessary. If you has some sort of mobile room, with toilets and wifi that you could peddle out to the plane, put us in it, and then let us back onto the plane you could finally put the x-ray machines into the museum. There they can be watched by the Indian military personnel and viewed by women on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and men every other day including public holidays.

Posted by claptonisgod 01:25 Archived in India Comments (0)

Actually I don't want a selfie stick thank you very much

sunny 15 °C

"Actually I don't want a selfie stick thank you very much for troubling to step in front of me to both block my passage and to thrust many different coloured versions about my person. You are perhaps the 300th person today to have asked the very same question, and since my trip commenced maybe the 1500th refusal".

"No I'm not at all concerned that your family might require you to sell said selfie to me, and indeed my needs are the only thing of concern to me at present. I have already blogged about my feelings regarding a selfie stick, and perhaps you'd be interested in reading said blog if I give you the URL?"

"Oh, you have to run? The police, yes I understand. All that post punk drum driven dance music"


Posted by claptonisgod 11:53 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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