Sunday, February 27, 2005

How time flies

For the Aymara people living in the Andes, the past lies ahead and the future lies behind. Laura Spinney looks at how different languages reflect, and shape, our conception of time. An interesting article from today's Guardian.

Turner Whistler Monet

Entrance to the Turner Whistler Monet exhibition at Tate Britain

One of the highlights of our half-term trip to London was the Turner-Whistler -Monet exhibition at the Tate. We emerged from the exhibition and found ourselves in one of the canvases: a murky, dank and drizzly Thames-side evening.

JMW Turner, James McNeill Whistler and Claude Monet each changed the course of landscape painting. Whistler and Monet were friends and both initially acknowledged the profound influence of Turner, adopting and working their own variations on themes developed by their artistic predecessor. Turner’s atmospheric effects gave rise to Whistler’s Thames Nocturnes, and both Turner and Whistler informed Monet’s revolutionary paintings that went on to inspire the term Impressionism.
(Tate Britain exhibition introduction)

This exceptional exhibition focuses on views of the River Thames, the Seine and the city and lagoon of Venice – a rare opportunity to see works which were highly controversial in their own day but are now seen as some of the most poetic and evocative images ever produced.

  • Guardian: Paint me a river: It is the filthy, seductive soul of London. No wonder the Thames has transfixed - and defeated - artists for centuries. By Iain Sinclair
  • Guardian: Paintbrushes at dawn: It's hard not to see the Tate's Turner Whistler Monet show as a competition between the three great artists. Jonathan Jones picks his winner
  • Turner Whistler Monet: In the words of Henry Matisse, 'It seemed to me that Turner must have been the link between the academic tradition and impressionism'. This transition from Realism to Impressionism and beyond forms the backdrop of Turner Whistler Monet, an exhibition specifically aimed at establishing the visual and contextual connections undeniably linking JMW Turner, James McNeil Whistler and Claude Monet.
  • BBC: In pictures: Turner Whistler Monet
  • Tate Britain: exhibition page
A Very Long Engagement

Original French film poster

Enjoyed Jeunet's new film A Very Long Engagement at FACT tonight.
"Jean-Pierre Jeunet, a film-maker best known hitherto for whimsy and surreal tricksiness [has directed the]...outstanding A Very Long Engagement.

Audrey Tautou, star of Jeunet's Amelie, plays Matilde, a young Breton orphan determined to discover whether her lover and childhood sweetheart, 19-year-old infantryman, Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), actually died after being sentenced to death for self-mutilation in 1917.

The movie is based on a novel by Sebastien Japrisot, a writer best known for his thrillers .


Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church in Sideways

We both enjoyed Sideways at FACT, where it's been a tremendous success. As the Guardian review commented, "ew classics of American cinema don't come along that often, so grab this one with both hands. It's an occasion for the singing of hosannas from the roof of every cinema.

Director Alexander Payne has already given us two gems with Election and About Schmidt. This glorious, bittersweet comedy of male friendship and midlife crisis is even better. ..
Sideways is beautifully written, terrifically acted; it is paced and constructed with such understated mastery that it is a sort of miracle. The observations are pitilessly exact and meshed with impeccably executed sight gags and funny lines, and everything is bathed in the solvent of exquisite sadness. Yet its gentleness and humanity do not preclude a mule-kick of emotional power. Audiences at the screenings where I have been present may have heard something like a fusillade of gunshots from the auditorium; it was the sound of my heart breaking into a thousand pieces."

Sideways poster
Tree Of Life at the British Museum

On our trip to London I went to see The Tree of Life - a sculpture assembled by Mozambiquen artists from guns decommissioned following the civil war. It was located in the stunning Great Court, with its glass domed roof. A week later we watched the moving documentary about the project on BBC 4, Tree of Guns.

"We are all Africans," says author Margaret Busby. And we are: Africa, as they say, is the cradle of our civilisation. When you enter the Great Court of the museum you are welcomed by weapons. However, they are not recognisable as weapons any more.

Decommissioned after the Mozambique civil war, they have been reworked into a Tree of Life, a large sculpture installed to initiate Africa 05, the UK’s biggest celebration of African cultures.
Yet as well as this product of the modern world, the British Museum offers the chance to see and even touch another extreme of civilisation: African hand axes of almost two million years old, quite possibly the first tools ever made.

"We have done something quite new in that we made the handling a permanent part of the exhibition," says MacGregor. "We hope that every visitor will be able to hold these objects because that’s really how you realise the link to those first makers.

  • British Museum press release
  • Gun sculpture unveiled by museum : BBC News
  • Africa at the British Museum: "The Tree of Life was made by Christavao Canhavato (Kester), Hilario Nhatugueja, Fiel dos Santos and Adelino Serafim Mate of the Nucleo de Arte, Mozambique. The sculpture is made out of weapons and was commissioned by the British Museum and Christian Aid through the Transforming Arms into Tools programme: people hand in guns from the civil war in exchange for sewing machines, bicycles, even tractors. The weapons are then dismantled and the artists make sculptures out of them."
Turks: A Journey of A Thousand Years

Mehmed II c1480.
Attributed to Shiblizade Ahmed

Pretty much the highlight of our trip to London for me was Turks: A Journey of A Thousand Years at the Royal Academy. The exhibition explores the art and culture of the Turks from Inner Asia to the Bosphorus over a thousand year period between 600 and 1600 AD. Their journey incorporated many different centres of power and artistic traditions. The story begins with the Uighurs, a nomadic people of Central Asia and China, and ends with the Ottoman Empire from the reign of Mehmet II to Suleyman the Magnificent including the fall of Byzantium and the spread of Ottoman rule to include Mecca and Medina.

Horse Drinking Water and Two Nomads 14th century, Central Asia.
Later attributed to Muhammad Siyah Qalam.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a stunning set of drawings never before seen in public, the work of the 16th-century artist Muhammad Siyah Qalam (Muhammad of the Black Pen).
  • Turks - A Journey of a Thousand Years 600 - 1600: Royal Academy site
  • Three characters in search of an artist: Novelist Orhan Pamuk lets the art speak for itself as he creates an imaginary dialogue between the figures in the enigmatic drawings of Muhammad of the Black Pen (RA Magazine)
  • Royal Academy offers a Journey of a Thousand Years: 24 Hour Museum
  • Full of eastern promise: The Ottoman empire was one of the mightiest the world has ever known. Can the Royal Academy's new exhibition do it justice? (Guardian)
  • Caravaggio: The Final Years

    The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist 1608

    The National Gallery's exhibition of Caravaggio's late works will be one of the biggest shows of the year. The exhibition Caravaggio: The Final Years explores the painter's late works when, after killing a man in a duel, he was forced to flee Rome at the height of his career. The Guardian came up with a special issue in which Jonathan Jones set out to see every known Caravaggio in existence. On the way he built up a unique portrait of the brawling, philandering gangster who created some of his greatest work on the run, wanted for murder.

    Life after a lonesome death

    Interesting article by Ian Frazier in today's Guardian that traces the true story behind the lyrics of Bob Dylan's song.

    On February 9 1963, William Zantzinger, a rich young farmer, struck Hattie Carroll, a black barmaid, with his cane. She died that night; he got six months. Her story lives on in Bob Dylan's brilliant protest song - but where is Zantzinger now? And did The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll really change anything?