The Deptford Murals – Part 2

Posted by Ruth

Earlier in the week Colin posted Part One of our Deptford Mural tour, after coming across the London Mural Preservation Society (@L_MPS), an organisation seeking to protect London’s fantastic murals. Here I’ll tell you about two more of the murals we came across in Deptford.

Partially hidden by a row of council bins, the third mural we saw looked a little shabby to begin with. However, on closer inspection the ‘Pink Palace’ mural has a wealth of interesting detail.

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Created in 1983 by a group of artists and local residents, the mural is the pink facade of a house, with images of cherubs framing the top of the building.

It is these cherubs that provide the intrigue. Far from angelic, these creatures are pictured as swigging gin, another reading the Beano, and a third posing as ‘Mr Universe’. For this reason this mural was absolutely my favourite.

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The final, and largest mural, named ‘Love Over Gold’, was painted in 1989. It was commissioned by Dire Straits (who grew up in the area).

The creation of the mural, led by Gary Drostle, involved local primary school children. It depicts issues relating to wealth, disability and equality, and includes an especially moving poem written by a 9 year old child, depicting the “tall tower blocks, cold and grey” in the area.

These murals are important, not only because they add vibrancy to the area, both also because they distil messages of struggle, warmth and humour into the streets of Deptford.

The First Couple of London Bridge

Posted by Colin

Couple1 Living in London Bridge, I’ve often seen this sculpture of a man standing on his plinth, surveying the scene of tourists and office workers hurrying around the shops and cafes of More London.

But often being one of those hurrying past I’ve never stopped to look at the plaque on the floor which reveals the name of this work: Couple. Now obviously that implies more than one person, but I’d only ever seen a man.

Intrigued, I actually took the time to have a bit of a look around and his partner had been there all along, I was just in too much of a rush to notice.

Unromantically she stands on the top of the public toilets. Despite her unglamourous footing, she has an amazing view of the Shard in front of her and, having been put there in 2003, she must have had a front row seat to watch London’s tallest building increasingly tower over her. If only she could turn round she’d also be able see Tower Bridge in the distance.

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This enchanting couple are carved out of wood and are the work of Stephan Balkenhol and the more I look at them the more I like them. If you’re ever in the area, stop by and say hello.

The Deptford Murals – Part 1

Posted by Colin

Over the past few weeks we have been digging around on Twitter in an attempt to unearth some more unheralded parts of the Capital. In doing so we came across London Mural Preservation Society (@L_MPS), whose aim it is to protect and celebrate these large works of art.

The handy map on their website showed us that four were to be found all within walking distance of each other in Deptford, South East London. Wanting to go Christmas shopping in Greenwich Market anyway, we took the opportunity for a quick tour. I’ll mention two of them here and Ruth will wrap things up in a later post.

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We first came across one of the newest additions to London’s mural scene – the Deptford Marbles at 494 New Cross Road.

At 9 metres x 4 metres, it covers an entire wall at the end of a small row of shops.

What is particularly clever about the piece is that it incorporates three large beams that were already attached to wall, seamlessly making them look a deliberate addition to the work. Painted in 2007 by Patricio Forrester, the mural envelops passers by making them seem part of the scene.

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A short walk along the always vibrant Deptford High Street, with its market stalls, fishmongers and butchers, brought us to another Forrester artwork – His and Hers on Giffin Square.

A surreal effort, he has transformed two chimneys into a couple with a necklace and tie hanging from a pair of chimneys. With a shocking pink background it is an unmistakable part of the bustling retail precinct.

According to the LMPS website, the necklace and tie took just one day to paint – at cost of £150 – thanks to donations from local businesses.

Ruth will pick up the story soon, but we’ll definitely be searching out a few more of these pieces of street art from the LMPS’s wonderful map.

Read Part Two

The Shard, The Moon and Jupiter

Posted by Colin

Regular readers of the blog will know that there are scarcely two things in the world I love more than the night sky and the London skyline. So it is no surprise that I couldn’t resist taking this photo last Thursday evening, combining those two things in equal measure.

The picture shows London’s tallest building, The Shard, alongside the world’s tallest hospital tower, Guy’s.

To the right, and less rooted to the Earth, is our planet’s nearest neighbour, the Moon. Even further to the right, the solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter, appears as a starlike white light.

This juxtaposition of Earth and sky, of London and space, is right up my street.

St. Paul’s and Tower Bridge seen through a telescope from the Royal Observatory Greenwich

Posted by Colin

St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge must be two of the most photographed landmarks in London. But chances are they haven’t been snapped like this before…

On Wednesday night I was leading a telescope viewing session at the Royal Observatory Greenwich as part of their annual Evening With The Stars season. At the start of the night our view of the Moon and Jupiter was obscured by cloud and so I turned the telescope’s attention to something a little more terrestrial: Central London.

If you’ve ever been up on Greenwich Hill you’ll know what a spectacular view of the Capital it provides. I was able to centre the telescope on the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is beautifully bracketed by Tower Bridge from the vantage point up on the hill.

Being such a cold night the view was pin sharp and I was able to stick my iPhone at the eye piece and capture this unique view of the two famous landmarks (click image for larger version).

You can spot the coat of arms of the City of London sitting on the gantry of the bridge on the far left of the picture. The glowing “ropes” are also clearly visible.

The telescope eyepiece with Wren’s St. Paul’s in view, and another of his creations in the background

It was even possible to see the flag of St. George fluttering atop the bridge (look closely, and perhaps zoom in and you’ll see it. It is a little dark due to being in shadow but you can definitely see the cross on the flag!) We could even tell the time by the cathedral clock.

Such a gorgeous view was particularly apt as the cathedral’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren, was also responsible for designing Flamsteed House – the Observatory’s flagship building.

So from a distance of 5 miles (as the crow flies) I was able to unite two of Wren’s most stunning creations. We got to see Jupiter and the Moon once the clouds had lifted, but sometimes London can be just as beautiful as the heavens.

Related Posts:

There is more than one St. Paul’s Cathedral in London…

A photo of London from space

The Shard, The Moon and Jupiter

How I took a self portrait with an air rifle

Posted by Colin

Where: Shoot! Existential Photography, Photographers’ Gallery, Ramillies Street, W1
When: 10/11/12 (runs until 6th January 2013)
Cost: £2 entry, plus £3 for 4 air rifle pellets (optional)
Website: www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk
Twitter: @TPGallery
Rating:

It is not everyday that you can take a photographic self portrait using an air rifle – but that’s exactly what I did last Saturday. I was following in the footsteps of those who indulged in the popular early 20th century fairground attraction of the photographic shooting gallery. Successfully hit the bullseye of the target and the impact triggers a camera to capture you in your shooting pose.

Me shooting at the target

This is the premise for the latest exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery round the corner from Oxford Circus. It traces the story of the activity from its origin in fairgrounds through to professional artists deliberately using the technique to create their work. The story includes such famous names as Jean-Paul Sartre.

However, the highlight of the exhibition is a set of sixty images all taken at fairground shooting galleries by Ria van Dijk. Starting in 1936, she took an image of herself in this novel way every year right through to her eighties. It was fascinating to see this study of how one person changes year by year.

My target card showing my two shots

What was particularly cool was that I was able to follow in Ria’s footsteps by trying to take a similar picture of myself – the corner of the top floor of the exhibition had been turned into a mini rifle range.

For £3 I had the chance to fire up to four pellets at the target, with a bullseye winning me a photo of my efforts. So popular was the idea that there was a large queue to try it out.

Having seen half a dozen people miss the bullseye, the gentleman before me hit it with his first shot. No pressure then. My first shot just missed the bullseye but I hit with my second, and I got my photographic memento.

Verdict:
A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. The Gallery is a sanctuary away from the hurly burly of Oxford Street and, with its cafe, it would a great place to grab a coffee. At £2 entry to the exhibition (and free entry to the rest of the gallery) it is fantastic value. The bookshop in the basement is also worth a look with a great selection of coffee table tomes and photographic gadgetry.

Having never heard of photographic shooting galleries, it was fascinating to learn about their history. It was even better that you could do it for yourself. A rifle range in a photographic gallery – a brilliant touch.

Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi

Where: British Library, Euston Road, NW1
Price: Free

Sir Isaac Newton is one of the biggest names in the history of science, but he once wrote in a letter to Robert Hooke:

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”

Apt, then, that a bronze sculpture of the man sits atop a giant plinth outside the British Library just down the road from St. Pancras station. The work of artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, it is based on a 1795 image of Newton by William Blake.

Newton’s work into the inner workings of the world reduced the Universe to one seemingly entirely governed by mathematical law – Newton believed in a “clockwork” universe in which, if the position of every particle could be known, nature’s laws could be applied to entirely predict their future locations.

It is, then, that both Blake and Paolozzi depict Newton in a god like role of “divine geometer” armed with a pair of compasses. His hands are enormous compared to the compasses, reinforcing the idea of the physicist’s power. The clockwork, almost robotic nature of Newton’s ideas are reflected in the Frankenstein’s monster-esque bolts which hinge the sculpture’s shoulders, hips, elbows, wrists and ankles.

Hunched right over, and with a look of pained commitment, it is as if Newton’s sees it as his duty to dedicate himself to unveiling nature’s rules. The effect is even greater when you know that Einstein’s relativity revolution and advances in quantum physics blew the clockwork universe idea out the water in the early 20th Century.

Verdict:

As someone who studied physics at university, and makes a living out of talking to people about how the universe works, I love Paolozzi’s depiction of the scientific giant. Rather than being triumphalist, the sculpture captures well the notion of Newton’s relentless pursuit of knowledge and the mental strain required. The nuts and bolts effect also plays with the idea of the man becoming his work. As a free sculpture within apple throwing distance of a major rail terminus, you’d be hard pressed to find an excuse not to go and have a look.

The Cat’s Pyjamas!

Where: Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard, EC2
When: 24/02/12 (exhibition open till 28th May)
Website: http://www.guildhallartgallery.cityoflondon.gov.uk/GAG/Learning/Late+Views.htm
Price: Free
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Intrigued by the idea of an event combining art, gin cocktails and 20s music, we went along to the Cat’s Pyjamas night with high hopes. This was a late night opening of the Guildhall Art Gallery , displaying the Age of Elegance exhibition. Unfortunately our expectations were not quite met by the event, and on leaving we were a little disappointed, with a feeling that the evening could have delivered much more.

On entering the gallery we were unsure which way to turn, there was a useful handout on the different activities, but no clue as to where these were located. Unsure, we headed up to the main gallery, which was filled with people dressed in 20s attire, and a small group dancing to the Charleston . Many people had gone to considerable effort to dress up- which did add to the atmosphere. However the bright lights of the gallery, and mix of statues and much older paintings seemed to jar with the exhibition. The combined effect felt like a 20s night by numbers, rather than a transportation back to the jazz age.

In search of the promised cocktails, we eventually located a small pop up drinks area, which had already accumulated a rather large queue. We both tried the Trilby; gin, maraschino liqueur, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and sugar. While delicious, this was not great value at £9 each, especially as it was served pre-prepared in a very small glass.

The exhibition was split across two areas and so we decided to explore, hoping to find more. Whilst the paintings were attractive, they did not capture the essence of the age of elegance that we were expecting and failed to keep us sufficiency interested. Fortunately the evening did improve when we went to the literary section. Mark Oostervan read a short story called ‘The Truth About George’ by P.G. Wodehouse; an intriguing tale of man overcoming his stammer and shyness. The audience were enchanted and this was definitely the highlight of the night. Elsewhere dancing lessons took place, but with our combined lack of coordination we decided to give this a miss.

Verdict:
We felt on balance that given the event was free it was worthwhile going along, and good fun to get dressed up in pearls and braces. What was missing was a certain speakeasy atmosphere of decadence and danger, that the best 20s nights in London deliver. So while it could have been much more, it was still an interesting night, and it was good to explore one of London ‘s lesser known galleries.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Where: Natural History Museum, SW7
When: Every day (until 11th March)
Website: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/wpy/
Price: £9 each
Rating:

If you had told me under-10s could produce such imaginative and impressive photos as those on display at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition I would never have believed you. Indeed it’s impossible to turn your head without finding an incredible photo, detailing the magnificence of the natural world.

The exhibition has two main sections. The first showcases young photographers, and is a fantastic display of emerging talent. The second, for professionals, is divided by theme. Insects, polar bears, wolves, hippos and chimpanzees were all gloriously captured on backlit screens in a darkened room.

As well as being visually striking, the exhibition also has a great interactive element. You can select your favourite photos from a touch screen monitor and scan your entrance ticket so you can save then to be digitally retrieved at home. A few of our favourites are below.

An additional upside for us was that we got in for free. Colin held a talk on space as part of Nature Live, and got 2 free exhibition tickets. A Nature live show involves hearing from a scientist about their specialist subject. There are daily talks on a range of topics and it’s free to attend. I would definitely recommend going along if there’s a topic of interest and you fancy learning something new.

Verdict: A visit to the Natural History to see the exhibition is highly recommended, particularly if you’re passionate about photography.There’s also plenty to see and do while you’re there and the cafe’s nice.

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