Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Ove Arup at the V & A

I thought I should take in an exhibition as hadn't been to one for a while. It's not a great time of year for doing this as galleries seem to be finishing summer exhibitions and getting ready for winter ones.

But I had meant to see the civil engineering exhibition at the V & A. This was primarily an exhibition about Ove Arup, both as to his achievements during his lifetime and his legacy. While not a blockbuster there was enough to be interesting.

One starts by climbing up into a gallery looking down on the main exhibits below. Not much up here apart frm some doodles and the like. And some descriptions of Ove Arup works outings. An attempt to show the man before the works. Unfortunately my attempt to go down into the main hall was just met by a wheelchair user trying to get up. No room for passing. One just had to wit for the inexorably slow chairlift to works its way up, disgorge its passenger and then slowly work its way down again, by which time quite a crowd had gathered.

When finally down one worked one's way through Ove Arup's oeuvre. The first area which I knew nothing about was working on designs for air-raid shelters. He had recommended and designed the equivalent of an underground multi-storey car park for Londoners.

But on a grander scale was his most famous work, the Sydney Opera House. The displays included the rather cool wooden model used to work out how wind would pass along its strange shape using a wind tunnel. A nice object in its own right.

And for a quirky item there was the huge computer used to make all the calculations necessary. Apparently they reckoned doing them all manually would have added 10 years to the project. An equivalent device would probably fit in your pocket these days.

There were also some later clever designs, notably an American art gallery with strange concrete brackets inserted to diffuse direct overhead sunlight into the art space.

But the most engaging exhibition was a sound booth which allowed one to work out what the acoustics would be for various projects. That was genuinely fascinating, especially listening to the acoustics of a concert hall. Definitely the highlight of the exhibition for me.

But the highlight of the visit was out in the courtyard. They had constructed a pavilion/shelter with a lattice roof which was simply beautiful. I want one.

Still left time to pootle around the underwear exhibition (hey, its free I am a member, so go round anything). Actually not that exciting. A number of corsets so one can be amazed at how (and why) women tied themselves into such garments, plus some much more modern bras etc. Very much a female show - well you can't do much with men's pants and vests, or at least not much that is worth putting into an exhibition.

Then a wander down my favourite sculpture gallery and off home, to a well deserved if late lunch.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Temples at Camden Assembly

I haven’t to my recollection ever been to a venue as small as the Camden Assembly  or what used to be the Barfly. The set up is that there is a trendy bar/restaurant off the street and then the music venue is upstairs. The hall itself has a further bar at the back and cramped stage at the front. The space between is about the size of my living and dining rooms. Actually I have been to a venue this small before - Oslo. Anyhow it was a cool spot. 

Unfortunately both my mates pulled out at short notice effectively leaving me standing in a corner for 2 hours waiting for something to happen. There was no support act, so having arrived just after 7 myself Temples finally appeared at 9:30. But yes they were worth the wait. They played a set pretty much alternating tracks from their brilliant debut album Sun Structures and new stuff up until the encore which was all old school. It was all quite exhilarating stuff. The thing about Temples is as far as I am aware no one else is playing music quite like this – new psychedelic rock. Rather went put of fashion 40 odd years ago. But this isn’t pastiche although the lead singer has gone with the Marc Nolan hair and sparkly jacket. Its fresh and drives along at pace.

The catch with  them as an a act is that they really seem to have a personality by-pass. They just seem like 4 skinny geeks who like playing guitar (and drums). Nothing really wrong with that, but it doesn't really help you get to the top. There is a lot to being a live act that isn't just the music. But I did enjoy being so close to the act that I could actually read the set list taped to the floor in front of them.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Whitworth Gallery

I made one of my irregular visits to Cheshire last weekend. Always a pleasure to see my friends. Even though yet again the train was late enough to miss my connection at Crewe.

With his wife otherwise disposed it fell to my mate Dave to entertain me. Options were pretty much mine so I thought I would ask for a trip to the newly renovated Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. Mistake.

Its a rather oppressive looking Victorian Gothic edifice. I thought renovations had been completed but clearly there is a lot to do to the existing parts.

But there is a glass extension, and the whole gallery space has been expanded and flows a bit better. Unfortunately, the only really good part of the extension is the restaurant, so yes there is a quite nice tree surrounded glass box to eat in.

The art spaces would be OK if there was anything much worthwhile to look at. Unfortunately the Whitworth has a collection of art that would need a significant number of promotions to reach the second division. This was exemplified the portrait exhibition that had a somewhat curious form of curating, not by any form of historic development, but putting together pleasing clusters of arrangements on the walls, as if one was tiling a bathroom.

The portrait exhibition

A Gilbert & George canvas, as usual featuring the modest pair
Strangely, and a rather unlikely result, one of its least promising collections (wallpapers) was actually just about the most satisfying displays.

The curated modern art display however was largely an insult to our intelligence. A glass cabinet  displaying a neat pile of blank A4 paper (which I could easily find lying around my photocopying room) was probably the laziest bit of detritus - at least the computer print out was slightly artfully placed. However, much of the rest was far less appealing. 

The modern sculptures around Whitworth Park alternated between the fairly appealing although hardly stunning like this stainless steel model of a tree, to one which we genuinely thought was just a climbing frame. When you can't tell the difference between the art and municipal services, perhaps someone should pick a different career

I had to be back for a gig on the Sunday so we menfolk headed off for a pub lunch while the women did church things, leaving only a brief time for a walk in the local woods before I needed to catch my train. But actually a rather nice walk. Good woods.