A tasting plate of Oysters

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Monday evening during my short stay in Galway, I went out for a meal with a friend who lives in the town to Morans Oyster Cottage, a seafood restaurant in Kilcolgan, a short drive from the city.

For the first course, we both treated ourselves to a “taster plate” of Native and Pacific oysters. They’d come fresh from the Clarenbridge oyster bed, a short distance away. Delicious!

There were photographs on the wall of famous visitors who’d visited the restaurant, including a certain Seamus Heaney, who’d left his calling card

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a hand written note of his poem, Oysters.

A pity about the reflections in the photo which makes one of the  words (starlight) illegible – but if you want, you can read the poem here

A treat in more than one way!

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Galway

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I arrived home from my day in London quite late on Friday evening. I had a day at home before setting off again to Ireland on a cold, sleety, windy Sunday morning. I flew from Manchester to Dublin, then took the coach to Galway where I was working the next day.

It was cold when I arrived and the weather was really odd – alternating between blue skies and snow flurries. After checking into my hotel I had about an hour before it went dark, so went for a quick stroll before going for a bite to eat.

The harbour was only a short distance from my hotel, so I wandered over and stopped to take in the classic view of the Long Walk

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I treated myself to a fish and chip supper at McDonagh’s on Quay Street (busy as usual)

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Then waked off my meal by taking a stroll around the town, returning to my hotel to watch TV before turning in for the night.

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A few works at Tate Modern

After looking round the Red Star Over Russia exhibition, I spent about an hour having a wander round some of the free galleries at Tate Modern.  I’ve been to the Gallery several times recently, but it’s so big with a massive collection (of which only a fraction is on display at any one time) that I always seem to spot something I hadn’t seen before.

This poster from a collection on display from the May 68 events in Paris (50th anniversary coming up soon)  by the Atelier Populaire rather resonated with the exhibition I’d just seen

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I rather liked this 3 dimensional work by Victor Passmore

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Abstract in White, Green, Black, Blue, Red, Grey and Pink (1963)

A pleasing discovery was a number of photographs by the German photographer Werner Mantz.

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Werner Mantz began his career as a portrait and advertising photographer, later becoming known for his architectural photographs of the modernist housing projects in Cologne during the 1920s. His work is linked with the “New Objectivity” Movement in German photography before the Second World War which was concerned with using the clarity and precision of the camera to depict the everyday world in structured and organised compositions.

The photographs again linked with the Red Star Over Russia exhibition as they were similar in many ways with the photographs by Rodchenko.

I particularly liked this image dominated by the shadow of the lamppost

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Detail of Kalkerfield settlement, Cologne 1928

Red Star Over Russia

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November 7  2017 marked the centenary of Russia’s October Revolution when the workers and peasants overthrew the oppressive Tsarist regime. The apparent contradiction arising as Russia at that time still used the Julian Calendar which was several days behind the Gregorian calendar used in the West so as far as the Russians were concerned the date was 25 October.  This exhibition at Tate Modern featuring posters, prints, photographs and other images collected by the photographer and graphic designer David King, who died only recently in 2016, is meant to mark the historic event.

The Revolution started with great hope and optimism about creating a new kind of Society, unleashing enormous creativity by artists who supported its aims. Sadly in the face of counter revolutionary forces supported by the west the early idealism turned sour leading to the vicious dictatorship of Josef Stalin.

David King collected over 250,000 books, journals, posters, documents and newspapers dating from the Russian Revolution to the Khrushchev era which were acquired by the Tate just before his death. A cross section of the collection is included in this exhibition, which uses them to give visitors a glimpse of life in the Soviet Union during this period. As the Guardian’s review puts it, it’s

a condensed vision of five decades of Soviet hopes ending in devastation and despair.

 

I’m not going to attempt a full survey or critique of the exhibition but, as photography was allowed, here’s some of my favourites from the items on display.

From the early optimisitic days of the Revolution, the first room included this banner

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and a wall covered with prints and posters

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which included El Lissitzky‘s well known Supremacist poster Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge (1919)

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The red triangle driving into a white disc against a black ground, urging the revolutionary Bolsheviks to defeat the reactionary White Russians. 

Underneath, this imaginative work – a photomontage making up a hammer and sickle by Yakov Guminer

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The next room was my favourite with the photographs and graphic work by Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky both of who also produced works in collaboration with their wives, Varvara Stepanova and Sophie Küppers respectively.

There were a number of extraordinarily brilliant ground breaking photographs by Rodchenko

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and a series of abstract graphic works by El Lissitzky

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There were also examples of the journal, USSR in Construction, to which both couples contributed photomontage and other design elements.

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In the next room the walls were lined with a series of photographs providing snapshots of the history of Russia from 1905 until WWII.

Unfortunately the period of experimentation and radical art didn’t last long. 1934 saw the dawn of “Socialist Realism”, the Stalinist State dictating that artists should use realist styles to create highly optimistic depictions of Soviet life. There was a typical example of this in the next room with a series of large paintings by Alexander Deineka  produced for the 1937 International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life in Paris, portraying   which “fused reality with aspiration”.

The next room brought us back down to Earth. Here there were “before and after” photographs showing us how leaders and other individuals who fell out of favour with the Stalinist regime were “erased from history”. And there was a particularly moving display of photos of some of the many hundreds of thousands of people, many of them true Revolutionaries, who were murdered by the Stalinist State.

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The final room featured posters and photographs from the period following the German invasion in 1941when artists were mobilised to create propaganda, in some cases reworking images from the early revolutionary period.

I enjoyed looking around the exhibition and was pleased that I’d had the opportunity to catch it before it closed. And I still had an hour or so to spare to look round some of the free displays before I had to leave to catch my train.

 

Night Time City

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Last Friday I had to go down to London for a meeting. As it was scheduled for the afternoon I got the first off peak train down so the first train I could get home left at 7:30 p.m. Luckily there’s always something to do in London and on Friday evening Tate Modern is open late. As my meeting was on the South Bank, that seemed like a good option, especially as I quite fancied seeing the Red Star Over Russia exhibition that was coming towards the end of its run. A review of that to follow, but while I was in the Tate I got the lift to the viewing platform in the Switch House to take a look over a night time view of the City.

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LAND | SEA | LIFE at Abbot Hall

A couple of weeks ago we finally made it across to Abbot Hall to see the latest exhibition Land|Sea|Life which features works from the Ingram Collection, and which was coming towards the end of it’s run. The exhibition include 70 “Modern British” works by over 40 artists , including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Graham Sutherland and Laura Knight.

The collection has been put together over the last decade by media entrepreneur Chris Ingram. He’s been lucky enough to indulge his passion amassing over 650 works. But he doesn’t simply display them all in his home (probably homes, being a millionaire!). The Collection is currently housed at The Lightbox – a gallery and museum in his hometown of Woking. His taste very much aligns with my own. There wasn’t a work on display at Abbot Hall I didn’t like and looking at the 2 volume catalogue from the Collection confirmed this view.

No photographs, so I’ve restricted this post to images available on the Abbot Hall website, which are only a fraction of the works displayed. This is a drawing by Barbara Hepworth and is clearly a preliminary for a work, the “plaster” of which, is in the Hepworth Gallery collection.

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The Ship by John Piper

Most of the exhibits were 2 D works –  paintings, drawings and prints. But there were a number of sculptures, including this attractive vase like bronze object by Kenneth Armitage which rather reminded me of Barbara Hepworth’s work.

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Although I was familiar with many of the artists included in the exhibition, there were some new discoveries (always good!).  One of these included John Tunnard who had several works on display. I particularly liked his tempura painting, Installation from 1942.

Another discovery was Edward Burra. One of his works Near Whitby, Yorkshire (1972)features in the video introduction to the exhibition (above) by Jo Baring, the Collection’s Director and Curator. The other works on display were probably more typical of his work; caricature like paintings of people, many of them workers. These included Figure Composition No1 (1976) which features a group of ordinary people going about their everyday business on a busy street, and Seamen Ashore, Greenock (1944) which does what it says on the tin!

A sculpture that took my eye was Ghost Boat  (2003) by the Irish artist, John Behan

Three of my favourite works in the exhibition were by an artist I had come across before, Keith Vaughan. They were ink/gouache and ink/watercolour drawings of buildings from the industrial region of the West Yorkshire Pennines – Village in the Hills (1943), Schoolhouse, Yorkshire (1945) and Industrial Landscape III, Morton Mill (1943). They rather reminded me of landscapes by John Piper.

There were plenty others I could mention, but I think that’s enough for now! Although there wasn’t one specifically for the exhibition, here were a couple of catalogues from the collection on sale at Abbot Hall which include the works on display and many more. Images can also be browsed on the Collection’s website .

Manchester’s Midland Hotel

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One of my Christmas presents last year was a tour of the Midland Hotel in Manchester. It’s something of an iconic building which I’ve passed many times being on Peter Street, opposite the Central library and near the Bridgewater Hall. It’s also close to the Free Trade Hall (now converted into another luxury hotel) but is where I first started going out to concerts in my mid teens a long, long time ago. The tour covered the history and the architecture of the hotel and was followed by a rather civilised afternoon tea.

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The hotel a large Edwardian Baroque style building constructed on an  “island” in a dominant position facing the former Central Station the northern terminus for the Midland Railway’s rail services to London St. Pancras, which it was built to serve as a railway hotel . The front entrance doesn’t face the station so passengers would have to walk round the building to enter via the grand front entrance. However, there was a covered walkway (long gone) to the rear entrance so porters could bring the wealthy passengers’ bags into the hotel ready for them.

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The façade of the hotel is covered with glazed terracotta tiles, which was a common finish on buildings from this period in the industrial north. My home town of Wigan, for example, has quite a number of buildings covered with red terracotta tiles in the town centre. This made the surfaces easy to clean at a time when the air was heavily polluted and light coloured stone would become black in no time at all. I remember many black stone buildings from when I was young which were cleaned up in the 1970’s dramatically changing their appearance. The Midland’s tiles were specially made by Burmantofts Pottery of Leeds, who specialised in architectural facing products.

When the hotel was built, a “Gentleman’s Theatre” occupied part of the site. This had to be demolished but a theatre was incorporated into the building. There are particularly fancy terracotta tiles with sculptures representing the Arts over the windows and doors where this new theatre, now long gone, was located.

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The symbol of the Midland Railway company was the Griffin, and this occurs as a decorative feature inside and outside the building.

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The hotel is renowned as the place where a certain Mr Rolls met a Mr Royce, founding the company that bears their names.

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Moving inside, today you enter the lobby with it’s Art Deco style reception desks

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but this area was originally a Winter Garden – the tree in the centre of the lobby no doubt being a reminder of this.

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The skylights in the roof are a reminder of this

The tour of the building took us into the public rooms used for meetings and the like, some of which had interesting features, as well as one of the bedrooms

There were decorations on the walls in the corridors which included displays of materials found in bedrooms which had been left behind by guests over the years. These included all sorts – newspapers, magazines, comics, letters, postcards, drawings, maps and all sorts of miscellaneous objects.

One of the features of the hotel is the Octagon Lounge which originally had a Moorish design with a large lantern hanging from the ceiling. A few years ago it was redesigned and now has an Art Deco look to it.

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It was an interesting tour and at the end we were able to indulge ourselves with afternoon tea with sandwiches (no crusts!) and scones with cream and jam.

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Very naughty!

Afterwards we headed over to Home – Manchester’s Contemporary Art, Theatre and Art Cinema complex to watch Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri, which we enjoyed very much.

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All in all a good afternoon and evening out, despite the weather