The reason I’d decided to wander over to Fitzrovia while I was in London last Wednesday was that I wanted to take a look at a sculpture by a favourite contemporary artist, Peter Randall-Page, which is sited in a new development, Fitzroy Place, off Mortimer Street. It’s right next to the Fitzrovia Chapel, a Grade II listed building was the former chapel of The Middlesex Hospital.
‘The One and The Many’, is sculpted from a 24 tonne naturally eroded granite boulder and inscribed with many of the world’s scripts and symbols.
The scripts carved on the work are all related to cosmology and the material/poetical formation of the universe. I shot a few close ups.
The May Day Bank Holiday Monday was the first day of my short break in Borrowdale. I wanted to make the most of my time off so I packed over the weekend and so was able to set off reasonably early up the M6 towards the Lakes. The traffic was lighter than I expected for a Bank Holiday – probably a combination of the early start and a less than promising weather forecast.
I’d planned a walk over on the eastern side of Derwent Water which would take in some moderate sized fells and a couple of well known “beauty spots”. After a fairly easy drive, I parked up late morning in the National Trust car park at Great Wood, donned my walking gear and then set off up the path through the woods.
Lots of bluebells to be seen
My first destination was somewhere I’d visited a few times, including last August – Walla Crag. The path climbed up through the woods, eventually reaching a path where we turned right towards Castlerigg farm. Views opened up over Derwent Water, the fells to the west of the lake, and, to the north, Skiddaw and Blencathra.
After the farm there was a shortish, steep climb up the fell before I reached the top of Walla Crag, where I stopped for a bite to eat and to take in the views. They were pretty good even though it was something of a grey day.
Time to get moving again. During previous walks up here I’d turned off down one of the routes back down to the lake but this time I took the path that would lead me over to Bleaberry Fell, a relatively modest fell at 1,936 feet high – not quite a mountain if you take the definition as 2,000 feet. It looked enticingly close, but looks can be deceiving!
Part of the way to the summit the rain that had been promised arrived. But it didn’t last long and had moved on after less than 20 minutes. I was still glad I was wearing my waterproof coat, mind, and needed to use the waterproof cover for my rucksack.
Another relatively short, steep climb and I was on the summit. Time for a coffee from my flask while I looked out over the fells. Despite the cloud and grey skies, visibility wasn’t too bad and I see over to Helvellyn in the east and the high mountains at the top end of Borrowdale.
I might have turned around and retraced my steps back down the hill, but I decided to carry on to the next summit, High Seat, which was about a mile away. Another fell I’d never climbed. It’s a few feet higher than Bleaberry Fell, and at 1,995 feet is again just short of a mountain
It looks like a relatively easy walk over to High Seat. There isn’t much loss in altitude and the terrain is fairly flat. But looks can be deceiving. The ground is notoriously boggy and Wainwright reckons that “this is a walk to wish on one’s worst enemy“.
I soon hit boggy ground. Fortunately, we’d had a few relatively dry weeks so it wasn’t as bad as it might have been and I managed to get across the bogs fairly unscathed. It must be horrendous in winter or after a prolonged wet spell.
I made my way to the summit cairn and once again took in the views.
The trig point was just a few feet away
Time to start making my way back down. The path which would take me to Ashness Bridge was clearly visible. It looked a much better surface than the one across from Bleaberry Fell
It was, but there were several boggy stretches to cross as I made my way back towards Derwent Water
There were a few other people about, but it was relatively quiet
Getting closer to the end of the descent now
I reached the popular beauty spot at Ashness Bridge. It’s graced many a chocolate box and postcard!
I stopped for a brief rest and removed my waterproof coat. It had turned sunny and down off the fell it was feeling warm. Then I set off down the path through the woods towards the car park, about another mile away.
Reaching the car park, I hadn’t quite finished. I decided to walk the short distance over to Calf Cross Bay on Derwent Water.
The Hundred Year Stones, a monument created by Peter Randall-Page to mark the centenary of the National Trust, are often at least partially submerged by the water, but not today. The level of the Lake must have been relatively low
After a short time enjoying the tranquil atmosphere, I walked back to the car and then drove allong Borrowdale to Seatooler to check in at my B and B.
Southwark Cathedral stands on the south bank of the Thames, near London Bridge and I’ve walked past many times when I’ve been in London both for work and pleasure. After wandering around Borough market we decided to go and have a closer look.
There’s been a church on the site since Norman times, if not earlier. Between 1106 and 1538 it was the church of an Augustinian priory. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, it became a parish church. It only became a cathedral in 1905 when the diocese of Southwark was established.
This is an old drawing of the church and the nearby old London Bridge from 1616 (source: Wikipedia)
The famous panorama of London in 1647 by the Czech artist Wenceslas Hollar was drawn from the top of the tower of the church, then known as Saint Saviour’s.
The present building is mainly Victorian Gothic following the reconstruction of the building, which was in a bad state of repair, in the 19th Century, although there are some remnants of the older structures, particularly in the retro-choir.
Looking down the Nave
The high alter screen. The original was installed in 1520 but the two rows of statues are in excellent condition and were only added in 1905.
An older part of the building at the far end of the nave
Originally the building had a timber roof, but that was replaced during the Victorian restoration. However, a reproduction has been created in the crossing, underneath the tower
The original roof would have been held together by several hundred carved bosses. Some of the originals have been preserved and are displayed at the far end of the nave. Here’s some of them.
During Elizabethan times, the Bankside area, south of the Thames, where the church is located, was outside the jurisdiction of the City of London, and became something of a “pleasure garden” occupied by the bear baiting pits and theatres including the Globe, Rose and Swan. The reconstructed Globe is a short walk away. So, not surprisingly, the cathedral ahs a close connection with the historic dramatists. William Shakespeare’s brother, Edmund, was buried there in 1607. His grave is unmarked, but there’s a commemorative stone in the paving of the choir.
There is a large stained glass window dedicated to William Shakespeare, depicting scenes from his plays, at the base of which is an alabaster statue of him reclining, holding a quill.
There’s also a memorial to Sam Wannamaker, the American actor who left the USA to avoid persecution during the McCarthy era and who inspired the reconstruction of the Globe Theatre. (Inspired isn’t the right word, really. He had to fight tooth and nail and put a lot of time, energy and sweat into getting it built)
John Harvard the founder of Harvard University in the USA was born in the parish, and baptised in the church on 29 November 1607. He is commemorated by the Harvard Chapel in the north transept, paid for by Harvard University alumni resident in England.
There’s an attractive Arts and Crafts style stained glass window in the chapel
There’s some other attractive stained glass in the church, though the bright autumn sunlight streaming through them made it difficult to take decent photographs. I rather liked this modern design in the retro-chapel
Outside there’s a small but attractive garden. Overlooked by Borough Market it’s something of an oasis of peace in a rather hectic neighbourhood.
There was a recreated Augustinian herb garden at the back of the church. The monks would have grown herbs for both culinary and healing purposes – in medieval times the monks would have tended to the sick which is why many older hospitals have their origins in churches, monasteries and nunneries.
A view of the shard from the churchyard.
And a pleasant surprise. I spotted this sculpture in the churchyard. My immediate reaction was that it looked like a work by Peter Randall-Page.
Checking out the information board confirmed my suspicion
Sunday morning started out bright, despite the weather forecast, although there was plenty of cloud shrouding the high fells. We wanted to go out for a walk but din’ feel ready to tackle Skiddaw or one of the other nearby mountains, so we decided to tackle of Latrigg – although at 1,207 feet it might be modest by Lake District standards but it’s a decent climb and a good walk for a Sunday morning.
We followed the old railway track to Kendal leisure centre and then cut across the the path that crosses the busy A66 (via a footbridge, I’m pleased to say).
Entering the woods there was a steep ascent up the lower slopes of the hill before the path flattens out. The route took us round the back of the hill, heading towards Skiddaw before branching back up a short steep climb, levelling out with a more modest gradient towards the summit. We were greeted by a great view over the whole of Derwent Water
Behind us, the summits of Skiddaw and Blencathra were hidden in cloud
It was raining in Newlands Valley
and there was Castlerigg stone circle in the distance
The closure of sections of the old railway track from Threlkeld to Keswick due to damage caused by the floods of late 2015 precluded a circular walk back to Keswick (unless we fancied walking along the A66) so we retraced our steps as far as the Leisure Centre and then headed down through the town centre down to the lake. We stopped to eat our packed lunch then continued along the lake shore as far as Calfclose Bay as we wanted to take a look at The Centenay Stone, a work by Peter Randall-Page, created from a large boulder of local Borrowdale volcanic rock which was split and carved by the artist to commemorate the National Trust’s centenary in 1995.
On the way, we passed the Ruskin Memorial at Friar’s Crag
We arrived in Keswick a little before midday. As we had tickets for the theatre and had a table booked at Morrell’s restaurant for a pre-theatre meal and needed to check into our B and B before then, we decided to start our break with a modest walk up Walla Crag.
We set out from the car park by Derwent Water, cutting through town and then down Springs Road toward the woods and the path towards the fells.
Climbing up the fell, views of the surrounding countryside opened up.
Looking back towards Keswick with Skiddaw towering over the town
On reaching the summit there were great views over the lake towards Cat Bells and the mountains on the far side of Newlands Valley
The Summit of Bleaberry Fell, about a mile away, looked tempting
but time was limited so we made our way down towards the lake shore
descending via the very steep path down Cat Gill
Reaching the lake shore there were great views over to Cat Bells and down Borrowdale to the high fells
We followed the footpath along the lake back towards Keswick.
We cam across this sculpture on the lake shore in Calfclose bay. The Centenay Stone is a work by Peter Randall-Page, created from a large boulder of local Borrowdale volcanic rock which was split and carved by the artist to commemorate the National Trust’s centenary in 1995.
We continued back down the shore to the car park, stopping to look back down the lake.
The work consists of a glacial boulder, unearthed near Fort William in Scotland, it’s surface carved with an unbroken matrix of 630 hexagons and 12 pentagons – very characteristic of his style. It sits in the centre of concentric stone steps and surrounded by a ring of specially planted trees.
A marvellous work. It’s located in Trinity Gardens, a modern development at the top end of Broad Chare, one of the city’s oldest thoroughfares
Walking through Bloomsbury from Holborn towards St Geoarge's church during our break in London, as we walked through Bloomsbury Square, I spotted an abstract sculpture ont he pavement outside a building. “Ah”, I thought, “that looks like something by Peter Randall-Page”. Turned out that I was right.
He has quite a distinctive style with much of his work inspired by organic forms, particularly plants, and this was an example. The sculpture was commissioned by BUPA and is situated in front of their offices in the Square. It's called 'Beneath the Skin' (1991) and was carved from Irish Kilkenny limestone, a favourite material of his, I think. The shiny, top surface has been polished by the back sides of many people, I suspect as it makes a perfect seat to sit and take a rest.
Running along the low walls to either side of the entrance there was another, later work by him. A type of mosaic . This is Chain of Events (1996) created from white Portland stone inlaid in black granite.
I particularly liked this piece which I thought was very attractive. Primitive but modern.
Although I'm no fan of BUPA, it is always a pleasant surprise to stumble across an attractive artwork by a favourite contemporary artist in the street.
We popped in yesterday to he Drumcroon Gallery in Wigan to look at the exhibition ‘Showing his Hand’ of smaller works by Peter Randall-Page, a well established British sculptor who has produced some significant works. A number are on public display in various cities across the UK, including London, Edinburgh, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge and abroad. He created a major granite sculpture, “Seed”, for the Eden Centre in Cornwall.
I first discovered his work when I visited his major exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park a couple of years ago. We also came across one of his sculptures, ‘Give and Take’, when we visited Newcastle.
‘Give and Take’
According to his website he has
“….. always been informed and inspired by the study of organic form and its subjective impact on our emotions.”
and many of his works certainly are influenced by nature, particularly plants and seeds. This was reflected in the works on display at the Drumcroon.
My favourite was the two “Mind Map” pieces. These are made up of fragments of fired brick clay . The individual pieces are split in two and after they are fired are used to create symmetrical abstract patterns on the wall by locating the paired slabs on either side of the central axis. The firing of the clay produces interesting variations in the colours of the slabs .
I’d seen some of his “Mind Map” pieces at the YSP exhibition and the accompanying booklet explained how he had developed the idea by studyingEgg drawings by the Greek mathematician Euclid (c.300BC) whose “Elements” is the earliest known treatise dedicated to geometry. Euclid set out a system for creating compass and straight edge constructions, including egg shapes made up of intersecting lines and circles. Euclid’sinfluence can be clearly seen in these “Mind Maps” and also in some of the drawings in the exhibition
These symmetrical egg drawings had been produced by applying the paint or ink and folding over the paper to create something similar to a Rorschach inkblot. He used this approach for a good number of the paper based works on show in the exhibition.
There were a number of small sculptures on display. I liked the small metal castings displayed on the mantlepiece in one of the rooms. They were minature versions of a larger sculpture we’d seen at the YSP and were possiblly maquettes – small scale models used by sculptors when trying out their ideas – which would be scaled up later.
I wasn’t so keen on the clay pieces on display. They had an unfinished appearance.
There were a number of maquettes, including one for “Seed”, in a glass case,
and a selection of his sketch books were also displayed.
I found these particularly interesting as they give an insight into the creative process and the way the artist’s ideas are conceived and developed.
I thought that this was a good exhibition, well worth a visit for anyone with an interest in contemporary sculpture. Wigan are lucky to have the opportunity to show the works. However, it has been very poorly publicised and I wonder how many people know that it’s there? As I’ve noted before, Wigan Councilare very poor at promoting the Arts. The Drumcroon is the only arts facility in Wigan, but is mainly used as a resource for schools. Sadly, the centre is under threat due to Council cutbacks. If it goes Wigan will be even more of a cultural wasteland than it is at the moment. We can only cast our eyes with envy towards enlightened towns like Wakefield (another solid working class community with a passion for rugby league) where the new Hepworth gallery, a major new facility devoted to sculpture, opened earlier this year.
Summer in Britain has been pretty miserable – with much of July and August a washout. So when the weather forecast for Thursday was promising we decided it would be a good idea to take a day off work and go out somewhere and enjoy a rare bit of sunshine. As we’d enjoyed our visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park earlier this year, we decided to make the journey over the Pennines and have a look at their new exhibitions. Set in a country park, with a pleasant walk (uphill!) of a couple of kilometres between the two main galleries, and with plenty of works in the grounds to look at as well, a visit to the YSP is a good way to combine a bit of culture with some exercise in the countryside.
The exhibition in the Underground gallery, with some works displayed outdoors on the lawn, showed works by Peter Randall-Page, a British sculptor. There are over 50 pieces in the exhibition, many of them large scale sculptures carved from granite boulders and other rocks, including two massive pieces, “Corpus” and “Fructus”, each weighing more than 13 tonnes and over two metres high, that were created especially for YSP from Kilkenny limestone .
I really liked his large scale sculptures. They were abstract pieces with complex patterns carved into their surface. My natural reaction was to want to touch them, to feel their surface and texture. It was possible to do this for the pieces displayed outdoors, but this was strictly prohibited for the work inside the gallery.
Indoors there were three large spaces, each displaying a number of sculptures together with works created from tiles, fragments of fired brick clay, which were used to create symmetrical abstract patterns on the wall. In a fourth room there were smaller works, which were really experiments, trial pieces and models for larger sculptures, together with sketches and drawings. These allowed the viewer to get an idea of the process involved in the development of his ideas and works.
The larger stone sculptures reminded me of some of the pieces displayed during our visit in April, when there was an exhibition of works by Isamu Noguchi. He was obviously an influence and I later read in the exhibition guide theat they had corresponded in the 1970’s.
In the entrance space there were four spectacular pieces collectively titles “Shapes in the Clouds (Plato Dreaming of Artemis)”, smaller in scale than most of the other sculptures. They were carved from a stunning marble, which had a structure which revealed very fine delicate, swirling patterns. I could see why the artist compared them to clouds, but J said that they reminded her of the patterns that you can see on Jupiter and the other gas giants and I think that this was a good description of how they looked.
Unfortunately photography was not allowed inside the gallery, but I was able to take some photographs of the works displayed outdoors (and to touch them!). The Guardian has some pictures of the exhibition, including works from inside the gallery, on its website. There are also reviews by the Guardian and New Statesman.