Archive for the Art Category

A Cardiff Visit

Posted in Art, Cardiff with tags , , , on September 7, 2022 by telescoper

So here I am, then, in Cardiff, for an overdue visit to try to sort out some things to do with the my house and the hopefully forthcoming sale thereof. I decided to treat myself to a stay in a nice hotel for a couple of days while I am here. I have been stuck at home a lot over the last three years or so and I thought it would be nice just have someone else cook my breakfast and make my bed for a change!

It’s been raining off and on while I ran various errands hither and yon so at lunchtime I popped into the excellent National Museum in Cardiff. Entry to this establishment is free, as it is to all the similar public museums and galleries in Ireland.

Not many people know what a rich treasury of art you can find in the National Museum. Did you know, for example, that the famous La Parisienne by Pierre-Auguste Renoir is here in Cardiff?

The impressionist collection is very fine indeed, although only part of the collection is on display. Here are two very different post-impressionist works by Paul Cézanne: Still Life With Teapot and Provençal Landscape.

The second of these has to be seen up close to be fully appreciated: the paint looks like it has been combed onto the canvas with different colours going in different directions in such a way that messes with the viewer’s perception of depth.

Here is one from the modern collection. It is by Andre Stitt and is called Municipal Wall Relief for a Residential Housing Complex in a Parallel Universe:

I also experienced the installation Vertigo Sea by John Akomfrah, a moving and at times harrowing visual account of the sea and the dark side of humanity’s relationship with it, from whaling and pollution to slave killings and the trafficking of refugees. There’s some stunning contemporary footage in this work, juxtaposed with archive recordings spread out over three screens. Here’s a short trailer that gives you an idea:

When I lived in Cardiff I hardly ever visited the collection in the National Museum of Wales. Indeed the few times I entered the building were for various meetings and other functions. It was nice to see it as a tourist!

Anyway, I still have a couple more things to do so that will do for now!

The Dead Zoo

Posted in Architecture, History, Television with tags , , on August 1, 2022 by telescoper

I don’t often post about television but I couldn’t resist a quickie about a fascinating programme I just watched called The Dead Zoo, about Dublin’s splendid Natural History Museum, which opened in 1857. I visited this place way back in 2019 on which occasion I took this picture of the interior:

I thought the museum was wonderful if a bit creepy. I remember thinking while I wandered around that I wouldn’t like to be stuck there overnight, surrounded by over 10,000 dead animals in Victorian glass cabinets. It would make a grand setting for a ghost story!

The building had been somewhat neglected and the splendid roof was prone to leaking, so the Museum was closed for renovation in 2020 and all the specimens on the upper floors – including the huge skeleton of a Fin Whale that you can see in the photo hanging from the ceiling – were removed to a storage facility.

This operation -carried out against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic – is the subject of Paul Duane’s excellent documentary, the trailer of which you can watch here:

If you didn’t get the chance to watch it you can catch it on the RTÉ Player here.

The work on the roof and other renovations will take some time to complete but the ground floor will re-open to visitors tomorrow (2nd August 2022). I imagine it will be pretty busy and you have to book in advance, though as with all Ireland’s National Museums, admission is free.

The Built Environment

Posted in Architecture, Maynooth on July 22, 2022 by telescoper
The New Building

It seems that after long delays, the new building on Maynooth University’s North Campus is finally finished. Or at least I think it is. I haven’t been inside yet. I don’t know who are what is going to be housed there, except that the President’s Office is going to be there. The remaining space might nevertheless do something to relieve the shortage of office accommodation on campus.

It was only just under four years ago that I saw this sign marking the proposed site of the new building.

Less than a year later, work had started:

This was in January 2020:

A couple of months later the site was surrounding by fencing decorated by an artist’s impression of the new building:

Notice that the plan was to open in “Early 2021”. Unfortunately the pandemic intervened and building stopped. This was at the end of March.

When building work eventually resumed there were further delays due to difficulties, e.g., in procuring materials. We were supposed to have use of this building for the last two open days on campus but that didn’t happen. It will be hopefully be ready for the new academic year, though. The finished product even looks a bit like the artist’s picture!

The building work has at times caused serious problems with noise in the Science Building, where my office is located, but not any more. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.

The Pianist – Lyubov Popova

Posted in Art with tags , , on July 19, 2022 by telescoper
Lyubov Popova, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lyubov Popova, 1914, oil on canvas, 106.5 x 88.7 cm, National Gallery of Canada.

Rheumatic Pain II, by Remedios Varo

Posted in Art with tags , , on July 7, 2022 by telescoper

Dolor Reumático II by Remedios Varo, 1948, gouache on cardboard, 25×19 cm.

The Brief Span of Life…

Posted in Art, Literature, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on May 7, 2022 by telescoper

I found this rather poignant cartoon on Facebook because a friend shared it. Some people have told me they find it depressing. I don’t. I think the finiteness of life is one of the things that makes it bearable.

I don’t know the name of the artist. If anyone does please let me know.

Halley’s Comet last visited us in 1986 when I was 23 and living in Brighton. It will next be visible in 2061, when I shall be 98!

The comet’s orbital period of 75 years or so is brief by astronomical standards, as is the duration of a human life. As Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace to you and me) put it in one of his Odes (Book I, Ode 4, line 15):

Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam

Ancient Sound – Paul Klee

Posted in Art on March 31, 2022 by telescoper

Paul Klee, 1925, oil on cardboard, 38cm by 38cm, Kunstssammlung Basel, Basel.

Calamity Again

Posted in Art, History, Maynooth, Poetry, Politics with tags , , on March 7, 2022 by telescoper

This lunchtime I attended a public vigil for Ukraine on Maynooth University campus. It was a moving experience, not least because of the presence of a Ukrainian PhD student, Oleg Chupryna, who addressed the gathering. Although he has lived in Ireland for over 20 years many members of his family are still in Ukraine. They were in Kharkiv when the invasion happened, having refused to leave because they didn’t think the Russians would actually invade, but then found themselves under relentless shelling by Russian artillery. His family managed to flee Kharkiv for the countryside a couple of days ago, but are still trapped in Ukraine, apart from one family member who has arrived safely in Dublin and who read the following poem (in Ukrainian) by Taras Shevchenko, followed by the English translation. you see below.

Shevchenko (who was a painter and illustrator as well as a poet) was born a serf, so the use of the word slavery is not metaphorical. Sales of artwork enabled him to be  bought out of his serfdom in 1838, but he spent a great deal of time imprisoned by the Russian authorities. He died in St Petersburg in 1861 at the age of 47.

The poem Calamity Again  was written in 1854, in the middle of the Crimean War, at which time Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire. The poem was written at Novopetrovsk Fortress, depicted in the above painting by Shevchenko himself.

Dear God, calamity again! …
It was so peaceful, so serene;
We but began to break the chains
That bind our folk in slavery …
When halt! … Again the people’s blood
Is streaming! Like rapacious dogs
About a bone, the royal thugs
Are at each other’s throat again.


The Complex Heart of the Milky Way

Posted in Art, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on January 26, 2022 by telescoper

I couldn’t resist sharing this amazing radio image of the Galactic Centre made using the South African MeerKAT radio telescope:

Radio frequency electromagnetic radiation is able to penetrate the dust that permeates this region so can reveal what optical light can not. In particular you can see the very active region around the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, bubbles caused by exploding stars and – most interesting of all – a number of magnetized filamentary structures.

It’s an extraordinarily beautiful picture made from a mosaic of 20 separate observations. In fact I like it so much I’ve cross-filed it in my “Art” folder. Those of us who work in astronomy or astrophysics are wont to say that there’s much more to it than pretty pictures, but when one like this comes along we’re all sure to geek out over it!

For more information about this image at the science behind it, see here.

A Memoir of Thomas Bewick

Posted in Art, Education, History, Politics with tags , , , on January 11, 2022 by telescoper

Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) was a superb illustrator and natural historian who lived in the North East of England. He is celebrated primarily for his fine engravings and woodcuts of wild animals and birds, and humorous vignettes, some of which are quite cheeky, such as this one called “Man Pissing”…

Man Pissing (c.1797, wood engraving on laid paper, 8.9 x 12.5 cm)

You can find many other examples of his fine work here.

Bewick also held radical political views in a time of great social unrest across the continent of Europe. His views were heavily influenced by the terrible conditions of the rural poor in his native Northumberland and the corruption of the Government. In 1822 he began to write his Memoir, which is absolutely fascinating, not least because part of it is devoted to his views about the British Government and the media of the time. Two hundred years later, many of his words still ring true.

Here’s an excerpt from a section covering the period from about 1818 to 1823, a period of domestic instability in Britain that led to acts of protest and brutal suppression, including the Peterloo Massacre of 1819:

The pen of literature was prostituted to overshade the actions of good men, and to gloss-over the enormities of the base. The energies of many members of both Houses of Parliament were unavailing against this compact confederacy of undeserving placemen and pensioners, who were bound together by fellow feelings of self-interest, in which all ideas of public trust were lost in private considerations. They had sinned themselves out of all shame. This phalanx have kept their ground, and will do so till, it is to be feared, violence from an enraged people breaks them up, or, perhaps, till the growing opinions against such a crooked order of conducting the affairs of this great nation becomes quite apparent to an immense majority, whose frowns may have the power of bringing the agents of government to pause upon the brink of the precipice on which they stand, and to provide in time, by wise and honest measures, to avert the coming storm.

A Memoir of Thomas Bewick, Written by himself, CHAPTER XVII.

Plus ça change

P.S. Not far from where I grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne there is a school for children and young adults with autism called the Thomas Bewick School. His name is well known in the Newcastle area for that reason and his artistic legacy, but I’m not sure his memory is as widely celebrated as it should be. He was a fascinating character.