Without a doubt, one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th Century was the Anglo American, Jacob Epstein, and I have long been a fan of his work, having referenced him in a previous post here.
Being a Midlands boy, I had encountered the hugely powerful “St Michael’s Victory over the Devil” which adorns what I consider to be possibly the greatest building in the country, Basil Spence’s Coventry Cathedral (post to follow soon) and although it’s unlikely that I would have known who it was by at the time, I can clearly remember being impressed by its power and presence.
All of which preamble leads me to this post about his first major commission in 1907 for Charles Holden’s Medical Association Building in the Strand, London (now the Zimbabwean Embassy).
The commission was for “statues of famous medical men” and Epstein’s response was to produce a series of 18 sculptures that “…create noble and heroic forms to express in sculpture the great primal facts of man and woman”. You can probably tell from the contemporary images below, that they were not most people’s idea of famous medical men…
A large number of the sculptures were in fact women and almost all of them were naked, which in Edwardian Society was considered unacceptable. They had names such as Maternity, Infancy, Primal Energy and Mentality and were a radical departure from standard Victorian figurative sculpture, with Epstein’s love of African and Tribal carvings (the collection in the British Museum was one of the main reasons he came to England in the first place) being strongly evident in some of the postures and lack of clothing.
If you wanted to go and see these striking pieces today though you would be in for a shock, as they were mutilated and their offensiveness removed. These photos were taken by me yesterday….
The Art history books I read “back in the day” had always lead me to believe that the sculptures were defaced soon after their completion as part of the general outcry surrounding them. According to Wikipedia however (so no guarantees then) they were defaced many years later during the 1930′s and ostensibly for Health and Safety reasons i.e. they were falling apart and bits were landing on people below. Either way, it was an ignoble end to his first major public work.
Epstein did of course go on to produce many more outstanding sculptures, always edgy and usually controversial, and along with Night and Day on 55 The Broadway, and the two referred to above, my favourite has got to be the War Memorial in the central court of the TUC building in London… have you ever seen solid stone look as fragile and limp as the arms and legs of the dead soldier… just amazing.
As is quite often with my blog, several things have conspired over the last week or so, to make a post on a second world war bomber seem like an appropriate way for me to spend a couple of hours: a chance visit to a model shop in Holborn, a TV programme about Second World War airplanes, catching the end of the Dam Busters film on Saturday afternoon and a visit to the Imperial War museum to look at some paintings I’d read about last Friday, all suggest that this is the post to write.
When I was younger I loved aircraft and like many kids in the 1970′s, spent hours making Airfix models. I must have had twenty or thirty of them at one time or another all hanging on bits of dusty cotton from my bedroom ceiling.
I always liked the big planes best, The Rockwell International B1, Concorde, The Vulcan Bomber and of course The Avro Lancaster. Big planes were always more fun to build than little single seater fighters, and there was more plastic to paint in intricate camouflage patterns once they were finished.
The Lancaster was possibly the most famous and successful of all the large second world war planes. It first saw active service in 1942 having been developed specifically for nighttime operations, and in all over 7000 of these all metal monsters were produced.
Possibly most famous for being the planes that carried Barnes Wallis’s bouncing bomb’s to such success at the dams in the Ruhr Valley in Operation Chastise in May 1943, the Lancaster was also instrumental in many other missions including the infamous Operation Gomorrah in which over an 8 day period at the end of July 1942, Hamburg was engulfed in firestorms during the heaviest aerial bombing of the entire war, all part of Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris’s controversial aerial bombing tactics.
The Lancaster was designed by Avro’s Chief Designer, Roy Chadwick and was reputedly one of the very few warplanes in history that was ‘right’ from the outset. It had a crew of seven (Pilot, Flight Engineer, Navigator, Bomb Aimer, Wireless Operator, Upper and Rear Gunners) and was powered by four Rolls Royce Merlin engines which made a very distinctive sound, a sound I can just about remember from visiting air shows with my father as a kid. The double tail fin and the perspex nose and tail housings were equally distinctive and made the Lancaster instantly recognisable from the ground.
Having just written all this about bombing and war, I would like to say for the record that I do not consider myself a “war-head” in any way. So whilst I accept that war planes are designed to kill people, the driver for this post was more about coincidence, childhood and the wonder of large planes in general, rather than glorifying war.
I have come across a couple of notable new logos recently.
Firstly the new emblem for the Queens Diamond jubilee which was announced yesterday. The overall winner of a Blue Peter competition, this charmingly naive design was submitted by 10 year old Katherine Dewar from Chester and was chosen from over 35,000 entries.
The other logo is this one for the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia, (unveiled just over a year ago, but missed by me as we were in S. America) which is elegant, simple and clever and shows our own London 2012 effort up for what it is, a jarring, unsatisfactory mess of a thing, that does nothing to reflect Olympic aspirations.
At first glance, the difference between these two designs couldn’t be greater. The Jubilee emblem is full of childlike enthusiasm and imperfections, whilst the Sochi one is very considered and accurate. Both designs however are very effective in a similar way: they both perfectly capture the spirit of what they represent.
Katherine’s design is all full of bright colours, pagentry and big diamonds and her decision to place the crown on top of the flag is very smart, creating spaces for the numbers 6 & 0 (in case people didn’t realise what diamond meant).
The Sochi design (developed by Interbrand) also represents its event wonderfully: cold winter climates and phenomenally accurate timings and measurements. Personally I also think that the interplay between the word Sochi and the 2014 is very, very clever: the “s” mirrored to make the “2″ and the “hi” rotated to create the “14″. Brilliant. I’m also impressed with the inclusion of the website/ .ru element into the design. The outlined letters very nicely reflect the five rings below and balance the whole ensemble perfectly.
So, two very different but equally effective logos, congratulations to all concerned. It’s a shame we didn’t approach them to design ours.
I was going to put the 2012 logo up here to remind us all how completely rubbish it is, but I can’t bring myself to soil these pages with its mediocrity…. so its here if you need a look (and PLEASE don’t start me on that hideous italic font… now that really does make me angry)
An intriguing aquaintance of mine who occupies a shady and uncertain area of the built environment, and who has been introduced to me as either “Tim” or “THEDadAGENCY”, has started posting these helpful and informative videos in which various aspects of domestic surveillance, electronic security and other related ephemera are conceived, developed, tested and recorded.
Some of these aspects (or more correctly “agents”) are not always succesful. Prototype 3 (DadAGENT R755563 shown to the left) is described as “hopelessly unpredictable, being made from an unruly and reluctant gathering of novelty gadgets and other electronics”
This does not appear to deter THEDadAGENCY in any way however and the seriousness and tenacity of his pursuit of solutions and answers to his wide range of interests, is admirable. One good example is his approach to setting up a retirement resort which appears to be on a much firmer footing, with lighting and audio devices being entwined with hedge sector vegetation to great effect.
I shall be keeping an eye on his progress, as I have a feeling that THEDadAGENCY through a combination of intelligence, wit and humor will triumph in whatever it is that he sets his mind to.
As he says himself “With the help of THEDadAGENCY, time at home, is time to relax between adventures…”
I watched a programme on one of the science channels recently all about the Mars Rovers Programme.. and one aspect of it inspired me to write this post.
In June and July 2003, two separate rockets blasted off from Earth towards Mars: the first contained the Mars rover Spirit which landed on the surface of Mars in January 2004 and the second contained the rover Opportunity, which landed 3 weeks later on the other side of the planet.
These two small vehicles were originally programmed to carry out surface explorations over a 90 day period, with a goal for each rover to cover up to 40 meters in a single day, and a total mission target distance of up to one kilometer. The design and management of the onboard systems was so successful however that both vehicles have had their missions extended several times, with Opportunity unbelievably still operating today, some 7 years after it was supposed to have died, and having covered more than 26km. The last contact with Spirit was in March 2010, and it is presumed to have not survived the Martian Winter.
Apart from the scale and ambition of the project as a whole, the thing that really caught my imagination was this beautiful image of Victoria Crater taken by the HiRise camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in October 2006. The colours within the picture and the clarity of the image are amazing.
Opportunity had visited the 750m wide impact crater as part of its extended mission the month before and the black and white image above clearly shows the tracks the rover left in the Martian Soil. What completey amazes me is that we can see these tracks so clearly. This is an actual photograph showing a man made object more than 70 million miles way from Earth…
To me these grainy and slightly blurred images are more impressive than the perfect CGI images and films that we all are so used to seeing, that depict how a space craft would look as it flies through our solar system or negotiates the surface of another planet.
I like the roughness, and the “realness” of these images, but if I even began to think about what technology it takes for me to be able to appreciate them more than 70 million miles away, I know I’ll start to feel faint.
I got quite excited the other day when I saw that two of my all time graphic design heroes were giving a seminar/ presentation at the O2 in April, so I ordered two tickets and confess that I am looking forward to their show and tell…. I’d like to think it might be in the form of a DJ style battle, with one artist presenting an image and then the other looking to better it.. that’d be pretty good fun.
Roger Dean is perhaps most famous for the work he did with the band Yes, and their various offshoot projects. This includes the bands instantly recognisable logo and countless album covers he did during the 1970′s and 80′s, most notably Fragile, Tales from Topographic Oceans and Yessongs, a triple live album that used a huge amount of cardboard.
Whilst both artists are renowned for their very vivid imaginations, their styles are very different. Dean mostly works (or used to, I wouldn’t be surprised if he uses digital media now) with acrylic paint and produces breathtaking images that capture fantastic and otherworldly landscapes. Thorgerson on the other hand generally uses photographic images which are then modified to produce the slightly odd and sometimes unsettling views and perspectives for which he is famous.
I’ve lost track of their more recent work, so I’m hopeful that this presentation will bring me up to date as well as acting as a timely reminder or their immeasurable contributions to both music and art.
Very, very sad news indeed. His contribution to British music has been phenomenal: Midnight Cowboy, Born Free, Zulu, Enigma, Out of Africa, Dances with Wolves and the Ipcress File (that haunting piano as Mr. Caine walks through the London Streets) are all his, and there are more here…
Other than the muisc he is most famous for, the various James Bond themes and soundtracks, I think perhaps my favorite tune is the Theme from the Persuaders. Its truly a timeless classic sounding as strong now as it did 40 years ago…
A and I were lucky enough visit this intriguing structure when we were in Japan about 6 years ago. We had both touched on the architectural movement known as “metabolism” in architectural history lectures at university and I for one had always been fascinated by the idea of adaptable and interchangeable building types.
Anyway, by pure chance, our hotel was only a 20 minute walk away, so we braved the Tokyo roads and went for a look… and very sad and dejected it looked too.
The photo here is from the 1970′s (as evidenced by the empty roads) when it all looked shiny and new, whereas in 2005, it was falling apart. I’m not sure if it was the pollution from the roads, fledgling construction technologies that were not quite up to the job, or a very poor approach to management, but something was not working in the buildings favour…
Sadly we couldn’t get inside the building as it is still in use as private residences, so we were unable to see any of the fantastic self-contained “pods” that hang off the structure and provide the overall form. They may not be the biggest spaces in the world, but hey this is Japan and they are supercool…
So when I got the link from ArchDaily, I initially thought/ hoped that it was in response to a recent refurbishment programme, something that is desperately need to bring this wonderful structure back to its former glory. It seems that this is not the case however, and it was simply a timely reminder about this iconic piece of architecture.
As an aside, it seems to me that there is still a strong argument in mass housing for the use of repetitive units made under strict quality control in a factory, delivered to site on the back of a lorry and then plugged in. The recent vogue for volumetric construction in the UK is a case in point and as the technology is now up the task, all we need is a little political will and we could soon all be living in such wonders as the Nakagin Capsule Tower.
Bring it on…
I was snowboarding in Switzerland recently, which apart from being an excellent thing to do for a week, also involves a significant amount of travel on coaches: to and from the airport and between resorts etc..
It’s the first time I’ve done any coach travel since we were in South America a year or so ago. Amazingly there are virtually no trains anywhere on the South America continent and so any long distance (ground based) travel inevitably involves getting on a coach.
These are not coaches that UK passengers would recognise however. They are really special things, with extra wide seats that go virtually level, known as cama (or semi-cama), flat screen TV’s with choices of english and spanish films, pillows and blankets and very acceptable food, even champagne on one journey.
A journey of 18 hours is not unusual in Peru (although the longest journey’s we did were actually in Argentina, when a 24 hour drive is a fairly standard thing) and if you’re willing to pay a little bit more, the levels of comfort increase exponentially… And when I say a little bit more, I mean tops £40, for what was effectively first class travel.
We did meet travellers who always went on local buses for virtually no money as they wanted to experience the true Peru etc, and that’s totally understandable and fair enough. But to us, when “a little bit more” meant an extra £25, the extra was well worth it, especially as it was overnight, so it was your accommodation as well…..
Cruz Del Sur is a Peruvian company, who were so good, we ended up using them whenever we could… going to Nazca, Cuzco, Arequipa and Puno. They proudly boasted that they breathalised all drivers before every journey (drunk coach drivers is a problem across all of S. America), limited the distance they could travel in one go and never stopped anywhere other than designated stops (which is NOT the case in Bolivia, believe me)
So a happy reminder of our fantastic time travelling in S. America, and if you ever get the chance to go (or have already been) you will understand when I say that an 18 hour coach journey can be something that you look forward to.
As their tag line states…. “The Pleasure of Travelling by Bus”