Thursday, 25 March 2010

Favourite Places...

I had a lovely day in Oxford yesterday with the students of JCC. We were there on a study visit to The Pitt Rivers Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the newly refurbished Ashmolean Museum, Britain’s first museum. I’ve visited some of the finest galleries and museums in the world, but these still remain some of my favourite places to enjoy and study art and culture. The Pitt Rivers Museum is truly inspirational both in the uniqueness of it’s displays and the sheer dense abundance of weird and wonderful cultural artefacts. It’s a great place to sit and draw, and I’ve made lots of sketchbook drawings on my many visits over the years. Here’s a few of the macabre and fantastical human skulls and some of the many masks, whose very individual characters always intrigue and make me smile.

I find something new to marvel at on each visit. Yesterday I was inspired by some of the exotic jewellery on display: a necklace made of sperm whale teeth; another made of a snake’s invertebrae; exquisite miniature carvings in bone and ivory of whales and polar bears made by Eskimos…it was mind-boggling. Who needs contemporary art with its ‘sculptures’ made of sellotape and cardboard?
Vase With Winter Landscape, Japan, c.1910

The New Ashmolean was brilliant too. It has one of the finest collections of Eastern Art in the Country, where I could spend all day amongst the Chinese and Japanese Paintings and Ceramics. My ceramicist friend, Pat has turned me onto the ceramics of the Song Dynasty, which are some of his favourites and now mine. This vase above isn’t an example of this period, it is a more modern piece, but I loved this one yesterday.

The River, 90 x 120cms, 2003

Like many painters, many of own Nature paintings have been influenced by Eastern Art. This older painting above,‘The River’ seems pretty explicit in it’s debt to Japanese landscapes, which I looked at quite when I made it. I’d like to think this more recent piece, Wild Flowers’ though has taken these influences into something more my own I hope. When I made it I wasn’t thinking of these influences at all really, I just made what I felt needed to be made.

'Wild Flowers, 100 x 150cms, 2009

It was when looking at the Chinese Paintings yesterday that I realised that perhaps these influences had become more part of my subconscious thinking after many years of enjoying this wonderful art. It's only an hour and a half from Birmingham...get yourself down there!

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