Peace in Hanover Square

Hanover Square has finally finished its renovations which took place alongside the construction of the Elizabeth Line, which now has a Bond Street entrance on the corner. Installed in the square is Peace Head by Yoshitomo Nara, sponsored by Pace London Gallery across the road. It is shame it is not permanent but it will be removed after October 28th 2022.

Early October, managed to get further afield post operation with the use of Zip cars when I was comfortable enough to sit in them for a short hop. This took me to a show at Victoria Miro II in Islington, The Story of Art As It’s Currently Being Written. The show was curated by Katy Hessel and based on the final chapter in her book, The Story of Art Without Men, and focused on women who’d created contemporary art in last 2 decades. Artists included Lisa Brice, Tracey Emin, Chantel Joffe and Celia Paul amongst others. Joffe’s painting, Prom, 2022, was front and centre and very striking as is Loba V, Paris, 2019, by Zanele Muholi, a black and white photo. Khadija Saye’s photographs are intriguing and it is very sad to be reminded that she tragically died in the Grenfill Tower aged 24. The show has now ended.

There’s been a big gap in blog posts since 19th August as I underwent a hip replacement which restricted my mobility and the distances I could go, similar to lockdown times. I was lucky that the 17th/18th September Crouch End Art Trail 2022 was on my doorstep. We visited the group show at the local library and it was great to see paintings of recognisable places on my own doorstep. Unfortunately, we were not able to follow up the open houses but it was welcome injection of art in my life.

Just returned from 3 days based in Thorpeness in glorious sunshine, walking and lazing on an empty stretch of the beach, plus a visit to Raveningham Sculpture Trail. We fitted in 3 early morning walks before it got too hot and before anyone was around. One walk was around the village, with its interesting history, written about in a previous post. A second one was doing a previous walk in reverse, to Sizewell and back, written about in the same post. The final walk was to Aldeburgh and back, written about in this post in the reverse direction. There are other posts too about these quintessenailly English seaside towns with Southwold just up the road and Dunwich. We stayed on for an extra day as we were enjoying it so much and it was much cooler than London. What was lovely on this trip was to see the early morning and evening light as we usually day trip to the area and miss out on it.

Due to a punctured tyre on a very busy dual carriageway at the beginning of a day out, we ended up in Gravesend waiting for our timed slot at Quick Fit. Long story but the day out was just that, returning home 7 hours later but we did get to see the statue of Pocahontas in Gravesend which, given my blogposts on statues of women, saved the day from being a total washout.

I knew the basics about her story, or so I thought but looked her up on Wikipedia. This is not the great romantic story of love between Pocahontas, daughter of the Powhatan tribe leader, and Captain John Smith with her saving his life and turning her back on her own family and culture to ally with the English, although she certainly knew him and was friendly enough with him. She may also have warned the colonists of a pending ambush which did save several lives. Doubt has been cast on the veracity of Smith’s writings in later years after her death.

What we do know is that Matoaka was renamed Pocahontas after she was captured in Virginia and held for ransom by English colonists in 1613 before being converted to Christianity. Now called Rebecca, she married John Rolfe and had a son when she was 17 or 18. This marriage contributed to the peace between both sides as long as her father lived. The family travelled to London in 1616 to try to get investment in the Virginia Company, where she was used as an example of a “civilised savage” and introduced into society, before dying in Gravesend when embarking on the return journey in 1617, aged 21. Her story is still much debated.

The statue commemorates her short life which ended in a country far from home. Not quite the Disney version we’ve been brought up on!

Went to see Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre recently. This production, directed by Simon Godwin, was set in the Hotel Messina on the Italian Riviera with wonderful sets and costumes that were lavish art deco with sequins and feathers and a swing band on a balcony. Katherine Parkinson and John Heffernan play Beatrice and Benedick who love to hate each other and are tricked by their friends into falling for each other. My memory of seeing this in the past is that the couple are the beating heart of the play but this time I felt there were many strong scenes which balanced out the play. The plot line around Hero and Claudio, Ioanna Kimbook and Eben Figueiredo, when he turns on her was quite shocking given their relationship up until then and the light-hearted comedy enhanced by Figueiredo’s delivery in a strong London accent which seemed out of place at first.

The slapstick and comedy is such fun in this production. The scenes where Beatrice and Benedick overhear their friends talking about them where well executed with them shuffling around in changing room pods and hiding in the ice cream carts. Dogberry and the Watch were very funny in scenes that have left me cold in the past. Maybe it was the mood I was in that night but all I wanted was an evening of high-class entertainment, laughter and wonderful staging and I got all of that. On until 10th September.

Whilst walking the Sculpture in the City trail 2022, we came across several sculptures that were not part of the trail. It always pays to look up, look down and peer through railings in London to find the hidden stories.

The dachshund, spotted through railings, is in very long and immortalised in a stone bench in Jubilee Gardens. It was created for the London Festival of Architecture in 2018 and was designed by Patrick McEvoy in memory of Geoffrey Barkington, a dachshund. The alien looking statue is placed within the ruins of a medieval charnel house, the oldest building in Spitalfields, which is preserved by the market with steps running down to it. There is an excellent blog post on this area and the ruins on Flickering Lamps. The statues, Choosing the Losing Side by David Teager-Portman, to me looked like an alien coming across an ancient civilisation. The final exhibit we discovered was Absent by Nicholas Dimbleby, a moving memorial to those who die or suffer as a result of war.

Sculpture in the City 2022

Every year we walk the Sculpture in the City trail on a weekend, this year with friends, which always gives you a different angle on the relatively empty part of London. I also seem to take as many pictures of the buildings as I do of the sculptures as the reflections in the glass windows are fantastic. Here are my favourites of this year’s new installations.

I loved the neon sign We by Emma Smith that blinked on and off and read both We are all one and We are alone. The Granary, Jesse Pollock, which looked like a huge orange quality street patched together with scraps of metal. Earthing by Jocelyn Mc Gregor was getting a lot of attention by passers by with its Bosch like limbs protuding from snail shells. The wooden benches, In Loving Memory by Oliver Bragg, added humour with made up people and places. Star of the show is the City itself.

Last year I blogged about our first visit to Raveningham Sculpture Trail which we loved. We bought 2 pieces from the show, very small ones, which are now in our garden. As we were in Thorpeness for a few days of glorious sunshine recently, we drove over to this summer’s show which was themed Journey. The earlier post talks more about the place itself and how the artists pick their own sites to exhibit so this one is just focussed on what I was particularly struck by on this visit.

The sculptures were completely different to last year’s which was lovely. My favourites were the resin casts of bricks with photos embedded suspended from the tree, slowly turning around. They were haunting. Fern Spray’s glass and wood sculptures were beautiful, particularly the glass set into the tree rings. Louise Severyn’s Leshy, with clothes hanging from the trees were striking. Mike Challis’ Sounding Stones – no photo – had us stepping from stone to stone to hear the different woodland sounds. But my favourite this year, Zoe Rubens and her intricate sculptures made from metal and ceramics. The outdoor ones were wonderful; the indoor ones were intricate with watch faces meshed into the wiring. Lovely. Hopefully, we will be back next year – on until 4th September.

Finally got to use my leaving present theatre vouchers from last summer to see My Fair Lady. This was a musical I’d loved as a child, particularly the songs Street Where You Live and Wouldn’t It Be Loverly and the Ascot scene, the Ascot Gavotte. These were all fantastic, living up to expectations and very close to the film with the Ascot costumes and the horses thundering by and great comedy. This award-winning production has moved to London Coliseum from the Lincoln Center Theater in NY with a few changes to the film, adapting a little to #MeToo era.

Amara Okereke plays Eliza Doolittle, the first time a black actor has done so. Harry Hadden-Paton plays Henry Higgins, much younger and younger looking than Rex Harrison so the latter part of the play is not quite as creepy. And Eliza does not stay with him in the end scene. However, the language used about Eliza and songs such as Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man do not get any laughs which I suspect they did in 1964 in a film set in 1912. Great set, wonderful singing and acting, Vanessa Redgrave and Stephen K Amos also very good. Just left with a feeling that it’s a difficult musical to update for a new generation. On until end of August.