Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Urban Art...Again...

Spring is here, accompanied by the usual flourish of greenery and ever-brighter colours as flowers and street art go into full bloom...

Actually, that's not entirely true, as far as the urban art is concerned, as this is not a season-specific activity, as I've learnt over the past few months.

And I have been taken off guard several times now, not suspecting that the street artists would be so busy throughout the colder, greyer times.

But, of course, they have. Prolific even...

And thankfully too, in this singularly unattractive part of town, termed 'une zone'.

The designs that I've admired have repeatedly been replaced by others...

Or have been altered somewhat or added to, as the one below, becoming ever more intricate...

And even when I think they can't possibly change again, they do.

Bursting out of the grey concrete surfaces...

The only difference this time, was that I finally had the chance to meet the artists themselves. Unfortunately I was without my camera on that particular day.



 I was really pleased to get to ask the questions that I'd been asking myself about this urban art...

The first questions being, when did they come to paint, as I'd certainly never come across them before then, either during the week or at weekends...

Apparently they tend to come at the weekend, mostly Sundays, but don't appear to limit themselves to that, as I later saw one artist retouching a work in the week, as the shoppers were loading up their groceries. The other site that I was aware about, namely the nearby car park of the Renault garage, has a more limited access due to the locked gates at the weekend, whilst the volume of parked cars must limit painting during the week.

         In answer to the question about how they could afford to do so much work, with the vast quantities of cans of spray that must entail, they told me that they shop online and get discount prices on larger orders.

This is probably just as well, since they seem to apply a base paint as a background, rather than simply painting over past works. With the extensive surface area of the walls, this must represent litres of paint.

As I spoke to the group, one artist was applying the turquoise background that can be seen on the first photos, and that has since been largely replaced by a brick red.

They also told me about the other site where they work; the docking area for a concert hall. As I hadn't discovered this one myself, I was pleased to visit it...

Yet it must be said, I ran in and out to take these photos because the area is quite creepy, in spite of all that colour. It is one of the places where you can't work out if it's worse to encounter somebody or nobody at all....

As can be seen, every possible surface has been decorated....

This created weird patchworks and overlaps...

That seem to explode out of those (originally) dingy, grim walls...

Incidentally, for all the colour of their art, the artists themselves were all dressed in very unassuming, non-descript shades...

The group that I met was quite large, dispelling the notion that it might have been just a few extremely active artists...

 Presumably it was the art that brought them all together because the age range went from young teenager to adult.

There were no girls in this group, but they said that there are female urban artists and it's true that I've already noticed a few decorating the tunnels next to the canal.

Nevertheless, the local urban art here is the best that I've seen around and about town. I was pleased to get the chance to tell them how great I thought their work was, but addressed the older ones... 

Understandably, the younger artists looked duly horrifed to have an admirer, at least the age of their own mothers! How uncool is that?!!. Oh well....

The one question I really wanted to ask was how they found their ideas and inspiration for their forms and colours, and if they had any art training. 

They said that their work was just a giant version of all the drawings and designs they'd scrawled over their school books. Finally, I asked them if they kept a record of all of this great art, through photos or film, but they didn't really appear to. That seems to make it all the more special and, of course, unique.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Reeds, Beads, Pods and Branches...

With or without a garden, wherever I've lived has always ended up with an assorted collection of dried 'scavengings' that I've retrieved from whatever bit of wilderness I've come across.

Twisted lichen-covered twigs, tortuous branches, gnarled drift wood, skeletal leaves and seed pods, dried flowers, husks and grasses...

All have all vyed for space with more predictable groupings of shells, pebbles and seaglass, while a cow's skull, wild boar's jaw, giant snail's shell, feathers and butterfly wings have likewise squeezed in...

I just love the spindly shapes and forms, colours and textures. This appreciation has been shared by the cats, of past and present, that have been with me, although their pleasure has invariably been more of a shredding, clawing and chewing variety rather than just visual aesthetics.

Here's a video of some of these images, set to the Kate Bush version of Donovan's Lord of the Reedy River... 

I finally finished my latest wooden-bead hanging, though it might not be the last since I still have so many beads left. 

Nevertheless, there's a bit more room in the old bead box...

The new hanging is long and totally unphotogenic in its intended position, so here it is on the floor and over the radiator just because I love the colours...

But, as always, these will never be as wonderful as those found in Nature, simply because they are just natural...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Total Eclipse...

Klaus Nomi - Michael Halsband
Last night I listened again to Klaus Nomi and since I certainly won't be able to watch out for tomorrow's eclispe (if it's even actually visible here), that gives me the perfect excuse to post some of his songs, through a tenuous link.
His work took my breath away in the early 80s and never fails to amaze me still as I can just listen to his songs again and again. His most famous was perhaps The Cold Song, but the following, Total Eclipse and  After the Fall, demonstrate his truly unique talent.

Total Eclipse -  Klaus Nomi
Big shots argue about what they've got,
Making the planet so hot, hot as a holocaust.
Blow up, everything's gonna go up,
Even if you don't show up, in your chemise Lacoste.

Total eclipse, it's a total eclipse,
It's a total eclipse of the sun.
Can't come to grips with the total eclipse.
Just a slip of the lips and you're done.

Fall out, nobody left to crawl out,
If someone calls out, we're all out,
Turning into French fries.
Last dance, let the entire cast dance,
Do the dismembered blast dance,
As we get atomized.

Having been noticed by David Bowie in the early stages of his singing career at the end of the 1970s, Klaus Nomi was used as one of the backing singers for Bowie's performance on Saturday Night Live. He and his singing partner, Joey Arias, (along with a pink robotic poodle) certainly seemed to have had a far better time than the bemused female backing vocalists in Nomi's Eclipse...

After the Fall -  Klaus Nomi

So I told you 'bout the total eclipse now,
But still it caught you unaware,
But I'm telling you, hold on, hold on,
Tomorrow will be there.

And even those who went to church upon Sunday,
You thought you didn't even have a prayer,
But I'm telling you, hold on, hold on,
Tomorrow will be there.

After the fall, we'll be born, born again,
After it all blows away,
After the fall, after the fall,
After the fall blows away.

We'll take a million years of civilization,
We're going to give it the electric chair,
But I'm telling you, hold on, hold on,
Tomorrow will be there.

We'll see one hundred million lonely mutants
They will be glowing in their dark despair
But I'm telling you, hold on, hold on
Tomorrow will be there.

After the fall, we'll be born, born, born again,
After it all blows away,
After the fall, after the fall,
After it all blows away.

Well, the freak shall inherit the earth now,
No matter how well done or rare,
But I'm telling you, hold on, hold on,
Tomorrow will be there.

We'll build our radioactive gases,
Into the radioactive air,
But I'm telling you, hold on, hold on,
Tomorrow will be there.

After the fall, we'll be born, born, born again,
After it all blows away,
After the fall, after the fall,
After it all blows away.

Just as David Bowie was impressed by Nomi's artistic talent, the latter was influenced by Bowie's costumes and this led him to 'purify' his aesthetic form, leaning further towards a hybrid theatrical Kabuki style. 

I'm currently planning my trip to see the David Bowie is exhibition in Paris  - I can't wait to see this vast collection of clothes and styles and hopefully hear the music that is integral to them! 

I just wish that Klaus Nomi had lived long enough to be fully appreciated for the rare talent he possessed on every level, and hope that he had some awareness of the appreciation he did have, before his death in 1983, from AIDS. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Deux Vieilles Chouettes à Paris!

Having spent the day in Paris with an old friend to celebrate our respective landmark birthdays, I am exhausted! We just wandered around the city, along the grands boulevards and the Seine, past monuments, parks and squares and amongst the crowds, chattering away like two seasoned magpies. Nothing new there then, at least!

We talked so much that I hardly took any notice of the surroundings today, but the details of these two incredible façades caught my attention. It seemed quite fitting that they both had bird features (and a bat)...

We ended up on the top floor of a glass-and-metal building (L'Institut du Monde Arabe) and tried to take a photo via the very reflective ceiling. If the result ended up blurred, it was nothing compared to the others we had taken via other people!

Tonight my neck hurts from being crooked up, looking at buildings and... that shiny ceiling.

And finally, the view from the terrace at the Institut du Monde Arabe...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Snake-heads on my Balcony...

Off on my ritual Sunday trip to the garden centre, to enquire about my long-wintering orange trumpet vines, I came across this beautiful, mesmerising flowering plant; the snake-head fritillary.

It literally took my breath away! I stopped dead in my tracks, but quickly snatched up the pot in the most undignified, greedy, grasping manner. My precious... I can't remember ever having seen one of these before, though I did know Charles Rene Mackintosh's watercolour.

These are also known as 'chequered lilies', for obvious reasons, and the snake's head reference is due to markings that resemble those of a serpent.

I initially thought it referred to the 'poise' of the flower head which seems so expressive and appears so appropriate for art nouveau representation.

This plant usually grows in meadow land with the associated damp conditions. Whilst the label description did insist that the fritillary can adapt 'well' to life on a balcony, I am under no illusions.
So, for the time that this mysterious creature graces me with its elegant presence, I'll admire it from all angles.