Writing a piece on what is good and bad architecture for Alec Hamilton to publish in the Civic Society magazine. The difficulty is always editing it down to the right number of words.
Working on all fronts in the studio - pieces for Royal West of England Academy; my exhibition at Panter & Hall in December and at the Chelsea Arts Club through September.
Riah, recently appointed head of programming from The Wilson and Julie Finch CEO of the Cheltenham Trust come to lunch bearing the wonderful new that they have just heard that they are to receive nearly £300,000 funding from the Arts Council they had applied for. So great sense of achievement and joy in knowing that they can fulfil their mission. They are keen to engage with the local community of artists etc. I take them on a bit of a tour of the studio and then we continue to chat over lunch. Riah had worked for The Art Newspaper specialising in crime and the arts so knows Martin Bailey.
I’m desperately trying to get things completed - mainly changes to existing works - for the shippers to collect on Monday for the exhibition at the Chelsea Arts Club that open on the 30th of this month. They are storing them and delivering them to the Club two or three days before that as we will be away in Portugal, where I am hoping to collect more reference for the large commission.
We’re off to Bristol for a surprise lunch party that Martin is giving for Maggie’s birthday but to our dismay there are 90minute delays on the motorway so we have to find an alternative route which gives us the opportunity to see parts of Bristol that we haven’t with some very exciting new architecture and then some beautiful old buildings and houses (Cheltenham Road). When we eventually get there and enter the house, there’s a wonderful sound of music, the piano and singing (Gershwin songs). Martin is of course a musician and composer and wrote the Grove Dictionary entry on the Balalaika. And has written many television and film scores too. Such a talented man he has over the last few years also become the UK’s Green Poet and a couple of weeks ago received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Bristol where he also lectures in music composition. As we come up the stairs we see that its not Martin playing but one of his students who he’s paying and there’s someone standing by the piano singing beautifully.
Sarah (aka Pickles, having been the voice in )its lovely to see her, a remarkable woman who has Marfans Syndrome which affects the hands and feet and heart and particularly the eyes. Hugely talented she can play the piano superbly and has even sung with Bryn Terfal at the Royal Albert all. She has a charity called Smiling Eyes and has achieved all sorts of extraordinary feats like climbing mountains, flying an aeroplane etc to raise money for it.
Martin spots us and takes me to see the spot where he will hang Tread Softly when if comes back from Japan and introduces me to Hugh who used to work for the Arts Council as head of Southern Arts. He and his partner (who comes originally from Paraguay) is also dressed in a very stylish and slightly flamboyant way. Hugh has botanically patterned jeans and he a beautiful cream jacket with leaves and berries. They tell me they have so much art they have collected in their small house that it is even stacked against the walls etc. and that every few months they usually rehang.
I then get chance to give Maggie a hug and say happy birthday and he give her her present. She says Martin has been very clever because she had no idea at all about this party and it is very nice to see so many of her family here, her two sons and their partners, also her brother, his wife and young children. Also chat to Jackie the explorer and writer who tells me she is off again soon to the Amazon.
Its a real joy to catch up with Nick and Mags and only just over six weeks until their wedding which they and all are very excited about. Mags takes off her beautiful engagement ring to show me - a lovely single diamond with petals as the setting. We also discuss the suit Nick is having made which he tells us there will be something very unusual about. I ask him how the new film is progressing as I know he has been working 13 or 14 hour days since Easter. It sounds very exciting but technically very challenging. Though we all worry about him working too hard we do realise its only this dedication and attention to detail that has made his work such a phenomenal success across the globe. Always witty, kind and gentle he is the most extraordinary man and Mags who is also good humoured, kind and exceedingly hard working and very pretty, is the perfect partner for him. She is very sensitive to his creative needs.
People begin to depart - Mags has to deliver the bridesmaids dresses and we as usual are the last ones there.
En route back we stop at the wonderful Gloucester Services and farm shop on the M5. Such a beautiful simple Cotswold stone low-lying building with grass growing on the roof. Its such a refreshing revelation to find the beautiful farm shop full of glorious foods made here in Gloucestershire. A unique experience everything well presented and locally homemade - cheeses, wines, flapjacks and fudge; very inviting I could have spent much longer there and come back with a basketful of treats had I not needed to be back to the studio. No piped music or flashing lights in arcades this was a delight with people dining outside next to the water and reeds. The sort of place people come to make a special visit, not just a stop en route. I remember Edward Gillespie telling me about how wonderful it is and that the Summerfield Trust had helped to fund it. It was also up for an award at the Cotswold Life Food & Drink Awards and and RIBA architecture award.
We get home about 9 and later I’m back in the studio - the shippers are coming on Monday to collect the works for the exhibition at the Chelsea Arts Club which opens on the 30th. So for its first week I will have all three exhibition running simultaneously at the Morohashi Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Gloucester and in London, the Arts Club.
Work through the day and night until …
… till 10am. The shippers come a bit later than expected (on the way from the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock Abbey)
In the evening work on Emma’s birthday painting then try to edit the piece on architecture as I’ve written twice as much as is required. Send it off in the early hours. I’ve actually written it on this house and studio and how it has grown organically over almost thirty years. Artists often see their homes as a continuation of their creativity - think of Vincent’s little yellow house in Arles and Monet’s Giverney etc.
E mail from Alec saying thank you for the piece which is “idiosyncratic and rather brilliant with great pix” (showing its development).
Working on all fronts for Panter Hall, Chelsea Arts Club and the big commission. Interesting programme in the early hours on the World Service which was recorded in a bar at the Olympic Stadium; the interviewer talks to Olympians and organisers of the Games in Rio which seem to be being very successful. Its always heartening to hear how dedicated Paralympians are particularly those who achieve it against greater odds using that to inspire communities.
Off to Gloucester in the evening for Mark Hurrel (head of BBC Radio Gloucestershire) retirement party at Blackfriars. All the great and good were there including Roger Head who tells us he’s going salmon fishing in Iceland next week, his face alight with joy as he describes how you catch a salmon which he usually puts back so that they can continue to breed and populate the waters. Also chat to Anne Dawson who tells me she’s heard nice things about me being helpful to Ellie, a sixth former who was shadowing me last year who is at school with Anne and Tim’s daughter. Anne does ‘What the papers say’ for Radio Gloucestershire as well as being head of Arts and Media at the University.
There’s an amazing amount to do before we’re off to Portugal, particularly completing works for the Chelsea Arts Club exhibition and for the Royal West of England Academy as their on-line submission date is 24th August. As an Academician I am expected to exhibit at least two works each year.
More of the same.
Richard’s been busy over the past few days sanding and painting my studio windows which were weathered down to the wood.
Working on all fronts
All day and evening working on Jose’s commission again.
ditto. Also pack up paints and brushes to take to Portugal. Don’t go to bed until after 2 with the rounding up of things that have to be done or finished before we leave. Up again…
… at 4.30 am. to drive to Gatwick although the flight’s not until late morning, we can’t chance the rush hour traffic on the M25 holding us up. We arrive at least an hour before Henrietta Kv and the boys. The flight with the Portuguese airline is delayed but really good and we arrive in Porto about 3pm to brilliant sunshine and very warm temperature. By the time we have been picked up by the pre booked driver. One can well understand why this is a World Heritage sight with its elegant narrow multi storey narrow houses in beautiful colours lining the cobbled streets and the river front and it is in one of these we have taken two apartments. As Henrietta points out, it is a little like Venice. Exquisite boats with the two ends tapering up out of the water each to a point. There are boats moored just below our windows and on the opposite bank the famous port houses which date back to the 16 and 17 hundreds many of which are English such as Warres, Cockburns, Sandeman etc. Several huge bridges arch across the River Douro but non more beautiful than the Dom Luis 1 Bridge designed and built by Eiffel’s partner Seyrig in 1882. Dinner at river front restaurant. The whole experience enriched by a street musician who was playing rock classics on the guitar.
Such glorious views through our window when we awake and after all breakfasting in our apartment, we walk up the hill to the Museu da Misericordia do Porto which has been awarded Portuguese Museum of the Year status, looking particularly at medical equipment, braille etc and portraits of the benefactors etc. Culminated in viewing the beautiful old baroque church, exquisitely tiled in the Portuguese tradition.
Immediately opposite a visit to the Marionette Museum. Then on up the hill to Sale Bentos Railway Station with its monumental blue tiled murals; a stop for lunch under the sunshades of a pavement cafe and a further walk to the Livraria Lello bookshop, now the most famous in the world not just because it stocks so many eloquent Portuguese writers but I suspect because so much publicity has been given to it as one of the places that inspired British writer JK Rowling when writing Harry Potter - she lived and taught English in Porto for a couple of years. There are incredible queues at a double barrel shaped booth opposite so I say I will queue for them while the others go to the park just above. Richard joins me and we gaze at the list of writers lettered onto the pavement. It must do an enormous turnover. It takes about half an hour - luckily Samuel already has the latest Harry Potter book but I had promised to buy him another here. The English versions do cost rather more but they do redeem the €3 entrance fee towards books. It has a beautiful neo Gothic facade and stained glass ceiling plus a fascinating art nouveau double staircase but not good if you suffer from claustrophobia as the density of visitors is quite overwhelming.
Then back to the apartments before going out to dinner at a different restaurant where the waiter introduces us to a very nice wine from the Douro.
Nathan rings to say that he and Clemantine sadly won’t be able to join us as he has to fly to Africa mid week on an exciting new film on which he is the designer. It is part funded by the BFI, Film4 and Arteé France. Before this he has to interview people who will be on his team this week as well as get all the vaccinations. Although we are all disappointed, we are all very pleased for him as it is such an exciting project for which he read the script whilst he was in Thailand working on another job.
Richard and Kev go to collect the hired vehicle whist I enjoy watching the boats gliding up and down the river, which is bright with the reflected sunlight.
It takes just over an hour to drive to the sixteenth century farmhouse with pool and tennis court near Ponte de Lima.
R sets out very early to take up the last smaller paintings for Chelsea Arts Club exhibition, the shippers having stored and delivered the large works on Friday whilst we were in Portugal. I am finishing a tiger that I started a few weeks ago, as there is someone coming who missed the Tiger at Gloucester. He arrives back early evening
We set out early afternoon for London, arriving at the Club about 6 where various of the staff introduce themselves and say very encouraging things about the work and the way it looks. Richard and the technicians (Charlie and George) have hung it beautifully. I’,m introduced to Stephen Bartley the Hon Archivist who has hung the display cabinet in the corridor at very short notice for the Club, a rather wonderful drawing of a tank by Sir Muirhead Bone (1876-1953); the first Official War Artist appointed during WW1. Sent out to the Somme in August 1916, Bone produced some 150 drawings in 3 months, of which ‘Tanks’ is the most famous.
Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1951); famous for his accidental discover of penicillin in 1928, Fleming was made an Honorary Member of the Club in 1922 by his friend Ronald Gray whose parents were his landlords in Chelsea.
James Wedgwood (c. 1900-1974); a well known sculptor who was a long-standing member of the Artist Worker’s Guild, and the Royal Society of British Sculptors. The woodcarving on display is ‘Victory’ (c. 1945) which was a model for a projected monument the mark the end of the Second World War.