Friday, 28 September 2012

Timon of Athens: National Theatre London

22nd September 2012

This was an audio described (AD) performance of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens.  This play is a bit of a rarity and some estimates have been made that the input of Thomas Middleton accounts for as much as 30% of the play. 

Having joined an access list at the National Theatre, I received an audio CD in the post with an introduction to the performance, play, set and cast lists.  Production notes are also made and on this occasion there was a specific remark by Karl Marx which fits in well in relation to this production. 


On the day of the performance I went to the touch tour of the set with an informal walk around the set as well and a chance to discuss the production with the stage management and some of the cast.  There is also a very attractive exhibition of Timon of Athens in the foyer and I listened to one of the videos which discussed Jacobean plays, tragedy, city comedies and the politics of King James I/VI.  King James was known as the “Wisest Fool in Christendom” and with the saying “A Fool and his Money are easily parted” the background to the play can be set.  While the programme quotes from Marx there is an additional Marxism – Gold sein oder Gold Schein?

We gathered at the Olivier Box Office which has a backdrop of the Milennium Wheel and the Thames.  Nick welcomed us with a team of staff.  Reuben remembered me from Detroit and I was introduced to Rosalyn. The staff see the run of a play develop and can often give useful tips on other productions at the National Theatre. 
On the set itself we were introduced to the company by Andrew Holland one of the describers with Bridget Crowley.  When the actors are introduced to us they are invited to use both their normal voice and the role voice.    We then enjoyed an additional treat; the stage revolved with us on it.  I have walked the set before on the Olivier and my cane has run along the circular track of the movement mechanism. I questioned how fast it went in rpm (betraying my vinyl records days) and after our revolution I was told by Kerry McDevitt, the stage manager, that it took about 30 seconds from a standing start to do half a revolution. 

On the set there is a descending wall with 2 doors and a centre piece which was  used as a mini stage for a ballet piece, a projection of a painting in the Timon Room of the National Gallery and a view of the City of London from an investment bank- it happened to be a shot of HSBC according to my companion.      Knowing how the theatre and set worked it was time to view the set props and I was taken round by Ciaran McMenamin, who has the part of Alcibiades, a notorius troublemaker and rabble rouser from 5th Century Athens. 

Ciaran took me round the banqueting table and settings, some luxurious sofas and the trolley and trash piles with the occupy tents.  Ciaran had studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow so we discussed Glasgow and Edinburgh; as well as the role of Alcibiades, as he appears in Plato’s Symposium and in Thucydides’ Histories: a rabble rouser and turncoat from history, used by Shakespeare and then translated to the modern financial crisis in the banking and financial markets. 

At this stage we were joined by Bridget Crowley carrying a pair of ballet shoes.  As the dancers were going to be dancing on point, the wooden blocks could be felt.  I asked if the shoes had been made by Freed, as the Royal Ballet gets their shoes hand made.  We discussed audio description in ballet- a deep philosophical debate which will be continued. 

We were now ready to enjoy the performance of Timon of Athens.  The action could be followed, with some of the actors being recognised from the context, some from the script dialogue and others on the AD cue.

The play really gets interesting with the soliloquys of Timon, played by Simon Russell Beale.  The city comedy back chat was as topical as ever with returns on capital, usury, bonds and bankruptcy themes.  Outrageous consumption is familiar enough, though Timon does star when his anger shows and the banquet before the interval is a real shocker.  Having studied Trimalchio’s Dinner (Satyricon) by Petronius and recently read Mrs Mackenzie’s Dinner (Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope – Talking Book number 017243) I was quite unprepared for the shocker of Timon’s final banquet, where the solids do hit the air conditioning. 

The second half is where gold, greed and duplicity get a thorough going over.  The ending of the play is a weak point.  We know nothing about Timon apart from his “friends” and there is no family to frame him.  Timon writes his own epitaph (over the grave) and presumably dies offstage.  “Obscene” Alcibiades now joins the suits and the oligarchy continues.  Nothing changes. 


With audio description and a live performance there are really 2 live performances.  The describer has to anticipate what an actor will do while the actor both acts and reacts to an audience.  Warnings are made on the headset in advance of noisy passages on stage and I could not hear the AD as I was very close to a crowd scene.  The AD in the ballet scene was difficult for me to unravel.  I have difficulty in listening to the music, working out what is going on with the dance and then interpreting the description of the dance.   The touch tours greatly add to the enjoyment of the performance and I also found the Timon of Athens exhibition at the Olivier to be very informative.

The National Theatre will be broadcasting a performance of Timon of Athens live on 1st November to selected cinemas in the UK and abroad.  For more information go to:

Note: When at school, we studied Shakespeare using the Signet Classics paperbacks.  There is a 1965 edition of Timon of Athens which cost 3s 6d (three shillings and six pence or 3/6 for those who can remember!).

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Royal Academy - Bronze exhibition

*** update 25/11/12

My 3rd and 4th visits to this exhibition are discussed in a special access post on the Royal Academy’s access programme for the Bronze exhibition, here:

These allow for further study of the subject as well as specialised access to the show.

*** end of update

*** update 7/10/2012

29th September 2012

I made my second visit to the Bronze exhibition.  Having teamed up with Marian at the National Gallery I navigated the pair of us via Haymarket, Jermyn Street, a coffee at St James, Piccadilly and then the Royal Academy.  We were both offered the audio sets and I could remember where all the described objects were. 

Marian can use a monocular and was able to read some labels, otherwise we stopped at those I could remember my friend Stephen describing and as a result, remembered so much more. 

The bronze of Perseus and Medusa is so huge that it is worth going round the plinth where the dead Medusa is sprawled out.  The lighting allows the shadow and silhouette of Perseus to sharpen up the image.   The animal section is great fun and we both enjoyed the Ram (Catalogue No 45, Roman, 2nd century CE) as it had the same pose as the Bull calf in the Veronese painting we had just viewed.  This time round, we spotted the Danish treasure from the bronze age (Catalogue No 7, The Chariot of the Sun, Trundholm, Zealand, Early Bronze Age, 14th century BCE) and I found the Krodo again.  

The exhibition was fairly busy but there were no bottlenecks apart from the entrance where visitors get used to the subdued lighting of the Dancing Satyr.  (Tip- move round slowly and if you have peripheral vision this sculpture dances.)

I got the catalogue (Bronze, edited by David Ekserdjian) which has many details and essays on the exhibition.  We spent some time on the reliefs and skipped through the Gods and Portraits.  An excuse for a third visit.

*** end of update

20th September 2012

This is a fascinating show.  It works on so many levels and there are many objects to be studied, a few to touch and some audio described items on a manageable audio system (I managed it).

My friend Stephen took me round and we spent about 3 hours going round the objects and listening to the section where the processes for casting bronze were on show.  For this exhibition the curators have used themes for bronzes rather than categorise by region, history or even genre.  If it is an animal it fits in the animal section, likewise for the human body, groups, objects, reliefs, gods and portraits. 

Some of the bronzes are huge, some are quite small but many have the ability to project a clear line which my peripheral vision picked out.  The exhibition is very well lit and many of the objects can be “viewed” as they would have been in their original setting.  The curators and the Royal Academy have statues on plinths, and Koons’ basketball is at a basket height- more or less. 

On entering the exhibition, I was offered a complimentary audio set and given instructions on how to use it. (If in doubt pressing 55 will guide you back again)  Stephen had planned my visit and we spent some time with the Satyr in the darkened (relatively) octagon.  This is a marvellous piece of sculpture and seems to defy gravity.  The satyr has lost 3 of his limbs but the other pieces have been put together and on circling the object it continues to dance.  This statue was found after centuries of being lost.  This shows the resilience of bronze as a medium for art; and several of the objects had survived volcanic eruptions by being covered in volcanic dust, debris and mud flows.  Many bronzes were carried off in war booty and melted down and some disappeared from the country of origin in a process euphemistically described as diffusion.

We then visited the process and technology section which neatly covers the art and craft debate between artist and founder.  Many artists continue to this day to take a mould to a foundry for a bronze casting.  Where the artistry begins and ends can be a pointless debate.  The skills and artistry employed in the “lost wax” process is mind blowing.  The planning of how air escapes by displacement by the molten metal amazed me as much as the chemistry and metallurgy.  The audio visual commentaries are self explanatory though the display screens may offer some extra detail for those with some vision. 

There are finished castings to touch and I found the examples of ravens’ wings fascinating.  On the wall is a huge spider by Louise Bourgeois which I could make out.   Bronze has several colour phases and can also be gilded.

It was now time to do the exhibition item by item.  I have listed some objects which we found interesting and have included the audio described objects. 

There are large print room guides and as the exhibition covers virtually all the world which had bronze cultures in the past- pre Columbian Latin America seems to be an exception- the background to objects from a diverse culture range can be challenging even to the expert.  In the object section, I encountered a Krodo from Goslar.  Stephen did not know what it was.  To me it seemed like a bronze laundry basket with ventilation holes (I also thought it was a bingo or lottery contraption piece of conceptual art, but did not voice that).  It turned out to be a bronze altar and is unique.  The audio told me what it was and this was a surprise to Stephen.  The object had caught my eye and I found the history of it to be fascinating. 

We had many enjoyable discussions round the many objects.  I have listed a few items with the catalogue number and some object label for further searches. 

There is a lot on the Royal Academy website, especially on African and Asian bronze technologies. (,859,MA.html).  I found this pdf file ( to be particularly informative.  It is quite a long read and my screenreader (JAWS 13) made a tolerable listen, as with some pdf files occasional words appear to have been joined together. 

Also, there is going to be a described session on Monday 12th November at 9 am. 

This exhibition has a lot to offer and I have scarcely scratched the patina so far.  (

Items we discussed:

70 Seated Figure
Nigeria, Tada
Late 13th century
Copper with traces of arsenic, lead and tin
National Museum Lagos

99-89 Compare and Contrast

89 Leonhard Magt
Cast by Stefan Godl, 1526
St John the Baptist Preaching to a Levite and a Pharisee
Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, 1506-11
By Giovan Francesco Rustici

84 1-6, Six Weepers , 1475-76

82 Donatello
Putto with Tambourine, 1429

149 David Smith
Portrait of a Painter, 1954

18 Sardinia, Nuragic period
Capotibu (tribal chief)
8th-4th century BCE

(audio 51) Satyr
(audio 52)  Lost Wax casting
(audio 53)  23 Chimaera

111 Giambologna
Turkey, 1567-70

124 Francois Girardon Laocoon and his sons, c1690

93 + 94 Satyr and Satyress, 1532-43

63 Ottonian
Krodo Altar
Late 11th – early 12th century

(audio 54) 9 China, Shang dynasty
Vessel of the type Fang Yi, 12th century BCE

153 Jasper Johns
Painted Bronze (ale cans), 1960

1-5 Nahal Mishmar
Judean desert, Israel

Sceptre, crown, male head, cornet, vulture standard
500-3500 BCE

15 Luristan
Standard – Finial
9th century BCE

157 Anish Kapoor
Untitled, 2012

(audio 56) 48 India, Bihar
Buddha Shakyamuni in Abhaya – Mudra
Late 16 century


Ritual Vessel of the type zun in the form of an Elephant,
Shang Dynasty, c 1100-1050 BCE
Bronze, 64 x 34 x 96 cm

Chimaera of Arezzo, Etruscan
Late sixth – early fifth centuries BCE
Bronze, 78.5 x 129 cm


An ingenius collection of many conversation pieces.  The well lit gallery and presentation allows those with partial sight a good grasp of the form, and the audio guide with the selected objects can lead you on to others.  The big names such as Benvenuto Cellini, Donatello, Rustici and the more contemporary works of Bourgeois, Hepworth and Jasper Johns are represented.  The unknown craftsman is pitched with some more “famous” names and in the relief section it would be hard to pick out a leopard cast by a European from an Ife casting. Even Stephen agreed with that.

Trainspotting: London Kings Cross Station and Orientation

*** update 26/10/2012

From Wednesday 31, October 2012, Network Rail is temporarily changing the way you exit King’s Cross station from platforms 0-8.  You will no longer be able to exit through the old concourse.  However, these exits will remain open:

Left on to York Way
Right into the Underground
Right through the new concourse

The closure is to allow the safe demolition of the old extension and the creation of a public square.
More details and maps can be found on:

*** end of update
19th September 2012

The Kings Cross area in London is still under reconstruction, though the end shape of the Kings Cross Terminus is now clearer and worth checking for yourself.  After the reopening of the St Pancras development I had an orientation tour of the main features and thought I would do the same for Kings Cross.  My first visit had been in 1969 and my last had been in 2011 when I returned from Hertford North. 

View of Kings Cross main entrance from Euston Road
22 November 2012

I entered through the old entrance and could make out the mazes for people standing in line for trains to Edinburgh, Glasgow and points north although the area was deserted.  I followed the sense of the direction to the platforms but a barrier directs you to a left turn in a new concourse.  Having found an information desk, I asked if it would be possible to be given an orientation tour and Craig Tomlin, the duty station manager from Network Rail came and took me round. 

Craig asked what sort of journeys I might want to make and how would I normally arrive at Kings Cross-St Pancras.  He then took me out of the new concourse to a point near Pancras Road, where I could make out the Train Shed of St Pancras.  I recognised the pathway to the side entrance to that station and we started to go back into Kings Cross.  This is a neat way of “wayfinding” as I could start to lay my reel of cotton (metaphorically speaking) so that I could map my movements from a sound base. 

We then passed by Platforms 11,10 and 9 which are the platforms used for local services provided by First Capital Connect (FCC).  This company has a cornflower or powder blue livery for ticket machines and I could sense the “blue” glow without knowing what they were.  The accessible toilets are behind a turnstile and Craig told me how to gain access.  We then entered the main train shed with platforms 8 down to 1 (There is a trackline for Platform 0)  The train shed has been re-fitted and totally re-covered with glass and some solar panels which generate about 20% of the station’s power needs.

The original frontage of this station has been uncovered and with much of the later additions to be removed, will result in a large space adjoining Euston Road.  The new development has much natural light and an open skeletal structure with ribs supporting the glass roof.  There are some monoliths which may have projections and there is a lot of stone and steel.  

View of St Pancras International along Pancras Road
22 November 2012

Craig suggested I think of the station as a capital L with the horizontal limb at an angle to Euston Road.  We then retraced our way to the concourse and Craig indicated where there were potential human bottlenecks, with attention focussed on destination boards and sudden movement to the platform.  This is to be expected in any station but it was thoughtful to be made aware of these points. 

After taking me round the station Craig took me over Pancras Road following the tactile surfaces.  We discussed them as they align to a tactile crossing in Pancras Road.  Entering the side entrance to St Pancras, Craig took me to the FCC help desk and the duty staff took me to the Thameslink platform where I was put on a train home. 

This orientation tour was a real confidence booster.  While the track layout is essentially the same, the station has been effectively relocated and is brand new. 

Many thanks to Craig, Network Rail and FCC.   This was undertaken with no advance planning and indicates an awareness in some of our transport management structures. It is worth noting that the London Underground staff at this station (Kings Cross-St Pancras are always approachable as are the staff in St Pancras main station.

First Capital Connect website :
Network Rail website:
Website for King’s Cross: 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Edvard Munch – Graphic works from the Gundersen- Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Collection

2nd September 2012

This exhibition has a selection of prints of Edvard Munch.  This was on show in Modern Two of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in the Dean Gallery.  The exhibition is over several rooms and the order of the prints is not always obvious.  There was a bit of a treasure hunt scene when we and others could not find a couple of numbers.
I had been to Tate Modern and had visited the “final” forms of some of these works and could recognise the scenes with some of the prints. (see post )

Munch had made his first solo show in the UK in Edinburgh in 1931 and there is an area of the exhibition with some material relating to the 1931 show.  His influence on other painters is noted and I liked the Gillies’s Ardnamurchan.  Some of the prints were sharper than others. 

The gallery has an A3 sheet printed on 2 sides with a lot of technical details about graphic prints and techniques.  A background in these terms is useful to know and terms such as lithograph and woodcut are clearly explained.  It was time well spent in having these terms read out to me as we went round. 

There is a print of The Scream.  I had seen the “original” in London before I lost my sight.  The other prints were more or less covered in the Tate Modern exhibition regarding the rather sombre subject matter.  Munch’s series and re-workings of The Sick Child, Madonna, Kiss can be recognised.  In some cases the images are sharper depending on print and colours employed.  Munch was always drawing a portrait of himself and I could recognise him here too.  The On the Bridge series was fun to find. Some others had been mixed up with his two versions.  I had said there is one view of the Bridge with 3 coats and one with 4.  I ought to have counted the hats.
My notes which were taken by my companion are as follows:

No. 13
Head by Head, 1905
Two faces merging

No. 17
Jealousy I, 1896
Jealousy II, 1896

No. 26
The Scream, 1895
Lithograph on paper
Handcoloured by artist

William Gillies Morar, 1931
In Ardnamurchan, c1936

No. 40
Moonlight I 1896

No. 52
On the Bridge 1912-13
Counted 5 hats

No. 53
The Girls on the Bridge, 1918
Could make out 3 girls

A limited number of postcards were on sale.

Young Girls on a Bridge, c1901

Two People, The Lonely Ones, c1899


Modern Two is located across Belford Road from Modern One.  If feeling energetic the pair of galleries are within walking distance from the West End of Edinburgh.  Last year we walked from Charlotte Square and visited Dean Village on the way back.  There is a trail from the Belford Road Bridge down to the Water of Leith.  Take care on the descent and ascent.  There is a waterfall or rapids near the Dean Village and the whole river can be walked making an interesting trip combining the galleries. 

Modern Two has access to the upper floor via a lift from the rear of the bookshop.  There is also a café on the Ground Floor.  The stairwells are interesting if not a bit institutional and reminded me of those in the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House in London. 

More information on the Gundersen Collection can be found on:

Picasso and Modern British Art – The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

2nd September 2012

This was a second visit to an exhibition which I had first visited in Tate Britain in London (

Perceptions of the visual arts vary for visually impaired visitors. Much depends on the lighting for those with some vision, a lot depends on how busy the exhibition is and much depends on the companion for the description.  The exhibition in Modern One in Edinburgh is subtley different in having a Scottish dimension as well as a more intimate set of smaller rooms.  There is no interactive or audio guide so discussion is required. 

We went by bus (National Galleries of Scotland run a complimentary shuttle coach service between The Mound and Modern One)  We had 3 hours to tackle the Picasso in Modern One as well as the Munch Prints in Modern Two (Dean)

Exchanging my Culture Vulture ticket for a sticky label- this allows entry for the day, I was given some tips by the ticket desk. The exhibition would not be exactly the same and the room layout was quite different due to the former school buildings (John Watsons).  I mentioned that the Tate had sent me the picture labels and room panels from the large print text files which I could get my screenreader to play to me. 

The rooms have some 10 paintings in them and the exhibition is on two levels.  The top floor is also split and I used the stairs.  On the top floor I was chatting to Holly, one of the staff, about the exhibition and I was given more information about the Penrose archive.  Roland Penrose was the leading art dealer of the time and the archive was held in Modern Two.  Holly also mentioned the Scottish paintings.  I mentioned that in 2011 one of the staff had guided me round the top floor in Modern One with items of the permanent collection.

I found the Henry Moore pieces to be more interesting this time round.  This could have been as a result of different lighting on the sculpture though my vision varies throughout the day.  I found myself disliking the Sutherland pictures less though still not liking the Francis Bacon paintings at all.

The notes which were taken at the time of the visit are as follows:

Gallery 3
7 paintings
Duncan Grant
Design for a Firescreen c1912

Jars and Lemon, 1907

The two paintings are side by side on one wall.  Effective.

Gallery 4
Wyndham Lewis

A Reading of Ovid (Tyros) 1920-1
I noticed this large painting in the Tate show and said at the time that I must have “seen” it before.  It is a powerful painting. 
Oil on Canvas
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Workshop c1914-5
Oil on Canvas
Tate Britain

Gallery 3
Three cornered hat

Picasso theatre sketches and prints are delightful and one can inspect the designs up close.  I liked these at the Tate too.  Hockney sketches and designs were triggered in my mind for later.

Gallery 6
Roland Penrose

Untitled, 1937

The Roland Penrose Archive based at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Gallery 7
Ben Nicholson
Profile: Venetian Red c 1932
Next to
Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle, 1914

Ben Nicholson
1933(musical instruments), 1932-3
Next to
Guitar, Compote Dish and Grapes, 1924

Gallery 8
Henry Moore and Picasso

Better lit.  Could make out more of Moore’s work.

Nude Woman in a Red Armchair, 1932

Gallery 10
Francis Bacon
Graham Sutherland

Graham Sutherland
Association of Oaks
Green Tree Form, 1940

Gallery 22
Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde

Robert MacBryde (1913-1966)
Still Life – Fish on a Pedestal Table, 1950

Robert Colquhoun (1914-1962)
Figures in a Farmyard, 1953

Note: the Penrose-MacBryde-Colquhoun works are not included in the catalogue, which has been produced by the Tate. 

The Soles, 1940

Room 20
David Hockney

An Image of Celia, 1984-6
Lithograph on Paper

Harlequin, 1980
Set for Parade, 1980
Chinese Conjuror, from Parade Triple Bill, 1980

The Three Dancers, 1925

Modern One has an attractive café with a terrace in the sunshine.  Last year my hat blew off and was rescued by another visitor.  This year my hat stayed firmly on my head- these old skills learned on keeping a hat on one’s head in Edinburgh. 

Time should be allowed for visiting the collections at both galleries.  There is space in the grounds for outside installations and last year some works of Tony Cragg were on display here.  Tony Cragg is featured in Exhibition Road Museums in London this year. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

17th Century Dutch Paintings - Part 4 :Masterpieces from Mount Stuart - The Bute Collection and National Galleries of Scotland

The gallery on the Mound in Edinburgh has a collection of Dutch masterpieces including Rembrandt and Franz Hals.  I can remember the Mound Collection from my childhood; and the Skating Minister by Naysmith and Titian’s Three Ages of Man are pictures I can remember when at school. 

I had heard about the Mount Stuart collection of the Marquis of Bute and about the exhibition from some publicity and when visiting the Lusieri exhibition a guard mentioned the Masterpieces from Mount Stuart.   (  I decided on 24th August 2012 to go on my own. 

I checked in at the information desk and was taken to the octagon shaped gallery (3, I think) and started my tour.  I tried out my knowledge of the Jan Steen genre painting on the staff member but it was not a Steen.  The first painting which I thought was a Jan Steen turned out to be by another artist. 

The staff member told me about the exhibition and had been quite envious of the colleagues who had been to Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute (Rothesay)  in gathering the pictures. (  I did manage to get the curatorial gossip on the collection.  I checked where the other 17th Century pictures were and was given instructions on where they were located. 

I worked my way round the room and was faced with something very familiar.  It was a view of the Great Kirk in Haarlem by Gerrit Berckheyde.  We had studied one like it in the National Gallery in London.( )  That picture had set me off on my discovery of these paintings which have so much to offer in terms of clarity, colour and narrative. 

I moved round the room and spotted two Albert Cuyps.  For verification I asked complete strangers to read out the picture labels and so far it had been one wrong and 3 correct.  My fifth guess of a possible artist was wrong and I decided to get the catalogue and come back again with some background. 

On my second visit, I managed to get details of the paintings which I found interesting.  These included:

The Disputed Reckoning by Pieter de Hooch (I recognised this through the chequered tiled floor.)
The Grote Markt and the Church of St Bavo in Haarlem by Gerrit A Berckheyde
A Horse, Cattle and a Cowherd Resting in a Landscape by Albert Cuyp
Cattle Wattering by Estuary by Albert Cuyp
A  Young Girl Holding a Basket of Cherries by Jacob Jordaens
Frozen River Landscape by Aert van der Neer
Mountain Landscape with Waterfall by Jacob Isaacksz van Ruisdael
Cavalier Playing a Lute to a Lady by Jan Steen
The Card Players by David Teniers the Younger

I checked the whereabouts of the regular collection and went round the rooms “spotting” another Cuyp guessing the Rembrandts and Franz Hals and spotting a Van der Heyden.  On returning to have another quick look at the Mount Stuart collection the guard asked me how I had got on. 

I had probably overdone my enthusiasm for Cuyp, so he offered to take me round the collection pausing in front of the Rembrandt. We went on to discuss the Cuyp Nijmegen painting and I was given a detailed description of the people and objects.  In passing the guard mentioned another picture which had been acquired for the collection. 

I was able on my 2nd visit to pick out some pictures which I liked and get a sighted friend to note the labels, as follows: 

Pictures from the Permanent Collection:

Saloman Van Ruysdael
Alkmaar in Winder, 1656
Oil on canvas

Hendrick Ten Oever
View of Zublle with Bathers, 1675
Oil on canvas

Meindert Hobbema
Wooded Landscape

Hendrick  Van Minderhout
An Engagement between English and Dutch Fleets (c1665)
In the 19th century this was erroneously attributed to Willem van de Velde the Younger and titled A Sea Fight

Albert Cuyp
Landscape with view of the Valkhof, Nijmegen

Jan van der Heyden
A View of Cologne with the Carthusian Church and St Pataleon, c1660-1665

Adam Pynacker
The Stone Bridge

On my solo visit I managed to buy the catalogue titled Masterpieces from Mount Stuart – The Bute Collection by Christian Tico Seifert.  This has an introduction by Anthony Crichton-Stuart (one of the Bute family).  I also bought a set of cards of a painting by Hendrick Avercamp titled Winter Landscape.  On a further visit to stock up on presents, we found the elusive postcard of Pitlessie Fair. (

Many thanks to the Mound staff for locating and reading out some of the labels and discussing some of the highlights.  The shop staff were also helpful in finding some items.

If in Edinburgh, make a point of visiting the Torrie Collection which is in the Georgian gallery of the Talbot Rice Gallery within the University of Edinburgh Old College.  I covered this in Part 2 of my Dutch painting series:

Monday, 10 September 2012

Ian Hamilton Finlay – Twilight Remembers, Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh

The Ingleby Gallery cropped up on my radar while in Edinburgh.  There had been twitter references and word of mouth ones during an Artlink event discussing conceptual art.  Others in Edinburgh had mentioned the gallery to me “en passant”.   

I had a rough idea of the location but checked up by phone beforehand.  Having established The Black Bull as a “landmark”, I found the gallery and was greeted by David Mackay, who told me about the works of Ian Hamilton Finlay.

David also told me about the work of the Ingleby gallery and that recently BBC Radio 3 had recorded some pieces for The Essay, which is usually broadcast at 2245 after Nightwaves, outside the BBC Proms season.  Alison Watt and Claire Barclay were among those who had contributed to the series.     

I was invited to try out a seven minute audiovisual projection, which used an ironing board as an aircraft carrier with still shots of model planes and a steam iron (I think).   I found that I could make out quite a lot of the black and white stills.  The accompanying music sounded rather like Holst’s Mars from the Planet Suite but wasn’t; it had the percussion beat of 5/4 time.  There were also sections of keyboard music.
We then moved on to the pieces of wood sculpture called Japanese Stacks.  In fact, I had noted these in my field of vision on entering the gallery and had initially thought I had entered a bank of laptops in a call-centre!  The notes for the exhibition refer to “What looks, at first glance, like a series of elegant abstract sculptures are in fact scale models of the funnels (or chimney stacks) of different Japanese World War II war ships.”

David has sent me an exhibition image of this bank of Japanese funnels from a slightly different angle. 

Ian Hamilton Finlay
Japanese Stacks, 1978-1979
wood (6 parts), with John R Thorpe
dimensions vary

David produced a pair of white gloves and I was invited to touch the stacks of the Japanese warships.  These pieces reminded me of World War II films of the war in the Pacific, where submarines would attack warships and there were usually periscope shots of the funnels and smoke stacks and ways of identifying particular vessels in a battle formation.  

Akatsuki from Japanese Stacks:

Chokai from Japanese Stacks:

Above three photographs courtesy of Ian Hamilton Finlay Estate and Ingleby Gallery
photographs by John Mckenzie
David then took me into the Print Room.  Several prints stood out and one in particular which I liked – with Patrick Caulfield. 

Ian Hamilton Finlay
Marine, 1968
screenprint, with Patrick Caulfield 
edition of 250
51 x 64.2 cm (print size)

The print refers to fishing vessel registration marks with vessels having home ports in Peterhead (PD), Aberdeen (A) and Kirkkaldy (KY).  At first glance, these have been described to me as “lemons in a bowl”, but I had discussed with David the rather nerdy/geeky tendency of mine to remember car registration plates in Germany (kennzeichen) and one of my memories as a child was noting the trawler registration port letters.  For Edinburgh, the port of Leith was LH.  On the west coast, Ullapool was UL and Stornoway was SY.  The picture shows the following registration marks: KY124, PD216, A115 and KY97. 
At this point I was introduced to Andrew, who took me to the upstairs exhibition which is mainly concerned with Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta ‘garden’ being used as a backdrop to works of IHF.  The photographs are large, wall-sized and on PVC.  I still had my white gloves on and could feel the film of the PVC and was about to launch into some PVC chemistry when I learnt that the photographer was Robin Gillanders.  I had been to school with Robin Gillanders in the 1960s and Robin in fact took our form photograph in 1969. 

One of the photographs has a stone urn, which I was able to handle.  This urn was in front of the photograph of the urn in the landscape.  I was also able to handle inscriptions and I could just about read off one of the longer passages which Ian Hamilton Finlay had inscribed (quoted below). 

I was also intrigued to hear about the Little Sparta location near Dunsyre in Lanarkshire.  My father had taken me fishing there as a child – didn’t catch anything – and I can remember driving my parents through the area about 20 years ago, trying to find the spot by a bridge where we had fished. 

The reference to Virgil in the bricks laid at an angle in the exhibition – I was careful with the cane – linked in with a search for Arcadia – this had cropped up with the Lusieri exhibition Expanding Horizons in the National Galleries at the Mound. 

There is a Scottish charity to maintain the gardens of Little Sparta ( .  The gardens are near Dunsyre, off the A702 and between Dolphinton and Biggar at the end of the Pentland Hills range, which run forming a diagnol on the map of Scotland between the Forth and Clyde valleys.  This occurred to me when the notes were read by the screenreader from a PDF file which David had sent me.  The relevant section is as follows:

The garden stile offers a typically playful Finlay pun. It is a stile in the De Stijl style, recalling the words of Theo van Doesburg “Do you know, gentlemen, what a city is like? A city is horizontal tension and vertical tension. Nothing else”. The words and form of the stile echo van Doesburg’s sense of form and function, but not, of course, his delight in the dynamism of the diagonal which caused a split with his fellow modernist Piet Mondrian. Finlay appropriates the Dutchman’s sentence and rewords it for the countryside “Do you know, gentlemen, what a stile is like? A stile is a horizontal tension and a vertical tension. Nothing else”.

This was a very pleasant exhibition covering several aspects of Ian Hamilton Finlay.  Many thanks to David and Andrew for taking me round the Ingelby Gallery and for sending me exhibition notes and photographs used in this post.  The exhibition runs at the Ingelby Gallery ( until 27th October 2012.  Much of his work will be on show at an exhibition in Tate Britain later this year.  (