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We’re back! London was full of so much that was inspirational, we’re going to just share some images here with as few words as possible. In the next few days, we’ll be reviewing highlights from the British Association for Modern Mosaic’s (BAMM) 2012 Forum and take a stroll through the treasure trove known as the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The morning we landed, we were met by our host for the next few days, John O’Brien. O’Brien is a past Chairman of BAMM and currently runs mosaicatlas.com. No sooner were our bags stowed at his digs than we were off to misty Kew Gardens . . .
. . . where there was an unexpected and huge treat – installations, sculptures, paintings and drawings by the extraordinary woodworker David Nash (b. 1945).
The work was elemental, primordial, monumental and made us hold our breath. Inside the Shirley Sherwood Gallery there was more to see.
Oak and yew, ash and cork are hacked and carved, singed and split with such nuance and respect for the raw material that it feels as if nothing new has been created at all but rather, that there has been some sort of transcendent transformation.
Nash supplemented previous works with new ones created from Kew Garden’s Wood Quarry of “trees that had come to the end of their natural lives.” We apologize for not taking the time to record the names for all of the works shown here. We were too busy being gobsmacked.
Day Two was devoted to John O’Brien’s Mosaics of London Tour. Put on your mental sneakers – you’re going to need them. The first stop let us check off an entry on our Mosaic Bucket List: The Boris Anrep (1883-1969) mosaics at The National Gallery. Alas, photos were NOT allowed, as the lovely and ever-vigilant attendant Charlotte informed us.
Between 1926 and 1952, the Russian-born artist created the first thing one encounters at the National Gallery, a series of pavements; The Labours of Life (1928) and The Pleasures of Life (1929), The Awakening of the Muses (1933) and Modern Virtues (1952). They are absolutely fabulous, fantastic images that beautifully combine classical Byzantine aesthetics with the artistic sensibilities of their day.
Image above courtesy of “Mo” at A Glimpse of London
We couldn’t take photos of the originals, but we did buy the book from whence these poor images come.
Anrep was a wag, and often used visages of celebrities, society mavens and politicians in his designs. Strolling these pavements is like looking through old editions of Life magazine. Put them on your Bucket List. You won’t be sorry.
As a side note, we were sad to see a pair of large urns situated on top of two of the mosaics. John left a comment card with his concerns about the matter at the front desk to which we attached a MAN business card. Imagine our surprise when we received an email later that day from Matthew Power, Information Officer for the National Gallery. Mr. Power assured us that he would pass our concerns on to the “relevant managers” and then offered information on another three sites in London with Anrep mosaics. Amazing.
It was onward to Covent Garden . . .
. . . and then Tottenham Court Road Station for the mosaics of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.
As you can see, these mosaics are in great need of cleaning and restoration. In fact, it looks like some of the work is being removed as part of a remodeling process.
Sad, because they are only 40 years old and the imagery is still fresh and vibrant.
Back on The Tube and upwards to The British Museum.
It is a very good thing that John knows the museum because it is simply enormous. Our first destination was a large, sunlit staircase lined with ancient Roman mosaics.
Then it was a dash on to see the Mezo-American mosaics. Right behind you, John. But, wait! What’s that we just passed?
It’s the famous Standard of Ur! Exhibit Two in the History of Mosaic section of every book written on the subject (right behind the cone-embellished columns). One of the 100 objects chosen for the BBC’s “History of the World in 100 Objects.” And we almost missed it? The big surprise – its much smaller than we thought – only 19.5 inches long.
Now, down the stairs and to the right . . . to Gallery 27: Mexico
The room is dark, the atmosphere hushed. There is power in these objects.
Back onto the streets with us and our next destination: Westminster Cathedral. The Cathedral was designed by John Francis Bentley who died before completing sketches for mosaic embellishments to the building. This has left generations of church leadership with the task of acting as an “art committee” – commissioning a number of artists for various portions of the cathedral over the past 100 years. The result is a bit of a hodge-podge actually, with some absolutely splendid moments and a few – not so splendid.
The Lady Chapel soars!
Boris Anrep’s Sacrament Chapel, however, felt like a giant “thud” of a visual non-sequiter. So strange to see these pastel, washed-out forms against a pink sky. Where was the spirit and joie de vivre of The National Gallery? Very odd.
Our last destination for the day was a favorite of John’s – The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory. While it has a long history, it’s last renovation included mosaics designed by John Francis Bentley of Westminster Cathedral fame. Here, we see his apse and frontal mosaics.
It was the frontal that we found totally captivating. According to some cursory research, this Adoration of the Magi is believed to be the first time that Bentley included a human figure in a mosaic design.
So, back to The Tube and home for a quick bite of sustenance and then off to see the Lads of AFC Wimbledon take to the field and win. Day’s end found us in a charming pub beside the Thames with a lovely pint of London Pride. Beer never tasted so good.
More to come including the Victoria & Albert Museum and a recap of BAMM’s splendid Forum.
Enjoy – Nancie