Archive for the 'Art/Architecture' Category

did you see the arrow?

May 9, 2007

Did you know there’s purposefully an arrow shape in the negative space of the FedEx logo? I hadn’t noticed it until it was pointed out in this enlightening interview with Lindon Leader, the logo’s creator, on The Sneeze (superblog).

Incidentally, I was reminded of this interview by seeing the FedEx logo in the film Cast Away, wherein Tom Hanks’ Robinson Crusoe figure is a FedEx employee.

Pasquino

May 26, 2006

We came across the origin of Pasquino – the speaking statue of Piazza di Pasquino, in Rome – in Florence, on our recent Tuscan holiday.

In Loggia dei Lanzi, in Piazza della Signoria (in Florence), and also inside the Palazzo Pitti, there are copies of the ancient speaking statue in Rome.

Here's how Pasquino looked before the ravages of time… (and the Visigoths).

MLW pointed out to me today that Pasquino has his own verb: Pasquinade

gothic nightmares

March 9, 2006

On Saturday last, we went to see the Gothic Nightmares exhibition at the Tate Britain, featuring works by Henry Fuseli (mainly), William Blake (hoorah), James Gillray and some of their contemporaries who also had a penchant for all that was a bit dark and a bit naughty.

The picture presiding over all the others was Fuseli's The Nightmare – a raunchy and glamourous composition of drooping lady, toothy horse's head, and a nasty little imp lurking in the darkness.

My primary interest were the works by Blake, and we were both fascinated by his idiosyncratic pictures, which could be spotted from a mile away amongst all the exhibited works, especially The Ghost of a Flea. This tempura was much smaller than I'd imagined and very dark. It was poorly exhibited, being hung at the back of a room where a clip from an old gothic film was being shown – to demonstrate the resonance of Fuseli's The Nightmare for years after it was painted – and everyone had their backs to it, watching the film instead.

Many of the artists, especially Fuseli and Blake, worked on the same subject and it was interesting to see how each artist presented the same idea in a different way. Also, there was a lot of fun to be had from seeing how Gillray turned popular and phantasmagorical imagery into biting political satire with his gift for caricature.

There were some powerful works to see – Fuseli's oils of Titania and Bottom, Blake's Biblical watercolours, Gillray's cartoons – and I would recommend the exhibition, although it was perhaps a little arduous with over 200 pictures (and accompanying notes, which I can seldom ignore) to ogle.

Earth meets sky

February 3, 2006

Visiting King’s College chapel in Cambridge the other day, I was struck by a note in the guide leaflet that reminded the reader that in the past, people regarded the designing and building of churches more reverently and mystically than we do today.

Increasingly, modern churches are practical buildings with built-in audio-visual systems, collapsible pews, cushioned seats, lecture theatre style seating arrangements etc. All valuable and useful evolutions of church design.

For the architects, builders and artisans who created it, the King’s College chapel was to be a place where the earth met the sky, where a quality of heaven could flow into a place within the world of men.

Standing within the chapel, you can connect with this belief. The light streams through stained glass windows on all sides and makes the walls seem more chiaroscuro than stone and mortar. The floor, which spreads so evenly and cleanly beneath your feet, seems to ride up the carved columns and spread out across the fanned vaults of the ceiling in a single visual movement that accelerates upwards. You have a sense of being contained in a vast box that somehow operates with different physics; there and not there.

It’s great! Especially if the choir is singing.

Reading an article in National Geographic magazine, about the excavation of a Mayan mural that depicts gods and kings, I was struck by the similarity of the idea of how men reach heaven held by medieval English Christians and ancient Mayan pagans.

“Five sacred trees helped connect earth and sky in the ancient Maya cosmos, with one tree in each of the cardinal directions and one at the center.”

The mural depicts how the kings on earth and the gods in heaven perform the same task of balance and order within their realms. The communication between earth and sky runs along the sacred trees. Much as in King’s College chapel the fanned vaults grow out of carved columns that plunge down the walls into the floor.