There’s an Art in People Watching


Photo: Ai Wei Wei exhibition – National Gallery of Victoria

I’m a people observer: watching, drawing, photographing. It’s a long-time pleasure of mine, whether I’m lying on the local beach or sipping coffee in a favourite city – have I mentioned Rome already?  I find particular enjoyment studying people within an art space. The presence of one person can alter and enhance the mood aesthetic, creating an interesting photographic composition through colour, line or body language.

           
Photos: Tate Britain, London;  Bruce Armstrong exhibition at National Gallery of Victoria; MONA, Hobart, Tasmania; MAXXI, Rome.

Sometimes I see a person walking towards an artwork or object and I quietly will them to move in a specific direction or proximity (it doesn’t always work).

           
Photos: MAXXI, Rome; National Gallery of Victoria; Jupiter Artland Sculpture Gardens, Edinburgh; MONA, Hobart, Tasmania.

Or, I’ll stroll through a gallery looking for people contemplating an artwork.  Their body language is still and I have to be quick to capture that moment before they move on.  There’s elation in the ‘gotcha’, the approach has to be discreet.
              
Photos:  Dancing Umbrellas – Heide Museum of Modern Art, Victoria; National Gallery of Victoria; Ai Wei Wei – National Gallery of Victoria; Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona, Spain.

Gallery staff at work present other photo-opportunities. Their presence in the space is often “I’m here, but pretend you can’t see me.”    I’m watching.
           
Photos: Glasstresse, Venice Biennale 2015; MAXXI, Rome; Tate Britain, London: A conservator at work, National Gallery of Victoria.

Observing around public art places also offers pleasing and complementary scenarios.
           
Photos: Street art, Oporto, Portugal; around the cloisters, Monastery of Pedrables, Barcelona, Spain;  Hosier Lane, Melbourne;  me being silly, “circular selfie” Heide Museum of Modern Art.


Photo: Inge King Sculpture exhibition – National Gallery of Victoria

 © Photos and text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2017

Art and about Europe: There’s no place like Rome

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Photo:  Italian style in The Vatican

Years ago, I tore an editorial out of a women’s magazine. It was titled “Forty things to do before you die”.  Number 40 was “Sip coffee in Rome”.  I’d never been to Rome and held onto this press cutting until, finally, I did just that. I sipped coffee in Rome.  Until then, Paris to me was the beautiful European city with a reputation for sitting in cafes, people watching.  But Rome!  This is the city for walking and watching.  The coffee is good (of course, it’s Italy), but strolling those streets day and night, exploring the sights and watching the people, capturing those moments through my camera lens –  this for me is now Number One on my itinerary each time I travel.

Walking Rome: It doesn’t matter where you start, this way or that? I have ‘my’ regular Hotel on Via Del Corso. When I turn right for my morning walk, there’s few people out at daybreak, but those who are sharing the experience are like-minded. The early-risers.

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Photos:  Towards The Colosseum; vegetables are delivered to a restaurant; off to work (my photo homage to Jeffrey Smart); local cafe.

If I turn left, I can stroll shopping galore until I reach Piazza del Popolo, a large, symmetrical piazza, with its central obelisk and magnificent architectural surrounds.  The church of Santa Maria del Popolo (built 11th century, then reconstructed in the early Renaissance) is adorned with artworks including: two by Caravaggio, Saul on the road to Damascus and Crucifixion of St Peter; Adoration of the Child by Pinturicchio who also painted the ceiling and frescoes within the church. The Chigi chapel was designed by Raphael…and so much more. Piazza del Popolo is also popular for people watching.

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Photos:  Shopping for scarves, fresh fruit daily, fashionably Fendi; arriving at Piazza del Popolo.

I googled the definition of “people watching” – the action or practice of spending time idly observing people in a public place.  Idle?  I don’t think so!  My late, dear friend, photographer Rennie Ellis, built a creative career and lifestyle from observation, recording social, photographic commentary. Nineteen books of his works since the Seventies have been published, including three posthumously. There have been many “Rennie” exhibitions over the years in Sydney, Canberra, around Melbourne as well as “Everyday People” at State Library of Victoria and the upcoming
https://www.slv.vic.gov.au/whats-on/strike-pose,opening next week. I worked for Rennie for three years and learnt much from him.   Back to…. The absolute pleasure and excitement in people watching around Rome.

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Photos:  Trading on Ponte Garibaldi; Policeman on duty; tourists around the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona.

This is one of my favourite photos, taken outside restaurant Prosciutteria Coronari.  For me, it depicts this leisurely pursuit.

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…and some around Vatican City.
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Photos:  Family outing; Nuns in the neighbourhood; a beggar woman on steps just outside the city; mucho Il Papa merchandise.

Rome is also the reason for foodie fotos.  When you’re sitting in your favourite piazza, with that glass of prosecco or spritz, a small bowl of olives, a salad, the oil and vinegar bottles on the table – you’re “in heaven” and life doesn’t get any better.
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Photos:  Happiness is….. with daughter, Annie.

All of this, and that’s just the daytime. When the sun goes down, continue walking, watching, dining. Experience Rome.
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Photos:  Around The Pantheon; complimentary cold tomato and oregano soup at Babette Restaurant; Vivaldi’s “Le Quattro Stagioni” recital in Church of All Saints; looking out from Castel Sant’Angelo.

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Photos:  Along via del Corso

© 2017  tPRo/Pamela Reid

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art and about Europe: When in Rome – look up!

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Photo: Visitors to The Vatican, their colours mirror Raphael’s innovative palette.

I am forever grateful to my high school art teacher, Sr. M Ursula, who taught me a great deal, including to look up. She would take us on tram trips into the city, telling us to “look up” at the buildings, the skyscapes. Don’t stay at eye level, observe the architecture, its features, how it tells the history. This lesson has been invaluable for my photographic view and in travelling, but none more so than my first day in Rome and the next…and the next, which led to return visits. My head and neck keep turning, my hands want to touch, and I can hear Sr. Ursula’s voice telling me what to “see”.

As with most of my “Art and About” blogs, I’ll start with my morning walks. So much to look up at as day breaks over the Forums, I pass the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument and head towards The Colosseum.

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Photos: Around The Forums, “Hail Caesar”; Vittorio Emanuele II Monument; birds fly over The Colosseum at dawn.

The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, designed by Guiseppe Sacconi, sits at the foot of Capitoline Hill. It’s an elaborate and imposing white marble building with two contrasting dark bronze winged Victories riding chariots, looming up into the sky. Rounding the Monument, I climb the stairs to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, arriving at the top of Capitoline Hill.

Capitoline Hill houses the Mayor and Municipality offices. Formerly, it was sacred to Rome as a destination for victorious generals and triumphant processions. Here I greet the day, “Good morning, Rome.”

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Photos: Stairs to Basilica of S.Maria in Aracoeli; daylight filters through the ballustrades, a gull perched on a guardian;
one of the statues of Roman age representing the Dioscuri, defenders of the Republican Rome; clock tower on Piazza del Campidoglio; Romulus and Remus.

IMG_7088Photo: From the top of Capitoline Hill, “Buongiorno, Roma.” with love.

With such a perfect start to the day – followed by a pot of good coffee at my hotel – what to do next requires little planning, nothing more than which direction to take? In Rome, a cornucopia of visual delights, you simply step outside and wander. “Being in Rome” is enough.  (I’ll write other blogs on Rome, its art and sights, but this is mainly pictorial, about looking skywards). Typically, strolling until lunch time, or through the afternoon, “looks” like this:

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Photos: Bridges across the Tiber River are adorned with statues; typical streetscape architecture; door to Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St Mary of the Angels); around Piazza del Popolo; the Jewish Synagogue; Staircase to Palazo Doria Pamphilj.

Throughout Italy, nothing is more look up than standing inside a basilica or monument, awe-struck by the craftsmanship and design of domes. The Romans were the first to create these engineering marvels. I searched an engineering history site to learn about the dome in nearby The Pantheon:  “Behold! The Pantheon. One of the most amazing structures ever built. Its massive dome, weighing nearly five-thousand tons, spans 150 feet unsupported and rises almost as high in the air. The interior could house a sphere 142 feet in diameter. At the height of the dome there is an oculus, a hole nearly 30 feet in diameter, which lets in light to relieve the darkness of this massive, enclosed space.

After the fall of Roman Empire, later generations of architects would go mad trying to replicate this. A Roman could have explained it easily. Take an arch, then spin it around 360 degrees. That is a dome. Yet, even if the architects of the Middle Ages could have grasped this concept, they were missing the key element: concrete. The dome of the Pantheon was literally poured into place.”

I have a book about Piero Fornasetti, “Designer of Dreams”, an artist of decorative versatility. When thinking about writing this blog, I recalled that Fornasetti had created a series of seventeen plates, based on domes of Italian churches, as a gift for the Brenta construction company.

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Photos: The dome inside The Pantheon, looking up to the daylight and night; three of the domes inside St Peter’s Basilica; Some of the plate series by Piero Fornasetti – Centre is St Peter’s Basilica; (clockwise) S.Ivo Della Sapienza, Rome; The Pantheon, Rome; Florence Catherdral; S. Maria della Salute, Venice.

I’ll finish this blog with more images from The Pantheon and Vatican City, ending the day as I started it. Perfect! Sunset over The Vatican.

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Photos: Door leading from The Pantheon; façade of The Pantheon; inside St Peter’s basilica; sunset over The Vatican.

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“Buona note, Roma

© 2017 tPRo/Pamela Reid

 

The Art and Architecture of Barcelona (part 2) – Miró makes me smile!

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Feeling smug, sketching in Fundació Joan Miró

I wrote about the Barcelona sights and particularly, Gaudí, in earlier blogs. Barcelona has everything on offer to see, touch, taste and dance to.  This time I’m writing about some of my visual arts experiences. 

Hopping on my city tourism favourite, the on-off bus, I headed out through the gardens to the Fundació Joan Miró. Created by Miró and opened in 1975, the museum houses his works as well as other ‘out there’ contemporary art. 

Joan Miró i Ferrà was born in Barcelona April 20, 1893, growing up in the Gothic quarter (he passed away on Christmas Day, 1983, in Mallorca).  After his 1918 solo exhibition in his home city, Miró settled in Paris. While he moved amongst The Surrealists and their influences, Miró’s style – if it can be defined – is more one of ‘experimentation’ in shapes, space and abstract objects, across various mediums and textures, in a palette of bright, bold colours.  Most of what Miró created isn’t really identifiable or recognisable, which is what makes it so appealing.

While it wouldn’t be considered an artistic critique, the quirkiness of Miró makes me happy. https://www.fmirobcn.org/en
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A visit to the Pablo Picasso museum in Barcelona is on every ‘to see’ list. I was a little disappointed as it displays mostly his early works. While it’s fascinating to see an artist’s developmental stages, I was expecting to see “in the flesh”  his later works, or some that I may be familiar with. (Taking photographs is not permitted).

On leaving the Picasso museum, however, I chanced upon MEAM (Museu Europeu D’Art Modern) Carrer Barra de Ferro 5, a beautiful palace rebuilt in 1792 by a wealthy textile merchant, Gomis. During the Napoleonic invasion, Marshal Lecchi, who commanded the French troops, used the palace as his regular residence. In 2011, the MEAM opened, under the sponsorship of the “Foundation for the Arts and Artists”, created in 2005 to promote figurative artists. What a treat! Moving from room to room, peeping into salons, the ground floor space exhibited splendid nude works by Spanish sculptor Josep Clarà (1878-1958).

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So beautifully curated…. these sculptures speak more than any words.

The upper gallery space held an exhibition of contemporary portraiture. Wow!
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MEAM also has evening programs of flamenco dance and Catalan, classical as well a jazz music. I returned on a Friday night, with newly made Australian friends, for an intimate jazz concert in one of the salons. https://www.meam.es/en

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Sketching in MEAM – lucky me!

Over at MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona), it was multi-media, contemporary art of another kind – “Punk” – defined by MACBA as “Punk appeared as an explosion in the mid-seventies. Musicians, artists, designer, activists and desperate youngsters raged against the economic crisis, the end of the hippie dream, unemployment, the lack of future. Anger, speed, noise, incorrectness, opposition and provocation have defined ‘punk’ beyond the stereotypes of studs, leather and spiky hair.

Punk is an attitude with echoes of other violent, angry and irrepressible movements such as Dada and Situationism. It has survived to this day as one of the most influential cultural references of the 20th century.”     http://www.macba.cat/en

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In a separate space, across from MACBA, there was another esoteric exhibition. I didn’t quite understand it, but nevertheless enjoyed the experience. Skateboards made from focaccia bread and a mechanical heart pumping away in an illuminated cross. This is surely the energy that makes art so much fun!
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Have the best time in Barcelona.  I did!

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Contemporary portraiture exhibition – MEAM

© 2017 tPRo/Pamela Reid

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art and Architecture of Barcelona……Gaudí!

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Photo: Exterior Casa Batlló 

I have to start with Gaudí. “Unique” in the real sense. Ebullient, wondrous, magical buildings and features. I was keen to learn more about him as I knew nothing of Gaudí’s personal life, only that it ended when he was hit by a tram on the streets of Barcelona. Why were his extraordinary – even outrageous – designs and architectural works so readily accepted, even permitted to happen? How would I get inside his imagination?

I didn’t learn too much. Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852-1926) was intensely private and not much is told of his personal life and, yes, I saw the very spot where he was hit by a tram. He was unhealthy as a child, studied architecture in Barcelona and, the more success he achieved, the more he withdrew socially. I learnt, also, that his vast and innovative designs were not readily accepted and that Gaudí did, indeed, meet with resistance. But, I did get to experience Gaudí, which is akin to being “a kid in a lolly shop”. There’s so much of his modernist work (there really isn’t one Gaudí style) around Barcelona, here I’ll write about Casa Batlló. 

Built between 1904-1906, Casa Batlló exudes fantastic Catalan architecture. You look up, around, inside/outside, you touch the textures and run your hands along the bannisters.
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Photos: Light, shapes, colour’n’movement inside Casa Batlló. 

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Photos:  Wood features in the large, stained glass windows, as well as the grand staircase; skylights flood with shapes and textures.

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Photos:  Up on the roof, you’re surrounded by more shapes, curves, lines and, especially, coloured mosaics.

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All internal features – bannisters, skylights, window frames – are ergonomically designed.   Casa Batlló is a masterpiece, guiding you from one line and space to another, exhibited through the use of light.  Gaudí was a genius!

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© 2017 tPRo/Pamela Reid