Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
I was in Belgium exactly a year ago. It was a strange experience; I was there by myself and so briefly (two days in Antwerp, two days in Brussels) that it felt like a dream. The weather was perfect and much like Paris in spring, with that same magical energy that people write songs about. Belgium was as beautiful as a dream or a song, too, and I found some of my pictures earlier today and thought I'd note down some places I'd recommend to others.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
"You could always go into the Luxembourg museum and all the paintings were sharpened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry. I learned to understand Cézanne much better and to see truly how he made landscapes when I was hungry."
-Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
It's so easy (and so clichéd, but also so fun) to become a bit obsessed with Hemingway when you're in Paris. He captures it all so well and you walk past places he mentions so often that the whole city makes you think of Hemingway and, if you're me you end up living half in the 1920s, looking for the Paris of your imagination (which isn't really that hard to find). I especially start to think of Hemingway when I'm hungry.
It's surprisingly easy not to eat in Paris. One Sunday, I realised that I had no food in my cupboard and found almost everywhere closed. Another day I went for a walk, intending to buy groceries, and saw a man walking along the street carrying two cages with talking parrots inside. I felt obliged to walk in the same direction as him, was distracted by the (wonderful) Bêtes Off! exhibition at the Conciergerie and then the Sainte Chapelle... and found at dinnertime that I hadn't had breakfast or lunch.
Today, I confused coffee with cereal in the morning, assumed at two that it was late enough that I must have had lunch and realised with a jolt of hunger in the first room of the Delacroix Museum, looking at a Fantin-Latour painting of a vase of flowers, that I'd once again forgotten to eat. I decided to take the opportunity to evaluate Hemingway's idea that hunger strengthens your perceptions.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
The main problem with the free exhibitions at the Hôtel de Ville is their popularity. Queuing becomes a test of stamina and often by the time you’re at the front of the line you long for a cup of coffee and a seat. Nonetheless, if you’re interested in Parisian history or in photography, the Doisneau exhibition running until the 28th of April is fascinating. Robert Doisneau is a photojournalist best known, interestingly enough, for his 1950 photograph of a couple kissing outside the Hôtel de Ville. You can now find inside the building his attempts at documenting the market at Les Halles, central to Paris life for over a hundred years, before it was moved to Rungis in 1969.
The difficulties Doisneau had photographing Les Halles are noted at the beginning of the exhibition: “lack of light, reflexes slowed down by tiredness, so many possible images! And it was intimidating.”
Friday, March 16, 2012
This suburb is like a piece of cake: dainty, rich and iced in pastel colours. There are bowls of flowers hanging from lamp-posts and prada dresses sell for hundreds in the windows of gritty second hand shops. Even glances through housing estate windows reveal art deco lamps and photographs of grandchildren in neatly arranged silver frames. It's as quaintly charming as you'd expect, but with some unexpectedly quirky aspects.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
I used to be really excited about social housing but this has waned a bit lately. When I arrived in the UK after living in Australia, a country that's all backyards and space, compact living had a sort of thrill. Large estates seemed so urban, the opposite of suburbia, the epitome of togetherness. My first real encounter with British social housing was the writings of Alison and Peter Smithson, too, and the idealism of Robin Hood Gardens was perfectly pitched to my political sympathies.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
I have a new favourite artist. I'm lucky to have seen Yann Kersalé's exhibition at the Fondation EDF; I had heard of neither him nor the venue until I stumbled upon a blog mentioning it as a postscript and looked it up. I probably wouldn't have gone to see it (knowing almost nothing about the artist or the space) if it hadn't been both free and on a street I pass regularly. I'm so glad I went, though, and I'm certainly going to go back again before it closes on March 25th.
I don't even know how to describe this exhibition. It begins as soon as I open the door to the Fondation EDF; the space is pitch black. I follow swirling arrows suggestive of primordial winds, walk past text that could easily be poetry and enter the closest thing an art gallery can be to a wilderness. It's sort of more than a natural wilderness, too, because there's the sense that there could be otherworldly monsters lurking in dark corners. In the darkness, nothing but the works themselves are visible. I fear I'm about to bump into a stranger or trip on something.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
The first in a series of posts which will focus on historically/architecturally significant hotels (i.e. preparatory PhD research).
Stepping off the Boulevard Raspail and into the Hotel Lutetia is an experience akin to time travel. I'm not sure what the rooms themselves are like, having seen only public areas and a salon open for a small art show, but the lobby, eateries and corridors are filled with interwar splendour.
Friday, March 9, 2012
I've been writing an arts column for NZ News UK since January and thought that my most recent article, on Amyas Connell, might be of interest to readers of this blog. It's primarily on High and Over, Connell's first building, and its impact on Britain in 1931.
Basil Ward, Connell's partner, is also from New Zealand; George Checkley, too, was born there. I find it interesting that three architects so known for their houses and for using reinforced concrete in the UK were all from New Zealand. I've noticed, generally, that there's an emphasis on the house (as a building type) in New Zealand that doesn't really exist in the same way in the UK.