Archive for September, 2014



I’m not a regular visitor to art galleries, if I go once a year that is unusual. Unless I go somewhere like Amsterdam when I go and see the  Van Goghs. 14127_425053509347_4360261_nThis year I have been to three different galleries. What changed?

I don’t know how long I have been a fan of the paintings of Mondrian. I fell for the simplicity of three primary colours, three non colours, blocks and lines. It was seeing one, in the flesh to speak, in the 1980’s that showed me that the real ones have so much more, the intention, vivacity and life, totally the opposite to the cold austere painting you would expect. I went specially to find a studio in west London to get the T-Shirt, using the design, I am pictured wearing in 1986. I have written in the past about Strasbourg’s modern art ‘Sistine Chapel’ and Springtime for Mondrian.

It just so happened that this year there were two Mondrian exhibitions. None for ages, remarks about buses etc.
mill-in-the-evening-1905The first was an exhibition of Mondrian and Colour at the Turner Gallery in Margate in early August. It went back way before the abstract works he’s best known for to the time when he was a landscape painter in Holland painting pictures of the river near to his house like the one on the right. Trees, farms windmills and other normal landscape subjects. Then, he was influenced by the-red-millcubism and pointillism after spending time in Paris and the impact of painters like Braque and Picasso on his style. Stuck in Holland by the outbreak of the First World War during a visit home his style developed to what we know today. It was fascinating to follow the development from standard Dutch landscape painter through to the painter of the abstract grid shaped blocks of colours he is known for.

The second exhibition was at the Tate Liverpool and was ‘Mondrian and his Studios’ complete with the recreation of one of his studios in Paris. The exhibition had photos from various of his studios showing that he tended to convert the places he lived in into his art, painting them the same colours and having his paintings on the walls. It was possible to walk around in the recreated studio to get an impression of what it would be like for him to be working, in amongst his art works and big blocks of colour. mondriansparisstudioI’ve taken the picture from the Tate website showing people looking around in the studio. What I learnt from this exhibition was that he worked on variations to the lines, the blocks of colour and edge of the painting so that the variation in different paintings is not just about the different arrangement of the blocks of colour. It’s interesting to speculate on the impact the place he lived had upon his broadway-boogie-woogiedevelopment with the cityscape of Paris, with the buildings giving the straight lines and block shapes. He was always a fan of music and in his last painting we can see the impact the move to New York had upon him, as the Mondrian sites says, “boogie-woogie obviously had a profound impact on him. Nevertheless, the most important factor in the origin of this painting, and of the “mutation” in his art, must have been the experience of the daily rhythm of New York itself, the pulsating movement that animates Broadway, especially at night, and, in thorough keeping with the old principles of De Stijl, creates a harmony out of the opposition of contraries.”

images-1Two Mondrian exhibitions but I thought you said you had been three times this year? Yes and the third was to a Tate gallery too but this time to the Tate Modern for the exhibition of Malevich. I didn’t really know anything about Kazimir Malevich before and it was not my intention to visit the exhibition before my 11 week visit to the UK. However the Margate exhibition had said that he was a big influence on Mondrian so after that I had to go. I went on my last day in the UK before returning to Strasbourg

He too started off painting landscapes but then influenced by what was happening in Paris with cubism and futurism in Italy his painting developed into a more abstract form like ‘the Scyther’ pictured. He developed further and in 1913 painted the imgresBlack Square which was what gained him fame. This time too there was a recreation (pictured) but this time it was of an exhibition from December 1915, ‘The Last exhibit of Futurist Painting 0.10’ of which only a photo remains. The original exhibit contained pictures from other members of the group Malevich was working with at the time although the recreation focused solely on his work. As in the original exhibit the Black Square is positioned in the corner high up. This is the position of an icon in Orthodox homes which has imagesbeen suggested emphasising the ‘spiritual qualities’ of the painting or that it might have been a ‘provocative blasphemy’. He went on to paint other Suprematist works but  returned to figurative painting although the influence of the abstraction and Suprematism were still obvious in them as can be seen in the painting.

images-2The title for this piece comes from a musical reference as so many do. It is from the Brazilian group CSS and is the title of one of their songs. I saw them play at the venue around the corner  and they were very good live. If you get the chance to see them then do.

Top of the pubs in Leeds


I’ve spent the summer in Leeds teaching English for Academic Purposes to students from around the world. As well as seeing the Tour de France in it’s Yorkshire incarnation, as I wrote about earlier, I have had the opportunity to do a number of things. During this time I have been working though and this week we have been working particularly on a project related to supermarkets. Students have a question related to it, we give them information, they find information and then give a presentation on the matter with their take on the answer to the question. They then get assessed on their presentation which accounts for some percentage of their marks for the course.

2014-09-05 11.34.27Friday, as last year, myself and another teacher took the students to the local Morrisons.(Pictured left) Not, as they had done so often, as consumers buying, but to analyse the way the shop worked. Afterwards for feedback we went to a local pub. Quite often, after shopping at the same supermarket, as it is my closest I too have gone to the same pub for a rest before heading back up the hill with my gatherings. It turned out that a number of the students had not been to a pub in England before, so it was useful for that. Whilst there one student  asked me what was my favourite pub in Leeds and, not having thought about it before, I answered the Whitelock’s Ale House. Now that I have had time to think  about it my answer would have been different, so here are my top three and a highly commended.

P11301721.  Brewery Tap. It’s not a traditional pub having only been open four years. Inside the decor is very wood, it sells a range of always good beers and the staff are always friendly and helpful without being invasive. It has an upstairs and roof-garden (Pictured right) and when there at the weekend to research this piece it was nice to go outside, in between the showers. P1130170There is a mixture of regular clientelle and, being close to the station, people newly arrived in Leeds or groups of friends meeting up after arriving in Leeds separately. I was able to drown my sorrows with a fellow blue after City’s defeat against Stoke. It is a comfortable place to go for a drink whether with friends or on your own.

P11301642. Whitelcok’s Ale House. I found this pub last year. There are a number of pubs like this where the street they were built upon no longer exists apart from the alley giving access to them from either the main shopping street, Briggate or another street. In this case it is almost hidden away by the back entrance to Marks and Spencer (Pictured left). P1130173When you go down the alley you turn left then right and you come out into Turk’s Head Yard and there it is , facing the back of shops. It means there is a nice area to sit outside in the summer and not raining. It too does good beer and food and well worth taking time out from shopping to visit.

P11301743. The Pack Horse. As one of two pubs that are close enough to be my local it’s not one I visit a lot. It was towards the end of my first contract in Leeds that I discovered this real old boozer. The beer is good and it has a great jukebox. As I am in Leeds outside term time I have not experienced it when the students are around I should imagine it is full with them as it is across the road from the University.

P1130163Honourable mention. The New Conservatory. Describes itself as a Cafe-bar which gives a clue that it is not really a boozer but a place where you can go for a coffee, something to drink or some food. In a basement on different levels including an area made out like a library and another with a pool table, it has a nice atmosphere as a place you can meet someone. I hadn’t visited it until I had a visit this summer from JTO, who found it and it seemed to quickly become a favourite of hers.

%d bloggers like this: