On art.

I am a keen looker at art: not, I think, a connoisseur, nor an ignoramus. Definitely not a practitioner. I am keen on the British tradition in art, and perhaps especially the development of a civilised Modernism (as opposed to dogmatic Modernism).

Cribsheet: Relativism vs Expertise

This is a longish (1,700 word) cribsheet on how one can judge gardens – and fashion, art and much else - almost objectively. It aims to counter the relativism and populism of the argument which suggests that all opinions are subjective and thus purely a matter of personal taste. Read more...

Published

26 May 2019

“Palais de Justice” (2017)

I very much enjoyed Carey Young's video installation at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne. (It closes 2 June 2019 but I imagine it will be screened elsewhere.) I know that I wanted to see the thing as soon as I saw the publicity still of a fair-haired, I would say careworn, woman, a judge I presume, returning the camera's stare. I am a little foxed and therefore intrigued as to what, in the event, it achieved for me. Read more...

Published

19 May 2019

Stanley North’s 1924 London & World maps

In 1924, Stanley Kennedy North drew two maps, one for the Thomas Cook tourist business and the other a London transport map for the 1924 British Empire Exhibition (the one featured in The King's Speech).

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Published

23 January 2019

Jews and design in post-war Britain

The Jewish Museum in Camden Town, London, has put on a revelatory exhibit: Designs on Britain. It’s about the works of Jewish émigré designers who escaped Hitler’s Reich to settle here. Their images and inventions contributed to the upbeat, the witty, the bright - and also sometimes the edgy -  in the day-to-day experience of British people. By the way, the show does not feature the most famous Jewish designer of the period: Abram Games was born in the UK (and has had his own one-man show at the Museum). Hardly anyone, I think, realised or realise just how many Jewish people produced the designs which populated our lives back then. Because I can find no one-stop online bringing-together of this story, here's my rather casuual and amateur attempt... Read more...

Published

14 December 2017

Polite Modernism: Eric Parry & the Other Tradition

What Colin St John Wilson called "The Architecture of Invitation" or "The Other Tradition", I call "Polite Modernism". Its finest living exponent is Eric Parry, who is firmly in the CSJW tradition, both academic and creative. And now he has delivered what looks like an excellent successor to CSJW's British Library, and Denys Lasdun's Royal College of Physicians. Actually, his headquarters for the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers has a decent claim to be the ultimate in the genre so far. After the fold, there's an account of what Polite Modernism is, and how it fits into Brutalism and Modernism, and even post-modernism. Read more...

Published

28 June 2017

Mr Turner’s inaccuracies

Mike Leigh's film of Turner's later years is almost always lovely, occasionally very touching,  and often instructive. But some of its assumptions and presumptions are amazingly and even ruinously impertinent...... Read more...

Published

17 January 2015

War and art on BBC R4’s BH

I had an outing on this Sunday morning show as a paper reviewer (and squibbist on Strictly Come Dancing) and said one thing which may have seemed distasteful. Can I try to put things right here, below the fold? Read more...

Published

02 November 2014

Stanley North’s glass portrait of Vera Bax

Before he married his second wife HelenKennedy, and adopted her name, my grandfather Stanley married Vera Rawnsley, and they produced my father, Paul. She later married, first, Filson Young, and, second, Clifford Bax.

Here is Staney’s stained glass portrait of a young woman, by family tradition, his wife Vera.

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Published

20 October 2014
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