Almost two weeks into the new year and so far so good! I’ve managed to stick to most of my resolutions – which is a bit of a first for me!
Mainly I’ve been trying to alter my body clock and get into a routine of sleeping when everyone else does (i.e. during the night) rather than staying up, working through the small hours and then missing the best part of a day by not rising before 11.00. So far so good but it’s not been easy – my body doesn’t like it at all! But with the daylight hours being so short at the moment, it certainly makes more sense to try to make the most of them.
The way I’ve tackled this is by forcing myself to get up and out early, then walking for miles and not returning home till I’m physically exhausted and ready to drop. Of course this means I’ve not been painting in the studio much but I have made a point of walking to some of the exhibitions that are currently on show. So I feel all is not lost art wise, improving one’s knowledge is equally important – and discovering and exploring new streets and areas of London has been a real bonus too.
Somerset House, located off The Strand on the river embankment, is currently hosting the Valentino, Master of Couture Exhibition ‘The Catwalk’:
A wonderful collection of over 138+ exquisite gowns, displayed on mannequins seated either side of a long catwalk, each bearing colour-coded discs in order to trace the development of the life and work of the legendary Italian designer through the decades. From the late 1950’s (mint), through the ’60’s (mustard), ’70’s (smoke), ’80’s (terracotta), ’90’s (parma violet), ’00’s (cream) and 2010’s (ice) until his company closed it’s doors, his collections, made almost exclusively for a client list of the rich and famous (including such great beauties and fashion icons as Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana) were stunningly beautiful examples of the very finest craftsmanship. The fabrics used had equally enticing names (crepe Georgette, black shantung silk, pink degrade chiffon, gazar, faille, organza and tulle) and embellishments included peacock feathers, snake-skin, strass, jet beads, lace and soutache embroidery. The highlight for me was the video display showing many of the highly skilled and delicate hand techniques employed in his atelier. Techniques such as ‘Volant a Conti’ (lengths of organza cut on the bias and laid vertically to form a volant) ‘Tappetto Di Ruches’ (strips of tulle sewn to a base fabric to create a flat surface of tightly packed ruffles) and ‘Rose de Volante’ (lengths of organza silk, cut on the bias and shaped to form open roses fabrics and, unique to the Valentino atelier, ‘Pagine’ (disks of organza piled to create a page effect). They were simply mesmerising to watch! The star of the show, standing hauntingly alone on a dais in a beautifully lit hall, was an exquisite satin wedding dress, complete with long train and veil and hand embellished with seed pearls and lace. Valentino was indeed a master of his craft and his passion for his art – and the beautiful women he dressed – was evident in each of his exquisite creations.
My next outing took me across Hyde Park to Piccadilly and the Royal Academy, where the latest show compares the early works of Constable, Gainsborough and Turner in the context of the rise and development of the ‘English Landscape’ school of painting.
I have to say I was slightly disappointed in that the bulk of the show consisted not so much of the paintings of the great masters, as I’d hoped:
‘Romantic Landscape’ circa 1783 by Thomas Gainsborough RA
‘Durham Cathedral’ 1798-99 by J.W.M.Turner RA
but rather of prints and lithographs, many by lesser known artists ‘in the style of ‘ ….which, informative and important as they undoubtedly are, did little to excite me. One exception however was the work of Michel Angelo Rooker – an artist previously unknown to me. His delicate and beautifully rendered watercolours were quite remarkable – and more than made the trip worthwhile:
and the second, a moving contemporary memorial by Carmody Groarke and Arup, to the innocent victims who so tragically lost their lives in the London Underground terrorist bombings of 7th July 2005: