Hey…I’m in Zurich! I have spent the entire afternoon in Wash Heaven. Which is a very specialisty way of saying I have been looking at some of my favourite drawings by Johann Heinrich Füssli – subject of my thesis. Wash refers to the use of mainly monochrome watercolour. This is a wash drawing:
J.H. Füssli. Achilles Sacrifices his Hair by the Pyre of Patroklos. From The Iliad. 1800-05. Zürich, Kunsthaus.
I didn’t see this one today, but I will one of the coming days. How great is that?!
And besides – I’m having cake. Of course. In a heavenly place called Cakefriends. I will be their cake friend, no problem – I feel like a part of the family already.
I have been busy! Hence my long silence on this blog. But as recent additions to our flickr account show the last week has been full of good stuff.
Wednesday night Marie and I tempted the deluge and drove to the museum of modern art, Louisiana, North of Copenhagen to see works by the Queen of Staged Photos, Cindy Sherman. And what a great time we had! The exhibition was very large and included photos and videos from all of Sherman’s carrier. Most of them with a humorous edge, some of them disgusting and some of them combining those two strains. Besides from her recent clown portraits (sju jætter?) I think this exhibition showed what an extremely skilled artist Cindy Sherman is. Not only are her photographs technically amazing they also capture the spirit of an age and of the person (herself in disguise) she portrays. Marie and I stopped by every piece and talked and talked about them. Nothing was of little importance or dull. I think she is fantastic.
As a curator to be I think the exhibition was very serene and nice and with a good selection of works. Some of the wall colours were odd but when it comes to hanging I think they did a good job. Look at this wall for example where Sherman’s Old Master photos have been arranged in a traditional hanging a’la Parisian Salon. Just the right thing to do if you ask me.
I am completely taken by these. Sort of an acting out of a make-a-match memory game for art historians.
On Thursday I went with my family to Sweden to do some more painting in the vicarage my parents bought. We spent a whole four days there working hard. Here are some pictures.
This is the dining room with me and my sister painting with grey (and me trying to make a straight line). Ever since entering a grey room in some friends’ house I have wished for some room of my own in grey. I think it is enchanting and with old furniture it just makes perfect sense.
After the dining room we painted the neighbouring living room. Yellow. A very difficult colour but beautiful together with grey and with the big white porcelain stove in the corner it looks great. Here again my sister and I painting.
Of course we weren’t alone – far from it. My brother, dad, uncle and brother-in-law made a great effort too as did my aunt and mom. This is my brother with his protective glasses. The staining annoyed him a good deal and when this wonderful pair turned up he just has to use them.
When not painting we went on trips in the wonderful area, Österlen which is the Easternmost part of Scania (Skåne to the locals). They live on apples in this part of the country so at this time of year Österlen is one big blooming apple garden.
Actually scenes from the Cherry Valley (apples…cherries…) in the adaptation of Astrid Lindgren’s The Brothers Lionheart were shot here and when driving through the scenery it is breathtaking.
The apples are used for cider and apple juice…and cakes.
Besides from apple trees there are fields, woods and steep hills. And a waterfall just five minutes from where we are.
We left Sweden on Sunday and on Monday it was my birthday. And look at all the great stuff I got from my wonderful family:
I have to admit I am ridiculously fond of presents and this year was perfect. I got what I wished for and I got what I had wished for but had forgotten again. Besides I had some more cake and a wonderful dinner with same wonderful family which just made the day perfect.
What a week!
Last week I passed a couple of days in Berlin with my sister. The afternoon before our evening flight home we met this lady:
In that bowl she had some steaming hot chocolate and she asked us to come with her. And as all the children of Hamelin followed the Pied Piper we followed her.
She led us to Fassbender & Rausch, the most wonderful chocolate house. They have a Pralinentheke (OMG!)where I bought a marzipan potato and some delicious truffles.
But the lady kept calling and she guided us to an elevator which took us one flight up to the Schokoladencafé. She seated us and served a cup of the most wonderful hot chocolate I have ever tasted together with this red currant dream:
Here you see me paying homage to the cake while I leave the chocolate for a short moment:
Not only we had been led there. All sorts of people were there, including children served by child waiters who looked to content their every chocolate desire:
I think perhaps this could be a slightly grown Stewie who teaches a child colleague how to drink.
Fassbender & Rausch have my warmest recommendations. Do not neglect it the next time you visit Berlin. And you know what? They had other cakes than the pink one. Which means I will have to go there again!
As earlier mentioned my parents bought an old vicarage in Southern Sweden from whence I have returned after having spent some days of my Easter vacation painting the kitchen, eating Swedish meatballs and trying not to laugh too hard at the local dialect (since they were very nice people). The kitchen was very 70s in all its orange-brownness but is after our intervention very light and bright and nice.
The vicarage belonged to my father’s aunt and uncle. Auntie lies buried in the cemetery just up the hill and uncle lives in Gothenburg and wanted to sell this much too big summer house. None of them were ever vicars but Sweden seems to have too many churches and vicarages to fill them all with vicars, so they were able to buy this house 18 years ago. And now my parents have it.
It’s a wonderful and very large house still filled with aunt and uncle’s stuff. And with dead mice (fortunately dead…). Some of them long, long gone like this one my dad found in a cupboard when cleaning the kitchen:
Maggots seem to like everything but bone and excrement… at least that was all they left.
But still – a beautiful place, not least because of the amazing scenery just outside the window. The vicarage is situated in the Eastern part of the province Skåne (Scania) where the landscape is quite rugged and hilly with a mix of forest and pasture and known for its apple groves. It is not very populated and the village of Andrarum where we are consists in something like five houses plus the church. Just down the road is the beautiful manor house Christinehof.
This is the church seen from our backyard.
Every day a flock of sheep came jumping round the hill to graze in front of the house. Very Easter-like with a lot of lambs. They made quite some noise and we had a lot of fun screaming “maaah” back at them while painting. Simple pleasures in the countryside that comes from not having internet access 😉
Easter is almost here and I will be in Sweden for some days painting walls in an old vicarage my parents just bought. I think it will be great, and with some beautiful weather coming up I expect it will be all spring-time-yay!
So happy Easter to you all – eat lots of chocolate eggs!
My friend Miriam gave me this red eyed bunny. I have always dreamt about such a wind-up bunny. How did you know, Miriam? I’m flabbergasted – and so is the cat!
Paris! Today I went to Paris in order to attend a conference on opera celebrating the 400th anniversary of the art form. You can see more about that here.
But the conference doesn’t begin until tomorrow so having arrived a day early I decided to walk my feet to bleeding stumps in pursuit of the visual arts.
First I went to l’Orangerie, that I hadn’t seen for years since it has been closed for refurbishing. With my magic wonder card (also known as the ICOM card) provided by my workplace I jumped an enormous queue and got in for free. Love that card. Love it.
First I went to see the famous Nymphéas by Monet and they were beautiful, of course, but not something that really excites me. However the rooms have the best karma and if it wasn’t because I was busy walking my feet to bleeding stumps I could have just stayed there for hours writing postcards, looking at the Japanese, and relaxing. But on I went to the see the rest of the Guillaume-Walter collection which included some very nice Derain’s (masterpieces they don’t want to lend out, grrr…), a lot of juicy Renoirs that made me remember an old professor of mine who kept referring to him as the porcelain painter – sure thing. I guess you could say the rest of the collection was everything in between Renoir and Derain (such as more Monet, Cézanne, Picasso etc.). Plus a dolls house reconstruction of one of Paul Guillaume’s homes with the collection on the walls. Very cute and instructive.
I really liked that place. Small and top quality. Hereby recommended.
Then I walked through the Tuilleries towards the Louvre having a sandwich in the park on my way. The weather was wonderful. Arriving at the Louvre I kept the magic card at the ready, but to no use. The ticket sellers were on strike. They seemed to be there all of them, just not working. Something about salaries. So I just walked in like the rest of the hordes.
Being there not working…
Since I have done this museum thoroughly on several occasions I felt quite relaxed and just strolled around. The rooms weren’t too crowded so no fuss. Said hello to Monna Lisa and her Italian friends and colleagues, went for a tea and a lemon meringue pie (pie!) and added the large French canvasses to my list (Géricault, Delacroix, David, Ingres – love those guys).
There are several ways of coping with tired feet. This couple kept it simple and…slept.
Then I walked to the opposite wing to see my favourite room: Rubens’s large celebration of Marie de Médicis, queen of France.
I find the paintings so amusing, starting with the Fates spinning the golden thread of Marie’s life supervised by Jove himself, moving on to her education with teachers such as Minerva, Mercury, the three Graces and Orfeus, etc.etc. throughout her glorious life. It ends with some kind of apotheosis where she and her son reconcile on earth as well as in heaven. I just love it – that lady knew how to promote herself. Besides, the room in which the works hang is beautiful.
After having shopped a little bit I walked to Centre Pompidou to get some dinner and see their new hanging of the first half of the 20th Century.
Centre Pompidou by night. The projection onto the square is by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. Like her a lot.
The restaurant was nice (even though the waiters were way too posh for the customers – not only me!) and the view was magnificent. These pictures were taken from one of the tubes on the facade and the view from the restaurant was the same just without the blue lights.
The new hanging of the modern collection was nice so I was happy to have included it.
Three museums in one day…too much? Of course! But then again – life is short and we can sleep when we get old. Right? Right.
Yay! I have bought a new camera. Just like the old beloved one, but the digital version. Life is gooood. Like pie.
The camera moved into my home…and the cat moved into the camera’s home, so everyone is happy.
Sorry for my long silence, but I am busy with this lady:
I took this photograph (with my old camera) last month in Ferrara, Italy. Our Woman in a Chemise was all over town, and it was very charming to see that the Ferraresi not only liked her but also appropriated her. That must be the ultimate success.
The last couple of days I have been arranging dummies in the Derain exhibition. Which means I have been moving around large pieces of paper the size of each painting in order to see exactly how the paintings should hang on the walls. So we have moved from our doll’s house (the model of the rooms with tiny reproductions of the paintings) to the real life galleries. Next stop – the real paintings! Life is good.
Traffic is mad in Rome…
Aimlessly looking through old documents on my laptop tonight I found some diary records from my time in Rome in 2002. I lived there from January to July while studying at one of Rome’s universities.
I found one note I liked a lot.
This is where our adventure takes place.
5th of February 2002.
Slept late. Then I went to Palazzo Venezia to go to the library. I found it, deposited my passport for the key to the locker where I left my bag. Then I entered my name in a large register. The library is a confusion of oddly shaped and sized rooms with open bookshelves in three storeys. Apparently the books aren’t ordered by any particular system other than an arbitrary number which you will have to find in order to locate the volume you are looking for. No such thing as an order by topic or author. There is a database, but it only contains books that have entered after 1998, but that goes not only for books written after 1998 but could go for any book. 1998 was when the base was established. All other books are on index cards. So you cannot just look for a pre-1998 book in the index. It could just as well be in the ever growing database – remember – no system.
When you have found your title you have to find out which of innumerable numbers on the card is the collocation number. And then you have to find the room containing books with the initial of the collocation number, and then on which storey that initial is located. Then you should look for the staircase, well hidden among the shelves. And then – there is the book!
First victory of the day – I have deciphered the code and found the book I was looking for.
Next book. The code is different. I search on cards and walk through all rooms – no such collocation number. The librarian is busy but a lady in the queue tells me that I should look in the author index. There I find the same collocation number. Back at the librarian I am told that the book is in another department on the other side of the entrance. I am not allowed to bring the victory book over there, so I put it on a special shelf and leave for the other department. Which is closed for lunch until 14.30. My watch tells me it is now 13.45. I give up and ask the librarian where I can check out the book I have found. She points to a dusty corner in the farthest room. Hidden between two bookcases I find a small counter. It will open after two o’clock so I wait. At two a balding employee with three ears turns up. Triumphantly she tells me that to borrow books I must show documentation from the university, two passport photos and some sort of ID. So I produce my student’s card, two passport photos and leave her momentarily to collect my passport at the entrance. The three-eared employee is clearly disappointed but reluctantly makes me a library ticket.
Second victory of the day.
Books are lent for a week and renewals are only made by personal address and for a maximum of a month. I was lucky I didn’ t want to borrow more than two books since that is all you can borrow at a time and I was also lucky to be there today since books are only checked out on two weekdays.
Third victory of the day: I present my receipt to the guard, hand in the key to the locker and exit radiant with joy to Piazza Venezia with the book in my arms. I smile all the way to the Danish Academy.
I guess all libraries have to be deciphered when you first enter them. But this library was the most reluctant I have ever been in. It was situated in the rooms whence Mussolini held his speeches to the Roman people, so maybe that explains the bad karma. I liked it though. So completely disorderly and so overly filled with books that any book lover would have given in immediately. It was also crowded with students, so crowded that my few attempts at studying there were complete failures. I did have a key to the Danish Academy and their library where I was allowed to study. But as soon as summer approached the heat made it impossible to stay there. Rome didn’t have enough places for students to read so my hunt for a desk and some quiet led me to different libraries and academies (the American Academy was quite nice but they only let me in once). I even studied in the cast collection of the university surrounded by other desperate students and hordes of plaster copies of ancient statues.
Today I went to the Danish Royal Library. How nice it is to sit in the Harry Potter-like reading room with the eleven books you have just checked out and plenty of peace, time and space for your perusal.
Surely nothing as exotic as three-eared employees and Fascist atmosphere but quite, quite comfortable.
By the way… you may ask why I had two passport photos ready for the bitter employee. Well… when in Italy you should always carry lots of passport photos and copies of you passport if you have a wish to engage with any sort of authority or offical place (be it libraries, national registers, university canteens). You never know when you are going to need them, you only know that you will need them at some point.
Here is another staged photo already! Again we are trying to capture the essence of the opera Tosca.
The roles are reversed here; Marie has left the menacing air that surrounded her in the previous staged photo in favour of a more delicate, feminine expression: She is in this photo portraying a frightened Tosca, complete with wide eyes and a mouth opened to utter a desperate “Aiuto!”, helplessly caught in the arms of brutal Scarpia, portrayed by the shrewd-looking gentleman in the picture, who is peering ominously over the rims of his glasses. “Mia!”, he’s saying.
Photographer Anna has taken care to depict the murky atmosphere of the scene by making sure that the lighting in the picture was appropriately dim.