The reason I was in the Netherlands - specifically 's-Hertogenbosch - was for the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of almost every work painted by Hieronymous Bosch - plus a good number by his followers - held at Het Noordbrabants Museum. I've loved Bosch's work since I saw the "Temptation of St. Anthony" tryptich in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon. (Then, I was more taken with the rarely-seen 'black and white' painting on the reverse.) The painting transfixed me for several hours and I read all about Bosch, his atelier and his work when I returned home. I think it would be fair to say that my fascination with chimæra and a kind of twisted mediaevalism, with armour and strange machinery comes from an early love of Bosch.
When I read that the exhibition was coming up, I booked a visit immediately. The exhibition is, alas! like so many "blockbusters", too busy and suffers from the fact that although often very large in scale, these paintings are essentially intimate. Very intimate. Any though of spending several hours studying a painting were dashed by endless pushy French tourists - funny how they, like annoying British tourists, assume you don't speak their language and how genuinely shocked they look when you respond to their rude comments - and the general press of people, most of whom were whizzing round at speed. I genuinely felt for the small lady in a wheelchair who was mostly bumped-into and ignored and who couldn't possibly have seen much of the tops of the paintings. Having said all that, "blockbusters" are what they are and I doubt if there will ever be a chance to see so many of these paintings in one show again.
Of especial interest in the exhibition is a short video showing the restoration of some of the paintings and throughout there are well-produced video displays - some short films, some analytical, some displays of hard-to-see details. Unfortunately, a couple of the most famous paintings are not shown - his "Garden of Earthly Delights" in particular.
The show is well-organised, with the galleries being divided up into themed areas, an idea which works really well and one of the highlights for me was seeing his masterful doodles for ideas which then appear in the paintings.
The image above is part of the general festival surrounding the show, in which the town of 's-Hertogenbosch has laid on a series of events - music, drama, sculpture, etc. - derived from Bosch's work. In this piece, the creatures from "The Garden of Earthly Delights" have escaped into the town and have to be found...
The town itself is worth a visit and the mediaeval Sint-Janskathedraal is fascinating.
I spent the night in Amsterdam in the Citizen M hotel in Schipol, a new 'budget' hotel which has looked to boutique hotels as their model and with great success. Everything about this place is right, from the incredibly pleasant staff - plainly proud to work there and to be able to help, no smarminess or disinterest as one often encounters - to the free wi-fi, the good-quality dinner and breakfast menus and the quiet, comfortable rooms.
It is also really encouraging to see that the bar features artworks by local artists (available to buy) and I loved the fact that the foyer is full of art-books which you can borrow and take to your room. I wish all budget hotels could be like this!
On Sunday, I had booked a late flight to allow me to have a day in Amsterdam, Although I know Amsterdam well and have subconsciously noticed this previously, I spent all day marvelling at the detailing on a very curious kind of "muscular" arts-and-crafts meets art-deco architecture which is everywhere in the city.
The weather was fantastic and I came home with a bit of a tan!
Back to work and all the students have returned from their holiday, straight back into making again. First thing I saw was work on this marvellous hat/jewel creation!
A sad week, however, as one of our wonderful colleagues is retiring. Gay Penfold - who, along with Frank Cooper, set up the Jewellery Innovations Centre within the School - was known by just about everyone in the jewellery industry, both here and abroad. She was one of the people I always thought about whenever anyone mentioned "School of Jewellery" (before I worked here, that is): I doubt anyone who has met Gay could ever forget her. In addition to the JIIC, she was also responsible for developing the world-famous Summer Schools programme here.
Gay is moving back to her home-town of Sheffield and she will be missed by everyone in the School and in the Jewellery Quarter.
I've discovered a new maker on Etsy, James from "Digipod" who carves local gemstones and hardstones into highly original objects. I bought a piece of Wyoming Jade and a piece of Texan Agate:
Somehow, these organic, almost insectan pieces relate strongly to the Bosch exhibition and I made some scribbles after the show in the hotel for a Bosch-inspired teapot using a cheap hotel teapot I found on the beach in Hastings, so I can see these being used in that...
London this weekend for a couple of things: first of all to meet up with the excellent Henry at SirPlus. As you know, I've written of SirPlus before: their superb clothing all made from surplus fabric left over from the 'rag trade' and I own about ten of their waistcoats. I wanted to ask Henry if he could use a specific piece of scrap fabric for me and so sought him out at the Portobello Road market:
It was good to meet up and finally have a chat - as I've been promising for about a year now. I am sad to relate that after I had left, one of my favourites, Richard E. Grant rolled up to buy a waistcoat!
Absolutely thrilled 2 find a Union Jack waistcoat at https://t.co/2yAtGRk5Ti on Portobello Road today!Rule Brittania pic.twitter.com/gUgwHnfMFs— Richard E. Grant (@RichardEGrant) April 16, 2016
The main reason for being in London was to collect my "Mr Fox" suit from The Earl of Bedlam. This suit is, frankly, incredible.
Mark, on the left, was like an excitable puppy when I put it on and with good reason. He said that he had been wanting to make a drape jacket for a long time and so when I proposed it - I, too, have wanted one for a long time, dating right back to a late 1980s Vivienne Westwood show that I saw featuring Neo-Edwardian styles - the project proceeded with enthusiasm from all concerned, me, Mark and Caroline, and Agnieszka Maksymiuk who made the buttons.
The reason I say that the suit is incredible is the technical detailing in it. The back is an actual work of art...
A bit of research showed that the original Neo-Edwardian or "Teddy Boy" suit had a one-piece, flat back. I definitely did not want this and Caroline suggested a "'cello back", which I have been rather fond of since I spotted Richard Serra wearing a suit cut this way. It is a feat of complex cutting and stitching to create such a perfect back from four curved panels!
Another masterful suit!
Finally, before I came home, I set off to see my colleague Jo Pond's solo show 'in.ti.mate' at Contemporary Applied Arts in Southwark.
Jo and I work with similar materials but with very different outcomes and her pieces in found, recycled steel, especially printed and painted containers and tins, have a delicacy and poetry with an underlying toughness and vigour. I really enjoy this tension.
The show closes in about a week. If you're in London be sure to have a look. Also featured in the superb gallery are all the "superstars" of British Jewellery, such as Jacqueline Mina, Alan Craxford, Joel Degen and loads more.