Manganelli Sculptures in Pisa Airport

I was in Italy last week, just relaxing with friends fairly off the beaten track. The only art I expected to see was my own painting (and I’m not sure you can call that!). But, what do you know, in Italy you encounter art as soon as you leave the arrivals hall.

Heading for the train connection I’d noticed these grey marble hippos, but didn’t have much time for anything more than a quick glance:

Image A week later, back in Pisa airport and on the way to departures, I noticed that these two hippos weren’t on their own. So I took advantage of the wait after check-in to wander around the airport hunting for more sculptures.

Outside were cool grey marble sculptures grouped into dolphins, crocodiles, hippos and a huge whale, all rising out of the grass as if in a swamp or jungle.

Not too surprising, then to find out that these statues, by Giovanni Maria Manganelli, are called “Jungle”.

Around the airport were another two sculptures (that I could find anyway), both depicting the human form in very different ways.

Psiche, a bronze sculpted in 1994, waited for us at the end of the train platform.

 Dark and glowering, and set in the shadows of a low roof , she looked lost and desperate.

By contrast Tuffatrice (1994, grey marble) in the check-in area, was light, flowing and graceful as she spun into a dive she would never complete.

There are lots more examples of Manganelli’s work on his website. Many are based on blocks to make it seem -very effectively- as if the subject is emerging from water. And those that aren’tstill  have a wonderful fluidity about them, as if the sculpture has been poured into existence from some thick, viscous fluid.

It seems you can’t escape art in Italy. But, what a great way to say ciao to Tuscany!

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National Flash Fiction Day in Manchester

On Wednesday it’s the first ever National Flash Fiction Day, and Manchester will be joining in with a celebration of short fiction across the City. With the help of Arts Council funding, four #flashtag writers will descend upon several of the City’s cultural institutions to promote and perform short fiction. And anyone can watch it for free.

I’ll be trying to catch them at the People’s History Museum, but they’re appearing at 26 other venues and public spaces, including the Royal Exchange Theatre, Waterstones in the Arndale Centre. City Library and Eighth Day vegetarian cafe.

#flashtag will be posting times and venues for their flash fiction performances on the flashtag blog, and you can also follow them around Manchester on twitter: @flashtagmcr

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Speaking as a keeper of four cheeky chickens, this is great. Fun, quirky and inventive.

Paprique Island

A chicken sculpture made entirely by egg shells by British designer Kyle Bean.

Kyle Bean is a designer specialising in hand crafted models, set design and art direction. Since graduating in 2009, Kyle has worked for a variety of international clients for a diverse range of projects including installations, window displays, editorial illustration and advertising. Kyle’s work has been recognised by the prestigious Art Directors Club in New York and the International Design Biennial held throughout Europe. His work has been featured in a range of international art and design publications, praising him for both his conceptual thinking and craftsmanship. Kyle splits his time between working from his studio by the sea in Brighton and London where he often collaborates with photographers and directors. Kyle is represented by Blinkart.


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Joan Miro: Celebrating the ordinary at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is currently holding the first major UK survey of sculpture by Joan Miró (1893-1983), the iconic Catalan artist, perhaps better known for his paintings than his sculpture.

Showing in the Underground Gallery and the surrounding gardens the exhibition provides an extensive chronology of his sculptures, alongside some of his instantly-recognisable paintings.

Yesterday, with Blog North colleagues, I had the pleasure of viewing the exhibition for the second time. The first time, I left with simple but powerful impressions of the works I had seen – some were curved, smooth, sensuous and bold; others more intricate with forms made of seemingly random objects like shoes, lampstands and dolls arms.

This time around I had chance to look at some sculptures in more depth, and discover how they were created. Miro was a scavenger extraordinaire. As his friend Jacques Dupin said

It all begins with an unprecedented harvesting. Miro slips out of his studio like a shadow and comes back laden down like a pack-horse. Laden with all sorts of things – valueless, obsolete, but capable in his eyes of unexpected associations and metamorphoses. With everything that man or nature has abandoned, forgotten, rejected…

The inspiration for this sculpture Personnage (1970) was an almond atop a pebble. Starting from these two simple items, he scaled up the work several times, adding features to make it look more like a figure.

In Personnage Gothique, Oiseau Eclair (1976) he scaled up a donkey’s yoke typical in Majorca where he then lived with a hat box on top to create this colossus bestriding the YSP.

As Jacques Dupin says

This is the raw material he delights in, this refuse which is nothing, almost nothing, nothing yet. And everything will take place between the ‘almost nothing’ and ‘nothing yet.

If you’re as intrigued as I was by the objects that inspired his sculptures and the processes he used to make them, the final gallery contains some of the original “raw material” as well as films about his work.

This is an exhibition that demands and repays multiple visits, not just to spend more time with the sculptures themselves but also to see how the sculptures interact with the seasonally-changing landscape of the YSP.

The Joan Miro exhibition continues at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park Wakefield, until 6 January 2013.

Quotes from Jacques Dupin ‘Miro as Sculptor’ first published in French in Joan Miro Das Plastiche Werk, Zurich Kunsthaus 1972. Joan Miró, Personnage Gothique, Oiseau Eclair, 1976 © Successió Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012. Photo Jonty Wilde. Joan Miró, Personnage Gothique, Oiseau Eclair, 1976 © Successió Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012. Photo Jonty Wilde

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This is a stunning, sensuous sculpture made of wood and wire, I need to find out more about Olga Ziemska.

Back in 2003, this beautiful figure created by artist Olga Ziemska, using locally reclaimed willow branches and wire, was shown at Chapel Gallery, Centre of Polish Sculpture, Oronsko, Poland.

For more sculpture of the environmental kind from Olga Ziemska visit her website by clicking on the images.

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Reading your writing

Tonight I’m doing my first poetry reading. Not on my own, thank goodness, but with a group of fellow writers from Poetica in Manchester at Manchester Museum.

Being a novice it has been interesting trying to select which three poems to read out. Some which look and read well on the page prove hard to read out and I stumble over words. Others rely on word play that doesn’t come across when spoken.

When I attend readings the poems that stay make an impact are those that, while cleverly written, are easy to grasp or understand just from listening. I don’t mean that the writing needs to be simplistic, more that the idea or feeling conveyed by the poem needs to strike a chord in heart or head. So, it’s quite possible to hear a poem in a foreign language, and, through the choice of words, rhythm and form the poet uses, recognise what that poem had to say.

Striding around my room reciting my poems, some obvious candidates for the reading stood out. Two out of the three use strong, driving rhythms , alongside rhyming schemes and a bit of assonance for good luck. The third is a prose poem.

All I have to worry about now is not racing through them at break neck speed, or letting my nerves show in the quivering pieces of paper I’m holding!

Wish me luck!

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Funding the arts – what is it worth?

Yesterday was Shakespeare’s Birthday. And, fittingly, it was the launch day for the World Shakespeare Festival – a celebration of Shakespeare as the world’s playwright.

But not everyone in the arts is celebrating. A group of actors, playwrights and others from the arts community used the anniversary to criticise the Royal Shakespeare Company’s decision to accept corporate sponsorship from BP.

In a letter to the Guardian they argue that “what should be an unabashed celebration of Shakespeare’s continued relevance to our world has been sullied by the fact that the festival is sponsored by BP”.

Protest group the ‘Reclaim Shakespeare Company’ agrees. The night before Shakespeare’s birthday they surprised audience and actors alike by taking the stage just before the RSC’s performance of The Tempest to challenge their decision to accept sponsorship from BP.

So, why the concern? Groups point to the devastation to ecosystems and communities caused by the Deepwater Horizon Spill, and BP’s controversial extraction of tar sands oil.

This isn’t the first protest about BP’s sponsorship of the arts. After the Gulf of Mexico spill various groups protested at the Tate and the National Portrait Gallery about their acceptance of BP money.

But, with funding for the arts severely cut by the Government, and corporate sponsorship being in short supply, can arts organisations really afford to be picky about where the money comes from? Can beggars afford to be choosers?

Yes, say Reclaim Shakespeare Company. They point to the time when sponsorship by tobacco companies became socially unacceptable. The arts managed then, and would manage again if they walked away from sponsorship by big oil.

The question is though, where do you draw the line? I don’t like that fact that BP, with its track record, is a ‘sustainability partner’ for the London 2012 Olympics. In fact I think it’s a joke. But what sort of money is acceptable? The only companies with money to spend on arts sponsorships tend to be big international corporations. But to get to this size and have this disposable income they’ve typically put profits and shareholders first at the expense of health, employees, the environment etc.

Should we be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy the arts, and try and ignore where the money comes from? Or should we boycott the arts paid for by organisations we dislike? I can’t pretend to have the answer. What I do know is the question isn’t going to go away any time soon.


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