Selasa, 30 Maret 2010

The Kerala Backwaters are a network of interconnected lakes, rivers, canals and inlets, a labyrinthine system of more than 900km of waterway, sometimes compared to the American Bayou. The Backwaters have a unique eco-system with fresh water from the rivers meeting seawater from the Arabian Sea.

A view from our houseboat

Apart from unique crabs, frogs and mudskippers, other animals such as otters and turtles, cormorants and huge colourful kingfishers live in and alongside the Backwaters. The best thing about the backwaters hoowever is the Kettuvallam, the traditional houseboats that ply all over the Backwaters.

This sideways-on view of a Kettuvallam was taken at midday  on a vast 
lake in a kind of hot 'whiteout', giving this strange bleached light.

Kettuvallam means 'boat with knots', so called because coir ropes tied in knots hold the entire structure together. Not a single nail or screw is used during construction. The hull is made of huge planks of Jack wood and joined with coir. This is then coated with a caustic black resin made from boiled cashew kernels.

 Two other Kettuvallam in front of us on a river 
[on the left a clothed man washing in the river]

The tourist Kettuvallams are modelled on traditional cargo boats that used to navigate these waters, shipping rice and spices (Kerala is the Malabar Spice Coast) between Kuttanad and Cochin port (where we boarded). The modern version maintains the look and structure of the originals, where the crew would cook and sleep on board. It was just the two of us on this huge boat with a crew of three; a steersman, an engineer and our own fantastic chef.

Pauline in the lounge area, before taking to the divan behind the steersman. 

Our chef who cooked wonderful meals for us 
(yes, curry for breakfast as well)

Apart from the lounge which had a dining area, we also had a modern air-conditioned en-suite cabin. 
In the afternoon we disembarked for a while to take a motorised canoe along the small canals that ran through villages. Fascinating and beautiful, but it did feel a little intrusive. I think the villagers get used to it and the kids all wave enthusiastically.

A barge laden with rice coming towards us in a canal

In the evening we moored alongside two other houseboats on an island. While all the crews had a game of football we watched the sun going down over the water and the lights of many fishermen on their canoes appearing. Dinner was two freshly caught prawns the size of crayfish, that we'd bought earlier in the day. We ate by candlelight beneath a starlit sky of tiny lights set into the houseboat's ceiling. The whole experience of the houseboat was magical and the highlight of our trip to India.

A fisherman

Senin, 29 Maret 2010


Urban nightmare or urban beauty? I don't know. But I do find these photographs [not mine] of night-time Tokyo rather compelling, and beautiful:

Minggu, 28 Maret 2010

Imagine Peace Tower

The Imagine Peace Tower (Icelandic: Friðarsúlan, meaning "the peace column") is a memorial to John Lennon from Yoko Ono, located on Viðey Island in Kollafjörður Bay near Reykjavík, Iceland. It consists of a tall "tower of light", projected from a white stone monument that has the words "Imagine Peace" carved into it in 24 languages. These words, and the name of the tower, are a reference to Lennon's peace anthem, Imagine.

An additional panel reads: I dedicate this light tower to John Lennon / my love for you is forever / yoko ono / October 9th 2007.
The Tower consists of 15 searchlights with prisms that act as mirrors, reflecting the column of light vertically into the sky from a 10-metre wide "wishing well". It often reaches cloudbase and indeed can be seen penetrating the cloud cover. On a clear night it appears to reach an altitude of at least 4000m. The power for the lights is provided by Iceland's unique geo-thermal energy grid.

Buried underneath the light tower are upward of 500,000 written wishes that Ono gathered over the years in another project, called "Wish Trees". Ono plans to have the tower lit every year from 9 October, Lennon's birthday, through to 8 December, the date he was shot, but the tower is being lit much more frequently than that, and is lit at the moment.  Iceland was selected for the project because of its beauty and its eco-friendly use of geothermal energy.

Construction of the tower started on 9 October, 2006 when Ono dedicated the location, and it was officially unveiled on the same date in 2007. In attendance with Ono were son Sean Lennon, bandmate Ringo Starr, and Olivia Harrison, widow of George Harrison, and Olivia's son Dhani Harrison. Yoko Ono said on the day of the inauguration that the tower was the best thing that she and John had ever done.

The Icelandic Postal Company released a series of stamps in October 2008 depicting the Imagine Peace Tower. The stamp is printed in a traditional offset format and then overprinted with phosphorus in silk screen which causes the picture to accumulate light and then glow in the dark. When exposed to ultraviolet light, a picture of John Lennon appears on the stamp.

Kamis, 25 Maret 2010


Here are some more of my small Sicilian watercolours:

Caffe Milano, Noto


Teatro Garibaldi, Palermo

Sala da The, Palermo

Trattoria, Palermo

Cathedral, Montechiaro

Selasa, 23 Maret 2010

Caffe Mazzara

While Italy is known for its ice cream - gelati, Sicilians enjoy it a little differently. They often order it scooped into a fresh brioche rather than a cone. Finding a good gelataria is complicated because you have to assess the quality of the brioche as well the gelati on offer. With Caffe Mazzara in the heart of Palermo there are no such issues. This is a classic Sicilian gelataria and caffe. Apart from an outside terrace in a small quiet square, on the ground floor its cool and elegant interior is served by a long glass counter full of goodies.

This caffe is also another of the famous 'writer's cafés' I have mentioned previously. In the mid 1950's Giuseppe di Lampedusa walked every morning from his residence on the coast to either Caffe Caflisch on Viale della Liberta of Caffe Mazzara on Via Magliocco to work on his novel 'Il Gattopardo' - 'The Leopard', perhaps Italy's most famous novel. It chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento. It's a great read.
I rather fancy that the writing took place on the first floor of the caffe where big brown curved wooden benches sit either side of big brown wooden tables, all lined along one wall, a place I would like to sit and write too.
Sadly Lampedusa didn't live to see the overwhelming success of his novel which was published posthumously in 1958. It was rejected by two leading publishing houses before going on to become the top-selling novel in Italian history.

As you can see from this cover the book was also famously made into a film in 1963, directed by Luchino Visconti and starring (oddly but effectively) Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon. Sumptuous and faithful to the book as the film is, it does look a bit stiff and dated now, having watched it again recently on DVD.

Here is a Giclee Print I made as a limited edition featuring a watercolour of the counter in Caffe Mazzara and various Sicilan ephemera I collected all over Sicily, including tickets from a visit to the villa of Lampedusa's cousin and confidente, Lucio Piccolo, a postcard of Lampedusa and his dog Crab, a photo of Crab's grave I found at Villa Piccolo,  a sugar wrapper and a receipt from Caffe Mazzara.

Minggu, 21 Maret 2010


When I was a student at Cambridge Art School Paul Hogarth RA [1917 - 2001], the famous reportage artist was a visiting lecturer. He encouraged us to 'go out and draw' and 'use our eyes'. Good advice. It really hones your observational skills.

 Sunrise, Alcacer do Sal, Portugal

Paul Hogarth was one of the most prolific and successful commercial artists of his day, a painter in watercolours, an illustrator and printmaker, he is probably best known for his images of the faraway and exotic, with a sensitivity to architecture.

 San Michele in Foro, Lucca, Tuscany

These have appeared in his own books and lithographs and also in collaboration with such distinguished writers as Robert Graves, Graham Greene and Lawrence Durrell. He illustrated a large format edition of Peter Mayles 'A Year In Provence' and painted watercolours to illustrate an anthology of John Betjemans essays 'In Praise of Churches', bringing him wide recognition across the globe.

 Convento das Chagas, Vila Vicosa, Portugal

From 1959 to 1962 he was Senior Tutor at the Cambridge School of Art and from 1964 to 1971 at the Royal College of Art, London. In 1968-1969 he was associate professor of illustration at the Philadelphia College of Art, USA. Hogarth was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1974 and to full membership in 1984. He became honorary president of the Association of Illustrators in 1982 and he received an O.B.E. in 1989. In 1999 he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts by Manchester Metropolitan University.

 Higher Bosigran, Cornwall

Yesterday we went to see a large exhibition of his watercolours [some 118 pieces] at Francis Kyle Gallery in London. These included a cache of unknown works discovered after his death, some dating back to the 1950's. It was great to see such a large collection of his works together, and the exhibition has been a significant commercial success, even in this depressed market, it being one of last opportunities to acquire an original piece of his work.

 Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA

In 1967 at Cambridge we were set a reportage project drawing London markets over a period of a week. I did drawings of Leadenhall Market, Smithfield meat market, the original Covent Garden fruit & vegetable market, and the original Billingsgate fish market in Lower Thames Street. Here is one of my drawings of Billingsgate and Paul Hogarth's influence is clear. I remember he liked these drawings.

The exhibition continues at Francis Kyle Gallery, 9 Maddox Street, London W1 until 15 April 2010.

Jumat, 19 Maret 2010

More remarkable high speed photography, this time with coloured liquids:

Kamis, 18 Maret 2010

They seek him here, they seek him there, 'cos he's a dedicated follower of fashion. Actually maybe more of a leader of fashion, but Graphic Designer Anthony Burrill is certainly being sought by Art Directors up and down the country. His bold stark graphics are gracing everything from television advertising (the little round heads in the Bupa ads) to upmarket Style magazines like Wallpaper and Eye, posters, prints, and talking of fashion - London Fashion Week.

Whether consciously or not Burrill is a sponge - he seems to absorb all graphic references that have gone before him and produce his own distinctive and individual take on things. I see references to Russian Revolutionary artists like Kazimir Malevich, the imaginative use of type by the likes uber-typographer Neville Brody, the chunky black and white slogans of Donna Karen T-Shirts, even a nod to the graphics of road signs found in the Highway Code.

Burrill designed the set for Jenny Packham's catwalk show during London Fashion Week last month. 'It was all my favourite things in one place,' said Burrill. The music was by French laptop duo Acid Washed, also Burrill's clients and collaborators. His set was entirely black and white, using large format digital prints. All the colour came from the lighting and the dresses.

And remember:

There is a link to Anthony Burrill's own website at the top of this page.