Tuesday 26 March 2013

Mornington Crescent NW1

Greater London House began life as a cigarette factory built in 1926 by ME & OH Collins for the Carreras company. It is not a thing of beauty, an enormous lump tricked out as a jazzy joke temple to the Egyptian cat-goddess Bubastis. The land of the Pharoahs was incredibly trendy because of the King Tut discovery a few years before. Following trends results in some spectacularly horrible buildings.
The cat motif was chosen because a black cat was the symbol of Carrera's best-selling Craven A cigs.
The original bronze cats on either side of the main entrance were removed when the factory was converted into offices in 1961, replaced with replicas in the restoration of 1998 that also brought back the flashy colour scheme.
But what makes the building really unacceptable is that it was built on the gardens of the Georgian terrace behind, which now look out on the service entrance of this monster. A sad fate for nice Georgian composition.

Friday 22 March 2013

Gloucester Gate Bridge NW1

How accurate can a recreation of an old work of art be? This bronze plaque  in Regent's Park was made by the sculptor Stuart Smith from a photograph of an 1877 original by Ceccardo Egidio Fucigna.
The Gloucester Gate Bridge was built over an arm of the Regent's Canal and for some reason the Vestry of St Pancras decided to splurge some money on it. Perhaps William Thornton, named as the donor of the plaques, was making a bid for remembrance - he also left a rather charming cast iron fountain at St Pancras Old Church.
He chose Fucigna, an Italian from Carrara who had studied in Florence and Rome, to portray the Martyrdom of St Pancras, a Roman who was fed to the lions for his faith. Impressed by the young man's holiness, the beasts refused to attack until he gave them permission.
The bridge was highly ornate, in sandstone with standard lamps and stone figures. But it suffered brutally over time. The canal basin was filled in, so the bridge looks lost and meaningless. A wartime bomb destroyed all the figures. And a truck hit one of the bronze plaques, which went missing during the repair. The other was also stolen.
Recently, English Heritage decided to replace the panels but the only record of their appearance was a single photo. From this, Stuart Smith created a new plaque which was cast in bronze by Morris Singer.
It is impossible to tell how accurate the recreation is, but the figure of the saint seems rather epicene compared with the vigorous images on Fucigna's surviving work at Royal Holloway College. Pancras seems rather occupied in his own thoughts, ignoring both the lion that is gnawing his vitals and the rays of divine encouragement from above.

Thursday 14 March 2013

One Hyde Park SW1

Sculpture can be difficult to photograph, especially if you can't get the angle you want. In the case of these figures I couldn't decide which angle is best.
From the side, showing the artful way the circles intersect? From the front, where they look a bit like Easter Island gods? I don't know, so here are all the pictures. You decide.
I also can't decide if they are true art or pretentious rubbish.
The fact that the figures are displayed outside the Candy Bros Occasional Home for the Stupendously Rich tends to indicate that they were bought off the shelf from the same dealers that supply Ramada hotels with all that stuff they put in their foyers. But that may be my prejudice.
The work is called Search for Enlightenment, and is by the British artist Simon Gudgeon. They are male and female, which you can easily see because the male has an Adam's apple the size of Suffolk. Their brains are empty, waiting to be filled with enlightenment.
The faces are expressionless but have genuinely individual features.
Expensive certainly. Good or bad?

Friday 8 March 2013

Edinburgh Gate SW1

Behind Epstein's Pan-piping sunseekers an art work has been slipped in that is almost invisible most of the time. It is a pair of gates by Wendy Ramshaw, the noted jeweler and gates specialist.
The main gates swing on posts in the middle of the road, closing against smaller gates across the pavements.
When the gates are open, everyone shoots past without pausing to look. When they are closed, they are hidden down a blind alley. They must be the only art works designed to be overlooked.
Did Wendy Ramshaw subconsciously realise this when she was designing them? They are not her most characteristic work. Usually, she arranges gates to form new patterns when they overlap, but here she seems not to have done so. Which is a pity as they spend most of their time folded together.