Friday 31 July 2015

City Basin Lock, Regent's Canal N1

One of the great pleasures of cycling round London is coming across works of art like this, unobtrusively mounted on a wall on a canal towpath, quietly brightening my day.
Entitled A World in Islington, the four mosaics illustrate the changing canal landscape over the 200 years or so since it was built. They were created in 2010 by pupils at the Hanover Primary School just behind the wall. Artists Carina Wyatt and Cathy Ludlow 'helped', as they say.
My favourite panel shows narrowboats being hauled by horses to the basin where they are being unloaded.
"The Layered City" is particularly dramatic, showing how transport systems weave in, out and under each other in today's metropolis.  Love that scooter!
Today, the canal has lost its commercial function. I remember the canal rotting to death in the 1970s, so it is uplifting to see how it has become a focus for relaxation and fun. Love the dogs!
This panel is titled Tools and Trades, showing local industries including tailoring, hairdressing, musical instrument making, building and cooking. Difficult to photograph as it is half in the shade of a big tree. Love those 'taches!
Benches by the artists stand in front of the panels. They are much more 'finished' compositions and somehow lose the joie de vivre of the work the children were involved in. Still nice, though.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Moorfields Eye Hospital, City Road EC1

This small sculpture stands over the entrance to the 1933 extension to the famous Moorfields Eye Hospital.
It represents the story of the blind man Bartimaeus, who was begging by the side of the road from Jericho as Jesus passed by.
On hearing who was near, Bartimaeus began to make a fuss, calling for Jesus to have mercy. One of the perceptive little details that so often crop up in the Gospels is that the bystanders tried to get him to stop being such a nuisance, "but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me."
In the sculpture, Jesus stands over Bartimaeus with his fingers touching his eyes. In the Gospel story, he asks "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?", to which the blind man said "Domine, ut videam (Lord, that I might receive my sight)."
Christ then memorably says "Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole."
The sculptor, the deeply religious Eric Gill, gets the scene slightly wrong, I feel. It looks as though Jesus is applying a healing touch to the blind man, when actually he cured himself.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Green Park SW1

I suspect that most of the tourists heading towards Buckingham Palace from Green Park station assume that the Diana fountain is a memorial to the notorious princess of the same name, but in fact she was created in 1954 by Estcourt "Jim" Clack.
Known as Diana of the Treetops, the goddess of the hunt and the forest is depicted spurring her greyhound off to a mark, the dog's leash swinging round in her hand. It is a figure full of energy, spinning as the dog springs away.
The statue was originally placed in the middle of the park where no-one ever passed, so in 2011 she was moved to her current location as part of the rebuilding of the tube station. At the same time she was restored and the flowers she stands on gilded to exotic effect.
The granite fountains beneath include a ground level drinking fountain for dogs, a considerate touch.
Jim Clack's only other work in London is the Dickens memorial plaque in Marylebone Road.