The Leviathan is a prominent sculpture, by Brian Fell, situated on The Barbican Plymouth. Locally it is known as the Plymouth Prawn . The Leviathan is set to become famous Worldwide as the Mayflower400 celebrations build up in Plymouth. The Leviathan is close to the commemorative Mayflower Steps.Leviathan has its own Twitter account , not that it’s particularly active or has many followers. Strange really. Leviathon lives in a lively location.Leviathan was installed in 1996 and is made of patinated steel. Leviathan is a sea monster created from regular sea creatures. Cormorants feet, the fins of a John Dory ,the tail of a plesiosaur, lobster claws and the head of an Angle fish. Despite this callaloo of body parts Leviathan is majestic.The Leviathans location is on one of my regular dog walks. There is a fabulous circular walk around the harbours and quays of Plymouth taking in both historic and contemporary port buildings and activities. I’m tempted to photograph the sculpture almost every time I see it , sunshine is the very best weather for Leviathan snapping, not unlike life really.I used the fishy subject for a watercolour subject, minus the drumstick! Although a competent image of a skewered Leviathan kebab eludes me.A little bit of printing magic and I’ve created a psychotropic Leviathan. At night The Barbican is nightlife central. Who knows if the Plymouth Prawn partakes.And then just one little move to create a completely abstract image with no hint of sea creatures.Not such a romantic blog as the date would suggest but to my regular blog readers a simple message, thanks for all your comments and feedback.This blog is linked to a social media Instagram project. The prompt for today was #valentinesdaynohearts.https://drawntothevalley.co.uk/I believe Leviathan has a heart. It just needs to find its Sole Mate.
Today the long walk in the sunshine took us back to the location of Advent #1
Our visit to Jacka today was enhanced by festive baking. We weren’t exactly early birds, but were lucky enough to get there in time to get the last available slice of Stolen and one of their lusciously deep mince pies. Coffee drinking at Jacka this morning was hugely sociable . The coffee hounds Hugo and Lola were treated to snippets of delicious bacon from a generous benefactor while everyone at the various tables were talking to one another.
As this is a second Advent visit to Jacka I thought I would share some of the bakeries history . Gleaned from a 1985 published article displayed on the café wall .
Dated currently back to 1597, Jacka is the oldest working Bakery in Britain. It is said that it supplied Ships Biscuits to the Mayflower in 1620. Ships biscuits from this bakery were still famous worldwide well into the twentieth century.
Todays festive bakes were tastier than any Ships biscuit. Time to roll out the the word ‘ moist’ . The festive season is known for its traditional foods. In Britain moistness is demanded of Christmas cakes and Turkey. Today we added a third moist festive eating experience.
Bakery made Stollen , as far removed from the supermarket stuff as it is possible to be. A generous core of deep yellow marzipan surrounded by jewel fruited,doughy loveliness , gently dusted with icing sugar. The mince pie, no less lovely, had a deep, golden pastry case filled with dried fruits, quenched to plumpness and topped with a pastry star.
The coffee, as is usual at Jacka was made with great beans by a skillful barrista.
This may not be our last Advent visit.
Tree of memory Xavi Bové Studio and Onionlab
Iluminate 2019’s first night was scheduled for United States Thanksgiving Day, the 4th Thursday of November. It was also the first public event linked to Mayflower 400 in Plymouth.This was the the third Illuminate event to be hosted in the City. The previous two were held exclusively at the Royal William Yard. 2019 saw the action shared with Mount Edgcumbe and the Barbican. I am interested to see if this was considered a successful idea.
Illuminate is a festival of light based art installations, projections and interactive displays. Local, national and International artists take part.
Regeneration Nathaniel J Hall
theoldmortuary made two evening dog walks more interesting by visiting two of the locations. The Royal William Yard was a great experience. The Barbican less so.
Atmosphere is a magic ingredient, organisers do their very best to create by delivering spectacular content and experience, it’s the publics reaction to the artwork that makes the fizz and energy of a successful event. The buzz at the Royal William Yard on Thursday must have been everything the organisers wanted. Plenty of happy people enjoying contemporary art in dry winter weather. Lovely street food, great coffee and live music.
The Art was spectacular in every way.
Diva Thomas Voillaume Apache Creation with Jeremy Oury for Video Mapping
Friday night saw us walking the dogs to the Barbican. Curiously quiet for a Friday, there were almost more event volunteers than art lovers.The harbour in front of The Ship pub was the location of a beautiful installation.called Baitball by The Media Workshop. A video projection onto mist.
Sardines swirled and shapeshifted in the mist just above the surface of the water. The work was mesmerising.
Not so great was Her Voices also by The Media Workshop. Located in the Elizabethan Garden.
The installation was broken in some way and no effort was being made to make a repair. Disappointing in many respects particularly as it must have been one of the premier locations, of the festival. Not really good enough.
Curio- Trigger Stuff by Savinder Bual and Elena Blanco was intriguing . A series of doors with letter boxes that allowed the viewer to peep into tiny interiors that showed artifacts that hinted at local people’s ideas of home. I wasn’t convinced that this was in any way more interesting by being illuminated but maybe the complete lack of atmosphere on the Barbican had jaded my artistic edge.
On a positive note for the Barbican, Sunday night saw the Christmas lights turned on in addition to Illuminate . I’m sure the magic more than made up for Friday.
Christmas Scene at Jacka Bakery
This morning was sunny and beautiful. The sun was out and the temperature was down, time for a long walk and a hot coffee as a reward.
Jacka Bakery is the oldest working Bakery in the country. Coffee here was our half-way, warm-up and sit-down reward.
theoldmortuary wrote a blog a while ago that mentioned an earlier visit to Jacka.
A Plymouth Mackerel- Juliet CornellPlymouth was quietly having a bit of a moment in the National Media this week. Firstly the Eddystone Lighthouse was a google doodle. Strangely to mark its 321st anniversary of the first time it was lit.https://www.google.com/doodles/321st-anniversary-of-the-first-lighting-of-eddystone-lighthouseThen The Guardian ran an article about the city centre being designated as a conservation area.https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/nov/16/plymouth-city-centre-designated-conservation-area?CMP=share_btn_linkThis could be a coincidence or a sign that the City PR team are ramping up the pressure now Mayflower 400 is just edging into view. Commemorating a 400 year shared history with what is now the USA and the sailing of the Mayflower , Mayflower 400 is a multi location celebration. Plymouth was the port the Mayflower successfully set sail from to reach America.https://www.mayflower400uk.org/2020 also sees the opening of The Box, a long awaited reincarnation of the Museum and Art gallery. Reimagined and re-engineered to bring contemporary, world class exhibition space to the West Country.A Hard-Hat tour of The Boxhttps://plymhearts.org/thebox/An earlier article in the Guardian puts into perspective the struggle the city is overcoming to grab some headlines. The actual amount of war time damage was so shrouded in secrecy that it is rarely mentioned in the way London or Coventry are. Without proper mention of the damage it is difficult to then applaud the regeneration.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/11/post-industrial-plymouth-business-social-enterprise?CMP=share_btn_linkIt’s good to see Plymouth getting some well deserved positive press.Time Out , the London listings magazine is even getting in on the Plymouth Love, featuring Illuminate as a ” Great Escape”
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #1
This year was the third Art Weekender in Plymouth but having only recently returned to the area this was my first experience and I was impressed! The quantity and quality of the art was astonishing. Despite having one of the few dedicated Art Schools in the country and a well respected Arts faculty at Plymouth University, when I left 10 years ago Plymouths Arts Community was not hugely visible to mainstream Plymouth and beyond.
But things are changing and Plymouth Art Weekender is a vibrant sign of ‘Artsy’ Plymouth. I’ve attended week-long festivals which haven’t had such a voracious and high quality itinerary as PAW17. It didn’t pass me by that Art Weekender exhibits started popping up well before the weekend, and I hope some of it will hang around a bit as well. For me the weekender has been a case of ‘so much art, so little time’. I’ve written about the exhibits and events that really stood out in my weekend but there were many other wonderful pieces I would have loved to write about.
For me the first event was live music at Hutong Cafe. Hutong Cafe cuddles up to the outside of the main entrance of The Royal William Yard and is the evolving brainchild of George, Jack and Emma who opened the Cafe earlier this year. Diamond Family Archive are a Lo-Fi psych folk duo and they filled this intimate venue. The music was mesmerizing, the music swelled and grew to the point that it seemed impossible that only two men were creating it. Ambient sounds, seemingly plucked out of the night air were woven into the performance. Coupled with good wine and food, this could be the new way to enjoy live music.
Ocean Studios played host to JoJo’s photography exhibition before and during the Weekender. This exhibition features couples who have committed to life together alongside single mothers with their children. I posed for Jojo 10 years ago in his first Plymouth Uncovered book and know from experience what a charismatic photographer he is so I felt a particular connection to this exhibition. His empathetic approach to his photography gives it the quality of painted portraits, evolved over a far greater timeframe. Faces, but also hands and feet are expressive at a deeper level than in a usual portrait because of some special magic that Jojo manages to infuse into his sessions. Some of the photos in this exhibition ache with the amount of information they are trying to convey.
I was lucky enough to talk to the artist after seeing the exhibition, and told him some of the sentiments I had picked up on from his images. Ever the consummate professional he said nothing indiscreet about his sitters but I’m sure his eyes agreed with some of my thoughts. I’ve been back a couple of times to enjoy his exhibition; it is well worth the time. This diligence has nothing to do with the great coffee and cake that can be bought at The Ocean Studios Cafe next to the exhibition…
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #2
Saturday saw bright sunshine and driving through Plymouth early in the morning I could sense there was something arty in the air. As I drove around the city I caught sight of what can only be described as human sized litter, performing strange activities. I arrived to my first venue of the day, Ocean Studios Open Studios. This event took up way more time than I had planned for and the event blew me away. It was like visiting a massive advent calendar. Every time I took a peak behind the door of a studio I had no idea what I was going to experience. The ground floor, larger, studios of ceramicists and other makers were alive with the chatter of children’s workshops.
Space was at a premium as the peripheries of the rooms were filled with proud and attentive parents who marveled and photographed the skills and achievements of their offspring. Chunky stone stairs led me upwards to smaller spaces. My nose led me in the direction of an artist who was using oil paints, brilliant jewel like colours shone off canvasses, coupled with the smell it was a heady mixture. Sadly the artist was missing, (everyone needs a wee sometime).
Teresa Pemberton was in the building and her big bright canvasses bring a smile to anyone’s face. Talking to Teresa it was easy to discover the value of working as a lone practitioner within a collaborative space like Ocean Studios. Mosaicist Emma Spring works was working on a brightly coloured commission in her studio space.Emma has been creating Mosaics a long while, examples of her work adorn the streets of Saltash and she is also closely associated with Flameworks in Plymouth. I’ve recently taken more interest in mosaics, it was great to meet her and see the process as a contemporary practice.
So far so familiar, and that is not a bad thing but on opening one of the doors I met a woman who Free-style embroiders on a machine. Who even knew there was such a thing! Ewa Morawski has recently relocated to Plymouth and lives close to her studio in Royal William Yard. She studied textiles in London and has had commissions from some interesting organisations. Her creations are stored in clear crystal boxes and as her work tumbles out it is hard to believe that the flimsy, beautiful objects are not petals and blossoms just plucked from a bush. One recent commission had her making delicate orchids for the Royal Horticultural Society; they were better than the real thing. She works on an old Singer sewing machine that looks just like the ones that retailers use to give their interiors retro credibility. Ewa creates flowers for brides and corsages but not all her work is soft and sensitive. She rocks punk sensibilities when she recreates tattoos in fabric and her version of a Remembrance Day poppy is vibrant and jazzy.
As I came to the end of my journey I connected with Shayne House. Shayne and Sarah Smalldon share a studio, Shayne is a digital marketing expert and creates wonderful prints with Letterpress and Silk Screen. Sarah produces prints and exquisite house portraits. Perhaps most importantly after four hours of poking my nose in Studios they had a lovely squashy sofa to rest my weary art tourist feet.
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #3
Sunday, I planned to spend the whole day with one topic – Commit This To Memory. Jessica Wright had installed QR codes at each of the 32 sites identified by Plymouth City Council as ‘at risk’. My interest in this project was that each of these sights was already known to me from years of hunting down old bits of Plymouths history, however I have neglected them for the ten years I’ve not lived in Plymouth. The project aims to get Plymouth people involved and interested in the architectural features that Plymouth Council consider to be at risk of becoming unsustainable, to preserve their history. As a family and group of friends we love finding ‘Old Plymouth’ and the conversations and happy memories that spring out of an old piece of Plymouth architecture are precious.
In Jessica’s words- The project is about the here and the now, engagement in the present and the infra-ordinary – the little things that go unnoticed. Scan the QR codes on the stickers to find out more about the sites included in the project and use the hash tag #cttmplymouth to get involved on Instagram. Follow the project @cttmplymouth.
Following the project on Sunday got more and more unpleasant as the rain tracked down my neck, and photography became impossible. The great thing about this Art Weekender experience is that these artifacts have been around a while and will last even longer with love and respect from the city even if this particular project is transitory. Sunday’s weather defeated me but Monday, saw sunshine and climate induced enthusiasm. I popped out to three of my favourite sites on CTTM. And in the spirit of the project shared some of our familial memories.
Thanks to Jessica Wright and her project, I’ve had a great Sunday/Monday. As my personal conclusion to Plymouths Art Weekender, CTTM beautifully illustrated how art enhances life. Just visiting these architectural locations makes me enthusiastic to learn more about each of them and to experience and talk about them with other people.
The 3rd Plymouth Art Weekender, what a blast!
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Children and their parents were puzzled by me today. Puzzled is putting it mildly , quite frankly they thought I was mad.
The chair is an oversized deck chair that easily accommodated 6 children just before my turn.
Queueing not to put someone in the seat was an alien concept to the children in the queue and , to be fair, their parents. I had to virtually push the little buggers off when it was my turn. Something that didn’t please the devoted parents.
Of course without a human in the seat you can get no sense of scale unless you know the local geography very well.
So perhaps I was a little mad.