Friday, October 21, 2011

From Beauty to the Balrog

The word 'expat' has associated with it a feeling of semi-colonial ease. For Brits this may have been true in what my imagination pictures as the sepia toned days of the Raj and maybe pre-1997 Hong Kong. I wince when I'm referred to as an ex-pat here as I have neither the material means nor the inclination to conform to that particular stereotype. No,  the journey I enjoy is the one where we seek out the heart of a culture and my suspicion is that this can only be done through knowing the language and living alongside people.

Wow! I made that sound quite idealistic and almost heroic! In reality this means that one has to do the dreary, dull, routine things that every normal person in most countries around the world have to do just to get by. The difference is that  as an 'ex-pat' without the domestic staff one has to stumble through with an only slowly improving grasp of the language.

Take today for example. This morning I crossed the Bosphorus in the glorious sunshine of a cloudless October day to talk with the owner of a gallery in an exclusive part of the city. We drank tea in a sun soaked room talking of the days when Istanbul was a much smaller city and when there were Greeks, Armenians, Turks and Jews all living alongside one another.

An hour and half later I'm in a considerably less salubrious part of town trying to get my vehicle's (we call it the Balrog) exhaust tested ready for it's yearly check. We're dealing with dirt, money, grim, hordes of cars and grease stained hands. 

Despite all that I have another suspicion that the essence of a culture can be detected as much in the latter situation as the former. 

The above picture is Üsküdar at sunset, oil pastels and watercolours wrestling for space on the page.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Headscarves, Beer and Bob Dylan....

This is a painting of a park in Istanbul, Küçük Çamlıca Korosu to be precise. Parks in this city are an interesting measure of the socio-religious make-up of an area. If you visit this park you will see the usual elaborate picnics and tea making apparatus that Turks use outdoors. You will see the usual hammocks strung up between conveniently spaced tree trunks. In this park however, fitting with the area, one will notice that most of the women wear a head scarf and are well covered up, so what you might ask, it's an Islamic country! 

However, if you were to go to another park down by the edge of the Marmara you'd see a different picture, in fact you might think you're in Europe. The bar-b-ques are the same, the tea making facilities also the same, but the clothing and entertainment? There will be more alcohol, a lot less head scarves and a more causal atmosphere. The people here would be more likely to be singing Bob Dylan songs sitting in circles smoking with a person playing a guitar with the odd can of beer.

These kinds of differences manifest the diverse mosaic which makes up this country, the city is ethnically fairly homogenous (if you count being a Turk as being of one ethnic group), but the socio-religious  differences are striking. What an interesting place....!

Anyway, enough anthropology.....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Steve Jobs, Brunelleschi and getting older...

I was teaching a lesson on the Renaissance today. We talked about Filippo Brunelleschi and his use of perspective. We discussed how he noticed something..... I suppose you could say 'discovered' or 'invented', but probably it's fair to say that he conceptualised something, something that everyone (once it had been pointed out) realised they already knew.

I find the notion that there are things we all know, but have yet to have had conceptualised or spoken, to be a fascinating one. I tried to draw comparisons between what was happening in the Renaissance with the kind of creativity of  Steve Jobs, my students liked that (not sure it's accurate!). We then had the conversation 'Life before the Internet' and marvelled how the ancient world of the early 1990s ever turned, bit of a rabbit trail to tell the truth. Growing older has its advantages I'm beginning to realise.

The picture above is an attempt to express something of what I see when I look at a forest glade. Check it out

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Top Ten LEAST painted scenes of Istanbul....

One point six million cars in a city of 18 million people. I'm not sure where that places Istanbul in the world in terms of car ownership per head of population, maybe not that high I suppose. However, when one drives in Istanbul it certainly feels like car ownership is something like 14 cars per head of population, I guess you could call it the traffic equivalent of 'wind chill factor'.

So what has that to do with the picture? The scene above is a picnic area right on the edge of the city, surrounded by freeways, you wouldn't make it without a car. 
I'm glad we've got one.

The limited palette I used worked well with this one, wet on dry with a little wet on wet.

I'd like to be able to say this is our car but it's not...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Back to Turner....

Over the Black Sea one really does see some great 'Prussian Blue' moments sometimes with a little Payne's Grey thrown in for good measure. The sky was made for Prussian Blue.

Snow storm, Steam boat off a harbour's mouth
Turner could create a broiling vortex of doom-laden cloud from what must have in actual fact been a less dramatic experience. Despite this his works manage to make it all seem very believable. The story goes that he lashed himself to the mast of a ship for four hours in a snow storm. Critics suggest that this was a myth and I'll take their word for it, but the resulting painting (above) is still spectacularly alive, one can still feel the heave of the swell and the blast of the wind.


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