Sara Hayward120827 coincidences


 

water colour study from my sketch book

water colour study from my sketch book

Well, what a summer. I was really thrilled to be in Worcester Cathedral to see the Queen in July. The cathedral was packed with well wishers including 340 school children representing all the county’s primary schools. I chatted to one young pair sitting in front of me only to find that they were from my very own primary school- St Andrews, Barnt Green- where I had once won the slow bicycle race ( just think if it had been an Olympic sport…….) The familiar green school uniform hadn’t changed in forty years.

We enjoyed two red hot magical weeks in St Ives later where  I enjoyed being tossed around in the surf as I failed  miserably at body boarding on Porthmeor beach (not for want of trying). The Alex Katz exhibition at Tate St Ives won us over because of his great selection of works on display by artists he admired. We particularly liked the  Franz Kline and a large scale dymnamic Howard Hodgkin, and listening to the video of Alex Katz talk about the works. A small intimate selection of letters and paintings by Ben Nicholson, Alfred Wallis and Winifred Nicholson was also inspiring particularly since Ernie Rowe, the 86 year old Cornish owner of the kennels where our dog was staying, regaled us with revealing stories about Alfred, a distant relative of his.
Right now I am having a bit of a clear out. I’ve just come across my Royal College of Art ID from 1986 and that of Paul for an international driving licence from the year I met him – 1982. Needless to say we’ve both changed to look at somewhat but to have been together for 30 years, more than half my life, and married for 24, feels pretty amazing.

I bumped into Simon Packard recently – he has a great exhibition of prints in the Chapter House at Worcester Cathedral at the moment. He barely recognised me from our time at the RCA and I’d have to say ditto ( he’s a whole lot hairier) but it was great to catch up again after 25 years and meet his two young children, Macey and Blythe.

We were down in Portsmouth recently and down an alley (long story) stumbled across the studio, a blacksmith studio, of Peter Clutterbuck who was a third year sculpture student when Paul was in the first year of his fine art degree at Portsmouth. He was amazed to find a blacksmith’s yard right in the centre of Portsmouth and left his calling card so hopefully the two will be in touch again.

Whilst we were having a coffee in the Hot Walls cafe in Old Portsmouth we were photographed by the Portsmouth News photographer Mick Young and appeared in the local paper. The cafe had opened that day and were offering delicious free pastries to all the customers. We chatted at length to Mick because he too had studied fine art (at Manchester) and was interested to hear about Paul’s experiences of his time in Portsmouth.

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111001 false alarm


This week I was fortunate enough to spend a number of hours visiting two major art collections: first the Barber Institute of Fine Art in Birmingham, the second the National Museum in Cardiff. It is always fascinating to see artists represented in different collections; paintings produced perhaps a few years apart: different but complimentary. I saw two examples of Richard Wilson for example, two of Corot, two of Whistler, many by Gwen John, two by Howard Hodgkin. The first viewed in England’s second city, the second in Wales’ first city.

In Cardiff the visit was followed by a well spent half hour in the Martin Tinney Gallery in St Andrew’ s Crescent. This was followed by a boat trip on the aquabus down the Taff to Cardiff Bay via Penarth, followed by a quick dash into John Lewis where we watched a programme about my favourite US artist Frank Stella, then finished with an evening in St David’s Hall listening to the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales (with choristers from Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester Cathedrals).

The rendition of John Adams’ deeply felt tribute to the victims of the 9/11 tragedy was as expected very moving and there  followed an interval. It was just coming to a close with requests for us to return to our seats when the announcements were swiftly replaced by orders for us to evacuate the auditorium immediately. Traipsing at a snail’s pace down the stairs from level 3 behind the elderly and infirm we naturally thought of those caught up in the twin towers a decade ago. Fortunately for us the firemen soon declared our emergency all clear and we were allowed back in to the auditorium to hear Thierry Fischer conduct Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 with Rebecca Evans, Hanne Fischer, Andrew Kennedy and Matthew Rose. It had been a false alarm.

If only that had been the case ten years ago.

110702 missing out


Twice this week I’ve been wrong footed. I was up at the Barber Institute on Tuesday delivering paintings for submission to the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2011 and ambled upstairs to see the exhibition Court on Canvas.  At the top of the stairs I turned left into the exhibition and had a quick look but wasn’t overly impressed. There were black and white photographs of Billie-Jean King, a cheeky tennis poster (you know the one), a range of tennis rackets from throughout the ages, a case full of art deco jewellery featuring tennis motifs etc etc. All well and good but nothing exactly scintillating. So I continued on into the permanent collection, mildly disappointed, enjoying the Howard Hodgkin as always, revisiting the Vuillard, the Bonnard, Sickert, and onto my Frans Hals and Bellini favourites. I paused for a moment to listen to various excellent explanations of paintings to a school party by a young museum officer before turning right into the final room and catching the train home. Imagine my surprise therefore when I found THIS was the main room of superb, fantactic tennis paintings and prints featuring works by Eric Gill, Edward Ravilious, Percy Shakespeare, Paul Nash, Sir John Lavery, Stanley Spencer and E.H.Shephard. I was gobsmacked and spellbound, in equal measures; it’s an ace exhibition and well worth seeing. But nearly missed it.

Blow me if a similar thing didn’t happen yesterday! I met a dear friend at Compton Verney near Stratford to take in the current Stanley Spencer and the English Garden exhibition. We did a couple of rooms of garden paintings before finishing off in the final room to watch the film about his life and career. This film had originally come out in the late 70s when we had both seen the Stanley Spencer exhibition at the Royal Academy as part of our O-level studies. It was quite a long film and what with the wooden floors, visiting school parties, and open plan nature of the gallery adversely affecting the accoustics, barely audible at times. We both stuck it out however and by the end were ready to go for lunch rating the experience overall as very good but not fantastic. As we walked back through the galleries we suddenly spotted a small sign on a door saying ‘exhibition continues’. This only turned out to be the entrance to the main exhibition which we had very nearly missed: two massive rooms of far more major works than those in the previous rooms.

Later I popped into the RSC theatre to see the current Folio exhibition- a response to Shakespeare by staff and student printmakers at the RCA; prints by Norman Ackroyd, Alistair Grant (my old tutor), Joe Tilson, Elizabeth Frink and many others. It was a lovely exhibition and well worth seeing. On the two and a half hour train journey from Worcester to Stratford first thing I had got talking to two ladies about their day trip to Stratford. What are you going to do there, I asked casually. Go on the river, they replied. Well, you could always go into the theatre, I suggested. There followed a pregnant pause. Why would we want to do that? they asked in unison. Well, because it’s the home of Shakespeare theatre, they’ve just spent a trillion pounds rebuilding it, you can get a cup of tea, visit the gift shop, see an exhibition, it’s the RSC’s 50th birthday, lots of reasons, blah, blah, blah, but I suspect my well meaning suggestions were falling on deaf ears.