Friday, 13 July 2018

brussels sprites

Although Cologne was the principal destination of our recent continental excursion, our journey there took us through Brussels, where we changed trains. It seemed like a good idea to stop off for a day and take a look around. I’ve already posted examples of street art that I photographed in the Belgian capital, and this post features the best examples of graffiti that I saw during our brief visit.

The first graffito is an apparently simple example of ‘block lettering’:

The next photo is an example of how, in Brussels in particular, more than one graffito may occupy the same vertical space:

…while this is a more ‘arty’ graffito:

The next graffito reminds me of the characters in the ‘Spy vs. Spy’ strip in Mad magazine:

I’m not sure whether the next photo includes an advert for Levi jeans, or whether the word ‘LEViS’ is itself a graffito:

The next graffito is geometric in style (this is another example of sharing the vertical space):

The next image is my favourite in this collection:

…while this is a photo of two similar but separate graffiti, presumably executed by different artists, on the walls of a skateboard park:

I don’t know what the story is here, but I noticed several large vans with graffiti painted on their sides in Brussels. Did the owners/drivers give permission for their vans to be thus decorated? The nearer of the two vans appears to carry the names of an entire crew, and I wonder if this is the vehicle they use to transport equipment and look for walls to paint:

Finally, the wall to the left in the previous photo, obscured by trees, is absolutely covered in graffiti. Because of the trees, it was impossible to get good photographs of individual graffiti, but this photo does provide a general flavour of this location:

Friday, 6 July 2018

street art gallery

During our recent continental excursion, we came across many examples of painted images on the walls and doors of buildings, and this post features the best of these in Brussels, Cologne and Bonn.

The first photo is of a bronze dog cocking its leg against a street bollard:

…while the next photo reminds me of the tradition of found objects in art going back to Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ (which was actually a porcelain urinal). Both this and the previous photo were taken by Paula.

When I first saw the painting in the next photo, I noticed only the bottom part, because my eyes were focused at street level, but it’s far more amusing when you see the entire image:

The next image, also painted on the narrow, projecting side of a building, is even more quirky:

I don’t get most of the cultural references, but I’m bound to enquire about the relevance of Sherlock Holmes in this painting.

The next photo, which was taken close to the location of the previous painting, makes an important point in the ‘art or vandalism’ debate. This image is amusing, in my opinion, but the real vandalism was perpetrated by whoever has spray-painted the word ‘KADER’ and sundry squiggles over the painting.

The next image needs no further comment:

Finally, I’ve included three photos of images painted onto a wooden hoarding. The first photo shows a face painted at the corner created by two stretches of hoarding at right angles to each other. It looks as though it was painted some time ago, because it is now showing unmistakable signs of wear and tear.

This is what the hoarding looks like to the left:

…and to the right:

The first piece of street art that we encountered in Cologne was this one-eyed cat, which had been painted on the side of a telecommunications box:

We saw the next image as we arrived by train in Cologne. Unfortunately, it is impossible to photograph the entire painting, which stands above the flat roof of a single-storey structure that abuts the building on which the work has been painted. It shows a citadel being attacked by soldiers using a giant banana as a battering ram, backed up by a man with a bow and arrow and a second man with a catapult. There is also an artist with a brush in one hand and a palette in the other.

I’m not sure about the symbolism of this painting, but the word ‘INVESTOR’ is inscribed at the top of the round tower in the centre of the citadel, and the gate that the rammers are attacking bears a passing resemblance to the logo of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC):

The two faces in the next photo, which I took in a small park close to our hotel, may be crude, but I couldn’t resist including them in this collection:

In Continental Excursion, I included the painting of two faces on up-and-over garage doors. This is a group of three faces painted in a similar style next to the original two:

There was a second group of three faces to the left, but they were obscured by a parked car. However, the artwork continued around the corner to the left:

It’s something of a stretch to describe the next exhibit as ‘street art’, because we encountered this junkyard skeleton halfway across the Hohenzollern Bridge, which carries the main railway across the Rhine:

And here’s another skeleton, which has been painted onto the gable end of a house. The advertising hoardings at the bottom of the picture obscure a small part of the image:

When walking along a typical street in Cologne, I often noticed that some buildings were covered in graffiti and other artwork, but the majority were clean. I therefore conjecture that most of the graffiti/artwork that one sees has been painted with the permission of the buildings’ owners. This is a shop covered in well-known cartoon characters:

(although I can positively identify only Spiderman and Calvin & Hobbes).

The next image is my favourite. It appears to depict Cologne emerging from a fire hydrant. I don’t know how many of the buildings are meant to be identifiable, but for a casual visitor like me, only the Dom (cathedral) is unmistakable.

Roll-up doors are popular locations for artwork, and the next image supports my conjecture that whatever is painted on walls and doors is done with the consent of the owner. In this case, the text in the bottom right corner informs potential customers of the shop within of the shop’s opening hours:

Finally, this is a photo that I took as we were leaving Cologne by train:

We had only a couple of hours to explore Bonn, and you will never guess the subject of the first piece of street art we encountered:

That’s right! Ludwig von Beethoven. The pose and the facial expression match the best-known portrait of the great composer, but the facial features do not.

The sculpture seen in the next photo reminded me immediately of a yardang, a rock that has been sand-blasted into its present shape by desert winds. I took just the one photograph, but Paula took several, walking around the sculpture to view it from different angles. And, as a result, she noticed that there were many faces in profile (two can be seen in this photo):

The final contribution from Bonn is these two severed heads seen outside a Romanesque church. I have absolutely no idea what, if any, symbolism is involved here, but I do like the concept:

Sunday, 1 July 2018

photographic abstraction #27

Between 1999 and 2002, I wrote a comic fantasy novel about imaginary creatures known as gelgins, who are responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a publisher, although I have posted several extracts from the novel on this blog.

All this is probably irrelevant to a post about abstract photographs, except that the novel incorporated several mathematical concepts, including the appearance of the number 27 precisely twenty-seven times. And this post is the 27th featuring abstract photography. I’ve been writing for a while that I’m running out of ideas for new photos, and unless I can come up with something new in the next couple of months, it seems appropriate to make this post the last in the series.

By the way, in case you’re interested, The Problem with Hats is a humorous reworking of a logic puzzle that I first encountered while still at school, and Open the Box, which discusses the famous Bertrand’s box paradox, has my take on the paradox appended to the end.

The first image reminds me of bubbles rising through an array of vertical tubes:


Although I can’t imagine playing any kind of game on the subdivisions of the next image, it does look vaguely like a check pattern:


When I was a student, ‘continental drift’ was the name given to a largely disbelieved theory. However, it re-emerged less than ten years after my graduation as ‘plate tectonics’, evidence for which is unchallengeable:

continental drift

The next photo employs a motif that I haven’t used before, so if you think you know what it’s actually a photo of, do leave a comment:

green sheen

Many of my abstract photos look like maps to me, including this one:

mappa mundi

The final image can be thought to resemble almost anything, but it reminds me of some kind of seed-distribution process:

seeds of destiny

recent posts in this series
Photographic Abstraction #20
Photographic Abstraction #21
Photographic Abstraction #22
Photographic Abstraction #23
Photographic Abstraction #24
Photographic Abstraction #25
Photographic Abstraction #26

Friday, 29 June 2018

the writing on the fence

I had planned to write a series of reports on our recent trip to Brussels and Cologne, but I’ve been going through the photos that I took in Manchester last week, and I’ve decided to jump ahead and post the following description of graffiti that I photographed in that city. They may not justify a special visit to Manchester, but if you’re in the city, they are worth going out of your way to see. They have all been painted on a temporary structure, so who knows how long they will remain.

It was the first day of the academic conference at Manchester Metropolitan University, where Paula would be presenting a paper. I walked with her to the university’s business school, where the conference was being held, then headed to Oxford Street, where I’d spotted a flight of steps leading down to a canal. I was a student in Manchester between 1964 and 1967, and I never knew that there was a canal running under Oxford Street, although that might have had something to do with spending all my spare time, when I wasn’t attending lectures or working in the laboratory, in the bar of the student union.

I followed the canal towpath as far as Deansgate locks, where the canal—the Rochdale Canal—opened out into a kind of basin. It wasn’t obvious where to go next, and I didn’t think it worthwhile to simply retrace my steps, so I found myself following a busy road northwards, looking for a suitable place to turn east. It was then that I spotted some graffiti on a board fence on the other side of the road. There wasn’t a pedestrian crossing anywhere in sight in either direction, so I decided to cross where I was, which would probably have been impossible in rush-hour traffic.

Although I did photograph the first graffito, it was typical of many you see and not at all interesting. However, the second graffito provides the first indication that there is some serious talent on display here. There is only a narrow pathway between the fence and the road, so I’ve mostly had to shoot at an angle. And because this graffito is so wide, I’ve included photos taken from both left and right:

The next image includes the next graffito on the fence and part of the one after that. I’ve included both in the image because there isn’t a gap between the two, and although the encroachment is minimal, it seems clear that the left-hand graffito is the later one.

…and this is a better view of the right-hand graffito in the previous photograph:

This work includes the first example of a common motif: light glinting off the edge or corner of a letter, although this is simply a drawn representation, and some subsequent examples, like the next image, provide more of a trompe l’œil effect:

While the previous image contains many straight lines, the next one has none:

For whatever reason, I didn’t photograph the graffiti visible on the right of the previous image.

The next graffito reminds me of Chinese writing. It doesn’t look remotely like Chinese writing, but there are stylistic quirks that lead me to believe that the artist may be Chinese:

The next image is stylistically very similar to the last image in this report—jagged outline; red and yellow as main colours—and may therefore have been painted by the same artist. See what you think:

When I first saw the next graffito, I thought that it was a pity that the paint had run in a few places. However, notice that these ‘few places’ are all at the bottom of internal gaps in the lettering, from which I conclude that the running paint is a deliberate act by the artist. In fact, running paint is a recurring motif, the most obvious example of which I will flag up when I come to it.

In fact, you will see that stylized paint drops have been included in the next design:

The next image includes the most complex backdrop, but it’s also unusual because there are no curves in the main design, with the possible exception of the head of the insect on the right:

…and now for something completely different:

This image is more like an abstract painting than an example of graffiti. I’ve included what I take to be the artist’s signature on the left.

Calling occupants of interplanetary craft:

If you’re not convinced that graffiti artists deliberately include the dribbling of paint in their work, take a closer look at this image, where, inter alia, paint is seen running across the surface of three-dimensional objects.

I didn’t realize at the time—although I should have, given the uniform blue background—that the next image is part of the same graffito. I think it spells ‘alien’:

The immediately adjacent image is a return to basic lettering, although I must say that it has been done effectively. I’ve been amusing myself by trying to work out in what order the colours were applied, but the only thing I can say with certainty is that white was last.

There is a wide gap in the fence between the previous and the next image:

I spotted the blue face with the yellow cap in half a dozen other locations, not including this one:

Both graffiti in the next photo feature running paint, but the graffito on the right is probably the most ‘fluid’ in this entire collection:

The next graffito is unusual in that the outlines are defined by wavy rather than straight or uniformly curved lines:

The red lines in the next image remind me of the trace of an electrocardiograph. I wonder if that was the artist’s intention.

…while the similar shade of red outlining the adjacent graffito, coupled with similarities in lettering style, suggests that both were painted by the same artist:

The next two graffiti also appear to have been painted by the same artist, given the use of almost identical shades of mauve and yellow in both. In fact, there are also some ‘heartbeat’ motifs, so both could have been painted by the artist responsible for the previous two graffiti.

This is a closer look at the right-hand graffito in the previous photo:

I’m not sure why I didn’t photograph the graffito immediately to the right, which looks as if it could be interesting, but the next graffito, also partially visible in the previous photo, is probably my favourite:

There are only a couple more graffiti around the corner:

You will have noticed that I have routinely referred to the creators of these graffiti as ‘artists’. Of course, this begs an obvious question: are these images art, or merely a species of vandalism? I have no doubt that just spray-painting a name on a wall is an act of vandalism, but I’ve compiled this collection to support the notion that graffiti can be considered an art form, and like artists in more conventional fields, not every graffiti artist is equally talented. However, painting an image like any of the above on a wall without the owner’s permission is a criminal offence in the UK carrying a possible jail sentence. That seems harsh to me.

If you’re in Manchester and want to see this ‘gallery’, it’s located roughly halfway between Deansgate railway station and Manchester Cathedral. By the way, it is not my intention to claim credit for these artworks. I merely thought that it deserved a wider audience.