Friday 28 October 2016

Dark and terrible: Beyond Caravaggio

Many high profile reviews of Beyond Caravaggio have criticised it because it only contains six works by the master himself. However as the exhibition title makes perfectly plain, it is looking beyond Caravaggio. The stress is clearly on the word 'beyond'. It aims to examine his legacy, critique his followers, and put him into a wider context. Given his mastery over story telling, he deserves to have his own place in the art history story, as the quality of those incredible six pieces demonstrate. 

Monday 8 August 2016

Waiting with Magda Mozarka

Waiting. We sit on the island content to wait. Waiting weeks for the moon to be in the right quarter so we can fish. Waiting months for the fruits to ripen so we can start the harvest. Waiting hours for the heat to pass so we can work. Waiting for the time we can leave this island for provisions...the inevitable slow but steady natural clockwork marking time. An hour hand of ferries offering a smaller human scale to the wait. Just waiting. When waiting is part of a culture, patience and acceptance almost to the point of madness is inevitable.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

The Boat Road

How do you view the world when you're five years old? How much of that youthful joie de vivre do you - and can you - retain as you hit middle age? Having rarely spent so much time with a young gentleman it's been an interesting couple of weeks, and in some crazy irresponsible ways, it seems I have more in common with my young nephew than my younger brother.
This is not meant as any kind of criticism of my brother. Indeed I adore him and he is an inspiration to me; he's a parent, a carer, a survivor of a very different and difficult upbringing in comparison to mine. Those six years between us might as well as be sixty. But as my exhausted adult friend and family nodded off on the final stretch of their journey, the inevitable result of an early flight, me and my nephew bonded on the ferry ride back to mine.

Friday 29 July 2016

Hospitality: Or, what makes a room a home

This is hopefully part of a longer piece generally, but I thought it would be a positive way to embark on this Friday blog challenge. Since I've been heavily reliant on short term accommodation during my time abroad, excellence in hospitality has been on my mind for a while.
My journey began in February. So I could start my year in Croatia in style, my friend and I took a road trip through France and Italy for a week. As we headed south to Ancona, we purposefully stayed in a wide variety of places; from a family owned medieval Italian palazzo, a 1920s spa town grand hotel of faded grandeur, as well as a hysterically 1980s orange hotel room somewhere near Montpellier. Most of these were memorable because of the freedom and fun of travelling, and excitement of not knowing what to expect from our temporary residences.

Sunday 12 June 2016

Sunday Sounds

The bustle of bells pronounce Sunday magic;
Full peal across the bright pastel space,
Where pale sea meets busy harbour,
Hazy sky meets jewelled balloons
And conversations murmur and burble. 

Sounds rising and falling, 
Interlacing in an endless swirl of persistent rhythmic clouds,
Echoing the multitude of percussive noon bells across the city.

Appealing to each other like friends in friendly greeting. 

Saturday 4 June 2016

The Croatian Literary Baroque

Bartol Kašić (1575-1650)
On my island of olive growers and fisherman I feel as far away from the baroque as is possible. The landscape is dotted with tiny café latte tinted stone chapels, perfectly contrasted with the pine green forests and iron rich soil. These appear to have sprung out of the earth, so sympathetic are they with their natural, yet cultivated surroundings. Human in scale and spiritual in content, they are reminders of a simple, aesthetic and pure faith. This seems to be what the architects of the baroque were trying to bulldoze in their efforts to appeal to the emotions and senses of the wavering congregations. Revision here is quite entertaining, and what follows is a fleshing out of the notes that I'm working through - it is inevitable that an art style which I really don't like has produced so many posts!

Thursday 19 May 2016

Klapa: The Rhythmic Heart of Dalmatia

Klapa singers on Vis 2016
One of my first experiences of klapa music during my stay in Split was wandering around the city late one cold March evening. I had only just arrived and I was feeling homesick. I turned a corner in the picturesque old part of town and heard singing to make my hair stand on end. A small group of young people had gathered in an ill-lit courtyard behind an iron grill, and they were singing songs a cappella. I stood and listened with tears running down my face. You didn’t need any knowledge of the language, they had absolutely nailed how I was feeling. I was missing my lost love, my home far over the water, and I was wallowing in – completely romanticised – nostalgia.

Monday 16 May 2016

The Tradition of Bosnian Catholic Tattoos

There was a spell in the not so distant past where I did a module on exhibiting the body as part of my MA in History of Art. It was one of the more challenging subjects because of the sheer newness of the subject to me; basically I was pinging around like an over enthusiastic firework because every lecture we had presented a new idea which I wanted to pursue. Did I want to stay in the renaissance where the body was emerging as a machine, or head into enlightenment with wax modelling, Victorian health and death, or be in the present with bodies and taboos? This also coincided with some interesting events at London's RAI, where I wrote up a film about bodily suspension. Body modification and using the body as a canvas still really intrigues me, which is why a talk given by one of my fellow students in the Croatian Civilisation and Culture class today made me dash here and blog about it. The research is all hers but where I was unsure, I've added, clarified, and interjected because I'm annoying like that.

Monday 18 April 2016

Walking on Vis

Night has fallen over this scene of convivial voices;
Brotherhoods bonded over the thrum of tones.

Sounds revolving around the thickness,
Atmosphere of fire smoke inviting wisps of mountain down.
But the notes rise up to send love skyward

Day has filled us with sounds of light and conversations;
Friendships walking together winding up through the green.
Crunching over stones sibilant voices harmonise.
Atmosphere of pine scent catching all with amber glow.
And our loads lightened by love falling skyward...


A piercing of the air
With cries of summer
A graceful winging arc
Against the pastel blue

A stirring of the sky
With an urgency of spring
A vortex of black specks like
Tea leaves in Wedgwood.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Some Poetic Playing: Mrtva Luka, or Dead Harbour

The new writers group I've just joined here in Split talked about inspiration. What inspires us, why are we here in Split, what is making our lives colourful? Although I have yet to put pen to paper about that, the previous day I was incredibly struck by a meeting I had with a PhD student from the University of Split. Although we were initially having a coffee to discuss klapa, we covered pretty much everything within our broad range of interests. Talking about music naturally leads to discussion of poetry. In my opinion, writing about music in a cold academic way is one of the hardest things to do and whenever I've tried to do it for fun, it seems best expressed as a poem. After all, what is poetry but music expressed as words?

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Lost on Lastovo

Lastovo is known as the island of stars, but for reasons I shall go into, for me it will always be the island of pink. It's been on my list of places to visit but its reputation for remoteness is well deserved. Five hours on a ferry makes a weekend trip possible but not ideal, however the ECA and their small but growing fleet of seaplanes now offer an easy and quick option for a flying visit. There had been talk of a seaplane service in Croatia for many years but it took until late last year to get going. But with an out of season service being more like a private taxi, I'm sure it will take off - no pun intended - and be very popular during the summer.

Lastovo is a collection of islands and its environment is protected by law; in 2006 the Croatian Government made the island and its archipelago a nature park. The islands have a fascinating history and it generally mirrors the story of Croatia as a whole. It has been inhabited since the late Neolithic period and the first traces of humans on the island have been found in the Rača cave . Illyrians, Greeks, and Romans all made their mark, and "villae rusticae" (residential farming units) and water wells known as "lokve" are evidence of Roman ingenuity. However although agriculture was always important, the fertile island has seen war and conflict from the 10th century until the mid-1990s.

Friday 18 March 2016

Croatian Painting on Glass; and other tales

M Hodge "Bear's Dream" 2012
It's taken me a year to finally get around to this piece but it somehow seems appropriate writing about painting on glass under the clear light of the Adriatic, where colour bounces around with the sharp precision of painstakingly applied oil paint. This so-called naïve method of painting came to my attention last April when I met a modern master of the art at a British Croatian Society event. Melanie Hodge is the reason why, out of the two museums I visited in Zagreb, one of them was the Croatian Museum of Naive Art.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Croatian Culture and Civilisation part 1

Death of the last King of Croatia
I've decided to put my Croatian Culture and Civilisation notes here because they are slightly more serious in tone than stories about me being ridiculous on my travels around the country. Given that I will be examined about this course, it makes sense that it gets written up - though there may be more academic information available. As I've already said, the first Croatian Culture and Civilisation class I attended emphasised the mix of cultural influences: Illyrian, Celtic, Greek, Romans (with their associated enforced mixture), then Slavs and Ottomans. Like anywhere in the world it has seen tumultuous population changes and a large diaspora, which needs to be seen against a background of local, national and international events and developments.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

A short hiatus

A short hiatus is occurring as I am actually in transit.

I have no idea what is going to occur on this blog in the future. Art, librarianship, lectures and more exploration of the things around me, I hope, In the meantime the travels are being recorded at Contrary Towers.

Normality(ish) will resume shortly.

Saturday 6 February 2016


The beauty sparkles from deep inside;
To catch the city pulse to see the light.
The unexpected shoots sideways,
To glow, to shine, diffuse across my mind

The lights have been my safe harbour;
The bustle of noise has been my home.
The planned voyage takes me further east,
To travel, to explore, my mind takes shape

The old and the new collide
In glass and metal and skin reflected.
Reflecting on both leave me in colour,
To imagine, I am free, your spirit is free

Sunday 24 January 2016

Reconstructing the impossible: Diocletian and Split

Just no. And no again!
What is it about art, sculpture and architecture that really makes me tingle passionately? Why is it such an obsession with me? This latest lecture from the combined British-Croatian and Split based Croatian-British Societies, given by Goran Nikšić, Conservation Architect, Head of the Service for the Old City Core of Split, provides the perfect answer. He is an architect unravelling a historic architectural mystery; romantic nineteenth century myths are less interesting than the late antiquity/Roman life he is actually uncovering. As he talked about his findings, my brain tingle awoke and once again, I was gripped by an art story.

Saturday 9 January 2016

Revelations in glass

Eleanor Morgan
It's been my intention to write and record something about glass for a while now, primarily looking at it from a combined scientific and contemporary art point of view. For instance, Luke Jerram's mysterious shapes of viruses - ebola, MRSA and swine flu - crafted from glass, or the sculpture made from glass laboratory implements recently exhibited in the Wellcome windows. Then recently there was the stunning Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum which was partly inspired by nature's foray into silica based organisms. The inexplicable and unique scientific nature of glass makes it a perfect material of artistic endeavour, able to capture fragility, a human moment of stillness in a medium of movement.