Author: haftonandkelly

Making February: Maps on Sails

I think I have come up with an idea that could revolutionise sailing: maps on sails. No more poring over charts or having to ‘go below’ to check one’s course; my plan would have the map right there on the sail, ready to be consulted at any time. To be honest, I can’t think why it hasn’t been done already (to be fair, I am not a sailor, so there may be practical hitches but, from my desk, I honestly can’t see them).

I have to admit, the idea came about by chance; I’d saved the pictures from last year’s calendar as they seemed too good to throw away and they were lying in a pile near the half-painted sails. These boats complete the bathroom fleet and hide the central light, which I’ve never liked. For those of you who are counting; they are numbers 16-19 of the second fifty.


Tullio Crali at the Estorick

I wrote about the Estorick Collection at the tail end of last year and had firmly intended to attend the opening party for the Tullio Crali show “A Futurist Life” in mid-January. Storm Duncan, however, thwarted this, doing in the trains from our part of the country that evening, but I got there a few days later.  Well worth it and see 

Crali was born in 1910 and died in 2000, after a long, adventurous, difficult and sometimes controversial life. From the age of fifteen he became a convert to Futurism and by the mid 1930’s he was a major player in the movement and had become increasingly close to its leader, Marinetti. He had taught himself to paint, albeit with initially disastrous results; the home mixed oils just slid off the surfaces to which he tried to apply them. Things got better quickly and his output in the fields of fashion, theatre, architecture and graphic design was impressive. However, had he not taken to aeropainting, he would be little more than an interesting footnote in the history of twentieth century art.

Futurism as a movement was obsessed with speed, change and the means (both technological and political) by which this could be felt and experienced.  As early as 1909 Marinetti had written  We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes… is more beautiful that the Victory of Samothrace. In 1930 Crali, who had been experimenting with images of flight for a few years, produced a semi abstract oil painting entitled Le forze della curvaThe Forces of the Bend.  Its subject is a racing car taking a corner on a banked track. Its limited palette, wilful distortions of perspective and the use of striking circular and elliptical forms in its composition all combine to give a huge sense of energy and of change thrusting forwards into the future, albeit against the resistance of the curve. Not only does it admirably convey sensation but also references time, mass and by implication the political manifesto of the Futurists.

The same year came another oil painting, Tramonte di luci a Ostia : Lights of Sunset at Ostia,  a highly personal interpretation  characterised by overlapping arcs of light and shadow produced by the setting sun and a strong sense of a sky that goes on and on almost forever. He has by now gained a masterly control of colour, tone and composition and this is one of the paintings I would really like to take home. No such possibility, since they have all been kindly lent from a private collection.

Only two years later in 1932,  came Ali tricolori – Tricolour Wings, another oil showing an aeroplane of the Italian national aerobatic team, the Frecce Tricolori, the then equivalent of our Red Arrows, performing a stunt so that successive painted superimpositions of the plane suggest its spiralling motion, against an almost lyrical, but greatly simplified background of land and sky. Crali loved to fly and had close links to the pilots of the Italian Air Force, feeling and expressing great affinity and admiration for them.

He also seems, although apolitical and cynical about politics in person, to have been curiously naive in his support for Futurism, whose political components and some of whose membership, came dangerously close to Fascism and all its consequences before and during the Second World War. This got him into big trouble. He was locked up by the Nazis for promoting avant-garde events in Gorizia, nearly deported to Germany to a fate best imagined and then again imprisoned by Tito’s partisans, before the Americans liberated him.

After the war ended he became disillusioned with his fellow Futurists, although he preserved total loyalty to the movement to which he was designated heir by Marinetti. He took teaching jobs in art schools in Paris and in Cairo and continued to paint and to be fascinated by technology. His experimentations are interesting, depicting subjects ranging from the port structures of Nantes, to cosmic images with a strong metaphysical content and creating Sassisenti, assembled collections of stones and marine fragments found on the Brittany coastline. He also continued to fly and work with Italian Air Force pilots and produced a number of very satisfying post war aeropaintings.

While this later output adds to the exhibition, it lacks the intimate engagement with the Zeitgeist of inter-war Italy and the emergence of radical technologies that made his work so special. Like de Chirico, he peaked relatively early and while remaining totally competent and a very good painter, never again quite produced stuff to match that remarkable ascent.

The exhibition continues until 11th April. See it if you can.



Making January: The Beginnings of a New Fleet

I’ve made fifteen more boats. I’m using Ann Wood’s pattern, which I first tried out last November. She said the boats were best made in batches and this works for me too. I do them in batches of three or four so I can get on with something while I’m waiting for the paint/glue to dry.

For years I have saved snippets from newspapers and the collection increased rapidly when I started making papier mâché as I now save any interesting words, phrases or pictures I come across while tearing the strips. Again, following Ann Wood’s inspiration, I planned to use the words on boats. They didn’t fit on the little bunting boats but they are perfect for these larger paper ones. Each sail is painted on the front and has a word or phrase on the back – not exactly a name but something that suits the boat.

I’m not sure where the eventual fleet will hang, possibly from the kitchen ceiling. At the moment they are moored to my bookshelves. I like to think that at night, after I have turned out the lights and gone to bed, they slip their moorings under the books and sail away on adventures. Wherever they go, they are always back in their literary harbour by morning.


Each Month From my Window: January

Last month I bemoaned the fact that the best photographs of gardens in winter were usually photos of beautiful or evocative weather conditions. Of course it helps to have a good basic structure but I’m sure this is often easier on a larger scale. Monty Don’s front garden consists of 26 yews cut into cones of differing sizes and, while I don’t know the exact dimensions of this part of his garden, I suspect it is probably eight or even ten times the size of my entire plot. They achieve a beauty throughout the winter that my half-empty pots are never going to match. The following extract comes from Gardening at Longmeadow and describes looking out onto the garden at 2.30 on a February morning in 2002:

‘A breeze rippled the dark like a river and the silvery monochrome stripped away everything but shape from the yews. Twenty-six cones, each different but for that moment each perfect and each with its shadow like an echo……. It felt like a door had opened and shown me a parallel garden in another dimension.’

Much as I love the grasses in my front window boxes, they have some way to go before they will conjure up this level of magic.

But my bulbs are starting to appear and, with a judicious rearrangement of pots, I can see them as I write. The winter jasmine is still flowering merrily and, this morning, I spotted the first witch hazel flowers from the kitchen window.

Most of the photos are, I have to admit, a bit of a cheat. I see the plants from my window but I can blot out the parked cars, neighbouring houses and less-than-spectacular surrounding plants, which a photograph can’t. So, to misquote Eric Morecambe’s famous statement to the unfortunate Andrew Preview, ‘These are all the right plants, just not necessarily viewed from the right angle’.   


Making Week 25: Cushions and Not-New-Year’s Resolutions

Patchwork has got me through the last few weeks of ‘making’ and resulted in a couple of robust cushions that will make the uncomfortable garden bench positively cosy.

I have never been good at keeping New Year’s resolutions so, when I started the weekly making project back in July I deliberately decided on 25 weeks as I knew it would get me safely past the crucial time of making unsuccessful resolutions.

In fact I made a series of ‘resolutions’ on 22nd December and fine-tuned them on Twelfth Night. As far as I am concerned, once the winter solstice is passed it is a gentle slope all the way to summer: bright sunny mornings, long twilight evenings and meals in the garden.

Having roughly got the hang of papier mâché and put my patchwork fabrics into some sort of order my plan is to complete things this year. First the remaining fifty boats. Then the partly-made castle, the planned patchworks and a host of other things that are at the ‘to be started/finished very soon’ stages. I am planning to set aside one day each week for making, and ideally finishing, things. I’ll post them once a month to balance the garden posts, which I’m going to alter slightly this year.  

Roy Lancaster has started a new series in The Garden, the Royal Horticultural Society’s monthly magazine, called Through my Window. I spend a considerable time looking out of the window, both intentionally and when I am meant to be working. Unlike his, my garden is tiny and, also probably unlike him, I do very little actual gardening between October and March. The lack of space means I can’t rely on trees to provide year-round interest and the same lack means I can’t afford much space for ‘winter-interest’ plants. Summer is when I spend most time in the garden (gardening and sitting) so it is then that most of my plants need to look their best. But I look out of my windows all year and I’m convinced that I always have something, however small, to look at. The following posts will see if this is true. For the moment here are some wafty grasses, winter jasmine flowers and someone who knows she is not meant to trample through the window boxes.


Childish in Chalks?

Occasionally one produces something that bears no relation to one’s intentions. A few weeks ago I decided to use chalks on blue paper for two poses of our faithful model, Kathryn. What I’d hoped to do  was obtain a few delicate flesh tones. What actually happened was the brightly coloured chalks produced an effect like a small boy’s vision of a naked lady before the age of the internet. It was strangely successful, without having any pretensions to art, although I have a curious feeling that Prince Andrew might refer to it as “a harmless bit of fun”. 


Making Week 24: Waylaid by the Garden

I had planned to spend today making boats but it was so beautiful I went into the garden to do some ‘quick tidying’ and stopped four hours later. This is the thing I probably love most about my little garden; the fact that it accommodates my wishes regarding when I want to garden. I tidied the ivy, tied up the climbers, cleared the dead leaves and had a delightful and productive time. But none of the things I did were urgent, they could happily have waited a few weeks or even months. When I was a child there always seemed to be an urgency about the garden. To be fair, it was large but my memories are of things that had to be done, rather than done because it was a beautiful day and one wanted to be outside.  

I was not expecting flowers so the roses and snapdragons were a bonus. Equally heartening but less surprising was the winter jasmine.


Brush and Wash

We had a life drawing session a couple of weeks ago and I had a go at using water soluble black ink and a fairly fine brush. The two drawings below, though far from brilliant, were among the more successful images that I produced. We had rather a good model, Kathryn, who fortunately possesses a sense of humour. If nothing else it was a pleasant evening.






Making Week 23: Waylaid by a Poem

Gyles Brandreth’s new book Dancing by the Light of the Moon is in the Hatchards catalogue so, for some time I have intended to look at it properly. The Hatchards review is accurate but based on a quick read and a skim which gives me an idea and feel of the book which is all I need for the sixty or so words I am meant to use for each review. Most of the ones I really want to read have to wait till later.

The premise of this book is that everyone would be better in every way if they learnt poetry. A nice idea, I thought, but never one I would put into practice. By the second page I was intrigued, by the fourth, completely hooked. My plan, written here so I stand a faint chance of implementing it, is to learn a poem each week next year. 


Salute to Paul Henry

Not having posted anything I made for months it seems a good opportunity to catch up between now and the New Year. This one, oils on canvas as usual, was inspired by the Irish artist Paul Henry who died in 1958. It’s not actually a copy, and certainly lacks the skill of his brushwork and gradations of colour, but is very much in his manner. No-one who hasn’t been to the West of Ireland will ever believe the hills and mountains are really that blue, but I absolutely promise they are!