Saturday, July 19, 2014

British Folk Art at Tate Britain

A few days ago we ventured into Londonium again for a visit to Tate Britain to see the exhibition of British Folk Art. It had great reviews and I was really excited to see it.

We had a lovely walk along Whitehall, by the River Thames, past the Houses of Parliament & Westminster Abbey then onto Millbank. It was about 1.5 miles so not too far for a gentle stroll. I snapped happily as we took in the views:

Wonderful winged horses/sea serpents standing guard
The war memorial dedicated to the work women did during World War II
Part of Westminster Abbey - I love turrets!
The Houses of Parliament with beautiful statues and stonework

We arrived at Tate Britain 20 minutes before opening time and so we wandered around the back streets.

A rather impressive Henry Moore sculpture
Along one side of the Tate building we noticed all these craters
It occurred to us that it must be bomb damage and indeed it was
We rounded a corner and came across a little garden so headed off to find some shade. I loved this adult gym equipment and had a go on it even though I was wearing a dress!
Finally it was 10am and so we headed off excitedly to view the exhibition. We weren't allowed to take photos of the exhibits but I asked permission to take this photo of the beautiful railings around the central staircase. Isn't it stunning?! The dark bit are black glass and echo the pattern on the floor.

The first item we saw when we entered was a magnificent quilt which took our breath away. Sadly I can't find any photos of it but there are a few photos of some of the other exhibits here and here.

It was a fabulous mix of unusual artefacts from a wall covered in old 'trade signs' which shopkeepers used to advertise their trade before the general spread of literacy (I loved the giant boot for a cobbler!), a room full of paintings where people and recorded events on whatever came to hand (for example, on cardboard or old bits of floorboard), many items with a nautical theme including several pieces of embroidery stitched by sailors on their long journeys away from home, quilts made of bit of felted wool by Prisoners of War (my favourite was the Crimean quilt which you can see in the links above - the pieces were only about 1" square and the colours were fabulous), enormous figureheads from ships and shipyards, the sheer scale of them took my breath away and some very strange sculptural artefacts and textiles.

Apart from the Crimean quilt my favourite thing was the cockerel you can see on the front of the brochure and in the links above. He was made of mutton bones by French prisoners in the Napoleonic wars and he was stunning.

But as soon as we'd been through the exhibition we were left wanting more. It was over far too soon and we felt it was rather overpriced (at £14 each) for the 35 minutes we took viewing it; and we stopped and studied all the pieces so we didn't rush around. Never mind, we then went on the explore the permanent exhibitions which were free and it was nice to remind ourselves what was there. 

I can still remember my first visit there back in circa 1974 as an art student. I was obsessed with the work of Bridget Riley and there was a major exhibition of her work.

We had an exciting lunch planned for afterwards and so we wended our way through the backstreets of London to our destination 2 miles away. We could have taken the tube for part of the journey but we preferred to just wander and take in the sights in the sunshine (although it did get a but too hot for us eventually and we were ready for a sit down!).

En-route I snapped away at anything that caught my eye:

A former Public Baths now used as a cafe
A different view of Westminster Abbey
The London Eye peeping over the top of the buildings
Finally we arrived at our destination, Benares restaurant in the heart of Mayfair. It is owned by the brilliant Atul Kochhar who is renowned for his fusion of Indian and British cuisine and we had been wanting to go there for ages so were very excited.

It didn't disappoint!  Here's my starter which consisted of so many elements I can't remember them all. The balls are beetroot patties decorated with edible gold and sitting on a paneer something-or-other with a peanut dressing and a tomato-based smear. It was sublime.

We loved everything about the restaurant; the service was exemplary, the food was divine, the atmosphere was perfect. All in all it was perfect.

Then there was more walking back to the station for the train home. We took the back streets when possible to avoid the crowds as it's prime tourist season. As usual my eye was drawn upwards as I love all the stonework.

This concrete panel was at the entrance to a hotel. It reminded me of crazy patchwork and samplers.
That was a most enjoyable day indeed and on the train journey home I started working on another version of my overlay crochet mandala which appeared in Simply Crochet magazine. This time I was using Rowan Cotton Glace but with similar colours to the original.

I reckon that by the end of the day we'd walked about 5.5 miles so we must have burned off at least some of the calories from our lunch!

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