Chinese art at the Ashmolean Museum

Monday, July 26, 2010

On Friday, I went to Oxford for the first time, spending some time at the Ashmolean Museum. The Museum's vast collection of objects is shown off wonderfully by the new extension to the building which brings light, brightness and freshness into the Museum's space. It also has some lovely undulating staircases.

Museums are usually vast: vast spaces - so many objects, so much to see, explore, learn. I'm always drawn to small, discrete spaces. At the Ashmolean, my favourite gallery was the Khoan and Michael Sullivan Gallery of Chinese Paintings, a lovely wood-lined, split level gallery showing Chinese painting and art through time and artefacts relating to painting, calligraphy and illustration.

The first 'painting' I saw wasn't actually a painting, but a papercut by Bovey Lee. I love the delicacy, intricacy and sheer attention to detail in these papercuts.

The calligraphy and implements on display were equally beautiful, fascinating and ornate. Imagine all the images made by these tools through time. All the images below come from the Ashmolean's online collections website Eastern Art Online.

Porcelain brush rest
This Chinese porcelain brush rest (something I never knew existed, but a very handy invention) dates from either the 2nd half of the 16th century or the first half of the 17th century.

Brass seal
This seal stamps calligraphy design, and dates from 1749.

And this calligraphy, while pretty recent (dating from 1990), tells the story of artisan Wang Xianzhi's response to his new-found fame.

Look at all the Ashmolean's calligraphy objects.

Map pictograms: Ireland unwound

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two tourism ads with maps showing Ireland and Britain in cord-form. The latter suggests that Britain's all tangled up (nice unwitting Girls Aloud reference) while Ireland's all relaxed.

Flag it up @ Hide & Seek Weekender

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On Sunday, I went to something called the Hide & Seek Weekender at the National Theatre. It was basically a whole weekend full of games. How ace.

The games were many: treasure hunts, chasing games, word games - all kinds of fun stuff that makes us think creatively about words, cities, places and geography. Very exciting stuff.

Sadly, I didn't have very long to spare so I had to choose the games I played carefully - the first of which was called Flag It Up. In it, I was given an envelope containing the name of a country and some facts about that country. My task: re-design its flag.

I set to my task with gusto.

I got Thailand, so started to think about Thailand as a land of beaches and temples. At the end of the day, all the entries were displayed without country names with the winner being that which most people correctly identified.

I don't think I won (I don't know which / who did) but all in all: amazing flag fun.

World Cup in London: Netherlands & Spain

Monday, July 12, 2010

Or: Voetbal! Football with London's Dutch fans & Futbol! Football with London's Spanish fans

To watch the World Cup Final last night, I had planned to be with Dutch fans singing Hup Holland Hup! But with queues outside Dutch bar De Hems from 10am, it didn't look like I'd be getting in there.

Holland football fans, London

In fact, nearly all of Soho was awash with red and orange yesterday - jolly fans all singing and dancing, wearing fun costumes and having a very good time.

Holland football fans, London

In the end, me and two friends settled in Devonshire Arms, a bar where on one side there were mainly Dutch fans and on the other side mainly Spanish fans. The best of both worlds!

Dutch & Spanish football fans, London

We placed ourselves firmly in the middle - I was rooting for both sides: Netherlands winning would have made me super-happy, Spain winning would have made me £135. Win-win all round.

The game was really not the most exciting, but the fans made up for it: chanting Ho-lland and Es-pan-a, sometimes breaking out into song.

Spain football fans, London

As the game dragged on, their enthusiasm did not wane, but everyone was on tenterhooks until near the very end when Spain scored. Joy to the left of me, dejection to the right.

Spanish football fans, London

Once the match ended, the Spanish fans poured out onto the streets. A group of women went running past cheering and waving flags. Piccadilly Circus was awash was red and yellow, people climbing all the way up the Eros to celebrate, sing and dance. One man even dropped his trousers giving us all quite an eyeful.

Spanish football fans, London

And with the sights and sounds of Spain celebrates, I slipped away.

So that's the World Cup. From brilliant Brazilians to gallant Ghanians to surprised Slovenians and unhappy Uruguayans, it's been quite a show.

World Cup in London: Germany

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Or: Fußball! Football with London's German fans

I hoped to watch tonight's Germany -v- Spain World Cup semi-final with German fans. Vauxhall bar The Jolly Gardeners was super-full, however, with people reportedly queuing since 3pm.

So I joined other fans in another nearby over-spill bar. That bar too was packed to capacity, so I stood outside for most of the first half. One man emerged from within saying "Oh my days". It must have been quite exciting inside.

During half-time, I snuck in. What an atmosphere! The temperature was practically sauna-like, clammy with sweat and alcohol.

Germany football fans, London

This didn't deter the German fans who were singing and chanting a whole variety of tunes. Sadly no blast of their recent Eurovision winner. Forshame.

One man carried around a replica of the Jules Rimet trophy into which he placed his beer. Nice. Another blew on his vuvuzuela.

But midway through the half, the bar fell silent when Spain scored. "Scheise", one man whispered.

Germany never regained momentum, though the fans did, cheering all the way, particularly "Auf Gehts Deutschland Schieß ein Tor" (Let's go Germany, score a goal).

Germany football fans, London

But as the final whistle blew, and Germany lost, a man outside changed the chant to "la la la you're going home".

Oh dear.

Next: On Sunday, I'm going Dutch for the World Cup Final.