Monday, 29 December 2008

C.F. Poble Sec

15 November. A game was being played, but the action was at the other end when these photographs were taken.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Plaça de la Revolució Setembre de 1868, Gràcia

In 1854 General Joaquín Espartero Balderomero declared for Isabel II and the progressives. In 1856 General Leopoldo O'Donnell declared for the moderates and conservatives. In 1868 General Joan Prim i Prats and General Francisco Serrano y Domínguez declared for the moderate liberals. The Bourbon monarchy was exiled to France, sheltered by Napoleon III; the 1869 Constitution was drawn up, in 1873 the first Spanish Republic was proclaimed. In 1874 General Martínez Campos declared for Alfonso XII, Isabel's son, and the Bourbon monarchy was restored.
Late October, a corner of the Plaça de la Revolució Setembre de 1868, builders marks on the walls, inscribed graffiti, peeling layers of paint. A building is under reconstruction, which by December is hidden from view by scaffolding and tarpaulin.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Roman walls, Capilla de Santa Águeda

The Roman city walls - of brick, masonry and cement -were raised and further fortified in the third and fourth centuries A.D. By their remains one can trace the boundary of the original Roman settlement of Barcino.
The Capilla de Santa Águeda [chapel of Saint Agatha], Palau Reial Major, with crown-shaped octagonal belltower, was begun in 1302 at the behest of Jaume II (the Just), King of Aragon and Valencia and Count of Barcelona (1291-1327). The walls of the chapel of Saint Agatha straddle the Roman walls at one side, the space needed by the burgeoning medieval city outgrowing the confines of the Roman oppidum.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar (1329 - 1383) has a central nave of four bays marked by octagonal columns, which also define two flanking aisles and quicken their pace to sweep together the semicircular form of the apse. The columns rise to just more than half the height of the nave; from their capitals the ribs of the roof converge on circular keystones. Chandeliers hang as plumb-lines traversing the huge spaces formed by the columns and their branches; the plummetting lines tell of the weight supported by the stub counterfort walls - solid rectangular blocks oppose the outward thrust of the roof in lieu of flying buttresses. See for example Robert Hughes, Barcelona, Chapter 3, V for more details of the building and its history.

I arrived early enough to see the rich blues of the stained glass windows at the east end

but the light fell quickly and the rose window dimmed.

Fragments of Fauré's Requiem were being rehearsed: it transpired that there was a service for All Souls being held that evening. For a while it was not possible to get out for the people coming in, during which time I recovered the normal inclination of the head after its long stretch of strenuous upward-looking.

I returned on a Sunday morning a week or so later, just as a small crowd gathered for mass, and, after consultation with my neck, decided to keep my gaze downwards on this occasion. The floor is paved with tombstones, mostly from the eighteenth century in the area I was looking.

Outside, around the huge oak west portal, with its two load-bearing figures - fifteenth century emblems of guild sponsorship - are tiny tableaux carved on the capitals of the columns assembled about the archway. Many are of scenes I could not decipher, some appearing to be from fabulous sources rather than biblical. The intricacy of carving is exemplified by these leaf forms
, appearing on successive columns.

Keeping eyes at ground level as I was, circumambulating the church I encountered walls, niches, doors.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Parc del Palau Reial de Pedralbes

A small arbour, found not sought, is watched over by a dimunitive angry-nosed dragon, cuprous green and rust-red: Gaudí's Hercules fountain.
In November the winter sun extends the shadows' range.

I returned a few weeks later on an overcast day in December. The marble busts on the semicircular balustrade gaze vaguely in the direction of the palace, visiting residence of the Spanish royal family 1919-1931, today housing the Museu de les Arts Decoratives (1932-) and the Museu de Ceràmica (1990-).
Eusebi Güell acquired the seventeenth-century farm Can Feliu and surrounding land in 1862; Joan Martorell i Montells converted the existing farmhouse into a Caribbean-style mansion, added a neo-gothic chapel and designed gardens. In 1884-1887 his pupil Antoni Gaudí remodelled the house, built the Pavellons Güell (a gatekeeper's lodge and stables; the far more fearsome Drac de Pedralbes* guards the gate, forged in iron by Vallet i Piqué to Gaudí's design), added two fountains to the gardens and planted pine, eucalyptus, palm, cypress and magnolia trees. The mansion was converted into a Royal Palace by Eusebi Bona i Puig and Francesc de Paula Nebot i Torrens (1919-1924) and the gardens were given their current geometric design by Nicolau Maria Rubió i Tudurí (1924), incorporating further features such as a pond, illuminated fountains by Carles Buïgas, bamboo brakes, and statues such as Agapit Vallmitjana i Barbany's Maria Cristina d'Habsburg mostrant al seu fill Alfons XIII (1861, relocated 1924). One is greeted at the entrance to the park from Avinguda Diagonal by Eulàlia Fàbregas de Sentmenat's Mediterrània (1962). There is also much of natural interest in the park.

* The imagery of Hercules and the dragon comes from Verdaguer's L'Atlàntida with its Catalan retelling of the Greek myth of Hercules' eleventh labour: to steal the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. See for example Robert Hughes, Barcelona, 1992, chapter 8, III.

Carrer Carolines

Two pictures taken on the night of 17 November along Carrer Carolines, one where it joins Carrer Aulèstia i Pijoan, and the other round the corner on to Carrer Gran de Gràcia. The wall graffiti had disappeared next time I passed this way.


The newsagents at the metro station at Lesseps had its shutters down for the winter. The fluorescent tubing, presumably meant for backlighting a poster, one day emitted a radiant messageless light. All the other days no effulgence.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

La Rotonda, Passeig de Sant Gervasi

Modernista hotel at the junction of Passeig de Sant Gervasi with Avinguda del Tibidabo. From this source I learn that it was built in 1918 by Adolfo Ruiz i Casamitjana as the Hotel Metropolitan, soon became the Hotel La Rotonda, and more recently the Hospital Sant Gervasi. At the end of November 2008 when these photographs were taken it was under reconstruction by hoteliers Núñez i Navarro. I returned to this place a few times, first drawn by the plane tree whose animated shadow fell on the ochre walls and mirrored reflection on silvered windows below, and the fox (?) on the flight of stairs that has been walled off.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Santa Maria del Pi

One evening late in November I visited the church of Santa Maria del Pi (1322-1486) in the Barri Gòtic, Barcelona. The windows retreated into the gloom, the weak yellow spotlights and clusters of votive candles providing the only illumination. The comings and goings to the church were accompanied by the unreturned greetings of the beggar at the entrance porch, "...hola...hola..hola.....hola.......hola..hola..." echoed tentatively by the acoustics of the nave. Scaffolding and netting obscured any view of the rose window end, but the half dodecagon of the apse could be made out.

The chandeliers rotate imperceptibly. A locked pair of doors below the organ bear the word "Empujar" [Push], words whose inverted reflections reach the floor below.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Gábor Kerekes

One of the pleasures of being home is taking books from the shelf such as Gábor Kerekes Seventies·Eighties, a book in two parts, "The Place" and "Everyday". In the first, corrosive light vies with inky blackness swallowing it up; between these two forces objects take on a sinister presence. The second part is more enigmatic.
I only came across this Hungarian photographer's work at the exhibition Soul and Body [Lélek és Test] at the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, 6 June - 24 September 2008 (here is a newspaper review), where there were five of his prints: Circle Game, Birthday triptych (1975) (which are reproduced in the second part of this book, picked up after the exhibition - although in Seventies·Eighties one of the parts of the birthday triptych does not appear), Aircraft cemetery (2007), Head cut (1993) and Arm (1993). Placed between the last two photographs was Zsolt Péter Barta's Eye (1993). There is an article by Lyle Rexer in Graphis May/Jun 2002 on Kerekes.

As explained in the introduction to Seventies·Eighties by László Beke, there are three layers in Kerekes's thirty-year output, this collection surveying his first. Kerekes deprecates his work of the late eighties as mere Reportage, but that which survives contains some quite eerie images such as those from Paris. His third, current, period engages in the alchemical erosion of boundaries that have evolved in recent history between science and art. With his images he demonstrates the subjectivity of perception, imbuing objects and instruments of scientific knowledge with a palpable uncertainty as to their nature and purpose. Distinctions between animal, mineral and vegetable are difficult to draw - for example, the leaf-like pattern of blood-vessels in Head cut and the sculptural attributes of the preserved severed Arm (which seems also to be poised between movements, in a sort of contrapposto of the arm.)

Kerekes also uses the photographic processes of the nineteenth century, such as the use of printing-out paper, where the image emerges not in a chemical bath but through exposure to light. All stages of the material aspects of image-making are important and one senses that he has successfully inhabited modes of epistemological discovery that were current in the nineteenth century, only now applied to the problems of this century.

Seeing one of the Aircraft cemetery series at the Budapest exhibition

reminded me of some of Paul Klee's watercolours, held by an abstract basis in repetition and variation yet also by
an ancient basis in myth and sense of the unknowable. (In fact Kerekes has made explicit reference to Klee in his series Over Roswell-2 (2005) with the print entitled Paul Klee Land.) I was curious as to quite how the aerial picture had been made and subsequently found an answer in Kerekes' descriptions of his working methods for the project Over Roswell (2002).

The exhibition Soul and Body last summer featured work by mostly, but not exclusively, Hungarian photographers, including André Kertész, Brassaï, László Moholy-Nagy and Robert Capa.
Other photographs that made me look with attention were by Cornell Capa, Martin Munkácsi, Ilse Bing, Luca Göbölyös, György Tóth, Lenke Szilágyi, András Baranyay, Tamás Féner, Paul Almasy, Ferenc Haar, Ferenc Aszmann, László Fejes, Gueorgui Pinkhassov. [Transcribed from a scrap of paper on which I scribbled while going round the exhibition and which I can now throw away! - I do not have the details of the images, only occasional aide-mémoires - recourse needs to be made to the catalogue of the exhibition.]

Another book that I leafed through after this exhibition was one I would like to spend time looking through, Péter Nádas' My Own Death (tr. Janos Salomon), which features photographs of a pear tree over the course of a year, interleaved with a story of the passing of three minutes.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Farewell Barcelona

A reveure, Barcelona, and your conical Christmas trees powered by sunlight and pedals.

Back home in England I shall return to images found over this autumn, turn them over and about, assemble a few for inspection here.

For now this obliging
window reflection, in which things are all pressing up to the picture plane.

(Plaça Espanya, Barcelona, 6 December 2008.)


For more about the birds of the title given to this blog see this site. When leaving their nest they do not fly but fall sufficiently far to gain the necessary speed for flight.

This blog is a primarily a place to hang pictures in virtual space to see how they look after some time has passed, so that things might be forgotten yet not be lost. It is also to have a record of encounters with other people’s work - pictorial, with words, around images - to make it easier to return to these past places.