This week… balloons, bobbins and The Blitz

Summer’s over, hello autumn. September is a glorious month with nature turning slowly into golden chestnut and mellow amber. Every acorn and conker bring a sense of childhood delight and the promise of dark twinkling skies, cosy casserole suppers, and earthy red wines.

That sense of the seasons turning is so evocative. In autumn it’s the ‘back to school’ feeling of anticipation and excitement that we enjoy. It’s a part of our DNA. We are intimately connected to nature and at a primal level the sensuous changes that each season brings makes us feel alive.

While the global news remains pretty grim, it’s even more important that we search out the little nuggets of gold. Life is for living and despite knockbacks and the challenges that involves, it’s the those moments of beauty, laughter and sheer enjoyment, however fleeting, that make it so worthwhile.

“Find a little piece of beauty in the world, hold it to you, let it nurture you”.

Seasonal changes. Autumn in Hampshire.

Here’s five things I liked this week.

New at Tate Modern

Sculptures by Maria Bartuszová. Right: Untitled 1985, Tate,  Presented by the Estate of Maria Bartuszová and Alison Jacques, London, 2018  © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice. Courtesy of The Estate of Maria Bartuszová, Košice, and Alison Jacques, London

A new autumn exhibition features the abstract plaster sculptures of Prague-born Slovak artist Maria Bartuszová (1936 to 1996) starting from the 1960s. Bartuszová created sculptures by pushing, pulling, or submerging them into water. Some suggest raindrops, seeds or eggs, others the human body. She went on to experiment with bursting the balloons to create pieces remiscent of ‘cocoons or nests’. Over three decades Bartuszová created around 500 sculptures ranging from small organic forms to public commissions. The playful, primal pieces are in neutral clours and yet they are full of light and shade, contours and textures. Maria Bartuszová at Tate Modern runs from 20 September to 16 April 2023.

Film Eric Ravilious: Drawn To War

Westbury Horse by Eric Ravilious (Private Collection. Towner Eastbourne). Photo (c)

A new film Eric Ravilious: Drawn To War has been a summer sell-out at independent cinema New Park in Chichester, resulting in an additional showing. British landscape artist, and one of 300 Official War Artists during the second world war, Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) was the first war artist to die on active service. Just 39 years old he went down in a plane crash in Iceland while on commission during a search-and-rescue mission.

Relatively unknown until recent times Ravilious’ enigmatic work is set against wartime locations in a compelling and modern way. Read more about his work in a review of the Extraordinary Everyday: The Art & Design of Eric Ravilious exhibition earlier this year at The Arc gallery.

Some of his war paintings had been censored (presumably due to national security), and more had been sunk at sea on their way to a South American exhibition, and a significant mural had been bombed to smithereens. Ravilious’ surviving work then is very much of its time and place, not only in their depiction of many historic and social scenes but by their very survival against all odds.

The 90-minute, full-length feature documentary film explores his work and life in Ravilious’ own words and features previously unseen private correspondence. Like so many, war artists both world wars (and still, photographers and journalists) were caught in the crossfire of the unimaginable horror of war. The film explores what it is to be a war artist, and features Ai Weiwei, Alan Bennett, Grayson Perry, amongst others, who make a case for Ravilious as one of the great British artists.

By the way the brilliant Tamsin Greig provides the voice for Ravilious’ wife, Tirzah Garwood, also an artist for the film.

More than 70 cinemas signed up to screen the film, so if you have an independent cinema near you, keep an eye out. And if they haven’t shown it yet put in a request!

That’s Life

Grade II* Listed Salts Mill a former textile factory in West Riding opened in 1953 as a vision of a better future.

Salts Mill in Bradford in West Riding, Yorkshire, features an incredible space, the perfect illustration of a re-purposed heritage building built in 1853. The vast interior is home to art galleries, shops and restaurants. Currently showing is a retrospective of work by social-documentary photographer, Ian Beesley (1954- ). Salts Mill was originally a textile mill built by Sir Titus Salt, a cloth manufacturer who apparently created the material ‘alpaca’.

The Bobbin Doffer, Brackendale Spinning Co, Thackley, Bradford, 1986. Photo by Ian Beesley.

Highly evocative, Beesley’s monochrome work documents an era that resonates. Born in Surrey, the same year as Beesley, growing up in the early years while my dad built his career as a textile chemist my family lived in the textile communities of Nottingham and Staffordshire. Life, Bradford style: the work of Ian Beesley – in pictures runs until Sunday 31 October.

Part of the reason I love exhibiting at Salts Mill is that it’s quite simply still here. The wrecking ball never got near this place…”

Ian Beesley.

Second hand September

Pre-loved sounds so much nicer, doesn’t it? In any event, the sentiments behind Oxfam’s Second Hand September initiative are something we can all get behind. The challenge – should you choose to accept it – is to shop only second hand for a month to help reduce the impact of fast fashion. Sign up online for a 20% discount code for Oxfam online shop and a chance of winning front row tickets to ‘Fashion Fighting Poverty’, Oxfam’s invite-only London Fashion Week show on 15 September 2022. Share your own photos on Instagram or Twitter and tag #SecondHandSeptember and tag @OxfamGB. Check out a past post Preowned, preloved and appealing for some more of my favourite finds.

Procrastinate, I dare you

Take time to smell the roses on 5 September. This glorious collection of fading roses by Nick Knight. Read Up Close with Nick Knight: fashion photographer interviewed during the first lockdown when procrastination became de rigeur.

National and international celebration days are two-a-penny and pass most of us by without any awareness. But tomorrow, 5 September, is ‘National Be Late For Something Day’. Not quite as daft as it sounds. Slowing down, letting go of modern day constricts a little, going-with-the-flow are all rather good for our health and the planet. Go ahead and sleep in a bit longer on Monday. Stop off to pick up that cup of coffee on your way into work or just to admire the view. Call a friend, even if you think you ‘don’t have the time’. Lighten up. Now you have the perfect excuse. #NationalBeLateForSomethingDay

“Most people think they don’t have time to stop and smell the roses. This day tries to alleviate that factor.”

Les Waas, Procrastinators’ Club of America Founder (founded 1956).

What’s been making you smile lately? What are you looking forward to this autumn? Join the conversation on Instagram or Twitter @hashtagtravelin. Have a wonderful week, wherever you are in the world.

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