Sunday, 11 March 2018

Perfect tranquility - the Isle of Wight

I am very lucky to live in South West England. South West England is a beautiful coastal region that has amazing places to visit and boasts incredible attractions. Wiltshire county is gorgeous - green, lush, rich in culture and history, home to Stonehenge and the tallest cathedral in the UK - Salisbury Cathedral. Dorset has great seaside and lovely, sandy beaches. I love Bournemouth and Boscombe. However, in summer time Bornemouth beaches are extremely crowded. Therefore, if you like tranqulity, you should head for the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight is one of my favourite seaside destinations in the UK. Beaches in the Isle of Wight are so peaceful and relaxing...they are perfect for introverts!

Wiltshire is full of amazing places - stylish museums, elegant buldings and beautiful gardens. This picture shows Wilton House - an old English country house near Salisbury. 

If you ever come to Wiltshire, visiting Stonehenge is a must. Stonehenge is a very mysterious place, you should definitely immerse yourself in its mystery.

Back to the subject now. As I mentioned earlier, I would definitely recommend the Isle of Wight for peace and natural beauty seekers. If you decide to escape to the Isle of Wight, you will need to get there on ferry. I went to the Isle of Wight last year. I booked a ferry journey from Southampton to East Cowes. Red Funnel company provides cheap and comfortable Isle of Wight Ferry travel for both foot passengers and vehicles. 

... boarding begins!

...sailing away :-)

The Isle of Wight is a relatively small, diamond-shaped island. It has a diverse and beautiful scenery and is perfect for walkers. The island has lots of footpaths that will lead you through green farmland, stunning cliffs and charming, dreamy villages. 

Dramatic cliffs and stunning views of the Frewshwater Bay. 

Charming, dreamy thatched cottage church in Freshwater Bay is like a fairy tale cottage. You must not overlook this lovely little church. St Agnes Church in Freshwater is the only thatched church on the Isle of Wight. The church is located along the Freshwater Bay to Alum Bay. I discovered this little gem by accident while walking along numerous footpaths in Freshwater and Freshwater Bay.  

If you are an avid cyclist The Isle of Wight is perfect for you. The island is ideal for bike excursions. It has 500 miles of cycle paths through amazing landscapes. 

Dramatic scenery in Alum Bay. Tall grass, breathtaking, red cliffs and balmy breeze. There is a famous Needles Park out there. With stunning landscapes and a spectacular chairlift past various coloured sand cliffs, the Neddles Park is definitely worth a visit. 

The iconic Needles Chairlift is the best way to see the Isle of Wight's famous landmark.
The trip starts from the top of the Alum Bay cliffs down to the pebble beach below. Then the chairlift takes you back to the top - you can admire multi-coloured sand cliff of Alum Bay. Before taking your return journey you can spend some time on the pebble Alum Bay beach and embark on a trip on the boat. Unfortuantely, I could not take the boat trip on that day because the boat service was cancelled - the wind was too strong and the waters too rough. 

Amazing caves in Freshwater Bay and Freshwater.

If you look closely, you can spot me in this picture :-)

The rocks and cliffs in Freshwater Bay and Freshwater (small villages in the north of the Isle of Wight) are breathtakingly beautiful. There is an air of wilderness about them.

The Isle of Wight is full of surprises. When I was exploring Freshwater Bay village, immersing myself in its unspoilt wilderness and secluded landscapes I stumbled upon Dimbola! Funny name isn't it? If you are fan of museums, galleries, photography and Victorian era, Dimbola might be a place for you. Dimbola is a museum and a gallery dedicated to life and work of a Victorian photographer - Julia Cameron. Located so close to the cliffs, overlooking the sea, Dimbola must have been a very unspiring place to live and work. Apart from featuring Julia Cameron's photography, Dimbola now also showcases contemporary exhibitions from photographers around the world.

Julia Cameron took up photography at the relatively late age of 48, when she was given a camera as a present. The bulk of her photographs fit into two categories: closely framed portraits and illustrative allegories based on religious and literary works. In the allegorical works in particular, her artistic influence was clearly Pre-Raphealite,with far-away looks, limp poses, and soft lighting(Rosenblum, Naomi. A History of Women Photographers. Third ed. New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 2010. p. 52.)

When I visited The Isle of Wight last year, I wanted to go to as many places as possible. I wanted to explore the north and the south, the east and the west of this adorable island. Unfortunately I did not manage to fulfil my goal. I did explore the west of the island (Freshwater Bay, Freshwater, Alum Bay, Yarmouth) and a little bit the east part of the island. I would love to go the south of the island this year and visit Ventnor. 

Last place I would like to write about in this post is Shanklin Town and and the Old Village of Shanklin. Shanklin Old Village is another charming and fairy-tale like place full of thatched cottages, lovely gift shops and cute tea rooms.

 The beaches in Shanklin are golden, soft and sandy. There are lots of fantastic parks and gardens around the town and the village. 

Shanklin Old Village

The place I enjoyed a lot was the Shanklin Chine. The Shanklin Chine is a gorge with rare, exotic plants and a mesmerizing waterfall which is beautifully illuminated at night time. After activity packed day in Shanklin Old Village (shopping, swimming, walking and absorbing sunshine) I spent my evening in the magical Shanklin Chine. 

Take a peek at the pictures. I know that the pictures are not best quality but it was getting late and I was in a hurry because the place was about to close down. 

Thank you for reading my post!

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

My brief trip to the National Portrait Gallery in London

The National Portrait Gallery

I did not visit the National Gallery this time because I just knew I would spent the entire day there again. I have been to The National Gallery several times and decided to devote my time to exploring the National Portrait Gallery instead. I arrived in London at midday and I was short on time. Besides, the main reason why I decided to go to London on that day was to see ballet performance at Sadler's Wells Theatre. I have been a massive fan of Pina Baush's hugely dramatic works and her minimalistic yet deeply intense choreography for a while now and as soon as I found out that English National Ballet scheduled to perform Pina Baush's masterpiece The Rite of Spring I booked the ticket and set off to London! English National Ballet was only the second company in the world beyond Tanztheater Wuppertal to perform The Rite of Spring. Baush's masterpiece was a part of the triple bill that also included William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and Adagio Hammerklavier by Hans van Manen.

Pina Baush's The Rite of Spring
Photo Ulli Weis 

The video above captivates the essence of Baush's works intensity, passion and raw beauty - the qualities I truly enjoy. 

My evening was reserved for ballet, my afternoon for the National Portrait Gallery.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Day out in London

 Double deckers at Trafalgar Square

"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life" - Samuel Johnson.

I embarked on my long awaited trip to London yesterday to prove myself that I am not tired of life! No, I am definitely not. I came back home in a state of rejuvenation and exaltation. I love London for its life-pulsating atmosphere, vibrancy, music
& great art and interesting people. You can get best live shows and best street music in London. Every time I want to stimulate my vision, revive my senses and charge my socio-cultural battery I head off to London. I am pretty sure I will revisit London next month. I want to go to Tate, Tate Modern, Natural Science Museum, Royal Academy and many, many more! If you are curious (I bet you are, since you read my blog ;-) London is an amazing place.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present a synopsis of my one day trip to the grand capital of the United Kingdom.

           Queen's Regimental Band
  These guys are supberb musicians! They surprised us  with impromptu rendition of "I dreamed A Dream" - a song from the musical 'Les Miserables'! (many of you may know the tune thanks to Susan Boyle and Britain's Got Talent). I ran after this royal orchestra with a big, beaming smile on my face, happy heart and my camera. The music they played was so, so cheerful ... could not get enough of it! 

Horse drawn carriage heading towards Buckingham Palace. I was in the right place and at the right time! A truly delightful sight. No engine vehicle can compare to an old majestic carriage. 

Buckingham Palace & the Victoria Memorial

Glistening grass and glorious flowers at Buckingham Palace. In the background you can spot the London Eye.

Buckingham Palace boasts over 40 acres of garden including 350 different species of flowers, 200 trees and a lake. The garden looks fabulous in springtime - everything is so fresh, shiny, fragrant and cheerful.


  Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

- Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is the ceremony where the Old Guard hands over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace and St. James's Palace to the New Guard.

- The ceremony begins on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace at 11:30 sharp, following a march by a detachment of the Old Guard, with musical support, from St. James's Palace and the New Guard led by a Regimental Band from Wellington Barracks.

- The Queen's Guard is normally provided by one of the five regiments of Foot Guards from the Household Division, instantly recognisable in their bearskin caps and scarlet tunics.

- Musical support is provided by a Regimental Band or Corps of Drums with pipers occasionally taking part in the ceremony.

- The Guardsmen taking part in the ceremony are highly trained infantry soldiers, who in addition to their combat role undertake ceremonial duties.

 Queen's Regimental Band again ;-)

Royal cavalry, mounted on immaculately groomed horses, present a stirring sight as they ride through the streets of London to Change the Guard on Horse Guards Parade.

Royal Horse Guards  

Buckingham Palace

I finished off my trip to London with a quick visit to the National Art Gallery and then a lovely, relaxing walk along Gerrard Street. Gerrard Street in London's Soho is in the heart of Chinatown. It was an incredible experience to delve into this exotic and vibrant part of London filled with red lanterns, dragons and Mandarin street sign. 


Monday, 2 January 2017

Smithsonian Magazine Photography Contest

A few weeks ago I took part in a photo contest organised by the prestigious Smithsonian Magazine. It was a hasty and a spontaneous decision. I had never participated in any important contest before. I was reading a scientific article on Smithsonian and out of a sudden I noticed that the annual 14th photo contest was open and that they  were looking for exceptional photography in the following categories: The American Experience, Natural World, Travel, Sustainable Travel, People, Altered Images and Mobile. The Smithsonian will select 10 finalists per category, a winner for each category, and a Grand Prize winner from the 70 finalists. Submitting one of my pictures, taken with low-budget Fujifilm camera, was an act of bravado. The picture I submitted is not exceptional but in my opinion, it gives you a food for thought. The picture is well-known to my blog readers as I set it up as my profile picture (it is my favourite picture, I have to admit that). I titled it: Solitude in La Colina, Amsterdam.  All in all, I have submitted my picture and it has been approved! The 70 finalists will be notified of their status by February 20, 2017 and will appear on Smithsonian website in spring 2017. I can't wait for the results.

Click on the link to view the entry I submitted and to read the caption describing the photo's content, my personal interpretation of the photo and the story behind it. 

Happy viewing! 

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Franz Kafka Museum in Prague

 Crop of Charles Bridge (2009), by Paul Cook.  Charles Bridge (Karlův most) lies over the Vitava River in Kafka's hometown of Prague.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

The museum was an interesting and very revealing experience to me. Kafka Museum is  postmodern and interactive. It is different and unsettling. Through its labirynthine structure (dark narrow corridors, spiraling staircases) and the use of interesting visual and sound effects the museum creates truly Kafkaesque atmosphere: eerie, tense, complex, surreal. It perfectly recreates the sense of entrapment and enclosure so prevalent in Kafka's writing. The museum gives one a very good insight into Franz Kafka - the man and the writer, the things that influenced him: his childhood, his historical and cultural background, his friends, his relationships, his family. As the story of Kafka slowly unravels to us in the form of his letters, photographs, manuscripst we get to know him as an aliented writer, aspiring and ambitious artist (yes, I was surprised to discover that Kafka took up drawing as well, and produced many touching works) a sensitive loner and a genius. Selected museum exhibitions draw attention to Kafka's uneasy and complex relationship with the city of his birth: "Prague won't let you go, the little mother has claws," Franz Kafka once wrote. 

Kafka Museum is situated a stone's throw away from Charles Bridge, alongside Vlatva River in the Lesser Quarter. It was open in 2005 and boasts a vast collection of historical photographs and film recordings, manuscripts, diaries, drawings, sketches, newspaper cuttings, original letters, documents and publications relating to Franz Kafka's literary works, life, and cultural surroundings. 

The exhibition comprises of two sections: Existential Space and Imaginary Topography. The first part examines the impact Prague had on Kafka's literary imagination and writing. "Prague contributes myth, obscure magic and provides a magnificent backdrop" as the exhibition informs us. The second part of the exhibition, seeks to establish connections between Prague and its literary represantions in writer's novels. For example, there is a possibility that the anonymous cathedral which appears in the key chapter of The Trial, could have its origin in St Vitus Cathedral or that the mysterious river which flows in The Judgement narrative could have corresponded to Vlatva River. Kafka was rather enigmatic about the locations he incorporated in his creative discourse. He was not interested in producing an accurate portrayal of Prague. As the museum suggests, he sought to transform Prague into an "Imaginary Topography". He wanted to transform it beyond its physical self. Enigmatic descriptions of the urban architecture in Kafka's novels render the locations anonymous. His characters are not encircled or confined to a particular region, location or a city. They are confined to stifling emotional states, oppressive processes and inescapable situations. They are the states and processes everyone experiences and can identify with at a certain stage of one's life.

As mentioned before, the museum is arranged around Kafka's literary themes. Diverse items as photographs, audiovisual installations, letters, and music allow the exhibition space to simulate Kafka's or K.'s existential space. "Key passages from Kafka's diaries, novels, and short stories written in white block letters on dark, "muddy" walls, wooden pallets, or an ascending staircase leading nowhere interrupt the eye as one passes from exhibit to the next"(source: a review of "The City of K.: Franz Kafka and Prague," The Jewish Museum, New York, August 11, 2002 to January 5, 2003,Victor E. Taylor, York College of Pennsylvania, click on here to read the whole article). 

Writer's Biography

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a Czech-born German-language writer whose surreal fiction vividly expressed the anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness of the individual in the 20th century. Kafka's work is characterized by nightmarish settings in which characters are crushed by nonsensical, blind authority. Thus, the word Kafkaesque is often applied to bizarre and impersonal administrative situations where the individual feels powerless to understand or control what is happening. The first recorded appearance of "Kafkaesque" in English was in 1946 (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

David Cerny - Prague's Rebel Artist

Piss (2004)

David Cerny

Chech sculptor David Cerny is a master of productive disquietude and controversy. His sculptures are provocative, defiant and certainly intriguing. They are quirky, amusing and revolutionary. Born in December 15, 1967 in Prague, Cerny gained notoriety in 1991 by painting a Soviet tank pink that served as a war memorial in central Prague. As the Monument to Soviet tank crews was still a national cultural monument at that time, his act of civil disobedience was considered “hooliganism” and he was briefly arrested [1].  

 The power of Art

Cerny's parents were artists themselves. But as he recalls, he hated being dragged to official exhibition openings. He studied design and graphic design but he knew from the beginning  that he was too much of a rebel and provocator to find happiness and fullfilment in designing furniture and other utalitarian items. Initially, his works were dismissed as too brash  and garish.  All galleries kept turning his creations down. A single protest action in September 1991 catapulted him into the limelight overnight - in the literal sense of the word overnight - as the Pink Tank was created overnight. Cerny and his accomplices painted a Russian tank pink and erected a large finger suggesting an obscene gesture on its turret, signing the work "David Černý and the Neostunners". It was an extremely daring and risky thing to do in those times. The tank - an important monument commemorating liberation of Prague by the Red Army in 1945, turned into a symbol of Stalinist oppression over the next four decades. But once it was painted pink, the tank has assumed a totally different meaning - a joyous act of freedom and liberation, non-violent protest, a breath of fresh air of uninhibited, individual expression and creativity. Pink Tank became a metaphor for the Velvet Revolution - a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia. The period of upheaval and transition took place from November 17 to December 29, 1989. After an official protest by the Russian government, the tank was re-painted green. Interestingly, the tank was painted back to pink a second time by members of parliament in protest of Cerny's arrest. The national monument status was abolished, Cerný was released, and the tank was eventually removed after being repeatedly being painted green, then pink again, a few more times. The tank is now located at Military Museum Lešany near Týnec nad Sázavou (source: Soviet Tank Crews).

The symbiosis of art and urban architecture

Significant part of David Cerny visibility and popularity factor is that the majority of his sculptures can be found in public spaces. Cerny proves that art and urban architecture can walk hand in hand and co-exist in a relative harmony. Tucked into corners, dangerously swinging from an iron beam above cobbled streets or curiously climbing up a tower - his works make us stop and ponder. When you head right along the Vlatva's edge to Kampa Island you are bound to bump into three giant babies that guard the entrance to Museum Kampa. These massive crawling, Lynchian creatures, are part of Cerny's "Babies" Zizkov TV Tower project.

I suppose that having read the brief introduction above, you keep wondering what Cerny's "Babies" Zizkov TV Tower Project was all about and how did the shameless monster cherubs get to Kampa Island. I was equally puzzled when I stumbled upon these three black giant babies, their mouths stapled shut, nonchalantly crawling outside the entrance to the Kampa Museum. I was not only puzzled but also amused! It turns out that the three monster babies guarding the entrance to Kampa Museum are twin brothers of Miminkas - eight black babies who are permament residents of Zizkov Television Tower!

Zizkov Television Tower is  216 meters (709 feet) high, and it is the highest tower in the Czech Republic. In the year 2000 Prague was the Cultural Capital of Europe and at the time Cerny was living here. He was commissioned to create a temporary project to honur the occasion. Cerny came up with the original idea of installing eight monster fiberglass babies on the Zizkov Television Twoer. His “Tower Babies” became his most prominent work in Prague.  Due to the public’s appreciation of the babies, it was decided that they would remain permanently on the Tower. To see them up close, go to Kampa Museum where they crawl in a corner next to the entrance (source: David Cerny: Art in Public Spaces).

It is important to note however, that Cerny's Babies  were first presented in 1994 at the Chicago Museum of Modern Art, followed by appearances in various other cities including London. The tower project came about in 2000 – the year Prague was a Cultural Capital of Europe. (source: David Cerny: Art in Public Spaces)

Brownnosing is another provocative and outrageous work by Cerny. Located in the garden of the Futura Centre for Contemporary Art in Smíchov, two headless, five metre high rear ends lean provocatively against a white wall. 

Image credit: (
Shocking, entertaining, provoking, funny and brave. His sculptures make us thinking.

You can climb a ladder and stick your head in the sculpture’s fiberglass anus to see a video of two Czech politicians feeding each other slop to a soundtrack of “We are the Champions." Crude, unsubtle, comical, it is yet another example of Cerny's displeasure with post-revolution democracy; the fates of the Czech people, he feels, rest uneasily in the dictatorial, money-grabbing hands of inept politicians [3].

Year: 2003 | material : mixed media | height 5.2 m (17.06 ft) | address: Hole kova 49, Prague 5, Czech Republic

Man Hanging out (1996)

Image credits: (Civic Arts Project)

"This unique sculpture in Old Town Prague depicts psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud hanging by a hand and pondering whether to hold on or let go. It is an unexpected and eye-catching-if not disturbing-image in an otherwise sublime urban area.

Sigmund Freud was born in Frieburg which is now part of the Czech Republic.  Even during the most prolific times of his career, Frued suffered from a number of phobias including the fear of his own death.  Suffering from mouth cancer when he was 83, Freud had his close friend and doctor help him to commit suicide through administering morphine.

Artist David Cerny depicts Freud in this way to signify his constant struggle with fear of death.  Other interpretations suggest that the artist was personally challenging the status quo.

The sculpture became so popular that it was exhibited in other cities including London, Berlin, Rotterdam, Chicago, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Often mistaken as a suicide attempt, the sculpture has initiated calls to fire and police. Man Hanging Out is in the ‘Stare Mesto’, or Old Town, section of Prague and is surrounded by richly detailed buildings, narrow streets, and cobbled plazas.  The sculpture is close to Old Town Square and other popular areas in Old Town" (5).

(Source: Civic Arts Project)

Piss (2004)

Located just outside Kafka Museum, Cerny's "Piss" features two bronze figures urinating on a map of the Chech Republic. "Text a personal message to the number next to the exhibit and these chaps will happily waggle their bronze penises around to spell it out for you"(6).

The sculptures I presented in my blog consist only small fraction of the total number of fantabulous creations by Cerny in Prague. If you are in the capital of  Bohemia, make it a point to see some of his public work! It makes for an excellent slightly off-beat city tour and gives you a real insight into Czech sense of humor!

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