Category Archives: Photography, Painting, Sculpture

Worldwide Sculptures

Policeman I’ve always been fascinated by sculpture, from ancient times to today. There’s room for abstract in this medium but I find it’s at its best when it is representational, and when it sends a message. I stumbled on 33 Weird Statues and Sculptures Around the World from toroller.com.

What strikes me is the difference in, shall I say, boldness between European and American sculptures, in topic and in content. No way would a fifteen foot vulva be displayed in a prominent park in Canada or the United States, although I could see it in some South America States.

What does that say about us? That we are more prudish? That we have better taste? That we are more limited in our art appreciation? That our governments have less courage?

On the other hand, maybe Europe is more broad-minded only when it comes to the secular. Terence Koh’s sculpture of an erect Jesus has created an uproar (“Christ is risen!” said the Sun). Hmmm. Although he was supposedly fashioned as man’s image, that part of the plumbing wasn’t supposed to work. He obviously wasn’t a perfect god.

Sarcasm aside, and religion aside, it is still interesting to think that our city’s sculpture may be a reflection of who we are as a people, or, more likely, who our government is. In Ottawa, our sculptures are mostly of dead, important political people. Perhaps fitting, since we are the capital of Canada, but oh, so boring.

Not surprising for a city that stows its sidewalks (metaphorically, of course) at 10pm on a Saturday night.

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Rome — Sights and Sounds

Day 2

Since on our arrival we had gone north-east to the Colosseum, we decided to walk this time to the north-west, in a great big circle that would take us through several piazzas and, of course, fountains.

tn_borghese_fountain02.JPGOne of the things I remember about Rome, and which charmed me the most, is its fountains. Water, water everywhere. Rome’s water system was one of the wonders of the world, and it still is. From the magnificent Fontana di Trevi to the nasoni (meaning big nose because of the shape of their spout), water flows constantly, pure, fresh, and drinkable. The fountain basins are clean and free of debris and the water sparkles through to the bottom. It comes from deep springs and is as pure as mineral water. It amazed me that I could find, all of a sudden, a nasone with continuously running water where I could fill my bottle with cold water and drink my fill.

Romans are great drinkers of water. In any restaurant, to ask for a liter of acqua minerale for two is normal. You have a choice of naturale or frizzante. That last word always made me want to giggle because it resembles the French word “friser”, meaning “to curl”. And indeed, the sparkling water makes your tongue curl up.

We took the tram (number “8”) to Torre Argentina. Taking public transport in Rome is an experience. It’s not only necessary to buy a ticket, but you also need to validate it once you’re on the bus or tram or train. In truth, very few seem to do it, and during the time we were there, we saw inspectors only once. The fines are steep if you get caught without a ticket, though, so it’s not a good idea to hop a but without a ticket. Tickets are also valid for 75 minutes, regardless of how many transports you take, from the time of validation. We were very impressed with the public transportation system; many buses, passing by often, were the norm, although we were in the center of town, which may be different than the suburbs.

nettuno_pa_navona.JPGWe started with Piazza Navona, which I found somewhat disappointing, maybe because it was empty of people. (We went back another day in the afternoon and it was packed. The atmosphere was quite different). The oval piazza is dotted with three huge fountains, the middle one, being restored while we were there, topped with an obelisk. It is the Fontana dei Fiumi, designed by Bernini which, of course, we couldn’t see. At each end, the Fontana del Moro and the Fontana del Nettuno, impressive in their own right.

We then went by the church of Sant’Angostino to have a look at Caravaggio’s Madonna di Loreto, a beautiful painting that created a furore because he had depicted Jesus’s mother with bare feet, resembling any woman. The painting is indeed beautiful and moving, modestly set in a side apse, as it not to detract from the sanctity of the church itself, which was very quiet and dignified. We sat in the pew for a few moments, absorbing the quiet of the place.

( Day 2 continues in the next post. Aren’t you glad we were there for a month?)

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Rome — First Impressions Part 2

Rome, Day One

Exhausted as we were, we couldn’t wait to go out and explore a bit. From our trusty map, we knew that most of the sights weren’t that far as the crow flies, so we decided to head towards the Colosseum.

We crossed the Ponte Testaccio (one of the seven main bridges that link one side of the Tiber to the other) and walked for a while along the Lungotevere Testaccio to Via Marmorata. This is a broad avenue that hugs the Tiber delimited from the river by a chest-high wall, and tall trees. On the other side, housing complexes (I hesitate to call them apartment buildings as we know them here in Canada) side-by-side, with tall windows, some closed with rolling outside blinds. It’s very quiet, with little traffic, but on each side of the street, every inch is lined with cars. The cars are small, and brands we don’t see often in our country: Lancia, Fiat, Peugeot, Opel, and, of course, dozens upon dozens of SmartCars.

The water of the Tiber is a cloudy jade green, with lots of current. It’s not really a pretty river here, caged at it is between high walls. We walk to the Ponte Sublicio turn onto Via Marmorata. Surprisingly, because I never thought of Rome as tropical, palm trees and bamboo grow along pine and a tree that resembles maple. But it’s the pines, here, that take our breath away. They are majestic and incredibly beautiful against blue sky. Throughout our trip, we saw them everywhere, and could not tire of them.
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We walked down Marmorata to Piazza San Paolo which, we learned later from experience, is one of the traffic hubs in Rome. It’s a major metro stop, a train station, an important stop for buses, and somewhat of a roundabout for cars. Even on Sunday, it was pretty busy. We promptly got lost, a fact that would happen more times than we cared to count during our month there. “Lost” when you’re on holiday and exploring isn’t a big thing. We sort of roamed for a while, then I went to a newspaper stand and asked directions to the Colosseum. I nearly burst out laughing: for a moment, the man had to orient himself before he could point us in the right direction. We walked along the Viale della Piramide Cestia, leaving behind most of the traffic (especially in the direction of the airport) then Viale Aventino, its name taken from the smallest of Rome’s seven hills, the Aventino (40 meter high), which led us to the Circo Massimo, built around 600BC. The Circo, where Romans use to race their chariots in daredevil races (remember Ben Hur?) is HUGE, certainly half a kilometer long (1,875 roman feet). The length of a race was seven circuits. With seats all around, it could accommodate from 150,000 to 385,000 spectators. That’s more than some of our stadia here!

tn_colosseum.JPGThe Via di San Gregorio led us to the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine, as we walked along the Forii Imperiali and part of the Foro Romano. Seeing the Colosseum rise as we approached it, and rise, and rise, until it is truly colossal, was an awe-inspiring experience. In spite of the hundreds of tourist roaming around the Piazza del Colosseo, or maybe because of it, its size is imposing; you feel the weight of the years here, but also the sheer genius of those architects and builders who raised a monument that lasted over a thousand years. It is 50 meters (164 feet) high and its total circumference is 545 meters (1,790 feet).

We gaped for an hour, then decided to stop for a bite to eat then return to the apartment, by then having walked several kilometers. Later, I sat on the balcony, and listened to the sounds that were to become familiar after a month: car traffic, honks, people’s voices echoing up, and the clanking sound of pans as supper was prepared. The sky was clear, the air redolent of cooking smells and the particular scent that is Rome, indescribable but oh so recognizable.

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Beautiful, weird, intriguing photographs

I found a new blog dedicated mostly to strange and great photography, Novak’s blog. This photo is part of the Moments Frozen in Time collection, Novak’s most popular of the blog. Some of them I’m not sure if they’ve been remastered (taking something out of one and plucking it into something else) but, you know, I don’t really care. The pictures are fun, they’ll make you smile, laugh, groan, and you’ll be wide-eyed for some of them.

In some of the people pictures, it makes you think that, if someone followed you with a camera all day, you’d end up looking pretty silly, too. I particularly like the above picture, because I love Robert Servranckx’s Nature Photography and I could imagine something like that happening to him. It takes incredible patience to photograph birds and animals, and I can’t help thinking how long that photographer had been motionless before that beastie was bold enough to come see what that big black thing was about.

There is also the incredible art of Blaž Porenta, a Slovenian graphic artist who’s already won several prizes. Any amateur of Fantasy and SF will appreciate his imagination.

I’ve always admired artists who can create fantastic creatures and world without falling into the clichéed images of fairies and ogres, or medieval-looking people with ruffles at the neck and swords in the hand. We see way too much of those on the covers of Fantasy novels and they become far from intriguing. Oh, yeah, I forgot the dragons, too. Okay, maybe it’s hard to make a dragon look different (they all have, I suppose, some characteristic bodily features in common) but sheesh, enough of those on the covers already. Or maybe has there been too many stories about dragons? Hmmm. Yeah. After a while, it gets old. Very old.

For more incredible photographs and art, click on the “pictures” tag in Novak’s Blog.

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Robert Servranckx – Green Mountain Workshop

Beautiful pictures taken two weeks ago in Vermont, Robert Servranckx’s Nature Photography gives us tranquility but also a hint of the savage, as photos of carnivorous plants, in all their beautiful glory and deadly attractiveness, mix with serene images of waterfalls and lake.

The picture at left is a pitcher plant and the liquid inside is not water but a liquid produced by the plant itself that drowns and dissolves the insects the plant lured with either its color or an offering of nectar smells. The way the pitcher plants digest their preys is either through bacterial action or by using enzymes. Either way,

 “…the prey items are converted into a solution of amino acids, peptides, phosphates, ammonium and urea, from which the plant obtains its mineral nutrition (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus). Like all carnivorous plants, they occur in locations where the soil is too poor in minerals and/or too acidic for most plants to be able to grow.” See Wikipedia for more.

I already have two of Robert’s prints (beautifully framed), and I don’t tire of looking at them. They capture one instant but make you imagine that life goes on and that everything in natue is elusive and ephemeral.

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