Monday, March 09, 2009

Between a rock and a hard place

On Saturday, we went on a cultural excursion to Norwich. No really! Funnily enough, this is only the third time I can remember ever going to Norwich and the last two occasions were to see productions of Shakespeare – extremely good ones at that.

This time was to see a sculpture exhibition featuring the work of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson at Norwich Castle, which our friend Vic had told us about. Moore and Hepworth in particular are probably the most significant sculptors of the first half of the twentieth century. Lots of public art in the UK is either by them or produced under their influence.

I've realised in recent months that if I don't ask, I would never ever leave the house, and the more extravagant and specific the request, the more likely it is to be granted. Subtle hints are useless. It also helps if, like the snowdrops and this exhibition, the trip has to be made within a given time-frame. Any further obstacles like distance or access only work in my favour. When something requires planning, I can force my minions to commit to the trip in advance, and then tell them exactly what to do, where and when.

So although nobody else had the slightest interest in twentieth century sculpture, I managed to drag both my parents and [...] all the way to Norwich. And it was good, really good. I can't find pictures I can reproduce here - since most of their famous stuff is big public works, I'm struggling to find pictures to even point you to. There were lots of abstract figures in different sorts of stone, very beautiful organic shapes. Several variations on the mother-and-child theme, plus some purely geometric stuff, which didn't work so well for me - except possibly this, which is an absolutely gorgeous object in real life.

My Mum loved it too and now wants to try her hand at sculpture. Dad was ambivalent, prompting an in-depth discussion on the definition of art. He also recounted the tale of the public sculpture he created, which stood outside Suffolk College for six years before being removed because of Health & Safety concerns on account of its moving-parts.

Norwich Castle is a bit of a Museum of Everything. There's the castle keep, with battlements and dungeons and exhibits on the castle's nine hundred years history. Then there's the broader local history and artifacts back to Boudica and the Iceni (including a kind of chariot-ride simulator). But then there's a great collection of mostly Victorian paintings – including a few famous names. There's also a modern art gallery, which includes a collection of chewing gum in a glass case but also some truly great art. Then there's an Egypt bit with some poor dead mummy on display, a room all about the history of textiles, another room full of stuffed animals and the Twinings Teapot Gallery (a room full of teapots, in case you couldn't guess).

And I don't think we saw nearly all of it. Which is probably a good thing as I'm sure I learnt a very great deal about all manner of things but can't remember any of it.

Norwich Castle is extremely accessible given it's a castle. You can't go up on the battlements and funnily enough, the Normans didn't think to build an elevator down to the dungeons, but otherwise it is all great and I didn't feel slightly nervous of knocking anything over.

Oh and on the way there, we passed a protest against the closing of a local school. There was quite a crowd, but two placards in particular caught my eye. The first stated that "Weight-Watchers meets here!" which I thought perhaps was a fairly feeble argument. But my favourite was, and I don't tell a lie,

"Down with this sort of thing!"


Anonymous said...

Ooh, how fascinating! I've been tasked with organising a summer weekend away in East Anglia for the Young British Esperantists, and Norwich is one of the places I've been considering. Never having been to East Anglia at all, I'm struggling to know where to pick, so that was very interesting to read, especially about the castle :) I didn't even know Norwich had a castle!

Anonymous said...

I must say, it's always nice when television influences real life in such a gentle way.

One of the last places I went before falling ill was Yorkshire Sculpture Park and their Henry Moore exhibition. Seeing it nestled in those rolling hills made complete sense.

The Goldfish said...

Radio - hope you have a good time in the summer. My favourite part of East Anglia is the Suffolk coast; it's all very pretty, there's lots of history there and there is a fair amount of things to do and see. I do know Suffollk very well, Norfolk and Essex pretty well so if you want any help do ask.

Stephen - fantastic! It did seem strangely familiar and there you are. :-)

Linda said...

Hi. New to your blog. There are some lovely pictures of small Hepworth pieces on the Tate/St Ives/Hepworth museum & Garden/Museum pages. For Henry Moore, try Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and Perry Green.