Sunday, 31 January 2016

August Sander: People of the 20th Century

I saw today, in Antwerp, August Sander's great portraits 'People of the 20th Century'.

From his early life before the First World War until his death in the 1960s, Sander recorded on film what ordinary German people looked like.

During the Nazi era his work had to be hidden, as it showed people who were not supposed to exist. A lot of his work was destroyed at that time. Fortunately for us, much of it was saved not just from the Nazis, but from the Allied bombings of Cologne which devastated the city.

The expo runs until Feb 14th. Details here: I strongly recommend it.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Her Time Has Come......

This astonishing Elm tree, reputed to be more than 250 years old, stands just 5 minutes from my front door. It is rare now for Elms to live so long, because of the combined effects of disease and pollution.

This beauty stands in the gardens of Paradis des Enfants, a local school. There was a nice shelter underneath the tree, where I liked to sit and read a book while my son played football on the practice pitches. It's a lovely little corner of Woluwe St Pierre.

The shelter has been taken away, and the tree is now fenced off. The roots are solidified and rotting, and so she has to come down.

So today I took some pictures of this incredible tree. The bark, which looks so gnarled and magnificent, comes away at the touch. Her time has come. But to the end she is beautiful.

You have to get up very close to appreciate this, so I did, and I hope that you enjoy the pictures. The colour and texture speak of centuries of growth.

When this tree first began to grow, the nation of Belgium did not even exist.

Through independence and two world wars it survived. The district in which it stands is where British troops, under the command of Field Marshall Montgomery, who's memorial stands guard over the approach to Brussels to this day, and just 5 minutes walk away, first arrived in September 1944, and were bogged down by the Germans in Auderghem, literally on the other side of the road from Paradis des Enfants.

The great Belgian painter and sculptor Constantin Meunier, who passed away in 1905, and who lived little more than a stone's throw away, had not even been born when this tree was in full growth.

It is about 10 minutes walk away from the studio where Herge created Tin-Tin.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

When the wheels fall off a good story....

Nigel Farage is probably regretting the 'assassination' story a bit right now.

I realised there was something iffy  about this when he said he did not want the police to investigate because he didn't want people to know where he parks his car when he is in Brussels. Errr... how about the MEPs car park underneath the parliament?

Its very secure, and just some moments walk away from Rue Montoyer.

But this has happened before, of course.

In 2011 British police were investigating former MEP Chris Huhne over a traffic offence. The investigation hinged largely on whether Huhne had been on a certain flight from Strasbourg to Stanstead on March 12th 2003, or if he had travelled the next day.

Never one to miss a media opportunity, Farage announced that he remembered being on that flight with Huhne. Then it went a bit wrong.

Essex police called to take a statement. Farage was forced to admit that he didn't really remember at all.

When Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17 was shot down over Ukraine on July 17th 2014 with the loss of 298 lives, Farage made a statement. Apparently he was at Schipol airport at the same time that the passengers were embarking on the doomed jet.

This is attention seeking at it's most crass. But I'm sure will hear more of it in the future.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Pop Art in Belgium

A great afternoon at the 'Pop Art in Belgium' expo.

Inna is in front of Discs, a painted composition in which James Rosenquist assembled the front of a car, gramophone discs and a box of Kleenex tissues.

Before entering the art world, Rosenquist earned his living as a billboard painter. The style which he developed in this capacity remained visible in his work and is illustrative of the way in which American Pop artists introduced other painting techniques into the art world.

C'est Moi, with ten works by one of the masters of Pop Art, Roy Lichtenstein.

Ben-Day dots, thick black contours. Large
areas filled with primary colours and simplified compositions are elements that were also embraced in the consumption and comics culture. The landscape was one of the first subjects which Lichtenstein explored after he had broken through with his appropriation of the comics style.

This series contains all the stylistic elements that characterise his work.

It's a great expo, most of the works are from the ING bank collection, some are from private collections.

The expo runs until Feb 14th.

Details at

Friday, 1 January 2016

Goodbye Trapper John.....

Wayne Rogers, who played Trapper John McIntyre alongside Alan Alda's Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series M.A.S.H. has passed away in Los Angeles aged 82. 

It often surprises people to learn that Trapper only appeared in the first three of the eleven series, that ran from 1972 to 1983. After his departure, (his character was posted home whilst his friend Hawkeye was on leave and so there was no farewell), he was often referred to.

McIntyre's reason for leaving the show was he felt his character overshadowed by Alda's. Others would feel the same way. Ironically McIntyre was originally asked to audition for the role of Hawkeye, but felt the character too cynical, and asked to audition for Trapper instead.

As a youngster I was an obsessive M.A.S.H. fan. Every Friday evening at 9pm I would be glued to the set, and would absorb every single word. At school on Monday, my pals and I would pick over every single detail of every single show.

The show, based on the movie of a 1968 book by Richard Hooker, was ostensibly about an army medical unit during the Korean War. It combined tragedy and comedy in equal quantities, and gave us such wonderful characters as Radar O'Reilly, Hotlips Houlihan, Henry Blake, Sherman Potter, Frank Burns, and the totally bizarre sometimes transvestite and keen gambler Corporal Max Klinger. There were many others, each unique and there to make a point.

The show was actually about the Vietnam War, but in 1972 it was not possible to trivialise the conflict that had traumatised a nation.

It explored relationships between strangers, brought together in terrible circumstances, and with a difficult job to do in appalling conditions. Talented surgeons putting their careers and lives on hold. The public were introduced to the concept of 'meatball surgery' for the first time.

Hooker drew on personal accounts of army surgeons and nurses who had served in Korea, and many of the incidents portrayed in the book were based on real events. This lent the book, the movie, and the show an air of authenticity, much appreciated by those who had served there, and younger veterans who had returned from Vietnam.

Much loved characters died suddenly and unexpectedly. The much loved commanding officer, Henry Blake, was sent home to his family, with an emotional send off, only for the characters to learn in the final scene that his aircraft had been shot down. There were no survivors. This twist had been kept from the cast during rehearsals, only the director and Gary Burghof, who as Radar O'Reilly delivered the tragic news, knew what was coming. It was so well played that viewers were reduced to tears.

Like everything, M.A.S.H. had to come to an end, The final episode, on February 28th 1983, was watched by 125 million people in the US alone.

Wayne Rogers, prior to a successful acting career had served in the US Navy. He later went on to build a career as an investment strategist, and regularly appeared on TV as an expert in the field.