Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Art In London

From the next day I started traveling by myself. I used the underground and the shiny red London buses and my own two feet to explore each and every nook and cranny of this fascinating city.

I went to see the Parliament House, the Big Ben of course and Westminster Abbey. The last one left me overwhelmed. Being a student of Literature everything took on a different meaning. In fact it was hard to believe that all those writers and poets, Kings and Queens, nobles and statesmen, whose names were till then, mere printed words in a much thumbed text book, lay buried beneath these very cold flagstones beneath my feet.

I walked to Trafalgar Square, took loads of photos of the legendary pigeons which clustered in dozens around the square and took off in swirling formations from the top of Nelsons Column. This is a hot spot where tourists gather to sit around and rest. Some very interesting conversation can be carried on with an international collection of visitors. Then a short walk took me to St Paul’s Cathedral, with its remarkable Gothic architecture. London is very clean in these parts. I sat down on a bench in a small park to have a sandwich for lunch. There were teenagers with long sticks, removing litter left on the grass. Similarly Hyde is a lovely place to sit and catch ones thoughts after the hustle and stress of daily life.

The next day I went to Westminster again. I walked over the Millennium Bridge or the "Wobbly bridge" as it is locally known because when it was first built it actually wobbled a little as it is suspended by wires.

On the other bank of the Thames River is the Globe Theatre, a replica of the actual Globe Theatre in Shakespeare’s time, and also walked over to the Anchor Inn which is the original site of the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This was especially exciting for me as Shakespeare was one of my favorite study papers for my Masters and the roughly drawn artist's impression of the Globe in my textbook, was a tangible reality right in front of my eyes.

I spent hours at the Tate Modern Art Gallery and the Salvador Dali Art Gallery. The Tate Modern houses some remarkable work by contemporary artists, which leave a definite impact on the mind, and evokes thought. These images have remained with me and still come back in certain moments.

Today I went to the National Art Gallery. I am quite the art buff and spent the entire day scrutinizing each and every painting in the gallery, as well as many which were hidden away in the basement. A kind gentleman, one of the guides, was impressed by my persistence and interest. He offered to show me those paintings, which were not on public display, and go through an enormous book, which contained detailed information about almost every painting in the gallery. The information gleaned from this insightful sojourn could fill a thesis paper and more. The content and historical significance of some paintings could challenge many a preconceived notion about the cross-cultural influences dating back beyond the 10th century maybe earlier.

Original, restored paintings from the 12th century till the 21st, Fra Lippo Lippi of Browning’s poem of the same title, Andrea Del Sarto again of Browning fame, Paolo Uccello, Botticelli, Durer, Mentegna, Raphael, Titian, Claud and Turner, the famous landscape painters who inspired many a poet, Vermeer, Dujartin, Rembrandt, Goya and Guardi. Keats poetry came to life in a new way in Hogarths breathtaking landscapes.

There was a separate section for portraits of Kings and Queens, great scientists, musicians, painters, writers, statesmen and soldiers in history as well as contemporaries from the world of art, music, theatre and film. The sculpture section was an entirely different experience. The impact of the actual, tangible larger than life, sculptures took my breath away.

The crowning glory of the day was a special exhibit of Van Gogh’s paintings. To see Sunflowers and Starry Nights right there in front of my eyes, the colors and textures emitting the brilliance of a beautiful mind. I was completely overwhelmed and over awed at the sheer impact of the bold strokes and the vibrant tones of the canvasses.

It really made my day.

[This is a guest post. The author, Madhurima Gupta, who was a student of English Literature in Jadavpur University, is now working as a successful animator. These are excerpts from email and letter which she wrote during her visit to England.]

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