Home is where the art is

One of the events we look forward to each year is the Edinburgh College of Art degree show.  It cunningly coincides with our wedding anniversary, and we’ve had some successes finding items to buy over the last few years.

This year, we couldn’t settle on anything we really liked, and left empty handed.

Thankfully, in September, we were able to attend an Artists at Home event in Abbeyhill.  A lot of artists live in the colony flats there (and other colonies around the city), and they’ve been opening up their homes for a couple of years now.  You see as many or as few as you like, often enjoy a drink, and browse the art, which is also to buy.

Funnily enough, we’d also been to an Artists at Home event in London earlier in June – the first time we’d been aware of these events.  Dan’s mum Jen teaches pottery in a couple of centres in London, and some of the people who attend her classes are also established artists in other fields.  One particularly friendly student even fed us smoked salmon as well as a glass of wine…not guaranteed, of course, but a great way to get you in the mood for choosing some art.

So it turned out that at the event in Edinburgh, we were able to buy an oil painting for the first time, created by Emily Ingrey-Counter, who we know from church.  Her collection was based on birds of various types, and we came away with a great picture of a heron.  The heron is now just waiting for us to put up the picture in our study.  Perhaps it’ll help keep the magpies at bay outside.


Searching for the perfect coffee

One advantage of trips abroad is the opportunity to try out the local food and drink.

When we had a few days in Graz, Austria, coffee arrived on individual trays, each with an additional glass of water.  We worked hard to try out coffees in lots of different locations across town – one way to visit stylish places on a budget.

Graz is getting well known for its ‘friendly alien‘, the curvy modern art gallery next to the river Mur.  Not as well known, though it deserves to be, is the ‘island on the Mur’, a shell shaped structure that acts as a bridge but includes an outside cafe and an inside bar.  It’s particularly beautiful lit up at night.

Searching for the perfect coffee in Graz

Probably the most beautiful option is the bar near the top of the Castle rock.  This can be reached up a slope around the side, but as the rock also includes a glass lift, and an interior that looks like a Bond villain’s lair, you can guess which option we chose.  It was so pretty we pushed the boat out…and had a hot chocolate instead.

Sadly we’re not gaining any money from Ryanair for our support of Graz, but let us know if you want any more top tips on where to visit.

Rock and men from Microsoft

No, it wasn’t my joke, but our other Festival treat was seeing Bill Bailey, the comedian, in concert at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.  The EICC tends to be used for big conferences, and Bill started his set by asking whether we were expecting a PowerPoint presentation…

Having seen Bill on TV in Black Books and some comedy panel shows, it was quite a buzz to see his show live.  It included him bringing out an Alphorn (which folded out from something the size of a hat box to a musical instrument several feet long), and exiting the stage hugging a large pot plant.

Ballet and the silent screen

The Edinburgh Festival comes round faster every year, and it’s hard to fit in seeing shows with work.

This year, however, we made an effort, as the Nederlands Dans Theater was back in town.  We managed to see them a few years ago, Dan’s first time to see a contemporary dance show.  That time, they put a sprinkler on stage during one of the pieces, so that by the end, the dancers were kicking water at each other and doing skids along the stage, all to very elegant strains of Bach.

This time, no sprinklers, but a combination of films showing on panels and dancers interacting with them.  One of the most striking points was when one dancer came up out of the orchestra pit with a huge black fabric train behind her.  As she moved further back on the stage, the train filled the stage.  If it wasn’t based on part of a real silent film, it deserved to be.

The theatre included a lot of well-dressed dance fans. We hoped that we didn’t let the side down by zooming across the road for a bag of chips in the first interval…but they were well worth it.    As was the dancing.

Half an hour in front of Guernica

We’ve been lucky on our holidays that we’ve been able to see some great buildings, paintings etc.  One particular treat this year was being able to visit Madrid, on a work trip in May.

Dan was able to come with me, and we stayed on a couple of days afterwards.  The agency where the meetings took place was conveniently on the same street as some of the main art galleries, making it fairly easy to plan what to see.

We visited the gallery which houses Picasso’s Guernica towards the end of one afternoon.  It meant that we could view this particular picture for longer than we might have done.

Looking around other rooms nearby, part of the impact was coming past the entrance to the Guernica room and catching sight of  the painting again.  It’s surprisingly big, allowing you to move along and look long and hard at different sections.

Stepping back outside into warmth and colour, after the monochromes of the painting, it was great to feel alive.  However, just a few blocks down the street from the gallery is the Atocha railway station, which you may remember was affected by bombings.

It was certainly a reminder that some of the big themes on display in the galleries are not that distant on the outside.