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Late last week I informed readers that I worked the fancy boots opening talk by artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond at the MIMA for their new sculpture called TENEMOS.

I promised I would provide a few photographs for you all to see what the great hubbub was about. After I finished teaching on Monday the weather was so wonderful I decided to take a walk around Middlehaven and snap a few photographs and take a little video. Tenemos looks big from a distance, and its scale is rather overwhelming when you get under it and look up. Just as the Angel of the North has been accepted, I think this might after a period of scepticism by the locals. It is certainly a structure that needs to be experienced and not just judged on a few photo’s. So pop along and take some time to consider it.

Note: video was too large to upload on blackberry. Will add it when I have internet access from computer


I haven’t kept the blog regularly updated recently but I have good reasons. I just moved into a flat two weeks ago and have been without internet for a while. On top of that I seem to be working all the time at the absolutely fabulous Dorman and Captain Cook Birthplace Museums and recently the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. So you will let me off the hook?

Today I would like to talk about art. I am not artistic – I am creative. I am I guess an ideas man, able to see the big picture but struggle with the details. As a result plotting stories I can do all day long, painting the eiffel tower I can’t. We tend to dislike that which we struggle with. Yet I have regularly told my fiancé that one day (dreamy sequence..) I will take up painting in our czech log cabin. I recognize the relaxing aspects of art, music, writing, cooking. Since my problems with anxiety and depression I have moved to include avenues to relax in my day to day life – buying a guitar, cookery books, adapting a graphic novel idea to novella format – painting was another avenue but for the future. Well on Valentines Day this year, my sweetheart gave me an acrylic painting starter set and told me simply – “Why wait?”

The result of my first experiment is attached for you all to see. So okay, the Great Artists have nothing to fear from me. But it was a first go, and was fun. I have a target painting that I might mention in another post, which I am gradually trying to build my skills before attempting. Its a project and that’s good for me.

Art has grown into my life in more ways recently after being given the chance to work as a Gallery Assistant for the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Now my idea of art has always been the traditional landscapes and portraits. A string of lights by Felix Gonzales isn’t art, its a crime against the environment burning energy and costing taxpayers. What does a room of monochrome pages offer as art? Nothing to me. And the physical construction of a hospital day room inside an art gallery? Now we are wasting time!

Perhaps it has been the weeks I have spent staring at them lately as part of my job… But my opinion is changing. I now recognize it as art, understand what the artists intentions are after listening to people chat about it and watching educators with school groups. I still may not like it, but I’ll acknowledge it as art. One persons ‘modern art’ I have grown to really like has been that of Anish Kapoor. He likes to play with space, illusions almost, and uses pigment and mirrors in a lot of his works.

I worked the launch evening (invite only) of Mr Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmonds TENEMOS public exhibit at MIMA. The giant funnel/web like sculpture stands over the Middlehaven Dock site in Middlesbrough transforming the visual landscape. I will take photos when I have a day off. They gave a fascinating insight into their work relating it to the ancient greeks (as a historian I instantly became more interested) obsession with geometry. If I had been taught by an artist or engineering teacher like Cecil Balmond, there’s no doubt what discipline I would have followed. He was such an inspiration over an hours talk, highlighting the limitless possibilities. I recommend you google both men and check out their works yourself. Teesside isn’t finished with them yet as they are committed to producing another 4 giant sculptures for the region over 15 years.

Part of the problem people have with modern art is its need in some ways for an interpreter. Landscape paintings do not need explanations, you look and understand immediately. Modern art, abstract and sculptural is produced in such a closed world that the average joe may not have the tools to fully experience it intellectually. As a gallery assistant part of my job is to talk to people and guide them if they want me to, in order to understand what the artist is attempting and then to make their own interpretation. Alongside my teaching, this work has surprisingly become some of the most fulfilling work I have done.

What is art? An excitable little german lady asked me looking at the monochrome watercolours. She continued:

“I don’t know. I don’t know what to think of this. I know I respect it. It is art, it is art. But I cannot say I know what art is”

Neither can I. But we stood talking for twenty minutes. Maybe that, after all, is the point of art.

Introducing Micka, Vysocina Diaries Mascot!

Say Meow to our new mascot!

I had not been planning to make another blog post this week due to other commitments however something my fiancé was looking at inspired me to get a quick one out to you. If you haven’t already seen Simons Cat I highly recommend you head on over to the website to watch this adorable, hilarious cartoon about a man and his hungry cat. Its won many awards and has had millions of views on YouTube and even has its own book in stores. If you love cats and share in my sense that cats maybe a little more intelligent than they are letting on then you are sure to love this cartoon.

As for the photograph above. That was taken last summer when our new ‘kitten’ arrived from the rescue centre. Poor thing was maybe 5-6 months old and already pregnant (!), when it was in the vets getting its bits done they discovered the kittens too late. Poor girl. My fiancé who is czech had the pleasure of naming her and she got the name Micka. Based on czech grammar, when we call her over its Micko, and my parents call her Mitsy. Wonderful thing is that the last couple of months she responds instantly to her name now and I can’t remember that ‘recognition’ moment with my previous cats. I plan on uploading a Micka page on here describing her antics. She’ll serve as both mascot and guard.. puss… for the blog. Keep them nasty hackers at bay.

Flags in Prague in shadow

Flags cast into shadow by the morning sun... new hope in an old world.

To fittingly open up the Vysočina Diaries after some renovations behind the scenes I thought I would symbolically raise the flags by sharing a photograph I took in February 2008, in Prague. I hope to dig through my albums and share a host of photographs of cities, seas and countrysides as the weeks go by.

Themes of Interest

And in the Twitterverse…