Escaping Balloons…?

painting by Jan Heaton

Microbes, escaping balloons, plant cells, algae on water, or Ishihara plates (colour blindness test cards).  Actually it’s none of these – simply diaphanous watercolour paintings.

I am usually indifferent this sort of thing.  For me, vague and insubstantial paintings rarely work – but these paintings, by Jan Heaton, (which are vague and insubstantial) are one of the exceptions.  This is what Jan has to say about them:-

The circular orbs in my current work are simple, bold, direct, sensual, playful and often mysterious. The sphere recalls harmony, rhythm, movement, patterns, and boundless symbolic metaphors. In my work the circle exists independently and in groups, referencing water patterns on a shore, or a rising moon, rounded fruits, or the shape of a flower. The circle reminds me of family and friends, who are very important to my creative process. The times spent in a circle, talking, eating, dancing, playing, telling stories and solving the problems of everyday life. The memories of this connection to the circle are important to me.

To See A World In A Toilet Roll


This is the intricate work of French artist Anastassia Elias – she creates little worlds confined by the cardboard tube of a toilet roll.  These tiny scenes (from animals in the wilderness, to fun-fairs, to miners digging the wall of the tube) are cut out of paper which has the same shade of gray as the cardboard, making the scenes appear to be a part of the roll.  They are then carefully glued into place with the aid of tweezers.  When lit from behind the scenes have a wonderful sense of depth and life.


The majority of her work is in the field of painting, but for me the toilet rolls stand out a mile – you can see more of what she does here.

BBC Archives – Do You Have Any?

The BBC is gradually making some of its huge archive of radio and television material available online.  It is a unique resource reaching back to the 1930’s and like Your Paintings, which I mentioned in an earlier posting, it belongs to all of us.

There is a slight problem though – many tapes were wiped for various reasons and there are significant gaps in the Archive.  In the early days of television and radio many programmes were broadcast live and simply not recorded, others were not thought worth preserving.  For instance, there are no remaining recordings of George Orwell, even though he regularly made broadcasts with the BBC.

Now that the BBC is celebrating 90 years of broadcasting they are calling for people to search their attics, basements and sheds to try to re-discover some of these lost broadcasts – The Listener’s Archive would like to hear of any good quality recording on any format to help fill the holes (also see this update – Listener’s Archive Appeal Update).  It may sound ridiculous that such a huge organisation is calling on its listeners to help them out (and even more ridiculous that so much material has been lost) but incredible discoveries do occur – just last month a recording of the BBC’s coverage of the Moon landing, previously thought lost for ever, was discovered by Philip London who, at the age of 12 in 1969, had recorded the broadcast from the TV on a machine his dad had recently brought back from Singapore!  It is amazing to think what treasures are still sitting around gathering dust, just waiting to be rescued…

In an attempt to make some of the existing archive available to the public there are a couple of pages on the BBC website with rarely seen material from throughout its vast history.

The main page of the BBC Archive is a little uninspiring, but rooting around reveals that it contains a wide range of material covering a variety of topics.  For instance there is a documentary on Henry Moore, the first British documentary on a living artist (originally broadcast in 1951); coverage of The Beatles arriving at London Airport in 1964; inside the clock tower of the Houses Of Parliament to see how Big Ben Is Cleaned (a part of the Blue Peter programme from 1980); and a range of clips from Tomorrows World from 1965 to 1994, as well as dozens of other oddities which would not now get an airing on traditional broadcast television.  The Archive is arranged so that if you want to look up an individual programme, a specific person, or a particular subject then you can, or you can simply browse under the Collections heading.

There is a slightly more attractive home page on BBC Four Collections – it seems to have more full length programmes rather than just excerpts, but I may be wrong there.  It’s main category is London, which has a fascinating programme on How They Dug The Victoria Line first broadcast in 1969; a look at Swinging London (Three Swings On A Pendulum) from 1967; right up to 1999 with a look at the characters who work at Billingsgate Market (Fish Tales).

Other categories offer a vast range of factual content from BBC Radio 4, programmes on the armed forces, the art of interview, and American culture.

Now get in the attic, shed or basement and start searching!

Your Paintings

Rather than write a review this week I thought I’d highlight a worthy project.

The Public Catalogue Foundation has teamed up with the BBC to digitise and catalogue all the oil paintings owned by the Nation (by us actually!), which is estimated to be about 200,000 pieces by nearly 40,000 artists.  This includes all the easily accessible ones in museums and galleries, but will also include all the paintings which cannot normally be viewed by the general public.  Apparently four in five of our art works cannot be easily seen, either because there is no room on the walls of our museums (so are kept in storage) or are in civic buildings that are not usually accessible.

Although oil is the predominate medium (due to its hundreds of years of use) the catalogue also includes tempera (egg based paint which was used up to the 1500 when oil took over) right up to acrylic paint (first used in the 1950’s).  Apparently it does not include watercolours which seems strange and their defence of the decision not to include them comes across as a little weak to say the least:-

Your Paintings focuses  on oil painting for two reasons. First, because oil was the preferred medium of  most well-known artists for hundreds of years. Secondly, whilst the number of  watercolours and drawings in the national collection is in the millions, the  size of the oil painting collection is a practical proposition to digitise in  its entirety.

That said, it is a fantastic project that will finally quantify a significant proportion of the art owned by the nation (many collections have not been properly recorded and photographed until now) and make it accessible to the people who actually paid for it.  It is also possible to take part in this project by signing up and tagging the paintings to help categorise and make them more searchable, although I believe this will only be possible until the cataloguing has been completed.  Hopefully they will move onto the nation’s watercolours after this current project has been completed.

The project has about 8% of the UK’s paintings to go and is expected to finish late 2012.


The Public Catalogue Foundation

BBC – Your Paintings