Thursday 30 November 2023

Lamassu – the Iraqi date syrup can sculpture …


This magnificent sculpture stands outside our Towner Gallery … it was originally (in 2018) on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square …

Image courtesy Rob Harris
(link below)

Michael Rakowitz, the sculptor, is an Iraqi-American artist living and working in Chicago – he is known for his conceptual art shown in non-gallery contexts.

Back Leg of Lamassu sculpture

Rakowitz is known for his recycled projects … be they salvaged date syrup cans as here, or reconstructed artifacts looted from the Iraq Museum and excavation sites from diasporic ephemera, such as newspapers and grocery stores.

Close up of hoof and lower limb - showing
empty date syrup cans ... 

'Our statue' is made from 10,500 Iraqi date syrup cans sculpted around a metal frame – it is 4.3 metres (14 feet) in length.

Lamassu, a winged bull protective Assyrian deity, that stood at the entrance to the Nergal Gate of Nineveh from ca. 700 BC until February 2015, when ISIS destroyed it along with artefacts in the nearby Mosul Museum.

Lamassu, Neo-Assyrian Empire 
(c 721 - 705 BC)

Here we find Rakowitz reminding us about the disasters we are inflicting on the world through human, economic and ecological disasters caused by the Iraqi Wars (in this instance) and their aftermath …

today we need to add at least two other wars in Ukraine and in Israeli/Gaza … let alone all other natural and unnatural disasters we are exposing the world and its occupants to …

As a reminder Iraqi dates were once considered the best in the world and formed the country's second largest export after oil.

Nineveh - city wall and gates
(NB Nergal Gate - top left)

The sculpture is entitled 'The Invisible Enemy should not exist (Lamassu of Nineveh)' – the carved cuneiform inscription was invisible to travellers as it was embedded into the wall of the Nergal Gate …

here Rakowitz has it exposed … while it translates as “Sennercherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, had the wall of Nineveh built anew and raised as high as mountains”.

Lamma - protective winged deity,
Sumerian Isin-Larsa period
(2000 - 1800 BC)

There's rather more to Lamassu and its (her) history – to be found per the links below; also more about Michael Rakowitz.

Then of course one remembers the past twenty years of wars (War in Iraq from 2003 - 2011) and the further destruction that has been inflicted on world societies … be they human, economic and ecological – so much history to remember, to learn about …

Close up of the carved Cuneiform
inscription - sorry not easy to see

I know exceedingly little about life in the Middle East centuries ago to today … so these links can send you off down rabbit holes … and have and will send me down them again …

As our town welcomes the Turner Prize 2023 to the Towner Art Gallery – in celebration Eastbourne has come ALIVE with art, music, and performance events … these are spread across the town waiting to be explored and enjoyed.

Lamassu makes a huge statement – as well as a glorious gateway for all the Turner Prize entries hosted by the Towner Art Gallery – available until middle of April 2024.

The winner of the Prize is due to be announced next week on 5th December … I guess I will revert – but I have to get my head round the entries – contemporary art is different: a learning curve!

Towner Eastbourne link - including photo by Rob Harris - showing the cuneiform inscription ... 

Green Art Gallery - showing details re the Trafalgar Square plinth ... 

Chicago Museum exhibits - "Lost Treasures of Iraq" ... lovely photos here ... 

Wikipedia - Lamassu ... 

Wikipedia - Nineveh ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday 23 November 2023

Diaghilev – pared down …


Poor chap – his story here on my blog keeps getting shorter – too much going … while Diaghilev (1872 - 1929), the impresario, deserves serious treatment – bearing in mind the influence he had on Russian and ultimately Western culture …

His mother died in childbirth, but he was lucky and had a very rewarding relationship with his step-mother … he confided in her and wrote to her throughout her life … in the biography by Sjeng Scheijen we are privy to a great many snippets of these eye-opening communications.

His early life was surrounded by a large family and friends in Perm, near the Ural mountains … where they'd created a local cultural centre – and where he sang, composed and read voraciously. Also he was always surrounded by dictionaries and maps – constantly curious and wanting more knowledge.

Perm was near Yekaterinburg, where the family of Tsar Nicholas was executed in 1918.

Siberian route across Russia into China

The town was founded in 1723 by Peter the Great (1672 - 1725), and is named after his wife. The city has two important connections … it served as the mining capital of the Russian Empire (1721 - 1917), as well as a strategic connection between Europe and Asia.

In 1781, Catherine the Great (1729 - 1796), continued the important Siberian Route through Perm. (The route ran from Moscow, via Mongolia, into China, west of Beijing).

Diaghilev by Rostislav Doboujinsky
(1903 - 2000) - showing his shock
of white hair

So this mercurial man with his overflowing confidence, many mood swings, was ready for a life of distinction … taking creativity to new horizons at the start of the 20th century … particularly his inherent ability to perceive the genius of others.

It was during his University years in St Petersburg that he was able to look around to find his true interests in life - particularly Russian and Western art, as well as his literary knowledge … he came to be respected as one of the most learned men in the group.

He promoted talented youngsters … one of these was the Ballets Russes' star dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky (1889 – 1950) … who became one of his lovers.

Nijinsky by Valentin Serov
(1865 - 1911)

Sadly Nijinsky was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a very young age and for nearly 30 years was in and out of psychiatric hospitals and asylums …

Diaghilev, who lived the high life, lived from pay-check to pay-check, but always ensuring the needs of his dancers and company were met. In his latter years his passion turned to collecting rare books - of which there were many significant ones.

He had developed diabetes … refusing to change his life-style … however one thing he feared was dying in water, and as far as possible avoided travelling by boat.

Isola San Michele, Venice

He loved Venice managing to reach there just before his death in 1929.  At the end he was broke, broke … but his debts were settled by friends … including Coco Chanel … however he had reached his beloved Venice.

As you can see my notes - ran to 
14 pages of scruffiness!

His tomb is on the nearby island of San Michele – the island has served as the principal cemetery of Venice since 1807.

Diaghilev continues to influence and be remembered both here in the west and in Russia – one hopes that will continue.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday 12 November 2023

Remembrance … Nothing Changes …


We need Peace for all humans who live on this earth, and then hope that all those humans respect each other … while considering, appreciating and giving due regard to our world as our lives unfold …

The Peace Poppy

The 'Tower Hill Madonna' sculpture by Jacquie Binns – artist, embroiderer and sculptor - expresses opposites, inspiring the themes of peace and pain.

The Tower Hill Madonna

Jacquie used these for her reflective sculpture which the commemorative plaque at All Hallows-by-the-Tower, London explains.

Photo credit: Anabel of
The Glasgow Gallivanter

c/o Jacquie Binns' Church Textiles site … 'The Tower Hill Madonna' …

c/o Anabel as the Glasgow Gallivanter blogger – posted about the church on the Footsteps of Pepys …

With thoughts on this Remembrance Sunday

Peace Lily

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday 6 November 2023

Brief Update … Diaghilev and Eastbourne's contemporary art …


Life's been a bit more obtuse than it need have been recently … so I'm way behind and have been happily procrastinating … not helped with the Middle East developments.

Diaghilev with his
beloved nanny 1905
by Leon Bakst

I've been reading about Sergei Diaghilev (1872 - 1929) (Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and more)– which I found far more fascinating than I thought I would – and again those rabbit holes appeared!

Life's always interesting … the Turner Prize Exhibition is up and running at our amazing local Towner Art Gallery …

This is a guide for young
people engaging with
galleries and contemporary
art (produced earlier in 2023)

contemporary art – which was mostly unfathomable - ?!, so I need to go back and quietly spend time working out what's what … yet oddly the first exhibitions Diaghilev put on in St Petersburg in the late 1890s were intended to introduce contemporary artists to the local public, and later, to the Europeans.

One of the advertising banners around town

while within the town Eastbourne ALIVE – is a separate ambitious project working with young cultural partners in and around the resort's landscape orbit … 

This is an excellent society
in our town - very professional

... I need to explore. Obviously linked to the Turner Prize … we're awash with art around here … fortunately not washed away in the storms.

Beachy Head, Sussex - tree 'well mangled'
by many storms over the years

This was meant to be very short … but I obviously don't do that … rabbit holes abound …

Boiler didn't much like the stormy gales -
this is Newlyn pier in Cornwall - where
my mother lived for 40+ years

I will catch up … boiler withstanding – that's been bad again – it'd be nice if things would behave!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories