Architecture Through The Ages In Budapest

The capital city of Hungary is a delightful city to wonder around. As with my wonderings around the capital cities of various Balkan capitals such as Zagreb, Sarajevo and Belgrade last year, in Budapest there are a wealth of buildings of different architectural styles. Most prominent though are the buildings dating back to the times of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Those are grand old buildings with fabulously opulent adornments. It’s even more satisfying to discover some of those buildings in splendid dilapidation. That’s the difference between Budapest and its nearby cousin Vienna. Vienna has an abundance of lovely buildings, but almost all are periodically maintained and saved from slipping into ruin. In Budapest its not an uncommon site to see many buildings from that time period fallen on hard times; like a beautiful woman (or man) succumbing to ferocious ageing and too broke to afford a face lift. What money there used to be squandered long ago.

The buildings featured are magnificent Habsburg Empire era structures sometimes abruptly juxtaposed next to brutal and more austere Communist era buildings. Even some Ottoman/Eastern styled buildings. After all Hungary was ruled for 150 years by the Ottoman Empire. A lot of Neo Classical architecture can also be found. Sometimes these Ancient Greece influences are blended into more severe Art Deco architecture. Most of the time I know nothing about the buildings I come into contact with. I am simply just curious about their aesthetic qualities. Its all a fascinating melting pot of different styles. The pictures below, which I took on my wonderings, are evidence of this.

 

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Photographs and text by Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

Accepting Your Contradictions

red purple dots pixabay photo

When I was younger, I tried very hard not to appear a hypocrite. I would look down upon those whom I perceived as blatantly hypocritical and unaware of their own contradictions. Yet no matter how much of a purist I tried to be, holes would always appear in some shape or form. The more I tried not to be a hypocrite, the more I began to feel the weight of life on my shoulders. In the process I felt my vitality and joie de vivre being sapped.

Some of the most inspirational icons in the world were full of contradictions. John Lennon is a great example. For much of his music career he promoted the ideas of peace, love and togetherness. He got his positive messages across to millions of people with great success, but his domestic life was at times anything but peaceful. It has been said that he could be volatile and even physically abusive. He spent very little time with his eldest son Julian (even though he wanted to mend his relationship with Julian before the time of his death). Yet does this diminish my opinion of John Lennon? Absolutely not. He was a hugely talented and authentic singer songwriter who openly acknowledged his flaws and contradictions, often in his songs such as Jealous Guy and Getting Better.

Accepting your contradictions is one of the most liberating and beautiful forms of surrender. The moment you do this, life becomes less heavy and sweeter.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

 

Image: susannp4

Who’s It By?

Picasso - Les_Demoiselles_d'Avignon

Often when looking at a work of art, the first question to pop into the viewer’s head isn’t, ‘What’s it called?’ or ‘What’s it about?’. Rather it is, ‘Who’s it by?’. The more discerning viewer may ask the first two questions, but most will ask the third. Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst are some of the biggest names in modern and contemporary art. It is hard to find someone who has never heard of Picasso before. Yet how many could name the title of one of his many paintings?

Picasso is a brand in the same way that fashion giants Prada, Armani, Chanel and Louis Vuitton are brands. When one looks at a suit, most will invariably try to find out what brand or label it is over any investigations regarding it’s intrinsic qualities. It’s the same with other ubiquitous consumer products like Coca Cola. You can buy a cheaper supermarket cola, which may even contain the exact same ingredients, yet it will never have the same cachet as a ‘Coke’.

The following story encapsulates perfectly the power of ‘Who’s it By’. The artist Bansky recently tested this by submitting an original work of art for the 2018 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London under the fictitious name ‘Bryan S Gakmann’ (an anagram of ‘Banksy anagram’). It got rejected during the selection process. Nobody had heard of this Bryan S Gakmann chap. Yet when Banksy himself was asked to feature a work at the show by the organizers, he submitted the work rejected under his fake alias. After all, it was a ‘Banksy’ in the end.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

Talent Is Cheaper Than Table Salt

Table Salt

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

These are the words of the writer Stephen King. When I first read this quote several years ago, a part of me was outraged. My thoughts at the time were something along the lines of, ‘Talent is cheaper than table salt!?! Who does this man think he is!?! Talent is an asset goddammit!

After cooling down I re-read that quote in its entirety, beyond the first sentence…. ‘What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.’ After pondering over the last sentence of King’s quote I slowly developed one hell of a reality check. The quote demythologises the notion of how talent by itself is enough to succeed. For many years I thought talent was all that one needed. All my heroes were outrageously talented and unique human beings. Besides I couldn’t care less for lesser mediocre beings regardless of how hard they worked. I despised mediocrity.

Some complain that we live in a society where mediocrity is rewarded. And maybe they are right to complain? After all some of the biggest names in the world today are quite ordinary people and one could even come to the conclusion that they have very limited talents with nothing enlightening to say. That may be. But they are successful, because they work incredibly hard and know what makes the average individual on the street tick. They work tirelessly whilst also mirroring Joe and Joanna Blogs, giving them what they want.

 

By Nicholas Peart 

(c)All Rights Reserved 

Photographs From The District Of Exarcheia In Athens

Exarcheia is an interesting district to explore in the Greek capital. When I was based in Athens for a few weeks in November 2017, I went on a few strolls in this part of the city. It is a slice of alternative Athens. You can call it trendy or hipster, but this is a very raw and unpolished place. This is no Shoreditch or Brooklyn. Demonstrations frequently take place. In fact, when I was there, I witnessed one manifesting by the Polytechnic University entrance with piles of stolen chairs and bits of furniture piled on top of one another. I’ve read about the anarchists who populate this district. They can be found around Exarcheia’s main square. When I passed this square, I saw a bum with an unruly bush of greying curly hair lying on a knackered mattress wrapped up warm (Athens starts to get cold in November) and engrossed in a book. By his side there were several columns of battered paperbacks. I thought to myself, Is this guy some skid row Socrates? There’s a sense of sadness when I walk these streets felt via the consequences of the never ending economic hard times the country is going through. Amongst the abrasive graffiti permeating the streets are some genuine works of art. On one wall someone has created an enormous mural of a homeless person with the words, ‘dedicated to the poor and homeless here and around the globe’. Below is a roll of photographs I took from my explorations here. The best sensors though are natural. One’s eyes, ears and nose will never be able to replace an artificial lens, but these snaps shall suffice…

 

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Photographs and text by Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

Photographs From Rome’s Testaccio District

The Testaccio neighbourhood of Rome located by the Tibor river and south of the Coliseum and ruins of ancient Roma is an interesting part of the city to stroll through. For a long time it was traditionally a working-class district. In recent years the area has become gentrified and this shows in some of the trendy eateries and bars as well as the broader mix of residents. Yet unlike some neighbourhoods. which completely lose their original flavour, Testaccio has retained much of its character and this shows in the photographs. The streets are full of grand old multi-story buildings. Graffiti, both artistic and non artistic, can be found in several corners of the neighbourhood.

The main piazza of Testaccio becomes animated over the weekend with families and children playing and kicking footballs around. Old long time residents can also be found shooting the breeze on the piazza benches.

Close to Pyramide metro station on the edge of the district is a prominent Egyptian style pyramid built during the Roman period. And nearby there is a beautiful and tranquil Protestant cemetery where one can find the graves of the English poets Keats and Shelley. I describe this cemetery in another blog post.

 

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Photographs and text by Nicholas Peart 

(c)All Rights Reserved 

 

 

Sculptures By Francesco Messina At The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are one of the jewels if not the leading attraction of ‘must see’ sites in Rome. It’s on everyone and their Jack Russell’s ‘to do’ list. Rome is extremely well endowed with historical sites and one could spend weeks if not months trying to unearth most of them. The Vatican Museums are of course most famous for the Sistine chapel as well as the Rapheal rooms containing his frescoes and a large Pinacoteca featuring a treasure trove of landmark works of art. As a consequence of such riches, it is supremely popular and the crowds can be overwhelming.

However the Vatican Museums are an enormous place with a breath-taking collection of art impossible to digest in just one visit. As most people make a b-line for the highlights, lots of work gets overlooked. Interestingly, within the museum complex there is a museum of modern and contemporary art featuring works by Rodin, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Dali, Francis Bacon and several Italian modern artists including Giorgio Morandi, Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana. Yet it was the handful of bronze sculptures by the Italian sculptor Francesco Messina, which caught my full attention.

Messina is considered one of the most important Italian sculptors of the 20th century. His sculptures remind me of Donatello’s when it comes down to their core fundamentals. The most important of these is tapping into the soul and spirit of the subject. Donatello had an immense talent for achieving this and this is what distinguished and separated him from his contemporaries and competitors. What’s more incredible was that Donatello was creating such human and soulful sculptures at the beginning of the Renaissance and several years before Michelangelo. Most of Donatello’s contemporaries had at least one foot still in the Medieval ages. Donatello, on the other hand, was streets ahead. For Donatello it was not just about recreating and resuscitating the great sculptures of the Classical period, it was also about executing feelings and creating sculptures of his subjects in a way where he understood and connected to them.

Messina is a true student of Donatello. His sculptures of Adam, John the Baptist and David all have their roots in Donatello’s David. They are very sensitive and delicate sculptures. Messina, like Donatello, creates his subjects warts and all without any traces of exaggerated mannerisms. Messina’s sculpture of David is far closer to Donatello’s sculpture of David as opposed to Michelangelo’s. Michelangelo’s David for all its dexterous skill is almost too perfect. Donatello’s David is closer to the source and projects a David that is more real and less idealised. Messina’s 1953 bronze sculpture of David is an exceptional creation. His David is like a feral tearaway street urchin from a Jean Genet book. Messina’s David tries to act in a tough ‘too big for his boots’ way carrying a large sharp knife but its all a front and it shows. He’s really a lanky, scared and lost little boy with twig-thin arms. Messina has created a true David with all his strengths but also all his frailties and vulnerabilities.

Messina’s sculpture of a youthful John The Baptist is another gem where he deftly captures his tenderness and humanity; that of a pure and virtuous being. The gaze of the face of Christ in his Ecce Home sculpture is hypnotic and visceral. As is the face and figure of his Mary of Magdalen sculpture. And this is where Messina’s genius as an artist lies; in his ability to crystallise emotion.

 

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The Rising of Lazarus (1951) – bronze

 

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The Young St John the Baptist (1955) – bronze

 

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Doubting St. Thomas (1951) – bronze

 

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Ecce Home (1953) – bronze

 

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Adam (1939) – bronze

 

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The Magdalen (1953) – bronze

 

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Pius XII (1963) – bronze

 

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St. Catherine of Siena (1961) – bronze

 

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Pieta (1950) – bronze

 

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Davide (1953) – bronze

 

 

Text and photographs by Nicholas Peart 

(c)All Rights Reseved