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The History of Porcelain

d7ad1e09d5Introduction of pottery Zen priests are linked with two very characteristic elements of Japanese culture: the exquisite simplicity of Japanese ceramics; and the polite formalities of the Tea Ceremony for which much of the pottery is designed. In 1223 a Zen monk takes a Japanese potter, Kato Shirozaemon, to China to study the manufacture of ceramics. This is a period, in the Song dynasty, when the Chinese potters have achieved a perfection of simplicity. The Japanese, in the same vein, will evolve their own styles to rival this perfection. The Japanese potter, returning home, establishes himself at Seto. This rapidly becomes a center for the manufacture of pottery, with as many as 200 kilns in the dtrict. Seto has retained ever since the status of the classical pottery region of Japan. Much of the early Seto output is temmoku – stoneware cups and bowls with a black or iron-brown glaze, in direct imitation of the contemporary Chinese style. This becomes much in demand with the increasing popularity in the samurai class of the Tea Ceremony, in which a mood of rustic simplicity is required.

Introduction of porcelain In the early 17th century potters succeeded in firing the first soft paste porcelain after the discovery of suitable raw materials in Arita. Within just 30 years, the production of blue-white porcelain was flourishing. Between 1643-1647, Sakaida Kaiemon developed the technique of polychrome over glaze enamel for porcelain. This porcelain with polychrome painting was appearing in various styles, such as ko-imari, with its sumptuous brocade style. In accordance with the changing wishes of the aristocracy to have an elaborately equipped tea ceremony, as well as the requirements of the urban elites for high-quality domestic wares, an innovation followed in Kyoto in the mid 17 century in the form of overglaze-decorated stoneware by Nonomura Ninsei and Ogata Kenzan. With their decorative styles, both artists and their pupils influenced the development of ceramics far beyond the bounds of Kyoto. Many potters from provinces were sent by their feudal loads or by rich merchants to be trained in Kyoto, or the Kyoto masters were invited to the provinces

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Scotland – Our Brothers in Arms

TrainScotland_BOV460On 1 May 1707 the Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament each passed an Act of Parliament to simultaneously dissolve and form the new combined Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

The new parliament would sit at the Palace of Renaissance, Reformation Westminster, the home of the old English and Mary Queen of Scots Parliament. Previous attempts at union had been made, but this was the first time there was sufficient support on both sides to make it happen.

Put simply, the Scots needed financial support from England, and the English wanted to ensure that Scotland would not choose a different monarch. It was not, however, a universally popular move and many teething troubles had to be overcome as the two different sets of traditions and practice were merged into one parliament.

Robert Burns would famously write about the Scots parliamentarians that had signed the Act of Union: …O would, or I had seen the day That Treason thus could sell us, My auld grey head had lien in clay, Wi’ Bruce and loyal Wallace! But pith and power, till my last hour, I’ll mak this declaration; We’re bought and sold for English gold-Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

Burns’s view, and the view of many Scots, was that the parliamentarians that signed the act had been bribed. Tens of thousands of pounds were sent north to recompense Parliamentarians for losses they would suffer as a result of the union and for pensions.

The 1707 Union of Parliaments would open up the English colonial markets to Scots trade. In time Scotland recovered from the financial disaster of the Darien Scheme and the Scots made the most of the opportunities that the union offered.

Red tape aside, our cultures are richer, our boisterous rivalry endures. We remain united in brotherhood and long may it last.

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Banksy: Psyching Out the Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop marked the feature-film debut of notorious street artist Banksy. The documentary’s focus was French-born L.A. thrift-shop owner Thierry Guetta, whose apparent compulsion to videotape every moment of his life leads him to document the phenomenon of contemporary street art. Guetta’s cousin, a street artist known as Space Invader, allows the avid cameraman to tape him as he illegally produces his art. Eventually, Guetta hooks up with Shepard Fairey, best known for his widespread stickers featuring an image of Andre the Giant over the word “OBEY.” Guetta soon hears about the mysterious street artist Banksy, and becomes obsessed with finding him and videotaping his exploits. Thanks to Guettta’s growing reputation among street artists, the two eventually meet and form a sort of partnership. Guetta even videotapes Banksy’s infamous “Gitmo” prank at Disneyland, wherein a handcuffed, hooded figure in an orange jumpsuit is placed beside one of the rides. They get along quite well until Banksy suggests that Guetta stop shooting, take the countless hours of footage he’s accumulated, and start assembling them into a documentary. Banksy eventually takes over the documentary project, and inadvertently pushes Guetta’s creative energy in a new direction, as Guetta becomes a kind of street artist himself, with shocking results, leading to much speculation as to the documentary’s veracity and the provenance of Guetta, his videotape, and his artwork.


He is a national treasure: but he won’t be accepting a TV viewers’ award from Ant and Dec any time soon. Street artist, situationist and public-space japester Banksy is famed for his snogging coppers, simpering apes and for debunking Israel’s new West Bank barrier with graffiti. First shown in the director’s own pop-up cinema in an underpass in London’s Waterloo before moving on to more conventional locations, Exit Through the Gift Shop, like many of his graffitied images, is a kind of cinematic trompe l’oeil.

There have been notable hoax-oriented films in the recent past: such as The Blair Witch Project, Borat and the complete works of Lars von Trier. Exit Through the Gift Shop is in this genial tradition. Orson Welles made F for Fake; Banksy has made W for Windup. As a documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop is as about as reliable and structurally sound as that house-front with the strategically placed window that falls on top of Buster Keaton. As entertainment, though, it works very well.

Introducing it at the Berlin film festival – he appeared on video with his face in darkness – the artist himself cheerfully declared he hoped that it would do for street art what The Karate Kid did for martial arts. Like karate, street art is more difficult than it looks, particularly the trick of making a living from it, maintaining a combat-ready crew of studio assistants, and all the time persuading an ever-widening circle of professional acquaintance to keep the secret of your anonymity.

What the film does, or purports to do, is take a sideways look at Banksy and the new explosion of street artists, particularly in Los Angeles. The practitioners, at the outset of their careers at least, were unpaid graffiti-outlaws, pulling off daring and often dangerous visual stunts for the sheer hell of it: people like Shepard Fairey, who incessantly replicated his Andre image on the sides of buildings, a fat staring man over the single word “Obey”. Fairey eventually became conventionally celebrated for his Barack Obama Hope poster.

At the centre of the film is the apparent friendship between Banksy and one of his biggest fans, Thierry Guetta, an LA-based Frenchman with a lucrative retro clothing business and a passion for making videos. Guetta got fascinated in the LA street art scene, followed the artists around and shot miles of unusable video in the hope of making a documentary. Eventually he seems to have made the acquaintance of Banksy himself, filming his “Guantánamo” stunt in the precincts of Disneyland: propping up an orange-jumpsuited life-sized doll near a ride.

With pixelated tongue in blanked-out cheek, Banksy claims that he persuaded Guetta not to make his own film, but to be the star of this one, and then to be an artist himself. In no time, Guetta is somehow producing hundreds of suspiciously accomplished Warhol-Banksy pop art-style knockoffs for a colossal Los Angeles show under his new street-art name “Mr Brainwash”. Well, Thierry Guetta may well exist – but at the mention of his Mr Brainwash output, you may feel a strange tugging sensation on your leg. This could be the most startling debutant in the art scene since novelist William Boyd told us all about the neglected genius Nat Tate –but Mr Brainwash’s works are available for purchase, which is more than I can say for Nat Tate.

You’re under no compunction to take the film seriously: but it does offer an insight, of a teasingly incomplete and semi-fictionalised sort, into Banksy’s working life. We see his helpers carry away a London telephone box, take it to pieces in his workshop, replace the wackily twisted result in its original position and film the response from passersby. Nobody scratches their head or strokes their chin and wonders if it is “art” or if its creator might have “sold out”. They just laugh their heads off. They enjoy it: it is absolutely hilarious and this, to my perhaps naive and untutored eye, is the most compelling argument in favour of Banksy and in favour of this chaotic film.

The same goes for Banksy’s Diana tenners: he shows a cardboard box full of real-looking £10 notes with Princess Diana’s face on instead of the Queen’s. These things could get him arrested for forgery. Like Mr Brainwash, they are inspired counterfeits. Perhaps the point of Banksy’s art is that it inhales the wild spirit of forgery: his work makes free with brand identities and the symbols of authority, it replicates them, debunks and devalues them, it is a form of benign subversion. And he could be an important artist or just a silly fad – either way, in the street and with this film, he’s providing pleasure while he lasts.Banksy-001

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Osterly Park, West London

Osterley Park and its surrounding gardens, park
and farmland is one of the last surviving country
estates in London.
In the 16th century, Sir Thomas Gresham, financier
and adviser to Elizabeth I, began amassing land at

Osterley. In 1565 he built a house here in a very
similar location to the one you will see today.
Nearly 150 years later, in 1713, the Osterley estate
was acquired by the Child family and in the 1760s
they commissioned Robert Adam to remodel it.
A banking family with a house in central London,
they used Osterley as a country villa for
entertaining. When the heiress Sarah Sophia Child
married the 5th Earl of Jersey in 1804, the family
moved to the Jersey estate at Middleton Park.
Osterley remained in family ownership, used on
occasions by the Jerseys or leased out, until the 9th
Earl of Jersey gave it to the National Trust in 1949.

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The Thames Barrier

The Thames Flood Barrier is one of the largest movable flood barriers in the world, and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2009. It protects London against surge tides from the Atlantic, and rising sea levels generally.

The need for a barrier was recognised in 1954 following disastrous storm surge floods in 1953, when 300 people died and 24,000 properties were destroyed. The then Greater London Council, statutory body responsible for flood protection from the 1960s, presided over an area of approximately 115 sq km below the 1953 river level.

Consultant Rendel, Palmer & Tritton first suggested a drop-gate barrier with two large navigable openings in 1958, which was rejected. The government appointed mathematician Sir Herman Bondi to review the situation. Following his recommendations, in 1968 the council commissioned physical model studies of the River Thames between Teddington Weir and Southend.

By autumn 1969, it was decided to site the barrier at Woolwich Reach and to improve the downstream flood defences as far as the outer estuary. Charles Draper devised the final design, using the shape of gas taps as his inspiration for the gates. Additional design work was by Rendel, Palmer & Tritton. Construction began in 1974.

The barrier has nine concrete piers and 10 gates, which together span some 520m from north to south bank. The piers are founded on steel cofferdams built on solid chalk 15.2m below river level. The iconic boat-shaped pier roofs are timber clad in stainless steel, containing machinery and lift shafts.

There are six openings for navigation, each with rising sector gates, and four non-navigable tidal openings, each with falling radial gates. Individual gates can be closed in 10-15 minutes, but closing the entire barrier takes one and a half hours, allowing for dissipation of reflected waves and equipment checks. Gates are closed in pairs from bank to centre. The optimum time to close the barrier is just after low tide.

The four central rising sector gates span 61.5m and weigh 3,300 tonnes each. The two flanking rising sector gates each span 31.5m. The straight back of each gate is at least 20m high, and just the paint can weigh up to 200 tonnes per gate.

Gates are recessed 4m into the river bed when the barrier is open to river traffic. When the barrier is closed, they are rotated up into the vertical position by pairs of yellow-painted hydraulically powered steel rocking beams weighing 49 tonnes. The gates can resist a maximum differential head of 9.1m, at which time each one transfers a thrust of 9,100 tonnes to the piers.

Construction work on the barrier was completed in October 1982, at an estimated cost of £535 million, with the first closure in February 1983. It was officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 8th May 1984.

The barrier was out of use temporarily in 1997, after the MV Sand Kite collided with it in thick fog on 27th October and sank. The vessel was refloated and most of her cargo salvaged, and the barrier resumed normal operations.

Although futuristic in appearance, the barrier relies on proven engineering technology rather than innovation. Resilience and reliability, together with a rigorous maintenance programme —each component has its own schedule — should ensure that the barrier is operational into the 22nd century, well beyond its design life of 2030.

The barrier has been closed against flooding 114 times, although closures occur monthly for maintenance too. It protects some 125 sq km of central London from flooding, notably during the storm surges of November 2007.

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Jackson Pollock, the giant of abstract expressionism

pollock.number-8Pollock, Jackson (1912-56). American painter, the commanding figure of the Abstract Expressionist movement.

He began to study painting in 1929 at the Art Students’ League, New York, under the Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. During the 1930s he worked in the manner of the Regionalists, being influenced also by the Mexican muralist painters (Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros) and by certain aspects of Surrealism. From 1938 to 1942 he worked for the Federal Art Project. By the mid 1940s he was painting in a completely abstract manner, and the `drip and splash’ style for which he is best known emerged with some abruptness in 1947. Instead of using the traditional easel he affixed his canvas to the floor or the wall and poured and dripped his paint from a can; instead of using brushes he manipulated it with `sticks, trowels or knives’ (to use his own words), sometimes obtaining a heavy impasto by an admixture of `sand, broken glass or other foreign matter’. This manner of Action painting had in common with Surrealist theories of automatism that it was supposed by artists and critics alike to result in a direct expression or revelation of the unconscious moods of the artist.

Pollock’s name is also associated with the introduction of the All-over style of painting which avoids any points of emphasis or identifiable parts within the whole canvas and therefore abandons the traditional idea of composition in terms of relations among parts. The design of his painting had no relation to the shape or size of the canvas — indeed in the finished work the canvas was sometimes docked or trimmed to suit the image. All these characteristics were important for the new American painting which matured in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

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Woman I, Willem deKooning

Willem de Kooning (1904-97), even more than his contemporary Jackson Pollock, initiated liberty, imposition and urban energy in modern American art.

Pollock is celebrated as an “action painter”, and his fame, as de Kooning said, blazed a trail for American artists – yet Pollock’s style is in fact classically ordered, a vision of nature (he painted most successfully in rural Long Island) in which he insisted there is “no chaos, dammit!”

The chaos is in de Kooning. Born in Rotterdam and arriving illegally in the US in 1926, de Kooning was a caustic, gritty, dirty-minded painter. His paintings exist on a colossal scale, even though, in contrast to Pollock or Rothko, they are recognisable as traditional European-style pictures. De Kooning’s canvases feel as if they were made with a giant hand, yet the wide smears of paint are unexpectedly delicate, the colours pink and aquamarine. He was the greatest colourist since Matisse.

De Kooning’s mentor in New York was the Armenian immigrant artist Arshile Gorky; classic de Kooning abstractions such as Attic (1949) suggest forms being crushed, chopped, hammered into the flat world of the painting, taking Gorky’s ideas and making them harsher.
Subject: De Kooning described the figurative motif of this painting not as a representation but as a thing slapped on the canvas, liberating him from formal anxieties. Woman I “did one thing for me: it eliminated composition, arrangement, relationships, light, because that [motif] was the one thing I wanted to get hold of. I thought I might as well stick to the idea that it’s got two eyes, a nose and mouth and neck.”

Distinguishing features: Eyes as big as grenades, teeth grinning violently, huge limbs, mountainous breasts – this “woman” is exaggerated, absurdly physical and at the same time, not there at all, a spewed atrocity of nature in. fantasy, a crude graffito that took two anguished years to paint. Pink legs stick out of a red and yellow white-flecked inferno of skirt, the white clouds of the bosom float in de Kooning’s mind as apocalyptically remote as the bride that hangs above the bachelors in Duchamp’s Large Glass.

This is a ballad of sexual frustration. If you had to visualise de Kooning’s relationship to the woman, you would picture him trying to make polite conversation, or ignoring her sitting across from him on the subway, while desire pounded his brain.

It is a darkly comical painting, in contrast to the tragic vision of a Rothko or late Pollock, but it would be missing the point to see it as “figurative” in the British sense; on the contrary, it opens up new areas of erotic, everyday life to abstract art. Compare it with Bacon or Freud and you see how remote this painting is from the melancholy of traditional figuration. There is no body. The woman is a woman in the painter’s mind – an exuberated manifestation of colour and brushwork, with the splattered, pushed, released paint telling us unequivocally that it is a furiously sexual vision.

Inspirations and influences: Despite the fierce heterosexuality of Woman I , the artists who first followed de Kooning into this new space between abstraction and the real world dealt in sexual ambiguity – Rauschenberg’s Combines with their louche brushwork and dangled images and Twombly’s savagely eroticised paintings such as Bay of Naples (1961). Closer in spirit to de Kooning’s lusty cartoon are Oldenburg’s fantasies of mass-produced consumables inflated, sexualised. The giant lipstick he mounted on caterpillar tracks might belong to de Kooning’s Woman which hangs in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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Nefertiti, Queen of Egypt –

450px-Nefertiti_bust_(front) Nefertiti is known for her elegant beauty. Her bust has been the focus for numerous cosmetic lines. Many societies around the world have utilised the queen as a symbol of true beauty. Some historians have even proclaimed her the most beautiful woman in the world, although admirers of Helen of Troy may have something to say about that.

She ruled alongside Akhenaten during the eighteenth dynasty (1550-1292 BC). Nefertiti means, “The beautiful one has arrived.” She lived in Tell El Amarna, a city constructed by the pharaoh to worship their god Aten. It’s likely that Nefertiti was a distant relative to Akhenaten and a favorite queen to the pharaoh. Nothing is known about the queen’s childhood and no evidence has yielded who her parents are. Some believe her father could be Aye due to inscriptions found inside his tomb proclaiming him the father of her sister Mutnodjmet.

During her reign as queen, Egypt went through many radical religious changes. Hundreds of years of culture and worship usurped by a new radical concept — Monotheism.

The old gods were disregarded, temples shut down, and priests forced to change their ways. Many historians believe this transition could have been hostile and was not adopted easily by the citizens or priests.

Nefertiti’s reign with Akhenaten was unlike the traditional monarchy that Egypt had seen. She was more than a silent, subservient queen and instead, propagated Akhenaten’s views with vigour. Her reign was only 12 years, but she was perhaps one of the most powerful queens ever to rule. Supporting her husbands’ beliefs she changed her name to Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti meaning, “The Aten is radiant of radiance [because] the beautiful one has come.” Her importance was greatly valued by Akhenaten and he went to great lengths to show her as his ally in power. As queen, she took on powerful roles and showed herself in ways only Egyptian kings did. For example, she was often shown with the crown of a pharaoh or was depicted in scenes of battle smiting her enemies. Akhenaten valued her so much, that he also allowed her to practice that art of priesthood and she too was allowed to make offerings to Aten. Many Egyptologists believe that perhaps Akhenaten was born with deformities that hindered his role as king. One of the ailments that was believed he had was bad vision. This illness could have made his job difficult, in turn, he could have put trust into Nefertiti allowing her to decide many important matters. He trusted her so much, that he went as far as placing her name next to his in his royal cartouche. This was very unique and could have symbolized her as equal status next to Akhenaten.

Other depictions show the couple side by side often with their children in a utopic fashion. In one stela, found in Tell el Amarna, the couple is seated together. Akhenaten is giving his daughter an earring while his wife Nefertiti has the other two daughters on her lap. In this depiction, the queen is having a wonderful time and is shown in a loving manner with her husband and children. Both are shown as equal counterparts in their status and family affairs.

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Vector borne diseases worldwide

Despite centuries of control efforts, mosquito-borne diseases are flourishing worldwide. With a disproportionate effect on children and adolescents, these conditions are responsible for substantial global morbidity and mortality. Malaria kills more than 1 million children annually, chiefly in sub-Saharan Africa. Dengue virus has expanded its range over the past several decades, following its principal vector, Aedes aegypti, back into regions from which it was eliminated in the mid-20th century and causing widespread epidemics of hemorrhagic fever. West Nile virus has become endemic throughout the Americas in the past 10 years, while chikungunya virus has emerged in the Indian Ocean basin and mainland Asia to affect millions. Japanese encephalitis virus, too, has expanded its range in the Indian subcontinent and Australasia, mainly affecting young children. Filariasis, on the other hand, is on the retreat, the subject of a global eradication campaign. Efforts to limit the effect of mosquito-borne diseases in endemic areas face the twin challenges of controlling mosquito populations and delivering effective public health interventions. Travelers to areas endemic for mosquito-borne diseases require special advice on mosquito avoidance, immunizations, and malaria prophylaxis

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Yves Klein: The Immaterial Zone

When Yves Klein released The Immaterial Zone, the work comprised documentation of ownership of empty space.
Taking the form of a cheque, in exchange for gold; the buyer could then complete the piece in an elaborate ritual in which the buyer would burn the cheque, and Klein would throw half of the gold into the Seine.
The ritual was performed in the presence of an art critic or distinguished dealer, museum director and two appointed witnesses.

After the creation of the piece in 1959 eight Zones were sold.
“Klein’s receipts verify the existence of an invisible work of art, which prove that a formal sale has taken place. As Klein established in his ‘Ritual Rules’, each buyer has two possibilities; If he pays the agreed amount of gold in exchange for a receipt, Klein keeps all of the gold, and the buyer does not really acquire the “authentic immaterial value” of the work. The second possibility is to buy an immaterial zone for gold and then to burn the receipt. Through this act, a perfect, dematerialization is achieved. Klein seeks to ultimately demonstrate the indefinable, incalculable value of art.