“Queue”- Vasily Kolotev, USSR, 1985
Food & Culture
The end of the party…
Like all exhibitions organized at Bozar, the Spanish Still Life did not leave the viewer wanting. The set-up was beautiful, the light was fairly dim and the paintings simply mesmerizing. The exhibition was curated in a chronological order and the evolution of the style was captured and clearly explained to the public. I have always enjoyed still life painting, my first memory of seeing such works of art takes me back to my maternal grandparents’ living-room library and to a small booklet with colored images they quite unknowingly pushed under my nose. It became one of my favorite toys.
The Bozar Spanish Still Life exhibition was the perfect trigger to start investigating the role of foodstuffs in the still life paintings and, more broadly, cast a look at the evolution of this style. Read More
Corso Café: where the distinguished people met. The commercial, appeared in the Romanian press, is written in French, the language of the educated elites. A good way to self-select the patrons, one would say. I cannot help but wonder if the menus were also written in French; I am, however, pretty sure most of the conversation was done in French. Surely, few nouveaux riches (read un-mannered, uneducated) were infiltrating the premises. Ah, the shame of not belonging at the Corso Café…!
“I don’t understand it,” Hans Castorp said. “I never understand how anybody can not smoke – it deprives a man of the best part of life, so to speak – or at least of a first class pleasure. When I wake up in the morning, I feel glad at the thought of being able to smoke all day, and when I eat, I look forward to smoking afterwards; I might almost say I only eat for the sake of being able to smoke – though of course that is more or less an exaggeration. But a day without tobacco would be flat, stale and unprofitable, as far as I’m concerned. If I had to say to myself to-morrow: “No smoking to-day”- I believe I shouldn’t find the courage to get up – on my honor, I’s stop in bed. But when a man ha s a good cigar in his mouth- of course it mustn’t have a side draught or no not draw well, that is extremely irritating – but with a good cigar in his mouth a man is perfectly safe, nothing can touch him- literally. It just like lying on the beach: when you lie on the beach, why, you lie on the beach, don’t you? – you don’t require anything else, in the line of work or amusement either.- People smoke all over the world, thank goodness; there is nowhere could get to, so far as I know, where the habit hasn’t penetrated. Even polar expeditions fit themselves out with supplies of tobacco to help them carry on.
P.S. Cigars are not my cup of tea, but rollies are.
Mainly known for his series “The man who…”, H.M. Bateman was a British humorous artist and cartoonist. I sometimes fantasize about P.G. Woodhouse novels illustrated by Bateman. These two contemporary British artists have more in common than one would think: they both portray, with their specific means, the shortcomings and gaffes of the upper class. I imagine a spumous friendship between the two, night caps and cigars, good lunches and strolls in the park. A match made in haven, I think. Speaking of a grave faux-pas, ordering milk at the Café Royal seems to stir a good laugh from everyone present. The waiter can barely contain himself and seems to be even slightly scolding the young lady, who is all flushed and flabbergasted. One can only wonder if she got her glass of milk in the end…
The church of Montesion in Palma de Mallorca stands grand and tall, yet somehow belittled. This Mediterranean island has a fascinating history. Mallorca was taken from the Moors by King James I of Aragon in 1230 and went through a heavy Christianization process. The city of Palma, Ciutat de Mallorca at that time, had a Jewish population counting about a few hundreds. In 1391 anti-Jewish riots broke out and the population was wiped out. Some ran to North Africa, others converted to Catholicism and continued to live on the island. Their holy places were also reconverted or simply destroyed. I cannot tell for sure, but I believe this is what happened with the Montesion synagogue. The Iglesia de Montesion is, of course, a Catholic church, but what few passers-by know is that it was built in the 16th century on the site of Jewish synagogue dating from 1314. The name of the church and its street is Montesion, Mount Zion. The strangeness of the building comes from the sharp contrast between the heavily embroidered, Baroque entrance and the bare walls. No design, no carvings or plaster, only bare stone and one round window above the portico. Furthermore, trying to walk around this massive church will get you nowhere. Literally. The church’s back merges with other buildings, an old townhouse and if memory serves, a public school. What draws the attention is the incredible, almost Churrigueresque church entrance. It is covered in carved fruits and vegetables and I found it almost impossible to take my eyes of it. How did it end up here? Read More
Since our early days on this beautiful blue planet, we have been concerned with representing our world, as a form of understanding it better or simply archiving knowledge. There is no need to cite clichés that size a picture’s worth, suffice to say images are powerful. They can transcend language barriers and be filled with meaning and codes. It is only natural that food has taken a significant spot in our representations of the surrounding world. Narrowing the scope, I will have a look at food in political cartoons. I have chosen this particular form of expression because I find it a true radiography of society, a witty account of times passed, a lens through which we can look back and forward, too. Furthermore, I enjoy the satire, humor and wits cartoonist propose.