29 October 2005

Stripping Railway Stations of Their Context (and, in Some Cases, Function)

B.'s working this weekend, so I got up early and nabbed a lift into Bath so I could investigate the Surreal Spaces exhibition at the Victoria Gallery, which we saw advertised on Monday.

The reproductions on the website sadly don't do the artist's work justice: the canvases are lucid and fantastically detailed, and the image they've used to headline the exhibition, of curious people peering down at Bath from the height of some colossal imaginary viaduct, is breathtaking when seen up close. Philip Bouchard isn't someone I'd heard of previously (and nor has Wikipedia, although Art.com sells a single poster of a painting which wasn't in the exhibition), but he has an eye for architecture and the way it looks in certain lights which is quite uncanny. In Bath, the viaduct is still lit golden-pink by the setting sun while the city below is in near-darkness, an effect which is outrageously beautiful.

The exhibition was a small one -- apart from Bath there were perhaps ten full-sized pieces (plus a handful of vignettes, which were for sale and looked to have had a lot less care taken over them). My favourites were the fantastical blendings of familiar (yet impressive) architecture with unfamiliar landscape, so that, for instance, St Pancras Station stands in all its gothic glory amidst a rolling countryside of hills and lakes, with a lone steam-train trundling into it from another viaduct.

I found the more self-consciously surrealistic elements of his paintings -- giant chess-pieces, bodies of water becoming curtains, split-level horizons and the like -- pretentious and a little tired, given the kinds of things Magritte was doing back in the 1920s, but still, the man has real talent.

I wandered around Bath for a while in search of second-hand bookshops, but found that they were mostly either pants or priced way out of my range. (I did pick up cheap copies of Justina Robson's Mappa Mundi and Will Self's Cock and Bull , though.) I also scouted out the farmer's market, held on Saturdays in the disused Green Park railway station to the west of the city, which sells all sorts of goodies including Daisy farmhouse cheeses.

The bastard train company had decided not to run any bastard trains today, so I got a bus back to Bristol. Since then I've been having a late lunch and reading more of the incredibly complex, layered and intraconnected Cloud Atlas (over three-quarters of the way through now, so expect a review at some point soonish).

When B. comes back, we'll be going out for yet another meal (probably the last in a while, though, as her workload goes ballistic during the next month), in honour of my imminent birthday (have I mentioned before that it's my birthday this Tuesday? And that my Amazon wish list is here?), at Casa Caramba in Clifton. We've not been there before, but we're well familiar with its parent establishment, Casa Mexicana, which was just five minutes' walk from our previous house and whose food was gorgeous beyond belief. So, looking forward to that.

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