Sunday, 27 May 2018

Totoro and a Satch Spray Day

We went along to a Satch (Swiss creator of all things to do with rucksacks and pencil cases) Spray Day at Büro Schoch in Marktgasse in Winti yesterday. My daughter Poppy had saved up her pocket money to spend 20fr – yes, 20fr – on a Satch pencil case and have it personalised for free by an in-store ‘graffiti artist’ I do find 20fr a little pricey for a pencil case but, as is always the case, if my children want to spend their own money on something creative then I am a big softy.

So we seated ourselves at the artist’s bench yesterday morning and rifled through examples of his previous artwork for ideas. We were a little uninspired by what was there but fortunately we had a few ideas of our own, downloaded on t’internet, mainly focused on Totoro, our favourite ever Studio Ghibli movie character. I showed the artist an example on my phone, which he took out of my hand, gave a nod (he was a man of very few words) and got on with the job in hand.

Poppy was very pleased with the result and can’t wait to show it off at school. Best of all, it didn’t cost me a penny, a rare and welcome treat these days J

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Switzerland's first National Reading Day

Reading aloud to your children is a wonderful thing. It is one of my favourite times of the day when I snuggle up in bed with my daughter, now 8, and read to her. My 11-year-old often she comes to lie across the end of the bed to listen.

On Wednesday (May 23) the first National Reading Day takes place throughout Switzerland. This will be a day when many events will take place in communities small and large.

Winterthur’s libraries will also be taking part. There will be two special events taking place on the day at all seven libraries around the city:

  • Between 2pm and 4pm, there will be a special games and stories session, with zvieri, for children aged between 5 and 9 years.
  • Between 6pm and 7pm, the entire city council has made themselves available for reading aloud in the seven libraries to middle school and high school follows:
  •  Stadtbibliothek - City councilor Yvonne Beutler
  • Hegi - City Councilor Jürg Altwegg
  • Oberwinterthur - Mayor Michael Künzle
  • Seen - City Councilor Stefan Fritschi
  •  Töss - City Councilor Barbara Günthard-Maier
  • Veltheim - Councilor Nicolas Galladé
  • Wülflingen - Councilor Josef Lisibach
More details on the Stadtbibliothek website.

National Reading Day in Switzerland website.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

100 year anniversary of Ferdinand Hodler

Die Nacht, 1890
Today marks 100 years since the death of Ferdinand Hodler, probably the most recognised Swiss painter of today.

Hodler (14th March 1853 – 19th May 1918) was hailed as helping to revitalise monumental wall painting and his work was thought to embody the ‘Swiss federal identity’ Many of his best-known paintings are scenes in which characters are engaged in everyday activities, such as the famous woodcutter (Der Holzfäller, 1910, Musée d'Orsay, Paris). In 1908, the Swiss National Bank commissioned Hodler to create two designs for new paper currency. His designs were controversial: rather than portraits of famous men, Hodler chose to depict a woodcutter (for the 50 Swiss Franc bank note) and a reaper (for the 100 Franc note)

Winterthur Kunstmuseum features many of Hodler’s works in the main collection and includes works such as Die Empfindung (1908) and Der Redner, Studie zur Einmütigkeit (1913) in the current Ferdinand Hodler – AlbertoGiacometti. An Encounter.
Der Redner, Studie zur Einmütigkeit (1913)

He was born in Bern, the eldest of six children. By the time he was eight years old, he had lost his father and two younger brothers to tuberculosis. His mother remarried to a decorative painter named Gottlieb Schüpach who had five children from a previous marriage and the birth of more children brought the size of Hodler's family to thirteen.

The family was poor, and nine-year-old Hodler was put to work assisting his stepfather in painting signs and other commercial projects. After the death of his mother from tuberculosis in 1867, Hodler was sent to Thun to apprentice with a local painter, Ferdinand Sommer where he learned the craft of painting conventional Alpine landscapes, typically copied from prints, which he sold in shops and to tourists.

At the age of 18, Hodler travelled on foot more than 160km to Geneva to start his career as a painter. He later travelled to Basel where he studied the paintings of Hans Holbein - especially Dead Christ in the Tomb – and Madrid in 1878 to study the masters such as Titian, Poussin, and Velázquez at the Museo del Prado.

The works of Hodler's early artwork consisted of landscapes, figure compositions, and portraits, treated with a vigorous realism and in the last decade of the nineteenth century his work evolved to combine influences from symbolism and art nouveau. His turning point was the creation of Night in 1890 which created a scandal at the Beaux-Arts exhibition in Geneva a year later. However, a few months later, it was exhibited in Paris at the Salon where it attracted favourable attention and was championed by Rodin.
Die Empfindung (1908)

Hodler developed a style he called ‘parallelism’ that emphasized the symmetry and rhythm he believed formed the basis of human society. In paintings such as The Chosen One (1893), groupings of figures are symmetrically arranged in poses suggesting ritual or dance. Hodler thought of woman as embodying the desire for harmony with nature, while a child represented innocence and vitality.

After several divorces Hodler met Valentine Godé-Darel in 1908 who became his mistress. She was diagnosed with cancer in 1913, and the many hours Hodler spent by her bedside resulted in a remarkable series of paintings documenting her decline from the disease. Some of these are currently being exhibited in the Ferdinand Hodler – Alberto Giacometti. AnEncounter exhibition at Winterthur Kunstmuseum. Valentine’s  death in 1915 affected Hodler greatly and he died just three years later.

Winterthur Kunstmuseum website.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Mother's Day at the museum

Portrait d'Annette, 1964, Alberto Giacometti
I had the perfect Mother’s Day present yesterday – a whole morning to myself to spend at the local art gallery. Not that I don’t love my little tykes to bits, but I do get to spend every day with them and free time is a coveted and very rare thing indeed, as every mother knows. It was also the perfect day for a visit to a gallery as it was also International Museum Tag (although in the UK it isn’t actually until 18th) which means free admission.

I went along to the Ferdinand Hodler – Alberto Giacometti. An Encounter exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, hailed as the first time ever that the two great Swiss artists have been featured in a joint exhibition. It is easy to see why, as at first glimpse they are poles apart – Hodler with his strange painterly depictions of repetitive figures on grand canvases and Giacometti with his squished heads and sculptured forms (a friend of his once said that if Giacometti decided to sculpt you, ‘he would make your head look like the blade of a knife’)

But the curators had worked hard at finding several parallels, such as the representation of groups of figures, studies of the Swiss mountain peaks and a particularly touching room featuring the artists’ lover and mother.

Giacometti was born at the beginning of the 20th century (10 October 1901) and Hodler was born much later in 1853 (14th March) although funnily enough, both artists died at the age of 65.

Selbstportrat mit Stehkragen, 1879, Hodler
The first room contrasts the artistic giants’ two self portraits cleverly – I mistook them for each other’s work! The Giacommeti painting looked to me just like Hodler’s work and the Hodler self portrait was how I imagined Giacommeti would have looked when younger. My favourite by far was the Hodler self portrait. It was astonishing - so feverish and haunting - he looked like a man possessed - and so unlike any work I have seen of his before. I attempted to catch this in a quick sketch – see below.

The next room featured the groups of figures. I liked the contrast in this room – each piece of Hodler’s work was accompanied by a piece of Giacommeti’s featuring a group of similar proportions – Hodler’s monumental paintings of characters moving in a kind of harmony, contrasted splendidly with Giacommeti’s tiny, isolated figures detached from the world around it. Then there was the collection of alpine paintings, which to me seemed to have a similar approach for the two artists, my favourite here was the one by Giacometti – see below.

The most penetrating and poignant room featured a host of work by Hodler depicting his model and lover Valentine Godé-Darel – once alive and smiling and the rest of her on her deathbed (due to cancer) just two years later. A heartfelt reminder of how quickly we can lose our loved ones. Giacometti’s portrait of his mother (see above) is just as revealing, as her  wavering head disappears into the grey ether surrounding it.

I just made a couple of sketches - quite unusual for me, as I often leave an exhibition with a notebook brimming with pencil drawings, but those two sketches were telling – the two pieces of work and two people who, for me, had the greatest impact.

Ferdinand Hodler – Alberto Giacometti. An Encounter runs until 19th August. Admission 19fr. opening hours Tuesday 10am – 8pm, Weds until Sunday 10am - 5pm and Monday closed.

Monte del Forno, um 1923, Alberto Giacometti

Portrait de Diego sur socle, 1959, Alberto Giacometti

Valentine Godé-Darel auf dem Totenbett, 1915, Ferdinand Hodler 

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Artwork at Sekundarschule Rosenau

I love looking at young people's art. It has such energy and imagination and I always find it inspiring. So I am very happy to have found a host of local school pupil’s artwork to enjoy. The artwork of students at Sekundarschule Rosenau in Winterthur is being posted on a blog for all to see.

Their latest project involves the continuation of a picture outside the frame and it’s wonderful how the students have approached this particular project. There are rainbows, snakes, pizza cheese, an eyeball and even the universe eeking out of the picture frames. Oil pastels were used to paint the motifs on paper and the outlines of each was carefully cut away from frames found online.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Film Stars don't die in Liverpool at Kiwi Loge

I've found out there is a little cinema, the Kiwi Loge, in Oberer Graben that shows English movies - the more unusual ones you won't very often find being shown. I'm absolutely made up. I used to run a film club in England and knew there would be something similar hiding in Winterthur somewhere - and now I've found it!

And it's showing Film Stars don't die in Liverpool - over the weekend in English (with German and French subtitles) Performances take place at 5.30pm and 8pm each day from today until Monday. Admission 17fr. Here's the blurb:

Film Stars don't die in Liverpool, a movie by Paul McGuigan.

Based on the heart-rending memoirs of British actor Peter Turner telling the playful yet passionate love story between Turner and eccentric actress and Academy Award winner Gloria Grahame (The Bad and the Beautiful). What begins as an exciting affair between the legendary film diva and her adolescent lover quickly develops into a deeper relationship. After all, Turner is the only person who can give Grahame consolation and strength during the last tragic days of her life. As always, Grahame Turner is adorable - for a last, deeply moving performance.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Presidential heavyweights 'battle' it out for top spot

Front cover of this week's Winterthurer Zeitung
The headline story of the Winterthurer Zeitung this week features Michael Künzle, current president of Winterthur, and Yvonne Beutler who is hoping to take his place in the elections to be held on 15th April (Sunday!) I guess it is a battle between the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland, also known as the Swiss Socialist Party, (Yvonne) and the more traditional Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland (Michael)

Under the promising headline ‘Collegiality gives way to rivalry’ I thought the ‘interviews’ fairly staid and one-dimensional. I would have liked to see more interesting questions such as What do you think Winterthur will look like in 20 years time? and What do you think of Universal Basic Income? How do you think we can combat the increased automation of people’s jobs? Etc, etc…

I mean, this is a big job right? Winterthur is a fantastic, cultural city, full of incredible, enthusiastic people. It should be at the forefront of culture and progress in the most dynamic way. The only revealing answer on these lines was following the one statement put by the newspaper reporter as: I want to be President of the City because I can bring Winterthur more than my opponent. Here are the replies:

Michael Künzle: I have proven in recent years that I am committed to our city. Our city is doing well. The track record, which I have achieved together with the city council, can be seen. We stabilized the finances, increased the number of employees, renewed the cultural mission statement and subsidy agreements, took decisive steps in the urban museum concept, introduced integrated location marketing, concluded a development agreement with SBB, prevented the school of engineering from leaving the company, and the Frauenfeld crisis AG mastered, the police building brought by the referendum and so on. In the future, we will continue to need stable finances, more jobs, a mixed population, a diverse culture and sports facilities. The goal is a modern, innovative, self-confident city with a high quality of life.

Yvonne Beutler: Winterthur has the choice between two "models" of a city council: a conservative city father and a modern city president, who sees the focus not only in representation, but also in leadership. Together with the city council, I would like to actively shape the development of our city as a team, give it more momentum and give it a fresh face inside and out. Thanks to my previous work as a justice of the peace, I have great experience in developing sustainable solutions for the most diverse people in crisis situations. After 20 years of politics, I know our city thoroughly and I am well connected. I approach openly people and companies, I am resilient and humorous and ready to make unpleasant decisions. My excellent election result also speaks for my performance.

Micheal sites one of his achievements as taking decisive steps in the ‘urban museum concept’ Now I’m not sure exactly what this has achieved, other than perhaps saving money. All I can see is one website where the Kunstmuseum, Oskar Reinhart Museum and Villa Flora have been lumped together and the three museums are now referred together as the Kunst Museum Winterthur. As opposed to one of the museums which was already called the Kunstmuseum Winterthur and is now just called ‘Beim Stadthaus?’ The problem they have is that all over the internet, the Kunstmuseum Winterthur just means the one, more contemporary museum, not all three. All very confusing.

Anyway, Micheal’s goal is ‘a modern, innovative, self-confident city with a high quality of life’ which is just what Winterthur is and why I love it so much. But right now it needs momentum, as Yvonne says. I like her focus on the words ‘shaping the development of the city’ and ‘momentum’ because for me that is just what Winterthur needs – a modern, forward looking approach and a healthy dose of momentum. I think we’re ready for a change. I’m with Yvonne J

Full story here.

For information, politics in Switzerland works on proportional representation and a ‘magic formula’ How good is that? It means the four main parties are dealt with equally and fairly. So the composition of the Federal Council looks like this:
  • Free Democratic Party (FDPP/PLR/PLD): two seats
  • Social Democratic Party (SPS/PSS): two seats
  • Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC/PPS): two seats
  • Christian Democratic People's Party (CVP/PDC/PPD/PCD): one seat
Neat huh? We sure could do with a magic formula in the UK…