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Project 365 – Week 32

Having two cameras, one dSLR and one PnS, is a good thing. Depending on the situation and the size of the bag I’m carrying, I can opt to bring one or the other, or both. The downside, however, is I’m hitting more or less the same range of image number on both cameras. When it comes to organising them, I had to be very careful not to let any overwriting from happening. My folder system goes by the event name, and photos from both cameras could potentially end up in the same folder. I should reset the count for one of them.

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Cat

5 Aug: This kitty in real life look like a grey fluffy ball, loves to be petted, super duper cute, but for some reason, when I tried to photograph it, it gave me this serious big cat-like look. I guess it didn’t want to appear too adorable, and it was not too adorable indeed when it jumped on me at breakfast table one morning. It went straight onto my lap and leaving some scratch mark even though I tried to lift it up as quickly as I could. See, I was wearing shorts… ouch!

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Day 353: Speaker Mouths

There are some very eye-catching gigantic lips in Saint-Germain-des-Prés at the moment. An art installation, it seems like it’s here to stay for a month. The way this installation works is through public interaction – you’re supposed to talk into the microphone in front of the lips and it’ll be reinterpreted by these lippy “flowers”.

Created in 2010 by LLND who were duo artists originally from Saint-Germain-des-Prés themselves (but have been living in China for the past 3 years), this piece is intended to be a form of art and cultural exchange between their home neighbourhood and Huai Hai Lu in Shanghai (their adopted neighbourhood?), promoting the spirit of communications. Unfortunately, when I was there, the sculpture didn’t seem to be in working order. Hmmm…

Day 340: Crazy ciggie totem?

The totem sculptures thing are just too funny. I’ve seen them around each time I go to/fro my tango classes, but I never quite figure them out. I’m also too lazy to check if there is any description of these totems nearby. My imagination runs wild and what I perceived are some colourful ciggies in the guise of totems. And it’s not even commercial ciggies but home-rolled.

I’ve finalised everything at Cité U today, handed back my keys and all. It’s so strange to see the studio apartment like how it was eight months ago. It’s as if I’ve never been there even. The cleaning lady of my floor was nice, wishing me good luck and approving that the apartment is in good order. Funny there was no état des lieux being held though. Just a quick glance through.

Day 332: Familiar sculpture?

I don’t normally go to Gare du Nord, at least not for the main train terminal part, but there I was this evening, circa 6.30pm, searching for the arrival information. All I spotted initially were two gigantic departure board, then a teeny tiny screen in a corner somewhere for the arrivals. My friends were arriving in slightly later than expected. Not much, by just 10 minutes.

As I made my way towards the platform they were due in, I saw a large arrival information board (finally) and hey, that was one very familiar looking sculpture up at the mezzanine level! It reminded me of Europe a cœur in Strasbourg, but with multiple rings around it. I was too lazy to go up for a closer look, and in any case, the train from Amsterdam was coming in the platform and I had friends (with luggages) to greet. Welcome back to Paris G!

Day 299: L’Acteur grec

Now that autumn leaves are showing their colours, I could not resist going back to Jardin du Luxembourg, to this spot where I have in past love the view it afforded me, with colourful flower beds and the Phanthéon standing proudly in the background.

This sculpture represents a Greek actor in rehearsal, with the manuscript in his hand containing the lines that he ought to learn, and a mask that will disguise his true self once drawn over his face. I do wonder if it is a tragedy that he’s rehearsing for, or perhaps something more cheerful instead?

Day 298: Mazzolin di fiori

Today’s photo is courtesy of a tip-off from Chloé. I was told “there’s a funny sculpture thing outside Odéon theatre which you may want to check out for your photo-of-the-day”. Of course! I’d happily check out things that are novel (to me) and record them for posterity. ;)

This egg-shaped igloo-looking sculpture – yes, you can walk in and it’s taaaaall at 5.5m in height – is a work in oxidised aluminium by Andrea Salvetti. Mazzolin di fiori (bouquet of flowers) is made entirely of cut metal sheets of, well, flowers (5 petals each). It is pretty to look at, but not to seek shelter when it’s raining. It’s a bit leaky. Not sure how long Avant-Scene will sponsor its existence so if you want to check it out, make it quick.

Day 290: Body, 2011

There are some new additions to Jardin des Tuileries, but sadly they won’t be here to stay for long. It’s all in preparation for the FIAC 2011 contemporary art fair which will be running this weekend. And what’s nice about these outdoor exhibits (as opposed to those inside various museum spaces) is they’re free for all to enjoy!

While some pieces are still currently in construction (e.g. there’s a strange artichoke-like looking sculpture nearby), Moulène’s piece called Body (apparently inspired by Renault Twizy Z.E.) is already sitting pretty. With its striking colours, it’s quite hard to miss really. I’m going to make a round and see what else will be put in place.

Day 267: Guardian temple lion

A temple near home recently underwent some serious renovation and they certainly up the ante at the scale level, particularly with the erection of various statues of a pantheon of deities normally worshipped by those practicing Taoism/Confucianism. Some of them are about the height of 2-3 storeys building!

They also added some traditional decorative elements, such as this guardian temple lion, at the gate to the square of deities. The lions always come in pair, usually one with mouth open and one with mouth shut. They are signs of courage and strength, and protection against bad luck and evil. I am simply drawn to the playful nature depicted by this lion, that life is free of worry and there are bundles of good in the world.

Day 235: Saint Denis the Headless

I have previously introduced Sainte Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. Today, we shall talk about Saint Denis, a martyr who was Bishop of Paris a long long time ago and the patron saint of France (how’s that for a trump card?). And to make sense of the story of this headless saint, we should also talk about Montmartre.

Saint Denis was said to have been beheaded at Montmartre (giving rise to this name that means “mountain of the martyr” – but on all accounts, there are 2 other possibilities on how Montmartre came to be known as what it is called today) but a devout bishop that he was, it didn’t stop him from continuing to perform his duty to the God. He picked his head up and started walking to the north, all the while preaching a sermon as it should (I figure that must be one of the miracles to propel forth his beatification) until he came to a spot where he decided it would be his final resting place.

A cathedral/basilica bearing his name stands today at that spot, and he has plenty of royal companies in burial, as all but three French kings have their final resting places here. I still haven’t visited the cathedral, and if you’re wondering where I find the statue above, well, it’s from the left portal of the west end of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Day 224: Colin-maillard

Just when I thought the sculptures by Daniel Hourdé around St-Germain have been removed (given the main period of exhibition in the quarter should be over), I stumbled across a couple more today at rue de Furstemberg, just outside of Musée National Eugène Delacroix. Not that I am complaining. The more I stumbled across his sculptures, the more I admire his body of works.

I don’t know how to explain it, but there is a certain evocation of power and strength beneath every movement of the sculptures, accompanied by an expectation for the fluid movement to be extended and continued. I half expect to see them to come alive before my very eyes. And coming alive gracefully they will.

Ps: the title of this sculpture means blind man’s bluff. And behind this statue, you could see another sculpture. That’s Les epines de la volupté (the thorns of lust).

Day 222: L’écoute

Most times, sculptures are just that. A piece of art work on display, usually high up on a pedestal of some sort, or protected in some other way. They certainly give an air of “do not touch” although usually when someone do disregard the convention, then the poses are inevitably to (1) evoke humour of some sort, or (2) have photographic proof that one has visited that particular point of interest.

“Interactive” sculptures are less often found publicly. L’écoute by Henri de Miller is not exactly one intended for such, but there’s a certain quality to it that invites people to treat it more casually and to form an interaction of some sort, most commonly to perch in its palm and be photographed. Kids absolutely love it. A bit like the column sculptures in Palais Royal, where they can run about and hop between the columns.

Day 215: Il faut se méfier des mots

“One must be wary of words.”

As warning goes, it is not too far wrong from the truth. We often forget how powerful words can be. One careless word, one inconsiderate phrase, that’s all it takes to hurt someone and cut deeply. The scar invisible, yet nonetheless there. Turn to another facet, however, words are all powerful, inspiring and motivational. These have healing power, to lift one’s spirit up. And empty promises, these are perhaps the most damaging of all. They break trust and create wariness.

This 3D installation by Ben Vautier is set up high on a building at place Fréhel, at the intersection between rue de Belleville and rue Julien Lacroix (en route to my favourite Thai restaurant, Krung Thep). It depicts two puppet-workmen who are busy setting up this chalkboard, all oh so casually. For anyone seeing this for the first time, it’s easy to do a double-take, wondering who are up there working on putting this notice board on.

Day 196: La vanité…

Parisians are, in general, a stylish lot of people. Standing at the fringe, I often wonder where so-and-so bought her effortlessly fabulous outfit and fashionable item of clothing/accessory/footwear. Often I couldn’t help feeling a little dowdy in comparison but reminded myself in turn that these don’t change who I am, only the “outer shell”, of what I wear.

La vanité mise à nu par ses thuriféraires is another thought-provoking sculpture by Daniel Hourdé, installed just across the road from Désillusion totale, that perfectly represents the stripping of vanity to reveal the fundamentals, the depth beneath this layer of superficial mask. We are vulnerable under it all; usually only the most devoted see this side of us, with the truest standing by us unconditionally. Trust of this kind is hard to come by and if you have earned it, never take it for granted.

Day 193: Pepper

There is a giant blue pepper (by Patrick Laroche) sitting at Place René Char, nestled between Boulevard St Germain, Boulevard Raspail and rue du Bac. Very shiny and as much as I love my veggies, this is just weird as an art concept. Seeing the “pepper holder” referring to Galerie 208 Chicheportiche, there are, presumably, more vegetable sculptures in that gallery.

Aaaaand speaking of pepper, I recently tried stuffed chilli pepper at a Peruvian restaurant near Jardin des Plantes. Delicious and authentic food to be had there, and boy has that dish had a good kick of spice in that chilli. Even for someone with high tolerance to spicy food, I was losing my tastebuds to the heat of the dish. Not a dish I could recommend to too many people I guess, which is a shame, because it was pretty tasty.

Day 180: Désillusion totale

I think I have that traveller’s dumb luck kind of thing going on. I don’t always know what’s happening in the city (there are waaaaay too much activities to keep track) and there are days, after work, I admit to being half-hearted in my exploration attempts (although I worked at pushing those aside and tried to stay motivated). Still, I somehow often come across something just after it has been inaugurated or before its closure.

Désillusion totale is a new sculpture currently installed just outside the church of St Germain des Prés. A contemporary work by Daniel Hourdé that translates to “Total Disillusionment”, this purported sculptured bird is seen by me more as a fallen angel, its wings tattered and its steps weak, disenchanted by worldly illnesses, with naught but a beak mask to protect him from the plague. What’s your interpretation?

Day 179: Pasteur

That’s quite a dashing bust, don’t you think? Standing at rue du Docteur Roux, the building behind the bust is the first building of the Institut Pasteur and today, the site of Musée Pasteur. There’s no prize for guessing that the bust belongs to the famed microbiologist Louis Pasteur.

I’ve been told that Pasteur’s body is interred in a vault of the Institut Pasteur. Not only that, his apartment of his later years is also preserved. Since I’m around the area for conference in these few days, if I could sneak a little time, I should consider paying a homage to the man who had given so much of his discoveries to the advancement of immunology and disease prevention.

Day 175: Ah la la…

“Ah la la” is definitely phrase of the day.

The temperature is set to soar this weekend from low 20°C to some 32-35°C. It will then stay so for 2-3 days before another massive plummet back to around mid-20s °C. Insane? Just the thought of it… and I’ve been told by friends that Paris would easily feel like a city-wide sauna during the heatwave.

I’ve also been warned that travelling by public transport that’s packed would be equivalent to cramming oneself into a pre-heated oven. It would be better if I would consider alternative displacement methods, such as by foot or by bike (the Velib’). This is when I am glad that I have taken up an annual Velib’ subscription. Now, I just need to be brave enough to cycle with all the traffic around!

Day 173: Opéra Garnier

A little something from another famous landmark of Paris today for you – the figural group by Aimé Millet of Apollo, poetry and music at the Opéra Garnier. Standing tall and proud, Apollo holds the lyre high, which I take to interpret the triumph of music that one finds in this opera house. I have yet to attend any events here but for the 2011/2012 season, I’m going to try to watch an opera or two under what would be a magnificent setting.

Palais Garnier is steeped in grandeur. Various statues adorned the building, alongside busts of great composers along the front façade. In the interior, sweeping stairs and opulent chandeliers, deep crimson carpets and curtains, glittering gold borders and carvings – it’s no wonder this opera house inspired the creation of The Phantom of the Opera.

Day 153: Monument aux 50 Otages

Wheeeee… long weekend!

My friends and I left reasonably early this morning for Nantes, in an attempt to avoid heavy traffic leaving Paris given the ritualistic exodus of Parigots for destinations all over the country (and beyond?) for the 4-days weekend. For us, we’re off for a much needed quiet R&R weekend in a small village just outside of Nantes and all I anticipate doing are eating, sleeping, chit-chatting and reading. Maybe a bit of sight-seeing.

This monument at Pont Morand in Nantes is a war time commemorative memorial sculpture. In 1941, fifty hostages were captured and executed by German occupation authorities for their pro-communist and anti-fascism efforts. The monument serves as reminder of their resistance against the occupation and it is represented by an central arrow flanked by two women, allegorical for la Résistance (to the right, with a sword concealed in the folds of the cape) and la France Renaissante (to the left, holding an ear of corn).

Ps: pretty blue sky is always a good start to the weekend ;)

Day 151: Brisas

I was back walking along Port de Javel this evening. The installation of steel sculptures by Carmona are still there, so I circled around a few of them to try to take a few more pictures. I end up choosing “Brisas” (meaning breezes) for the blog upon reflecting on the weather forecast that is to come.

I’ll be away for a long weekend break in a couple of days, participating in my first pont ritual ever. The weather forecast is looking good for now but it also appears we’re due for some wind and rain by the end of the weekend. I hope that’s just erroneous forecast. I want a full, sunny long weekend. Afterall, when I was busy slaving away working during the weekends in April, every threat of thunderstorm had been met with pretty blue skies, causing a massive tug of will between being good and staying in to work, and to sit out and have a long picnic.

Day 143: Museum of a museum

Gustav III Museum of Antiquities is a rather peculiar museum. It is a museum of a museum, that is, it is a museum recreated based on the museum which used to be housed at the Royal Palace. For a period of time, these pieces were moved to National Museum. They were subsequently restored at the Palace once again, and reopened as Museum of Antiquities. Therefore, this is a museum honouring what was one of the oldest European museums.

The museum is not particularly big, consisting of only two galleries. The bigger one containing a number of key statues, including Apollo and his nine muses, and Endymion, while the narrower gallery is used to mostly display busts of men of fame in the past. What’s quite amusing was listening to the guide explaining how rogue merchants of the past classified something as an object of antiquities from Roman civilisation. Apparently, as long as there’s at least 30% of original parts to the work, it was considered antiquities. And missing parts (limbs, attributes) can subsequently be replaced by, say, reconstructive sculpting works. Intriguing.

Day 140: Génie sur Seine

I never quite get nymphs, sirens and water spirits straight. I’ve seen the terms used interchangeably in some writings, while other sources portray them as distinct creatures, albeits water/sea related. Who’s right and who’s wrong? However, I do think of nymphs and sirens as creatures with seductive nature, so I would deduce this sculpture to be a water spirit if anything. Just look at it – she’s so young and carefree!

Pont Alexandre III is undoubtedly the most elaborately decorated and opulent bridge of Paris. This water spirit is only a small component to the bridge which spans River Seine to link Les Invalides on the left bank to both Grand Palais and Petit Palais on the right bank. From gold-gilded statues to Art Nouveau lamps to bronze sculptures, this bridge is, and will always be, a wow factor to all visitors to Paris.

Ps: yup, French wiki confirmed this is a water spirit (génie).

Day 135: Europe a Cœur

The seat of major EU institutions are in Strasbourg, among them the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. The buildings are modern, mostly glass and steel, which is quite a contrast to the quaint city centre area of Strasbourg, where Alsatian architecture (often feels Germanic) dominates. Of course, the city has been in both the hands of French and German over the centuries, so it’s natural that the influence from both cultures can be deeply felt.

Outside the European Parliament, this sculpture above drawn me to it. From afar, I initially thought it was the figure of strong protecting the weak, or a mother holding a child. Upon closer inspection though, it was more like entertwining embrace of a couple, encased in a loose heart shape. Designed Ludmilla Tcherina, this is a strong imagery of Europe that has a heart.

Day 132: Rusty Steel Carnival

A new series of sculpted installation (made from rusty steel) has just been peppered along Ports de Paris which opened today. Such serendipitious coincidence that I went awandering near Parc André Citroën and came across a few of them. I haven’t time to check all of them out though. Accordingly they could be found along River Seine running from the park to the Eiffel Tower.

Created by Edgardo Carmona, the pieces by the quay-side gates of the park include the artistics (carnival musician, bike juggler, ribbon gymnast), the day-to-day (umbrella blown with the wind) and the amusing (man with beer – after a late night out maybe – and dog, both peeing to a lamp post). I wonder what else are installed upriver from here.

Day 130: Pájaro XIII

I pass by this bronze sculpture of a bird several times a week. In fact, each time I go for a run. Considering I would also complete numerous rounds of the loop of the park in Cité U, I’d see it for a few times within the hour that I huff and I puff my route in synchrony to whatever high-beat music I have loaded to my iPod.

Entitled Pájaro XIII (to signify the 13th such bronze statue by the same sculptor?) by Juan Soriano, it is part of collection from Centro de Arte de Reina Sofía. Unsurprising, given that it sits in the garden to the Spanish House. The thing is though, this sculpture is superfamiliar to me, even before I found out from where it came from. Now I wonder if I have saw something similar when I was in Madrid a few years back?

Day 127: Sculptures of Miró

I <3 Miró. I first fell in love with him when I was in London, standing in one of the many rooms of Tate Modern, gazing at Message d’ami (Message from a friend). I was immediately smitten. What started as an attempt to get acquainted with modern art (I used to be a tad scathing about modern art movement) became a day of exploration and unspoken connection. That day, I learned a true lesson in the beauty of keeping an open mind and giving things a try. At least once.

At Musée Maillol, an exhibition of Miró’s sculptures is currently taking place and it is so good to see the familiar elements of his paintings also reflected in the sculptures. The one thing missing is the bold colour blocks, given most of the sculptures were casted in bronze and not cured in any other way. I miss those vibrant colours. There are a couple of coloured preparatory sketches in exhibition, along with 2-3 paintings proper, but that’s too few for my liking.

In writing this blog post, I discovered that another Miró exhibition is currently running in Tate Modern, which assembles paintings from public and private collection (what a coup!). I need to now find some free time to Eurostar myself over to London. Oh where in my calendar can I fit this in…?

Day 123: Le Passe-Muraille

Many years ago, Marcel Aymé wrote a short story called Le Passe-Muraille (The man who walks through the wall) and it became of one his most famous works. Set in Montmartre, at rue Norvins, where Aymé lived, the protagonist Dutilleul found himself with most unusual talent for walking through walls but later accidentally “cured” himself and was stuck in a wall following a late night rendezvous. Poor guy had no one but the painter Eugene Paul who occasionally sang, accompanied by a guitar, as consolation. (Read the translated work here.)

Today, at the corner of rue Norvins, sits a bronze sculpture to honour Aymé and this short story of his. It is a poetic tribute, for the location commemorates not only where Dutilleul found himself imprisoned for life, but also the writer himself living in the building just adjacent to the wall. Visitors today seem to believe that rubbing the hand of the sculpture would bring good fortune. The proof – shiny and sparkling hand of the bronze figure. ;)

Day 121: Le monument à la République

Sure, this is no Laetitia Casta (who was voted in 1999 as symbolic representation of French Republic) but Marianne is everywhere, celebrated in form of monumental sculptures, leading lady in paintings, the caricature on the stamps, even carried daily in our pockets as the French euro coins are engraved with her image.

Standing tall – it is 9.5m in height – and dominant at Place de la République, this bronze sculpture of Marianne by Léopold Morice sits above a base of 15m in height with three other sculptures of the allegories to Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité by Charles Morice. The brothers effectively executed a perfect classical monument to represent the state, for the values that her people fought for in the French Revolution.

I’ve tried to photograph this monument in its entirety but at that time of day, with traffic teeming around the square and people everywhere, I couldn’t find a frame that I like, that I’m happy with. Maybe I should try some day really early in the morning?

Day 108: L’Homme aux semelles devant

I first noticed this unusual and whimsical sculpture at place du Père-Teilhard-de-Chardin during a leisurely walk with the girls a couple of weekends ago, and when my random bus exploration took me past it again, I deboarded the bus quickly at the next stop.

A commission carried out by late Jean-Robert Ipoustéguy, this sculpture from mid-1980 parodically depicted the poet Arthur Rimbaud. A restless soul who travelled constantly, Rimbaud had earned himself the nickname l’Homme aux semelles de vent (“man with soles of wind”). Cleverly playing with the homophonic title l’Homme aux semelles devant (“man with soles in front [of him]”), Ipoustéguy had Rimbaud resting upon someone’s soles, perhaps his own, as the body was split in two and time-wrapped in a peculiar machine.

This is a prime example of the relationship between French(wo)men and their love of language. From whatever little I managed to glean from the French culture, everyone seems to thrive on smart plays of words, compositions that are linguistically beautiful, the subtleties in nuances of literature. How else do you explain George Perec’s lipogrammic writing of La disparition? Or the creation of verlanised verlan? Or the delight of my French teacher in showing us “the 8 flavours of passé composé” and the anticipation of other rich variations of all the other tenses? ;)

Day 84: Faune dansant

There are statues and sculptures aplenty in Luxembourg Garden, including replica of the Statue of Liberty. Random information of the day: the Statue of Liberty is French by nationality, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and brought to life by Gustave Eiffel, who was assisted by Maurice Koechlin. The completed statue was disassembled and shipped in crates across the ocean before being reassembled – the latter took some six months for the erection to be completed.

Back to the sculpture above. Named “Faune dansant” (i.e. dancing faun), this sculpture of merriment and music can be found close to the site of the Medici Fountain in Luco. Despite the name, the depiction is really that of a satyr rather than a faun, which is half goat, half human. In mythology, satyrs are pipe-carrying and dance-loving creatures. Looking at this sculpture, I half expect woodwind tunes to fill the air, so I can close my eyes and twirl to the melody.


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