La Ribaute

I see that Anselm Kiefer’s astonishing and magical studio complex is going to open to the public. It is not easy to get to, being in the hills north-west of Avignon, but if you ever get the chance of visiting, I strongly recommend it: it’s so ambitious, on such a vast scale, an unreal combination of art, landscape and decay, like the Stations of the Cross. I have never been to Marfa, but know of nowhere else so atmospheric:-



Ditchling itself manages to retain a surprising amount of its pre-war character, which attracted Eric Gill and so many other artists to it.

The church, said to be over-restored, but this is not evident from a distance :-

Opposite the museum, on the other side of the Green is a house, Cotterlings, faced with red and black mathematical tiles:-

Next door is Wings Place, Tudor perfect:-

The High Street has more Tudor houses, including Bank House (1573):-

We particularly liked the small private cemetery for the Browne family attached to the Old Meeting House:-


Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

We stopped off at the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft which was beautifully enlarged and enhanced by Adam Richards Architects in 2014 – a model of a small local museum, currently showing an excellent exhibition of the murals which Frank Brangwyn, a resident of the village, did for Skinners Hall, available for exhibition while the hall itself is restored. In particular, there’s a long and informative film about Brangwyn’s life which helps explain why he was so successful in his lifetime – so productive and versatile – whereas now he is maybe not so well regarded for just the same reasons:-


Hackney Wick

I was trying to figure out for a piece I am writing how resilient the existing culture of Hackney Wick is to the amount and speed of new building and urban change. The answer seems to be, so far so good, in spite of losses, but I could well be wrong:-


Hackney Wick Mutual Aid

At a time when we are being told by Tory MPs that everyone, including NHS workers, broke the rules in the same way that the Prime Minister so obviously did, a pathetically intellectually (and legally) feeble way of trying to exculpate him – hey, gov, other people have committed the same offence so what does it matter if I have ? – I was rather touched to read the attached inscription in a pavement in Hackney Wick which is a reminder that, far from being a period of rule-breaking, the early period of lockdown was a period of exceptional community solidarity and mutual support, which is partly why, I suspect, the anger against the way 10, Downing Street behaved will endure, whatever Jacob Rees-Mogg says:-


Joseph Smith (1)

I don’t expect anyone but me to be interested in this, but I have just read that my great-great-great grandfather’s house at Shortgrove in Newport burnt down in 1966 owing to an insurance scam involving the Kray brothers and that its Capability Brown landscape is about to be developed for housing (see attached).

I’ve occasionally tried to find out about Joseph Smith, who was – I knew – William Pitt’s private secretary and I have just discovered that he was Comptroller of the Coins and Mint (1786), Receiver-General of Stamp Duties (1792l and Secretary to the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (1792): so, a big wheel. The article says that the house stayed in the family, but his only recorded son was Richard Snowdon Smith, a clergyman, whom I delighted to find lived to the age of 96, but not at Shortgrove so far as I’m aware.


The Elizabeth Line (2)

I resisted the temptation to go on the Elizabeth Line on Tuesday (actually, I overslept), but we took it from Whitechapel to Bond Street this morning (but Bond Street is not yet open). It’s impressive, as everyone has said: generously proportioned, more like Moscow than the Northern Line, with a gentle swoosh like going on the RER. The stations also look good, what we saw of them:-


Beyond Nature

We went in to Hauser and Wirth in Savile Row to see their temporary exhibition, Beyond Nature (it closes on Saturday). It shows the work of artist-makers normally shown by Make, their gallery in Bruton.

I had never seen the work of Martin Rusac, very complex and elaborate works in resin containing pressed flowers from the Piet Oudolf garden:-

Matthew Day Jackson is one of the artists represented by Hauser and Wirth doing a crossover piece:-

Katie Spragg in porcelain unfired, so delicate:-