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There is a lot to say, we think, about the value and attraction (and sometimes strangeness) of smaller things.  It seems only right to dish out the goods in portions.  Welcome to sm2.

small towns F-Den Haag-MadurodamIn 1952, the Dutch launched a good-hearted campaign challenging the notion that bigger must be better by building something grand on a very very small scale.  Madurodam in the Hague is a mini-representation of Holland as a whole that can be wandered through in half a day.

small town Muadurodam colourHouses, public buildings, canals, canal boats, railways, airport…tiny tulips and cheeses. The effect on the Dutch and the zillions of visitors seems to be calming, amusing, reassuring.  So cute.

The idea has spread. There are now “miniature towns” all over the place–many in the UK, many in Asia, maybe one down the road from you. Their success says something about what appeals to us, almost all of us, for escape and amusement.

But how about the real spaces we need to live in and work in.  How small is just right?  Well we live at a moment when smallness is all the rage in houses.  You’ve seen the pictures, you’ve found yourself cooing “ahhh, look at that!”.  Here’s a few we found at our fingertips:

swedish-red-spackhuggaren-bornstein-lyckefors-architecture-residential_dezeen_hero-1-852x479.jpg             Swedish interior spackhuggaren-bornstein-lyckefors-architecture-residential_dezeen_2364_col_13-1704x1278

olsen kundegfalse-bay-writer-s-cabin-olson-kundig-architects-small-house-bliss              Kimihiko Okada 63371309231

Tetsuo Kondo 63364985428    winter-black-house-03b_oisterwijk-brouwhuis-1024x694-e1529458837608.jpg

Aren’t they adorable?  We are as smitten as anyone by these diminutive domestic dwellings, but being of the wondering kind, we wonder if this craze might just be an economic necessity wrapped in a personal preference, dusted with big dollop of copy-catism, and bound together with quite a large dash of moral superiority.

But hey, it is also entirely possible that these are, in fact, just what we all need

johannesNorlander scandinavian-house-exterior-290117-504-10

But but…OK just one more, inside and out, from Brazil, all white.estudio brasBrazilFOTOS

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Our local art gallery is currently presenting a show called “cabin fever” running all summer if you are in the area.

Images of these houses rarely show any people in them so it is hard to gauge how effectively they serve the real needs of actual living and working.  But there is strong evidence to show that great things can be achieved in modest surroundings.

small Workspace-18 EBW

E.B. White (the New Yorker, Charlotte’s Web, The Elements of Style, etc etc) hammered out some of the most graceful, beautifully realized sentences in any language on a bench in a tiny cabin with a view of salt water.  The spare, plain, durable qualities of the cabin and everything in it perfectly match the products of Mr White’s mind and fingers.

Producing great work, it seems does not (always) require a lot of space. joan miro at workJoan Miro at work, no bench, no table, no window, no ocean, no net.  Art needs only the artist.

 

So maybe we can live smaller, a lot smaller, without giving up the dream of doing great things. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Adorable small houses designed by:

bornstein lyckefors architecture

Olsen Kundig

Kimihiko Okada

Tetsuo Kondo

Oisterwijk-Brouwhuis

Johannes Norlander

estudio bra.

 

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pig topiary

As everything around us seems to be getting bigger, we are feeling the pinch and reminded of the inherent virtues of smallness.  Doing more with less continues to be a powerful idea–and an admirable choice for those who can well afford to have more.  Artists from far and wide and then and now have shown us, over and over, the magic of small productions.

Alexander Calder, best known for very large sculptures in front of very large buildings in very large cities, never lost sight of the special charm of small work you could hold in your hand intended for a small audience.

calder small pieces gift414-1024x803This set was made by Mr Calder as a gift for a friend.

Glass is a perfect medium for making hold-n-your-hand-sized sculpture.Glass figures Amsterdam thumb_IMGP2868_1024These little creatures made of glass are on display in a gin joint in Amsterdam.

The glass menagerie below was dreamed up by Kiki Smith and the critters were made by Venetian Pino Signoretto.  It is at home at the Corning Museum of Glass in NY.   Glass KikiSmithFull

But this devotion to smallness is not an invention of our time. We humans–all over the world– from our earliest days have dedicated time and talent to making small versions of ourselves.

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terra cotta 2 Denmark thumb_2017-08-05 05.09.14_1024Each just a few inches tall (the wall behind them is made of standard sized bricks), these ancient little men are captivating to modern eyes.  Conceived long before the electric light or glass shelving, they are now at home in a Danish museum.  Meanwhile, in Canada, visitors to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts can have their mood swiftly elevated by the little man below.

Smiling figure Montreal IMGP2736

Small scale also works wonderfully for two dimensional art.  In 16th century England, the Kings, Princes, and their pals, who could afford just about anything, any size, found they had a deep attraction to the smallest of paintings–miniature portraits.holbein jane small v & AMiniatures7That’s the eighth king named Henry, no Tiny Tim he, and a woman fittingly named Jane Small.  North Americans in the 18th century took to the same notion, not just Kings and their social circle this time, but plain proud people wanting a keepsake. This is Lottie Hills aged 15 painted by Rufus Porter, “inventor”.

miniature Rufus Porter Fig10

Stamps!  Engravers, mostly anonymously, spend their working lives and eyes to give us this to put on our envelopes for delivery near and far.  From the 20th century, however, the artists were more frequently acknowledged.

Stamp LacaqueMonaco-1119-LittleRed-Perrault-MG-11-8-78-PLambertStamp LarriviereMonaco-1116-PussBoots-Perrault-MG-11-8-78-PLambertStamp JumeletMonaco-1121-TomThumb-Perrault-MG-11-8-78-PLambertThese three above were all issued in 1978 by Monaco to celebrate Conte de Perrault who collected and published versions of these famous ‘children’s stories.  Artists top to bottom are Eugène Lacaque. Jacky Larrivière. and Claude Jumelet depicting tiny boy Tom Thumb.  Stunning images found here.

Wow, this love song to small is getting more than a little long.  Out of respect for the theme, we’ll stop here for now and pick it again after a small break.

2017-08-06 09.48.26Look, up in the sky…

2017-08-06 07.22.182017-08-06 07.18.29

Look, there’s people.  Up in the sky.  Walking around and round inside a coloured ring2017-08-06 06.04.41Don’t worry, it is only–ONLY!–a work of art from Olafur Eliasson, this time in Denmark where where was born, this time in the city of Aarhus.  It is called Your Rainbow Panorama.

This is the same artist who put a waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridgeolafur waterfalls01

And managed to get another one to fall out of the sky at Versaiilesolafur-eliasson-waterfall-versailles-designboom-10

So maybe creating a rainbow you can walk inside on top of an art museum wasn’t such a stretch for him.  But he seems all alone (to us, anyway) in his capacity to astonish so many people from all over the place, time after time, with ‘public works’–open, visible, engaging to anyone.  Water, light, colour, always unexpected, always accepted.

Will we ever see another like him?  Is that even worth thinking about?

Olafur E Model for a Timeless Garden IMG_MDA107810_1600pxAbove Moments from a Timeless Garden, water fountains, made to freeze in mid splash.

Truth is, maybe, some things only come along once.  So get used to it and make sure you don’t miss any part of it.  Wherever you go next, Mr O, we’ll be watching.

With thanks.

colleen H Wellof Exaggeration

When you first come across a painting that turns out not to be a painting, but rather an arrangement of pieces of fabric sewn together, you might feel tricked.  But never mind how it’s done, your eyes are right: it’s got everything a painting should have, except paint.

Colleen H IcePoint80x62

Canada is not known for boasting, but there’s no getting around the fact that it boasts one of today’s finest practitioners of the stitched fabric picture.  Her name is Colleen Heslin.  Two Images above and four below from her website and that of Monte Clarke Gallery in Vancouver.

colleen H 4 FirstBase2014

colleen H white on white.cloudfront.net

colleen H 03_Somatic

You can’t help but think there is a connection between what Ms Heslin is doing and what tailors and seamstresses and emergency room doctors attending to flesh wounds do on a daily basis.  But whatever the connection, you won’t be able to hold it in your head very long once you see these pictures live and up close.  There’s only room for swooning.

colleen h 3 in a row 03_house_photographer

 

Ms Heslin is one of a kind, through and through.  Still, curiosity got the better of us and a little searching revealed that a few other contemporary artists have put down the brush and taken up the needle.  One is from Denmark and he is Sergej Jensen.

sergej J

sergej J blu

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You can find out more about him from this report on a show in Denver 

And to see these and more images in context, just put Mr Jensen’s name into mother google’s magic window.

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People bent on explaining Art are trying their polysyllabic damnedest to claim this stuff for themselves by naming it, for example here. But we’ll have none of that.  Let your eyes do all the work, see where they take you.

boro patchwork dsc024011

We landed here, and our last word on the subject is boro.  Apparently Japanese patchwork from quite a while ago.  Crazy boro.

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Pieter Bruegel, Flemish, born almost 500 years ago, was a miracle of a painter who gave us images we can still understand and delight in without a thick book or an expert.

Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Children’s_Games_-_Google_Art_Project-Version-6-570x380 copy
Most of his pictures have their origin in the Christian Bible, but if you never saw a Bible in your life you would see and feel the humanity of what is staring you in the eye.

And you would see the children, somewhere in the frame.

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You need to look, sometimes, for the children.  But they are almost always there, busy, preoccupied, stocky/stubby, lovely.

bruegel bethlehem12census
This is a detail of the Census of Bethlehem

brueghel_numbering_at_bethlehem_1566_oil_on_panel_detail

Wherever you find them, these, Bruegel’s children are identifiable as today’s children, even if so much around them is bizarre.

Bruegel children

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Hunters_in_the_Snow_(Winter)_-_Google_Art_Project

Above, The Hunters in the Snow also known as The Return of the Hunters, is a 1565 oil-on-wood painting.

It is a quiet cold wonder in the palace of great art–thanks in part to those small boys and girls.

welcome

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