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December, 2017

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Any visit to London means contending with the apparently endless rebuilding, traffic problems and diversions. This time the road outside Liverpool Street station was closed so the buses for anywhere west were only accessible from Great Winchester Street. A good thing the weather was mild and dry.

It took half an hour from leaving the train – ten minutes late – to boarding the bus but at least the onward journey was quick. We had time to look into the Royal Academy for a brief visit to the Dali-Duchamp exhibition, which was enjoyable but only intermittently of high quality. Then it was time to meet friends for lunch at Murano.

We were quickly seated, as requested near the exterior because noise in London restaurants can prevent any effective conversation. Service was as always attentive and the food delicious. Prices of course are high – by provincial if not London standards. It was a delightful couple of hours: nobody hurried us. We decided a quieter venue would be better for coffee and found one of the splendid Paul franchise bakeries to serve us very good French coffee. It was quiet too, despite frequent comings and goings of take-out customers. Afterwards it was back to the Academy, via Burlington Arcade, for Jasper Johns.

We have previously found some problems with Johns when viewing only one or two works. That began to change when the two exhibitions of post-war American art were shown last year, one at the Academy the other at the British Museum. Now we found a great deal to admire, following his development of ideas realised visually as opposed to conceptually as some operate. Close viewing of his paint textures, the patterning of his crosshatch paintings, the various catenary curves formed by string threaded through tubes on the sides his works, the canvas split and held apart by two balls and his use of print, photography, collage and text reveal a complex creativity. It seems appropriate that he should at one point have collaborated with Samuel Beckett as well as working for years with John Cage and Merce Cunningham on some memorable dance creations.

It was by way of relaxation we looked at the Christmas lights. Bond Street had some subtle peacocks that would obviously have gained as darkness fell and they could be seen without the intrusion of buildings. Piccadilly was also subtle although the Strand had a more mercantile effect. The windows of Fortnum & Mason, expensive as ever in display, incorporated products for sale, Advent calendars and animal themes.

Time for travel home found a bus service as efficient as hoped for, the train only three minutes late but fortunately with seats available.


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