Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Bridge Postcards of 2015

To follow up last week’s post about bridges, this is a selection of vintage postcards of bridges around the world acquired in 2015. Some are bridges that I visited in the past and two were visited in 2015 - most of them are bridges that I shall never visit, not least because so many no longer exist. The card above shows two adjacent bridges that still exist in Rotterdam. In the foreground is the Koninginnebrug of 1929 that remains open for traffic. Towering in the background is De Hef of 1927, a lifting bridge for rail traffic. The last train crossed in 1993 and after a public campaign against its destruction, it was preserved as a rijksmonument. Joris Ivens made a fine 12 minute documentary tribute in 1928 that can often be seen on YouTube – it comes and goes as uploaders do battle with copyright restrictions.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015)

It wouldn’t seem right not to mark the passing of Ellsworth Kelly, who died yesterday. I was still a schoolboy when I first saw his painting Broadway (1958) hanging in the Tate as a new acquisition. I recall that I had just subjected myself to the dubious delights of a Francis Bacon retrospective in which I had struggled to find any merit. So the clarity, simplicity and starkness of Kelly’s image was a cleansing experience and the start of a lifelong interest in his work. The early 1960s was the high point for Abstract Expressionism and Kelly’s work was clearly not part of that. Nor did it have anything in common with the Pop Art of the mid 1960’s. There was a misleading and superficial resemblance to late 1960s Minimalism but Kelly was following his own path and his inspiration came from a very different place to that of say, Donald Judd or Carl Andre. Six years of living in Paris made Kelly an object of suspicion in the nationalistic fervour of a New York art scene swaggering with pride at its newly acquired status as global capital of the visual arts. Kelly made no secret of the fact that his abstract images had links to perceptions of the natural world and the built environment, placing him at odds with the prevailing Greenberg orthodoxy of an abstraction that lived by its own autonomous rules and rejected any linkage with banal reality.

Kelly was never quite an All-American artist – there was greater affinity with the work of Max Bill or Jean Arp than with Barnett Newman or Clifford Still. That often lead to an assumption that his was a European sensibility, for which, read effete and over sophisticated. It makes more sense to consider his work on its own terms without attempting to allocate it to one tradition or another. Indeed much of its power to attract lies in the independence of the artist and his resistance to categorisation. The 1997 Tate exhibition was one of the most exhilarating retrospectives I ever saw. A magnificent display of stilettos and wedges of intense flat colour, appearing to float, orbit and detach from the enormous canvases to which they were tethered. Move in close and your vision is dominated by vast slabs of colour, separated by the sharpest of contours, step back and the massive forms become weightless and mobile. Precise, controlled, fastidious to a fault – that’s more than good enough for me.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Bridges of 2015

I rarely pass a bridge without pausing to take a photograph unless the situation prohibits it. This has been an exceptionally good year for bridges with a visit to Newport Transporter Bridge (described here) and a trip to Rotterdam, a city generously supplied with river crossings old and new. Other examples were recorded in Oostende, Folkestone, Leeds, Sunderland and Renfrew. Plus Ribblehead Viaduct in North Yorkshire and Lowgill Viaduct in Cumbria.

    De Hef lifting bridge in Rotterdam with the centre section temporarily removed for repairs. It opened for rail traffic in 1927; the designer was Peter Joosting.

Rotterdam - the Koninginnebrug - a double bascule bridge built in 1929.

Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam – cable-stayed and bascule bridge opened in 1996.

Rotterdam - the Lafe Erfbrug near Delfshaven.

Rotterdam – Willemsbrug – cable-stayed bridge completed in 1981.

   Rotterdam - Van Brienenoordbrug where pedestrians are not made welcome but must take their chances on the cycle track. In effect there are two bridges side by side - the first built in 1965, the second in 1990.  

 Lowgill Viaduct in Cumbria - 11 arches, built 1858-59 on the Tebay - Ingleton branch line. Last trains crossed in 1965. Grade II listed.

     White Cart Rolling Lift Bridge at Renfrew. Built in 1923 as a Scherzer Rolling Lift Bascule Bridge and a Grade A listed structure.

    Ribblehead Viaduct in North Yorkshire – 24 arches built by the Midland Railway and opened in 1875. Grade II* listed.

Victorian railway bridges in Globe Road, Leeds.

Newport Transporter Bridge.

    City Bridge - Newport's major road crossing, carrying the A48 over the River Usk. Bow-string arch construction completed in 2004.

  Newport - George Street Bridge (1964), UK's first cable-stayed bridge. Grade II* listed structure.

     Newport – Town Bridge for road traffic in the foreground, Great Western Railway Usk Bridge in the background.

  Sunderland – on the left Wearmouth Bridge, completed in 1929. On the right, Monkwearmouth Railway Bridge, constructed in 1879. Both Grade II listed structures.

Unusual pedestrian bridge over the N34 Belgian coast road.

    Oostende - De Smet De Naeyer Bruggen (1905) - bridge for tram and bus use only.

 Folkestone – Foord Viaduct opened in 1844.

Folkestone Harbour Bridge – swing-bridge section.

Folkestone Harbour Viaduct – opened in 1849.