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This category contains 10 posts

Milking human kindness

I once knew someone who carried his money and credit cards around in a tattered, faded and frayed leather wallet, though he could afford better. I once asked why he didn’t buy himself a new wallet. He said, “There’s no need. I have a drawer full of perfectly good wallets. They were gifted to me over the years … Continue reading

Nomadology and colour

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend provides a good opportunity to think about colour — and binaries (royalists v republicans, posh v hoi polloi, extravagant v restrained, hoity-toity v drab, the brightly hued v subdued pastels). Colour theory provides further “proof,” if we ever needed it, that human beings favour binaries. For example, it’s awkward to … Continue reading

Intoxicated by colour

Who can resist colour! Colour provides a metaphor for pleasure, health and vitality. Spring is colourful; winter is grey. The world of the child is supposedly bright with innocent colours, compared to the dull tones of old age and decay. But don’t efflorescences of colour also indicate contamination, virulence and toxicity?

Data waste

Four years ago when excitement about the 3D role-playing environment SecondLife was in full frenzy, a group of us constructed a playground promontory on the edge of the University’s main island. We built walls that changed their surface patterns and moved about in response to signals from mobile phones (in physical life). It was a … Continue reading

Why ask?

Cambridge University has launched a campaign to celebrate the physicist Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday in January 2012. You can Tweet (or email) questions to #AskHawking. The questions appearing so far are a mix of the extremely clever, sensible, predictable, witty, sarcastic and vulgar. Hawking is here serving as an oracle, a role often expected of … Continue reading

What were the skies like when you were young?

Now I can see clouds, little fluffy clouds, distinctly, well-formed and illuminated, or at least I can reproduce skies in digital photography, thanks to the HDR, High Dynamic Range photography feature built into many digital cameras and smartphones.

The sublime indifference of waves

Who could fail to be moved by aerial images yesterday of the slew of  mud, flaming buildings, vehicles, boats, and water, sliding inexorably across the landscape of the Fukushima, Ibaraki and Miyagi prefectures in Japan. The human tragedy was in full view as the white specs fleeing along country roads were eventually consumed by the debris’ indifferent course.

Walking the line

Painter Paul Klee first travelled across the Mediterranean to Tunisia in 1914 and made many repeat visits to the romantic cliff top village of Sidi Bou Said near Carthage. Klee’s diaries report how the light and colour of the place were a substantial influence on his palette.

Travel guidelines

I’m reminded again of the necessity, in certain countries, for the traveller (ie tourist) to submit to the authority of a succession of personal guides. In the Berber village of Chebika our driver and guide, Taher, passed us over to Hassan, a cheery local guide in traditional dress, who not only helped us scramble up … Continue reading

Being David Hockney

David Hockney sends digital paintings of flowers to his friends by email. These are pictures he created on his iPhone and iPad. Some of these images are now on show at a gallery in Paris (Fleurs Fraîches at the Fondation Pierre Bergé). It’s pleasing that artists of his stature can embrace new technologies and explore … Continue reading

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