No, it wasn't a flat picture. This is a life sized 3D painted SCULPTURE of Vincent Van Gogh and it is based on his own famous self portrait. I saw it the other day in Gabriel's Wharf, in London's South Bank. It was really disconcerting, and the reflections in the glass make his head seem a strange shape, which adds to the odd effect.
Gabriel's Wharf is just East of the National Theatre, and is part of the Coin St. development. The good people at Coin St. were the first to spot the potential of this area. It's strange to think that others didn't, because these days, the walk from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge is a highlight of any trip to London.
There is so much to look at - from ingenious street entertainers and "human statues"
to major attractions like the London Eye (which we went on.)
In summer and at weekends there are often festivals and all kinds of free entertainment on the South Bank. We saw a free street dance class at the National Theatre. You could participate yourself, or else sit on deckchairs or on giant astroturf armchairs
and relax, and/or watch everyone having fun.
The folks at Coin St. spotted the potential of the area when it was semi-derelict, back in 1984. This was before the developers of expensive restaurants and fancy apartments moved in, and frankly you'd have had to be mad to want to live there in those days, because it was a wasteland of broken down factories and abandoned enterprises.
The unimaginative plan at the time was to redevelop the riverside site as office blocks (and one or two did get built - they're now dead zones). But a group of far sighted local people formed the social enterprise and development trust of Coin Street. They developed a neighbourhood of public housing, with space for families and children to live and play, and with space for small businesses.
Gabriel's Wharf is full of small (and good) craft shops reasonably priced (and fun) places to eat and other things.
And that's great - places like this are always fun to browse around. But what makes this place special is that it's the stretch of riverside which also has many major national entertainment venues and national attractions. As well as the little enclave of Gabriel's Wharf, and the National Theatre, you'll find Tate Modern, The British Film Institute, the South Bank Centre, which is London's major concert hall venues of the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room. There are cinemas, including a large IMAX, many renowned restaurants, good eateries and splendid shops, an amphitheatre and ... oh, all kinds of other things, temporary and permanent.
Very near Gabriel's Wharf, the South Bank Centre is holding its 1951 festival, based around the Festival of Britain. I will try and blog about this later, because it's very interesting - and there's also a very nice gourmet food market currently in residence on the space behind the hall.
Meanwhile, though, their seaside and countryside celebrations include a beautiful temporary garden of fruit and vegetables amidst the concrete canyons by the Hayward Gallery (oh, yes, I forgot to mention that - currently showing one of my un-favourite artists, the self-publicising Tracey Emin, but it does have some spectacular shows at other times) . In the garden, I admired the gorgeous double hollyhocks, which seemed particularly beautiful in bright sunshine, as it was a lovely day.
And, since this post started with Van Gogh, here are some sunflowers from that little nearby garrden.
You can see Van Gogh's actual sunflower painting in the National Gallery which is not too far away. Although I love Van Gogh's paintings, I myself prefer real sunflowers.
I think we're very lucky in London to have a space like this, where a short walk along the river can reveal so many new, unexpected and ever-changing delights.