Avenues of Bones.

In my many walks around London this spring and summer, I have come across a forgotten part of this city. Its disused cemeteries.

These cemeteries were used from medieval times and up to the 18th century, when they became overflown and the administration ordered them closed and others built outside of the central part of town.

Cemeteries pushed outside of Central London aside, the reality is that the city is sprinkled with the graves of the past. There are graves sprinkled randomly in between two residential buildings near Blackfriars Bridge. I wouldn’t like to see them if I looked outside my window at night. There are some other graves and mortuary stones sprinkled in a garden not far from St Paul’s Cathedral (again, to give residents something fun to look at night). For sure, graves are under our feet when we walk down the street. It is just that there is no stone to mark them as such.

Back to the old cemeteries for now and to the places that have captured my attention.

Bunhill Row, near Old Street. The resting place of William Blake, Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan, of another 150,000 souls and possibly the most spoiled pigeons and squirrels in the world.

Cross Bones, Southwark. A fence full of mortuary memorabilia signals the presence of this cemetery: cards, photos, ribbons left by those who have lost someone greet visitors at the gate. Cross Bones has been disused for some time now as well, however it is known in London as the cemetery of the destitute. Throughout medieval times and later centuries, it became a burial place for those who society could not bury in “mainstream” places: prostitutes, their babies, and thieves. Of all the cemeteries I have seen this year, this one seemed the saddest. 

St Anne’s Church, Soho. The interesting part about this cemetery is that it lies 2m above ground level due to the high number of people that have been interred here. There are no mortuary stones to signal its existence, only a serene patch of green turf to cover its grounds. As such, it is one of the places that you pass by without much awareness of what lies beneath the ground.

“Going To See The David.”

There is a lot of hype around Florence and its cultural treasures. Rightfully so, as the city was the home of the Renaissance and of all its creative minds and they have left a living treasure behind.

For this reason, every morning is a cultural rush around the streets of Florence and an attempt to grab a spot at the front of the queues that align outside of the Accademia, the Gallery of the Uffizi, and all other significant locations in the city.

For the same reason, every one who joins in the queues shares the same feeling of excitement that, at the end of an hour’s wait or at the end of two hours’ wait, there will be at least a piece of internationally acclaimed art to look at.

The one that did it for me was the sculpture of David by Michelangelo. It is a masterpiece in its own right and the shining star of the Accademia. It is waiting for visitors on its own pedestal and graces them with its presence from afar and close by. They say that the Gioconda looks like she is looking at you from every angle. With “The David”, as the Italians refer to it, it feels like you want to look at it from every angle. – And you want to go around and around it lots of times.

Face to Face with The Grand Master.

Face to Face with The Grand Master.

I decided several years ago that Salvador Dali was going to be my favourite painter for life. What does “for life” mean? It means for as long as I live.

There is a certain fluidity to his art, with all the different shapes flowing not only into one another but also into the background and all else on the canvas. This fluidity means that you can never stop interpreting his work, which is exactly what you need when you interpret art.

And it is this fluidity that draws me in, keeps me interested and also gets me confused. I swear Dali paintings play with your mind as much as they play with your artistic eye, which only adds to their beauty and to the interest they trigger in people.

On my recent visit to Tate Modern, I came face to face with three of the master’s works – and I was flabbergasted. The only reason I moved away from them was to let other people take them in, too.