Stock dove, wood duck and flowers

Endegeest, 11 April 2015

This photo is about flowering shrubs at Endegeest estate in the Netherlands on 11 March 2015. Like the other photo of this blog post, this is a cell phone photo.

Today, Endegeest is home to a psychiatric institution. In the seventeenth century, when it was built in its present form, Endegeest castle was home to famous philosopher René Descartes, exiled from France. Near the entrance of the castle is a bust of Descartes.

As we arrived, a ring-necked parakeet flying and calling.

On the chimney of a building, an Egyptian geese couple calling.

Various flowers: Gagea pratensis; lesser celandine; and fumewort.

Great spotted woodpeckers; at one point, three on the same tree.

One can hear chiffchaff, great tit, robin and nuthatch.

A blue tit.

A stock dove on a tree.

Endegeest, on 11 April 2015

At a woodland edge, Egyptian geese. And a male wood duck. A feral species in the Netherlands; originally from North America. About wood ducks: here.

On the meadow: Canada geese. Mute swans. Coot. Moorhen.

A northern lapwing drives a white stork away.

Back near the castle. A ruddy shelduck-Egyptian goose hybrid bird.

A male and a female gadwall on another meadow.

Green woodpecker sound in woodland.

A grey heron on its nest in a tree.

We go on, to Lentevreugd nature reserve in Wassenaar.

Northern lapwings.

Grey lag geese.

Water rail sound.

A buzzard flying above the trees.

United States anti-war artist Leon Golub, London exhibition

This video from Chicago in the USA says about itself:

Leon Golub – Figuration and Monsters

15 July 2011

Artists Nick Cave, Leon Golub, Yun-Fei Ji, Kerry James Marshall, Ravinder Reddy, Clare Rojas, and Sylvia Sleigh talk about the human figure and artistic process in connection with their work on view in the Smart Museum of Art exhibition Go Figure. Learn more here.

By Christine Lindey in London, England:

Accusations from an atrocity exhibition

Saturday 11th April 2015

A retrospective of Leon Golub’s work is a disturbing indictment of US war crimes and torture, says CHRISTINE LINDEY

BORN in Chicago in 1922 to Lithuanian and Russian immigrants, Leon Golub (1922-2004) grew up in the shadow of WWI and the “great slump.”

His art studies were interrupted by military service in the second world war, from which he emerged to the unimaginable news of Buchenwald and Hiroshima. Whereas the dominant postwar US aesthetic ridiculed socially committed art and retreated into the inner worlds of Abstract Expressionism, Golub confronted the inhumanity of recent atrocities.

His deliberately inelegant provocations to genteel notions of art were underpinned by layered references to antiquity. After resuming his studies on a GI grant he painted monstrous hybrids and mutilated figures which emerge from roughly applied brush marks, an example being the larger than life size Colossal Torso II of 1959, whose shockingly charred and pitted flesh and truncated body evokes Hiroshima victims.

Yet the painting also refers to the fragmented colossuses of the late Roman empire, whose grandiose abuse of power Golub associated with that of 20th-century US imperialism.

The Vietnam war fully politicised him and in 1964 he became active in New York’s Artists and Writers Protest Group. Conflict became his subject and he searched for ways of making politically committed paintings relevant to modern times. Golub confronted the all-pervasive mass media’s visual language by working from published photographs and transforming these source images into unbearably emotive art by physically challenging the traditional processes and mediums of representational painting.

Working on unprimed, unevenly cut and unstretched canvases, Golub suspended the finished works loosely against the wall from grommets, so subverting the revered status of rectangularly framed paintings.

The figures in the large Gigantomachy series of the mid-1960s are based on contemporary sports photographs combined with images of the antique frieze at Pergamon which depicts the mythological battle between the Giants and Olympian Gods.

The unarmed, naked combatants are depicted on a roughly stained and blotched canvas in unpleasant combinations of purplish magenta, pink and white paint which Golub partially scraped off with a meat cleaver to deepen the impact of the combatants’ flayed flesh. The savagery of his processes paralleled his subjects’ indictment of warfare.

The Napalm and Vietnam War series which followed now referred to specific events and Golub attacked his canvases with greater savagery. With large chunks cut out of them, the scorched, scarred and splotched canvases mirror the violence of the depicted US army atrocities whose vileness are conveyed by deliberately awkward drawing, compositions and morose colour.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Golub produced his greatest works. These included the Mercenaries and Interrogators series — gigantic accusatory history paintings exposing US imperialist support of the odious counter-insurgency methods by Latin American dictatorships.

Intimidating, larger than life-size armed and uniformed soldiers and police are captured in acts of torture or military bravado as they loom over us.

Based on magazine photographs of mercenaries, the men in bright blue or green and buff uniforms are painted against flat undifferentiated red oxide or maroon backgrounds, so preventing distractions from the gruesome acts.

The men leer and grin grotesquely in awkward poses, as in a film still’s arrested motion, and their macho body language and callous expressions convey the dehumanising effects of alienation.

These paintings go beyond simple accusations of individual acts of cruelty. Like Goya’s Disasters of War they portray the perpetuators of brutal acts as desensitised products of inhumane governments whose purpose is to retain power for the powerful.

In his late paintings, Golub raged against the dystopia of urban decay, the horrors of ageing and impending death in graffiti influenced works, an example being Fuck Death of 1999.

His work is not for the faint-hearted. The visceral directness of his scenes of war and torture assault our gaze. Yet their rawness of expression is contradicted by the depth of meaning which percolates from his erudite understanding of art history, mass media and politics.

The paintings are intentionally difficult to look at and defy lengthy contemplation. In discussion with the artist Martha Rosler, Golub said: “Film passes through, painting sits on the wall. I take the fact that painting isn’t moving and I make it unendurable — you can’t sit in front of it. I myself have jumped at my own paintings.” Yet they burn with an honesty and directness which resonate long after seeing them because they cut to the core of political and social injustice.

Given the massive scale of Golub’s paintings and prolific output, a larger venue would have better suited this retrospective. The Serpentine Galleries’ exhibition over-represents his late works and omits loans from major public museums. But it does give very welcome exposure to this important artist and its display of four 1980s history paintings in the rotunda do him full justice as does the imaginative and beautifully produced catalogue. Recommended.

Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue runs at Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens, London W2 until May 17, opening times: Free.

Great grey owls of Finland photos

This video is called Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator). These birds starred in my earlier blog post about northern Finland on 14 March 2015.

This video from Finland is called Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) flies towards the camera and eats a mouse.

To see great grey owls that day, we left Kuusamo and went to a roadside not so far away.

Great grey owl, 14 March 2015

There, on a coniferous tree, sat a great grey owl.

Our Finnature guide put a dead shrew on the snow to attract the owl. Though most carnivores don’t really like shrews, preferring mice, the owl did come to eat it.

Meanwhile, a greenfinch sang.

Then, a dead vole was put on the snow to attract the owl again from its tree.

We went back to the pine grosbeaks of Kuusamo. Three herring gulls flying overhead. Rather far from the sea where one might expect them.

Then, back to the great grey owl.

There turned out to be not one, but two great grey owls; mates?

Great grey owl on birch tree, 14 March 2015

One of them sat in a birch tree. Later, it moved to a utility pole; from where it flew repeatedly, trying to catch small mammals.

The other great grey owl still sat close to the road; and reacted to food on the snow.

Great grey owl landing, 14 March 2015

The owl landed.

Great grey owl on the snow, 14 March 2015

It caught the dead small mammal.

Great grey owl, on 14 March 2015

And ate it.

Living pine grosbeaks, living Arctic redpoll, wooden owls

Owl sculpture in Hannu Hautala's garden, 14 March 2014

After 13 March 2015 in north-east Finland came 14 March 2015 there. We went to the garden of well-known Finnish bird photographer Hannu Hautala in Kuusamo. Wooden sculptures of owls near the entrance.

Owl sculpture in Hannu Hautala's garden, on 14 March 2014

In a Swedish service tree, there are berries. They attract birds: a juvenile pine grosbeak, an adult male pine grosbeak …

Pine grosbeak male, 14 March 2015

… an adult female …

Pine grosbeak female, 14 March 2015

and an Arctic redpoll (pictured here with the female pine grosbeak).

Pine grosbeak female and Arctic redpoll, 14 March 2015

Arctic redpoll, 14 March 2015

The Arctic redpoll stayed for a long time in the tree.

Arctic redpoll, on 14 March 2015

These birds were beautiful. So were the wooden owls. However, we also wanted to see living owls. So, we left. Stay tuned!

Golden eagle, Siberian tit, bullfinch in Finland

Willow tit and Siberian tit, 13 March 2015

Still 13 March in north-eastern Finland, in the hide. Like we saw earlier there, a willow tit. However, in front of it, another bird lands. Also a willow tit? Yes.

But a bit later: No. A related species, slightly more light brown on its head and a bit bigger: a Siberian tit, also called grey-headed chickadee.

Willow tit and Siberian tit looking at it, 13 March 2015

Siberian tit, 13 March 2015

For people from central or southern Europe, from temperate North America and from all other continents, a bird for which they have to go especially to the far north of Europe and Asia to see it.

Siberian tit on tree, 13 March 2015

A raven flies past. So does a golden eagle, like earlier in the day. Will it land?

Usually, golden eagles land near the hide day after day in winter. Usually one eagle, sometimes two eagles, the local male and female. They have failed to land only on two days this winter. Late in the afternoon, we would find out that 13 March was the third day that winter. A few miles away, a moose had died. That attracted eagles and other carrion eaters more than the dead fox, squirrel and hare near the hide.

Red squirrel, 13 March 2015

13:10: a red squirrel near the hide.

Nuthatch again, 13 March 2015

Again, a nuthatch.

Great spotted woodpecker female again, 13 March 2015

Also again, a great spotted woodpecker.

Bullfinch male, 13 March 2015

And at last, at least the male half of the bullfinch couple comes closer.

Bullfinch male again, 13 March 2015

Crested tit, 13 March 2015

So does a crested tit.

Crested tit again, 13 March 2015

Eagles, Siberian jays, nuthatches, woodpeckers, tits

This is an Ural owl video. The Ural owl was one of the bird species which we hoped to see when we went to Finland. We did not see an Ural owl, but we did see many other birds.

After we arrived in Kuusamo on 12 March, 13 March 2015 was our first full day in north-east Finland.

Today to a hide where one can usually see golden eagles.

This video from the USA says about itself:

A female Golden Eagle flies from her rocky perch as an early season snowfall blankets Wyoming’s sagebrush steppe.

We arrived at the hide, close to Oulanka National Park.

We did not immediately see any eagles. Also other relatively big birds, like ravens, were not present.

Siberian jay, 13 March 2015

Siberian jays, like the one on this photo, were the biggest birds.

Nuthatch, 13 March 2015

Another, smaller, bird was an Eurasian nuthatch. The subspecies of northern and eastern Europe, with white underparts and orange-reddish stripes on its lower belly.


Great spotted woodpecker male, 13 March 2015

Great spotted woodpeckers came as well, both a male and a female.

Great spotted woodpecker female, 13 March 2015

And there were tits. No blue tits here; they live only in towns in north-eastern Finland, where it is warmer than in forests. And even in towns they are rather recent newcomers (because of global warming?)

Great tit, 13 March 2015

There were great tits. A bit further to the north we would not have seen them.

Willow tit in the snow, 13 March 2015

And there were willow tits. They nest in all of Finland, even the extreme north.

In the distance, a male and a female bullfinch sit in the snow. Will they come closer?

At 10:45, a golden eagle flies past. Will it land? Attracted by the roadkill animal carcasses lying in the snow here; of a red fox, a red squirrel, and a mountain hare?

Stay tuned!

Pine grosbeaks and Siberian jays in northern Finland

This video is called Northern Hawk-Owl (Surnia ulula).

After 11 March 2015, today 12 March.

We went by bus from Oulu to Kuusamo in north-east Finland.

Sometimes, people see a northern hawk owl along that road; or a reindeer; but we did not. Only pictures of reindeer on traffic warning signs.

We had left Oulu to the sound of house sparrows.

A hooded crow flies past. Magpies on the roadside.

10:20: a raven flying.

As we get further to the east, some trees still have snow on their branches. In Oulu, near the sea, that snow had fallen off already.

We arrive in Kuusamo. A walk around the town center shows mountain hare tracks in the snow.

A mealy redpoll feeding on catkins in an alder tree; similarly to its smaller lesser redpoll relatives on birch catkins more to the south.

Pine grosbeak male, 12 March 2015

Then, we see a male and a female pine grosbeak.

Pine grosbeak female, 12 March 2015

The scientific name for pine grosbeak is Pinicola enucleator. Translated: inhabitant of coniferous trees taking cores out of pine cones. Sometimes, pine grosbeaks do feed on coniferous trees. But here, they ate Swedish service tree berries. Old, shriveled Swedish service tree berries: some birds don’t like them, but pine grosbeaks don’t mind.

Hooded crow, 12 March 2015

A bit further along the road, a hooded crow on a birch tree.

Then, we depart to Ruka village, some thirty kilometer away.

Not so far away from the village, a Bohemian waxwing in a small tree.

Siberian jay, 12 March 2015

And Siberian jays in bigger, coniferous trees.

The local ornithological society has put feeders here. They attract great tits.

Willow tit, 12 March 2015

And this willow tit.