Mind the gap – as in railways, so in art.

I see that my last post was in November, and I could give you loads of reasons why – Christmas, travel, teaching commitments, cooking for hordes of people – but none of them stand scrutiny or give even a flavour of the work that’s going on in my head. It’s all about the process, and mine is changing.  I have so many ideas jostling for position, but a signal failure ( sic…but railways do come into this post!) ) to settle down to the necessary graft of expressing any of them on a canvas. Not that I haven’t done ANYTHING concrete –  of course I have – but I guess I’m started to think about pulling threads together, and they do need a lot of mulling. But sometimes one can over-think an idea, and it starts to feel boring before it’s been shared and hung on a wall, so it really is time to get into the studio. Especially urgent as my birthday ( a horrible number ) is happening any minute ; I need  to step up, liberate all the images gestating in my head, and let them sing out to the world on  their own canvas.

This is a good start – thinking out loud with a post about all the strands of potential output might give me some clarity about the best way forward. Please don’t feel used – I do truly have some things you might enjoy, from Paris, Hambourg, Finchley and Berwick Street. I think I’ll offer you a selection of posts to make up for lost time, and I’ll start with – Hambourg!

ImageI decided to take D away to Hambourg for his birthday to see one of the most visited museums in Germany – the Miniature World Model Railway Museum – 7 floors of heaven for anyone who yearns to create a perfect, controllable universe. My own endeavour towards this goal takes the form of collage, a forum in which I am a Goddess whose scissors decide the fate of every scrap and snippet.


D’s plans are of quite a different order,  involving teeny tiny trains rolling along in the loft on fine gauge track ((see, I’m getting very knowledgeable), controlled from a state-of-the-art digital box on whose workings he much enjoys tuition on certain Fridays from an all-knowing railway tutor, together with elegant and delicious picnics prepared lovingly by guess-who and hauled up the loft steps in a basket. Yes, just like poor imprisoned Utrillo levering up his booze in a basket from his friends in the Montmartre street beneath his window while his wardress was out shopping… a spot of art history here which neatly slots into the loft theme.


I put in a brief appearance at Miniature World just to be friendly, and to bone up on the modelling techniques which I volunteered in a sudden love surge to contribute to the Railway, yet another procrastination technique to stave off serious work of my own. Soon I will be building miniature rocks and bridges like the ones you see here, tiny trees and thousands of tiny people milling about at miniature rock concerts. All shaping up to provide an excuse for my next art gap.

I scuttled off as soon as decently possible to the Kunsthalle, Hamburg’s superb art museum. Btw if you want to see a collection of lovely handbags, just as interesting in their way as the art and the railway ( plenty of Furla and Prada on view) take a flight to Hambourg and gaze at the (very well-policed) cloakroom in the Kunsthalle – you can’t take your handbag in with you, only a clear plastic bag for your wallet and your assorted girl stuff. Just like the liquids on a plane journey, a fascinating glimpse into people’s lives – it’s all on view in the bags, phones, lippie, inhalers, hairy combs….too much information.

Now for what’s on the walls there. A totally brilliant collection of German expressionists, from arists as politically diverse as Kathe Kollwitz (a much beloved sculptress, untouched by Nazism) and Nolde (probably can’t say the same of him, but a glowing artist nevertheless). Here’s a little taster:

nolde tweaked

Nolde’s ‘Tugboat’. It’s very glowy – I was mesmerised. Here’s another one:


This expressionist art is so bold – here are some more – Kirchner, Schmidtt-Rottluff, Pechstein – so direct and strong, such interest of pattern, design, surface:


Below is a piece I found especially fascinating : did Miniatur World emerge from somewhere deep in the national psyche ? Here’s a little giant, all-powerful in his world of toys, tiny houses placed all around according to his whim!
Child with houses
By the most wonderful good fortune there was a special exhibition at the Kunsthalle of the angels which Paul Klee painted throughout his life, starting with this one he made aged 5. Apologies for the poor photo quality – my hand must have been shaking with excitement! But you can still see the angel on the Christmas tree quite clearly on the left.
photoKlee’s sorrowful self portrait, ‘Struck from the List’,  immediately came into my mind. It was made years later in 1933 when the Nazis labelled him a degenerate artist and chucked him out of his teaching job.
Paul Klee 1933Struck from the list
…and returning to this theme much later, in 1941:
Throughout the trials and tribulations of his life he continued to draw and paint angels from time to time, not only heavenly, guiding angels, but some very human ones as well. Here’s perhaps the most famous one, Angelus Novus. The excellent commentary explained that this Angel seems to have his back to the future. His raised wings distance him from past and future trials….the rubble of the catastrophes of history in a steadily growing pile at his feet, wings seemingly stilled in a storm from the future. Not the most optimistic of images!
On the other hand we also have a vigilant angel:
Vigilant Angel
the forgetful angel:
and  ‘Angel, brimful’, a benign and comforting image.
I’m asking myself how I’ve managed to stray so far from railways, and the gaps in the art process. I guess I’m just thinking aloud and taking inspiration from Klee, a truly great master – one of my Art Gods – who kept working and returning to the same themes throughout his life, despite interruptions imposed on him by an oppressive political system. He never stopped producing original and highly personal work of the finest quality, perhaps pulled out from deep within himself through the darkest of times. So I’ve really got no excuse!
Thanks for sharing, and more very soon….I hope!
Polly Rockberger
  • Joan
    Posted at 19:23h, 29 May Reply

    Thank you, dear Pol

    I forget about D’s trains and would love to visit. I have such good memories of Beaconscott with the kids and before that, as a child myself, of model villages with their trains linking everything. There used to be a terrific one in Hastings.
    It was good to visit the Hamburg gallery with you and your exposition on Klee is wonderful: immediate and direct responses to these moving images.
    A welcome end to my working day

  • Marilyn simler
    Posted at 19:59h, 29 May Reply

    You don’t need to paint…….write instead!!!!

  • Linda Cohen
    Posted at 23:00h, 29 May Reply

    Polly what a wonderfully written piece about a truly magnificent weekend. I can’t wait to see what will emerge on canvas from all that is going on in your mind.
    All our love Linda and Ron

    • pollyrockbergerartist
      Posted at 23:02h, 29 May Reply

      Dearest L, we had such fun eh? Thank God that Ron likes trains is all I can say!

  • Minoosh Seifi
    Posted at 11:52h, 30 May Reply

    You describe everything so well here. I really enjoyed reading this. fascinating is the least I can say. It was my birthday on 28th and yours coming very soon. Happy birthday auntie Polly. I wish you all the best, happiness, and health. xxx Love Minoosh

  • Miriam Craig
    Posted at 20:02h, 31 May Reply

    Great inspiration…love the picture of the tugboat.

  • Linda Perkin
    Posted at 09:42h, 01 June Reply

    I very much enjoyed reading your blog. What a wonderful and inspiring week-end you both had. Your thoughts always open my mind to the wonders of art. I still have vivid memories of an exciting term’s work that I did with a year one class based on Paul Klee!

    I remember a toy shop in Palmers Green and as a child used to go on a Saturday to watch the model railway in the shop’s window! May I climb the stairs to the loft and watch the trains?

    • pollyrockbergerartist
      Posted at 23:15h, 06 July Reply

      any time darlin’ , all we need is for himself to start building it!

  • martien
    Posted at 17:04h, 16 June Reply

    a true discovery in a phantastic world for child and adult. A world of reality engaged with phantasy. Thanks for the wonderful description.

  • Michelle
    Posted at 17:43h, 06 July Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this eloquent (as always) post accompanied by great images. Wonderful to see Klee’s array of amazing angels (had never seen any of these works, so thank you). love Michelle x

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