Travel: Vienna

This year’s Easter holiday weekend (April 19 to 22) was spent with my family – yes, it really is as frightening as it sounds. I won’t give details of my family feuds and frustrations but I will share what we got up to and hopefully some helpful tips for this beautiful European city! Unfortunately, this was not my most organised holiday (despite there being a spreadsheet…). It just so happened that I was also planning my Barcelona trip with my aunties which was going to take place two weeks after I flew to Vienna, which I will also be sharing with you soon. Let’s just say that there were a lot of lessons learnt.

Where we stayed

My family and I stayed Le Méridien which was very conveniently located in the Museum Quarter and where all the famous sites and shopping was within walking distance. Transport links were also brilliant and for those who like to take Uber, this is also available in Vienna. The metro and trams are easy to navigate and use, as long as you have google maps – you won’t get lost. We had booked the room with a terrace which turned out to be a wonderful idea because it was 20+ degree weather with clear blue skies. I tend to prefer boutique hotels but if you wanted a hotel with all the facilities and in a super prime location, I really recommend Le Méridien. 4 out of 5 pineapples!

What you must see

Vienna is a must-visit destination for culture and music, it is no surprise that it attracts thousands of tourists from all parts of the world. However, because of this, there are some challenges.

Tip 1: To avoid being disappointed and long queues – you have to book tickets in advance.

Vienna is not a city that allows for tourists who like to be spontaneous; if you are such an individual, you may wish to purchase the Vienna Pass instead, which allows Fast Track to certain tourist attractions. I personally did not use this during the weekend as I knew that my parents couldn’t handle that many museums in one short weekend, but it seems really worth it if museum hopping is your style 🙂 I will definitely give it a go next time.

Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace is the number one tourist attraction in Vienna and for good reason. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful palace in Europe and often compared to Versailles (which I have yet to go).

Tip 2: If you don’t like booking tickets, the ONE TICKET you must book is for the Schönbrunn Palace!

The lines are longs and the tickets were sold out by the time we went (poor planning). However, do not despair, the most beautiful part of the palace is FREE. The gardens and the fountains which make up most of the land at Schönbrunn Palace is free for the public to wander around! On the weekend we went, there were stalls at the front gate to celebrate Easter, think lots of eggs, birds and bunnies (and pretzels!). 5 out of 5 pineapples!

Belvedere Palace

P1170372_edited

Belvedere Palace is another beautiful palace and a must visit for those who want to see the infamous painting “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt. I think it is worth entering the museum just for this one piece. Prints and souvenirs just do not give justice to the beauty of the painting. The gold and other precious metals make it one of the most extravagant artworks I have ever seen. It was particularly interesting after seeing Klimt and Schiele up close in an exhibition in London.

Tip 3: if you are tight for time and would like to save some money, just purchase the ticket for the Upper Belvedere as this is where the Klimt painting is displayed.

I had bought both tickets, but I didn’t have a chance to go into the lower Belvedere which houses temporary exhibitions. 3.5 out of 5 pineapples!

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien is another extraordinary example of beautiful architecture. Vienna is seriously not short of breathtaking buildings. Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien is the largest art museum in Austria and houses some of the most famous paintings such as The Tower of Babel (1563) by Pieter Brueghel. At the time when we visited, they were also displaying contemporary artist Mark Rothko. Overall, I would give it 3 out of 5 pineapples. 

Kursalon Hübner

When in Vienna one has to go to a concert. You will find a lot of men dressed up in Mozart outfits trying to sell you last minute tickets, though I am naturally very sceptical and would never recommend buying your tickets that way.

Tip 4: Do your research and book tickets in advance for concerts. 

I cannot stress this enough, on our trip, we asked the concierge for a recommendation and he suggested to watch this small concert at the Kursalon Hübner. The hall was beautiful but there are definitely plenty better in Vienna. The reason I chose this concert was because my mother wanted to see a bit of Viennese Waltz. Big mistake – the concert was poorly executed and not value for money. The orchestra was small and there was no conductor, honestly, it was a shambles, so my advice – don’t go to Kursalon Hübner.

Vienna is truly a cultural hotspot, for those who are interested in more famous artworks, check out this great summary here. Other museums to consider whilst you are visiting include:

Where we ate

  • Café Landtmann located just outside the beautiful Burgtheater and a stone’s throw away from the neo-Gothic town hall – Rathaus, this cafe is situated in one of the best locations in the city. When the weather was as wonderful as it was for us, eating on the terrace was an experience. It is a typical Viennese coffee house with the usual specials such as Schnitzel and Beef Goulash, but the reason we made our way here was because it is supposed to be one of the best places for Sliced Pancakes – “Kaiserschmarrn” which my sister was seeking high and low for. I didn’t get to try as I was completing a “no sugar” challenge. However, my dad had seconds and he doesn’t even like desserts! Worth going to check out – 3 out of 5 pineapples. 
  • Café Museum was just around the corner from our hotel and it is a wonderful place to have a traditional Austrian breakfast. Another typical Viennese coffee house (same group as Café Landtmann) it is a very civilised way to start the day. They have a myriad of different breakfast options and is reasonably priced. What was quite common was runny poached eggs with Madame Crousto bread and coffee/tea. 3 out of 5 pineapples. 
  • Café Sacher Wien is where you can try the original Sacher-Torte. It is quintessentially Austrian coffee house with a long history. We visited here for breakfast, again, they have an extensive menu; though most patrons were there just to try the infamous cake. Personally, I am not a fan because I do not like the apricot jam filling. Be prepared to wait in a very long line as it is another top tourist destination (and don’t expect good service either) but it is one of the “must dos” of Vienna. 2 out of 5 pineapples. 
  • Restaurant OPUS is an intimate restaurant located in Hotel Imperial. The picture of the restaurant on the website is literally the only room of the restaurant (hosting only 8 or so tables). I organised the dinner to celebrate my mother’s birthday; though the service was not what we are used to in fine dining restaurants of London, the food more than made up for it. My sister said the desserts were the best, but I found the bread the most memorable. Each dish was excellently executed and they give guests the freedom to choose from several tasting menus to mix and match the perfect menu suited for you which is unheard of in my dining experience! If you are looking for somewhere to celebrate with your loved one, I highly recommend this restaurant. 4 out of 5 pineapples.

Vienna is a beautiful city and one of the best places to visit for culture and architecture. This was my second visit and I would go again, as there is so much more to see! Have you been to Vienna before? As always I would love to hear from you!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Art: The Renaissance Nude

Happy Bank Holiday everyone! Did you all have a wonderful weekend so far?  I have switched up my usual long read on the weekend to cover the exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts (“RA”) – The Renaissance Nude which is due to finish on 2 June 2019. I want to ensure that for any of my readers who may be interested can still have time to do so after reading my review 🙂 Without further ado, let’s get straight to it!

Exhibition

Located on the top floor in The Jillian and Arthur M. Sackler Wing of Galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts, the exhibition explores the development of nudity in 15th and 16th-century art. It was a pivotal time for nude in Western art because of the renewed interest in the human body, both from a scientific and artistic perspective. In particular, nudity was transforming Christian Art, where the stories of the Bible from Adam and Eve to crucifixion were retold with exquisite works.  

For a Y generation like myself, nudity in art is not something that I have considered given its proliferation in contemporary art and just everyday life of having access to the internet. Scantily clad influencers and models in magazines do not even get a raised eyebrow in our modern age. Having said that, my workplace still feels that we need to be protected from such images. The firewall has blocked my blog because it contains “Adult Material” but it really is no surprise given it is an art and happiness blog after all! Yet this warning message clearly summarises the controversies of nudity, though it has become more widely accepted, there is a very fine line between acceptable, erotic or profane. I believe that the general consensus is the more covered up it is, the better!

Adult Material
The RA has intimately navigated nudity through the ages by displaying a wide range of mediums, from painting and prints to sculptures. Nudity is not discriminatory, from the beautiful to the shockingly horrible or cringe-worthy, “varied” summarises this exhibition. I found the flow of the exhibition difficult to follow but I would recommend the accompanying audio guide. It is worth the additional cost as it brings key paintings of the exhibition to life. Some of the excerpts were narrated by Stephen Fry, who was a pleasure to listen to as he elaborated the tales/history behind a piece. I recognise that this exhibition may upset some people’s sensibilities and nudity is not everyone’s cup of tea but it is well executed and thought out, as a result, I give it 3.5 out of 5 pineapples! 

Key Highlights

The Good: Titian, Venus Rising from the Sea (‘Venus Anadyomene’) (c. 1520)

One of the most beautiful pieces of artwork in the exhibition is Titian’s Venus. A private moment when she is born from the sea. It is a serene and quiet painting capturing a “candid” moment, wringing water from her hair. A small scallop shell to the left is the only tribute to the more famous Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. It is an exemplary example of the beautiful Renaissance woman form.

Titian, Venus Rising from the Sea (‘Venus Anadyomene’) (c. 1520)

The Bad: Dieric Bouts, The Way to Paradise, The Fall of the Damned, 1468 – 1469

It goes without saying that Renaissance art transformed religious art during the 15th to 16th-century. From the depiction of Adam & Eve, Heaven & Hell through to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, nudity was used as a method to persuade devotion. Bouts’ panels made up a triptych devoted to the Last Judgement. The Way to Paradise, the individuals are beautifully and discretely covered up in white cloth. On the other hand, The Fall of the Damned, individuals are seen tumbling and tortured whilst entirely naked. The shame for the naked body, according to the curators, can be traced to the Fall of Man, when God forbade Adam & Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. The Fall of the Damned will convince anyone not to be bad.

The Ugly: Hans Baldung Grien, Aristotle and Phyllis, 1513

This woodcut created by Hans Baldung Grien is shocking and cringe-worthy. It is not something I would have expected from this period of history as it is easy to remember the beauty of the Renaissance period and associate it with all things ethereal and graceful. Yet it is easy to forget that all humans have an ugly side. The tale of this painting is about the great teacher Aristotle warning his student, Alexander the Great, to stop having intimate affairs with his wife, Phyllis, but instead to concentrate on his studies. Understandably Phyllis was upset when her own husband shunned her sexual advances. To make a point and exact revenge, Phyllis seduces the old philosopher and humiliates him by riding him like a horse while Alexander hid and watched. Weird – is all I can say.

https://images.app.goo.gl/7ncLixFbHFGmgJUm7
Hans Baldung Grien, Aristotle and Phyllis, 1513

Other must-see pieces

  • Leonardo da Vinci, The Anatomy of the Shoulder and Neck (recto), 1510-11. No Renaissance exhibition can exclude the master of Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci. This understated piece of art is as if ripped from his personal notepad, but it showcases his amazing eye for detail and his extraordinary mirrored handwriting. Displayed in the middle of the exhibition, it is easy to walk past, but this double-sided drawing is worth spending a few minutes to admire.
  • Pisanello, Luxuria, 1426. This small and understated pen and brown ink painting is of a reclining female. She is sensual and powerful with self-confidence. It is in contrast to the usual demure female form in Renaissance Art. What a wonderful piece.

I would love to hear what you think of the pieces I have reviewed here, do you have a favourite? Have you been to the exhibition, I would love to hear what you thought about it as well!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Art: Edvard Munch – Love and Angst

One of the largest show of Edvard Munch’s prints and woodcuts in the UK for 45 years is now being held at the British Museum until 21 July 2019. For those who may not be familiar with the artist, you would certainly recognise the “art’s most haunting and iconic face”. A piece of artwork that is so renowned that it has become an emoji!

Despite being considered as one of the founding fathers of Expressionism, very little is known about him. The exhibition aims to shed light on the Norwegian painter by exploring the political history of pre-war era Europe, particularly Oslo, Berlin and Paris where Munch travelled and found new influences. As you wander through the exhibition, it delves into Munch’s unconventional Bohemian lifestyle and beliefs which moulded his art and innovative printmaking techniques.  

Expressionism

Expressionism focuses on emotional experience above all else, particularly the isolation and anxiety of modern existence through highly intense and non-naturalistic brushwork. Expressionism is generally applied to the art of the twentieth century where it is said to have started with Vincent Van Gogh but included others such as Edvard Munch, James Ensor and later, Egon Schiele.  

Expressionists are in contrast to the Impressionists, where the goal was not to reproduce the impression suggested by the surrounding world but to strongly impose the artist’s own sensibility to the world’s representation. Expressionists explored the psyche; the focus was on dramatic and emotion-laden themes, particular qualities of fear, horror and the grotesque.

During the pre-war era, Expressionists reacted to the increasingly industrialised lives and sense of isolation. The artists developed a powerful mode of social criticism through their artwork. This included representations of modern cities through alienated individuals, including prostitutes (think Egon Schiele) who were used to comment on capitalism’s role in the emotional distancing of individuals within cities

The art movement rejected the dominant styles and subject matter of German visual culture at the turn of the 20th century, instead, found early inspiration in the flat patterning and bold forms of The New Art movement. Expressionists looked for inspiration beyond European art and culture to native folk traditions and tribal art; such as African and Oceanic art; as it was then considered to be primitive and unevolved.

The movement flourished from 1905 to 1920, particularly in Germany and Austria. However, with the rise of Nazism in Germany, this led to the end of the Expressionist movement, with most of the artwork removed from museums and confiscated from private collections.

Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944)

Edvard Munch was a prolific yet perpetually troubled artist preoccupied with matters of human mortality such as chronic illness, sexual liberation, and religious aspiration

Born in 1863 in the village of Ådalsbruk in Løten, Norway. Munch grew up with an older sister and three younger siblings. The family moved to Oslo in 1864 and became the start of his personal struggles and anguish. Munch became familiar with death. He lost his mother to tuberculosis before he turned 13. He lost his much-loved sister nine years later to the same disease. His younger sister was diagnosed with mental illness at an early age and his younger brother passed away shortly after his marriage. 

He, himself, also suffered from a poor immune system and was kept out of school for months on end. To pass the time, Munch took up drawing and painting. His father would often read ghost stories of Edgar Allan Poe, which instilled in the young Munch a general sense of anxiety about death (unsurprisingly) and how it constantly advanced on him.

There was a constant conflict with his father who Munch considered as “temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious”. Munch enrolled in a technical college in 1879 but frequent illnesses interrupted his studies and in the following year, Munch dropped out to pursue painting. This cause further friction with his father who deemed art as an “unholy trade”. However, this did not stop the budding artist from enrolling at the Royal School of Art and Design of Kristiania in 1881; where he started to seek an alternative bohemian lifestyle. 

During this time, Munch discovered the writings of the anarchist philosopher, Hans Jæger, head of a group called the “Kristiania-Boheme”. Jæger advocated for sexual freedom and individualism. They formed a close friendship and it was Jæger who encouraged Munch to draw from personal experience in his work. This led to the painting of The Sick Child (1885 – 1886) which served as a memorial to his favourite sister.

https://www.edvardmunch.org/the-sick-child.jsp
The Sick Child, 1885

In 1889, Munch travelled to Paris to study at the studio of Leon Bonnat and continued to explore the themes of death and personal loss.  Munch’s father passed away that year, and Night in St,.Cloud (1890) served as a memorial. It was after this period, where the Frieze series and related works were the artists most popular and artistically significant period which is the period that the exhibition focuses on.  This was the period, where his signature paintings The Scream (1893), Love and Pain (1893-94), Ashes (1894), Madonna (1894-95), and Puberty (1895) were all created.

https://www.edvardmunch.org/madonna.jsp
Madonna, 1894

Exhibition

Munch’s art is not for the faint-hearted as it explores the fear, gloom and angst of his personal Expressionist art. When entering the exhibition, the first painting is a sombre self-portrait; jet black apart from the face and a skeleton arm placed casually on the bottom of the painting. Considering the pains of his past, death is at the forefront of Munch’s art. It is not hidden or subtle but a print version of The Sick Child, The Dead Mother and a print from woodcuts of The Death in the Sick Room is an emotive depiction of loss, almost too painful to look.

The exhibition focuses on his lithographs, woodcuts, drypoint prints and etchings, Munch’s skills seems unrivalled; by using different mediums and methods his prints are just as vivid and haunting as his paintings. His bohemian lifestyle also meant that Munch explored the representation of women’s bodies. The lithograph titled Madonna is of a beautiful woman but contrasted with a curled foetus in the corner of the painting makes it sinister and dangerous.

https://www.artsy.net/artwork/edvard-munch-madonna-3
Madonna, 1895/1902

Munch seemed to have a difficult relationship with women, he was afraid of marriage and his love life was confusing. He was only engaged once to Tulla Larsen but that relationship ended with a gunshot wound to the finger, of which an x-ray is displayed in the exhibition. Some of his most impressive were his works are from the Frieze of Life series where he depicted a love affair through the kiss, love, pain, jealousy, betrayal and despair. The inspiration for his work has been suggested to be his tumultuous relationship with women and the shock and fear associated with the power and passion of women. 

Munch was a prolific artist where he produced more than 1,000 paintings, 4,000 drawings and nearly 15,400 prints throughout this career. Therefore, it is no surprise that he has influenced many artists after him. German Expressionists painters such as Kirchner, Kandinsky, and Beckmann also expressed their individual psychology through intense colour and semi-abstraction. Munch’s influence even extends to Francis Bacon whose portraits reflect the sitter’s psychological turmoil as is manifested in skewed facial and bodily features. 

It is hard to shake off the melancholy of Munch’s work when leaving the exhibition, yet the British Museum has managed to shed light into the life of the artist that painted one of the most famous paintings in our Modern History. Recommend – 3.5 out of 5 Pineapples.

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

For other reviews of the exhibitions, please see the below links:

Thought of the Day: Monotony

Monotony

Thank you to all my readers for your kind patience with my erratic posting schedule this April and May. The various bank holidays in England and my trips away have wreaked havoc to my usual routine. There is so much to share with you but it seems that there are not enough hours in the day to fit everything in.

Continuing my journey on self-compassion, I have tried to be kinder to myself by being less critical when I don’t achieve 100%. Yet, I have not been able to stop an encroaching sense of guilt for not completing things I have set out for myself; such as my blogging and dedicating time for other projects that I care about. Though I had previously recognised it would be a long journey in developing self-compassion, my impatience with the lack of progress is also holding me back which then slows me down even further…

In the past few weeks, I have also developed a trapped sense of monotony: the everyday churn of waking up, travelling to work, work, commuting back home or going to the gym, chores, washing and, sleeping. This feeling does not go away, even when my routine has switched up, such as seeing my friends and family during the holidays. No matter way I do, I couldn’t seem to shake this feeling of monotony. 

Monotony

When researching this topic, there is a clear link between boredom and monotony, but in my opinion, they should not be used interchangeably. As previously written on the blog, it is possible to embrace boredom from time to time; it can be used to stimulate creativity. However, I believe that monotony is chronic boredom and tips the scale to negativity. There are others who have argued otherwise and believes that monotony frees up time to think about other stuff.

Monotony is defined as “lack of variety and interest; tedious repetition and routine.”

I believe the key emphasis is on “tedious”. Monotony impacts an individual differently, where some people cannot live in monotony and require frequent and or excessive changes in their lives. I believe I am one of those people, so much so that I would get upset if I have the same lunch and/or dinner two days in a row (but I am fine having the same breakfast every day; don’t ask me why!…)

On the other hand, other people become used to it. It is also possible that certain monotonous activities can become an “addiction” because it is so comforting, such as a drinking a cup of coffee/tea in the morning, or having something sweet after dinner. I struggle to agree with this argument and rather melodramatic. Can’t something be routine without it being monotonous? There is nothing wrong with seeking comfort in predictability but can monotony be negative to our mental wellbeing? 

Routine vs. Monotony

From the readings (though there is not much on this topic), monotony is bad. However, there are many advocates on the positivity of monotony whereby it is possible to make life simpler and calmer because monotony creates a structure which results in a calm feeling and removes decision making. The simplification of your life helps you conserve energy for things are more important. 

However, I fundamentally disagree with those arguments. This is because I believe that the articles confuse routine with monotony. The fact I brush my teeth in the morning and night is good for my dental health, or going to the gym three times a week is good for my physical and mental wellbeing. Yes, it takes away decision making and allows my mind to wander (similar to boredom), however, this is a routine, not monotony. Routine is monotony without the feeling of “tediousness”. For example, I really dislike dusting the house and associate it with something negative – whenever I complete the task it feels very monotonous. The fine line between routine and monotony is, therefore, in the mind. It is important to recognise the signs and then be proactive to change it. 

Mental Health Check

Through the course of writing this blog post which has taken me several weeks; I have had the chance to step back and assess my mental health and I believe that the following may have triggered my negative mental state. 

  • Lack of reading – I have been struggling to find a good book to get my teeth into. I was reading “Start with why” by Simon Sinek but was couldn’t engage with the book, so I thought I would change it up and read “Little History of Philosophy” by Nigel Warburton, but was not taking much in. Finally, reading “Unnatural Causes” by Richard Shepherd kicked me back into my reading routine and mentally felt better and refreshed.  I am really surprised by how reading has become such an important part of my mental health. Others have also found that this can help with monotony. [Note: not paid for the links, just thought I would be helpful!]
  • Lack of Time Out – As an introvert, socialising is really tough. I love spending time with my friends and engage in deep meaningful conversations but it takes a toll when I am doing it multiple times a week. I was not listening to myself and allowed social obligations to dictate my diary instead of being strict with my time and recovery
  • Lack of Routine – As emphasised previously, having a routine does not equal to monotony. With many friends visiting and travelling to Vienna & Barcelona, I did not follow the comfortable routine I have developed over the past few months, particularly when spending weekends to visit art galleries or museums; (I had to squeeze in a lot of activities in one day rather than time to reflect after the visits). This has also meant that I have not spent much time with my boyfriend which is never a good thing! 

By failing to recognise the importance of routine and checking into my mental health, things that were pleasurable had become monotonous and negative.  

Other Tips & Ideas to Break Monotony

There are others who have suggestions on how to “escape the monotony of life”.

  • For those who are adventurous, I would suggest checking out this article. Clare Healy focuses on the need to being outside and also travelling, such as becoming a weekender nomad by visiting and staying in other cities to break away from your normal routine. 
  • For those that need convincing that you are number one and it is important to invest in yourself, read this article here. It is a great article on overall life tips (not necessarily to tackle monotony). The key take away points are that you should always invest in yourself, whether a nicer holiday away or learning something new – you are always worth those extra pennies. Take risks and own your own time.

In the past few weeks, I have read more and tried to resume my routine of going to the gym and galleries. I can feel myself slowly recharging and become my more positive self, and not surprisingly, life is feeling a little less monotonous! Have you ever experienced monotony? How did you overcome the negative mental hurdle? As always, I would love to hear from you! 

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

P.S. For those who are sporty, a sports example of routine vs monotony can be found here