Published  09/05/2013

WGS and Waterlog

WG Sebald

The German author WG Sebald, who made Norfolk, England his adopted homeland, is this year celebrated there by a group of seven British artists, mostly Norfolk-based: Tacita Dean, Marcus Coates, Alec Finlay, Alexander and Susan Maris, Guy Moreton and Simon Pipe.

His beautifully written novels, such as Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn, are still selling well, despite his death in a car accident some five years ago. He taught a creative writing course at the University of East Anglia and remains a living force very much in the world of contemporary artists and architects. The exhibition now explores the varied narratives of his beloved East Anglia where he lived and died.

These artists have teamed up with Sebald's friend, the famous German poet Michael Hamburger, also a devotee of East Anglia. Tacita Dean has made a film of 'One Day in the Life of Michael Hamburger', which explores the seam of creative inspiration Sebald and Hamburger both shared there, focusing on Hamburger's own role as a naturalist and obsessive grower of apples. 'Waterlog' is at various East Anglian venues across Norfolk until 24 June, close to Midsummer Day as it happens.

The high Victorian Baroque of Sir Gilbert Scott's St Pancras Station and hotel has now been restored by its proprietor to public accessibility. In the 1960s, the then Midland Railway had spent £1 million intending that their flag piece should dwarf neighbouring Kings Cross and Euston stations, no small sum of millions in today's money. State-of-the-art lifts were a 'must', plus an iron-framed central stair with the latest innovation - revolving doors. This gave the impression of modernity, but there was no central heating other than coal fires in the bedrooms fed by scurrying maids day and night.

In the spirit of mediaeval architecture, Scott could not resist raiding the past for his vocabulary of parts. The high costs entailed crippled the masterpiece which today looms over the new British Library (and its architect Sir Colin St John Wilson stoically conceded to heights and profile restrictions imposed by the planners). So, within 50 years of completion, Scott's building became obsolete. But by then his career had been made by this edifice. A lack of central heating and poor plumbing, despite the superlative finishes, finally did for it all; but it will be complete again this year for all to see ... 

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