Dennis Oppenheim

A Perfect Day Out with Oliver

Dennis Oppenheim

A day out with just Oliver since Alexander’s arrival so far have been few and far between. With a little brother in tow and regular pre-school, it’s hard to get my now 4 year old to myself.

Weekends are all about fun family time but again that’s all of us together which is wonderful but sometimes it’s good to simply have mother and son uninterrupted time to ourselves!

So last week I decided things were going to change. I missed my little man more than ever since he’s returned to pre-school post Christmas and aware of how envious he still often feels about his brother, I knew he needed me and just me to shower some undivided attention on him.

The way he feels is normal. Master Oliver was the little Prince we all revolved around before Alexander came along and adjustment hasn’t been easy for him. We’re slowly getting there and the boys do love one another (when they’re not fighting) but I knew this would helps things along.

With a newly changed work schedule allowing me much more down time, I’ve taken Oliver out of pre-school one day a week so we can have mother and child alone-time.

My fabulous Mum cares for Alexander that day and Oliver and I are free to roam the city (make that skipped which was super fun) and do as we please and this week that’s exactly what we did! No work, no distractions, just my darling little boy and I skipping around Leeds together on a little adventure…

Oliver restaurant

First up we headed for refreshment at the chic but child friendly Filmore & Union in the Victoria Quarter for green juice (me) and a treat of chips for Oliver before heading for a full on lunch of gourmet burgers, guacamole and coleslaw at Miller & Carter.

burger-Honest Mum

Come to Mama!

water trick-Honest Mum

Oliver decided to show me a ‘trick’ which was drinking water with his fingers. Tried not to laugh.

Then onwards to my much beloved Henry Moore Institute in the city centre of Leeds for the current Dennis Oppenheim exhibition.

Henry Moore-Honest Mum

With ever-changing exhibitions, this place was actually my spiritual home when I studied Art as one of my A’levels many moons ago. I think they might still have an essay of mine in their library tucked away at the back from that time (might have to hunt it out next time I visit) and it really is a wonderfully tranquil space, free and open to all.

Not set up purposefully for kids, this matters not. Children are welcome with open arms and sculptures I feel in particular, truly seem to resonate with kids, they feel tangible and being life-size or large, never cease to stimulate and fascinate children and adults alike.

Henry Moore Institute-Honest Mum

Seeing Oliver navigate his way around this ‘Vibrating Forest (From the Fireworks Series), 1982’ (please see credit below)* was delightful. He decided it resembled a ship and told me to make sure the fireworks at the rear were secure. Yes sir!

Art is about losing yourself and your imagination in the moment be it a metaphorical mirror held up to reality or a fantastical piece to transport you through time and/or place and space-it’s a joy, an escape, a touching emotional truth… and there is nothing more free nor lucid as the mind of a child.

You’re not usually allowed to take pictures but the lovely PR there, Rebecca recognised me from this blog (fame at last-ha!) and approved. Yay!

huge chess board-Honest Mum

As we left, we checked out (get it?) this outdoor chess board which Oliver found fascinating (if a bit infuriating that he couldn’t play with the pieces as a game was already in progress). Think I need to invest in one of these for the garden!

Oliver-Leeds Art Gallery-Honest Mum

A few feet away is the Leeds Art Gallery, a creative haven for big and little people, each room bursting with agreeably, ‘Probably the best collection of  twentieth century British art outside London’ (John Russell Taylor, The Times).

Also with changing collections, Oliver and I wandered between rooms taking in Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Atkinson Grimshaw, Jacob Kramer, and their contemporaries: Paula Rego, Bridget Riley, Georgina Starr, Tony Cragg, Antony Gormley and Francis Bacon. I had taken Oliver before, quite a few times but now aged 4 he seemed so much more engaged than ever before…if not a little too ‘engaged’…

I tried to explain to him that we are not allowed to touch the sculptures on display but his desire to do so overpowered my appeals (sorry Leeds art gallery for any mini fingerprints left). It was only one or two in all honesty and by the time we upped to leave, he seemed to have grasped the concept of looking and not touching. Quite a lesson.

It must be said he does take after his Grandma in this respect who is also an art lover and once remarked to me at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris that she simply had to touch the sculptures and if anyone reprimanded her, she would respond she is blind. Right, then!

creative play area-Honest Mum

…Back to the Leeds City Art Gallery, the Pièce_de_résistance there has to be the children’s area (above) that had delicate tissue paper sculptures hanging from the ceiling (above), carboard box arrangements for imaginative play on the floor, professional watercolour sets and brushes along with more tissue paper, card and rods to create flowers and a textile experimental tapestry to trial colours and textures.

Leeds Art Gallery-Honest Mum

It was heavenly for us both! My first love is painting and one I nearly studied at Uni (with a place offered at Ruskin, Oxford Uni but I opted for film at Goldsmiths, Uni of Lon) so there we sat, my son and I for what seemed like minutes but was at least an hour or more, painting, making flowers, questioning, playing, laughing. Joyful.

Leeds Art Gallery-Honest Mum

It served as a reminder that I need to get back to the easel myself. I’ve exhibited my work before but since kids haven’t even sketched but I’m determined to start again…Below is a watercolour I rustled up in a few minutes. A token I took home of the day.

painting-Honest Mum

My quick little watercolour created with Oliver

A cup of earl grey and some sparkling water at the captivating art deco cafe there energised us before a quick visit to the City library next door. I read a story to Oliver and we chose a handful of books to take out featuring dinosaurs and the alphabet (which Oliver was allowed to stamp himself much to his delight) before returning (sleepily) home for dinner with Alexander…passing this sign as a timely reminder as we went…

Alexander St-Honest Mum

It might just have been one of our most perfect days together. If it were a film it would be a slow moving, European indie filled with love about a mother and son enjoying one another’s company and the simple pleasures in life.

This week’s outing was all about beautiful views and splashing in muddy puddles but that’s a whole other blog post!

*Steel, copper, casters, perforated angle, aluminum track, glass rods, cast plaster, quartz lamp, cotton candy machine, class C rockets, fountains, vibrating motor. Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, California.

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