Saturday, 21 November 2009

Long live the Queen....

....Yesterday was the 18th anniversary of Freddie's death. I remember eating breakfast with mum, dad and Ruth before going to school and it featured in the news on our black & white TV. I didn't quite understand the relevance or importance of the band at that point, but from then on, with a cassette for christmas, Queen became a huge part of my life and my very first lesson in music. They have since formed the basis of every musical interest I have ever had. I decided to remind myself of Freddie's genius and so scoured YouTube. Take a moment to watch these and you'll realise why I don't think anyone has, or perhaps ever will come close to Freddie's vocal or performance.

These only really scrape the surface of an immense back catalogue but are a timely reminder of a great man & band.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Dinner with Christa, Walter, Johannes....

....Dad, in town on business, joined me at dinner with family friends Christa & Walter and their Grandson Johannes, visiting from Germany.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Queen of Jewels & Prince of prints....

....We've always known Richie & Hannah are masters of their trades. It seems that others, notably the press, are starting to work it out too!

Hannah. (Full article on Dazed Digital, here)

Richie, ES Magazine, 13.11.09. (Click image to read!)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Nick & Aimee's birthday....

....They're getting worryingly close to the big three zero. Here they are celebrating their 29th - the ninth year in a row that they have partied together. Sweet.

Nana Barker....

....I popped over to Southwell, Nottinghamshire for the day, to join my mum & dad and surprise my Nana.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Quoc op update....

....So, Quoc went in for his knee operation a few weeks back, but a recent infection means he's back in hospital for a few days.

An arrow in case they can't find the wound!

Load those pain killers.

Get well soon, (again), Quoc.

Ed Ruscha : Fifty years of painting....

....Hayward, until 10th Jan 2010.
I was always going to love this show. And for me, the brutalistic architecture of the Southbank Centre, within which the exhibition is held, evokes a Ruscha painting in itself.

Standard Station, 1966.

Ruscha, (pronounced Rew-Shay), fuses traditional painting with graphic design, typography and cinema. The L.A artist has legendary status, his work never seeming to date, his ideas constantly pushing the boundaries. (Similar to another Californian whom I admire so much, James Rosenquist).

Exhibiting only his paintings of the last fifty years, (some billboard, some a great deal smaller in size), I am afforded the opportunity to see the work up close for the first time. It is only now that I appreciate the intricacies of detail in brush stroke, in the masking off of letters and the intensity and depth of the backgrounds. I am awe struck.

Oof, 1962

Ruscha displays his words as images in their own right - where they take on an ability to speak to the viewer through type, paint, poetry and parody. Perhaps a mute noun against loud colour for example.

Back of Hollywood, 1977

The show is extensive, exploring Ruscha's pictures without words and his black & white cinema tinged works of the early 90s - from which is one of my many favourites:

Exit, 1990

In the final room, old paintings are hung alongside new, recreated versions. But in the latter, Ruscha adapts the piece to reflect how the subject may have changed over the elapsed time period.

Blue Collar Tech Chem, 1992 / The Old Tech-Chem Building, 2003

Overall, the exhibition is incredible, highlighting that for all Ruscha's experiments, he has mostly stayed true to his sign painter routes. As he says himself, "I have pretty much been doing the same thing since I was 18 years old", but what brilliance that 'thing' is.

The End, 1991.

Sophie Calle : Talking to strangers....

....Whitechapel, until 3rd Jan 2010.
I was recommended this exhibition, owing to it's content, (I'll let you work out exactly what). Calle is acclaimed for documenting stories, that she sets in motion, captured through film, photography & text.

Sophie Calle, 2009.

'Take care of yourself', in the first room, uses these tools, but is based specifically around an email in which Calle's lover breaks up with her.

'Take care of yourself', 2007. (Original email in French).

She then gave the email to 107 French women - each an expert in there own field - and asked them to give their own interpretation of the electronic letter. (Think a criminologist, ballerina, designer, creative writer and so on.)

The poignant, amusing and poetic result forms a large-scale installation that transcends the personal to provide a monument to the women involved. It is a brilliant, original and intriguing idea that allows Calle to overcome heartbreak and in doing so creates over a hundred works of art in themselves.

The rest of the exhibition continues in a similar vein - inviting others, mostly strangers, in to her life and art. In 'The Sleepers', Calle asks people from the street to sleep in her bed for an allotted time. She then takes photographs & makes notes.

The Sleepers, (Les Dormeurs), 1979

Or, in a piece in which Calle consults Maud Kristen, a clairvoyant, who directs her to a small French village and from whom she can only take instruction on what to do & see next. It is only as I leave, with an overview of all the work, that I appreciate that Calle creates art in which she is integral, but the others whom she involves are the real heroes. We are ultimately lead into the depths of other lives, other hearts.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


....I saw this film today, directed by Shane Acker and produced by Tim Burton.

It's a film like I've never seen before. In a post apocolyptic world, only sackcloth doll-like creatures survive, with numbers painted on their backs. How or why they are left is not clear, but soon it becomes apparent they have company. Huge and hugely scary mechanical baddies who attack our heroes. Then again, then again. Whilst the animation and visuals are stunning, the lack of storyline is there for all to see. It is only now I realise it's adapted from an award winning short film by the same director. Perhaps it should have stayed short, because at 79 minutes it runs out of fuel. Only the slick, scary and grand visuals save it from obscurity. One to watch on DVD I reckon.

Anish Kapoor....

....Royal Academy, until Dec '09.
The Academy presents Kapoor's first major solo show and more than ever he offers up the endless possibilities of sculpture.

'White sand, Red millet, Many flowers', 1982.

The show begins with Kapoor's pigment works, that are both natural and abstract in form, but as though they've grown through the floor and bloomed in to magnificent colour.

'When I am pregnant', 1992.

It is Kapoor's deceit of the viewer in his works where he creates concave and covex spaces, where I enjoy his work most. To look at 'When I am pregnant' from straight on, it appears like an imperfection on the white painted wall. Only up close, from an angle do you realise the subtle, beautiful bump. Similarly, 'Yellow', appears before us like a huge single colour painting. Take a closer look and the wall recedes in to itself as though a cave. It is truely incredible.

'Yellow', 1992.

The exhibition continues to amaze - there is so much fascinating, epic work, I will not write about it all - it really should be seen first hand. However, there are two other works on show that are worth mentioning now.

'Shooting in to the corner', 2008-9.

This new work, (above), shoots shells of red wax at twenty minute intervals, at speeds up to 50mph. When I visited today, the anticipation was huge -cordonned off and the crowd watching, it is as though we surround a boxing ring. Already there is a mountain of wax in the corner of the gallery, with further splurges all around the antique door frames, even on the roof. The wax is loaded in to the cannon and then........NOTHING! The red shell slowly dropped out of the mouth of the cannon and wimpered on to the floor. It was a let down, yes, but the evidence that it has obviously worked before, makes this piece - both in mechanics and artistic result, a success.

'Svayambh', 2007.

Lastly, this vast block of red wax, (above), almost imperceptibly moves on a wax ridden track through five of the Academy galleries. It scrapes through the ancient archways that adjoin rooms, excess wax being sliced away and dropping to the floor. What is left is the exact shape of the arched doorway, only about 10 metres in length. The sheer scale, colour and implausibility is jaw dropping and is my highlight of the exhibition.

Everyone should go. Now.

Revolution on paper : Mexican prints 1910-1960....

....British Museum, until 5th April 2010.
This show focusses on Mexican print makers in the early 20th Century, during a time of social and political upheaval and is fascinating.

Diego Rivera: 'Emiliano Zapata and his horse', 1932.

Personally I found greater enjoyment in the colour letterpress and woodblock prints. The typography and imagery together makes for wonderfully designed and lasting posters. Unfortunately the majority of the show was made up of monochrome lithographs - no less accomplished in their execution, just not as easy on my eye!

But all the prints are successful in their ability to capture a hugely significant time in Mexico's history, and this exhibition is the perfect way to see them and be informed, because previously they were only pasted on walls or part of protest marches.

Moctezuma : Aztec Ruler....

....British Museum, until 24th Jan 2010.
Now, I'm not usually one for ancient history, but this was really very good. I'm not ashamed to say that I only visited after an offer of a free ticket, but it is worth the entrance fee anyway. The show explores the Aztec civilization through the last elected ruler, Moctezuma II, and displays an astounding amount of objects and information from 1502 - 1520.

Mosaic mask of Tezcatlipoboca, skull of the smoking mirror, one of the four powerful Aztec creator deities. Inlaid human skull with real teeth, lined with dear skin on which the moveable jaw is hinged. The long deerskin straps would have allowed the mask to be worn during ceremonies.

It is in these objects that I am fascinated - their opulence, craft and artistry. The obsession with turquoise and shimmering shattered shell. How on earth are these preserved so well after 500 years? It baffles me.

Stone box, 1506. Belonging to Moctezuma.

It was also interesting to read that as a leader, Moctezuma managed to balance being above the people, yet also amongst them. In fact his generosity and friendship highlighted, (and subsequently taken advantage of), when the Hernando Cortes led his Spanish fleet in to Tenochtitlan. Moctezuma welcomed Cortes, offering gifts, but soon, mistrust and a savage attack saw the Spanish decimate the once great Empire.

Turquoise mosaic mask, dated 1400-1521

It is a fantastic show - and perhaps one that can be seen again in years to come, as excavations are still on going, with more and more history being found, still to be explained.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Miroslaw Balka : How it is....

....Tate Modern, until April 2010.
Pick a quiet day for this one, or else it just won't work. There is always alot of press surrounding each new installtion in the Turbine Hall. This is one of the most simple and intrieging so far. Balka has created a huge, steel, cavernous construction, totally devoid of light.

I was fascinated how, in total darkness and with other people inside, it would work. But that is the point. We are encouraged to react as we see fit - be it charge on in and risk bumping in to people, or slowly walk along the wall until you can no further. I chose a bit of both! Heading straight down the middle, slowly, hands in front. Like a zombie in the pitch black. It was an experience like no other - hugely enjoyable, but with an underlying sense of apprehension for the unexpected. Indeed, the end did come - I brushed against the back wall, velvet covered, all too soon. I wanted to walk on and on. Get lost even. But I turned back toward the light and watched as others passed me, like zombies in the night.

Pop Life : Art in a material world....

....Tate Modern until 17th Jan.

This is the one I really wanted to see. Largely, nay, solely due to the presence of Keith Haring as part of the exhibition. It is the Tate's blockbuster - a show so singing and dancing, blinging and in your face, it can't fail to get people through the door. But, once they are, I'm afraid they may be a little disappointed. Pop Art is the art of the mass produced. Art that uses popular culture as it's point of reference and rams it down your throat until you have to take notice, or buy it.

Andy Warhol - Self Portrait (with fright wig)

To be honest, I don't have a problem with that. I know lots of people do - in particular the 'selling out' so to speak of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and certainly more recently Damien Hirst. (For the record I don't really consider Hirst a Pop Artist, more a savvy business man who has made a fortune out of unoriginal, bad art). But there-in lies the fine line, maybe Pop Art is about business, making money - rather than the art itself. If that is the case, then Hirst is the champion of champions.

Damien Hirst : False Idol, 2008

So, I visited Pop Life knowing what I had let myself in for, but it immediately became apparent how limited the show is. Opening with Warhol, his work, his ads, his complete and utter over exposure, I get a little sick, (literally), of his face. But I am saved by the Pop that I am really there for. Keith Haring. For me, he is the real hero of this movement.

Keith Haring: 'tag' examples

Rather than his face adorning everything, (ok, so it does a little bit), he let's his art do the talking - it is his slogans, his symbols that are mass produced - still as prevalent today as they were in his pomp in the 80s. In one of the rooms, Haring's 'Pop Shop' has been recreated. This stood for several years in New York, his graffiti was mural-like on the floors and walls, and his art, t-shirts, badges and the rest could be bought. This recreation is so precise as to have the same mix-tape playing, (loudly), throughout. I even loved that, but on enquiry, only the Haring Estate can divulge the track list should they be so kind!

Keith Haring: Pop Shop, NYC.

After that room, I started to lose interest - but that is because the artists on show seemed so loosely related to the movement. For example, many of the YBA's have been included in this show. Why? In the context of Pop Art, I can't understand it and the work seems weak, (when in reality it is largely anything but). The only other contemporary artists that seemed to fit in are Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami - their work is straight out of popular culture, sickly sweet and everywhere. But in a good way.

Jeff Koons: Rabbit, 1986

It is a shame though how Murakami is exhibited in the final room. The in your face gesture is so great it leaves me a little bit cold. I have to get out.

Takashi Murakami: Hiropon, 2001

For me Pop Life is trying too hard -but then, so does Pop Art. The show does everything it says on the (Campbell's Soup) tin, but what's inside just isn't filling enough.

John Baldessari : Pure Beauty...

....Tate Modern, until Jan 2010.

God Nose, 1965, Oil on Canvas

I love being introduced to an artist that I don't know anything about and emerging at the other end with a new favourite, (and the exhibition catalogue tucked under my arm). This happened with Baldessari. His early work is what I enjoyed most, where he explores his lifelong interest in the relationship between language & imagery, proving funny & intriguing.

His work then progresses in to photo imagery, but retains wit & humour - classically in the piece, 'The Artist hitting various objects with a golf club'. It is exactly as the title suggests and is apparent that this, and many other works on display, have influenced many artists since.

Stonehenge (With Two Persons) Orange, 2005

I am not as keen on his more recent work, where he has reintroduced paint over photographs, but the brilliance, productivity & influence of his work in the 70s and 80s, is what makes this exhibition so good.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Fantastic Mr Fox....

....Nick and I went to see Wes Anderson's latest film, based on the children's book by Roald Dahl.

In a market dominated by Pixar and 3D releases, it was refreshing to see a defiantly old school, stop-motion animation. The stellar cast, lead by George Clooney & Meryl Streep, did Americanise a very British classic, but it didn't overshadow this brilliant, quirky adaptation. (Michael Gambon and, strangely, Jarvis Cocker were amongst the British representatives.)

The film is a charming and funny take on the Fox family & friends and their battle against three local villains Boggis, Bunce & Bean. I'd recommend it to everyone. I'm going to see if Mum & Dad still have my battered copy on a book shelf at home....I'd quite like to take another look!

Sunday lunch with Nick & Ivvet....

....At the Waterpoet today. Great food, a massive portion, good music and relaxing atmosphere. I could have holed up there all day.

We followed it up with a coffee and brownie at our new fave, Nude.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Dinner with Rich & Lynn....

....Another addition to my 'dinner' series! This time with Rich & Lynn.

Richie cooking up a storm

We had a fantastic sausage casserole, of epic and much welcomed proportion, then ended with quality cheese board.

(I soon regretted my attire!)

Killer cheese board.

Thanks to you both. Brilliant.

Rich & Lynn's place....

....Their new place in Tufnell Park is rather lovely. Good art. Good taste. Some more tips taken!