David Shrigley at Sketch Restaurant

David Shrigley Kunsthaus Zurich 2003
David Shrigley. I first heard of him when I visited Kunsthaus Zürich in 2003. Unfortunately I can’t remember much of his works on view and no photos I’m afraid (again this was before my rebelliousness in museums). I do remember not just standing in front of his works but having to get down on my knees and looking up close at his humorous drawings and sculptures. After spending a couple months in Italy amazed by the traditional sculptures and paintings, Shrigley’s exhibition was a refreshing experience. I’ve been a fan since. (And this was before I moved to London. I guess I was destined to live amongst the Brits and embrace their culture and especially understand their humour.) I thought he’d win the Turner Prize in 2013 for his solo exhibition at the Hayward Gallery (I still play with his Light Switch app on my iPhone), and I’m looking forward to seeing his Really Good sculpture to be installed as Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth in 2016.

Most recently, I dined at Sketch, a French restaurant in Mayfair. But not knowing much about their food, I immediately booked a table once I found out David Shrigley was commissioned to design one of the main dining rooms as well as the dinnerware. (Actually, I found out about their £50 discount. Have you seen their prices? It ain’t cheap!). It was the 2nd design by an artist as Martin Creed was the first to do so. The restaurant also has a curated exhibition programme, and in fact the entire restaurant is covered with art.

The Glade at Sketch
After a drink in The Glade, we entered the Gallery for dinner and one word screams to mind, PINK. And the walls are of course adorned with original works available by Shrigley:

The Gallery at Sketch

Even staff had uniforms – loose pink dresses for the hostesses, brown suits for some of the gentlemen (managers? connoisseurs?), and grey jumpsuits for the waiting staff. I thought the entire room and ambience had a contemporary art deco feel to it.

And I didn’t know if I was more excited about the food or seeing Shrigley’s humour featured on the dinnerware. At times I was at odds with myself – should I savour my meal as long as I can, rush through it to get to the joke (if there was one), or move the food around to reveal it (but that would be cheating!)

David Shrigley An Empty Dish It's OK

Needless to say it was a strange experience, and I enjoyed myself. Now I need to one up with a Dizzy Dali dinner (I totally want to throw surreal party!):

I just wish I could acquire one of Shrigley’s original drawings on display in the Gallery. That’s OK, my Cruet Set will do for now:

David Shrigley Cruet Set

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These Eyes are Windows at 87 Hackford Road

Yes, these eyes are windows, and this body of mine is the house – Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

The first time I saw a Vincent van Gogh painting was Irises when I visited The Getty Center in 2004.  I thought it was so serene, almost calm in contrast to his other works, for example, Sunflowers. I was in awe over his ability to capture the movement of the irises with his expertise in twisting his lines (another great example, The Starry Night). Apparently he painted Irises within the first week at an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France.

DSC00119
I saw van Gogh’s works again the following year in 2005 when I travelled to Amsterdam and visited the Van Gogh Museum. (And I’m freaking out right now because I was looking for my photos from that trip, and they are apparently missing). I remember lots of flowers (obviously). Inside the building itself was a colourful and bright atmosphere. I think the walls in particular were bright yellow. (Call off the search and rescue team! The photos have been found! I repeat, the photos have been found! But to my disappointment, I didn’t take any photos inside the museum. I guess I wanted to obey the rules at that particular time.) I like this shot though:

DSC01850 van Gogh museum

Which brings us to last year. Last summer, I ventured south of the Thames, and enclosed in a little neighborhood in South London, I visited 87 Hackford Road. One of many houses and flats along the road but what distinguishes this house amongst the rest is a blue plaque indicating a house that reads, “Vincent van Gogh, Painter, lived here 1873-1874″.

Reversing roles, a group of us five waited outside the front door until we heard the doorbell ring.

This house was the setting for the exhibition, Yes These Eyes are Windows, by Dutch artist Saskia Olde Wolbers in conjunction with Artangel. Opened to the public for the first time, the audience was given the opportunity to experience the “history” of the house. It was unknown that van Gogh lived in the house until a postman from the 1970s discovered this fact. Occupied by various tenants until 2012, this blue plaque has protected the house and its surrounding area from demolition.

Once inside, we walked around this empty house. The artist intertwined fictional narratives based on oral histories, press archives and literary works. And in contrast to the bright atmosphere of the museum, the house was left alone – barren, stripped of flooring, wallpaper. Only a few bits survived, such as a ceramic vase, part of a linoleum brick wallpaper, and a modern bathroom door with a red handle.

As a viewer, we were guided by these voices (and lights) starting in the front room and leading us up the two levels and finally inside van Gogh’s room. Wolbers gave the house a life and a story to tell even if it’s a fictional account based on facts.

Since 2012 it has been unoccupied, but this isn’t the end of the story. The property has now been bought by a Chinese violinist and will use the space as a music school.

I felt Saskia Olde Wolbers’ exhibition was an opportunity to experience something beyond van Gogh’s works. Yes, it’s absolutely amazing to see his works in person, but this exhibition, it felt more personal. It was like a behind-the-scenes experience. I stepped back in time to experience his daily life, and as his story was one of many (factual and fictional) stories of this house, it almost made him approachable and relatable. Dare I say ordinary? He was one of many tenants at this house. And for a time, he was a Londoner, just like me.

van Gogh flat 1Feb2015
87 Hackford Road

I walk up the steps
At 87 Hackford Road
But I wait for the…
Riiing goes the door bell
The door opens
No one’s there

I walk inside
Eeeek goes the door
As it shuts itself
Another door opens
Still no one there

Recorded voices fill the space
Fictional stories that I listen
Flaaash go the lights
That lead me to the stairs

So I walk up these stairs
Creeeak go the steps

Another empty room

No, not an empty room
We are explorers
Travelling through time
And we’re in the 1970s
Learning from the postman that in the 1870s
These empty walls
Once lived by him
The painter who killed himself
Or so the story goes

He walked up and down these stairs
Slept in the room I’m standing in now
Did he dreamt in vivid colours
That filled his canvases?
Did sunflowers sit on this windowsill
that foreshadowed his legacy?

At 87 Hackford Road
A blue plaque that says
Vincent van Gogh
Painter
lived here 1873-1874

And this was a happy time for him
Or so they say
Before his works of irises, potato eaters,
cottages, baskets of potatoes, peasants,
and more potatoes

But happiness never lasts

Now this is what’s left
A lone glass vase on a shelf
Faded flowery curtains
And scattered newspapers
Placed now or over time?

Layers upon layers of wallpaper
Ripped away like a scab
Revealing the past, the present
But soon healed by the future

Stories intertwined
Fictional and factual
Sentences like blood vessels
Pumping life to what was once forgotten
This house is the body
And these windows are the eyes
And out these windows
I see
Swirling skies and flaming flowers
And a single shoe on the cement
It kicked, it walked, perhaps it ran
Or was thrown by a chided child
Or frustrated friend
Now it’s lost, alone
But never forgotten

Years later and many occupants later
He was just one of them
That breathed life into this house
These windows had many eyes
And soon these walls will be filled
With b flats and a minors
Do re me
Ti ti ta
Arco, pizzicato
crescendo, diminuendo
staccato, legato
Restez

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J.M.W. Turner & Olafur Eliasson at Tate Britain

Sea waves are green and wet,

But up from where they die,

Rise others vaster yet,

And those are brown and dry

– Robert Frost

 
I went to Tate Britain’s The EY Exhibition: Late Turner – Painting Set Free, an exhibition featuring J.M.W. Turner’s works made after he turned sixty. I didn’t really learn about Turner when studying art history so this exhibition was quite novel to me. For those also not familiar with Turner, he was an innovator in art. I know this word gets thrown around quite often, but he truly was always trying new ways of approaching his works whether it was in his technique, materials, or subject matter. He was known as the “Painter of Light”, and his abstract technique is often seen as a precursor to Impressionism. Yet during his time, he was considered a controversial figure.

As Turner was an avid traveller, I thought I’d prefer his paintings and sketches done while he was travelling, however I was actually drawn to a specific painting featured in a room titled “Squaring the Circle: New Formats from 1840″. Even in his later years he continued to change it up, and in these paintings in particular, he used a relatively small square support. Then I realised the painting I kept staring at for ages (the one on the right in the below photo) is actually part of a pair:

JMW Turner Jan 2015_4Left: Shade and Darkness – the Evening of the Deluge
Exhibited in 1843
Oil on canvas
Right: Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory)
– the Morning after the Deluge –
Moses Writing the Book of Genesis
Exhibited in 1843
Oil on canvas

Turner was influenced by Goethe’s Theory of Colours (quite obviously when it’s part of the title of the painting). These weren’t just a pair of landscape paintings – the technique used for this great biblical flood and its aftermath was a response to Goethe’s Theory – that colour comes from the interaction of light and shade (as oppose to a product of light alone which Isaac Newton believed). Also, “Moses” was not just the biblical character but also a reference to Moses Harris, another dude who studied colours. You know that ubiquitous colour wheel that shows what colours can come from red, yellow, and blue? That was all Moses':

While I was sitting in one of the rooms browsing through the exhibition pamphlet (and waiting for the right moment to take a photo of the pair of paintings – I still get nervous about taking photos when they’re not allowed!), I learned about Olafur Eliasson’s new series of paintings made in response to this exhibition. Part of an ongoing series which began in 2009 called Colour experiment paintings, he analysed seven of Turner’s works for his series of seven paintings, dematerialising the content altogether, and leaving a spectrum of hues. Shaped as a circle in order to decentralise the colours, I thought they were reminiscent of, you guessed it, Moses’ colour wheel.

There were postcards of Eliasson’s paintings available in the gift shop, and I stood in front of them for ages, carefully comparing them to the pair of Turner’s paintings that I liked. I thought these two were relatively close to the paintings (more so the one on right; Eliasson didn’t specifically identify which of his paintings corresponded to that of Turner’s):

JMW Turner Jan 2015_5Left: Colour experiment no. 61
Oil on canvas
Right: Colour experiment no. 58
Oil on canvas

The Colour Theory was a strong attribute to this exhibition, and I like that it brought together Turner, the “Painter of Light”, to present day Eliasson, who is known for his sculptures and large-scale art installations featuring materials such as light. Whereas Turner incorporates the use of light and shadow in his landscape paintings, Eliasson takes it a step further and removes the content altogether, focusing purely on the hues. But his works are also reminiscent of Moses’ colour wheel which make the connections not just linear but also cyclical.

The EY Exhibition: Late Turner – Painting Set Free as well as Olafur Eliasson: Turner Colour Experiments are both on view until 25 January 2015.

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Motivation

Clearly I need motivation. Getting a nifty keyboard for my mini iPad has helped, and as I was heading back to work (after writing in a cafe during my lunch break), I came across this man:

Picadilly Circus Painter
I thought, even the rain hasn’t stopped him from painting. I didn’t get a good look at him but I pondered about his identity. Could he be a famous artist? Or just an ordinary guy who took the day off to paint? Maybe he’s a tourist who brought his painting supplies instead of a camera? Or… a scammer! A scam artist who pretends to paint ready made ones that he hides in his handy briefcase and takes another one out whenever someone buys one (I miss watching I Love Lucy).

Or he’s a commuter, just waiting for the bus to arrive. After all, he is standing next to a bus stop in Central London. Just look at the traffic. Clever guy.

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The London Original Print Fair

I spent a gorgeous Spring afternoon at The London Original Print Fair.  Held at the Royal Academy, I realised that this was actually the first time visiting, even though I’ve walked by the RA so many times and also worked at galleries nearby.  As I reached the top of the marble stairs, my eyes were immediately fixated on sale signs in the Christmas card section.  C’mon, £2 for a set of 10 cards!  I couldn’t resist! With my Christmas cards in tow, I entered the fair and this time, I was immediately drawn to a vintage London Overground print by long-standing collaborators Sybil Andrews and Cyril Power:

Sybil Andrews/ Cyril Power, Aldershot Tattoo,1934, Lithograph, 100 x 61 cm, Osborne Samuel

Sybil Andrews/ Cyril Power, Aldershot Tattoo,1934, Lithograph, 100 x 61 cm, Osborne Samuel

Regarding Power, he is known for his linocuts. I do like Futurism and the next work of his that I noticed reminded me of the techniques.  Perhaps he may have been influenced?

Cyril Power, Monseigneur St. Thomas, 1931, Linocut, Printed from 5 blocks, Edition of 60, 35.4 x 28 cm, Osborne Samuel

Cyril Power, Monseigneur St. Thomas, 1931, Linocut, Printed from 5 blocks, Edition of 60, 35.4 x 28 cm, Osborne Samuel

I continued around the fair and my eyes caught a print of vibrant red orange by Howard Hodgkin:

Top left: Howard Hodgkin, Girl on a Sofa (from "5 Rooms), (Heenk cat. no. 9), 1968, Lithograph, 51 x 64 cm, Edition of 75, Gwen Hughes Fine Art

Top left: Howard Hodgkin, Girl on a Sofa (from “5 Rooms”), (Heenk cat. no. 9), 1968, Lithograph, 51 x 64 cm, Edition of 75, Gwen Hughes Fine Art

Speaking with the owner of the gallery, she informed me that this was part of a series called “5 Rooms” and this was one of his earlier works featuring simple minimal forms before becoming more spontaneous with his abstract works.  If I had £2,400, I would’ve purchased it (and as of today it’s now sold).

I continued browsing but this time recognised a older man sitting at a booth – Peter Blake!  I did a double take but it was confirmed when someone asked him to sign The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band album not to mention the booth he was at featured his prints:

Peter Blake, CCA Galleries

Peter Blake, CCA Galleries

Peter Blake, USA Series - Boxer, 2014, Silkscreen with collage, Edition of 100, CCA Galleries

Peter Blake, USA Series – Boxer, 2014, Silkscreen with collage, Edition of 100, CCA Galleries

Peter Blake prints and postcards, CCA Galleries

Peter Blake prints and postcards, CCA Galleries

I debated on whether or not to approach him as I honestly wouldn’t know what to say.  I wanted to tell him that my first ever art work that I purchased for my 30th was one of his prints but I honestly couldn’t remember the name nor the series of the print!  I wish I knew about his recent unveiling at the Royal Albert Hall otherwise maybe I could’ve talked about that?  As I went back and forth on this I watched him leave, uttering, “Goodbye, Peter Blake”.  Oh well. Blake was quite popular at this fair as I spotted his works at a few more booths including the Brook Gallery.

Moving on, I ended up approaching Long & Ryle and really liked the porcelain works by Katharine Morling:

Katharine Morling, Touch, 2014, Porcelain and black stain, 35 x 55 x 25 cm, In series, Long & Ryle

Katharine Morling, Touch, 2014, Porcelain and black stain, 35 x 55 x 25 cm, In series, Long & Ryle

I ended up purchases the glasses featured in the series and I think it looks great together with some of my glasses and sunglasses, don’tcha agree?

LOPF Morling Glasses

By the way, I love maps! – I think it all started with Alighiero Boetti’s Map of the World.  Or perhaps on a more personal level, my mother loved this globe she received as a gift from work, and I always saw her examining at it.  And now that I’ve discovered The Afternoon Map, I’ll must warn you though, don’t be surprised if most of my tweets will now feature maps.  MMMMMAAAAPPPPPSSSSSS!!!!

That said, at Tag Fine Arts, I really liked Justine Smith’s prints of maps featuring each country’s respective currency:

Top left: Justine Smith, Judgement, 2012, Embossed inkjet print paper, 40.9 x 57.8 cm, Edition of 90 Top right: Justine Smith, Great Britain, 2012, Archival inkjet print with screen printed detail,  59 x 41.5 cm, Edition of 150 Bottom: Justine Smith, World Money Map, 2012, Inkjet with pearlised screen printing on paper, 92 x 150 cm, Edition of 90

Top left: Justine Smith, Judgement, 2012, Embossed inkjet print paper, 40.9 x 57.8 cm, Edition of 90
Top right: Justine Smith, Great Britain, 2012, Archival inkjet print with screen printed detail,
59 x 41.5 cm, Edition of 150
Bottom: Justine Smith, World Money Map, 2012, Inkjet with pearlised screen printing on paper, 92 x 150 cm, Edition of 90

After an hour or two (I seemed to have lost track of time), I left the fair but of course I spotted yet another sale section at the RA’s gift shop.  Peaking behind a bunch of prints, I saw one with a vibrant red orange colour.  I picked it out and it immediately reminded me of Hodgkin’s lithograph: And for £2.50, I’ll take it!

Print of Brett Whiteley's Big Orange (Sunset), 1974

Print of Brett Whiteley’s Big Orange (Sunset), 1974

P.S. If you’re confused as to what the difference is amongst the various types of prints, the fair’s website gives a brief description with examples here.  Even I had to refresh my memory and even learned some new ones.  But I do know of intaglio prints because my brother created a few.

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To the Moon and Back

Hello world.  Again. Nevermind a winter hibernation.  I needed a long sabbatical.  But I’m back.  That is, until my next hibernation/sabbatical.

I started volunteering at the V&A Museum of Childhood.  When my fellow volunteers started talking about the current exhibition, Daydreams and Diaries: The Story of Jacqueline Wilson, I asked who she was.  “YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF JACQUELINE WILSON?” they both said in unison.  Reminding them I was born and raised in the US, they immediately removed the shock from their faces and proceeded to explain who she was.  Wilson is a children’s writer, and millions of children grew up reading her books, including my fellow volunteers.  She’s still writing and will soon release her 100th book so girls today are still reading her books.  I thought back to books I read as a child – Nancy Drew, Goosebumps (just found out a Goosebumps film will be made and will be released 2016!), and Babysitters Little Sister (a spin-off from The Babysitter’s Club).  I remember with the latter series, one book in particular I read was about the main character, Karen, having to get glasses.  It was that moment I wanted to get glasses too.  I even made glasses out of construction paper to wear.  Although I still like wearing glasses in a fashionable since, I do wish I could tell my 8 year old self how much it is a nuisance not being able to see. However, I do look pretty cool in them.

Back to Wilson, I watched a BBC Breakfast interview with Wilson (at the Museum of Childhood) and I’m always amazed when writers are motivated to write every day.  It’s taken me weeks to write this blog post!

I saw the exhibition for the first time the other week – starting off with her childhood including a replica of her room, then describing her move from the south of England to Scotland at just 17 to become a writer for a teen magazine called Jackie.   Which reminds me – I had drinks with my colleagues and one of them revealed that Flash Art (a magazine that focuses on contemporary art) agreed to feature his first article – they didn’t realise he was only 17 year old and found out when he asked them to write out a cheque to one of his parents as he didn’t have a bank account.

Back to the exhibition, it also focused on some of Wilson’s characters such as Tracy Beaker, Hetty Feather, and The Illustrated Mum.  In conjunction with the latter character, I thought it was so cool and almost daring to have an activity encouraging children to draw their own tattoos.  Although the exhibition was about this well-known children’s writer, it also featured Nick Sharatt, the illustrator of Wilson’s books, and visitors were given the opportunity to trace some of Sharatt’s illustrated characters including one of Wilson herself (complete with her fingers full of large rings – her trademark look). Visitors ranged from babies throwing around plush toys and children who were obviously fans to even adults who came to visit for pure nostalgia.  One child in particular told me she didn’t read her books but wanted to start reading them after visiting the exhibition.

The last part of the exhibition featured some of the letters and gifts Wilson received throughout the years.  As a 30-something year old being introduced to this author for the first time, I wondered if I missed out as a child.  But would I have enjoyed her books?  Some of the topics Wilson has also written about are quite difficult but important – divorce, death, abuse, and mental illness.  I’m glad there are children books that address these topics.

A fun and inspiring retrospective exhibition – Wilson must be proud of her career.  This is a lighthearted break from the at times self-absorbed and convoluted contemporary art scene I’m used to.

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Camp NaNoWriMo

2013-Participant-Camp-NaNoWriMo

Although I’ve never been to summer camp before, when I was 11 years old, us sixth graders were invited to camp for a week in the fall (autumn).  I absolutely loved it; everything from nature walks (including night walks), singing camp songs, to just being around friends (and no parents!).  Oh and I had a crush on one of the camp counselors.  He was Italian, and on our last day, he wrote in my notebook, “Ciao, bella”!  When he translated it to me, I swooned.  Then I showed it off to my friends who all revealed that they too had that written in their notebooks.

Even though November is NaNoWriMo, they’ve held a few Camp NaNoWriMo‘s during the year, and as there will be one in July, I’ve decided to participate.  It’s relatively easier – one can choose a word goal.  And I’ve also decided to “bunk” with up to seven other random “campers,” meaning, I’ll be in a group of other writers to support each other.  I just missed NaPoWriMo – that’s National Poetry Writing Month – (I see a trend here), where one commits to write a poem a day for 30 days.  So for Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to do a poem a day.  It’s a 10,000 word minimum, so I’ve made that as a goal, and as I don’t think I can write a poem that’s 323 words per day, I will also write a children’s story or two that I’ve been meaning to finish along with other anecdotes.

Wish me luck!

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