Carsten Holler @ Hayward Gallery

July 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

Of course, the London sky decided to have a torrential downpour on the day that I had booked my ticket to see the Carsten Holler survey at the Hayward Gallery. The rain led to the slides and flying machines being closed and the friends who had booked to go in the same slot as me decided to exchange their tickets. However, I was not going to let a little rain stop me from taking a peek inside.

The exhibition begins through a series of pitch black passage ways, which you are told to feel your way through before entering the show. This was not a pleasant experience for me at all. Due to the weather, very few people actually went through with visiting the show on this particular day and I was therefore walking in darkness alone. It does not sound terrible however, it was extremely unsettling and after walking around at a snails pace for what seemed like eternity, a museum worker took pity on me and came to rescue me and guide me to the light.

This light was the beginning of the show and revealed a series of giant mushrooms. These structures could be pushed around in circles by the viewers but I do not see why doing such a thing would appeal to anyone. Further around the corner lay another strange occurrence in the form of a pile of pills lying on the floor with more adding to the heap as additional tablets were released from the ceiling every three seconds. The security guard in this part of the exhibition was encouraging us viewers to pick up a pill from the floor and consume it, directing us to a water fountain behind the installation. I kindly told the security guard that I don’t eat things off the floor and that even if I did, I wasn’t one to take medicines from strangers. He told me that they were just filled with flour, yet to his frustration, I could not be swayed to try the lozenge.

Moving further through the exhibition I was confronted with more strange occurrences. These included wearing space helmets which turned my vision upside down as well as videos of twins repeating each other in different languages. At one point the viewer was encouraged to touch their nose while holding a strange vibrating gun-like shaped machine to their arm. Apparently the experience was supposed to make you feel your nose become either smaller or larger. To be honest my perception of my nose did not alter during the experience, however, my perception of myself did in the way that I felt utterly ridiculous throughout the ordeal.

The show at the Hayward was strange to put it lightly. I can’t help feeling that Carsten Holler is making fun of his audience. I really am not quite sure what I made of my experience. Perhaps I would have felt different if I were able to go on the slides (the main reason I took an interest in the show in the first place). That being said, I did not enjoy the majority of the show and I would definitely advise people not to visit alone. The Hayward Gallery were kind enough to refund me with a voucher to book again when the weather permits viewers to use the slides, however, I am not sure yet if I will take them up on their offer.

Carsten Holler: Decision is on display at Hayward Gallery until 6 September

Rayne Shoes @ Fashion and Textile Museum

July 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

Your sandals will suddenly feel inadequate this summer due to the luxurious display of over a century’s worth of Rayne Shoes at Fashion and Textile Museum.

On display at the gallery are over 100 pairs of shoes that have been made by the British brand Rayne. The company was founded by Henry Rayne in 1899 and subsequently taken over by his grandson Edward in 1952 until his death in 1993. These shoes have been worn by none other than Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Dietrich and Vivien Leigh, who are just a handful of the names of stars who have donned Rayne’s shoes. Not only have the shoes adorned the famous feet of some of the most celebrated women throughout modern history, but the brand has also been awarded three Royal Warrants, even having designed the shoes that Queen Elizabeth II wore at her wedding.

Among the shoes on display are elegant floral sandals and low-heeled slippers adorned with feathers and perspex. The footwear has been displayed elegantly, with many of the shoes being shown with matching handbags. Some of the shoes have been positioned inside delicate white structures that are reminiscent of birdcages, probably so that they can be appreciated in the same way that one might admire an exotic bird.

All of the shoes in this display were manufactured in London and Ipswich, being truly British through and through. My favourite pair among the display is a pair of baby blue, low-heeled shoes that have been embellished with a white cameo on the heels. This pair was named the Wedgwood Jasperware shoe and was first produced in 1958. However, there really are so many eye-catching designs on display, that picking a favourite was a very difficult task especially when there are also collaborations with Hardy Amies, Norman Hartnell, Mary Quant and Roger Vivier to consider.

Fortunately, the company has recently been re-launched with the help of Laurence Dacade, a French shoe designer who has created footwear for Chanel and Givenchy, meaning that for those like me, who were born just as the brand first shut its doors, a chance to have their own new pair of Rayne Shoes is now a possibility.

The Rayne display at Fashion and Textile Museum is overflowing with elegance and style, a must-see for any footwear connoisseur.

RAYNE Shoes for Stars is on display at Fashion and Textile Museum until 13 September

Why You Should Take An Interest in Contemporary Art

July 5, 2015 § 8 Comments

Around this time last year I uploaded an article about the benefits of studying the history of art and what you can do with it. Since then, I have graduated with a bachelors degree in art history and have made most of my way through a masters degree in contemporary art theory, a subject which, like the history of art, people seem to want to question the use of. So, I thought I might enlighten the internet in the very best way that I can and write a new piece about just why contemporary art is so important.

Firstly, the art that is being made today is extremely political. Contemporary artists from all over the world are using their artwork as a tool to address issues within society. Artwork today tackles such issues as religion, globalisation, feminism and mental health. Many of the exhibitions being curated by students and emerging artists today have been staged in a political direction with the aim of making their audiences pause to think about the society that they are living in. Often, artwork is abstract and difficult to read, however, we must remind ourselves that contemporary art is being produced within the same society that we are also living in, and therefore, in some ways, it can be understood to communicate with us in a way that it is not possible for a historical work to do so.

Furthermore, there are artists today who are living under repressive regimes that use art to speak out and convey a message that they may not be able to do in any other way. Ai Weiwei is just one example of an artist who is also an activist. Similarly, Palestinian artist Laila Shawa uses imagery to draw attention to the situation in her homeland.

There are many art appreciators today who claim to only be moved by one historical movement of art. Yet surely they should be keen to see how famed historical artists have influenced a new generation of artists. Art history is just the starting point – its legacy lives on in contemporary art.

The art of today is increasingly abstract. It does not give us the answers immediately and there is often a lack of any readable narrative. Contemporary art forces the viewer to ask questions about just what defines art. This art is also transcending the historical forms of painting and sculpture. We are now becoming more and more acquainted with installation, film and performance. Thus, contemporary art also introduces us to new modes of technology and communication that simply was not possible in the past.

Finally, contemporary art is also a valuable form of investment. During the recession the art market continued to thrive and it must be noted that the majority of the turnover generated within fine art auctions comes from the sale of contemporary art. Therefore, contemporary art is also a valuable asset not be looked down on.

I will conclude simply by stating that contemporary art is not just political, it is a tool of influence and an object of both monetary and visual value.

Shell Grotto @ Margate

June 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Last month when I took my trip to Margate to attend the Grayson Perry opening at the Turner Contemporary, I also visited a magical place called the Shell Grotto. Until searching for places to stay in Margate I had never even heard of this mystical underground cave, yet all of the hotels and B&B’s online boasted about being walking distance from this hidden gem. So, of course, I had to check it out for myself when I did arrive in Margate.

The Shell Grotto is an underground chamber of several rooms and passages, whose walls are encrusted with 4.6 million shells, all tightly displayed together. They resemble a mosaic in mural form. Among the shells, geometric patterns and hearts are made visible, adding to the splendor and wonder of the seemingly magical space.

You may be asking how the Shell Grotto came into existence; however, nobody would be able to tell you. The Grotto was discovered in 1835 while a duck pond was being created and it was as much a mystery then as it is now.

The fact that the history of the grotto is a mystery only adds to its splendor. While I can’t enlighten you about its creation, I can tell you of its beauty. The walled display of whelks, cockles, mussels and oysters all enchant the viewer in its underground home, in a different sense to how we might view them when found lying on the beach.

Next time you are in Margate, or plan a trip to the Turner Contemporary, I strongly urge you to visit the Shell Grotto, I promise that you won’t regret it!

Grayson Perry @ Turner Contemporary

May 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

I have long been a fan of Grayson Perry and his art. The Turner Prize winning potter is relatable to many people. Perry is not at all an elitist. For one thing he willingly talks about his art practice in public. He also unashamedly flaunts his cross-dressing habits with his alter-ego Claire often making appearances at events. Furthermore, Perry is proud of his Essex roots and chooses not to dominate his art practice with the seemingly fashionable practice of conceptual art or paintings. Instead, he occupies himself with the less trendy (at least in Europe and America), art of pottery and tapestry. His recent collaboration on a hotel in Wrabness, Essex, called A House for Essex has just been the topic of a televised documentary and now, a solo show of his work has just opened in a not so distant province of the south-east, at the Turner Contemporary in Margate.

Perry’s show in Margate is titled Provincial Punk. The location may seem odd. It certainly is in a remote location compared to where we would typically expect to view art, but the gallery by the seaside in Kent has played host to a number of prominent artists since it opened in 2011, including Tracey Emin and Jeremy Deller. Provincial Punk consists of 50 works, mostly pottery and tapestry that span the length of his career, beginning in 1980 and continuing today. The title is inspired from the ‘post punk’ scene of 1980s London and it has been explained that the artist first chose to approach the medium of ceramics because of its uncool, ‘second class’ reputation. I have personally always admired Perry’s use of pottery and tapestry as I feel it addresses a history of craft that viewers often forget about when faced with contemporary art today, where the majority of work is conceptual and new. By employing the age-old techniques of ceramics and weaving, whether meaning too or not, Perry educates the viewer about important historical components of art.

There are many pots within the exhibition, my favourite of which is sunshine yellow in colour, and decorated with images of Perry’s alter-ego Claire dressed like the Queen. I am not sure quite why this particular pot appealed to me so much, however, the luxurious colour seemed to leave an impression and it cannot be denied that a scarf tied over the head suits Claire wonderfully. The pots are adorned with photographs collaged over one another, which have been pasted onto their exterior along with his own pictorial scribbles and writing. Perry uses his art objects to discuss contemporary culture and also depicted on these pots are images of Michael Jackson, swear words and the name of designer fashion brands.

Also displayed alongside his elaborately decorated pots are prints and tapestries. The tapestries are huge, certainly not something most of us could display in our homes, yet they nevertheless speak to many different people. Each tapestry tells the story of everyday lives, from it’s birth to it’s death. In order to take in the enormity of these works one would need to spend at least a good ten minutes in front of them to really digest what is on display and process it all fully. The work forces us to take an honest look at contemporary life which can sometimes be awkward and unappealing, but important nevertheless. Perry makes the viewing process more pleasurable with his use of bright colour and cartoon figures.

Anyone who is taking a trip to the Margate seaside this summer simply cannot miss this show.

Provincial Punk is on display at Turner Contemporary until 13 September

Frida Kahlo by Ishiuchi Miyako @ Michael Hoppen

May 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

Frida Kahlo may have died sixty years ago but her memory lives on and her status as an icon has firmly been cemented in the history books. Her self-portraits are striking in their honesty and Kahlo’s face is one that most of us will recognise instantly. There is currently a new exhibition of photographs in London, of which Frida is the subject. However, the artist’s physical body is absent from the images.

The photographs on display, which have been taken by Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako, comprise of Kahlo’s clothes that have been displayed to us against neutral backgrounds. The photographer is concerned with the passing of time and in light of this it seems apt that we are not given the physical clothes to view, as these would be more vulnerable to deterioration. The photographs seem to ensure that the contents of Kahlo’s wardrobe are preserved, ensuring that they can be appreciated by future generations.

Normally, we are used to seeing fashion exhibitions that are filled with the clothes dressed on mannequins. This was not an option for these garments as they have been hidden away inside Kahlo’s Blue House since her death on the orders of her husband Diego Rivera. Miyako’s images are the first opportunity to see inside this room.

Amongst many items of clothing are brightly coloured dresses, gloves and shoes. Kahlo’s clothes are beautiful. Most of the garments celebrate Mexican tradition. They appear to be vibrant in colour, matching her artwork and personality. However, what really strikes me is just how much pain the artist must have constantly been in. While most of us know that Kahlo suffered from both emotional and physical trauma throughout her life, it is often easy to downplay this. Miyako’s images however, display the clothes that acted as the armor that hid Kahlo’s disabilities. Amid the images we see a wooden leg and heavily structured bodices that remind us that while Kahlo was creating breathtaking paintings and creating a reputation for herself, she was also a survivor of polio and a horrific car accident.

Miyako’s images are a beautiful and honest look inside the wardrobe of one of history’s most fascinating women. The exhibition simply cannot be missed.

Frida by Ishiuchi Miyako is on display at Michael Hoppen Gallery until 13 July

Hattie Stewart @ House of Illustration

May 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

I have been enamored with illustrator Hattie Stewart’s work since her collaboration with Australian accessories designer Poppy Lissiman. Stewart’s fashion industry oriented scribbles are bright and colourful, injecting a large dose of fun into a genre that can be serious and unapproachable. She is currently the first to have been selected for a series of illustrator commissions at the House of Illustration and has transformed the space into a garish (in a good way) and striking wonderland.

Stewart’s illustrations remind me of a mix of George Condo and Jeff Koons. The images on display comprise of advertising campaigns and magazine editorials from such brands as Calvin Klein and magazines like Dazed and Confused that have all been given a Hattie Stewart makeover. On top of these iconic images, the artist has appliquéd her own doodles. Black and white images become multicolored and the serious model expressions become wild and energetic. The figures have tongues drawn onto their mouths and graphic tattoos embellished onto their limbs. Stewart’s models are also given manicures – long talons in bright blues and reds. Dotting around the background are smiley-faced hearts and other fantastical characters poking their tongues out and gesturing at the viewer, drawing you in to their fantasy world.

The display is fun and the images are reminiscent of children’s cartoons with the use of bright colours and wacky facial expressions. Stewart’s drawings reach from floor to ceiling, having been collaged together in the style of large murals.

The show is a must for any fashion fanatic with such recognizable faces as Cara Delevingne, Naomi Campbell and Justin Bieber among those playing victim to Stewart’s glaring graffiti!

Hattie Stewart Adversary is on display at House of Illustration until 19 July


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