Cinderella @ Leicester Square

March 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

A pop-up exhibition like no other has landed in the heart of Leicester Square. A magical show has opened that reveals the history of one of Disney’s best-loved movies: Cinderella! It documents the fairytale’s history as well as revealing its modern re-incarnation in the form of the new movie starring Lily James.

The exhibition begins with a look at the 1950 original movie with interactive books and memorabilia from the much-loved film which is now over 60 years old! Here we get the chance to see illustrations for the film, many of which are very different in style from the finished product that we are all familiar with, but beautiful nevertheless.

Following the historical introduction we move into a world of sparkle. The following galleries present the costumes featured in the new film. These have been designed by Sandy Powell and adorned with over 1.7 million Swarovski crystals in the form of dresses, tiaras and accessories. The gowns are stunningly displayed on mannequins, which move like the dolls that can be found inside of musical jewelry boxes so that the viewer can admire them from every angle. These are presented alongside hand-drawn illustrations by Powell and the beauty of the display demonstrates exactly why she has already won 3 Oscars for her costume designs.

Also on display is a breath-taking Swarovski glass slipper that really looks like something that has come straight out of a fairy tale. As well as this is a stunning golden carriage that has been filled with a giant pumpkin.

This exhibition is magical and a perfect treat for the whole family. It has been presented by Swarovski and it is clear to see why they are keen to show their costumes off! The staff our keen to inform the viewers all about Cinderella’s history as well as the upcoming film. The best part is that the show is free and in my opinion is just as good, if not better than many fashion exhibitions that I have seen recently, it simply must be taken advantage of!

The exhibition is open in Leicester Square until 10 April and the release date for Cinderella in the UK is 27 March

Reynolds @ Wallace Collection

March 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

I am not a fan of Joshua Reynolds. He may have been president of the Royal Academy but his paintings have never left much of an impression on me. Last weekend, I was invited to a bloggers event at the Wallace Collection that was held to support its incumbent exhibition on Joshua Reynolds, and, while I do not really love Reynolds, i do love the Wallace Collection, so I decided to go along and see if they could change my opinion of Reynolds.

The exhibition at the Wallace collection is divided into two rooms and comprises of 11 of the 12 paintings by Reynolds already in the collection as well as loans from other galleries. Of these images are the portraits by Reynolds of the Hertford family who founded the Wallace Collection.

The bloggers event centred on a talk about the work by one of the exhibition’s curators, Alexandra Gent. What Gent made clear is that an enormous amount of work went into the exhibition, which illustrates Reynold’s painting process and gives the gallery-goer an insight into this through the presentation of X-Ray’s and infra-red images. Through these images we can see the artist’s thought processes, where he decided to paint over work and how he came to use strange materials like beeswax instead of varnish.

While I can’t say that the evening changed my mind of Reynolds as artist, I was very impressed by the exhibition, especially as I am particularly fond of shows that allow the viewer to step inside the painters studio and learn about exactly how artists approach the canvas. Regardless of if you are a fan of Reynolds or not, the Wallace Collection is a treasure chest that needs to be discovered, and as it is free to enter and just behind Selfridges, you really have no excuse not to!

Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint is on display at Wallace Collection until 7 June

Rubens @ Royal Academy

March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

The first essay I ever wrote as an undergraduate History of Art student was about Rubens’s Peace and War (1629-30, National Gallery). While most of the art that I choose to study and write about now is starkly different to the Flemish master – I currently study the contemporary art of Asia and Africa – I still hold Rubens in high esteem.

Peter Paul Rubens had a profound influence on the artist’s that came after him. Our very own (although adopted from Belgium) Van Dyck was educated by the master, and countless other great painters owe much to Rubens and his paintings. The Royal Academy exhibition places Rubens on display beside the works of those artist’s that succeeded him historically, showing his influence on their work. In effect, Rubens is portrayed as master, where his followers (the likes of Watteau, Constable and Cezanne) are his students.

The show moves thematically, with each gallery devoted to a specific genre of painting, illustrating that Rubens could turn his artistic talent to any genre: portraiture, allegory, landscape. The artwork is often presented in the form of the Rubens masterpiece in the center with his followers’ interpretations being presented on either side of it. Where the show really succeeds in my opinion is in the display of multiple preparatory studies by both Rubens and his admirers, which enable the viewer to see the work done in anticipation of creating a work of art.

I was impressed with almost the entirety of the show’s content until I came to the final room. A single gallery seems to have been attached to the show, which doesn’t flow at all. A bright white annex has been attached to the luxurious shades of greens, blues and purples that make up the gallery walls of the majority of the exhibition. This room has been curated by Jenny Saville and contains modern artwork, which she feels relates to the work of Rubens. Unfortunately, I did not quite share the same opinion about the work in this room, which contains prints of Jackie Kennedy by Andy Warhol and a rather vulgar sculptural offering by Sarah Lucas. At a push, I could perhaps see the link with Cy Twombly, but in all honesty, I feel that the exhibition would have been much better off without Saville’s offering.

Regardless of the show’s disappointing conclusion, for anyone with a genuine interest in the history of art this show is unmissable.

Rubens and his Legacy: Van Dyck to Cezanne is on display at Royal Academy until 10 April

A trip to the Barbican Conservatory

February 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

The Barbican Centre is a mass of grey buildings that is best known as host to a theatre, several concert halls, a cinema and an art gallery. However, what many people don’t know is that high up on top of this iconic building, thousands of tropical plants have made their home, overlooking the City of London.

The vegetation is housed inside the Barbican’s Conservatory and allows the viewer to step out of rainy London and into a tropical haven. It is only open to the public on select days, often Sunday’s but I really wish I took the opportunity to visit much sooner! The interior is stunning and contains over 2,000 species of tropical plants. The lush shades of green are a startling and welcoming contrast to the Barbican’s grey exterior. As a viewer, you are able to climb up multiple levels and admire the beauty of this oasis from every angle. At the top I found a room full to burst with cacti while on the lower level is a pond full of koi fish. This blog normally concerns itself with the more classical visual arts, but I assure you that you would be able to appreciate the conservatory just as much as any art gallery or exhibition.

The conservatory has a sense of tranquility and serenity that I certainly find difficult to locate in central London. It was the perfect place of refuge during a dreary Sunday afternoon and is something that everyone should be able to have the joy of discovering. I thoroughly recommend spending your next lazy Sunday reconnecting with nature.

Rosie Chomet @ Karamel

February 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

The most famous artists are painters. Yet it is illustrators who have drawn a lot of the art that we are exposed to. Everyday things that we do not even think about artistically: food packaging, advertising, greeting cards and books, are all usually the domain of the humble illustrator. I grew up with Peter Blake’s pictorial accompaniments to Road Dahl’s books yet I am (embarrassingly) hard pressed to list the names of many other illustrators. Recently however, I had the pleasure to get to know Rosie Chomet, a young London based illustrator who’s images are colourful, fun and witty and has been commissioned by the likes of the European Cultural Learning Network, Gail’s Bakery and the Quarter Newspaper. Luckily for all my London readers who have not had the opportunity to see Rosie’s work, she is currently on display with the LCC Illustrators at Karamel Restaurant. I also got to interview Rosie here on Gallery Girl!

Gallery Girl: How did LCC Illustrators come together?
Rosie: I wanted to put on an exhibition at Karamel that showcased a diverse range of fresh new illustration. I thought the venue would be the right size for about four illustrators to exhibit, so that each would be able to display around ten pieces and show off a good range of their work. So I asked three other students from my course, whose work I thought would compliment each other’s and provide an interesting variety of styles, if they would like to exhibit with me.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I am inspired by everything around me, even the seemingly mundane- there is always something of interest to pick out. Often I will just perceive the slightest oddity and my imagination runs away with itself! I am constantly inspired by the work of other artists too, whether it be on Instagram, from books or in galleries.

You recently did some work for Gail’s Bakery, are there any more food collaborations to look out for?
Yes, last summer I did the promotional illustrations for Gail’s Bakery’s Ice Cream Sandwiches, which was great! I am currently working on another food-themed collaboration but it has to be kept secret for now!

The exhibition is inside a vegan cafe and many of your images contain a lot of food imagery, are you hoping the exhibition space will help people get involved with your artwork?
I actually had a piece called ‘Meat Heads’, the same concept as ‘Cake Heads,’ but I didn’t think it would be appropriate to exhibit inside a Vegan cafe! Yes, I hope the exhibition will lead to more exposure for my work and connections with people who might be interested in using me as an illustrator or graphic designer.

What are your plans after University and what do you hope to achieve with your art in the future?
I still have another year left before I complete my degree, so I haven’t decided exactly what I will do afterwards – I may do a Masters or just go straight into work as a graphic designer and illustrator. In the future my aims will, as they have always been, to achieve clear visual communication whilst still being playful and pushing the boundaries. Through my work, I want to make people think, to see things in a different way, to stretch their imagination just a little bit more.

When I think about illustrations, the first thing I think about are children’s books. Your artwork proves that illustration is not limited to literature, however, would you ever consider working on books and if so, what would be your dream book to contribute artwork for?
I would love to do children’s book illustrations. I feel that words and images can have such a magical pairing and that illustrations can truly bring a story to life. I think much of my future work will definitely involve both words and images. Ideally, I would like to write and illustrate my own books and create my own stories and characters. My dream book to contribute artwork for would have to be Illustration Now! It is the most incredible series and has been one of my biggest sources of inspiration.

You have an impressive range of products in your online shop, what is your personal favourite?
My personal favourite would have to be ‘Crazy Heads’, although I like ‘Falling in Love’ as a throw pillow design- and you can never have enough throw pillows!

What are your favourite things to illustrate?
People, people interacting, faces, long hair, animals (particularly cute ones), food and interesting objects like light bulbs.

Any illustrators that we should know about?
Oh an infinite number! A few that come to mind though are Barbara Wurszt, Yumi Sakugawa and Beatrice Alemagna.

I personally think many of your prints would make amazing fabric – would you ever consider selling fabric or making clothes from your art?
I would like to explore that possibility more, definitely. In my online shop, many of my designs are already available on throw pillows, tote bags and t-shirts. I would like to expand my designs not only on fabrics but also across things such as stationary, notebook covers, pencil cases, bowls etc. The possibilities are endless!

The LCC Illustrators are on display at Karamel Restaurant until 6 March

You can find more about Rosie on her blog, instagram and shop

A Cabinet of Curiosities @ Barbican

February 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

The new exhibition at the Barbican is called ‘Magnificent Obsessions.’ It is a display of the personal collections of fourteen modern and contemporary artists and all I can say is that the display is magnificent and I am obsessed.

The collections on display allow us to see inside the minds of some of the most famous artists produced by western society in the last century. Each collection is displayed alongside the artist’s work, allowing us to see the direct influence on their art. The work of all the artist’s on show is highly sought after and collected, yet we often neglect the fact that artist’s often collect too. The collections on display at the Barbican allow us to see directly inside the artist’s personal environment. These accumulations of objects are just as insightful, if not more, than a look inside the artist’s studio.

The exhibition begins with the collection of Hiroshi Sugimoto. The artist is most famous for his black and white photographic prints, mostly of nature. I was surprised to see that his collection mainly consisted of medical illustrations, which appear to be mostly red in colour. These crimson images, red with the blood of life are a stark contrast to his dark images, although they too are sinister in their own way. Also on display are historical doctor’s tools as well as a case of glass eyes that glare at the viewer as they examine the collection.

The show flows cohesively into the next section that is devoted to Damien Hirst’s collection of a series of skulls and taxidermy animals. Together the two collections would easily be at home inside the Natural History Museum. Hirst’s objects prove that his formaldehyde animals and glittering diamond skull are his modernised versions of the contents of his historic collections.

Many of the collections following Hirst and Sugimoto present themselves like cabinets of curiosities, stacked full of memorabilia and objects of interest in a seemingly random fashion. Some of these collections are exact replicas of how they were displayed inside the artists’ own personal and domestic environments. These displays have come from the collections of such artists as Hanne Darboven, Dr Lakra, Sol Le Witt, and Peter Blake. Among these are also a series of curious trinkets amassed by Martin Parr that have been decorated by images of dogs. My personal favourite collection is that of Martin Wong. Wong’s wares were mostly collected from China town gift shops; yet appear to be dominated by western Disney cartoons rather than the manga or anime that one might expect. His stockpile includes a series of Donald Duck trinkets and my personal favourite item in the whole exhibition: a lamp formed out of a hamburger sitting atop of an elephant.

Also of note is Howard Hodgkin’s collection of Indian artwork, which is presented within a carpeted and pale green gallery. Next door to this, the textile idea is repeated in Pat White’s segment of the show. White’s display is a stunning presentation of dozens of pieces of fabric that are hung from the gallery ceiling like multiple rows of clothes lines.

The collection that attracted the most attention at the press view, and probably will do with the general public due to the fame of the artist, was that of Andy Warhol. On display here is a series of brightly coloured cookie jars, which are on display at the Barbican for the first time outside of the United States. The bright colours of the toys and cartoons assembled by Warhol are almost certain to have been of some influence on him and his art.

This exhibition is a fascinating look at the infatuations and passions of some of the world’s most famed artists. It is a show that would insight the curiosity of all: young and old, artistically inclined or not. Simple a must see!

Magnificent Obsessions is on display at Barbican until 25 May 2015

Fang Zhaoling @ Ashmolean

February 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

When we think about contemporary art from China, those of us who know anything about it will be able to name several artists: Ai WeiWei, Xu Bing, Qiu Zhijie etc. However, most would be hard pressed to be able to list any women. Throughout history, in both the east and the west, the role of the artist has been an almost solely male occupation. The past 50 or so years has seen the west become increasingly more acceptable of female practitioners but this recognition of female talent has not always been a worldwide triumph. Now however, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is hosting a retrospective show of the work of the late Chinese artist, Fang Zhaoling.

Fang’s Oxford show does not just coincide with the museum’s large collection of contemporary Chinese art. The artist studied at the famed university and her mother stressed the importance of female education. Most of the images have been donated to the Ashmolean by the artist’s family, with some work being on show for the first time. The work on display has both a strong sense of influence from China and Britain, which seems more than fitting for an exhibition of art from a Chinese woman in Oxford. One moment we are awe-stricken by stunning Chinese landscapes and the next we are reminded of our own marvels, which include many depictions of Stone Henge.

The show moves chronologically, following Fang’s life and showing how her work developed. At the beginning we see hanging scrolls of calligraphy and still lives comprising of Asian vegetation. These earlier works show the artist copying from her teachers who included celebrated artists Zhao Shao’ang and Zhang Daqian. One of the artist’s best compliments from the beginning of her career – although a backhanded one – was that her calligraphy did not look like it was done by the hand of a woman. Also on show are images of flowers, a subject that typically would have been more acceptable to have been painted by a woman, with the flower itself symbolising a female.

However, Fang did not restrict herself to societal ideals and branched out into a predominantly male domain by depicting more narrative scenes and tackling controversial issues such as Vietnamese refugees arriving in Hong Kong. In fact, many of the artist’s landscapes seem to illustrate travel, perhaps as a result of her own constant voyages between Hong Kong and Britain.

My favourite aspect of Fang’s work is her disproportionate figures that seem to hold their own against her staggering landscapes. The artist also branches out from the Chinese tradition of painting with brush and ink by experimenting with oil paint, however, I must admit, the brush and ink work is my favourite.

This show is a wonderful celebration of Fang’s life and a victory in the display of modern Chinese art by a female artist. This is well worth a look before it closes!

Fang Zhaoling: A Centenary Exhibition is on display at Ashmolean Museum until 22 February


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