Marc Quinn @ White Cube

August 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

I am not going to even bother talking about the paintings inside Marc Quinn’s current Toxic Sublime exhibition at White Cube. They are completely insignificant and forgettable compared to his sculptures, and they alone would have sufficed.

I am a cancerian and perhaps that is why I am drawn to shells. Quinn’s sculptures inside the Bermondsey White Cube come mostly in the form of metallic silver shells, that glisten from every angle. They are smooth on some sides and rough on the other, begging the viewer to reach out and touch them. If I could afford to have one in my sitting room I would.

The wall art however looks like someone has found some almost empty cans of spray paint and attempted to draw something on pieces of battered scrap metal – in short, it looks like bad graffiti. I have read somewhere that the show is supposed to be a comment on how the city has become disconnected from nature. Perhaps the paintings are supposed to neglect this, but all in all I think the show would have been much more powerful had Quinn left them out.

Yes the sculpture is sublime, but in my opinion the painting is the kind of toxic substance you ought to stay away from.

Marc Quinn – Toxic Sublime is on display at White Cube until 13 September

YSL @ Bowes

August 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

I recently agreed to go on a walking trip along Hadrian’s Wall with my mother and her friend. I am not one for the countryside and after taking my Duke of Edinburgh award I swore that I would never go walking up and down hills again. However, I decided to go along with it on the grounds that it promised me a stop over at the Bowes Museum in Barnard’s Castle, Durham on the return home to see the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition that I have been dying to see ever since hearing about it a few months ago.

On entering the Yves Saint Laurent – Style Is Eternal exhibition at Bowes one steps into a world of extreme elegance. The opening room is dimly lit, with thin pieces of sheer, black fabric draped from the ceiling. Through this, one can see some of the beautiful objects that are usually on display in this room at the museum, while also looking at white sketches drawn by the hand of Saint Laurent, which have been printed on top of the drapery. This grand entrance plays host to the beginning of 50 of the designer’s most ground-breaking and memorable garments and also stages a projector showing some of Yves Saint Laurent’s most impressive runway shows.

On either side of this spectacular entrance are two side galleries that present us with an opportunity to get a closer look at the clothes. In one room the Yves Saint Laurent designs are presented alongside the collection of historical fashion from the Bowes collection, which rightfully cements the Saint Laurent pieces in history. Amongst the Bowes collection are some stunning examples of handmade needle lace and clothing worn by clergymen. However, while the Bowes collection had a key role in the show, it was that of the support and did not dominate the Saint Laurent designs at all.

Amongst the clothes on display are the infamous Mondrian dresses and designs influenced by Braque, Cocteau, Diaghilev, Matisse, Picasso and Van Gogh. Other standouts include pieces from the Russian Collection and the Tuxedo. Saint Laurent also made trousers, and his partner (both in business and romance) Pierre Berge has been quoted as saying: ‘If Chanel gave women their freedom, it was Saint Laurent who empowered them’, a sentiment that is certainly confirmed by the garments on display.

As well as clothes, dozens of illustrations, photographs and accessories are also on show. My personal favourite piece is a white gown that has been embellished with black pineapples that I have been pining for since first setting eyes on it inside the exhibition.

The Yves Saint Laurent display is not the only reason you need to take a trip to Bowes. The museum itself is stunning. Driving up to the museum, one is confronted with the most breathtaking building that stands proudly in front of a sumptuous garden. Unfortunately, I did not have nearly enough time to take a proper look around, however the galleries I did have a chance to look inside are overflowing with artistic gems. Among the objects on display is a Silver Swan, which the museum is particularly famous for, and is the museum’s star attraction. The swan is a magical automaton made in 1773 that moves like a luxurious wind-up toy.

Both Bowes and the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition are captivating. Even if you can’t make it to the Yves Saint Laurent show – and I really think you should – you certainly should take a trip to the museum, I promise you won’t be disappointed, in fact, you will be thanking me.

Yves Saint Laurent – Style is Eternal is on display at Bowes Museum until 25 October

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


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