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

Tom Lewis @ Collectionaires

April 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

A couple of days ago I stumbled upon a unique pop-up shop in South Kensington. Inside the window are a series of pink creatures pulling obscure faces to the public and begging you to come inside and get to know them.

Collectionaires is a boutique that sells luxury Japanese clothing that is specially hand selected in Tokyo and sold exclusively in the UK by Collectionaires online and in a series of pop-ups. Those working in the store are passionate about their wares and able to tell customers about the designers and all of the garments that are for sale.

While the clothing is beautiful, what caught my eye was the artwork. As well as clothes, the pop-up is also playing host to the art of Tom Lewis, the creator of Burobbu, the pink character who I fell in love with in the window. Lewis’s work is for sale here in the form of watches, prints and sculpture – all of which have a strong Asian influence.

The pop-up is a unique fusion of design and art that provides a welcome sense of originality from what we are used to seeing in London. Despite the high-end designs, the atmosphere is extremely friendly and upon leaving, I was gifted my own miniature Burobbu, who now sits happily on my desk.

Collectionaires remains open for all of your Japanese sartorial needs with the injunction of pink mischief from Tom Lewis’s Burobbu at 46 Thurloe Street until 10 May

Hermes @ Saatchi

April 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

There have been at least four Hermes exhibitions since I started Gallery Girl (less than four years ago). You would think that the prestigious French fashion house, famed for it’s luxury accessories, would have tired of displaying their wares in an art environment in London. However, less than a year after their display at the Saatchi Gallery last May, they have returned to Chelsea for yet another extravagant display of their finery.

Unlike last year’s exhibition, which focused on illustrating the high level of craftsmanship that contributes to the Hermes wares and included craftsmen and women who work for the brand, this year’s show was a little different. The exhibition is titled ‘Hermes Wanderland’ and transports the viewer to another world – one that seems to have been highly influenced by the surrealists.

The display, which has been set in Paris and embodies the spirit of the ‘flaneur’ consists of eleven rooms and has 4,000 Hermes items on show. The exhibition is inconsistent, but in a good way. Each room is different, meaning that the viewer is constantly in a state of enforced ‘wander.’ One minute you find yourself in a bright and light room, then you find yourself walking through a white wardrobe and you land not in Narnia, but in a space of complete darkness.

The exhibition is not aimed just at women. In fact, the handbags and scarves that Hermes is most famous for appear to have taken a backseat in favour of walking sticks, pocket watches and umbrellas. These are displayed in such settings as isolated bars and cafes, as well as shop windows that have been filled with giant elephants, porcelain and china.

The show is a delight and must be enjoyed before it wanders elsewhere!

Hermes Wanderland is on display at Saatchi Gallery until 2 May and will then be relocated to Paris and Milan

Gallery Girl presents Hidden Visions

April 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

Those who follow me on Facebook will have noticed that the Gallery Girl page is hosting an exhibition. This show will open on Tuesday 14th April and run until Sunday 19th April in the Chelsea Gallery, inside Chelsea Town Hall.

The exhibition, which has been titled Hidden Visions is being staged in an attempt to address the talents of young artists from London and the home counties, who have been affected by mental illness and address it within their work.

The artists are: Maeve Buckenham, Miranda Chance, Darcy Keverian, Bethany Lamont, Stephanie Linne, Tom Plumptre and John Michael Taylor. The name Hidden Visions was chosen to title the show, as mental illness is invisible and very often concealed due to shame or fear caused by the negative stigma surrounding it. The word vision symbolises the notion that visions are very often mental, as well as the fact that the very nature of all art is visual.

The show consists of seven artists, both male and female who cover a range of conditions and media from photography to sculpture. Having suffered from anorexia myself, the idea for the exhibition was inspired by the magnitude of art exhibitions in London that addressed social issues concerning young people. These are often concern topics such as politics or feminism, however I had never seen anything addressing mental illness. The idea for Hidden Visions was spurred by the dissatisfaction with the stigma associated with mental health and lack of its exposure within the arts. I wanted to make people aware of mental health in a format that wouldn’t preach or try to complicate it with facts and figures. By using art as a tool, words are taken out of the equation. Hopefully the exhibition will provide a visual platform for the artists to express how mental illness has affected them and make people think about mental health issues in a different way.

The artists come from a wide range of backgrounds, some of whom have degrees in fine art whilst others are students of such contrasting disciplines as medicine and Chinese, with other artists who make their art outside of other careers, showing that mental health is something that affects many of us. National statistics from the Mental Health Foundation show that mental illness will affect one in four of us in our lifetime. The Time to Change campaign has explained that the portrayal of those suffering from mental health issues in the media are often shown as one of two extremes: as violent or ‘tragic victims’, with characters often being referred to in a discriminatory way. Hidden Visions aims to dispel these negative stereotypes by illustrating that those afflicted by mental distress should not be defined by their illness only.

Throughout history, many artists such as Frida Kahlo and Vincent van Gogh have been the target of mental maladies, yet it did not hinder their work. Thanks to funding from O2 Think Big, I have done my best to ensure that Hidden Visions will provide a different view of young people suffering from poor mental health, and I am certain that these incredibly talented artists will captivate you with their talent.

The exhibition will be on display at Chelsea Gallery, entrance via Chelsea Old Town Hall, King’s Road, Chelsea, London SW3 5EE from Tuesday 14 to Sunday 19 April.

For more information on the show and the artist’s taking part click here


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