Blog, Exhibitions

Chihuly at Kew

Visit Kew Gardens to see the iridescent glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly and the magnificent Hive installation by Wolfgang Buttress.

At the end of Chelsea Flower show and the opening of many Gardens under the International Garden Scheme it seemed like a good time to visit Kew gardens. If like me, you choose a bank holiday Monday, go by public transport as it is near impossible to find a place to park. Having said that, once you are in the gardens they are so vast even with the large numbers of visitors it feels tranquil and not crowded.

         I had two reasons to visit, beside all the magnificent plant specimens, the first was the Hive the 17 meter high Installation and the second was to see the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly in the natural surroundings for which it was intended.

   From a distance the hive looks like a swarm of bees, as you get closer you can see the honey comb structure. The hive is made up of 169,300 pieces of aluminium and steel. You can climb up and see the sky through the hole in the top  of the structure or look down through the glass floor beneath your feet.

         The Hive, a symbol of UK creativity and innovation was commissioned by the UK Government for 2015 Milan Expo. It was created by Wolfgang Buttress, Simmonds Studio, Stage One and BDP. It gives a glimpse into the life of a bee colony.

         Honey bees communicate through smells and vibration, different pulses translate into different messages. Installed in the hive are 1,000 LED lights that connect to one of Kew’s bee hives. The illumination of the lights represent the bees’ ‘communications’ and the vibrational changes occurring within Kew’s hive.

         Accompanying the dazzling display  is a beautiful symphony of orchestral sounds performed in the key of C – the same key that bees buzz in.

        

         Chihuly is one of the most daring and innovative artists working in glass. You may already know his work, as his Chandelier ice Blue and Spring hangs under the glass rotunda at the entrance to the V&A museum in South Kensington.

Chihuly’s dazzling sculptures transform Kew Gardens and glasshouses into a contemporary outdoor gallery space.

Unique art installations are situated across the grounds, including the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. Here you can see his Drawings and Rotolo series – the most technically challenging work Chihuly has ever created – and Seaforms, undulating forms that conjure underwater life. 

One of the highlights is the film that is shown in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery. it includes Chihuly’s progression as an artist , his working methods and how each piece is conceived made and installed. His ambitious site specific  projects include Chihuly over Venice, Chihuly in the light of Jerusalem and his current work in Kew.

There are many outstandingly beautiful pieces to see.

The celestial vibrant blue masterpiece Sapphire Star welcomes you as you walk through Victoria Gate.

The Temperate House is home to a brand new, specially designed sculpture inspired by the cathedral space it inhabits until the end of October. 

I want my work to appear like it came from nature, so that if someone found it on a beach or in the forest they might think it belonged there. Dale Chihuly

Kew is decidedly family friendly and amongst other things there is a Family trail following the art works with a booklet for children. The Chihuly exhibition runs until 27th October 2019 kew.org

Blog, Exhibitions

Living Colour

Opening tomorrow An exhibition of the work of pioneering Abstract Expressionist artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984)

30th May -1st September at the Barbican

Lee Krasner Desert Moon 1955. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Joy oh joy this exhibition is fabulous. What a coup for the Barbican the first European exhibition for over 50 years of the work of, American artist, Lee Krasner. The exhibition will then tour to Frankfurt, Bern and Bilbao.

Lee Krasner painting Portrait in Green in her studio in Springs, NY,1969. Photograph by Mark Patiky

         Living Colour features nearly 100 works-many on show in the UK for the first time – across her 50year career, and tells the story of a formidable artist whose importance has often been eclipsed by her marriage to Jackson Pollock.

Lee Krasner Palingenesis, 1971

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said ‘We are thrilled to be staging Lee Krasner: Living Colour. Despite featuring in museum collections around the world and being one of the few women to have a solo show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, in 1984, Krasner has not received the recognition she deserves in Europe, making this an exciting opportunity for visitors here to experience the sheer impact of her work.”

Lee Krasner 1938 photographer unknown

The exhibition celebrates Krasner’s spirit for invention –including striking early self portraits, a body of energetic charcoal life drawings; original photographs of her proposed department store window displays, designed during the war effort, and her acclaimed ‘Little Image’ paintings from the 1940s with their tightly controlled geometrics.

Lee Krasner Abstract No 2 1946-48

  

It also featured collages comprised of torn-up earlier work and a selection of her most impressive large scale abstract paintings.

Lee Krasner Polar Stampede 1960

Krasner was determined to find new ways to capture inner experience. As playwright Edward Albee commented at her memorial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in both her life and her work ‘ she looked you in the eye, and you dare not flinch’.

Lee Krasner Icarus 1964

The work is accompanied by rare photography and film from the period, in an elegant exhibition design by David Copperfield Architects. There is a very nice fully illustrated Thames and Hudson book to accompany the exhibition £35 www.barbican.org/artgallery

Blog, Exhibitions, Features, Uncategorized

Chelsea Flower Show

I was lucky enough to attend The Royal Horticultural’s Chelsea Flower show this week. I got there at 8am, opening time and headed for my favourite section The Artisan gardens. I am not going to write about the large corporate sponsored gardens as so much has been written by others about them. Instead I am going to talk ARTISAN

Three gardens particularly stood out, The Finnish Summer Garden that was inspired by the biodiversity of Finnish Meadows and Woodland. The garden was designed by Taina Suonio a Finnish landscape designer, horticulturalist, environmental biologist and researcher in the Fifth Dimension- Green Roofs in Urban Areas research group.

The garden comprises clear Nordic lines and includes a 100 year old weather beaten barn wall made of granite. The cascading water feature reminds visitors to the garden about the relationship the Finns have with their roots in the country and the much-cherished respite by their countless lake-side, riverside and seaside cottages. The garden included many Finnish forest flowers and herbs.

The Donkey Sanctuary Garden celebrated the 50 years of transforming the lives of Donkeys. The designers were Annie Prebensen and Christina Williams.” We have a real fondness and appreciation for these hard The working animals, so were delighted to be asked by The Donkey Sanctury to design an Artisan Garden to explain ‘why donkeys matter’ The garden demonstrates how owning a donkey means access to clean, fresh water for some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world. Set in an arid location a shelter near a well provides some shade. A dripping bucket hangs above the well and colourful planting surrounds it. The planting in the garden includes plants typical of dry regions, including Eryngium bourgatii, Iris germanica and Lavendula angustfolia. The colour palette is claret, purple and silver

The Camfed Campaign for Female Education won the Artisan Garden Gold Medal.

The designer of the garden is Jilayne Rickards

‘ I wanted the garden to reflect CAMFED’s strong commitment to supporting girls in eduction and the vibrancy of rural communities in Zimbabwe. It is a powerful message of how, by educating girls, we can tackle gender inequality and poverty, and break the cycle of poverty for good.’

At the heart of the garden is a classroom which is surrounded by plants and trees and edible fruit, leaves and roots that provide vital nutrition, particularly for mothers and school children.

The crops, which have been developed by scientists backed by UK aid, are also enriched with key vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and iron, to tackle “hidden hunger” in developing countries. 

The plants include bio fortified varieties of maize, beans and sweet potatoes and are in a garden which, unusually for Chelsea, evokes a rural Zimbabwean school yard – complete with dusty red earth, a black chalkboard and orange trees. 

If like me you are interested in craft and design there are some first class designers showing in the artisan section of the show. There is a Dyers Studio set up by ex RCA student Lola Lely. She uses plants and natural materials to create dyes, pigments and paints.

Lola Laly setting up the studio

Charlie Whinney Wood & Steam celebrates what is possible using locally sourced green wood and eco-friendly steam-bending processes to create beautiful works that enrich your life.

Ceramic artist Corrie Bain is a British ceramicist based in Barcelona . she studied ceramics at Edinburgh college of Art. Her ceramics are inspired by microscopic imagery of seed pods, pollen and fractals. They are made from hand built porcelain clay.

From the Seed Pod collection

Botanicla, Applique Artist Natasha Hulse creates handmade fabric artworks for interior products such as bedheads lamps and cushions. She celebrates the beauty and phenomena of Flora found in British Woodlands, English gardens and the effect that nature has on us in our home.

Part of a head board by Natasha Hulse Design
Alitex Green House styled by Selina Lake

As well as the artisan sections, one of the other visual joys of the show was the Alitex green house styled by Selina Lake. She always designs her spaces to feel like somewhere you want to spend time.

My all time favourite, innovative and very comfortable seats in a variety of designs by Cacoon are on sale. Every season their chief designer Nick McDonald comes up with new designs, so watch this space.

As I finish writing this piece, I must not forget the Chelsea Pensioners who are still very much in evidence in their smart red uniforms.

The show is still on and the weather is good. so if you can get in, do go and visit.

Blog, Exhibitions, Press Show Picks

Clerkenwell Design Week 2019

Clerkenwell design week is one of the most anticipated design events of the year. It is a bit of a misnomer as ‘the week’ only lasts for three days.

Each year the design practices, interior companies and product designers open their doors for visitors to enjoy what is new and engaging in the design industry. Every year Clerkenwell Design Week presents new design projects and street spectacles, commissioned specially for the festival and featured prominently around Clerkenwell. Inviting some of the leading pioneers in the creative industry, these projects aim to push the boundaries of design, in terms of concepts, process and material capabilities. They are created to challenge visitors’ perception of design application, as well as to inspire and entertain them. Previous participants include Cousins + Cousins architects, Studio Weave, Gruppe, Assemble, Monotype, OKAY Studio, Johnson Tiles, Grimshaw Architects, Sebastian Cox and more.

Once Upon a Time draws on the rich and sometimes dark historical tales of EC1. Working in collaboration with UAL Chelsea College of Arts, BA Graphic Design Communication students, stories from 6 locations were brought to life by a series of graphical installations. Below are three of them.



Passing Alley – By Rory Brown

This modern memorial honours the 66 Martyrs who were burned alive at the stake for having protestant beliefs. Displaying the names of all 66 Martyrs killed in the Smithfield this design echoes the geometric style of the church’s stained glass windows.

St James’s Church Garden – By Alistair Ramage

The House of Detention has a very rich history with tales of failed escapes and destruction. In 1867 an attempted escape went tragically wrong as a bomb ruptured a nearby gas main killing 12 people. Known as the ‘Clerkenwell Outrage’ this design uses geometric illustrations to represent the explosion in a modern way.


 
House of Detention – By Natasha Lopez

The winning concept for St John’s Gate responded to the theme of history and heritage by proposing a new structure that subtly draws on the historic form of the St John’s Gate arch whilst bringing in materials and geometries that reference the design culture of Clerkenwell today.

The concept plays with the idea of space and enclosure, by inserting a densely built timber structure within the void of the archway.  This is then carved away to allow a route through and to frame the historic features of the site.  The timber frame is filled with moments of colour that intensify towards the top of the arch, drawing visitors’ gaze upwards towards the historic architecture.  This colour is created by using recycled materials and fabrics, that reference the design identity of the area.

While on the site, the pavilion highlights details of the archway and draw parallels to the 10 year anniversary of Clerkenwell Design Week.  When moved to a new location, the pavilion will take with it the geometry of the archway to act as a casting of the original site.

Another inventive, and close to my heart, installation was Bottle House. Designed and constructed by WSP Design studio, BottleHouse is made from disregarded plastic bottles and applies skills in architectural design, engineering and construction to transform an empty bottle into a building block-forming a unique shelter.

Herman Millar presented Aeron Hockey – a fun, fast paced sport played on Aeron Chairs. Not sure your boss will be too delighted if you decide to play this in your office.

The House of Detention housed some of the artisan  designer makers and start up companies. These included BLWM by Nia Rist prints, a collection of monochrome hand printed home wares celebrating all things pattern.

A new innovative company is Spitfire they have a range of very nice felt covered lamp shades and furniture.

Turbine
Turbine detail

My conclusion, a great show yet again, and I have only touched on a fraction of what was there. If you missed it this year make sure to put it in your diary for next, it is well worth a visit.

Blog, Exhibitions

Dorothea Tanning the best female twentieth century artist you’ve never heard of.

Her work is currently on show at Tate Modern. Tanning is one of a number of unjustly overlooked female artists whose work has been reassessed in recent years.

Birthday 1942 oil paint on canvas (Self Portrait)

The show’s curator, Ann Coxon, says that Tanning not only suffered from the sexism of the Surrealist movement but also from her own resistance to being labeled as a feminist artist. This meant that she, in effect, excluded herself from the feminist exhibitions of surrealist art in the late 1980’s and 1990’s.

Her time has now come, as she fits in well with the Tate’s mission to display the work of twentieth century female artists.

At the start of her career Tanning was a surrealist painter. She was totally hooked on the idea after seeing the groundbreaking exhibition ‘Fantastic Art, Dada and surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art. This prompted her to visit Paris in 1939, a trip that was cut short by the German invasion. Tanning was able to meet many of the surrealists, including her future husband Max Ernst, when they fled the Nazis for New York.

Tannings 1940’s work is surrealist but also includes a great deal of dramatic gothic touches. The painting that has been used as the exhibition’s poster is amazing and much smaller than you expect it to be.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik 1943

Eine Klien Nachtmusik (1943) has two girls in Victorian dress fighting a giant tentacled sunflower along a hotel corridor. As with many of Tannings paintings there are a number of doors- inviting you the viewer in.

Alyce Mahon, the exhibitions co-curator says ‘ The door is a talisman for the power of art over the spectator’.

In the 1950’s and 60’s Tanning moved away from Surrealism towards abstraction. Her paintings showed entwined figures which appear to loom out of a blue grey fog.

Poached Trout

Her work is usually accompanied by amusing titles, sometimes in French sometimes in English.  This woman had a sense of humour! As well as paintings and sculpture Tanning also designed for the theatre.

One room in the exhibition is named Maternities. Tanning did not have children but spoke of maternity in a broader sense and sometimes likened artworks to creative offspring. Some of her drawings from this time remind me very much of the raw, minimal vital drawings of Tracy Emin.

The last section of the exhibition shows Tanning’s move into soft sculpture. It is important to remember that she was a pioneer in this method of creativity way ahead of her time and prefiguring the work of Sarah Lucas and Louise Bourgeois. The Installation Hotel du Pavot : chamber 202, is magnificent and shocking all at the same time with its organic shaped forms, bodies?, bursting through the walls.

Installation Hotel du Pavot : chamber 202

Dorothea Tanning is at Tate Modern until June 9th 2019. A great Exhibition not to be missed.

Blog, Exhibitions, Uncategorized

Jeff Koons at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum

A major exhibition of the work of Jeff Koons (b. 1955) opened at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, on 7 February- 9 June 2019 .

“I couldn’t think of a better place to have a dialogue about art today and what it can be.” Jeff Koons

Until I visited, I couldn’t think of a weirder or more inappropriate place to hold the exhibition. The Ashmolean, attached to Oxford University, one of the U.K.’s seats of learning, holding an exhibition of work that comes over, at first glance, as superficial, overblown and trashy.  Curated by Koons himself together with guest curator Norman Rosenthal, the show features seventeen important works, fourteen of which have never been exhibited in the UK before.

They span the artist’s entire career and his most well known series including Equilibrium, Statuary, Banality, Antiquity and his recent Gazing Ball sculptures and paintings.

Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean, says: ‘In showing Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean, the world’s oldest public museum where the collections range from prehistory to the present, this exhibition provokes a conversation between his work and the history of art and ideas with which his work engages. I am sure it will also provoke conversations among those who see it.’

The press information describes ‘Jeff Koons as surrounded by superlatives. Since he burst onto the contemporary art scene in the 1980s he has been described as the most famous, important, subversive, controversial and expensive artist in the world. From his earliest works Koons has explored the ‘readymade’ and appropriated image – using unadulterated found objects, and creating painstaking replicas of ancient sculptures and Old Master paintings, which almost defy belief in their craftsmanship and precision.’

Well that is true up to a point, the work is beautiful the craftsmanship superb, but it isn’t he who has painted or sculpted. As in the tradition of many of the greats, he has a number of artists in his atelier who carry out the work on his behalf and under his direction, and it is his concept, that he oversees.

Throughout his career he has pushed at the boundaries of contemporary art practice, stretching the limits of what is possible. The Ashmolean exhibition includes important works from the 1980s with which Koons made his name through the novel use of the readymade and the appropriation of popular imagery: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank 1985; Rabbit 1986; and Ushering in Banality 1988. It also explores Koons’s more recent focus on the art of antiquity and the western art canon where layered images of ancient and modern art meet in Koons’s singular vision.

Balloon Venus (Magenta)

Among the highlights are the spectacular Balloon Venus (Magenta) (2008–12). While evoking the tiny Ice Age ‘Venus of Willendorf’, one of the world’s oldest works of art, Balloon Venus (Magenta) is made with Koons’s signature motifs: monumental scale; the inflated balloon with its intimations of transience and mortality; and the flawless mirror-polished surface which positions the viewer in the work. He has put the figure through a double transformation from limestone sculpture to balloon model and from balloons to his trademark, super-reflective, coloured steel on a huge scale. The artist insisted on the model being made from a single balloon to maximise the sense of a continuous pressure all over.

The tiny Ice Age ‘Venus of Willendorf’

Reflective gazing balls are usually sold in suburban American garden centres, along with birdbaths and water features. The one’s Koons uses are handmade , specifically for him. His preoccupation with them ties in with recurring themes in his work: breath (they are hollow and hand blown) and the presence of the viewer in the art work- it is impossible to look at a gazing ball without seeing yourself and your surroundings.

“When I grew up, if you drove through Pennsylvania, people would put gazing balls in front of their houses. There’s a kind of generosity about that. Your neighbour doesn’t have to do that for whoever drives by.” Says Koons.

Shown in the UK for the first time are seven works from the series including Gazing Ball (Belvedere Torso) (2013), Gazing Ball (Gericault Raft of the Medusa) (2014–15), and Gazing Ball (Titian Diana and Actaeon) (2014–15).

“ The gazing ball represents the vastness of the universe and at the same time the intimacy of right here, right now.”

Curator, Sir Norman Rosenthal, says: ‘Jeff Koons’s work plays with our memories of childhood and our “educated” cultural experiences as he blends high and low culture, inviting us to challenge the distinction as we gaze at art and at ourselves. Putting his work in the Ashmolean – the first museum in the very heart of academia, Oxford University – we can take his experiment a step further. For those of us willing to share in his visions, Jeff Koons makes art a magical transformation.’

In case dear reader at the end of this article you think I don’t like his work, this is not the case-I love it. However, I am a great lover of kitsch and I am not sure where we draw the line between high art and kitsch.

Blog, Exhibitions, Uncategorized

A sneak peak at Zandra Rhodes archived knit wear

Dame Zandra Rhodes selected ten, rarely seen, pieces of knitwear from her design archive as an exclusive for the Spring Knitting and Stitching show recently on at Olympia. Many of these pieces will be on show along with her beautiful textile designs and dresses in the exhibition 50 Years of Fabulous at the Fashion and Textile museum later this year. From 27th September to 26th January 2020

Black and Red ‘heart’ jumper Spring/Summer 1987 Venetian Palazzo collection
Black ‘Magic Head’ jumper Spring/Summer 1987 ‘Venetian Palazzo’ collection
Intarsia cashmere machine knit Clan Douglas for Zandra Rhodes

The acclaimed British designer Dame Zandra Rhodes DBE founded her eponymous fashion house in 1969 with a small collection. Her prints were Pop Art-infused commentaries on the world of Sixties Britain; the designer felt that there was inherent structure within the pattern that could work with and enhance the shape and construction of a dress. With this concept as a starting point and with her distinctive approach to cut and form, the house of Zandra Rhodes soon became one of the most recognisable labels in London.

In celebration of fifty years of the Zandra Rhodes’ label, the Fashion and Textile Museum presents Zandra Rhodes: Fifty Years of Fabulous. This retrospective will highlight 100 key looks, as well as 50 original textiles. This comprehensive exhibition will explore five decades of the distinguished career of a British design legend.

Grey jumper with pearl shoulder detail Autumn/Winter 1980 ‘Elizabethan’ collection
Rib machine knit

Black and Gold Lurex Jacket Autumn/winter 1987 ‘Wish Upon a Star’ collection Double Bed jacquard machine knit
‘Magic Head’ dress Spring/Summer 1989 ‘Venetian Palazzo’ collection
Intarsia cashmere machine knit Clan Douglas for Zandra Rhodes
Blue and Gold Lurex coat
Autun/Winter 1987
‘Wish Upon a Star’ collection
Double bed Jacquard machine knit