Friday, 25 November 2011

In the kitchen

Photobucket Photobucket When I'm not out at college in the studio one of my favourite places to spend time is in the kitchen of our house in Ealing. Over the summer we managed to grow a little of our own produce despite being away much of it, the cabbages in particular were delicious fried in olive oil and garlic. I've also been able to try my hand at pasta thanks to Dulcie buying me my own Imperia Pasta Maker for my birthday back in September, using Tipo 00 flour from the amazing Lina Stores on Brewer Street in Soho. Of course, Fred the cat is never far away, demanding his dinner or more often a little attention!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Poetics of a Palm Tree

I've long admired the work of Yto Barrada, so was pleased to hear that she is part of the new group show at Tate Modern's Level 2 Gallery, I Decided Not to Save The World. In an approach perhaps similar to that of Francis Alys, the artists in the show look at such topics as cultural identity, territory and globalisation by way of what could be considered gestures, small interventions that have larger implications. For me Barrada's work was the best contribution here, with a body of work that focuses on the palm tree as a symbol for modernisation in her native Tangier, its usage by thegovernment as a symbol to attract tourism. Barrada produced a fanzine that was first distributed at the Third Marrakech Biennial and here displayed in its entirety in poster form. Her film Beau Geste shows workers attempting to save the life of a palm tree on a vacant plot of the land that has been sabotaged in order that it might fall down - it is illegal to cut down a palm tree, and so in order to stop the owner of the land developing on it Barrada explains how these people have set about to save the tree and thus disrupt his plans. A simple gesture it may be, Barrada highlights the resistance that can occur in the face of a modernising and globalising economy.

Images from here.

Friday, 9 September 2011

An image of modernity

Today I visited the ICA for the latest in their series of culture now talks, with this instalment being delivered by Hal Foster. His newly published book looks at ways in which contemporary art and architecture have informed each other, something he terms the art-architecture complex, and the implications of this. In his talk he discussed various threads of the book in relation to specific examples of architecture, from architects such as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano who he described as being exponents of a 'global style' of design, to Zaha Hadid and Herzog and de Meuron, whose stylistic influences drawn from such historical artistic avant-gardes as Russian constructivism he was particularly sceptical of. He noted how these buildings are essentially images first and foremost - glittering beacons of modernity that have no grounding in site or locality (think the ostentatiousness of the Shard).

There was also a trajectory in his line of thought from the minimalism he has discussed at length before in his career and the spatial concerns of contemporary architecture today. Interesting was his disdain for how the buildings discussed aspired to create a sense of 'lightness of being', and how these buildings were aspiring to a sense of modernist 'transparency' - making the materials of the building visible - but in fact were creating an air of mystification and illusion. Rather than an experience being activated by the subject and their relation to the space - as with minimalism - the space itself creates the experience, and this is a negative, Foster posed.

Since it began to rise above its surroundings on the south bank of the Thames I've found the Shard incredibly disconcerting. As Hal Foster noted in his talk, it really does have no connection or awareness of its immediate surroundings in London Bridge and its sheer height really does make it difficult to come to terms with. I've always found its juxtaposition with the brutalist, modernist tower it sits next to a poignant happenstance - as Andrew Marr pointed out in his recent television series on megacities, here is London's glittering beacon of modernity, casting a shadow over the eyesore that once heralded another moment of modernity but that now is a drab, grey, monstrous lump of concrete. And yet it was this concrete and the aforementioned transparency of materials that formed the core of the modernist project, analogous to them with a transparency in all aspects of democratic life. What is so democratic about the Shard, rising high above all around it?

"We need to make a building that doesn't shut people out, one that responds to local as well as city-wide needs. A building of this scale, this ambition, cannot be just for private gain: it becomes a public project privately financed." - Renzo Piano on The Shard

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Midcentury Days

Polypropylene Chair

Royal Festival Hall Lounge Chair

Calyx print

Yesterday Dulcie and I visited the Robin and Lucienne Day exhibition at PM Gallery in Ealing. The Days, a husband and wife duo, could be regarded as the British Eames, with their furniture and fabric designs propelling Britain towards modernity in the 1950s and 60s. The exhibition displayed some truly exquisite design work, featuring famous example of Robin Day's chairs designed for the Royal Festival Hall and a vast range of fabric designs by Lucienne Day, including the famous Calyx print commissioned for the Festival of Britain in 1951 (pictured above). The whole midcentury modern thing is having a bit of a revival currently and with the recent recreation of the Festival of Britain on the Southbank, yet it was nice to see this understated exhibition focusing purely on the merits of the design, highlighting that, whilst it may be a nostalgic trend for some, this was not simply about riding the wave of popularity but showcasing timeless, quality design.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Ideational Arts

If you have time please check out Ideational Arts, a new platform for discussion of visual art and culture. It has been set up by a course mate of mine and I am one of the contributors, and have just posted an article today. We hope to encourage dialogue and debate whilst discussing issues that relate to our own practice an other wider cultural concerns we may have.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Details from Butterworth Station, Penang


Butterworth Station is in the north of Peninsular Malaysia and is situated next to the ferry terminal which provides access to Pilau Penang. We arrived here after an ovenight train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and a subsequent six hour train journey up the mainland, taking in much of rural Malaysia along the way.

Monday, 1 August 2011

My grandparents' home in Kuala Lumpur

I've just got home from two weeks spent in Malaysia catching up with my grandparents and family in Kuala Lumpur, 'backpacking' to Singapore and relaxing by the sea in Penang. I wanted to document their house and the wonders it contains, with beautiful midcentury furniture in abundance and more tropical plants and succulents than you can count. Whilst we were there we celebrated by Ah Mah's (grandma) 88th birthday, a particularly lucky one due to the superstition in Chinese culture for the number eight. My Ah Kong (grandpa) turned 90 in January.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Grande Jorasses

Last weekend my mum and my sister opened their brand new venture The Gallery William's Yard in Melbourne, Derbyshire to wonderful response, it was a really great opening weekend and everybody who popped by was really positive about how the gallery looked and the work on display. Perhaps it was the excitement of the weekend but after catching sight of the above painting during the hanging on the morning of the opening and then admiring it for the rest of the day, Dulcie and I felt unable to restrain ourselves and have thus acquired our very first piece of art. The painting is by sheffield artist Joe Mallia, whose work draws its inspiration from his other pursuit, mountaineering, and there was just something about the colours and Ruscha-esque imagery and also the particular choice of framing that drew us to it. The painting is of the north face of the Grande Jorasses mountain in the Western alps. He's got a number of works on show at the gallery and will also be running photography and art workshops alongside my mum. If you around the area pop by and check it out, it's definitely worth a visit!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Broodthaers's deep attraction to the forms of the outmoded has been remarked upon by his various critics. His system of references focuses mainly on the nineteenth century, be they to the Ingres or Courbets in the first manifestation of his museum, or to the example of Baudelaire and Mallarmé for his books and exhibitions, or to the panorama and the winter garden as his models for social spaces. In fact, as Benjamin Buchloh has commented, this "altogether dated aura of nineteenth century bourgeois culture that many of his works seem to bring to mind might easily seduce the viewer into dismissing his work as being obviously obsolete and not at all concerned with the presuppositions of contemporary art."

But what Crimp is suggesting is that the power Walter Benjamin invested in the outmoded should be acknowledged in the Broodthaers's use of it - as in his assumption of the form of the "true" collector. This was a power Benjamin hoped his own prospecting in the historical grounds of the nineteenth century forms would be able to release. Writing of his own Paris Arcades project, he said: "We are here constructing an alarm clock that awakens the kitsch of the past century into 're-collection.'" That Benjamin's archaeology was retrospective was a function of the fact that he believed its view could open up only from the site of obsolescence. As he remarked: "Only in extinction is the [true] collector comprehended."

Rosalind Krauss - "A Voyage on the North Sea", p.42

Images of Marcel Broodthaers's Un jardin d'hiver, 1974. Top image from here, which is quite fun!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Walking the high line

On the Guardian's homepage today was a story about the opening of the second phase of New York's High Line park. I'd read about this project a couple of months ago in Frieze magazine, in which the New York authorities have turned the disused High Line railway which runs down the west side of Manhattan into a public space, transforming the once overgrown rail tracks into a kind of faux-overgrown leisure space. It's quite interesting how they've created this artificial sense of nature reclaiming an urban space that had become long forgotten, essentially mimicking what the High Line had become - captured in a series of images by Joel Sternfield at the turn of the century - but with nice clean walkways to stroll down.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


Yesterday, whilst taking a break from manning the stall at the book fair, I came across a book by Giasco Bertoli consisting of a series of photographs of abandoned tennis courts, a set of melancholic images reflecting on these disused, unloved spaces. These spaces of leisure were varied in their location, from inner-city to holiday resorts, all are united in their conspicuous absence of activity. After seeing these images and watching the French Open Final today I have to say I'm quite keen to get out on a court and have a knock around...