Art in the skies

November 23rd 2016

With November being the month for looking at the skies, gunpowder and Lewes being my home town I thought I’d use the occasion to look at the exceptional work of artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who creates unforgettable art experiences, with  the unusual medium of gunpowder.


Starting with gunpowder exploding canvases he moved to site specific explosions:

‘I want to reflect on the experiences of the human race from a larger perspective of the universe and to remind us that we are not alone in the universe and that there are other eyes looking at us from this infinite universe.’


He has perfected his gunpowder art, no one does it like him and through his art he expresses all our shared childhood dreams with a true expression of human emotion.

“More than a thousand years ago, when the Chinese discovered gunpowder, they were actually looking for an elixir to make them immortal.” But Cai, despite the spectacle that his gunpowder paintings and explosion events have been known to whip up, isn’t out for immortality. “I don’t think any art is meant to be kept forever, immortal on the earth that we inhabit. What I attempt to achieve is a sense of the eternal from the ephemeral—to inspire a conversation with the greater universe.” Artsy Oct 10th 2016


Talking about his installation Heritage 2013 from Falling Back to Earth:

‘The work took a long time to conceive and produce, says Cai. “It’s like being pregnant – once you give birth, your child has a life of their own and they are no longer a part of your body. They have their own destiny.” And what does he think of his baby? “It looks better and exceeds my expectations. When I first conceived this work I thought it would be related to environmental issues that we have here on Earth. But once the work was finished I realised that it relates to broader issues, such as our position within the universe.”

Cai Guo-Qiang work that you might like to look at:


Poppy Series Hallucination No. 1

Art work that exists for mere moments



Head On

Conceived for the Deutsche Bank Collection, the work was inspired by Berlin and its history, its message is generally valid. “I wanted to portray the universal human tragedy,“ says Cai, “resulting from this blind urge to press forward, the way we try to attain our goals without compromise,”



‘Sky Ladder’

Cai Guo-Qiangmakes a 500m ladder of fire to connect the Earth to the universe.


Read more about Cai work on his blog:

and watch more at:


Talking about not being alone in the universe The Guardian Science states that there are 20 times more galaxies in the universe than previously thought bringing it up to a mind blowing 2 trillion, of which 90 % of the galaxies have yet to be studied with the analysis reaching back more than 13bn years, about the time of the Big Bang which is thought to have given birth to the universe. Food for thought when watching Cai’s  work, shinning a vibrational message for human kind into outerspace, now that’s what I call Space Art !!

The surprising find is based on 3D modeling of images collected by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photograph: Nasa/PA


Posted in art, colour, natural elemnts

WOW! Barbara Hulanicki

September 25th 2012

Visited the Barbara Hulanicki at the Brighton Museum and was “wowed”!!!

The exhibition captures her energy and design essence, the displays are creative and unstuffy, theres a very ‘Biba’ red wall  with dresses and jackets to try on and imagine the fun of the Biba world.

The show has 3 or 4 brilliant films that portray the creative dynamism of Barbara’s life, one big creative outpouring of fashion illustration, fashion, textiles, interiors, architecture, hotels, cosmetics….starting from her Brighton Art College days right up to her present day endeavours with Top Shop, Habitat and George at ASDA.



Barbara Hulanicki

Not to be missed !

Posted in architecture, art, colour, design, fashion, interior design, pattern, textiles

I Can’t Draw…

September 1st 2012

My Lovely friend Hannah Tofts kindly gave me a copy of her new book I Can’t Draw Ways Of Looking


Ways Of Looking

I’ve known Hannah since my Brighton Art college days, she has always been on the look out for found objects, scurrying through ones waste bins in search for discarded plastic bottle tops to fruit packaging. Now living on the beautiful West Coast of Scotland, apart from all her other illustrative projects to keep her busy Hannah has been running art classes to the locals, specially designed to break the mantra of  the “ I can’t draw “ brigade. An amazing and truly inspirational project, her creative zest and positive thinking dribbles from  the pages and always leaves me open mouthed at her energy to create and more importantly to share the buzz!

Hannah's Book

Hannah's Book

All Washed Up Project

Also check out her wonderful animated character ZZebbra


and her blog

Hannah's Blog



Posted in art, books, colour, design, graphic design, handmade

Mark Making – Cross Hatching

August 24th 2012

Cross Hatching

Tree for textured lines

Cross hatched BLUE

Cross hatched RED

I love the drawings of Eric Ravilious (see my blog September 13th 2010), especially the way he uses cross hatching to build up pattern in his paintings and prints. There are 100’s of ways one can make textures, apart from drawing textures using pen and ink or making them from Lino printing I sometimes use lines from something I may have photographed, here for example a lovely winters tree. Not sure how I would use this yet, I may just leave as they are.

Posted in art, botanical, pattern

The Bloomsbury Group continues to inspire

August 4th 2011

I had a very ‘Bloomsbury’ weekend recently. I took a friend to Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex and as I haven’t been for quite a few years I was completely bowled over again at the sheer creative endeavour that flowed from this house; writing, painting, ceramics, textiles, furniture, cooking, gardening, sculpture…. the list is endless.

Artists Vanessa Bell and Clive Bell had a very open marriage, both taking lovers throughout their lives. Vanessa had affairs with artist and critic Roger Fry and with the painter Duncan Grant who also moved to Sussex with their unconventional household. Over the following half century Charleston became the country meeting place for this group of artists, writers and intellectuals now known as the Bloomsbury Set. You can only see the house by taking an official tour but it’s a very informative guide that fills you in on the anecdotes behind each piece in the rooms. I loved the artist’s studio for its roughly painted burnt umber walls and (of course!) the lovely grey wallpapers and hand painted textiles and furniture. I was unable to take photos in the house so tried to capture a few from the garden…

The farmhouse from the front garden

Ceramic pots in the garden

I loved these ceramic pots in the garden, also available to purchase!

The gorgeous garden

The gorgeous garden

If you in the area you must also visit another Bloomsbury group home, Monks House which is where Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard lived and wrote. I visited on the same summery day as Charleston so it was washed in beautiful sunlight. The house is decorated and furnished with Virginia’s sister Vanessa Bell’s work; everything from textiles, beautiful painted tables and chairs to ceramics. Here you can walk around at your own leisure, making it much less formal experience than at Charleston. I loved the particular green Virginia insisted on using:

The green fireplace

The green fireplace

More of Virginia's lovely green

More of Virginia's lovely green

The gardens are wonderful and have remained pretty much how both Leonard and Virginia planted them.

A stunning poppy

A stunning poppy

The writer’s hut lies to one side of the garden, tucked under a tree and is where Virginia wrote Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse. There is no access to the inside but you can peer in through the windows and imagine her sitting at the table with her typewriter.

The writer's hut - a room of one's own

There are also plenty of black and white photographs of the couple and their literary friends including T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Roger Fry and Lytton Strachey who came to stay at Monks House.

TS Eliot, Virginia and Mrs Eliot

TS Eliot, Virginia and Mrs Eliot who is on the right - fascinating body language!

One of the reasons for buying this house was its amazing views of Mount Caburn…

The view towards Mount Caburn

The view towards Mount Caburn

On the way back - Mount Caburn from Firle, close to Monks House and Charleston

On the way back - Mount Caburn from Firle, close to Monks House and Charleston

Posted in art, interior design, review

Home is where the art is

May 18th 2011

It’s Brighton and Hove Artist Open House time, a unique experience for people to drop in on the lives of artists’ homes and studios.

I managed to visit The Old Forge in South Heighton just the other side of Newhaven in East Sussex. It’s a beautiful flintstone house and a wonderful wild garden setting for the outdoor sculpture of the owner Christian Funnell. Inside the house there are paintings by Sarah Young and Guy Funnell (who I loved) textiles by Wallace Sewell and Cressida Bell to name just a few. If you’re feeling peckish they have got the most scrumptious cupcakes, buns and cups of tea.

The garden at The Old Forge

The garden at The Old Forge. Image courtesy of

After leaving The Old Forge I walked down the lane and stumbled across the most amazing place. South Heighton Pottery is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Ursula and Norman Mommens work and life where they lived. It’s another beautiful Sussex house and studio with pottery buildings and like The Old Forge has a remarkable garden setting,  perfect for displaying sculptural pots and garden seats by the potters Chris Lewis and Chris Ford, and collages by Jane Robbins which you come to first in the studio barn.

South Heighton Pottery

South Heighton Pottery

The garden at South Heighton Pottery

The garden at South Heighton Pottery

A bench in the garden by Chris Lewis

Small figurine

Small figurine

I hadn’t heard of the work of Ursula Mommens before so I was very happy when entering the house to discover a retrospective show of her and her husband’s work including pottery, paintings and sculpture. Ursula was a direct descendent of another famous potter, Josiah Wedgwood and a great granddaughter of Charles Darwin.  She trained at the Central School of Art in London and then at the Royal College of Art in the 1920s and here you’ll see pieces that stretch from these very early days to others made to celebrate the Festival of Britain.

Ursula believed in making pots that people could use on a daily basis; their shape and forms are soft and flowing, taking on the roles of every day objects, jugs, plates, cups and bowls with a subtle, understated beauty. Many of the pots on show in the house are earthenware using a clay body she developed herself with ash glaze.

A display of pots by Ursula Mommens

A display of pots by Ursula Mommens

There are chalky and natural clay feeling vessels with some of the plates on display having dark tan and black hues illustrated with cobalt and iron brushwork. Ursula shared her pottery with Chris Lewis (who also curated this beautiful show) in the later years thus enabling her to work well into her 90’s and she lived to the grand age of 101!

Older Ursula working

An older Ursula still at work

There are also more delicious teas and cakes here all served in wonderful ceramics. If you’re in the area please pop in you will really enjoy it! The exhibition is on every weekend til the end of May and you can find it at:

South Heighton Pottery
East Sussex, BN9 0HL
Tel. 07754814067

Posted in art, design, handmade, review

Elizabeth Magill at Towner

March 29th 2011

Towner is always lovely so when I had a bit of time to kill in Eastbourne at the weekend I popped in and came across an exhibition by Elizabeth Magill

At around 30cm x 30cm – a real departure for Magill who usually works on a much bigger scale – the small pictures were hung in a huge room. But instead of feeling dwarfed, the contrast in scale actually made it easier to focus on the details in the paintings and they took on a slightly mystical quality. A lovely show!

Casement by Elizabeth Magill

Casement. 2009 - 2010. Oil on canvas. (c) Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth Magill, ‘Green Light Wanes…’ is on until 19th June
Devonshire Park
College Road
Eastbourne, BN21 4JJ
Tel 01323 434660


Posted in art, review

Swedish style

March 11th 2011

A few days ago I was in snowy Stockholm for only my second ever visit to the city. Luckily I had quite a bit of time to wander around and also squeezed in a visit to Mariefred and its castle, which is about 1 hour away.


Mariefred Castle

The magnificent castle in Mariefred

The old houses of Mariefred

It was -20 degrees and very snowy!

Back in the city, I have been a huge fan of architect, designer and artist Josef Frank since my degree days at Camberwell and so a visit to Svenskt Tenn was a ‘must do’. This time was better than ever as they have temporarily re-located whilst renovating their original store and currently running a pop-up shop in an old Art Deco cinema , the Astoria which is amazing!


Astoria Cinema - exterior

The exterior of the Astoria Cinema

Astoria interior

Interior which has made a feature of the original screen

The Astoria is a great setting for all the products; the stage houses some huge sofas upholstered in the newly launched Josef Frank ‘Marble’ velvets, influenced by the work of Jackson Pollock which he first saw in New York. Have a look at this animation of the Marble 4420 print:


Marble 4420 by Josef Frank

Marble 4420 by Josef Frank. Motion graphic designer Mika Pollack

Where the audience seats used be has been left pretty much as it was (but with the seats removed obviously!) and is eclectically styled. You have to keep reminding yourself that Joseph and Esrid Ericson produced these pieces over 50 years ago because it looks so of the moment right now.

Astoria - main space

Astoria main space and staircase

As you can tell I really, really loved this current shop. It seems to have transformed the Svensk Tenn look, generating a younger feel. I hope they keep it alongside the newly refurbished store. And can we have one in London please?!

Another totally awesome visit was the Nordiska Museum housing Swedish trends and traditions.

I could have spent all day here and will definitely visit again. The folk art rooms are lovely, an artform that blossomed in Sweden during the 18th and 19th centuries. They have everything from knitted socks to beautiful Swedish furniture on display.


Nordiska - Folk art detail

A detail of decorative folk art

Folk art socks

Hand knitted socks

Elsewhere is the Nordiska’s interiors section with room sets of each Swedish home setting rather like a cross between our V&A and the Geffrye Museum

One of my favourites was the Table Settings exhibition which is really beautifully put together in little room sets featuring settings from 16th century to 1950’s Here I have taken a few snaps (as they are behind glass they are a bit blurred but some how that makes them look more authentic I think!)–highlighting food and drink and the customs and traditions linked to meals .

Room set at the Nordiska

Table setting at the Nordiska

Posted in architecture, art, design, handmade, interior design, pattern, textiles

Turning the World Upside Down

March 1st 2011

Having been put off by chilly weather a number of times, I’d been waiting for the perfect day to visit Kensington Gardens. But, realising that there are only 2 more weeks to go, a visit to Anish Kapoor’s installation ‘Turning the World Upside Down’ became a priority. As long as wellies are donned and scarves tied tight, it’s a great experience.

There are 4 large-scale stainless steel sculptures located around the park, which can be found using the handy map opposite the Serpentine Gallery. However half the fun is stumbling across the pieces by accident as they glimmer from behind a tree or peek at you across a path or a lake.

Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor

Sky Mirror, 2006 by Anish Kapoor. Copyright, the artist

Once up close, you can see how they distort and play with their surroundings, the mirror-like surfaces forcing you to look at your relationship to the landscape in a new way.

C-Curve by Anish Kapoor

C-Curve, 2007 by Anish Kapoor. Copyright, the artist

It’s the first time these major works have been installed in London so this is a real treat and can be yours until March 13th.

Posted in art, review

A quick trip to the Whitechapel

February 21st 2011

I popped into the Whitechapel Gallery to have a look at the John Stezaker exhibition -a really great show based on his collages which he makes from taking classic movie stills and vintage postcards.

Image copyright John Stezaker

Whilst there, I also checked out the Richard Wentworth piece which is an interesting cabinet of curiosity and another piece in Gallery 6 called ‘A Confiscation of String’. Wentworth plays with perceptions of volume and length, mis- judgements and misperceptions, raising questions such as ‘how long is a piece of string?’ The work, orange string threaded through nails to make vertical lines on a white wall is very nice and graphic.

John Stezaker is on until March 18th and Richard Wentworth: Three Guesses ’til March 6th.

Posted in art, review

The visual treats of Spitalfields

February 11th 2011

Reading the paper a couple of days ago I came across a story about Spitalfields, the area in which our studio is based. Yesterday saw the opening of the first Spitalfields Life photo show dotted across 3  local venues (The Golden Heart in Commercial St, Agnes B and Rough Trade East on Dray Walk), which includes portraits by Jeremy Freedman of the personalities behind the weekly antiques market.

He’s a contributor to the amazing blog, Spitalfields Life which is a great read. Whilst you’re online it’s well worth having a look at the fascinating entry on historic wallpapers in one of those lovely Fournier Street houses, such as this from the 1820s:

A fragment of wallpaper from the 1820s. Image courtesy of Spitalfields Life

Jeremy Freedman’s photos will be up until the 10th March.

Posted in art, review, wallpaper

Royal Academy Art Fashion Identity

January 10th 2011

I popped into the Royal Academy to see Art Fashion Identity, part of the GSK Contemporary season. It was really interesting and far much bigger than I was expecting. Exhibiting work, are artists and designers that have used fashion and clothing as a means for exploring our identities.

I was initially attracted because I wanted to see ‘Say Goodbye’, Helen Storey’s evaporating dress. A really beautiful piece, this bio-degradable enzyme dress slowly dissolves over time as it is dipped into a huge Perspex bowl of water, making the comment on society’s desire to buy clothing all of the time.

'Say Goodbye'. Image courtesy of the Royal Academy, (c) Helen Storey

The exhibition website also includes a film about her project.

But aside from Storey’s work, there was so much more I enjoyed seeing including films by Cindy Sherman, Yoko Ono, Marina Abramovic, Gillian Wearing and a mesmerising installation by Hussein Chalayan. I also particularly liked the layout and display of work by Marie-Ange Guilleminot, inspired by a visit to the Hiroshima Peace memorial museum. Her huge pink kimono with the cut –out stencil print really stood out.

Posted in art, fashion, review

Shadow Catchers

January 10th 2011

Also whilst at the V&A make sure you see the fabulous Shadow Catchers a show of camera-less photography, using processes such as C-type prints, dye destruction print, gelatine – silver print and my favourite is photogram and of course Cyanotype which I have mentioned before

Artists Pierre Cordier, Laszlo Moholy- Nagy, Floris Neususs, Gary Fabian Miller, Susan Derges and Adam Fuss give an insight into their world of making pictures that come from the soul and are focused in catching the “moment of life”.

Photogram by Floris Neususs, image courtesy of Flickr

From the series of My Ghost. Courtesy of Thomas Paul Fine Art, (c) Adam Fuss

Daguerrotype by Adam Fuss

Daguerrotype by Adam Fuss. Image courtesy of The Independent

There’s also a good selection of artist’s videos on the V&A site here:

Totally awe inspiring!

Posted in art, printing, review

Dancing shoes

January 10th 2011

If you haven’t seen it yet then there are only a few days left to visit the V&A’s enormous Diaghilev exhibition showing the work of the Ballet Russe, created over a century ago. This show is a monster and will truly inspire.  It includes costumes and set designs from drawings to films to actual Picasso scenery backdrops for Le Train Bleu

Looking around, I could see some trend directions for spring-summer 2012, such as bold coloured prints and use of satin and metallics… mmmh very Mui Mui!

Posted in art, review, trends

Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works

November 22nd 2010

Another exhibition looking at the links between artists and applied crafts is Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works at the Hauser & Wirth gallery on Savile Row. Her textile art reflects how important a role fabric played in Bourgeois’s life, having grown up surrounded by the textiles of her parents’ tapestry restoration workshop. Her work in this area was quite prolific but I’ve managed to select 3 of my favourites!

Untitled, 2006 (c) Louise Bourgeois courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

titled, 2006 (c) Louise Bourgeois courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

titled, 2008 (c) Louise Bourgeois courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth has quickly settled in to its great new space designed by Annabelle Selldorf so if you’re popping into town for some Christmas shopping, it’s worth popping by. The exhibition is on until December 18th.

Posted in art, review, textiles