At the Geffrye #1

September 17th 2010

The lovely Geffrye Museum has 2 interesting yet contrasting events at the moment. Firstly, from next month one of its 18th century almshouses, just been carefully restored to its original condition is open to visitors. You have to book in advance but at only £2 it’s so worth it for a glimpse of what life was like for London’s poor and elderly. Click here for details of dates and times of the guided tours:

Restored 1780s almshouse at Geffrye Museum

Photography by Morley von Sternberg for Geffrye Museum

Posted in architecture, interior design, review

The work of Peggy Angus

September 13th 2010

Eric Ravilious’ ‘Furlongs’, a wonderful painting of his friend Peggy Angus’ house revived my interest in her work, which I hadn’t seen since my student days at Camberwell when we were introduced to lino cutting and mono prints. Her house featured in ‘Furlongs’ was often full with artist friends such as Ravilious, Edward Bawden and John Piper to name but a few. It was just down the road from the Omega group’s Charleston Farmhouse and although apparently the two groups didn’t mix it’s amazing to think of that many artists within a 5-mile proximity, both exploring the South Downs as inspiration for work.

Eric Ravilious, Furlongs (1934), Image courtesy of The Bookroom Art Press

Peggy Angus’ work explored the repeating tile pattern. Using potato and lino, she made designs that combined modernity with traditional methods, the results were both beautifully simplistic and yet current in shape and form.

Peggy Angus, Ceramic Tile, 1950s

Peggy Angus, Ceramic Tile Design, 1950s

A student with Ravilious and Edward Bawden at the Royal College of Art, she was influenced by her tutor Paul Nash who encouraged to explore a range of techniques such as lino and wood engraving. I would recommend looking at Peggy’s tile designs many of which were designed for new schools during the 50’s. It’s also worth noting that working with Carter’s of Poole, she developed a new process of silkscreen printing onto tiles.

Illustration: Peggy Angus. Ceramic tile design 1951

Peggy Angus, Ceramic Tile Design 1951

Peggy Angus also produced bespoke, hand printed wallpapers, which were printed with lino blocks onto wallpaper lining paper using household emulsion paint (which, by the way, is still a really cheap and quick way of making a print! I have done this in the past for my Leaf and Lily wallpapers). She won Sanderson’s competition to mark the company’s centenary both Cole & Son and the Wall Paper Manufacturers Ltd bought her. Ideally though, Angus preferred to produce her own work as she felt that the art of making and the effects that the “hand” made were irreplaceable.

Sadly, her Camden studio and house, which was adorned in her wallpapers and prints, were pulled down by the council. It would have made a wonderful public research and reference library, something that is lacking in the textile world. Instead, there is plenty of information at Middlesex University’s Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture.

Posted in art, design, handmade, interior design, pattern, printing, review, wallpaper

Ravilious at Towner

September 13th 2010

Unfortunately this exhibition, which was at Eastbourne’s Towner has just finished, but I refer to it now because it was so great to see the work of Eric Ravilious actually in the flesh. And the gallery is definitely worth a visit anyway as they have a permanent collection of art related to Sussex.

Towner is known for its connection with Ravilious and the curators are committed to shedding new light on the artist’s practice. The recent exhibition included excellent descriptions next to each painting explaining the techniques, tools and paints that he used for wood block carving.

Eric Ravilious’ paintings have such a strong sense of design in his dealing with space and landscape.

Chalk Paths, 1935. © Estate of Eric Ravilious

Chalk Paths, 1935. © Estate of Eric Ravilious

But what made this exhibition so special was that his work was shown alongside that of his son James for the very first time, inviting exploration of the similarities between them as artists and revealing a deep-seated love of the land inherent to both.

Posted in art, review

Surreal Friends

September 13th 2010

Hurry to see this great show; it’s on until September 12th! Surreal Friends is the first UK exhibition of the work of Leonora Carrington and also features work by her friends and fellow artists Remedios Varo and Kati Horna. The exhibition explores their friendship and their mutual inquisition into topics such as magic and the occult, alchemy and witchcraft, tarot and astrology to name a few.

I loved the sensitivity of the work and the fact that they worked closely together, often gathering around Leonora’s kitchen table to discuss themes. I especially liked her ‘The House Opposite’ and ‘Song of Gomorreh’ in which she uses beautiful gold leaf.  For a quick feel of her work, here’s a short film

Leonora Carrington Ciudad de Mexico 2008

Elsewhere in the exhibition I found Remedios Varo’s ‘The Creation of the Birds’ beautifully sensitive and Kati Horna’s photography impressive. She took many pictures in Spain during the Civil War, hiking the mountains to get front line shots and later using photomontage. It is such a shame that these female artists are practically unheard of in Britain, but let’s hope this exhibition changes that (as I see it has toured and hopefully will again!) If you are into fairy tale and fantasy I would highly recommend getting down to Chichester before it ends.

Posted in art, review

The Wine Box Series by Arthur Meehan

September 10th 2010

Working in the tradition of Georgia O’Keefe and Karl Blossfeldt is American photographer Arthur Meehan whose latest collection of prints recently exhibited in London at the Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery

Tulip-2, by Arthur A Meehan

Tulip-2, by Arthur A Meehan

I really like the sepia, old-school feel that’s somehow in keeping with the current love of all things nostalgic. The unique effect of these images is achieved by photographing the flowers inside a wine box, hence the name!

Posted in art, botanical

Somewhere in a bunker in France…

September 10th 2010

For a recent interiors shoot, the team at Wallpaper* went underground in France to the Maginot Line a system of bunkers, tunnels and forts created along the French border with Germany in the build up to World War II. Photographers Alexandre Guirkinger and Elodie Tinel made a gorgeous behind-the-scenes film of the editorial shoot with great music, styling and imagery that mixes the past with the contemporary. Check it out at Wallpaper*:

The making of Wallpaper's Maginot Line interiors shoot

Posted in interior design

Is Design Criticism becoming extinct?

September 10th 2010

I’m wondering if there’s a self-fulfilling prophesy around this subject. Maybe critical thinking around design isn’t taught widely enough, perhaps writers are scared to have too strong an opinion or fear it might put readers off, and maybe there’s a lack of print outlets?  It’s something that Swedish writer and curator Frida Jeppson has been grappling with and she has just edited an excellent book on the subject called  In case of Design – inject critical thinking. Definitely worth a read.

It was whilst scanning her blog that I found the work of Swedish artist Elisabeth Möllersten who recently graduated from Konstfack University College of Arts Crafts and Design in Stockholm

Her piece ‘Vanitas ‘caught my eye. The silver, porcelain version is elegant and the melting chocolate one seems even more gothic and acts as a critique materialism and over-consumption.

It’s best appreciated as a film:

VANITAS Elisabeth Möllersten 2010

VANITAS Elisabeth Möllersten 2010

Posted in books, design

Having a textiles moment

September 10th 2010

As we’re gearing up towards production of our own fabrics I’m even more tuned in to trends in handmade textiles – knitting and lace are noticeable. Having just missed Studio Tord Boontje’s exhibition The Lacemaker I next came across the work of a Danish designer/artist called Isabel Berglunds. She’s made a knitted universe, which is great and you can see it here:

Isabel Berglund’s knit universe

Isabel Berglund’s knit universe

Speaking of Scandinavians….

Posted in craft, design, handmade, textiles, trends

Alice Neel: Painted Truths

August 5th 2010

It’s so incredible to think that an artist of such talent and importance is only now having her first solo show at a European institution! Luckily the Whitechapel Gallery has a big exhibition of her work on now and I got around to going this weekend. It’s a must-see and on leaving I really wanted a keepsake but sadly the shop had sold out of catalogues. Instead I consoled myself with this mesmerising silent film of Alice at work online at Nowness.com.

Alice Neel In Action 1969 - An Uncovered Silent Film Gives Exclusive Insight Into a 20th Century Art Legend

Alice Neel In Action 1969

Filmed by her son Hartley whilst she was in the process of painting a portrait of his wife, you get the feeling of her intense concentration and dedication to making the work. For just a taste of how prolific Neel was during her seventy-year career have a look through the online gallery on the official Alice Neel website. There you’ll see the real breadth of her subjects; she painted strangers, beggars and children as well as famous artists like Richard Smithson and Andy Warhol whose portrait shows the grace and candour of both the artist and her sitter. Neel thought her paintings revealed the souls of her subjects but many believe they tell you quite a bit about her feelings too. This is what makes her work so moving and honest. Here’s my favourite example:

The Soyer Brothers 1973, © Estate of Alice Neel

Starting out in the 1920s and forging a career as a professional female artist can’t have been easy. Neel’s passion and confidence in what she was doing is admirable; more so once you uncover the details and complexities of her personal life including a bitter ex-partner and a mental breakdown. But it’s her influence that can’t be denied (artists like Elizabeth Peyton spring to mind) and though this might be the first major exhibition of her work for sometime but I’ve an inkling a resurgence of interest in Alice Neel is just around the corner.

On until 17th September at the Whitechapel Gallery

Posted in art, review

Trends from I Saloni

May 27th 2010

Less is more was the order of the day at this year’s Milan furniture fair. Visitors and press alike wondered ‘does the world need more chairs?’ So in tune with leaner economic times and a greater social and environmental conscience, the newly launched products had a pared down feel. Designers focused on how things are made, exposed construction methods and celebrated traditional craftsmanship skills. The natural state and shape of materials was shown off.

This simplified feel calls to my mind the landscape designer Jacques Wirtz. He might be in his 80s but he’s so relevant, creating clean, beautiful sculptural forms that are refreshing and highly in step with what’s being produced by younger designers across interiors, furniture and product. It’d be great to see him create something for Milan one year.

Jaques Wirtz hedges, private garden

Jaques Wirtz hedges, private garden

Jacques Wirtz, private garden

Jacques Wirtz hedges, private garden

Trade fairs are still an essential part of doing business in this industry but these events are expensive, short-lived and incredibly wasteful, really taking their toll on the world’s resources. Not in keeping with current thinking around environmental issues. Saved by Droog’ picked up on our desire to take better care of our planet, inviting a range of designers (nicknamed ‘revivers’) to recycle and upcycle over 5000 items rescued from liquidation sales.

At Moroso there was talk in emotional tones, new designs were developed around words such as ‘memory’, ‘wellbeing’ and ‘intimacy’. In their showroom, the company presented ‘Tumbleweed’, an installation by two artists Francesco Simeti and Andrea Sala that juxtaposed the prevailing trend for plain, angular furniture with large-scale prints inspired by travel and journeys – both real and imagined – to invigorate the overall space.  Similarly at Poliform a blowsy, bold print by Ken Scott was used to upholster sharp, modern pieces.

Moroso, Tumbleweed by artists Francesco Simeti and Andrea Sala

Poliform, Ken Scott print

Posted in art, craft, design, interior design, product design, trends

Hauntology

May 27th 2010

There seems to be a growing interest in hauntology, a term coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in the early 90s. Its current meaning is best described as the intangible effect of a thing or feeling, generated by the emotional influence of the past, on what is being created in the present. At the moment, I’m noticing it most in music, in fact The Wire magazine recently hosted ‘Revenant Forms: the Meaning of Hauntology’, a salon of experimental music and ideas around the subject..

When I was at college we studied Derrida, which led me towards trying out his deconstruction theory in textiles. I experimented with the construction of a repeat pattern by taking it apart and putting it back together again and also played with Cyanotype – a technique of transferring large-scale photographic images onto fabric.

But aside from Derrida, hauntology links with a noticeable and growing trend; the longing for things that remind us of the past. It’s been manifesting itself as a gradual fondness for retro–feeling interiors and products and the popularity of vintage-inspired, shabby chic interiors; second-hand clothes that have a ‘story’ behind them, the phrase ‘loveworn’ increasingly being used in fashion journalism; comfort food and classic British favourites finding their way onto menus in expensive restaurants; ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ posters.

But it’s not necessarily just about flowers, chintz and bunting. You can detect it in Jacques Wirtz’s work who I mentioned in the post about Milan. Architect David Chipperfield’s Neues Museum in Berlin beautifully marries the past with the contemporary, one informing the other to create a brand new kind of experience.

David Chipperfiled Neues Museum

And last year Muji teamed up with Thonet and Konstantin Grcic to reinterpret Thonet’s famous curved wood chairs – the original design of which was first created 150 years ago.

Thonet Muji chair

Once you’re aware of hauntology it makes absolute sense, and you can’t escape it!

Posted in trends

Our colourful world

May 26th 2010

I stumbled across this website and it literally brightened up my day! It’s called the Let’s Colour Project.  Initiated by Dulux but powered by the people, it combines photos and films of people taking it upon themselves to tart up dreary walls and neglected buildings, as well as pictures of anything bright and cheerful that has been spotted around world. Here are two of my favourites from the Let’s Colour blog:

The vibrant colours of the Jodhpur old city markets in India.

Colourful calico drop sheet art

Posted in colour, trends

Elephants in town

May 11th 2010

At the weekend I popped into town to have a look at some of the 250 elephants that have been painted by well known designers and artists which are scattered all over London for WWF. It’s worth looking at the Elephant map there is an awful lot of them!!!.

I like this one by artist Patrice Moor called Josephine she looks beautiful wrapped up in a coat of flowers, you can spot her at Sloane Square.

Patrice Moor’s elephant ‘Josephine’

But if you miss seeing them in situ you can see the entire herd at the Royal Hospital Chelsea from 24th June – 4th July.

Posted in art, colour, design, fashion, handmade, pattern

Calling the untrained…

May 11th 2010

The Museum of Everything Exhibition #1 Guide

For those of you that were fortunate to visit The Museum of Everything (see my November blog) you will be very interested to know that there is to be an event # 2 which not only can you visit but you can enter your art work as well !!

Here is the info from the lovely people at Museum Of Everything:

CALLING THE UNTRAINED, UNINTENTIONAL & UNSEEN CREATORS OF GREATER BRITAIN.

The Museum of EVERYTHING

Exhibition #2 @ Tate Modern

THE MUSEUM OF EVERYTHING

NEW! Exhibition #2 @ Tate Modern NEW!

On Friday May 14th, Saturday May 15th and Sunday May 16th 2010, The Museum of Everything will present Exhibition #2 at London’s Tate Modern, featuring the unknown, untrained, unintentional and unexhibited artwork submitted during the show itself.

If you are a self-taught or non-traditional artist, or if you know one, or if you have discovered something we ought to see, bring it to the Tate Modern and hang it next to a couple of Rothko’s. For details on how, when, where, what and why, click here, my dear.

Posted in art, review

Grace Kelly Style Icon

April 30th 2010

Again at the V&A, Grace Kelly Style Icon as the title suggests, traces her journey from actress, bride, princess to fully fledged icon by focusing on Kelly’s style with dresses, jewellery, hats and bags that made up her legendary look. Like Kelly herself, the exhibition is very well put together. There is some great film footage of scenes of her with Gary Cooper and Frank Sinatra, you can see more of her on Pathé of her early days as a model before her film career had really taken off.

The exhibition is very much about what she represented and her persona as opposed to just a series of garments. It makes you wonder about the meshing of her real personality with her starring roles and question which was more influential on how she dressed. Was Kelly’s style molded by Hitchcock and wardrobe designer Edith Head (after all, the studio even made Kelly’s wedding dress and honeymoon outfit), or was this Kelly’s natural look and they created the costumes and characters to match? Either way, the result was effortless and enduring – a style that was simple, understated and elegant, which she seemed to exude in her acting as well as her off-screen presence.

Very GK.

There are a few unexpected pieces to be seen. I loved the black floral dress (wearing pattern was untypical of Kelly) this is the dress she wore to the Cannes festival and on her meeting with Prince Rainer.

Posted in fashion, vintage