Sunday, 13 February 2011

Rachel Levy at Stephanie Hoppen Gallery

I've not mentioned my work (Stephanie Hoppen Gallery) here before, but the current show is my favourite thus far and deserves a post.

French artist Rachel Levy takes the classical genre of flower photography and gives it a unique and modern twist. She photographs flowers that are past their prime: wilting, fading and revealing visible signs of decay. Nonetheless, captured in the last fleeting moments before perishing, they are strikingly beautiful.

She sources the flowers (roses, peonies, irises, tulips) from horticulturalists, not florists, to ensure that they have been exposed to the elements and aged organically. The photographs are printed on cotton paper, which gives them a painterly quality, often looking more like watercolours than digital prints.

Here are a few of my favourites;

Pivoine Lactifolia

Rose Renoir 3
Rose Kronenbourg 2
Rose Charles de Gaulle

and Cuisse de Nymphe - what wonderful name - Nymph's Thigh in english, but also known as 'La Virginale' and 'La Seduisante'.
If only I had a few extra thousand pounds to spare to buy a set of 9 - what a gorgeous wall.

To complement the exhibition we commissioned two pieces by London floral installation artist Rebecca Louise Law. Two antique Victorian wooden chairs have been filled with roses, which over the course of the exhibition are wilting and fading, just like the specimens in the photographs.

Phoebe Unwin @ Wilkinson

Just before I left for Australia I spent a delightful Sunday East.
Beginning with coffee and cake at Allpress with Dee and Marawa (fresh from trans-continental adventures), followed by flower shopping at Columbia Road and culminating in a visit to one of my favourite galleries, Wilkinson (previously mentioned on this blog when things got a little rowdy with Thea, Siggy, Leigh et al).

I first discovered the work of Phoebe Unwin (very uncooly) at the Newspeak: British Art Now Part One show at the Saatchi Gallery.
The paintings by her, and maybe 2 other artists really stood out in that show and when I googled them that night, turns out they are all represented by Wilkinson.

Once you get beyond the enormous black dungeon-like doors of Wilkinson, the space inside is bright, open and clean but not sterile. The fabulous colour of her paintings was perfectly suited to such a setting.

What first drew me to her work was her talent as a colourist.
Some of her work is quite abstract expressionist in the intense and at times kinetic use of colour. Colour conveys the mood of each work, some gentle and poetic, others complex and murky or even violent. At times the canvases are monochromatic and with clear economy of line, at others there is a complexity of layered hues and techniques.

Her paintings have been described as explaining visually what something feels like, not what something looks like. This is best illustrated by the solitary figures found in her works, who always seem lost in the thoughts surrounding them on the canvas.

Each piece is absolutely original and unique.
This is my current favourite, 'Falling Sunglasses'.

(Installation shot on my bedside table.)

God Jul

Seems like a lifetime ago, (but I have been terribly slack with this thing of late), when Siggy and I went to Norway to spend Christmas with his family. Upon looking at my Australian Passport, the immigration man at the airport enquired if it was my first time to Norway- I replied, to him and my surprise that it was my 5th!
The previous 3 visits had been in summer however, and I was eager to experience the extreme contrast of winter - after all, with a broken boiler at our house in London (meaning no hot water or heating for the coldest December on record - ever) I was quite unfazed by the prospect of super-sub-zero temperatures.

It was around -14 to -18 every day and there was a thick blanket of snow covering everything. Where in London the snow stays white and pretty for only a few hours before coming brown and slushy, because of the temperatures in Norway is was powdery and sparkling white everywhere.

While we did spend a lot of time indoors eating (home made spelt bread with Norwegian brown cheese/christmas rice porridge with butter cinnamon and sugar/marzipan/cod etc) we did venture out from time to time for some walking, sledding and skating. We would be inspected before we left the house to ensure we were wearing 2 layers of pants, thick enough socks, 2 pairs of gloves, something covering our neck, thick enough jackets and long enough beanies.

This was the making of Siggy's annual personalised-novelty Christmas card. To get an idea of how crazy he is, I wouldn't even stand outside to take the photo fully clothed, but took it from a window on the balcony.

The 3pm sunsets are quite strange at first, but the light is so beautiful and all the houses are so cosy, I came to embrace it, and the excuse it gives for watching TV during the day (when on holidays!).

It was so beautiful and we were so spoilt by Siggy's family, it was difficult to return to grey old London. I now feel like I've had my Norwegian winter fix and am looking forward to my 6th visit being in the summer so we can bbq, swim and stay at the summer cabin.

Sunday, 17 October 2010


We kicked off the Frieze week festivities with a Saturday night opening at 176 in Chalk Farm.
The museum is an old Lutheran church, which shows exhibitions of a private collection owned by the Zabludovich family. This one was installations by the artist Toby Ziegler.

We loaded up with popcorn and Kirin and set about to explore the show.

The space allows for some pretty spectacular installations, like this covered bucking bull from Mexico perched on top of some beautiful pink scaffolding.

And this enormous balloon.

Following a very strong smell of fish, by chance we stumbled upon a crazy after party in the back of the building

Kirin and popcorn were replaced by truck loads of vodka-elderflower cocktails and food all catered by Hix (hence the smell of fish).

After working the ArtLondon fair at Chelsea Hospital all weekend, going to the opening of the Pavillion of Art & Design Fair at Berkley Square on Tuesday night followed by openings in Fitzrovia, I was almost fair-ed out by Tuesday, but accepted the challenge of Frieze opening night.

The combination of all the best contemporary galleries from around the world showing their best artists, chaotic free bar and some top-notch people watching made for an exciting and over-stimulating experience.

Thursday night was a more low-key and less intense though equally chaotic event: Art Bingo at Yinka Shonibare's studio just off Broadway Market.

The lovely Elaine, in town for a short time as part of an around the world jaunt, joined in the fun and games.
After 3 bottles of red wine, concentrating very hard for 3 long games of bingo and making up countless hilarious rhyming sayings for the numbers, we walked away empty handed but in very high spirits.

After a much needed rest on Friday night, we regrouped for an opening at Wilkinson on Vyner Street. Compared to the usual First Thursday mayhem, it was a relatively calm and subdued affair, before we decided to drink the bar dry....

And Leigh Douros showed up!

After they kicked us out of the gallery, the shenanigans continued long into the night...

And despite feeling a little fragile on Sunday, I made it to Portland Place to check out the Absolut Artists Salon.

We managed to stomach a cloudy apple apple cocktail and made use of the art materials available in the salon-style basement.

In the rest of the building, which has at various stages over the years been home the home of sorts of aristocrats, the embassy of Sierra Leone and a swingers club, housed a magnificent exhibition called 'Vanitas: The Transience of Earthly Pleasures'. We preceded a tour of the show with an intimate artists talk by Hugo Wilson, who was intelligent, fascinating and charming. One to keep an eye on I'm sure.

The first piece we encountered was one of the most magnificent.

artists: Tim Noble & Sue Webster

It is comprised of 88 taxidermy animals: 46 birds (35 varieties), 40 mammals (18 varieties) and 2 fish. Faaar out.

Some pieces were more delicate like this made from lace, chiffon, plaster and bone.
Everything was lit and displayed so beautifully,

artist: Jodie Carey

and ingeniously placed in nooks and crannies around the house.

artists: Tim Noble & Sue Webster

The building had a pervading feeling of faded grandeur, with the low moody lighting, enormous mirrors, worn wooden floors and peeling walls.

Lurking in the basement was an awe-inspiring work called 'Slick' by Kate MccGwire. Magpie and crow feathers were oozing out of an antique fire basket, shiny and luminous yet sinister and macabre.

How to sum it all up, who knows, but there is a hell of a lot of very cool stuff being made, and London really seems to me to be the centre of it all.