Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue

This is a timely exhibition, because these paintings by Leon Golub (1922-2004), at the Serpentine Gallery about the abuse of power, and oppression are very powerful and just as relevant today as when they were originally painted - particularly in light of the events concerning abuses of power in the USA, (and also closer to home), by the powers that be which are currently making the news headlines. 
Golub's subtext seems to be that we are all complicit in these abuses of power just by the act of observing and doing nothing. I would counter this by saying that people are not just passive observers anymore, especially in this video age. The general public are now capturing abuses on mobiles phones and cameras, and coming forward with the evidence. The recent Walter Scott/Michael Slager case in the US being a prime example.

Golub's paintings are executed on large scale canvases and I was particularly taken with the early works such as L'Homme de Palmyre (1962) above. The mark-making and textures he creates in this and other early works are beautifully abstract - much like a patina of verdigris on copper. This is a really thought-provoking exhibition which pricks at the conscience.

Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue
Serpentine Gallery
until 17th May
Kensington Gardens
London W2

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Hermes Wanderland

This exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery was a delightful surprise and a bonus to the main Pangaea II show that I had gone to see. It is so wonderfully designed and curated and a magical experience. Hermes is a luxury brand and this exhibition showcases their immaculately crafted wares. 

Entrance to the exhibition

Visitors enter the exhibition Narnia-style, through a large wardrobe and are transported through magical rooms displaying items from Hermes historic collections.

A map of the different rooms

The exhibition is a celebration of the concept of Flanerie - the 19th century French art of the leisurely stroll. It's about curiosity, walking the streets of the city, seeing it through fresh eyes and enjoying the discoveries you make.

Topsy-turvy street furniture containing vintage Hermes pieces

There are eleven rooms in the exhibition, and I made discoveries whilst strolling through them, about the 178 year old Hermes brand and the levels of luxury and craftsmanship that the Hermes brand represents. I was surprised by the unashamed opulence of the items on display, and it seems that one's imagination is the only limit on what objects can be made by Hermes team of craftsmen. If you can think it, they can make it - however outlandish or impractical. No item is considered too humble or insignificant to be spared the Hermes touch. There was a crash helmet covered in fur. A leather and ruched velvet saddle. Although they looked fabulous I wondered what practical use they could actually be put to. But then to think in terms of practicality in this exhibition is to miss the point.

 Chess set in an upturned chair
Bottled leather "fruit" purses
Digital technology and luxury items

Graffiti and neon lighting 

 Elephant in a china shop

 That fur covered helmet

 Beautifully crafted leather petrol canister

 That amazing leather/velvet saddle

Crystal goblet chandelier which rotated and cast beautiful shadows
I don't think I will visit a better designed or imaginatively displayed exhibition this year. Set designer Hubert le Gall and his team of designers have done a marvellous job. It was a great experience to feel that child-like sense of wonder again. See more here.

Hermes Wanderland
until 2nd May
Saatchi Gallery
Duke of York's HQ
King's Road

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

A Bigger Little Black Dress

This is a newly created piece. It is the biggest version (life-size), of Little Black Dress that I have created to date (120cm x 60cm framed). It is available to purchase from Orso Major which is now open again following recent refurbishments.

Friday, 17 April 2015


Play becomes joy, joy becomes work, work becomes play.
Johannes Itten

We get so lost in routine or meeting deadlines that we sometimes forget how important it is to experiment, or let go and play. I've recently been making lo-fi experiments with paper, ink, scissors and masking tape and it has been a joy to let go and play. With memories of last summers' wonderful Henri Matisse: The Paper Cuts still etched in my memory, I've started playing, painting, cutting and arranging organic shapes and I'm hoping these will develop into a series of new works.

Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.
Abraham Maslow 

What I found wonderful about the Matisse show was the boldness of the artist using a pair of outsized scissors to carve into painted papers with almost reckless abandon, and as a result creating something quite beautiful based on vibrant colour and organic shapes. There was something really joyous about these works and you could clearly tell that he enjoyed creating them.

In art, everyone who plays wins.
Robert Genn

With spring emerging and winter gone I've also been listening to lots of music that represents the different seasons and cycles of the year. The sunshine has been instrumental in this sense of upliftment and spirit of playfulness in the studio. I am really enjoying playing and excited about the direction the developments are taking. I hope to share the outcomes with you in a later thread. In the meantime I shall continue to play.


Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.
Henri Matisse


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Monday, 13 April 2015

Polly Morgan: Taxidermy Is Dead (Long Live Taxidermy)

To the Horniman Museum to see this small exhibition of work by Polly Morgan. Taxidermy Is Dead (Long Live Taxidermy) showcases some of Morgan's recent work in taxidermy. There has been a recent resurgence in the art of taxidermy with the likes of Morgan and Sinke and Van Tongeren at the forefront, and taxidermy polarises opinion. Like Marmite, people either love it or hate it. I think Morgan brings something different and unique with her take on taxidermy and gives it a surreal, poetic twist to create something eerily beautiful. Excuse the quality of the photos it was dark in the Natural History section. I do think this was a bit of a missed opportunity for the Horniman Museum in terms of scale and work displayed, as I believe it could have been a much more engaging and ambitious exhibition. 

Polly Morgan
Taxidermy is Dead (Long Live Taxidermy)
Horniman Museum & Gardens
until Sun 7th June

Friday, 10 April 2015

Marian Ellis Rowan: Butterflies Through Other Eyes #5

I recently discovered these beautiful butterfly paintings by Australian botanical illustrator Marian Ellis Rowan (1848-1922) in an auction catalogue and had to share.

Ellis Rowan was born into a well to do family and had no formal training in art and design but was encouraged to paint natural subjects in watercolour by her husband. Ellis Rowan travelled extensively throughout Australia and America documenting the flora and fauna of these countries and her work was published in a series of books on natural history which documented wildlife.

Two years before her death she held an exhibition of her work which featured 1000 of her paintings and was the largest solo exhibition by an artist at that time. They are exquisite observations of butterflies, typical of that Victorian era of classifying and cataloguing various species of wildlife. They are all the more interesting considering that Ellis Rowan was a self-taught artist.