Thursday, 27 October 2011

Berkoff KVETCHING in North London

How do you find an exciting theatre venue in London? Go to a pub of course! The Kings Head Pub in Angel to be exact, which plays host to London’s Little Opera House theatre located at the back of this quaint local.

‘Kvetch’, a play written by Stephen Berkoff is the latest performance to take over this inquisitive venue. Directed by Julio Maria Martino this exuberant animated performance is suitably adapted to the intimate space at the Kings Head Theatre.
For any fan of Berkoffs work this is an absolute must, with the cast of five producing highly physical forms and movements displaying the suburban American Jewish characters in Kvetch. For any non Berkoff fan (‘Berkoff who?’) then this play is still a must see event; its exceedingly witty writing and visual performance displays with minimal set cleverly pushes you on a roller-coaster ride of anxiety and laughs.
The play is a portrayal of a Jewish family in America whose dinner party event plays host to the individual characters revealing their anxieties, inner voices and their own ‘ketches’ [According to the dictionary, Kvetch is a piece of American slang, derived from Yiddish, meaning a chronic, whining complainer].

“Kvetch is a study of the effects of anxiety on the nagging kvetch that keeps you awake,” Berkoff.

Hilariously the play stops and starts mid scene, allowing time for the characters to fret, fear and crumble as their inner thoughts (and what their characters are really thinking) wittily start to become the main focus of the play. The play continues to provoke the audience to laugh aloud at the realisation of the self-recognition of these thoughts and how common these shared feelings are with our lives.
Josh Cole plays Frank; a textile salesman with a stay at home wife Donna (played by Dagmar Döring). At work, Frank is known as the Kvetch for his high anxiety and fretfulness, in fact that the act of telling a simple joke even makes him consider the moralities of his own worth and the suicidal fear of missing the punch line of the joke!

Hal, played by the superb Solo artist Dickie Beau. Recently Hal’s wife has left him and his lonely nights are his own fears and his Kvetch, he struggles to handle social interactions and situations, especially when ask; “So what do you do with your evenings alone Hal?”. He is the shy and timid work colleague of Frank and is invited to the dinner party; where his fears are lively and hilariously played out. Beau’s comic timing and physical attributes are first class as his effortlessly floats from one emotion into the next. His characterisation of the worryingly good friend of Frank allows the audience to join him on his emotions of despair, light-heartedness and joy of his own resolve. A truly magnificent performance from Beau.
Referred to as ‘a cartoon vision of our waking nightmares’, Berkoff’s writing is packed full of high adrenalin physicality exploring the funny deeper fears about social interactions, which allows the spectator to jokily reminisce about their own existence and social inept.
With shocking twist endings we see the characters’ lives change, maybe for the better- maybe for the worse in the second act, where their simple choices in life result in their future happiness- if that be attainable for them?

“Fear of failure or success, fear of illness, fear of sex, fear of being gay, fear of blacks or whites, fear of not understanding the joke, fear of Armageddon, fear of fear: Kvetch is an unsparingly black comic examination of a profound cultural malady: FEAR” Kings Theatre.
This performance at the Kings Head is not to be avoided, filled with clever quips and astounding performances within this intriguing space. A must see!

KVETCH on till 4TH November 2011, at the Kings Head Theatre, Angel.

BOX OFFICE - 0207 478 0160

Images: and Kings Theatre website.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


What is Live Art?

I got into a recent conversation (which I think I lost on terminology- but not in belief) about what we can class Live Art as being.

If I say I am studying Live Art, going to see Live Art….what do you immediately think of?
Theatre? Dance? Live music? Installation? Some crazy woman half naked covered in body paint?

To me live art reflects the idea that it is a piece of work that will never be seen again, it is for one moment only, no matter how many times you view it, it will inevitably be changed during the course of time, and in effect this Live Art will die.

The definition says:
Live Art is a term used to describe acts of performance undertaken by an artist or a group of artists, as a work of art. It is an innovative and exploratory approach to contemporary performance practices. Live Art can also be referred to as time-based art, as the exploration of temporality tends to be a key theme of this sort of work.

Live Art is a varied and diverse practice. By its very nature live art "defies precise of easy definition beyond the simple definition that it is live art by artists". Below are a series of definitions of the term Live Art:

Tate Collection:

"Live Art mainly refers to Performance art and Action art and their immediate precursor Happenings, together with the developments of Performance since the 1960s”.

Live Art Archive:

"Live Art can be defined as "art work that broadly embraces ephemeral, time-based, visual and performing arts events that include a human presence and broaden, challenge or question traditional views of the arts".

The Live Art Development Agency:

"Live Art should not be understood as a description of an art form but as a strategy to ‘include' a diversity of practices and artists that might otherwise find themselves ‘excluded' from all kinds of policy and provision and all kinds of curatorial contexts and critical debates".

Live art = something that is live.

So if an artist were to use wood/ paper/ food in their work/installation- then that work would be classed as live work, then could architecture be live art? Even though there isn’t an immediate kinetic reaction/ movement; over time these materials will deteriorate and change- not instantly, but it will happen. So each time a visitor/ spectator views the work it will change and the visual result of the change will be apparent.

So can we class a photograph as live work?

Again we can say that over time the quality of the image will itself decompose, change and disintegrate, in some cases scarring the image itself so that it becomes invisible to the viewer. As expressed above “Live Art embraces…time-based, visual and performing arts events that included a human presence…” Then surely a photograph is the result of a moment of time captured/ recorded to be remembered of a live event- a live moment that happened (whether that be of a sitter- alive, a landscape/ nature- alive, an object- partially alive depending on the object material).

The human presence is the reality that the photographer… someonehad to be there in order for the picture to be taken. It wasn’t draw and replicated from a memory or another image in a book, or a description. A person, a live person had to be present for this image to be created.
Therefore is this live work; A recording of a live time which over a period will be erased and lost.

What is live work???

Photograph via The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Josef Herman; The unseen forced journey of a Warsaw artist to a Welsh mine.

Josef Herman is arguably better known in British Contemporary Art for his extensive paintings and portraiture of Welsh miners from the small town of Ystradgynlais; in which Herman embarked on a life/artistic altering decision; presenting these town miners as his subject.
Though to capture a community the way in which Herman beautifully did, he had to be part of that community. Accepted through his warm character and charismatic way this small Welsh town welcomed him into their lives and even nicknamed him ‘Joe Bach’ (Joe Small). Herman was later quoted as saying: "I stayed here because I found all I required. I arrived here a stranger for a fortnight; the fortnight became 11 years." (Josef Herman)
By living within this strong community, Herman was able to naturalistically mould his artistic style to capture the realistic images of miners from Post War Wales, securing him with the title of being the artist of the time to reveal the 'working man' in Britain.

The Ben Uri Museum Gallery plays host to this unique exhibition charting Josef Herman’s extraordinary fleeing journey through Brussels, Glasgow and London up to his most artistic influential point in Wales. The Polish artist later moved to Suffolk then to London but commented towards the end of his life; "Only Ystradgynlais changed my life and my work… When I left I took it with me." (Josef Herman)
Being interested in Contemporary Art, I too only knew of Josef Herman through his stark portrayals of those Welsh miners from Ystradgynlais, seen in Herman’s 1949; Street in Ystradgynlais [inkwash, 20 x 26cm]

Or the 1949; Seated Miner [Oil on canvas, 130 x 95cm]:

And not truly realising his artistic journey through a war torn Europe to the end production of his most renowned works.

This exhibition, beautifully curated by Sarah MacDougall within the hidden gem which is the Ben Uri Gallery, St Johns Wood, takes the viewer on a detailed biographical journey following Herman’s fleeing passage which prompted him to leave Poland from the mounting anti-Semitism groups to his significant life in Wales, (which as they say; the rest is well known history). This current showing is the largest exhibition of Herman’s work to date, revealing works that have possibly never been witnessed or exhibited publicly before. MacDougall takes great care not to bore the viewer with prominent images that we know Herman was famous for producing (like the miners series), but allowing the gallery to be filled with detailed works showing the life behind the artist; to see his exact influences to produce what we know as Josef Herman.

The exhibition is placed on two floors, (though the gallery supplies a computer screen for visitors unable to access downstairs of the images on show) and divided between four parts which eloquently transposes Herman’s 6 years of forced emigration from Poland to Wales. This exhibition is also accompanied with a beautiful detailed catalogue with further unseen works and written essays from these exact periods of Herman’s life, well worthy of the money to purchase and impressively compiled together also by Sarah MacDougall.

My Favourite painting from this collection of work has to be Josef Herman’s 1944; Self Portrait in Mirror, a remarkable and quietly haunting image of the artist whose dark eyes pierce outwards to the viewer behind the smudging darkness of the shadows around his face- a mesmerising and intriguing painting.

Seeing this work of Josef Herman; understanding the journey he endeavoured to his producing of the Welsh Miners paintings (which can be viewed at the National Gallery in Wales) and knowing his moving philosophy of painting; he painted because he had something to say about life and made work to have a resonance in today’s world, for me, has the beauty of illuminating the working man; his work and his life, and as recent events have unfortunately occurred in the village of Cilybebyll, South Wales; the death of that raw beauty only to be remembered through images.

A truly stunning exhibition to celebrate the work of Josef Herman, a must see for anyone with an interest in contemporary art. “WOW, I think this is a stunning exhibition that I’d want to come back and see again and again!” Jeremy Isaac

Images courtesy of The Ben Uri Gallery; and Bernard Mitchell.

Josef Herman Exhibition is on at the Ben Uri Gallery, 108A Boundary Road, St John's Wood until 15th January 2012.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Soul Queer Perspective!

David McAlmont's take on the Queer Perspective tour at the National Portrait Gallery was a truly amazing adventure into some of the hidden secrets that surrounded some of the sitters, their concealed {same sex} lovers, including the statue of Albert and Victoria, which McAlmont had a few suggestions to share...

David McAlmont spoke beautifully with such passion about the selection of portraits and sculptures he chose as part of our tour around the gallery. Revealing myths and stories that have been branded about the certain sitters and painters; delving into their hidden lives on their quest to find love.

Accompanied with the artist Sadie Lee who was on hand to respond to any questions and give her view, as an contemporary artist on the portraits McAlmont had chosen.

My favourite portrait of this tour has to be by Thomas Burke of the famous boxer Len Harvey.

Burke was desperate to paint Len Harvey, that it took him most of his professional career until he was able to capture this acquisitive portrait. Shown as what the viewer can imagine a 'typical' boxer to be like; a towel draped around his neck, an over sized velvet robe, a clenched fist, and a side ways glance revealing Harvey's strong jaw line and angled nose- (or hiding that black eye??) We don't know- yet, as McAlmont went on to describe, the obsession Burke had to paint Harvey could have been out of more admiration and love for the boxer. I'd like to believe that this could be the case, as the outcome of this portrait reveals the delicacy of Burkes work to make a boxer 'float like a butterfly'

A beautiful tour!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Emin times 2!!!

I went to see Tracey Emin's latest exhibition at the Hayward Gallery... for the second time! And truth be told, I am glad I did.

I haven’t previously been to see an Emin exhibition before or seen any of her work live; only through the expressions of others I have heard of her work and, more so, her artistic and lively character. Armed with my knowledge of what I should expect and how I should feel, I entered into the Hayward Gallery with my glasses and Dutch courage; wanting to be shocked, awe inspired and a slight sense of a Che Guevara swagger ... only to walk away feeling angry.

Being blunt; I felt the exhibition was self obsessed, absorbed and filled with a 'charity'-like plea of her life to date. Divulging her hard upbringing and poor status, she revealed the hardships she has had to encounter when growing up. (Even though she has a degree AND a first class Masters degree, and the exhibition is sponsored by Louis Vuitton- her life seemed hardly...hard).

I was disappointed...but I wasn’t too sure if it was mainly to do with what I had witness and expected to witness, or in fact that I was disappointed with myself and not understanding this art. My fellow exhibition visitors seemed in admiration of her work and the deepness of her world that she chooses to express visually. I didn’t get it...should I? Shouldn’t I? Should I be feeling angry...or maybe it’s too clever for me?

My head was armed with too many questions... I decided to return to the Hayward for a second time...though- not looking for an Emin shock; but too see a daring artist's work. And I’m glad I did.

Taking the time to immerse myself in her world, and trace her story from specific points she directly steers us to, I am astounded to see Emin’s personal qualities shine through her work.
You expect to see Tracey Emin work as what she is known for, and you do. Sharp, shock and bold; the boldness of her quilt pieces are memorable, funny and direct to the point. Leading into the neon written signs illuminated within an expanding velvety dark room, which appeared to make the words stand out as if you were drunk in a club. (I especially liked the words which were crossed out; revealing the mistakes- visibly)

As I walked further into her exhibition; the Emin bravado started to crumble and dissipate, showing warnings of her fragility. As if unwinding a ball of string; the shock intrepidness diminished to allow her vulnerability to untangle itself, and what I was left with was a brave artist expressing/ discovering her past through the art of publically showing.

My favourite piece is Knowing my Enemy (2002); “a vast sculpture of a collapsed pier, with a hut at the end. Made in response to a letter from her father (framed on the wall of the gallery), it's her vision of the safe haven he longed for but could never quite reach”. (

Taking over the whole room, this massive structure devours the visitor underneath its rotten beams and rusty nails, giving the sense of danger lurking from a cherished childhood memory, completely breathtaking to see this silent structure that has a ghost like presence in the ground floor gallery space.

So OK, Emin can’t be for everyone, and I am still racked with unanswered questions about her work and intentions. But her braveness to reveal the fragments of her existence through fragile and intimate ways are without doubt...beautiful.

It was not through studying Art Theory- but, simply opening my eyes to appreciate of an importance.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Potiche of genius!

Went to see French film Potiche at the lovely Barbican cinema. I was also treated to a short film before the main title by animator and filmmaker Jessica Wainwright, as part of the Watch Me Move Exhibition currently on in the main gallery.
This short film animation is both lovely, charming and a joy to watch. Constructed together around a monologue text by Betty, images are created and quickly dissolve into the next thought. If you have a nan or are indeed (as myself) from Wales you'll find this film funnily quite close to home. The innocence of the character Betty displays warmth and beauty, I'm glad this was found, please watch....

Betty from Jessica Wainwright on Vimeo.

"Catherine Deneuve excels as a trophy wife (potiche) turned factory boss in François Ozon's hugely enjoyable, witty farce set in seventies France based on a stage play by Pierre Barrilet and Jean-Pierre Gredy.

Suzanne (Deneuve) lives a comfortable but limited life as an affluent housewife. Her husband, the arrogant, philandering Robert (Fabrice Luchini) runs the umbrella factory her father created (a return to umbrellas for Deneuve, almost 50 years on from her role in Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg). But it's 1977 and Robert is hospitalised following an encounter with strikers when unrest hits the factory. Suzanne takes the reigns and is aided in worker relations by old flame and communist major (Gerard Depardieu)".

This beautiful French film had me in tears of joy, happiness, laughter, sadness and at times sheer anger and disbelief at individual attitudes towards women in the work environment. Cleverly crafted with a superb cast makes this film one of the best I have seen this year. The mature storyline allows romances to be rekindled and sparked while the choice of career and love and in debate. The plot issue of women having power within the workplace reminds me of how far we have come as a society now, though only too real that these subtle issues, may be subtle, but are still relevant today. I may not class myself as a feminist but I completely agree with the principles! I couldn't stop watching, and by the audiences reaction this film was a great success!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A sculptor making live work not ART!

On and Off Stage: Experimental Theatre and Visual Art Performance- a lecture talk at the Barbican Centre chaired by Joe Kelleher with Theatre maker Tim Etchells, Sculptor Bruce McLean and Performance artist Tai Shani. (Curated and managed by Emma Ridgeway)

An interesting evening with debates between performance work, performance art and live art works. Tim Etchells opened to describe the ‘Event’ taking place between visual art, installation and fiction, and how this event determines the relationship with the viewer.

“The event of encountering art,
The event of encountering each other!” (Etchells 2011)

The idea of having an unknown narrative- the viewer is already in a performance that you do not know the boundaries of. You are entering a world- established?- where the outcome matters entirely with the event of you/the viewer inhabiting that environment/ space. Creating a live performance that is full of risk and excitement with an unforeseen narrative arc.

Leading into visual artist; Tai Shani who is interested in making live work by searching for intensity within her process. This often looks at the concept of making work that has a lot of ‘risk’; trying to find the failure of live work, and letting that play towards a viewer. The way in which she was speaking made me think of her as being a new Forced Entertainment mind, creating challenges and games where her work could epically fail or push interesting boundaries. Immanent catastrophe!

But who is this a failure for? The artist? The actors/performers? The viewer?

Shani: “Artist as themselves. But if you gave the actors space to play- then it’s all play- the failure is the overall result/ the questions being explored”.

Sculpting your presence…

Bruce McLean a sculptor (making live work). This interesting, exciting ‘can hardly contain himself’ man has throughout his career question what it is to be a sculpture, to make sculptures. He is very much interested in the mistake- the failure. He reiterates that his work does not exist, he takes no photos- it’s live and it ends.

The talk progressed into the conversation topic of art in spaces, McLean questioning why do we need to go to a Gallery to see art;

“Art doesn’t take place in a gallery. Theatre doesn’t take place in a theatre. It’s in the streets, in our restaurants.” (McLean 2011)

Visual images are vast becoming everywhere in our societies lives, from media slogans, advertisements, live art, graffiti to traditional portraiture. A lot of art pieces are becoming too institutionalized where it no longer becomes about creatively challenging work but accommodating artistic work to ‘fit in’ with corporate guidelines etc. How do you need an audience to watch?

Coming away from this talk I found myself liberated to be in admiration of a sculptor who doesn’t create ART, but makes live work, that after time only becomes a memory- it’s the liveness of his pieces that create the piece of work itself. I must say Bruce McLean has restored my faith in art as a form to reveal live performance.

And what occurred to me as a viewer of this discussion is that all three practitioners in their own field are interested and fighting to create ‘live’ work, (I wonder if they knew it also?)