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?)

Friday, 18 March 2011

John Wrights...just alright

I went to see John Wright's Double Bill of Baby Boomers and The Confetti Maker at the New Diorama Theatre. After working with numerous collaborators who have previously work shopped with John Wright my expectations are high, unfortunately the shows did not live up to the hype surrounding his work.

Baby Boomers is a heart warming story of an old women's journey back to her youth and the unfolding of her tragic past which has plagued through her life. There are moments of pure joy and magic, from the balloon figures, bubbly characters and the simple sentimental moments of humanity. The beautiful characterisation of Nick Ash's 'elderly woman' is a wonder to watch, as you can see the detail of work that has gone into making her live through Ash's body and mask work. Unfortunately the same cant be said for Becky Kitter's 'elder gentleman', in which her youthful energy and womanly features creep through her characterisation, and you believe no longer in the character.
For me the performance and story really came alive in the darker moments, where the use of mask and silence really played and worked well together, I just wished there were more riskier moments like this, which really played with the audiences emotions.
Balloon work and the 'magic' design of these balloon images are outstanding and a joy to watch. Overall an OK performance.

The Confetti Maker was presented in a completely different style and tempo, much to my relief. Frank Wurzinger's solo performance is a joy to watch, his relationship with the audience is engaging and exciting. I was drawn from the beginning of the performance, and only from small moments where the action dragged and the story became lost (mainly with the baby and wide side storyline), overall I was capitulated with Wurzinger's performance, combining slap-stick, puppetry, improvisation and great comical timing to that of Chaplin. This was an underrated performance, (with a little work) will be an amazing show.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Clowning Drag at the RVT!

Went to see Dickie Beau's one man show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Walking into the mysterious RVT unexpected what I will see, I am greeted by... a clown? a woman? a man?...Dickie Beau in white face drag on top of a steel ladder in the middle of the stage.
I quickly sit down by the bar daring not to buy a drink until the safety of the interval in this intimate venue setting.

Still not too sure what was going to take place, I watched the show with interest and started to realise how clever this performance is. Dickie Beau crosses discplinines; at times clowning into mime into drag comedy, which I was surprised actually worked. Challenging perceptions of drag lipsynch he cleverly makes bold choices of when to mime in synch and when not to, often opening up further questions about the work he is doing. Using visual media tools to divide his show up seemingly flows from one act to another both visual and live performances compliments and support each other.
Using simple devices and techniques; like 'opening the curtains and sweeping away the stage space' promptly clears the air (as it were) to draw a line under the raw issues conversed in his act.
Still trying to understand the big 'queer theory' world, I am stunned by the impressive Dickie Beau's show by the interdiscplinary elements of his act, cleverly staged and well thought out.

Drag clown is the way forward!

Friday, 11 March 2011

What is our cultural Identity?

The main question asked on the National Portraits guided tour exploring 'cultural identity' by Liz Rideal.
What I like about these meetings at the Gallery is that every curator and guide has a different take on the themes being explored, and their own view of the portraits. We were took on a whirlwind blitz of over 12 portraits in the gallery from the 16c to contemporary photograph portraits. Exploring and questioning what it means to be 'British', from the sitters to the artists.

Starting off in the Eighteen by Twelve Print exhibition, looking at black and white portraits from M.I.A to the Princes William and Harry, gave an idea at the vast range of famous sitters housed in this exhibit. When considering the sitters Tracey Emin and the two Princes and what we could value to be true British actually when delving into their heritage reveals mixed nationalities in their backgrounds. So who is a true Brit?

Moving onto the Michael Landy sketch portraits supports the statement that most artists who study in London, aim to make work designed to stay in London, via varying shifting populations.

Looking at one of my favourite pieces in the Gallery; portrait of Zaha Hadid by Michael Craig- Martin, comprised via an LCD monitor/ computer with integrated software. It cunningly changes colour whilst you watch this portrait, cleverly and subtly done, made me believe that my sight was deteriorating. Asking whether line and colour can effect personality, as it is believed that Hadid's personalty is of a bright, colourful and vibrant nature, so then this portrait's style has represented her character perfectly:

Looking back at non British artists in the Gallery, it is funny to then come across German artist; Hanz Holbein's massive portrait of one of Britain's most famous iconic figures; Henry VIII. Questioning is this a British portrait?

Liz Rideal further questioned when thinking about our multicultural society, "How do we arrive?" Sometimes not war, or extradition makes us move, but merely population shifts-travelling etc.
Which led the group to the final portrait that is causing excitement and hype for the fact that this portrait goes against the Galleries main criteria for housing its works. This is of course the portrait by Benjamin Robert Haydon of Napoleon Bonaparte with Duke of Wellington (companion portrait)alongside, some calling this the 'struggling heroes'.

The galleries criteria is based on that the artist/sitter must have been a resident in the UK or have given something to the British society they live in. Of course, we know, Napoleon did neither!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Late night Hidden Histories

Went along to another late night shift at the National Portrait Gallery for the Gallery talk on Hidden Histories. Looking at a selection of portraits from the gallery, and a delve into their past, secrets and stories behind the sitters and artists of that time. Led by Sarah Ciacci she chose 3 very different portraits ranging from the 1500 1800s, and elaborating of the hidden story behind each one.

Firstly looking at the oil based canvas the portrait by unknown artist of Sir Henry Unton, in which portraits like this aren't usually seen in the Galleries collection, but because of it unique design and composition has been house at the National for quiet a few years. A rich tapestry of Unton's life includes past and present scenes from his life, with notably his portrait displayed openly at centre of this scene. The scenes from right to left displays moments in his life that correspond, or tells the viewer of the life that Upton had and the kind of gentleman he was. Importance's (of the time to status) such as, (wealth) at birth, studying at Oxford, travelling through Europe, studious, musician and publican.
The detail in this painting is incredibly rich from intimate faces to hand gestures, and the clearly marked essence of the passing of life into death, much to why this painting was composed in this way, and to me very notably but subtly the symbols of day into night at the very corners of the painting.

Thomas Howard portrait (Earl of Arundel), an oil on canvas by Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens chose to represent Howard realistically, compared to other portraits of this period where such paintings produced would have been edited and made to look much better than the actual sitter, were common. Rubens delivered exactly what he saw in this non idealisation of Howard's portrait, making this work interesting in its authenticity. This portrait valued here at the National in recognition of Arundel who was considered important for bringing new contemporary European art to London, and later setting up the Arundel House. A very dark but beautifully mysterious portrait.

Portrait of Mary Jane Seacole by Albert Charles Challen. This is a treasure of a portrait (and my favourite) only 9 1/2 in. x 6 1/4 in size and just discovered in 2002. Mary Seacole is best known for her nursing work in the Crimean War, although didn't really become known or famous for her duties and work until her autobiography was publicised. Her work is compared to that of Florence Nightingale, but obviously Nightingale being the more noted and pictured in art and history of the too nurses. With a recent new publication of her autobiography and the recent purchase of this portrait by the National in 2008, her reputation and work has now finally be reunited and valued. Beautiful portrait.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Look at reality through the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize

Went to go and see the last week of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery.

"The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2010 presents the very best in contemporary portrait photography, showcasing the work of talented young photographers and gifted amateurs alongside that of established professionals and photography students.
Through editorial, advertising and fine art images, the entrants have explored a range of themes, styles and approaches to the contemporary photographic portrait, from formal commissioned portraits to more spontaneous and intimate moments capturing friends and family".

What I admired about this years exhibition is the concept of striving to find the 'real' in reality. Every image had an in depth story and truthfulness about it, nothing seemed compositioned in order to express an opinion. (All except Steven Barrittt's admitted self portrait of; Untitled from the series Analogous Mythography in which the arranged detail in this image was cleverly positioned, to form that of an obsessive Britney Spears fan - to put it frankly, though this image is not to be underestimated as simply as that).
Not wanting to take my time I found myself surprisingly encapsulated to stay at each frame longer than Trafalgar's traffic lights; what could be perceived as a simple 'headshot' became, to me, actually a door/window into not only the sitters life, but that of the photographer. By selecting just one image, caught a precise moment of innocent realism, the simple beauty in the photographers connection with the sitter. To me, that is what made the Taylor Wessing Awards the most contemporary and engaging of exhibitions I have seen.

Most of the images varied in content, tone and subject matter. What I was pleasantly surprised by was the amount of portraits that focused on the single female shots. I have to mention Abbie Trayler-Smith, with Untitled 2, (part of an ongoing series), Jeffrey Stockbridge, with Tic Tac and Tootsie (twin sisters Carroll and Shelly Mckean) from the series Nowhere but Here, Panayiotis Lamprou, with Portrait of My British Wife, from the series Human Presence and the first prize to; David Chancellor, with Huntress with Buck from the series Hunters. All of which gained places within this exhibition, all of which focused primarily on the female form/role.

Very interesting work from this years entrants!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Whitechapel's Current Disturbance

After the excitement with working with Oscar Tuazon's last exhibition, I head straight to the top floor of the Whitechapel Gallery to be recaptured by an exhibit that engulfs the whole room.
OK so the beams of wood are slightly smaller to that of Tuazon's, and OK, yes they don't pummel through the walls to the adjacent rooms. But... engulf, encapsulate and fill this gallery room it does do.

To observe the sheer magnet of this structure from the corner of the room, I am met with a chicken like coop of wooden beams and wire mesh, with singular light bulbs caged within a box within a box within a room.
To stand back and see the simplicity and cleanness of these individually placed bulbs like wounded detainees; bulbs lying on their sides, to the intricate spaghetti-like junctions of wires relevantly (if you look) on show within the middle of this caged structure.

The Northern lights has nothing on this piece of art which continual, through its own workings and patterns, generates the light to simply turn on and off through different degrees of intensity. Surrounded by four speakers the room is alive within the hum of electricity, which feels like a small burning torture of excitement, knowing that the exhibit itself is the performer in control.

This, from reading, seems to be part of what artist Mona Hatoum is exploring, the sense that this installation is creating a liveness, and therefore creating a performance itself. With the visual brightening and darkening of the bulbs to the variant hum from the speakers, it is clear to feel as though I have no control over what I see. Oppressed to stand and watch as the installation takes over, the sense of a singular bulb within a wire cage is a burning image I cannot seem to replace.

Continually thinking....

“Keeping It Real: An Exhibition in 4 Acts” seeks to explore the line between art and reality and the relationship between the artist and the tactile world. British – Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum‘s light-filled creation was first shown in 1996 at the Capp Street Project, San Francisco and is now being shown through March as a part of Whitechapel Gallery’s initiative to open private collections for public viewing". (

Robert Lepage meets The Blue Dragon

"Set in the effervescent paradox that is modern China, this new instalment focuses on Lamontagne’s encounters with a former student classmate and a young Chinese conceptual artist. As the lives of these individuals collide, unexpected doors open, bringing about fundamental changes for each of them".

Packed with high expectations of Robert Lepage's current sequel to his earlier acclaimed The Dragon's Trilogy, I was not disappointed.
Lepage, playing the lead role of Pierre Lamontagne, opened with a soft narrative to the artistic creation of Chinese calligraphy, and how the symbols used create more than a thousands words for merely one image. This introduction to Lepage's character set the tone to the warmth of dialogue that was about to unfold over the next 120 minutes.
The relationships between the three characters was compelling to watch, and felt more like three friends on stage, which reveals the long lasting collaboration between Lepage and Marie Michaud. Their ease of dialogue and constant switching between dialects made the script drift through naturalistic story lines that hooked and drew you into the verging darkness of the story that was about to be approached.
At times I felt compassion, hope and fear for all three, which is a credit to the director and the movement direction given over to them. Not to mention the beautiful movement pieces by Tai Wei Foo, who played the girlfriend in this triangle love affair. Her effortless movements left you spellbound and captured the innocence of her part in this story.

Flawless and magical were the projections and visual media that linked and illustrated the story, in which the 'technicals' and live performance blurred, that I didn't realise the awkwardness that the use of projections can have on performances. Including the use of the new modernisation through the sense of a mandarin KFC advert, which was a pleasant surprise and quite amusing!
The swift transitions between scenes elevated the progression of the story and didn't labour too much on once scene ending and another slowly beginning.

Unfortunately there were parts which did have a tendency to be weighted and drag, which I felt wasn't needed as much. As an audience member I felt the pain and indecision of these characters without having the need for the action to become too static and laboured.

On saying that I very much enjoyed the conclusion, which replayed the last couple of minutes three times, with alternative endings. This left me with the sense of enjoyment and audience power to decipher their own conclusions, and uplifted the story from becoming too dark.
Lepage's performance work cleverly mixes collaborations and media together to present a solid, clear and creative piece of work. Much enjoyed!