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Iconic Swedish photographer JH Engström is currently exhibiting 'From Back Home' in Berlin, a collection of images tracing his childhood memories back to the province of Värmland READ MORE...
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There's something so irresistible about miniature food, the treats we love made into tiny packages you can just pop into your mouth - virtually guilt-free! READ MORE...
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"Three friends taking pictures of themselves in a photo-booth as they go off to Glastonbury festival''. This was the brief John Galliano (remember him?!) gave to Nick Knight READ MORE...
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As an amateur photographer, I'm fascinated by the universe of possibilities we can explore in creating images with our digital camera - why limit ourselves? I read a debate a while ago READ MORE...
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Since 2007, Montreal photographer Nicolas Ruel has been refining an in-camera double exposure technique, where with a quick swivelling motion of his device, a second plan is overlaid on a main READ MORE...
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Lula is about to pretty up Japan even further this October with its unique mix of memoir, philosophy and fantasy, as interpreted by editor Kazuo Sazuki READ MORE...
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April 08, 2014

JH Engström Exhibits: "From Back Home"


Iconic Swedish photographer JH Engström is currently exhibiting 'From Back Home' in Berlin, a collection of images tracing his childhood memories back to the province of Värmland, in the west of Sweden. Together with his friend, the internationally acclaimed photographer Anders Petersen, the Paris-based Engström revisited his native land to pay tribute to the people, light and landscapes. He says: "I can only make photographs of what I feel, of what results from my encounters with people. In this regard, my work is completely subjective. At the same time, I am interested in objectivity, in the fact that since you take photographs, you always deal with reality. And in this respect, I am not interested in subjectivity. It‘s a paradox”. 

From Back Home is a large series of work spanning 2001 to 2008 of about a hundred portraits, landscapes, still lifes, close-ups and aerial shots in fading colors and black and white. Engström's book From Back Home (Max Ström, 2009) was awarded the book prize at Les Rencontres d’Arles. The images are united by a sense of spontaneity, an ephemeral tone that lends them an air of tenderness. These are works of intimacy and loss, exploring questions of time, memory and the possibility of return; sentiments we can all relate to. 

JH Engström: From Back Home shows until May 10 at Grundemark Nilsson Gallery, Swedish Photography, Karl-Marx-Allee 62, 10243 Berlin-Friedrichshain. 

JH Engström_Collage_2_©Swedish Photography


March 23, 2014

Scream Editions Pops up with Affordable Art

Scream_Pakpoom Silaphan_Warhol on Pepsi_smlWarhol on Pepsi, Pakpoom Silaphan

Art just got a bit more accessible. Scream Editions is taking its newly launched online print gallery to the busy streets of Soho with an exciting pop-up. The online platform, which was launched by Jamie Wood (son of Rolling Stones' Ronnie, and owner of London’s popular Scream Gallery) is revolutionising the art world by offering people a chance to start their own art collection on an affordable budget, selling original prints from heavyweights such as Tracey Emin, Charming Baker, Pakpoom Silaphan, Lyle Owerko and Remi Rough.

Gallery visitors will be treated to an incredible programme of activities where they’ll get to see some of the UK’s hottest artists in action. Events will include:

• Several live screen printing events with a number of Scream Editions artists who will be signing prints on the day and inviting the public to participate in their print making process.

• Magda Archer unveiling her new collection of paintings and limited edition prints which will be available to buy during the pop-up.

• David Shillinglaw working live in the pop-up space to build an on-site installation based on his recent trip to Vietnam.

• On Saturday 22 March 2014, Shuby will be working live in the pop-up space to create an interactive wall piece using her signature paste-up style.

• Remi Rough releasing and signing his limited edition book which will be on sale at the pop-up.

• On Saturday 29 March and Sunday 30 March 2014, Jealous Print Studio and Gallery will be welcoming the public to take part in live printing an exclusive run of prints only available to purchase at the pop-up on the day.

The exhibition runs until 18 April, Monday to Saturday from 10am to 7pm, and Sunday from 12pm to 6pm at 20 Foubert's Place, Carnaby, London W1F 7PL. For up to the minute info visit carnaby.co.uk #Carnaby #ScreamEditions

To receive 10% OFF your first purchase at the pop-up head to ‘Join’ on the Scream Editions website.


Shape XV, Paulina Varregn

Scream Editions - Magda Archer My Life Is Crap

My Life is Crap, Magda Archer

Scream_ali punches on coke

Ali Punches on Coke, Pakpoom Silaphan

Scream_David Shillinglaw_Bottles

Bottles, David Shillinglaw 

Head-for-the-Clouds_Rob-SteelHead for the Clouds, Rob Steel

March 19, 2014

Nicolas Ruel Goes 'From Architecture to Fashion in 8 Seconds'


Since 2007, Montreal photographer Nicolas Ruel has been refining an in-camera double exposure technique, where with a quick swivelling motion of his device, a second plan is overlaid on a main subject, creating a new dimension. Ruel uses this process to capture an unseen urban look of the world, and to date this body of work - called 8 Seconds after the shutter speed used - spans an impressive sixty cities in forty countries. As you can see below, Ruel presents a very unique tour of the world's most fascinating places, demonstrating a knack for transferring the energy of the city to the viewer; the result is quite exhilarating and you don't want to stop looking. 

The originality of Ruel's work  struck Thierry-Maxime Loriot, Curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, who then asked him to set up a photo shoot in Jean Paul Gaultier's atelier in Paris. Ruel has been chosen to appear alongside famous artists and fashion photographers to showcase his work in the travelling international exhibition devoted to the French couturier, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, during its stop in London at the Barbican Art Centre from April 9th to August 25th, 2014. In this context, Ruel's double exposure technique pays tribute to the duality that prevails in the world of Jean Paul Gaultier.

"Nicolas Ruel has a young and refreshing eye that is very different from most photographers. His pictures have an artistic tone that goes beyond simple fashion photography. The quality of his work compares to the same level as those from Andy Warhol, Pierre and Giles or David Lachapelle that we selected for the exhibition," says Loriot.

Watch Jean Paul Gaultier speak about the exhibition and its stop in London, as only JPG can (email subscribers can click on the post title to watch this on the blog):


Here is a glimpse of Ruel's fashion work:



And now a mini tour of some of my favourites from Ruel's 8 Seconds project, of which there were a ton:



Tower Bridge, 2007


Time, 2011 


Canvas, 2009



Prologue, 2010


Nicolas_Ruel_ beijing

Maze, 2009


Nicolas_Ruel_ Pont-des-arts

Pont des Arts, 2013

Nicolas_Ruel_ boudoir_paris

Boudoir, 2013

Nicolas_Ruel_ Paris_2

Les Éclusiers, 2009

Nicolas_Ruel_ paris

Apparat, 2013



Equation, 2012


Nicolas_Ruel_ tokyo

Trend, 2009

Nicolas_Ruel_ tokyo_3

Fast Forward, 2009


Dori, 2009



Pace, 2009


Nicolas_Ruel_ Centrum_Amsterdam

Centrum, 2013 


Nicolas_Ruel_ toronto_3

Zenith, 2008

Nicolas_Ruel_ Toronto

Témoin, 2012

Nicolas_Ruel_ toronto_2

Yonge, 2012


Nicolas_Ruel_ Palais_Montreal

Palais, 2013

Nicolas_Ruel_ Montreal

Place de L'horloge, 2013




Martin Place, 2009


Look Right, 2009


Avalon, 2009

Photos © Nicolas Ruel 

Source: v2com

March 11, 2014

Unlock Art: A Short History of Art Undressed

NakedorNudeClick to view on the Unlock Art website

"The nude is a painting of a man or woman who looks at ease and confident. If they look vulnerable or embarrassed then they're naked. Not nude anymore." -  So said the 18th century critics to keep artists from being accused of 'ungodly behaviour'. This is from A Short History of Art Undressed, the fifth film in the Tate Unlock Art series, supported by Le Meridien. As with all art prior to the 20th century, it was no coincidence that its subjects fell into a narrow range of categories, and even more restricted was how they were allowed to be presented. This film looks at nudes throughout history and their reasons for being. The rules have changed now, but is the change enough? I talk about this a bit further down in our meeting in London last month with author Frances Borzello

Before we get into the heavy, I can't not show a little bit of the treats from our wonderful day. I'm always excited to see what our 'greeting' cocktail at Le Meridien Piccadilly will be and how it will tie in with the theme of the film. This time Franz created for us the 'Undress Lady’, a fresh and fruity virgin cocktail made with peach juice puree, lime juice and apple juice, garnished with the physalis fruit as decoration, the leaves opened up to reveal the 'naked' fruit: 


We later came back to a really lovely afternoon tea at Le Meridien Piccadilly, and since we're already talking about the goodies I'll get to that right now, and it includes our talk with Frances which leads into our tour of nudes at Tate Modern.

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We indulged in all kinds of sweet and savoury delectables and I went back and forth between them before I decided I should stop before I burst. And on our way out we were given a box of three eclairs made for the film - the eclair is the new macaron! - with silhouettes of nudes in chocolate dust on each. I don't have a photo because I was on my way to the train station but I can tell you they were very rich and delicious. 

As mentioned, we had a special guest, Frances Borzello, who is the author of the book The Naked Nude (Thames & Hudson, 2012). We were each given a hardback copy to take home which also came in handy for the intriguing discussion we had over our tea with Frances. Frances told us that the book is dedicated to her grandchildren - who aren't allowed to look at it! Frances is such a lovely person, very warm and approachable, and later when she was asking each of us about our blogs it came out that she was once a fashion editor for the Chicago Sun-Times! (I'd mentioned to someone that day that Le Meridien has connected us with so many talented, intelligent and truly delightful people connected to the Unlock Art project either directly or indirectly - author and art historian Linda Bolton, art critic and writer Jessica Lack, director and producer Susan Doyan, artist Olivia Plender, and now Frances - and that I'd just realised that they've all been women.  Well I recognised that each was a woman of course! But I mean I eventually clued in that the collective has been all women, razor sharp and contributing good, meaningful things to the world.)

Anyway! Frances spoke about what prompted the book, which began when she was asked to respond to Kenneth Clark’s The Nude of 1956 in which he said the nude was a category - like portrait or landscape - cleaned up for art. Not so much anymore, as some of the more recent works cited in The Naked Nude prove, with no modesty to be found. I'm not showing any here, but you can google Jenny Saville for examples of nudity at its most raw and emotional (she paints with a Bacon-like brush). Frances raised a fascinating point, that being the fact that we don't have a way of looking at such rawness, these direct and provocative expressions of nudes. You realise immediately that she's right and it's an observation that slips by the rest of us because we take our recoiling for granted; it's natural so therefore it's the right response. But is it? There's no code like there was in the past when nudes were used to illustrate religious or mythical stories, and women were idealised as nudes, presented as passive or motherly and never looking directly at you so it was ok. There was a framework entered into and so the viewer was safe, but this began to be challenged, from Manet's Olympia to Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and today we've got strangers' private parts coming at our faces - sometimes not even the ones we expect - and what do we do?! This opens a fascinating discussion; if we can resist the urge to say 'ew'  and look away, interesting things can happen. As Frances points out, the artists are asking questions. They don't have the answers, they just want you to consider what's in front of you. She thinks that's a good thing. I think being able to do this has a lot to do with acceptance of ourselves and others, naked. For now, it seems most of us just don't want to know. 

Theswellelife_frances (1 of 1)Frances Borzello hosting our afternoon tea at Le Meridien Piccadilly

Earlier, when we arrived at Tate Modern we found ourselves on the southwest side and noticed this unusually structured building going up right behind the museum:  

TheSwelleLife_Tate_Modern_Changing_works (1 of 1)

It turns out it's going to be an extension of Tate Modern, and this is what it's going to look like:

TheSwelleLife_Tate_Modern_Changing (1 of 1)

The day before we visited Tate Modern, it served as a London Fashion Week venue for the Topshop Unique show - a first for both. The video of the collection was running on a screen in one of the common areas, but my focus was on the people in the shot:

TheSwelleLife_unique (1 of 1)

And now we start the tour that Linda Bolton created for us - you know her from the previous Unlock Art posts - that takes us through the ways in which nudes were used to tell stories and express ideas and emotions:


The KissRodin. 1901-1904

"The Greeks sculpted them. So did the Romans. In renaissance Italy the idealised nude was the top subject but made respectable by choosing the subjects from the bible or classical mythology. We’ve got an over life-size idealised nude in Rodin’s Kiss made at the beginning of the 20th century." 

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The Three Dancers, Picasso. 1925

(continuing on from above) "But around that point vanguard artists were painting the nude in a different way. The jagged forms of Three Dancers convey an explosion of energy. The image is filled with Picasso’s personal recollections of a triangular affair, which resulted in the heart-broken suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas. Love, sex and death are linked in an ecstatic dance. Her face relates to a mask from Torres Strait, New Guinea, owned by the artist and points to Picasso’s association of ‘primitive’ forms with expressiveness and sexuality. Picasso didn’t ever go completely abstract. Even though this painting is slightly abstract, you can still make out exactly what it is. The painting depicts three girls dancing in what is apparently a hotel room – you can see blue skies and a balcony in the background giving the impression of joy, celebration. The wallpaper symbols reflect Russian text, which translates into a joyful word. The painting also gives the impression of bullet wounds in places, with jagged edges and shapes that are far from beautiful. Perhaps these negative connotations further portray the triangular affair and the heart broken suicide of Picasso’s friend by gun shot." 

Theswellelife_picasso_1 (1 of 1)

Nude Woman in a Red Armchair, Picasso. 1932 

"This work belongs to the remarkable sequence of portraits that Picasso made of Marie-Therese Walter at his country property at Boisgeloup. Marie-Therese is presented as a series of sensuous curves. Even the scrolling arms of the chair have been heightened and exaggerated to echo the rounded forms of her body. The face is a double or metamorphic image, the right side can also be seen as the face of a lover in profile kissing her on the lips. Her hands almost look like dove wings – giving an impression of beauty."

Theswellelife_picasso_1 (1 of 1)-2

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, Picasso. 1932

"Another painting of Marie-Therese Walter in another flattering stance – she is presented in this painting as a series of pink curves once more."

Theswellelife_picasso_3 (1 of 1)

Nude Woman with NecklacePicasso. 1968

"This painting is somewhat different to Picasso’s paintings of Marie-Therese Walter. The subject is Jacqueline Roque, his second wife of which he is thought to have worshipped and resented for her youth and beauty. The painting presents crude connotations such as bodily fluids and flatulence and she is presented almost as the sum of her sexual parts. The green colour could also be seen as beast like – however it could even be suggested that Picasso was simply finding a contrasting colour to the red cushions. Picasso was in his 80s when he painted this picture." I will say that this painting is even more provocative - and not just a little bit gross - in person! 

Theswellelife_green_shirt (1 of 1)

Self Portrait, Christian Schad. 1927

"The nude can become disturbing, take a look at Christan Schad’s take on it. This self-portrait with the female nude is a good example of the new realism. Based in 1920s Berlin Schad looks back to traditional German art – check out his Renaissance-style sheer shirt, but it’s also a distinctly modern work. The nude in the background has a scary and alienated look. Her face is scarred with a brand, inflicted on Neapolitan women by their loves to make them theirs and unattractive to others. It is a startling emblem of the potential violence underlying male possession of the female body. We can also see an industrial scene in the background and a strange singular flower. The juxtaposition of objects present a negative outlook, although the nude itself is attractive and almost idealistic. Perhaps this painting presents a classical nude in the modern day." 

Theswellelife_pigeon_chested_man (1 of 1)

Agosta, the Pigeon chested man and Rasha, the Black Dove, Christian Schad. 1929

"This painting shows a deformed white man and a black woman – both ominous figures of this time in Berlin with the rise of the Nazis. These figures present non-idealistic nudes – the complete opposite to the idealistic Greek nudes we have seen. Both of the figures unerringly return our gaze – the figures were accustomed to scrutiny, earning their living as sideshow acts in Berlin funfairs. Unusually, this unsettling portrayal of the objectification of the body, voyeurism and social alienation is focused on the male as well as the female nude." 

Theswellelife_nnn (1 of 1)

Family Jules NNN (No Naked Niggahs), Barkley Hendricks, 1974

"This picture shows a relaxed nude where the pose and title are confronting the way representations of African American nudes have been received, feared and censored and directly tackles the widely accepted notion of the hyper-sexualised black body. His response seems to say ‘if this is what you expect, then this is what I am going to give you’. However, the spectacles and pipe give the man an intellectual presence, taking away from the initial thoughts of the picture and confusing it somewhat." 

After we discussed this work, we were told that the room it hangs in is offered for event bookings, such as dinners. And that more than a few times requests have been received to cover the painting or even remove it altogether. We all had the same reaction, that if you are going to book a room at Tate Modern, you get it as is - the art lives here after all! (Just to clarify, this request is always denied.) 

TheSwelleLife_deChirico (1 of 1)

The Uncertainty of the Poet, Giorgio de Chirico. 1913

"de Chirico’s quiet square evokes the classical world through a dream-like vision. A sculpture of Aphrodite’s torso is placed provocatively alongside a bunch of bananas. In the background a passing train suggests the sense of the contemporary and the immediate. de Chirico’s early works were hugely admired by the Surrealists, who saw them in a dream-like parallel existence." 

Theswellelife_dali (1 of 1)

Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Salvador Dali. 1937 (yes, there are nudes in there, a group of skinny ones in the middleground)

"The surrealists looked at the nude and played with the classical nude of Antiquity viewed through the lens of Freud’s investigations into the human psyche" - in other words, this is when nudes got risqué, and gave more than a little away about what was going in Dali's mind as well! 

Theswellelife_Linda_bolton (1 of 1)

As I've mentioned previously, the group just loves Linda, and her style has certainly not gone unnoticed so I couldn't resist snapping a photo of her very 'Linda' coat!

A huge thank you to Frances Borzello, Linda Bolton and as always, Le Meridien, for another eye-opening day of insights into art. 

‘Unlock Art’ is an exciting series of short films offering an imaginative, witty, and enriching introduction to the world of art.  Created by Tate in partnership with Le Méridien, Unlock Artfeatures eight short films that put art under the spotlight, with topics ranging from the history of the nude to humour, Performance to Pop Art, presenting all the need-to-know facts. Bold in approach and rich in content, the film series was conceived to make the arts more accessible to a wider audience. Marc Sands, Director of Media and Audiences Tate, said “Our goal is to promote public understanding and enjoyment of British, modern and contemporary art. This series of films launched will offer an entertaining, thought p rovoking yet witty approach to art. With an exciting roster of presenters, and the imaginative and creative content of the films, we want to connect people who might not have considered some of the subjects before with contemporary art.”

Part of Le Méridien’s ethos is to support emerging artists. It furthers this commitment through its Unlock Art™ Programme, which offers Le Méridien guests complimentary access to forward thinking cultural institutions around the world. These partnerships allow guests to explore a local, inspiring cultural experience, simply by presenting the Unlock Art™ room key. Le Méridien’s Unlock Art™ partner in the UK is TATE Modern and TATE Britain.

Photos © The Swelle Life

March 05, 2014

Along for the Ride: Beastie Boards x Chidy Wayne


I live a five-minute walk from the sea, and our stretch of beach is known as one of the UK's best surfing spots, but despite the proximity I think it'll always be a spectator sport for me. I just know I'd wind up in a full body cramp while trying to get up on the board and have to ride to shore stuck in a hunched rigor mortis-like position, or finally get up and wipe out spectacularly, Greg Brady-style. (Remember that Brady Bunch episode where they all go to Hawaii and Greg enters a surfing competition and falls off and hits his head on a rock thanks to the 'tabu'? No, he didn't almost die because he was an inexperienced surfer catching some of the craziest waves on the planet, it was because of the 'cursed' tiki guy he was wearing as a necklace! And who holds a surfing competition at a part of the beach that has rocks anyway?)

I think my spectating might not even be about watching the surfers on my doorstep; it's more about appreciating from afar the particularly beautiful boards from Brooklyn-based surf and skate board makers, Along. Handmade in sustainable materials, their limited edition designs reflect old school techniques while delivering a contemporary aesthetic through those clean, gorgeous woods. And to keep the flow of nature-inspired boards moving, they collaborate with other like-minded talents to create special collections, such as the one with Barcelona-based illustrator Chidy Wayne which has just recently launched. ALONG’s founder and director David Lopez sat with the artist in front of an Alaia surfboard while listening to 60s soul music and speaking about the feeling of riding the pools at Chelsea Piers, or a wave in Nicaragua. Out of this came Beastie Boards (love the NYC tie-in there), "five beautiful acrylic on wood beasts represented with the wildness but precision a rider needs to face both concrete or real waves."

And these guys are as good at image making as they are crafting boards - have a browse of their daydreamy website and watch the video for the Along NYC x Chidy Wayne boards, further down. Most of the images are in black and white, yet all you see and feel is sunshine. 

These are painted decks of the Beastie Boards, and one for the waves:  



They're just so cool, I'd say they'd make great art pieces for the home. But these awesome boards would be wasted if they didn't see the outdoor action they were made for. 






Images © Along NYC

February 17, 2014

'Where are the Women?' #UnlockArt Film Explains


"Where are the women in art?" is a question that largely goes unasked; we're so used to the idea of women being overshadowed by men in the art world that most of us assume that's just the way it is, that there really are, and were, so few great women artists. Well, that's not the case at all, actually!

In the fourth Unlock Art film released last month, Jemima Kirke - an artist and actor you may know from the HBO TV series Girls - reveals herself from beneath a gorilla mask and utters these words "...there have always been women who were artists. But it was men who wrote the history books, and somehow, they just forgot to mention that." (Pause to let steam blow out of my ears.) In under six minutes, Jessica Lack, the writer of the film (and most of the Unlock Art series) manages to do more to give artists who are women the recognition they deserve, both collectively and some individually, and clear up this tragic omission, then anything most of us will have ever encountered. Because it's simply not a priority; it's not on the agenda. It's seen as a 'fringe' topic. As an art student, I was taught about the major women artists, not necessarily always with the 'women artist' label, but of course Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keeffe were hailed as important artists....hmm....Cindy Sherman figured in there....Dorothea Tanning the Surrealist painter got a brief mention... actually there were lots of women Surrealists but you have to read many books about the movement to find out who they were, and even so they're usually positioned as 'girlfriend of'. Add maybe a handful more names and you got the sense it was a comprehensive list. I mean, you'd have thought women must not have been interested in, or have been capable of, painting in an abstract expressionist style! But they were. Lee Krasner - who? Elaine de Kooning - yes her last name is familiar but what did she do...  And they weren't the only ones. And if you focussed on women artists as the subject of a paper or project you were branded a feminist - not that there's anything wrong with that! But hey, maybe you just thought it was brilliant art. 

Watch the film to find out which 17th century painting hanging in the Louvre was wrongly attributed to a man. (Oh there's so much jaw-dropping stuff in there I want to give it all away - you really must see it.) 

After the film we had a fascinating discussion with Jessica and Berlin-based British artist Olivia Plender also joined (more on her below). I think it was Jessica who pointed out, 'Women appreciate the art, men collect it.' (I asked if the gender breakdown of practising artists is known and was told that 75% of British art school graduates are women. So it must be that these few male artists are just so amazing, then? Not so fast. It's largely men who have the money to buy the art, men who own the galleries and choose their potential stars - essentially continuing to write the history books with a gender-skewed view of great art.  With this on my mind since our talk, I couldn't help but notice that of the bidders in an auction of dollhouses designed by well-known architects who were named, all were men. But about 30% of the artists that the architects collaborated with were women, which is as much as double the usual representation of galleries and museums, even the major ones! However, it should be noted that later in the day, Linda Bolton would inform us of how the volume of women’s artwork in the Tate galleries has increased to 1/5th of the collection these days - that's 20%. It's an improvement. 

Speaking of Tate and women in art, when we were at Tate Modern back in September for the debut of the Unlock Art film series, an exhibition of an artist named Mira Schendel (1919-1988) was running. She is one of Latin America’s most important and prolific post-war artists but not commonly known elsewhere. It was the first international full-scale survey of her work -  250 paintings, drawings and sculptures exploring "universal ideas of faith, self-understanding and existence" (and it all just looked so cool). I can honestly say I've never enjoyed viewing a collection as much as I have hers. The variety of media was rich - I loved her use of transparency - and jaw-dropping large-scale installations had me asking - who was this woman and why did I not know her? And how many other great women artists are out there? 

During our rousing discussion about the film we had to be reminded lunch was waiting for us upstairs in the Terrace Grill and Bar restaurant, and the theme was, of course, thoughtfully tied in with the film thanks to head chef Michael Dutnall:

TheSwelleLife_WomenChefMenu (1 of 1)

And those 'women in kitchens' would be:

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We had to match the chef with the course and I think everyone got all three correct - each has such a distinct signature style that it wasn't hard to identify who created the dish. My favourite of the three was Anjum Anand's vivid dessert of poached plums with sweet saffron Sabayon, toasted almonds, pistachio and lemon:

TheSwelleLife_Dessert (1 of 1)

And then there were the drinks. Let me backtrack to the first of what was served before the film, a delicious, non-alcoholic concoction called The Masterpiece created as a tribute to Olivia Plender's comic book:

TheSwelleLife_TheMasterpiece (1 of 1)

And the cocktail we were served on our way into lunch was called ‘Lady Blender’ in honour of Rachel Barrie, a master mixologist. It's a twist on her favourite cocktail, Blood & Sand with Auchentoshan 3 wood whisky, Antica Formula, cherry herring, hibiscus and blackcurrant tea, and dry curacao to enhance the citrusy flavours. Franz says it’s a great aperitif, well balanced, with a great finish and I would concur!

TheSwelleLife_whisky (1 of 1)

Next we were off to Tate Britain for another insightful, bespoke tour by author and art historian Linda Bolton (who I can safely say has the hearts of everyone in the group):

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Here we are (well not me, I'm behind the camera) in front of Anya Gallaccio's preserve ‘beauty’ (1991-2003), made with 2000 gerberas, glass, metal and rubber. As Linda tells us, Gallaccio is known for her work with organic materials such as ice, flowers, fruits and sugar. Her installations change over time. In this work, gerberas are sandwiched between huge panes of glass and left to wither and rot. Gallaccio has described gerberas as a ‘disposable commodity’ mass produced all year round. When the flowers were installed at Tate Britain they were colourful and bright, almost vulgar they were so beautiful. The flowers have now slowly died, illustrating what happens over the passage of time. Linda suggested that the piece is meant to depict a sense of life – from being vibrant and very much alive, to death. The decomposing flowers have also started to bleed in a sense, down the wall, giving an impression of blood - you can see this effect on the skirting board. It's quite a powerful piece. 


This painting from 1857 was especially moving. It's called Nameless and Friendless, and was painted by Emily Mary Osborn. Linda explained how this is a great case for the women artist in example and output. It shows a vulnerable woman trying to support herself by selling her paintings. Behind her, two gents look up from looking at pictures of scantily-clad ballet dancers to check her out. It’s a beautifully subtle illustration of the plight of an unmarried woman. The woman is with a boy, perhaps her son or younger brother. They appear to be middle class, yet fallen on hard times. She just looks so vulnerable and is clearly at the mercy of the shop owner whose demeaner indicates he's likely to be stingy in his appraisal. 

TheSwelleLife_Sylvia Pankhurst (1 of 1)Sylvia Pankhurst in her studio, c. 1904-05

I promised more on Olivia Plender. She curated the important exhibition Sylvia Pankhurst: The Suffragette as a Militant Artist (2013) showing at Tate Britain. Linda describes it as 'Art meets agitation': Sylvia Pankhurst was an artist and campaigner for women’s rights at the beginning of the 20th century. Art that she and other suffragettes made was designed to push the women’s cause. It’s something that gains momentum over the 20th century – this intermixing of art and politics. Olivia explained how this curated work came out of a project at the London Metropolitan University library; she wondered why this work wasn’t represented in galleries. The movement used violence against private property to publicise their cause – rather than violence to people. To them, art was a great symbol of private property, so this was one of the key tactics they used. Mary Rogers for example, famously axed a painting in the National Gallery. Linda also showed us a WSPU tea set which was created by Olivia and used at suffragette tea parties, often to celebrate the release of a prisoner of a cause. This illustrates how the movement stayed together, almost as a family, to protest. The group was mainly made up of upper middle class women and it’s often easily forgotten that these women would have been marginalised from normal society for fighting for the cause and their rights – other women who did not believe in the cause would have most likely disowned them as acquaintances.

TheSwelleLife_WSPU_teaset (1 of 1)Pieces from the WSPU tea set

And this is what Tate Britain tells us about the militant artist:

Sylvia Pankhurst 1882- 1960 made a profound impact on the fight for women’s rights as both an artist and campaigner. Trained at the Manchester Minicipal School of Art and the Royal College of Art, she was a key figure in the work of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) set up with her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel in 1903, using her artistic skills to further the cause. Pankhurst’s lifelong interest was the rights for working women, in 1907 she spent several months touring industrial communities, documenting the working and living conditions of women workers. Her combination of artworks with written accounts provided a vivid picture of the lives of women workers and made a powerful argument for the improvement in working conditions and pay equality with men. Pankhurst designed badges, banners and fliers for with WSPU her symbolic ‘angel of freedom’ was essential to the visual image of the campaign alongside the WSPU colours of purple white and green. As the suffrage campaign intensified, she struggled to balance her artistic and political work, and in 1912 she gave up art to devote herself to the East London federation of suffragettes, the organisation she founded to ensure working class women were represented in the suffrage campaign. Pankhurst was one of many women artists involved in creating designs for the suffrage campaign and active in militant protest. Suffragette attacks on artwork are examined in the exhibition ‘art under attack’ at Tate Britain.

The Sylvia Pankhurst work is displayed next to work by Margaret Harrison, Kay Hunt and Mary Kelly who conducted a detailed study of women who worked in a metal box factory in Bermondsey. The artists collected a vast amount of data through interviews, archival research and observation:

TheSwelleLife_Women_at_Work (1 of 1)

And I could go on with more incredible art from the day but I'll leave it here. Thank you to Le Meridien for another fascinating day of discovering; this was my favourite so far. I think all of us were saying we now see things differently, for the better. And in a few hours I'll be screening the next film in the series, Naked or Nude? A Short History of Art Undressed.

Unlock Art’is an exciting series of short films offering an imaginative, witty, and enriching introduction to the world of art.  Created by Tate in partnership with Le Méridien, Unlock Art features eight short films that put art under the spotlight, with topics ranging from the history of the nude to humour, Performance to Pop Art, presenting all the need-to-know facts. Bold in approach and rich in content, the film series was conceived to make the arts more accessible to a wider audience. 

January 24, 2014

Habitat Presents: Colour into Liquid Air


We could all use more colour in our lives, couldn't we? Especially during the gloom of the last months of winter. Just in time to get us into a sunnier headspace, Habitat’s Platform space on the Kings Road sees the exciting addition of an oasis of colour and vibrancy to its west London gallery this February and March. Recent graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art, Gracjana Rejmer- Canovas, has been invited by Habitat to transform its white gallery space on the King’s Road ‘Platform’ into a riot of colour through a painting installation entitled ‘Colour Into Liquid Air’.

Attracted by the American Abstract Expressionists and the Colour Field Painters, Rejmer-Canovas will present canvases of bold, abstract colours of various shapes and sizes. The dozens of canvases sit together and make a large, cohesive whole but each individual piece will also have its own individual integrity.

Rejmer-Canovas soaks up London’s colours and the vast cultural richness of the capital in her home turf of Hampstead and around her Southwark studio. In this project, she will dye her canvases of linen and cotton with natural pigments and then layer acrylics and oil paints. The result will be walls and floors awash with paintings, and a complete interior world of colour. 

The curator of Platform, Holly Wood, says, “Habitat is the perfect place for Gracjana to create her first solo show in London. Her palette of materials and references take you on a journey and remind you of brighter days and faraway trips. I am so excited that we are working with Gracjana on this original and inspiring project. Take a day-trip and be surrounded by the vibrancy of this exhibition.”

Rejmer-Canovas’ ‘Colour Into Liquid Air’ at Platform will run from 7th February to 23rd March 2014 and is generously supported by the Polish Cultural Institute, London. A video of the making process in the space will be shown in the space on loop.  All work is available for sale through the artist prices start from £800, and commissions are available. 

Gracjana Rejmer-Canovas _Habitat_1











Photo credit: Susan Bell

January 21, 2014

"Pop Goes the World" Unlocks Pop Art

PopClick the image to watch the film at the #UnlockArt site

Who doesn't like pop art? You don't have to get it, it's just fun and bright and colourful - or it can be. But if you want to understand what's really behind Warhol's famous soup cans and Lichtenstein's cartoon vignette parodies, the latest film in the #Unlock art series will help you along. Pop Art fan Alan Cumming (what a perfect match!) takes us on a wild ride through the major figures and works and explains what it all means in this vivid and entertaining film. 

Listen near the end of the film for one of Andy Warhol's best quotes. It's priceless.


Andy Warhol and Lou Reed

PopGoestheWorld_LichstensteinRoy Lichtenstein at work

PopGoestheWorld_DavidHockneyDavid Hockney (I. LOVE. HIM.) and one of the typical California scenes of the 1960s that inspired some of his greatest works. I love the line delivered by Alan Cumming in the pool "It's much sunnier in LA than it is in Bradford." (Hockney is from Bradford which is not known for bright and cheery landscapes.) 

Thanks to another fantastic tour courtesy of art historian Linda Bolton, I finally got to see Hockney's A Bigger Splash at Tate Britain. I had no idea it was so big, and I love that its sunny cheer is so imposing on the wall. I don't usually like the idea of poster prints of masterworks but this one is framed in my kitchen because its presence just makes me so happy - it reminds me of the midcentury ranch houses I loved so much in a part of the city I lived near growing up in Canada - and I learned that the little errant splotches that extend outside of the image are not the result of a bad print run, they're there because they're present in the original painting because, according to Linda, Hockney didn't want us to forget it's a painting. (Was he worried we might try to dive into the pool?) Another thing I learned - I had no idea this is would be considered Pop Art. Makes sense now that I think about it, but I guess in my mind it existed on its own plane because of what it meant to me personally. Its impact has not diminished after all of these years. 

This is what Linda told us about David Hockney and the painting:

  • America was the land of the modern, a country which celebrated the new. British pop artist David Hockney headed there. He painted the American dream; the Hollywood homes with palm-fringed gardens and pools below clear blue skies.
  • His ‘A Bigger Splash’ shows with clarity an empty pool into which someone has dived. The painting is as big and uncomplicated as Pop Art. The painting has a very specific look – with everything very in its place and square with aspects such as the director’s chair suggesting power and wealth. The palm trees, pool and colour gives the impression of sun and warmth, yet the content and overall feel of the painting can be interpreted as sad and empty.
  • Different techniques are used in the painting – for example the pool, sky, building and palm trees are simple and minimal – almost painted with structure (you can see the effects of masking tape edges used to create this look). The ‘splash’ gives the impression of a person (with subtle skin colour tones) and here he has used a different techniques to portray the splash effect.
  • The painting could almost be a print – however subtle hints at the creation process are included, such as paint drop marks and imperfections." 

DavidHockney_ABiggerSplashDavid Hockney. A Bigger Splash, 1967

We also got to see Hockney's Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy which was so compelling; it seemed to reveal the tumultuous state of Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark's relationship at the time, through the way they held their bodies and of course their facial expressions, which Hockney translated with near heartbreaking effect. (Their cat Percy didn't seem too bothered.) The greens in the large painting were beautiful, as was the contrast of Celia's aubergine dress:

DavidHockney_MrandMrsClarkandPercyDavid Hockney. Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy, 1971

And here's what Linda told us about this painting:

  • London's Notting Hill is the location of the home of the very stylish couple Mr & Mrs Ossie Clark, painted with their cat Percy by Hockney in 1971. Ossie Clark was a dress designer in London's Swinging '60s.
  • 'King of the Kings Road' was his nickname, and he was the creator of a highly flamboyant fashion range. His wife Celia Birtwell was a fabric designer, and she created the prints for Ossie's dresses. Hockney had become friends with Ossie and Celia at art school in Manchester in the late 1950s. Hockney and Ossie had travelled to New York in the early '60s, enthusiastic for all they saw there. Hockney worked from photographs. His painting of his friends is large and simplified. Unusually for a painting of a married couple, he has created an open space between them.
  • The painting could suggest a divide between the couple, with the window and shutters beyond separating the pair, whom it could be argued look rather disgruntled and uninterested. The painting went straight to the Tate in 1971 and Mrs Clark left Mr Clark three years later, which led to Ossie’s downward spiral which he didn’t really recover from. It was implied that she was not content with the rock-star, superficial lifestyle led by her husband. As with ‘A Bigger Splash’ there are drips and suggestions of the creative work which went into the piece.

TheSwelleLife_popart_2 (1 of 1)

As part of our Pop Art day we got to try our hand at a creation of our own, in this gorgeous room hidden away downstairs at Le Meridien Piccadilly. We were guided by Paint Jam London, an innovative art company based on London who run inspiring art workshops and events, show art works, feature artists and sell art and prints. It's a lot of fun and you may be surprised what hidden creativity they can unleash within you!

TheSwelleLife_popart_1 (1 of 1)

There is nothing more daunting than a blank canvas! Luckily we were first guided through exercises to get us into the creative process, using various media such as pastels, paints, charcoal and palette knives (I opted to use one instead of a brush for texture).

TheSwelleLife_PaintJam (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife_popart_3 (1 of 1)

Everyone got into the spirit of the day, and knowing myself very well, I did not attempt to think of an original idea in the time we had, so I used the Lichtenstein example in front of me (why I drew in charcoal when I knew I'd be painting it I have no idea - charcoal is incredibly smudgy) and tailored the word bubble to reflect the film series (using Photoshop at home!):

TheSwelleLife_popart_4 (1 of 1)

Afterward we were treated to another scrumptious feast at the hotel's Terrace Grill & Bar Restaurant, beginning with a warm glass of mulled wine - made with gin which made it very Le Meridien Piccadilly - and was so delicious I know I will never be able to enjoy mulled wine again, unless they've served it to me. The mulled wine featured again in the starter, curing the salmon which was served with cinnamon cream cheese and spiced oranges, followed by corn-fed chicken breast, potato rosti, fricasee of brussel sprouts, chestnuts and lardons. Yes, it was just as good as it sounds. 

TheSwelleLife_mulled_wine (1 of 1)

The room was gorgeously festive:

TheSwelleLife_popart_Terrace (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife_popart_ChristmasCracker (1 of 1)

We popped open special Christmas crackers which had yummy truffles inside with a lovely message:

TheSwelleLife_popart_cracker (1 of 1)


Our dessert was first revealed with a cheeky prank, chef Michael Dutnall presenting a charred Christmas pudding apologetically. We knew something must be up because for one, he wouldn't burn the dessert in the first place; and second, he would certainly not show it to us! We waited excitedly and then he turned around and lifted this big, red foil box to reveal:

TheSwelleLife_popart_dessert_table (1 of 1)

A wonderland of pastries, gingerbread and other sweets surrounding a special croquembouche which looked like a Christmas tree. This was what I had on my plate, and we got to take some treats home which were very well received!

TheSwelleLife_popart_dessert (1 of 1)

Thank you to Le Meridien for another wonderful adventure!

Unlock Art is an exciting series of short films offering an imaginative, witty, and enriching introduction to the world of art.  Created by Tate in partnership with Le Méridien, Unlock Art features eight short films that put art under the spotlight, with topics ranging from the history of the nude to humour, Performance to Pop Art, presenting all the need-to-know facts. Bold in approach and rich in content, the film series was conceived to make the arts more accessible to a wider audience.

January 13, 2014

The Printed Word Project


In this age of all things digital, what about the book? I mean the real kind, that bound collection of typeset words on paper? As we know, despite the proliferation of e-readers, the good 'ol book is not going the way of the dodo. It's more than a means of delivering a story or information, it's an experience that engages all of the senses- yes, even the olfactory if your book has that lovely musty smell of a second-hand bookshop. The Printed Word is a research project-creation at l’École de design de l’Université du Québec à Montréal, which explores the medium of print through the design parameters of the book: size, proportions, typography, iconography, materials, printing and binding. The program consistsof an exhibition, book fair, conferences and a creative workshop that will allow the public to rediscover the book as a place of creation. 

The Printed Word is free to attend and is taking place January 23 to 25, Centre de design de l'UQAM, 1440, rue Sanguinet (angle Sainte-Catherine Est), Montréal

For more information visit the project site here (it's in French)





Source: www.v2com.net

December 31, 2013

Afternoon Tea, Art (and the Coolest Toilets Ever) at Sketch

TheSwelleLife_Sketch_front (1 of 1)

After screening the second #UnlockArt film in the Le Meridien and Tate produced series last month, we were treated to a fantastic afternoon tea at Sketch in Mayfair. It's a gallery/cafe/restaurant spread over two floors of a converted 18th century building, and it's just a magical place, one of the reasons London is such an incredible city to visit. 

We were taken to the Glade which is where Afternoon Tea is served, a gorgeous, jewel-toned room that had me looking at the walls, ceiling and everything else for several minutes - total distraction!

Glade_SketchPhoto from Sketch.co.uk

The most charming pastry case sits near the entrance of the Glade room:

TheSwelleLife_cakes (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife_Sketch_teapot2 (1 of 1)

We went all-out and had champagne as well as tea which came in white porcelain teapots with bust sculptures as lid handles. 

TheSwelleLife_Sketch_table (1 of 1)

The finger sandwiches were lovely, some came topped with caviar and quail egg. My favourites were the mini croque monsieurs.

TheSwelleLife_Sketch_sandwiches (1 of 1)

I was full by the time I realised I hadn't yet had the parfait sitting next to my plate, but you know my rule, pretty food can't go to waste so I ate it right up, and I was glad I did as it was one of the most delicious things on the table:

TheSwelleLife_Sketch_pudding (1 of 1)

The decor throughout the spaces, from the walls to the ceilings to special installations, was intriguing:

TheSwelleLife_Sketch_mirror (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife_Sketch_ceiling (1 of 1) TheSwelleLife_Sketch_neon (1 of 1)

TheSwelleLife_Sketch_chair_2 (1 of 1)

Now, normally I don't include the fact that I 'went to the bathroom' in a post, but I'm mentioning it this time because it was the coolest thing ever. I was directed to walk up these stairs...

Sketch_bathroomPhoto from RosieParsons.com. I think that's a DJ booth inside there. 

...not realising when I got to the top that I was actually in the bathroom until there was no where else to go, and then I clued in that the glossy white, egg-shaped pods all around me were the toilets:

Sketch_podsPhoto from People.com - Sketch made it on their '7 Public Bathrooms Nicer than our House' list

When I went in, my pod - which glowed pink - was talking to me in a male voice and I have no idea what it was saying. (And I only had one glass of champagne so that wasn't it.) Outside, the mirrors were definitely made to mess with your vanity - they were convex so your face looked warped. I got the message - it was 'Stop staring at yourself and get back to admiring this awesome toilet!' I had to find photos of it online because I don't normally take my camera into the bathroom, people tend not to like that. 


Lastly, an exterior shot as the car pulled away far too early to take me to Kings Cross station to head back up to Newcastle - I'd love to see what they do for breakfast:

TheSwelleLife_Sketch_sign (1 of 1)

Thanks to Le Meridien for another wonderful day!

Photos © The Swelle Life unless otherwise credited

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