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FRED BUTLER MENTORS FOR SOMEWHERE_TO

If I had to nominate an inspirational creative to motivate aspiring British fashion designers, Fred Butler would be at the top of my list. Somewhereto_ saw the magic, too, and chose the colour-loving designer READ MORE...
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NET-A-SPORTER LAUNCHES 7-DAY BODY REBOOT

NET-A-PORTER has gone sporty with their 7-Day Body Reboot, a daily fitness and healthy diet program presented as a video series. I think this is brilliant for two reasons. First, it's a smart way to promote READ MORE...
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WeSC & ALTEWAI SAOME LAUNCH HIGH END STREETWEAR

Following the wrap-up of Stockholm Fashion Week is the launch of a new collaboration between two Swedish fashion greats, skate/street brand WeSC and design duo Altewai Saome READ MORE...
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MADE LONDON RETURNS TO MARYLEBONE

The Design and Craft Fair, MADE LONDON, returns to One Marylebone 24-26 October to present the very best in contemporary craft and design. Showcasing over 120 READ MORE...
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SEA LIFE COMES TO TORONTO AT RIPLEY'S AQUARIUM

It's called Ripley's Aquarium of Canada (as opposed to Ripley's Aquarium of Toronto which would follow the format for their US locations), which is not helping the general READ MORE...
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BOOK REVIEW: LAND/SEA VOL.1

I opened the cover of a new landscape photography periodical I had just received called Land/Sea and began browsing the photos and words as I walked into my kitchen READ MORE...
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LC:M BACKSTAGE AT MATTHEW MILLER WITH TONI & GUY

Yes, this is a men's fashion post. And it feels right. This season's London Collections: Men was my first ever thanks to an invitation from long-term London Fashion Week sponsor Toni & Guy READ MORE...
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September 09, 2014

#UnlockArt Film Series Ends on a Humorous Note

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The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll.  It was a lighthearted end (though humour was present in each narrative) to a series that achieved exactly what it set out to do. Sharp-witted writers, charismatic presenters we all know, first class production and astute directors addressed topics such as How to Buy Art, Where are the Women? and Pop Art, making high art easy to understand and enjoyable. 

Clearly, I'm a huge fan of the series, I really can't say enough about it. I spent four years in university studying art and art history, and I thought performance art was, well, kind of rubbish to be honest. Misguided weirdos wanting attention and calling it art. That's how I saw it because I didn't understand it. Usually I take the attitude that something shouldn't be dismissed unless you do your part in trying to wrap your head around it, but in this case I felt my assertion was valid. It so happened that the debut film in the series addressed this very subject, and in a matter of five minutes I finally understood what I hadn't been able to get my head around for years. Performance art still isn't my thing, but I get it now, I've made friends with it, and I can appreciate its cultural influence and the place it holds in art history. What a great way to begin. 

And here is the room where the #UnlockArt series officially wrapped up, in Le Meridien's opulent, violet-tinged, Adams Room where all eight films ran on a loop on the wall, providing the backdrop to a fantastic, #UnlockArt-themed dinner, created by Chef de Cuisne Michael Dutnall:

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Franz served up his delicious cocktails, some of the molecular variety: 

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LM-8Le Meridien's Chef de Cuisine Michael Dutnall 

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Our sorbet palate cleansers (in this case it could be palette as well?) were served in mini shopping bags marked SOLD to tie in with the film How to Buy Art. 

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Dessert was served in a themed box, mine being...can you guess? Pop Art, of course.

KAPOW! to my glucose levels indeed, look what was inside:  

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I was too full to even think about dessert (I left out a couple courses in the photos because sweets and tiny food present a lot nicer than meat), but there was no way I was leaving it behind, so this box of goodies came back to my room and I got into it when I woke up. 

Want to know more about Humour in Art? Let's take the last of the tours that art historian and author Linda Bolton (how we will miss her!) designed to explore works associated with the film topic. Here's a selection from the works we saw at Tate Modern earlier that day, which illustrate how humour comes in many different forms, in Linda's words:

Niki de Saint Phalle – Shooting picture, 1961

She did what? Shoot stuff? That was her thing. Niki de St Phalle said she was angry. In her zip fronted white leather cat suit and hard attitude, she told everyone in her sexy French accent that she was angry with everyone and everything. She wanted to shoot everything and everyone. Niki made shooting paintings: she put liquid paint in a bag, sealed the bag, pinned it to the canvas and covered it in plaster. Plaster dried, she shot the plaster, punctured the bag below and the colour bled down the picture. 

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Thomas Hirschhorn – Candelabra with heads, 2006

Hirschhorn is known for his sculptures and installations made from everyday materials such as cardboard, plastic and paper, bound together with brown packing tape. This work was originally part of an exhibition called Concretions, a term from geology and medicine that suggests the gradual growth of a solid mass. Hirschhorn related the theme to a broader social and spiritual petrification. Here the faces of mannequins seem to be emerging from – or submerged into – larger biomorphic forms.

Thomas Hirschhorn – Candelabra with heads 2006

(I have to admit that every time I see this work I feel crampy. I don't need to explain why, do I?)

Stanley Spencer – The Centurion’s Servant, 1914

As we looked at this painting, Linda told us the humorous story (to us, but surely not him) of how Spencer fell in love with a lady called Patricia Preece, married her, yet took his ex-wife Hilda Carline on honeymoon with him. Preece began to manage Spencer’s finances and slowly duped him of his money, even though she refused to consummate their marriage. Stan really didn't play that one right. Find out more here.

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David Shrigley – I’m Dead

David Shrigley's art is almost always humorous. His Leisure Centre is a funny play on words and concept, as is his I'm Dead placard-holding taxidermy dog.

David Shrigley – I’m Dead

Bruce Nauman – Run from fear fun from rear, 1941

Bruce Nauman makes a fun word play in his neon work. It's a bright, post-pop shout-out for irreverent fun.

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Roy Lichtenstein – Mustard on White, 1963

Roy Lichtenstein makes an art joke in his Mustard on White. The great pop artist makes fun of the American abstract expressionists here. The pairing of colours sounds like the title of an abstract work and at the same time jokingly refers to a condiment on white bread.

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And before we go, here's something I found kind of funny from one of Franz's magic molecular demonstrations at the Terrace Grill and Bar - when he lifted the cloche after scent-infusing the cocktails, his head seemed to disappear into a delicious-smelling iquid nitrogen cloud:

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TheSwelleLife-Le-Meridien-Franz-fog (1 of 1)Photos © Dave Watts unless otherwise credited

A huge thank you to Le Meridien for providing what is hands down the most fun and exciting learning experience I have ever had. Sure beats university! (At least the one I went to.) If you want to see posts on the preceding films scroll down here, and to view the entire series of films you can visit the Unlock Art site

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

Tate is a family of four galleries: Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives.  Tate is responsible for the National Collection of British art from 1500 and international modern and contemporary art from 1900. Tate's Collection of over 66,000 works of art embraces all media from painting, drawing, sculpture and prints, to photography, video and film, installation and performance.  The Collection is displayed at Tate's four galleries and through loans to temporary national and international exhibitions and long loans. 

July 18, 2014

Sibling Gives the Jacob's Tin a Fashion Makeover

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Designer collaboration is the way forward for brands who want to inject style into their products, and now baked snack maker Jacob’s has teamed up with British knitwear design trio, SIBLING, to create a limited edition cracker tin that will fit nicely in any fashionista’s kitchen cupboard. (I kind of love the idea of food brands working with high-end designers to bring their packaging into another realm.)

SIBLING, who are well known for their strong use of colour and love of traditional knitting techniques, have used their unique knitwear designs as inspiration for their redesign of the traditional Jacob’s Cream Cracker tin.

Twenty of the limited edition leopard print tins are now on sale on eBay, with all proceeds going to FareShare, the UK’s largest food redistribution charity. 

I had the opportunity to interview SIBLING Joe Bates (wearing the great hat, right) about the project and his own work:

TSL: Sibling is an 'in the know', unique, high fashion brand; not the typical choice for collaboration for such a ubiquitous company such as Jacob's - someone there knows their fashion! When you were first approached with the idea did you see it as an opportunity to introduce Sibling to a wider market?

JB: SIBLING are always keen to reach as broad an audience as possible. We get approached by many companies to collaborate so we have to be very careful who we choose to partner with. Jacobs came with a fun proposal that made us smile....so choice made.

TSL: You referenced Jacob's packaging colours for your striking argyle and leopard print tin design - was this combination an obvious choice or did you try other patterns and textures first?

JB: Colour is a fundamental to the SIBLING DNA, we embrace it wholeheartedly so utilising the Jacobs livery was not a challenge we couldn't meet. The patternation was based on our usual play on historical and traditional knitting, then we put that together with a bit of rebel spirit.

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TSL: What is it like designing as a trio?

JB: Lovely, it means there's always someone to confer with which makes it great for expanding ideas very quickly. 

TSL: I hear Sibling are big snack fans - what is your favourite Jacob's snack? 

JB: The Cream Cracker of course, the original and the best. 

TSL: Where do you take inspiration from for your designs?

JB: Most often the inspiration will start from a single image. Being very passionate about reportage photography means that it is normally a single photographic portrait that will really fire things off. 

Sibling_finale_ss15TSL: What is your favourite piece you’ve ever created?

JB: The most recent is the finale piece from S/S15 SIBLING menswear catwalk show. It's a giant raffia piece, a real show stopper in red raffia, it was representative of the feeling of being 'cock of the walk' when you're dressed to the nines in your youthful rebellion stage. 

TSL: Who would you most like to wear your clothing?

JB: We have a litany of celebrities who have worn SIBLING, in fact some of our real heroes, Debbie Harry bought a SIBLING dress when she played Manchester, you can't top that in our book. 

TSL: Any words of wisdom to share with aspiring designers?

JB: Work hard and be nice to people. 

What great advice. Thank you, Joe! 

You can buy your own Sibling-designed Jacob's cracker tin here, and keep up with Jacob's at #SnackHappy.

FareShare is a unique charity fighting hunger and its underlying causes by  providing food to more than 1,290 local charities and community organisations across the UK, including homeless shelters, children’s breakfast clubs, women’s refuge centres and luncheon clubs for the elderly, helping to feed 62,200 people every day. 

May 16, 2014

Review: Wonderful Pistachios live up to their name

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I love pistachios. My favourite ice cream since I was a kid, even when I didn't even know where the flavour came from (I just asked for 'the green one'), has always been pistachio. So when Wonderful Pistachios offered to send me some of their new Sweet Chili flavour of the green-fleshed nut, I was very excited to try them. They arrived along with other flavours such as Salt and Pepper, Roasted and Salted, and Roasted No Salt. Needless to say, I was in pistachio heaven. Or was about to be. I first ripped open the Sweet Chili bag, popped one of the shells in my mouth and was delighted to find that the flavour was more savoury than sweet, no artificial taste whatsoever (which some crisp brands can't seem to avoid in their versions of sweet chili seasoning), and spiced perfectly. I became instantly addicted and thought I was going to have to drop them at the neighbour's to keep me from devouring the entire bag at once. They were a hit with the family as well and they went so quickly that I didn't have a chance to photograph them! (Above, in the dish, are the Roasted No Salt.) My second favourites were the Salt and Pepper which adds an extra dimension to the usual salted variety. But what counts most is the nut itself. I found the Wonderful pistachios to be fresh, with a crisp, creamy texture, and superior to what you find in grocery store brands and the bulk variety, both of which I've found to be bland in flavour and texture in comparison. Wonderful sources their pistachios and almonds (I got some of those too and loved them just as much) from Paramount farms, the largest grower of both nuts, in the San Joaquin valley of California. Now I admit I would eat just as much of them regardless, but pistachios happen to be quite nutritious, packed with fibre and vitamins B1 and B6. (You can find out more about the health benefits of pistachios here.) And Wonderful Pistachios come in at just 3 calories a nut which makes them a healthier alternative to crisps and other snacks, with no compromise on flavour. And it doesn't take a lot to feel full with pistachios, they're dense and hearty little things. (But somehow that doesn't stop me from being gluttonous.) 

You can pick up a bag of Wonderful Pistachios from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco for £3.19 for 250g. They're worth it. 

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April 07, 2014

Review: 'Treat Petite' by Fiona Pearce

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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! (Unless you're me and can't help but eat your weight in them.) Fiona Pearce, owner of Icing Bliss in London where she specialises in vintage-inspired cakes, knows the 'Alice-in-Wonderland' charm of little delectables and has brought us 42 recipes for mini bakes and bites in her second book, Treat Petite. The sweets cover everything including sponges, meringues, chocolate, pastry, choux, and biscuits, while the savoury section begins with a lesson in making perfect puff pastry, followed by seven recipes for tasty, bite-sized canapes. 

What I love most about this book is the simplicity of the recipes so anyone can make them, regardless of baking experience. It's also great for introducing novices to certain dishes that may otherwise be intimidating. You can start off small - quite literally! - and master your technique before attempting the full version - if that still holds any interest after going tiny! And you can have lots of fun playing with presentation, arranging Micro-meringue Kisses, Mini Dacquoise Towers, and Pistachio and White Chocolate Florentines (one of many possibilities) on pretty plates to wow your family or guests - or yourself! And it may inspire you to experiment with your own creations - I'm beginning to imagine everything I cook in its scaled-down version.

Treat Petite is published by Ivy Press and is available to purchase at Amazon (£12.99).

Here's a peek inside the book, packed with beautiful photos of every recipe and detailed, easy-to-follow instructions: 

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I love madeleines and can't wait to try this even smaller version, flavoured with freshly ground Earl Grey tea leaves and glazed with sugar, honey and orange. 

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Coffee Bean Biscuits are made with fragrant coffee shortbread to resemble the real thing - wouldn't that make a charming and delicious accompaniment to your cup of Java? 

The artwork that introduces each chapter is so wonderful and fun:

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Gilded Caramel Shortbread Squares and Chocolate Ganache-filled Tartlets with chocolate pastry - yum!

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A savoury-sweet burst of flavour in a single bite, these Caramelised Onion Galettes with Goat's Cheese would be hard to walk away from after just one:

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 How delicious do these Caesar Salad Bites sound, with garlic butter-infused bread tart, crispy bacon, parmesan cheese and half a quail's egg? Add Mini Blini Stacks with Smoked Salmon for a very special brunch. 

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In addition to running Icing Bliss, Fiona Pearce also teaches cake decorating classes at Cakeology in South-west London. Her first book, Cake Craft Made Easy, was published in 2013. 

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: 

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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:  

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

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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:

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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:

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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." 

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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."

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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."

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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! 

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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." 

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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." 

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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.) 

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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." 

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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! 

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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

February 25, 2014

A New Health Drink that's Actually...Good for You?

Alibi

When I'm asked if I want to review a product, I check that it's something I'll probably like before I agree, and if it's food I don't want to promote something that isn't good for us. I like to think I'm savvy when it comes to ingredients lists and can't be tricked. So when I was offered Alibi to try, I looked into its claims of being a health drink: "Made with fruit juice, spring water and absolutely nothing artificial, contains a total of 19 nutrients in each can, including 100% of the recommended daily allowance of essential vitamins such as vitamin C, D, B12". This sounded good, but what I really wanted to know was did it contain sugar or artificial sweetener. I've had enough of foods and drinks (the same goes for skincare) that claim to be good for you when those healthy ingredients are actually negated by some pretty bad ones. The answer is Alibi contains no refined sugar and it's sweetened with Stevia,  not artificial sweetener. And it has no stimulants such as caffeine. I have to stay away from refined sugar and I'm also no fan of artificial sweeteners, and I'm not looking for something in a can to make me run off at the mouth and climb the walls, so this was all good news. It does contain natural sugars, fructose from the fruit puree, so if you don't drink juice for this reason you'll want to know this, though it is in small amounts. (I liken it to having a few sips of juice rather than indulging in a full glass, which is how I take my juice, rather crudely from the carton because you can't really pour a sip, can you?). I'd heard of Stevia but didn't know much about it, other than that it's a natural sweetener derived from a plant and has zero calories. I did my research and I was fine with it; it's a far more appealing alternative to refined sugar and artificial sweeteners for many reasons. 

So I received a case that included two flavours: sparkling citrus and sparkling pomegranate. Both are flavours I would naturally gravitate toward, so that was a good start. But the real test is how they taste - would I actually want to drink a can? I was sure the drinks were going to taste weird because, well, with everything else being in place it just would just be my luck that I didn't like it. I first tried the pomegranate flavour and kind of braced myself. Surprisingly, it tasted really good. I waited for an odd aftertaste that didn't materialise. I took a few more sips and again waited for something offensive to happen, and couldn't believe it when it didn't. I let my daughter try the citrus flavour - I have never let her have pop before, she actually didn't know how to open the can - and she loved it, and later my husband tried both and agreed the taste was very good ("it would be great with vodka, very refreshing" - but we won't talk about that further). So it would appear that Alibi have managed to come up with a formula that doesn't compromise on taste, and it just happens to be exactly as I like anything sweet, which is 'not too'. (I have to admit I didn't think that was possible in Britain where I find most things to be so sweet as to be inedible). Unlike colas, I find that I don't feel heavy after drinking Alibi, which tells me it's not as much the CO2 as it is some of the nasty ingredients (probably that syrupy caramel stuff) that makes you feel bloated.  

I should mention that Alibi continually changes their formula to incorporate the latest health ingredients while balancing that with taste, and right now their formula includes Fruit Up, an all-natural fruit extract that has a low glycemic index, and Wellmune beta glucan which is a natural immune system booster (again, I did my research and was fine with this). 

I think this makes a great alternative to pop if you have an addiction to that cola, either full-sugar or diet because we know both do very bad things to you. With Alibi, you get your fizzy fix but without the sugar or artificial sweetener, and the bonus of vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts. And it tastes really good, probably the best fizzy drink I've had. I would buy it and have already had requests at home to do so!

So I'd say, yes, it's good to have an Alibi. 

Alibi Health Drink can be purchased nationally in Waitrose, Holland & Barratt and Whistlestop stores. Ocado and Amazon also stock Alibi online. Prices range from £1.40 to £2.00.

February 17, 2014

'Where are the Women?' #UnlockArt Film Explains

UnlockArt_Women

"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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

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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. 

Emily_Mary_Osborn_Nameless_and_Friendless

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:

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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. 

February 16, 2014

Learn in London: The Ultimate Soufflé Masterclass

Souffle

The soufflé is one of the loveliest dishes to eat, and one of the trickiest to get right. (I once made a dessert that was called a soufflé but involved freezing and was essentially an ice cream in the end, and I've been baffled by what I made ever since.) If you're in or around London and have always wanted to learn how to create perfect soufflés, The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant in Knightsbridge is offering the Ultimate Soufflé Masterclass. You'll be in good hands. Head chef Ian Rudge says: “A soufflé is one of the most technically challenging dishes to master as it must remain moist in the centre, yet fluffy and full of texture. Guests will be taught how to create this lighter-than-air dish, which they can showcase at home for their next dinner party.”

The event will be held in The Rib Room’s kitchen, where attendees will enjoy a glass of champagne accompanied by appetising canapés, whilst learning the step by step techniques of creating this sophisticated dish.

An innovative mix of sweet and savoury soufflés will be created and they include:

  • Apple crumble soufflé with bourbon vanilla ice cream and apple crisp
  • Classic dark chocolate soufflé
  • Pistachio soufflé with pistachio ice cream
  • Double baked goat’s cheese soufflé

(Oh if only I were in London. I would feel mighty powerful being able to perfectly produce any of those dishes!)

The Ultimate Soufflé Masterclasses are priced at £35 per person and run for approximately 90 mins. For dates and to reserve a place visit the Rib Room's website

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.

PopGoestheWorld

PopGoestheWorld_AndyWarhol_LouReed
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.

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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!

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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).

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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!):

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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. 

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The room was gorgeously festive:

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

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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:

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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!

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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.

December 31, 2013

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

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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:

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

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

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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:

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

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

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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. 

Sketch_stairs_toilets

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:

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Thanks to Le Meridien for another wonderful day!

Photos © The Swelle Life unless otherwise credited

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