Thursday, 29 August 2013

New Drill

In order to avoid the tube-traffic I always get an early tube from Aldgate East, which means I often get into work a tad early. Sometimes I go for a jog in Kew Gardens before the opening hours. However, since I twisted my knee doing the notoriously dangerous activity of painting at a drawing board last month, I haven't thought it wise to do any jogging (please note visitors/staff aren't allowed to jog in gardens during opening hours).

So this is my new drill! An hour is to be had and I am going to make use of it. This is what it looks like upstairs in the Marianne North Gallery. We have 2 offices up there and a kitchen. This is the larger office of the two. This re-location does mean that I have to make do with photographs when working on commissions, but as I am putting the finishing touches in this one it's not too bad. I tend to use photographs for the last bit anyway as the plant never lasts long enough to see me through to the end! Next stop... live material and a bit of field (garden) painting...

All in the name of botany and art...

Monday, 26 August 2013

Utopia at The Whitechapel Gallery

Last Thursday evening I visited the Whitechapel Gallery to see their Spirit of Utopia exhibition. I had meaning to visit for sometime, but decided to wait for a Thursday late night opening (I always find it's more exciting visiting museums and galleries in the night). Further to this I was lucky enough to get get hold of Margaret Atwood's new book 'Maddadam' a whole two weeks earlier than it's release date. I couldn't believe my eyes when Henry pointed at the luminous pink and white hard back through a shop window. Bit naughty of the bookshop to have put it out so early, but I am pleased that they did! I devoured the pages in a few days and now my head is once again swimming with all sorts pf possibilities. Margaret Atwood is definitely a bit of a clairvoyant... cleverly picking up on trends, and, with a bit of story telling, manages to play the trends way out into the future to see where we most likely to end up. She's a genius and I am ever grateful to my mother for introducing me to the first book of the trilogy, Oryx and Crake, a few months ago.

So, with my mind having been exploded by life's possibilities and my heart still ticking over the time drought that I first clocked in June whilst looking at success and failure crux, I hopped off to the Whitechapel to see the Spirit of Utopia...

This rather apt show is a brave move for the Whitechapel. It's very different in it's curation and rather tantalising in it's inclusive approach. It reminds me of the types of exhibition you are more likely to get at the Wellcome and it is the sort of show I wish I'd see more of at Kew or at the Eden Project. This exhibition clearly demonstrates the need for art in the 21st century - how important it is to have artists here questioning things and putting other ideas forward and then trickling them down through the community. Collectively they have such an important voice and need to be watched and listened to. If we loose the artists, we loose half of the circle, leaving us with an empty bowl, a broken loop.  

In this show there are several artists who have all been brought together to suggest novel alternatives to our reality. They look at our ecology, the environment, the economy and our psychology. It's got that feeling of a group show, so many different thoughts, ideas and media. It must have been a nightmare to curate - so many different components... tricky to join all the ideas up, but they manage it with a common sense of humour. It's definitely an odd exhibition and my only wish is that there was more beauty in it. I personally believe that beauty is an important element in anyone's work, especially when they are trying to sell a product. This stands for ideas too. Knowledge is a commodity, as are ideas, and most people have a habit of only opening themselves up to beautiful things. A spoon full of sugar really does help the medicine go down. Only a handful of individuals like to be confronted with scary things and even fewer the ugly or grotesquely mechanical. 

However, despite the lack of beauty I was still very moved. I am not sure if it was because I was half way through Maddadam or if it was just the show on its own. One thing is for sure though - Atwood would have loved this show!

Spirit of Utopia Exhibition

Three parts of the exhibition stood out to me: 

Sitting in third place is Claire Pentecost's soil apothecary - a fascinating idea looking into the link between the health of the soil and the health of our bodies. In second place goes to a projected picture of our lovely little planet earth, which had been horrendously warped using a contorted projection screen. It's terrifying and made me feel a little sick - highly effective. First place goes to Time/Bank by Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle who made an extraordinary film about the constriction of time.

Installation by Wayward Plants
At the start of the show is a rather interesting take on Improbable Botany by Wayward Plants. Wayward  fuse new possibilities in food production with scientific narratives, from futuristic seed gardens to sending plants to space.  As visitors enter the gallery they are confronted with lots of hydroponic sets complete with live plants and synthetic lighting. Not what one expects in an art gallery!

Tomorrow I will be going back to participate in Pedro Reyes' part of the show called 'Sanatorium'.  His installation, ranging across five “treatment rooms”, functions as a clinic offering a series of self-discovery sessions. Visitors temporarily become patients when they sign up for an activity. I personally feel that this is such a fabulous idea - the interactive drips with positivity - it nourishes the community, enriches the experience and finds a new way of using museum spaces. Exploring the combination of science and art as a way of healing society from the negative effects of urban living. 


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Exhibition tour and book siging with Isaac Sutton

Come and join botanical art collector Isaac M. Sutton for a tour around his upcoming exhibition in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Botanicals: Environmental Expressions in Art, the Alisa and Isaac M. Sutton Collection.
Event Details:

As stated, places on the tour are limited and places must be reserved using contact details above, but the gallery really wants it's visitors to know that even if they don't manage to get a place for the tour that they can still come to the book signing.  The book signing is open to all, no booking is required and will follow the tour. 

Find out more here.

The Book -  Botanicals: Environmental Expressions in Art, the Alisa and Isaac M. Sutton Collection will be on display in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art from 19 October 2013 to 19 January 2014.

Exhibition: Botanicals - Environmental Expressions in Art

Beverley Allen
Musa paradisiaca, Banana flower and fruit, 2002
Watercolour on paper
This exhibition represents one of the finest private collections of contemporary botanical art in North America. Previously exhibited in the US, these fifty-four artworks beautifully document both common and rare and endangered plants with scientific accuracy to highlight the importance of the planet’s biodiversity. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue includes artworks by forty contemporary artists from around the world.  

Regine Hagedorn
Rosa roxburghii 'Plena" (China), 2005, 
Watercolor on paper

 Click here for more information.

For opening times and ticket prices please visit 
or email the gallery at

Damodar Lal Gurjar
Opium poppy bunch, 1997
Tempera on paper burnished by the artist

Monday, 19 August 2013

Simon Starling Phantom Ride

Every year, Tate Britain invites an artist to develop a new work in response to it's collection. It's a great idea. So often we forget the permanent displays and objects in these large galleries. I am sure I am not the only one who has got into the bad habit of visiting the larger galleries to see the latest blockbuster only to forget the rest. I always try to make the effort of seeing more of the permanent displays, but, often exhausted after battling through the crowds to get a teeny peak of a Lowry or a Da Vinci, I find it near impossible to muster the energy to see anything else. 

The Tate Commission is a brilliant idea because it remedies this problem. Artists are used to  put a refreshing spin on the older collections, which all too often feel like they are just sitting there collecting dust. Every year, their work highlights the continuum of visual and intellectual ideas that exists between historic and contemporary art and last week, whilst visiting the gallery, I was lucky enough to see Tate's latest commission.

Simon Starling and his team have been working tirelessly for 2013's project and what a terrific result it is too. His piece called 'Phantom Ride' takes his audience on a ‘rollercoaster ride on invisible rails’ through the histories and memories of Tate Britain’s famous Duveen Galleries. Collapsing time and space, Simon manages to enlarge the volume of the galleries with huge projection screens whilst revealing significant artworks and events that have previously enchanted the space like ghostly apparitions. In my mind, it is a formidable piece of utter genius. I enjoyed it so much that, I found myself wanting another ride. I wanted to go back again and again, rather like how one feels after a terrifying ride at the fair ground.


The film itself has that eerie quality that you get in a dream. It's surreal and spooky, but not in a silly way - it's all very cleverly done. The best bit of course is that the film is being shown on a massive projection screen in the very galleries that it features, making the whole concept even more challenging for the brain. It's like being in an out of body experience. I found myself leaving logic behind after watching this film for a few seconds. I entered a different mind state - that of the dream world where there are no rules, and although terrifying, it was actuality incredibly liberating. It certainly put me in a better place to look at the rest of Tate's collections. Mind messed up, my heart and soul took over, my eyes became less judgmental and much more curious.

If you are planning a visit to Tate I recommend that you spend a few minutes at least in front of the screen. Have a go a floating weightlessly over Tate's history.