Lumiere- more light on its feet than usual

The Lumiere festival ran over the weekend of 20th Jan 2018 around London. Having a bit of a cold and it being very cold out did not make me feel the urge to go and see much. I guess the point of it in the mid-winter is the idea of festival of light such as Hanukah and Christmas, lighting up the darkness. The festival is the secular version, but we are fools if we forget origins or dismiss them as primitive.

So, with a head full of cold we set out on Saturday night to go to the Rambert ballet company’s building in Waterloo to see the illumination on the side of the wall- ‘Light on their feet’ for Rambert by the wonderful artist David Ward. It was worth it.

High tech projections, high resolution photography and highly technical ballet combined to make a vision of extreme tenderness and vulnerability. The feet of the dancers, their soles/souls. The source of their performance, suspended in flight, like angels about to take off, back to their own world.

In the midst of so much glitter and spectacle with no content, this is one work that should become permanent. Superb.


David Ward- Light on Their Feet; for Rambert

A New Year- catch up

Until the renewal notice came in I forgot that I had not written for so long. The last six months I have written for work (academic papers) but this is for pleasure.

We went to the last week of the Munster Sculpture Show (in Germany- that Munster). It was my first trip there. The show is only on every 10 years so I did not want to wait that long! It was fabulous. I saw some fantastic art.

Pierre Huyghe’s sculpture was superb. We spent ages there, luckily having arrived before it opened that day as the queues when we left were 2-4 hour waits.

Pierre Huyghe

Ayse Erkmen’s submerged bridge, On Water got people crossing from one side to the other, looking as if they were walking on water. Simple and very effective.


My other favourite was a performance piece again simple and funny and profound:

Alexandra Pirici’s ‘Leaking Territories’

A small enough town to walk around and see most of it. A wonderful way to spend a few days of your life seeing such wonders.

See you there in 2027!


Emma Hart – Mama Mia! Whitechapel Gallery

Quite a while ago I wrote a blog on whether the Max Mara prize for women artists was still needed in these days of supposed equality. Well, judging by the output of one recipient, Emma Hart, it was money well spent.

Emma Hart used the time to be in Italy and learn some new techniques with clay, a speciality of some Italian regions, with techniques such as Majolica. The results are simply stunning. They are recognisably Emma Hart’s work, but on another level.

The room at the Whitechapel Gallery  is in darkness apart from the works. There is a calmness to it, even though the works are full of life.

The works are a series of ‘lightbulbs’ that look like faces and cast shadows like eyes. They have, on many of them, measuring marks making them into measuring jugs. And as you look up and into them a whole world appears, joyful and playful. Some have fans going round by them; shapes of knives and forks and spoons somewhere between domestic and scary.

At the after show dinner Hart gave her speech in Italian. It showed further that she had immersed herself in the experience, which few of us really do when offered such an opportunity. The effect has been to make even bolder work; work that moves from one experience to the experience of a much larger place, pushing back the boundaries. These pieces are museum quality.

The photographs I took do not do them justice. If you can get to the Whitechapel, go see.

Venice Biennale 2017

Just back from Venice Biennale 2017 opening. It continues until November.

La Serenissima, as Venice is known, is a beautiful, magical place, which has slightly lost its way. No longer a vibrant trading post, it is now more a museum piece and tourist spot. It also has some of the worst and most expensive pizzas and pasta in Italy. And more pizza then anyone could possibly want and very few decent restaurants that can cook anything well. Of course there are some, but you have to search for them and we were there for the art!

The Biennale is huge, with a large garden area (the Giardini) with pavilions from countries around the world as well as a large mixed show in one Central Pavilion, and a huge show, curated by Christine Macel, ‘Viva Art Viva’ on the next door site (the Arsenale) as well as other sites around town.

It is usual/pseudo-cool to say ‘not as good as the last venice biennale’, but in fact, I thought it was! But then I think being cool can sometimes turn nasty. The German Pavilion  also thought that with ‘cool’ performers in a sort of indifferent haze, a dystopian  world. A very brave piece of performance work by Anne Imhof called ‘Faust’.

Faust by Anne Imhof






Anne Imhof- Faust


The British Pavillion however, really rocked it for me. Phyllida Barlow’s Folly played on the word Folly, which turns up as bits of falling down ‘ancient’ monuments in the grounds of stately homes as well as folly, being the stupid things we do. It had decay, recycling and play all in one. In spite of it all there was joy. Brilliant.

Folly by Phyllida Barlow

Phyllida Barlow- Folly


In the Arsenale, Lee Ming Wei’s Mending Project, which is quite an old piece, set a wonderful tone. It looked great and had a relational interaction to it.

Image result for david medalla venice a stitch in time

Also in the Arsanale was my old favourite David Madella. Going back in time to the 70s he ran ‘Exploding Galaxy’ on Parliament Hill in London on Sunday afternoons. If anyone has documentary photos of this he would love to have them.

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David Madella- A stitch in time


Another stand out pavilion was from Taiwan with the artist Tehching Hsieh. Again, it was piece from his youth of endurance and also of commitment to art. It had been shown at the Fruit Market in Glasgow, but I had not seen it there. It was wonderful. He wrote a contract to himself that he would clock in every hour for a year. There are photos and a time lapse film of it as well as the object with which he clocked in. It said everything you need to say about work and capitalism in one incredible event.

Tehching Hsieh

Tehching Hsieh- One year performance

Many people were praising the Welsh pavilion. It was a film inspired by finding photos of a German man who had been in a concentration camp for being gay. On his release he started tattooing and piercing himself and taking photos of it. He looked like a normal bloke (actually, he looked like how you imagine an old Nazi) when dressed, but had the most ‘altered’ genitals I have ever seen when undressed. Not for the faint -hearted. The photos were intercut with a very slick film, which I found very old fashioned and all of which left me cold. But if you are thinking of tattooing yourself or piercing your genitals, this may change your mind.

At our favourite off site spot, Fondazione Querini Stampalia,  where last time they had Jimmy Durham, this time they had Hadassah Goldvitch ‘The House of Life’. In fact, running among the tombstones as recounted in the tale here prepared me for the Phyllida Barlow piece, where you are reduced to child-like proportions running between elephant legs.

Hadassa Goldvicht, The House of Life

Hadassah Goldvitch ‘The House of Life’.

Many life enhancing moments and time to be amazed by the many creative outputs. Who knew humans could be so wonderful?

Gavin Bryars and Steve Reich- Sounds of Heaven

A series of concerts at the Royal Festival Hall on the theme of:

Belief and Beyond Belief

The belief in something greater than ourselves has preoccupied humanity for centuries. In this festival of music inspired by spiritual belief, we attempt to lay open the grandeur, enigma and conflict in our search for, and understanding of, the divine.

I didn’t know the theme of the concert when I went to it. I like Steve Reich and was just up for the moment. Of course, midweek, you start to think about late nights and getting up for work the next day.

Well, if this is sacrifice, it was worth it!

This concert was as if I had been dropped into holiness. Sounds of heaven.

It started with Gavin Bryars- The Sinking of the Titanic- with voices of survivors. Old voices never to be heard again, immortalised. Beautifully performed by members of the Philharmonic Orchestra.

They went on to play Gavin Bryars- Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet sung by a tramp in the Elephant and Castle. The respect given to this made it a holy act, recognising the human in the other.

Even at the end of each piece the audience remained in silence to give space to the work. And then applause. And then Gavin Bryars got out of his seat just in front of us and took a bow. Oh! What a place to be. Composer, Gavin Bryars

Now I am never sure about going to concerts. With things like Spotify, I can enjoy music in the peace and privacy of my home without people coughing or nodding off to sleep next to me. I can understand why the man next to me fell asleep. Commuting to work, working, coming to an evening concert in the middle of the week and then getting home and to bed and back to work- yes, sleep comes easy.

But last night I really got it. Being there.

The Steve Reich work ‘For 18 musicians’ was just that. Eighteen musicians of incredible ability, concentration and fitness to have the stamina to play such a deceptive piece, sounding so simple, but so complex. It was choreographed with singers, pianists and percussionists moving from one instrument to the next with the woodwind giving the breath of life to the whole.

Image result for steve reich royal festival hall

We came out buzzing. The people we had sat opposite in the cafe in polite British silence before the concert, rocked up also full of enthusiasm, as if close friends, so moved by the event. I said, as she did at the same moment, how lucky I was to have been alive for this, to have been there to hear and see it.

And now I am listening at work on Spotify. I prefer the live version, but I am still moved. And I can see them all, performing with such care, such concentration, such ability and perfection. A holy act.

That in the middle of so much stupidity by so many humans there are some humans doing this. At moments like this I understand the claim that we humans really are in the image and likeness of God and that, if we all try, we are all capable of imitating holiness.

Such respect for sound, for art and for the ‘other’.

Sheer beauty.


David Hockney- Tate Britain

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For a while, during some of my youth, I wished I was a bit older, or really, that I could have been born a bit earlier and could hang out with the likes of David Hockney and his world. When I was a tiny bit older, about 17, I was delighted to be the age I was and could still admire the world of his,. He was part of a world I could look at. The world of Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell, Andy Warhol, Chelsea (on both sides of the pond), rock music, Bianca Jagger and countless other cool things beyond me. But at least I knew they were cool. I would hang out at the ICA and watch Warhol films that were long performance pieces.

A friend got me into the Kazan film  ‘A Bigger Splash’ at the Screen on the Green. I admired the California colours and the beautiful people. I have just got it on DVD a couple of days ago and am blown away by it. Daring, bold, before its time and a London so empty and so bedraggled. Kasmin, Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell and others that set the whole thing going.

His art has had a various fascination. Some of the early works I loved and then I grew out of love with his works. I went back to my true loves, Rothko and Mondrian.

The show at the Tate rekindled a love. It was great to see so many people there, including Bianca Jagger. But it was also great to see art-world people there, not just fans, as he is so popular, but people you would not think would like his work suddenly admitting to loving it, as if it was a bit embarrassing to love something popular. Out of the woodwork they came with their tales of David Hockney.

The early works- many of them are sublime. The ‘water’ works are tender or just creative. The middle period is a bit varied. Then he comes home to Yorkshire and those works, as most of them, are much better in the flesh than reproduced.

The show, apparently has already sold 25,000 tickets so I am very pleased to have gone to a (packed) opening night.

If you have a chance, go see it. There are some incredibly bold, innovative and beautiful pieces there. A man who just hit the floor running and kept going. Humbling and wonderful.

Mortality OR Cancer- the Boolean Algorithm of Life!

Not the easiest title to  very contentious issues- preventing ageing, becoming immortal, regenerating ourselves and looking like 28 forever.

Image result for ageing

Cells in the human body come in a variety of types, there are about 206, such as skin cells, kidney cells, liver cells, bone cells and within these categories (skin, kidney, liver, bone) there are subgroups of cells.

For instance, in skin there are epithelial such as keratinocytes, melanocytes and connective cells such as fibroblasts. About 206 types of cells. Any of which can become aberrant and tumorous. That is part of the reason we do not have a one fix for cancer, which cell is cancerous has to be found, nor one check for cancer as each type of cancer appears in a different part of the body.

We cannot detect a cancer until there are about 1 gram of cells, which constitutes about 109 cells, which is a 1 with 9 zeros after it- a billion cells. There are 206 types of cells, but there are many cells of each of these types. We humans are composed of about 1013 cells, a one with 13 zeros, 10 trillion cells. So finding the correct cancer and detecting it early is not easy. If it was, we would have cured it ages ago.

However, what most people do not know is that cancers are probably changes in stem cells. There are about 206 types of cells in the body. These tend to be functional cells, the cells that do something, move oxygen, filter, waste, pump blood, digest food. While they do the stuff of life, the activities that keep us in what is called homeostasis, they get worn out by their work (as do we!) and can go through one of two possibilities, regeneration or death. On the whole they die. They are replaced by their other cells. These cells develop into the type of cell they are replacing, do their job, get worn out and die. All over the body this is happening. While you are reading this about 40 million cells in your body have died (about 60 billion cells die per day).  About 2,800,000 red blood cells die per second! They have to be replaced.

Stem cells are the cells that replace the worn out functional end cells, or terminal cells. Stem cells are the feeder cells. They don’t do the functions, the activities of the body. What they do is produce under-developed cells into the areas that need replacing. Blood stem cells (found in bone marrow) feed the appropriate number of cells into the various blood cell types. The cells develop through a number of cell divisions to become all the cell types of blood, red blood cells (erythrocytes), granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils), monocytes (macrophages), leukocytes (T cells and B cells) and platelets (thrombocytes). And that is just the cells of the blood. There are stem cells whose daughter cells make all the types of cells of the liver. There are stem cells whose daughters make most of the skin cells.

Stem cells live their lives as producers of cells that go on to produce more cells that actually do things. Stem cells are the producers of potential activities, but do nothing apart from produce cells that go on to realise their potential. Stem cells tend to have names such as Somatic Multipotent Cells or Embryonic Pluripotent Cells. These names describe the potential of the cells they give birth to.

Multipotent are stem cells such as the blood stem cells described above. They can give birth to daughter cells that can become different types of blood cells, but they don’t become muscle or skin or liver cells.

Pluripotent stem cells have more potential. The daughter cells can become all the types of cells of the body, all 206 types. But pluripotent cells are more primitive. They exist only in the first few days of life (days 5-14 post conception, post fertilisation). Very soon, the embryo pluripotent stem cells become more restricted. They become multipotent. They make daughters in one compartment of the body, the skin, the bone, the muscle, the liver.

This is the basis of life. Lots of potential and lots of realisation. Some cells have the potential, but do nothing much apart from give birth to cell that will do lots. Some cells do lots, but die.

Cancer is when the terminal cells, the functional cells, refuse to die and start to have the characteristics of earlier, less developed cells; lots of potential but no actualisation. In fact, we grade cancers by how ‘underdeveloped’ the cells are, how backwards they have gone in what they do. We call the development of mature features, the development of being functional ‘differentiation’. Stem cells and cancer cells are less differentiated, have become less different, undifferentiated.

We can live with potential, what we could have been, or we can live with realising our potential!

But being alive is being mortal.

‘And the clock waits so patiently on your song’.Image result for david bowie rock and roll suicide



At the moment there are some duff anti-ageing ‘research’. Some of it is being done by people who do not have much if any biology background (they are hiding that). They are the equivalent of an evangelical preacher who acts live The Prophet. There are a lot of them around talking nonsense, but saying what people want to hear. They have some rich backers. Because you have made a fortune in oil or tyre manufacture does not make you a genius.

We have a programme, ‘Dragon’s Den’ where people that have made money take a bet on other people’s money making ideas. It is a bet. They talk as if the people asking for cash input are stupid, but given that many of the panellists (the Dragons) have backed losers in their time, the crystal ball of predictions is as accurate for them as for the rest of us. Given that we have finally realised that economists are on the same level as crystal ball gazers, we might realise that rich people are not necessarily the font of all knowledge.  As they have made money they wish to be immortal. Immortality, in humans, is a sign of primitiveness;  lots of potential, but no differentiation, no actualisation.

Realise your potential and die. Please. Future generations do not want these people to live forever. They don’t want any of us around forever. They want vital alive people. People born with potential and realising it. Not people scared to move just in case they are run over by a truck or smile just in case they get a wrinkle.

Our job on this planet is to realise our own potential, the amazing things we can do. We can all do crap primitive stuff like killing people and destroying things. That is what children do. Destruction. Realising your potential is becoming adult, creative, growing up, caring. So please realise your potentials and help all people to realise theirs.

And then leave.




Lucia Nogueira- at Annely Juda/Anthony Reynolds

Image result for lucia nogueira untitled watercolourImage result for lucia nogueira


You know the saying: ‘you wait ages for a bus then two come along’?

Quite often I see a show and there may be one stand out piece or even none, in an ordinary mass. Then, in one week  I saw two shows where every piece was perfect and the hang of the show, the design of the show, was sublime so that every piece had its place. The first was Jyll Bradleys’ ‘Currency’. This is the second of the two.

I knew nothing about Lucia Nogueira’s work apart from seeing the front cover of the show at Annely Juda Fine Art in London. So when I walked in the room I was completely blown away.

This is stunning work. Beautiful, poignant, witty and also dark. What more do you want from art?



Frieze London 2016

Yes, it was Frieze again; the merry-go-round of events to tantalise weary global shoppers.

Amidst all of this: art!

A lot to see and do and to recover from, hence my delay in writing.

The week started with the Tate summer party- great fun and you get to see the Turner Prize nominees, which includes some lovely work.







   Anthea Hamilton’s Turner Prize Show at Tate



And the Turbine Hall has the big show on of Phillipe Parreno:


Phillipe Parreno

So many people there enjoying the show.

Started the Frieze day early on Wednesday at  the Serpentine Gallery for an  opening without the crowds. Well worth getting up to see Marc Camille Chaimowicz and Helen Marten.






                                                                                                                                                            Marc Camille Chaimowicz


Then we went in to see the Fred Cohen collection at Fortnum and Mason– some really lovely pieces scattered around a really lovely shop.

Frieze Contemporary and Frieze Masters- a mass of works worth seeing.

A talk at Gucci on Bond Street- I kid you not, which was an excellent talk about Frieze Masters.

Infinite Mix at the Store on the Strand had an evening viewing. Martin Creed film was the standout video, short and sweet. The party was rocking!






                                                                                       The Infinite Mix Party


And the Whitechapel Gallery was showing the William Kentridge show, which was superb (as was the party). Really wonderful work. Everybody raving about it. A great video installation (and a bad photo of it- sorry, but it was the best I could do).






                           William Kentridge part of Thick Time

Camden Arts Centre also worth a look.

So much wonderful art in one town. I wish I could thank all the artists. I managed to be the embarrassing fan only once and do the: ‘I love your show’ to William Kentridge at the party. The others got off light!


Jyll Bradley – at l’etrangere gallery

So I declare self interest, love and deep admiration.  Jyll Bradley makes great art, both in the public sector (Lille and Folkestone Triennial) and in the private gallery space. These are ideas brought to life, creations. They are layered and edgy. They are also very beautiful. Some art is, basically, pants. It is comment, commentary, current and dull saying things about things. This is the stuff itself.  

In the current show there is almost a buzz of sound that radiates out of the work .  Even though they are  completely  still (apart from the film) each piece has some sort of vibrational quality to it. I can’t tell you why. I have had this experience a few times: once thousands of years ago, as a teenager in the old Tate, when there was only the one Tate, in the room of Mark Rothko’s works which I had almost to myself. The works vibrated. Then I had that feeling when walking in to Dia Foundation in NY and then again walking in to the Barnett Newman room at MOMA, NY. Colour and line. Art.

The materials used here are so unusual, carbon paper (who remembers this?) plexiglass (so modern), old hop pole wood, all melded together against themselves, creating spaces, ‘mixing memory and desire’. The film is of a sculpture. Who films a sculpture? Sculptures just are. And then makes the film look like  the sculpture is flowing as water or an ice melt, creating a rainbow myriad as the sun passes through it?

But it is also the entire hang of the show, the creation of space and the works creating space that make this such a wonderful show. Thoughtful, intense, minimal, but very dispersing with the colour radiating outwards, dazzling the senses and yet calming them, allowing you to breathe in the space.

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Brigitte by Jyll Bradley

Everything you want from art.

Go, see.

You can wait a long time to find work of this quality and a show of this sublimeness and amazingly I saw two in one week. This is the first of them.