There is a BC (before Coronavirus) and a brief break I shall call PL1 (post lockdown 1). In that brief re-opening, when we all knew that Lockdown 2 was on its way, we ventured out. We ventured out twice, in fact. Both times to Tate Modern and both times we saw wonderful shows without the BC crowds.

Ashes- Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen without the crowds was phenomenal. We almost had the show to ourselves. And what a show. He has the ability to include the viewer into the work. It feels like you are in it; in the helicopter circling the Statue of Liberty (but without the worry or expense) or in the boat with Ashes (but without the splash). To see Ashes again was wonderful. I remembered it from the Venice Biennale. There was so much joy and life in this simple, visceral moment of being on a boat in a beautiful sea by a beautiful island. Then the flip side. So many wonderful works with real emotion dealt with raw, without lapsing into pity, but remaining true, allowing the people to own their story. The hotel room with a man just illuminated by the tv was also engrossing. I have loved his work since I saw the Turner Prize piece with the falling wooden building, sort of Buster Keaton without the slapstick. With the Ashes piece I have finally worked out why I have loved, since the age of 14, the Baptism of Christ by Piero della Francesco. The work makes space for me, the viewer, to be in it because of its angles and size and proportion and other artistic know-how. It creates a holy space, a sacred space, because it is not cynical or knowing. And seeing Steve McQueen’s work I realise is the same. He makes space for the viewer to share the work. Magnificent.

Disappearing acts – Bruce Nauman

Bruce Nauman. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it might be heavy on intellect rather than art. How wrong I was. The exhibition was not done chronologically (hurrah) but in themes. The room I loved first was using a film from his young self with his current self walking into it. This was so well done with shadows and size that you think a real person has just walked into the piece. It is beautiful, speaking across time and generations and artistic practice. There was plenty to see that just made you want to sit and be. Art for arts sake. Not about something, which seems to be the prevalent mood at the moment, a bit like some very weak sociological essay with lots of platitudes, but the thing itself. Just the thing. Fab.


Taryn Simon- An Occupation of Loss

A bizarre place in Islington, part rotunda, part underground caves, not even suitable for garaging with restricted entrance. A large curve looking down onto a central arena. And from the sides emerge ‘Professional Mourners’ singing the chants of their homeland practices or playing the instruments or reciting the poems as they disperse to their allocated spot allowing us to walk around and down the spiral to stand before each group.

The conception and realisation of this piece was astounding. Immersive art/theatre/performance at is superb best. All of us coming out slightly overwhelmed by what we had been in.



Taryn Simon


Taryn Simon

Tyondai Braxton et al – QEH London

Just come out of the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the South Bank Centre, London having heard three world premiers of astonishing quality.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, who was the only one we knew and like a lot, performing one of her works. Qasim Naqvi in the audience for his. And Tyondai Braxton performing his work.

Tyondai Braxton live.

Tyondai Braxton

All three works were astonishing, imaginative and beautiful; enveloping and spacious. So clever. If you get a chance, don’t miss it. Sheer luck that we heard all three only knowing one of them and witnessed such sound.


Fake Fashion- Laurie Simmons at Amanda Wilkinson Gallery

If you get a chance to go down to old Soho (the London version, not the Manhattan acronym) you can see the wonderful world of Laurie Simmons. These are historic photographs of museum quality that have not been seen in the UK before.

Fake Fashion alludes to feminism, capitalism, advertising and marketing and much more, but done beautifully. The subject/object of each shot is in ‘studio’ light while the backdrop is in darker tones. They remind you of much older landscape/portrait paintings and because they were shot on analogue film, they have a painterly quality to them.  She is part of a wonderful group of artists that emerged in the USA at the same time, Cindy Sherman being among them.

In Soho, in among the old photo labs, the film processing plants, the film production, editing suites and post production suites,  these gems.


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.

Image result for david medalla venice a stitch in time

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

Image result for david hockney


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.