This week I visited Hauser & Wirth in Bruton to see an exhibition of female artists, with works shown from the private collection of Ursula Hauser. She has collected these over the past thirty years and they range from artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Maria Lassnig, Meret Oppenheim and Roni Horn. The exhibition celebrates female artists, often overlooked in contemporary art in the past. For a detailed review of the exhibition, Rachel Campbell‑Johnston has written a great review in The Times.
I was so excited to see Meret Oppenheim’s work in the flesh. These gloves are wonderful, and a prime example of her surrealist art. The painting was a surprise as I had always associated her with 3D and sculptural pieces,
From paintings to sculptures, the works create different moods and reactions. There was a lot of work by Louise Bourgeois, and I am not personally a fan of the spiders due to my own arachnophobia, but I suppose a visceral reaction is a key element to the pieces. She also made these long legs below which I loved, they conjured up ideas of giants, myths and fairy tales.
A lot of the work was very textural, and these pieces by Sheila Hicks we’re probably my favourite in the exhibition. The textures and colours are beautiful:
The other element at Hauser & Wirth which is wonderful to see is the garden, designed by Piet Oudolf, with the serpentine pavilion by Radic as a permanent installation. I had not seen the gardens before at this time of year, and they were in full bloom. The planting is in drifts of tall perennials which float in the wind, very worth visiting.
In the Roth Bar & Grill, (a welcome part of the site, delicious food…), they have the original design of the garden. It is interesting to see the initial sketch to the final result.
So for anyone in that part of the world, it is definitely worth a visit. The exhibition runs until September the 8th.
I recently returned from a design trip to Copenhagen, where the Interior Design department visited many museums, galleries and buildings to develop our practice. What I noticed on the trip was how I have started to question design in relation to my visual cultural studies since starting the academic year.
In relation to areas in which my practice is specifically connected, I found that there is a real hierarchy of design ‘owners’, in that a small number of people have classed items as being of importance, and to that end the rest must follow suit in agreeing and accepting those definitions. In terms of design history that makes absolute sense, eg: The Bauhaus changed ornamentation into form follows function and delineated all items, and given the age in which it happened it connects to social and economic change. I do love modern architecture, especially Brutalism and post modernist hard lines, as it visually inspires me, but every item has a subjective reaction. Continue reading “Design Trip – Denmark”→
Lambay, sometimes also called Lambay Island, is a private island lying off Dublin Bay and owned by the Baring family trust. It was purchased in 1904 by the Hon Cecil Baring, who later became Lord Revelstoke, for his new bride Maude whom he was madly in love with. The island came with a 16th century fort, so Baring hired Edward Lutyens to remodel and extend to make an idyllic castle for his young bride and subsequent family. This became a beautiful example of Lutyens architecture with his typical motifs everywhere, circular stairs, vaulted ceilings, stone fireplaces and furniture designed for the house specifically. Outside there is a huge circular enceinte wall surrounding it to create a windbreak. It’s very blowy outside this shelter on the island, and once within the confines of the wall the garden becomes a calm oasis from the brutal Irish wind (even in summer). Lutyens also designed the horseshoe shaped harbour, another building called The White House for Baring’s daughters to use with their own families when they later came to stay, and cottages for the staff. There is also a chapel on the Island and farm buildings. Gertrude Jekyll designed the gardens around the castle, and it is a privilege to see the work of both these notable designers in a private setting.
My husband and I were lucky enough to be invited to stay by a family member who still visits the island, and I realised recently that I had not shared this adventure on the blog. It was an amazing time and very memorable. The Baring Trust still own the island, and family members can still come and stay. It is also rented out privately for shoots, day trips and events. They have also recently started making Lambay whiskey.
Here is an aerial view of the island lying off the coast of Ireland. As we flew into Dublin I could not believe how big and empty of human signs of life it seemed.
So we arrived in Dublin and headed to the very smart port area that is Malahide where the boats leave to get to the island. This is a genteel port with the most expensive supermarket I have ever been to, it outdid Fortnum and Mason’s in delicacies and everything looked delicious. We had to collect food we had ordered ahead to take over to the Island, where we would be staying in The White House with friends. The Island is inhabited full time only by a few people, so this taking of provisions across the waters is par for the course. Once upon a time animals for food used to be put on the boat to take over, but EU regulations put a stop to that. Clanking with bottles, bags of food and luggage, we then were collected by the boat used by Lambay to ferry passengers and provisions and headed across the bay. In summer this crossing was fine, but I don’t think it would be quite so much fun in winter with gales.
On arriving, the first thing you see is the amazing port Lutyens designed. To the right you can see the cottages and then The White House. Towards the rear you can see the trees and wall that protect the Castle. The sea is teeming with seals who are very nosy and come over for a look at visitors.
We arrived and unpacked our food and drink and then had a look around. The White House where we stayed is beautiful and vast. All of the fitted furniture is still there as Lutyens designed it. The kitchen still has all of the old china and huge storage jars intact. The current full-time occupants of the island had just upgraded all of the bathrooms so there is not just ‘one bath a day which we share’ which is what a long-visiting family member told me used to be the order of the day. Now it is simple and spacious, but still luxurious.
What makes Lambay unique is that time has stood still. It does have generator power, but even though you can see the lights of Dublin twinkling at night in the distance, there is no wi-fi, no light pollution and peace. In fact there is no noise except the seabirds, the waves and the wind.
The castle sits nestled in its peaceful wind-free grounds, with herbaceous borders, secret walled gardens and the sound of water trickling in ponds and streams. We were given a tour of the Castle and gardens, and listened to friends reminiscing about the summers they spent as children on the island where they were literally free-range for 3 months of the year.
Photo Credit: M Baring
Photo Credit: E Kayne
Photo Credit: E Kayne
We spent our time on the island catching lobsters, fishing, setting rabbit traps, harvesting edible seaweed, picking vegetables and making all our food from scratch. Every morning the dense soda bread was baked ready for lunch, cakes and pastries were made for tea time, and then foraging began for extra treats as we explored the island. I swam with nosy seals, roamed around the spectacular coastal path and watched nature in its finest state of freedom.
The wildlife is extraordinary on the island. Many birds use it as their nesting grounds as it is far from the madding crowd, and I saw guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and puffins to name just a few breeds. The west side of island that faces away from Ireland is the main breeding ground with spectacular cliffs, and the amount of birds on it rivalled a FA Cup stadium on a finals match. The noise was terrific; screeching birds and crashing waves reverberated as we watched seabirds dive bombing into the sea to catch their fish. The seals that dot themselves around the island are Grey Atlantic Seals, and apparently there are also Harbour Porpoises in the waters.
One evening we took a walk up to the highest point of the island to watch the sun set. The wind was blowing away, and dusk was settling so we could see Dublin in the far distance starting to twinkle with lights. A Labrador who was with us started woofing, and chased after what I thought were rabbits. But the dog then retreated bit pathetically, and looked really confused. Out of long grass sprung the most bizarre animals, which in the half light I thought were huge rabbits. But they turned out to be resident wild Wallabies who bounced around us, spinning off in all directions. Apparently a pair were taken in by one resident Baring and they breed copiously so have to have their numbers reduced every few years so they don’t overrun the island, according to one family member they are “Ok, but a bit chewy…”
In the evenings we would have drinks outside watching the sun set, and then eat all of the food we had caught or made that day. There is nothing better than lobster you have caught that day with fresh home made Hollandaise sauce… although our Soda Bread was a bit like eating dried cardboard – but that could be our culinary skills.
Then as the sun set we would light a fire (it’s damp on this island when the sun sets) and get out board games or just sit and chat. There were no televisions, phones or dreaded iPads and even the teenagers with us seemed to love this disconnect from the real world that they know. It was like turning back the clock 50 years, and I loved it. We decided to have a Lambay Art Exhibition, with everyone on the island having to take part and make something from items they had salvaged from beaches or cliffs. Considering that there were probably no more than 20 people on the island, we all did really well with just one glue gun to share and few pencils.. and the competitive streak did take over for a couple of days – people vanished and claimed beaches for themselves as they hunted for finds. This culminated in a Private View for ourselves and an exhibition party, again for all 20 of us – it was great fun.
The stylish wardrobe I took with me thinking I was partaking in an Agatha Christie style weekend (minus murder), did not see the light of day… it’s way too windy for linens in this place. And my wetsuit served me well for jumping off the port to swim with seals, (incidentally they appear behind you very quietly so when you turn around there is a curious pair of eyes right next to you). By the end of my stay I was covered in mud, bedraggled and dreadlocked, but as relaxed and happy as a lamb.
But we did go home in this plane, so I got my Agatha Christie moment in the end… sort of…
I have a huge obsession with early 20th century literature, especially authors like Evelyn Waugh, Somerset Maugham and Nancy Mitford. They describe an age of elegance, beautiful houses, artistic endeavours, privilege but also the advancement of social mobility and change. The books are bitter, funny and sharp.
In real life, a group of people emerged at the start of the 1920’s who were dubbed ‘The Bright Young Things’. Evelyn Waugh pronounced the best definition: ‘There was between the wars a society, cosmopolitan, sympathetic to the arts, well-mannered, above all ornamental even in rather bizarre ways, which for want of a better description the newspapers called “High Bohemia.”
The press could not get enough of these people who tended to be the younger sons and daughters of the aristocracy and their middle-class friends by association, it was the first sign of celebrity being documented in it’s own right. Lurid stories of wild parties, wealth, promiscuity and convention-flouting were reported and the public lapped them up.
The Bright Young Things included writers, artists, society women and rich club members memorably satirised by Waugh in Vile Bodies (1930). It was acceptable within the circle to be homosexual, which still as considered illegal in Britain at the time. In Nancy Mitford’s novels, the most eccentric characters are also allegedly based on real people of the time; who can forget Lord Merlin dying his doves to match his party decorations? This character was supposedly based on the real-life Lord Berners, an eccentric party-giver whose dogs wore diamond collars as they roamed his grounds. Or there is a woman known as ‘the Bolter’ as she kept running off from her husbands to marry someone new.
But from this group of Bright Young Things also emerged creative figures in their own right like Oliver Messal, Noel Coward, Stephen Tennant, Cecil Beaton, Rex Whistler and John Betjeman to name but a few. Although frivolity and frippery was the order of the day, a strong literary development and aesthetic developed and some of England’s most highly regarded artists emerged. Through literature, documents and photography there is a wealth of information available about these people and their times which I find fascinating.
Some of the interior design from this age as spectacular; money was no object and the aristocracy had started marrying into the US millionaire families bringing great wealth for them to modernise their homes. You can still see interiors designed by some of these dazzling talents:
Oliver Messel is best known for his lavish set designs for the theatre, ballet and opera, but later he also worked as an interior designer, mainly in the Caribbean for the wealthy and famous. His interiors are beautiful, and his signature tone of green is now commonly known as Messel Green.
By the 1930’s the Bright Young Things’ popularity fizzled out. Socially England was changing dramatically, the aristocratic families were breaking up their estates due to huge taxes, and their excesses were seen as distasteful to the press and public. World War II would draw the final line under this social scene, but it is still such an exciting group of people creatively to draw inspiration from.
So as we are now staying put in our home, I have been itching to get going on some revamping. And I have the perfect project to get my teeth into.
Our hallway is quite large, and stretches up through 3 floors, with the staircase splitting off in two directions after the first flight of stairs. It is not a typical narrow Victorian hallway and stairs, and there is a lot of space and ceiling a minimum of 3 meters tall on the ground and first floors. When we first came to the house it was painted a sickly aqua green, so I redecorated it in pale taupe and white on the woodwork to neutralise it. But it is now a long time since it was done, so I have decided to crack on and give it an overhaul.
It has great original floorboards, stained glass windows either side of the original front door and original panelling on the sides of the stairs. It’s large enough to take a huge period cabinet and a sideboard. The stairs are original with 2 spindles per step, (takes an age to paint them though). The stair carpet was inherited with the house, and is a very rich dark red Wilton attached with Victorian stair rods on the first flight. Then it goes full width up through the rest of the halls and stairs above. As anyone who knows me is aware, I have a love-hate relationship with this carpet. It is amazing quality, and looks like new after well over 7 years, and that is since we have been here and it existed pre-us. But I have 2 cats called George and Mildred, and EVERY hair they drop shows on it, so I have to hoover a lot. I always wanted to replace it with sisal when it got tired, but the quotes were really high to get it laid well and with multiple angles needed, and it shows no sign of looking shabby yet so I am holding on for the moment. It has also survived many children, teenage parties and flailing carrying of coffee and tea by the said teens. So I’m stuck with it for now.
I used to help out at an Art Gallery where the positioning and hanging of the art was as important as the pictures themselves. I think that apart from basic hanging ‘rules’ about eye levels not being too high, hanging pictures is a very personal thing. However some people get very nervous about putting up art, so here is hopefully a helping hand…
Here is my latest area where I am going to create a gallery wall, a finishing-off part of a dining room makeover. You can read about the main bulk of work doing the room here. After finishing the room I was left with a really large wall which has a mirror and two very large formal prints on it placed very formally. I do like them, but wanted to create more interest and jazz it up a bit. In fact, I noticed that when I was trying to find photos of that wall, I had hardly any as it was never that inspiring, so that is a bit telling!
I want to create a gallery wall that is much more contemporary, and uses a variety of artwork and interesting pieces. I find I always lean towards hanging art very symmetrically and I suppose that is my comfort zone, but this time I am intentionally going to offset the pieces and push the boundaries for myself.
Can I apologise in advance for glare on the photos, the wall faces a large french window and the reflections were murder in my pictures!
So you can sort of see the wall in the back of the pictures, and it is definitely time to make it more interesting. It is nearly 4 metres wide and has 1.7 metres clear vertically in the dado to picture rail space There is a radiator below the dado rail bang in the middle, and I might have get a cover made for it as it does stick our like a sore thumb, but that can be a later project. I know some people paint their radiators in the same colour and paint as the wall behind, so that could be an option…
I have been preparing for a gallery wall, and wanted to make some of my own artwork for it as well as using existing pieces.
I had started to hunt around for original prints, and found some images I really liked, but the artists’ works are REALLY expensive, and then they would need framing and so on. So I thought I would pay homage instead and get creative for next to nothing.
I found this very cheeky artwork by Dave Buonaguidi. He has worked in advertising for over 30 years, founding St. Luke’s, the world’s first Co-operative ad agency and most recently Karmarama in 2000. In 2003 he created the iconic MAKE TEA NOT WAR poster for the anti-war march. It now is part of the collection at the V&A and hangs in the Trento museum of modern art. He loves to make work that creates a reaction. And this one really is a bit full on, but I like the text over a map.
Obviously I needed to tone down the wording on my homage to this, I can just imagine the looks of horror from people visiting with kids if I copied the above verbatim! So this is how I made my own version by changing the working to ‘I bloody love this place’, far less brutal text than the original but still a bit cheeky and a bit ‘English’. I also have older teenage daughters who would not be offended than younger ones would be, so I think I can get away with it…. maybe… just!?
HOW TO MAKE YOUR STREET ART
I had a vintage framed map of Milan lying around in storage. It has fond memories for me as I lived there for a few months many years ago, and had a blast whilst there. So I thought it was a personal piece that I could adapt. This was going to be the base of the artwork. I carefully opened it up, and cleaned up the glass on both sides. I measured how much space I had free on the part of the print which would be visible when re-framed.
Download the free font ‘Marigold’ from fontspace.com, and then you can make any text you want and it is a lovely curly handwritten font. If you don’t want the bother of making your own document I enclose a pdf you can use but it does have my wording on it, be warned!
I then printed out my wording, in my case on A3 paper as my print is quite big. Print with black ink.
This week I was near London with the eldest child whilst she was performing as part of the Hatfield Chamber Music Festival. We had an hour free afterwards, and although this was not much time at all, it seemed madness not to go into the house and have a peep.
Hatfield House is the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family. The Estate has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. Superb examples of Jacobean craftsmanship can be seen throughout the House. I got very over-excited looking at the wonderful portraits, all of my history lessons at school, (and I was a bit obsessed with the Tudors), came to life again as names and faces appeared.
It is an iconic building in British architectural history. Thousands of hand thrown bricks in red clay, and a lot of glass leaded windows. The turrets are also very similar in style to Hampton Court and the Tower of London. It is also famed for its beautiful knot gardens and parkland:
But is THE CEILINGS which amazed me. The most ornate plaster work, pargetting, gilding, embellishment and decoration is pretty much in every main room of the house.
In-between the ongoing house renovation, I nipped up to London for a week to run an Arts Week for the KS1 classes in a school. The children were aged 4-7, and I had 270 of them over a week to create 3 large pieces that could be kept on permanent exhibition in the school. This seems to have become an annual event, and although it is the most hectic and pressured timescale, I absolutely LOVE doing it. The only downside is the amount of stooping I have to do to get down to their level, plus trying not to touch heads in case I catch nits. So far no nits, and Pilates sorted out my aching back and knees.
This was done by 90 children in Year 2 (ages 6-7) over one and half days. They were staggered into groups of 6 throughout their allocated times. We took the artist Paul Klee as a starting point, and looked at his landscapes. I love his little villages and towns. We showed the children his work, talked about his art, and we broke down his style into a series of shapes and perspective tricks so they could get inspired to create.
The children started by hand printing miles of coloured paper and card with patterns in acrylic paint. These were then cut up into various sized rectangles, squares, triangles and semi circles. A huge MDF board was primed, and a basic sky painted and sponged onto it.
Printing the Paper
Random textures for printing
Marking out a sky
The fun then began when we got the children to work out a staggered townscape. They had to think about perspective, layering, scale and so on, and work from the back of the town forward as they created a collage of the shapes. Finally they added embellishments with inks and created line drawings on top to enhance the details of the buildings.
Working out the layout of the shapes
Detail of inks
Finally the piece looked like this, brilliant and colourful, the children named it ‘City of Lights’.
Over the past two weekends I have been teaching some classes for The Workshop Cabin in Bath in the wonders of plaster, (cue large amounts of hand cream as it is pretty brutal on the poor mitts). The Workshop Cabin put on really cool workshops, ranging from painting to photography to bookbinding and many more. Definitely check out their site for inspirational activities… I have my eye on the Pyrography workshop already.
Anyhow, over two Saturdays we built, planned, mixed, dipped, wrapped, made a mess, painted and mounted various works. The results are pretty great and I think that the participants were pleased with their results – the sculptures were especially amazing. An added bonus was that it was just before Valentine’s day, so the plaster flowers were put to good use as gifts for some lucky recipients.
All Photos courtesy of Heidi @ The Workshop Cabin
Everyone beavering away with their plaster
Plaster flowers drying
Happy Valentine pressies
Sculptures in progress
The final sculptures…
Final sculptures with bronze paint effects, and some very happy punters…eat your heart out Alberto Giacometti….!