Offprint London

I thought it was the Bloomsbury Ephemera Fair which was happening last Sunday, but I had a hunch that the date may be wrong. ‘Can you go to their website and check the date just in case?’ I yelled at Hubbie from the bathroom. 

Alas, my hunch proved right and it turned out that the fair would be held during the next weekend. ‘Oh no, not again!’ I was disappointed because I would miss another one again by not being around London then. 

‘There is another art book fair at Tate Modern today. Do you wanna go?’ Hubbie asked as he munched on our brunch of vegetarian sausages, baked beans and toasts. His suggestion lightened my heart like a ray of sunshine. Oh yeah!

Wow, the Tate’s new extension project had come a long way…

Last time we stood at the same spot was when we were about to visit the Sonia Delaunay exhibition last August. Then, the concrete walls were still exposed to the elements with lines of the brackets,  which resembled dotted lines and were yet to receive cladding. Now, all the walls were armoured with beautiful brickwork which complemented the existing ex-power station. 

Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall…

I can hardly wait to see humongous artworks, alike of The Weather Project or Marsyas, to be displayed in the Turbine Hall again once all the construction works are over.

The fair was occupying the east end of the Turbine Hall…

Offprint London was a book fair which exhibited and sold publications which featured art, photography, design, experimental music, open culture and activism. 

The venue was so full and busy…

The items on sale were mainly books in new or vintage, posters and artworks…

Amongst them, some oddballs, cassette tapes! Are they still in use?!…

I found them at the booth of Parallax. The girls who were manning the stall told me that cassette tapes as the medium of music were making a quiet comeback. I was so intrigued by the idea and the content of the tapes but I had no cassette player. The machine was no longer in production and therefore, it would have to be sourced from secondhand market if I wanted one. Momentarily, I even contemplated about asking my mum if she still owned the player, thinking she must have had one as she was a bit of a hoarder. In the end, I asked for their name card and left the booth even though I was still very much taken by the idea of owning the tapes.

A performance based art project was happening in the middle of the fair…

People watching was another fun of visiting this kind of events…

We did find a few intriguing books but we went home empty-handed. Since we paid for a new boiler and a refurbishment of the bathroom this month, we were rather cash poor, and therefore, on economy drive. *Sigh*

Still, all is not lost…

Georgia O’Keeffe‘s show is on its way! I am so looking forward to it…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Oops, he’s done it again…

I raised a hand to stop the cab coming towards us on Old Street, ‘Let’s get a cab!’ As soon as Hubbie and I settled into a back seat, he exclaimed, ‘Oh sh*t! I’ve forgot the ticket!!’ We were on our way to Somerset House for a lecture, a part of the event, PHOTO LONDON. So we asked the cab driver to wait while Hubbie would dash to his office and fetch the ticket. Oh dear, I should have looked after it instead of trusting it to him, I thought. He could be s bit of scattered brain when he was extremely busy…

‘You are in charge of this from now’, he handed me the ticket, huffing and puffing as the cab pulled out and merged into early rush-hour traffic. ‘Do you think we have time for a quick tea & cake?’ I asked Hubbie as I studied the paperwork. ‘Oh, I should imagine so’, it was his cheerful reply. Then, I spotted a fatal flaw. He told me the lecture would start from 5 o’clock but the ticket stated otherwise – it was to start from 4 o’clock! Our cab was creeping up Fleet Street and the time was already 4:20. ‘Oh no, I didn’t do it, did I? Please tell me I didn’t!’ Hubbie lamented. We thought everything was going swimmingly but our boat was in fact sinking fast with a large hole in the hull…

The event organiser kindly let us sneak into the auditorium…

The lecture was given by Nadav Kander, a South African photographer, who was famous for his portraits of world leaders and celebrities. I was especially taken by his remark about Francis Bacon. ‘The image (of a sitter) expresses better if all of him/her is not shown. Because in that way, the viewer’s imagination will do the job’ I couldn’t agree more.

PHOTO LONDON is the largest and most luxurious photographic exhibition in London. An equivalent of the Frieze Art Fair. Like Frieze, the venue are full of big name photographic galleries and dealers from all over the world…

We managed to dodge securities and looked around a part of the marquee after the lecture. ‘We must look the part’, we whispered to each other as we walked in and out of the gallery booths, studying and musing exquisite prints displayed on the walls. It was a private view day and therefore open to journalists and dealers only. Oops!

We have tickets for Saturday and in the meantime, I am looking after it and I shan’t let him come anywhere near it…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Sensing Spaces @ RA

I am still together, even though feeling rather fragile.
From last night’s practice, I joined the premier’s session fully and went through a yet more lactic acid inducing session. The final straw which broke my back was stop & dash drill between blue-lines. In the end, I was panting like an animal on all fours.
Then, I left my stick on the car roof while stuffing a kit bag into the rear seat. By the time I settled into a driving seat and started the engine, about the stick left on the roof was completely forgotten. So when I performed a three-point turn and headed up the street on the right way around, I heard a loud noise *CRANG*! Did I ram into a car?? I stopped the car and froze like a frightened rabbit, ‘What the hell?!’ Then it dawned on me that it was the stick on the roof. Surely enough, I could see in my rear mirror that the poor stick in question lying on Tarmac in the distance. It was lucky that no car was behind me. Shaking my head, I trotted to retrieve my stick…

It had been quite a while since I visited the exhibition, Sensing Spaces, at the Royal Academy with my lovely friend, Fei Wang.
Fei arrived at the venue earlier than me and bought tickets for both of us. It was almost 5pm which meant we would only had an hour to spare and therefore we headed straight to the exhibits without consulting the leaflet we were given at the entrance.

The space created by Grafton Architects…

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The space resembled an elaborate underground bunker or a tomb. Thick concrete slab-like structures hovered above us, defying gravity, reminding me the scene from the original Total Recall.

The next space was a work by Pezo von Ellrichshausen…

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A towering structure, resembling a Greek temple, were made of rough-hewn timber.

A viewing platform was hoisted up by four robust columns…

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Yet, the inside of each sumptuous column was in fact hollow and occupied by a spiral staircase…

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On the platform, we discovered that some parts of the timber wall were cut out to reveal the gilded angels on the cornice adorning the original space…

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The next exhibit was created by Diébédo Francis Kéré…

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A semi-opaque tunnel was bridging two original gallery spaces.
Upon our close inspection, the structure’s main material turned out to be polycarbonate sheeting with honeycomb like profile.

Thin long plastic straws in various colours were stocked together by the tunnel, offering exhibition visitors to participate in decorating its external & internal space by connecting the straws to it…

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We took a few straws and did our contribution. Wished if we had more time so we could wrestle out something more original…

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A riot of fluorescent colours was mesmerizing…

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Walking through a “hairy” tunnel…

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Then, we entered a work by Li Xiaodong…

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The structure was designed like a maze and an illuminated white translucent path reminded us a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s Shining…

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The walls were made from thin twigs clustered tightly together…

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How strange I felt when my own shadow was removed from the underneath. Rather unsettling and otherworldly. Do you remember the room in 2001: Space Odyssey?

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A small hut was tucked around the passage and a woman inside was working with her iPad in there…

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Amongst all great exhibits, the most spectacular one had to be Kengo Kuma’s…

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Inside the darkened gallery, a dainty willow twig-like objects were standing in row…

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The individual twig was illuminated by a tiny light bulbs from underneath…

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So delicate and organic. The way the objects were lit up was such, they resembled wisps of golden vapour rising from the ground…

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The effect was absolutely magical….

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The exhibition will end this weekend. If you are around in Central London and haven’t been there yet, why don’t you make detour to RA? I can’t recommend the show highly enough. And please allocate more than an hour because we ended up sprinting between the galleries towards the end. Oops!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Isabella Blow @ Somerset House

Hubbie is singing non-stop and giving me a headache. I don’t want to hurt his feeling so keep my mouth shut. But he is so out of tune. Please HELP!

Belatedly, I visited a highly acclaimed exhibition dedicated to late Isabella Blow at Somerset House on Strand last Wednesday.
I meant to see it sooner but the trip to Japan and the colds I had after that held me back. Since the show would close this weekend, I thought I couldn’t delay any longer, so booked a ticket and off I went.

No more ice rink until next winter. The square looked bare but also it was a definite sign of the approaching spring and it made me happy…

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Photographing was prohibited so there was no image of the inside of the exhibition “Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!”…

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The first space was filled with old family photographs and newspaper clippings, depicting her early life and a complicated relationship with her aristocratic parents. I did know about her career in fashion but not so much about her private background. Therefore, listening to her, recounting how she was brought up in the shadow of her parents’ manor while longing for the luxury and opulence her pre-war ancestors must have enjoyed, was interesting and poignant. One of the exhibit was her interview film and in the centre of the frame was her family’s history book. From ime to time, her pale hand with a colossal bracelet on its wrist appeared and pointed at certain parts of the photographs, describing how the remnants of the bygone time haunted her and her family. It was the first time I heard about her less than ideal upbringing in her own voice and it endeared her to me. I felt sorry for her.

The rest of the exhibition was simply divine. I feasted my eyes on one-of-a-kind creations by Philip Treacy and Alexander McQueen. The craftsmanship which involved to create them was awe-inspiring and I just couldn’t help ogling every detail from all angles. Materials, applications and executions, everything was exquisite. I understood why Isabella Blow was so taken by it. No offence to Mr.Valentino’s retrospective exhibition at the same venue last year but I was moved by this show more. The world Isabella helped to create with talented British designers was hauntingly beautiful and definitely one-of-a-kind. And I was very grateful to the people, explicitly to Daphne Guinness, who made this exhibition possible. She not only rescued Isabella’s entire collection from being auctioned off and lost forever but also shared it with us, showing the particular luxury and opulence the late Isabella aspired and practiced throughout her life…

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By the way, did you know that I met Isabella Blow in the fresh once? My brief encounter with “The Hat” – apparently the late Princess Margaret nicknamed her as such – was at the Design Museum on Shad Thames. The museum was hosting “When Philip Met Isabella”, a show featuring Mr.Treacy and his famous mentor. As I was at their riverfront cafe and happened to look up from my cup of latte, there she was, Mrs.Blow was standing by the till with an elaborate but not so stupendous headgear, waiting for espresso. I remembered how awkward she looked. While the rest of us clad in jeans and sneakers, she was donning a hat, a pencil skirt and court shoes like a lady out of the thirties’ silver screen.
Without her and her beloved Mr.McQueen, the world had definitely become less beautiful and more mundane and I moaned their absence very very much…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Victoriana @ Guildhall Art Gallery

Do you like the Victorian?
The Victorian era started as Queen Victoria ascended to the throne on 20th June 1837 and came to close on 22nd January 1901 with her death.
It may sound pathetically shallow but the era had been my least favourite period of the British history solely because of its distinctive aesthetic. For example, the architecture in the Victorian era looked like a mimic of its medieval counterpart. The excessive amount of motifs related to gothic artefacts employed in & around the buildings which emerged during the Victorian time connoted the general mood of the era – “Piety”.
They were crammed in with such vigour, like Norma Kamali in the ’90s did with her power shoulders.

Another image sprang up in my head when I thought about the Victorian was the interior of  the gothic mansion in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. In my memory (therefore, it could be wrong), everywhere was covered with a decaying pattern of mediocre quality which added power to the already claustrophobic atmosphere of the film.
I thought everything to do with the Victorian was a bad taste and kitsch.

Then, one programme I came across by chance on BBC4 made me reconsider about my prejudice against the era.
“Pugin: God’s Own Architect” featured a long misunderstood and less appreciated Victorian architect, Augustus Northmore Welby Pugin. He was a dynamo behind designing the iconic clock tower of Big Ben as well as the Palace of Westminster. The programme recounted how he came to shape the Gothic Revival style and his tragically early demise – he was only 40 years old.
The programme also shone a light on the Victorian psyche – the undercurrent of the ordinary people who were deeply indignant about the Georgian era which was rampant with debauchery and blasphemy. The growing concern of the bourgeois class, including Pugin, regarding social & moral degeneration,was a catalyst of the change which propelled them to lead a polar opposite lifestyle. In the Victorian society, social unrest such as the French Revolution was far from being a distant memory. The people’s desire for living in a romanticised medieval Christian civic order was reflected on the surge of demand for Gothic inspired style and fashion.

The general trend which defines the era tends to oscillate between two extremes. The Georgian vs the Victorian was a classic example. Then, how about Modernism vs Postmodern?
Futuristically svelte buildings of the pre & post WW II were replaced with counterparts heavily encrusted with classical motifs. Like history repeating itself, the excessive ’80s was followed up by the pared-down ’90s which celebrated the aesthetic of John Pawson & Calvin Klein.

When I was flicking through nearly a month old copy of Time Out during my nightly soak in an Epsom salt bath, I came across this exhibition “Victoriana” at Guildhall Art Gallery in the City.
Hmmm.., sounds interesting.
Since the Guildhall was just a short bus ride away from me, I decided to pay a visit.

The Guildhall with its marbled forecourt…

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“Victoriana: The Art of Revival” was curated by Sonia Solicari, head of Guildhall Art Gallery. The exhibits comprised with the works by contemporary artists who were inspired by the Victorian era…

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As I descended the stairs. I was greeted with… insects!
My apology to all nature loving bloggers & readers but I am not very comfortable with any creatures with legs more than four…

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It was a part of the installation by Tessa Farmer, titled ” THE MINION AMBUSHED BY A MOB OF FAIRIES”.
She utilised an existing marble statue owned by the Guildhall and combined it with her signature touch of presenting exquisitely preserved insects which were implied to be the fairies in this exhibit.

The show at the lower ground floor gallery was an intimate affair…

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The works were displayed like curios in any Victorian parlour which added an air of authenticity to the exhibits.

At “Reimagined Parlour”, I was confronted by “TROPHY CHAIR” by Miss Pokeno…

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Since blood sports had become almost a bygone activity of the past, for modern urban dwellers like us, coming face to face with stuffed animals which were displayed as trophies of game, not as precious specimens in the museum, would be an unsettling experience.
Then I thought, what about our present society?
How would the Victorians react to ultra violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto? Wouldn’t they recoil in horror and disgust with the sight of unflinching violence unfolding on the screen?

In here, Rob Ryan, famous for his intricate paper art had fun with traditional Staffordshire ceramics…

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“I REMEMBER, NOBODY REMEMBERS” showed his interest in the nature of mass production which started in the 19th century.

We do have a lot in common with the Victorians. Probably, much more than we ever imagine.
After all, love it or hate it, the Victorian style was the very first cultural trend created by the public, not by any privileged ruling class.

Hubbie & I came across this building while we were sauntering around Brick Lane yesterday…

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The window detail was unmistakably Victorian…

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The stone on the wall by the entrance indicated that the building was opened on April the 20th 1887…

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The presence of the Victorians is still all around us, If only we care to look more attentively…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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