Xmas @ Somerset House

Yup, it is the time of the season again. Somerset House hosts an ice rink and pop-up shops by Fortnum & Mason. I visited the place with Bella yesterday afternoon and found the rink packed with skaters…

I must say that the Christmas shop by F&M was a bit lacklustre. Somerset House used to hold a really original and fun pop-up. You can read about it here. I know F&M is a fantastic shop, however, I can’t stand it when I have to see the same face everywhere I turn.

Anyway, it’s nearly December and that means I can dress my windows with Christmas lights. Yay!

Another thing which makes me feel Christmassy is this…

A mince pie! I’m a sure I will be sick of them by the end of Yuletide…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Photo London 2016

Hubbie had been unwell with a dodgy stomach since Friday. ‘Do you think you will be OK by tomorrow?’ I asked him as I handed him a glass of coconut water. ‘I’ll do my best’, he answered feebly as he rested his head on a pile of pillow and stared at the ceiling morosely. Oh, I feel for you, you are so unlucky…

Hubbie was so pi**ed off with himself because we were supposed to visit PHOTO LONDON the next day and he was not at all ready for it health-wise. The exhibition was designed to showcase the créme de la créme of photography from all over the world, and therefore, the scale of the show was massive – occupying almost all of the Somerset House, Strand. ‘Well, we shall assess the situation tomorrow morning, OK?’ I closed the bedroom door.

Then came next morning, Hubbie was significantly better, hence we set off for the exhibition by cab.

The venue was a lot busier than last Wednesday…

Each room was dedicated to a single gallery and the walls were covered with framed photographes in all sizes and shapes…

There were so many things to take in. The volume of visual stimulation we received by walking in and out of the galleries one after another was overwhelming and even a little mind numbing. In the end, I decided to focus on exhibits which grabbed my attention first and foremost in each room and to dismiss the rest.

Following images were the ones which caught my eye.

Ciels du Seine by Floriane de Lassée…

The images were created by giving the originals a 180 degree rotation. The idea and execution were simple. However, I found the results stunningly beautiful and they reminded me the film, Inception.

Abdulahi Mohammed with Mainasara, Lagos, Nigeria by Pieter Hugo…

Is this a dog?! Then I realised it was a hyena. A beefy black man with his muzzled beast in a very raw urban landscape, the combination created a very powerful image.

Prints with acrylic paint by Chloe Sells…

I just found the artworks irresistible. Again, the technique was simple yet the results were vibrant and otherworldly.

There were also some classics from commercial photography too.

Girls in the Windows by Ormond Gigli…

One of the main attractions of this year’s exhibition was the show by Don McCullin

He is one of the most revered war photographers of our time and his career spans from the start of Cold War to the present. Some of his most iconic images were from the Vietnum War period and this was one of them…

The picture reminded me a book I read sometime ago. It was Band of Brothers by  Stephen E Ambrose.

– Although the men lived in constant danger—a direct hit from the railway gun would destroy whole buildings—they were in a sense spectators of war. Glenn Gray writes that the “secret attractions of war” are “the delight in seeing, the delight in comradeship, the delight in destruction.” He continues, “War as a spectacle, as something to see, ought never to be underestimated.” Gray reminds us that the human eye is lustful; it craves the novel, the unusual, the spectacular.-

What effect does happening to be in the midst of armed conflicts to a normal sane individual, I asked to myself. The image was powerful.

One definite grudge Hubbie and I felt towards PHOTO LONDON was not giving Don McCullin enough space and instead, dedicating too much room to Craig Horsfield…

We were very sorry to be judgemental but we found his works mediocre and wished if his exhibits to be swapped with Mr. McCullin’s.

The staircase of West Wing was a delight to climb up and down…

The staircase was an epitome of the charm which made visiting Somerset House so special. Histric remnants of aristocratic household were everywhere and it made me feel like I was a time-traveller.

The building started its existence as a Tudor palace by the Thames and it was repeatedly redesigned and extended as it changed hands. 

I hope this snapshot I took would depict the colossal scale of the structure…

Networks of the staircases and walkways were there to make the daily machinery of the complex to run smoothly. Don’t you think it resembles M. C.Escher’s artworks?

One more image which I found charming was “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness” by Julian Germain…

Both of us were completely exhausted by the end of the exhibition. It was so much to absorb and digest in one go. We staggered out to the street and hailed the first cab we spotted. ‘To John Lewis, please!’

We had to buy a super-king size fitted sheet but at first, we needed to refuel ourselves…

A burger and chips at Ham Holy Burger. They tasted great after a lengthy trekking at Somerset House…

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

Steak, Guy Bourdin & Christmas Tree…

I am very sorry for abandoning my blog again.
Nothing drastic had happened during the silence except my daily fight with muscle fatigue and aches caused by the all-out hockey action which has commenced since last September. When one’s body is much too tired, one’s will to do anything other than absolutely necessary wanes, and as the result, my thumb dancing had been on pause over my iPhone screen for quite a while. Now, a quick sit-rep of my household. My.B is doing very well by the help of medications. He is comfortable and still full of beans. And Hubbie is the same old himself, busy, busy & busy. So, it is all good & happy in my household!

Last Saturday, Hubbie and I went out for an early Christmas lunch at Hawksmoor, Covent Garden. We had dined at their Shoreditch branch on Curtain Road some years ago but this West End Restaurant was new for us.
We were both in the mood for serious meat eating, and therefore, we opted for 850g of Porterhouse steak to share. We also ordered tender stem broccoli, salad with vinaigrette and beef dripping chips.

Waiters cross the numbers out from the blackboard as the cuts were sold off…

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After about a half an hour of waiting, our foods were brought to the table….

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And they were great. The seasoning was exquisite and the way the steak was done was perfect.
Especially, their beef dripping chips, they were so wickedly tasty. Sorry my arteries and hello to my cholesterol…

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After settling our full stomach with cappuccino, we waded through The Piazza which was awash with Christmas shoppers as well as tourists.

A lone silver reindeer on the display…

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‘I am just a reindeer! Get me out of HERE!!’

It looked like as if the deer wanted to be free from the madness of Covent Garden in weekend.
Even there was a mass exodus of Santas on BMXs…

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Modern Christmas becomes more and more insane, don’t you agree?

Somerset House, here we come…

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We were there for the Guy Bourdin exhibition…

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It was great to see and understand his method of creating the works. Hubbie told me about his sad demise towards the end of his career. Guy Bourdin was a perfectionist who would have hated to work with someone like Anna Wintour for sure…

After the exhibition, we walked around an indoor Christmas market, expecting it to be the same as the last year’s. However, I was disappointed because there was no independent traders but all Fortnum & Mason. I had nothing against one of the most famous London stores but I just didn’t want those big names in my face everywhere I went. I would go to Piccadilly if I wanted to shop in F&M, thank you very much! So please leave some chance encounters with small retailers at Somerset House next Christmas.

An opulently decorated Christmas tree in the courtyard…

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Then, we grabbed a cab on Aldwych and sped home where our dear Mr.B awaited…

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

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