Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Art’

When your living abroad, traveling back to your home country for Christmas can seem like a whole lot of work. It’s not just the trans-Atlantic flight or the juggling of  family and family politics when you get there, it’s also that you are trying to do it at the most hectic time of year when expectations are really high. Sometimes it seems like a better return on your investment (price of tickets, time off work, etc) to see your family when things are less busy and there’s less pressure to squeeze so much in. Although, I’m sure my mother disagrees.

That’s why this year Husband and I opted out. Instead of heading to the States, we headed to Normandy to stay with Suse in her picturesque converted barn in the countryside. Since we were already going through the trouble of crossing the channel to France, I figured we might as well throw in some time in the Champagne region.

Visions of hopping from winery to winery tasting champagne replaced sugarplum fairies in my head. Unfortunately, since it was winter, bicycling the Champagne Route and ending up in Epernay turned out to be a damp, cold and unpleasant option. So instead of hopping on a bicycle, we parked ourselves in Reims to check out a few of the wineries there.

While in Reims, we toured the Taittinger and Pommery caves, two Champagne houses with two completely different approaches to their tours. Both included tastings at the end, but Taittinger took a grown up, classy and clear approach to explaining their process while Pommery made an odd attempt at turning their cellars into an art gallery. The Pommery tour came off a bit Disney-fied and frankly, weird. But there was still Champagne at the end so I can’t say it was bad.

Champagne fermenting in bottles at Taittinger.

I'll take them all, thanks.

I'll take these too, thanks.

The entire experience was very interesting historically. The caves of Reims, many of which have been there since they were carved out of the chalk subsoil by Roman slaves, have housed everything from monks, to refugees of World War II. You can even glimpse ancient carvings that have been made into the walls.

Wall carvings in Taittinger caves.

Wall carvings in Taittinger caves.

The tasting.

Other highlights in Reims include the Brasserie du Boulingrin, a traditional brasserie opened in 1925, and the Cathédrale Notre Dame, a beautiful gothic piece of architecture whose history goes back to either 400 AD or 1211 AD, depending on how you look at it, and includes Joan of Arc and the decapitation of Saint Nicaise. I have no photographic evidence of the hedonism we experienced at the Brasserie du Boulingrin, however, I can tell you that the highlight of the meal was the chocolate souffle dessert paired with a lovely serving of Calvados. Just thinking about it makes me melt into my chair. As far as the Cathedral goes, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Notre-Dame de Reims

Notre-Dame de Reims

Notre-Dame de Reims

Notre-Dame de Reims

Depiction of the decapitation of Saint Nicaise

Rose Window, Notre-Dame de Reims

Rose Window, Notre-Dame de Reims

Post WWII stained glass windows.

A return to the Champagne region is certainly on my list. However, next time there will be sunshine. And bicycles.

Read Full Post »

The British Museum sat on my London bucket list for a long time. Luckily, it was on Sarah and Temi’s list too when they came to visit from Texas.

Walking up to the front doors I felt a tingle of excitement. Once inside I was blown away by the Great Court.

The Great Court

Other highlights included the section on ancient Greece, complete with opulent drinking cups depicting engagement in naughty lustful activities, Hokusai’s colour woodblock print, The Great Wave, which is on display until 8 January, and the Rosetta Stone.

The Rosetta Stone

This is one tourist attraction I won’t mind returning to, unlike the Changing of the Guard which I refuse to accompany any more visitors too. I’ll give you guys a map to that one and you can go on your own. 😉

The British Museum

The British Museum is free and open daily 10.00–17.30, Friday until 20.30.

Read Full Post »

I was given a tip to stop by the York Sculpture Park while traveling from Leeds back to London. Husband and I had some time to spare and thought, why not?

I wasn’t expecting anything major, maybe something along the lines of the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. I was surprised to find that this place was so expansive and impressive. We ended up spending the whole day exploring the grounds and exhibits.

 

York Sculpture Park is just one mile from Junction 38 of the M1 and is open daily except 24 & 25 December. Admission is free, parking is £5. 

Read Full Post »

It was probably 1994 when my brother popped his head into my bedroom and said “Hey, you know that song by Nirvana? The he’s the one who likes all our pretty songs and he likes to sing along… one?”

Me: “Um, yeah.”

Brother, with a snarky smile: “Do you know what it means? Heh.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s about someone who sings along to a song and doesn’t know what it’s about.”

Brother: “Oh…. Yeah.” He was defeated in his attempt at a dig.

Little did he know that I’d been following his choices in music for a few years by then. He would voraciously read Spin and Rolling Stone and I in return would flip through his CD collection and make mental notes.

These days I still pay attention to what bands he’s listening to. The difference is that we now openly share good music and he respects my taste in return.

So when he told me to check out Group Love, I did. And then when he told me I absolutely HAD to respond to their ad for people to be in a music video, I did.

That’s how I found myself in a house in Dalston on the hottest day of the year hanging out with about 20 other extras and the band. I left with several impressions.

  • Being an extra is really monotonous and only to be undertaken when paid or for a project you really believe in.
  • People who have random Mondays off and choose to spend them as an extra in a music video are an interesting lot.
  • Group Love are really down to Earth nice people who deserve all the success in the world.
  • Listening to a song on repeat for about 8 hours straight is a guaranteed way to get the song stuck in your head. Take me to your best friend’s house, dun nah – dah nah – nah nah nuh…

Being an extra involves being good at waiting.

We were rewarded for our hard work with a private impromptu performance of songs other than Tongue Tied.

Grouplove Private Performance

A few days later, I was already going through withdrawals. Group Love was performing at Bar Fly in Camden. I scrambled up some tickets, called up fellow extra, Holly, and went to check out the sold out show. I love it when bands play small intimate shows. I hope they get really huge, but sadly that will ruin my chances for having a repeat experience.

Click here to see the video for Tongue Tied. If you pay close attention, you can see me pushing through the crowd at about 3:39.

Group Love’s debut album, Never Trust A Happy Song, arrives September 13. Check them out, they rock.

Read Full Post »

With all the buzz surrounding Tracey Emin’s retrospective at the Hayward, a few friends and I decided to check it out. The afternoon promised art and a chance to hang out on the Southbank.

I must admit that before this retrospective I had never heard of Emin. Her identity and art was billed through the media with a sense of British pride. Local girl done good. Why not check it out and gain some insight?

Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995. Picture not mine.

After hearing about Emin’s infamous tent piece, I was prepared for a bit of shock art. What I got was a bit more complex. The shock of used tampons displayed as art, visual depictions of masturbation and in depth details of her abortion were enough for a reaction, but all of this was mixed in with a touch of softness. The hard neon sign messages were delivered in a soft pink. Crude confessions and tragedies were sewn intricately into blankets or other “women’s work.” Loving stories of her family were interwoven into her pieces. These were nice reprieves in the midst of anguish.

Picture not mine.

My thoughts jumped from labeling Emin a self-destructive angry narcissist with boring blankets to self-reflection on why I feel that way. What’s wrong with someone describing the female experience with all its emotional context? Why must we label her with PMS or insanity? Don’t we all feel this way sometimes? Out of control of our own bodies, the weight of feminine expectations, the way men can look at us and never really see us? Worst of all, the cultural assumption that it is our own issue when we feel invisible.

This article is well on target.

Midway through the exhibition Natalie leans over to me and whispers “Uh, glad I didn’t bring a first date here.” That about sums it up.

On the second floor there is a video. Emin describes dancing in her seaside industrial hometown to the sounds of verbal abuse with sexual context from the local male population.  She’s extremely upset as she runs to the coast. She confesses she doesn’t belong in this town. Moments later her voice comes through. “This dance is for you,” she says. An older, wiser Tracey is shown on the screen dancing happily. She is clearly dancing for herself. She’s smiling and carefree. I feel a sense that she has found some happiness and I am grateful to witness it.

Tracey Emin: Love is What You Want is at the Hayward on the Southbank until Monday 29 August 2011. Tickets are £12. Concessions are available.

Read Full Post »

It’s difficult to deal with the stress of a death in the family. It’s downright insane to deal with a talking semi-estranged dead father whose body needs to be transported back to his war-torn homeland. Shore portrays this situation with a balance of sincerity and humor.

We witness the main character, Wilfrid, undergo rapid maturation after making a blunt revelation about his heritage. Despite the stark subject material of death and suffering, the play remains light and enjoyable. Wilfrid’s psyche’s comical manifestations and a few tricks of Wajdi Mouawad’s playwriting style reflect a sense of how we deal with tragedy as humans. All too common in a life changing situation, we are forced to stop and laugh at the absurdity of it all.

This is all complimented by an obvious drawing on Wajdi Mouawad’s personal cultural divide. He draws on his Lebanese roots and western experiences to create this commentary on heritage and responsibility that labels neither as good nor bad. It’s just what is.

In the end the play feels unlikely and sappy and yet at the same time honest and funny. I recommend this performance to anyone. I especially recommend it to those seeking something a bit deeper than the likes of Sadler’s Wells’ Shoes, wanting to see a well-run show in a cozy intimate environment, or just interested in seeing a nice looking man start off the show in his boxers.

Wilfrid. Picture courtesy of Arcadia Productions.

As an added treat, you can stop in and hang out at Riverside Theatre cafe and bar. The night I popped in the atmosphere was buzzing with great music, conversation and a nice selection of adult beverages. Food is available as well although I did not have a chance to try any.

Riverside Studio's very happening cafe.

Shore runs through April 16th, 2011 Contact Riverside Studios for exact showtimes. Tickets are £15 (£10 concessions).

Read Full Post »

My first experience of Battersea Park was in July of 2009. I was in London for a day and looking for something to do. I didn’t want to go to a typical site like the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace and the weather was too nice to spend inside a museum. I was craving an authentic London activity, something that a Londoner might actually attend. I ended up at a Bastille Day celebration in Battersea Park. A party in the park to celebrate another country’s independence day? Sounds perfectly London to me. Plus there was French food, wine, sunshine and music. Sold.

 

Bastille Day 2009

My next run in with Battersea Park was when Husband and I were scouting potential homes. We found the most lovely place overlooking the park with loads of natural light and a rooftop terrace to die for. Husband’s commute to work would have been atrocious and there’s no way we could afford the place, but we were starstruck.

Thankfully we came to our senses before our rental bid was accepted and settled for a much more sensible but extremely nice garden flat elsewhere in London. It was still close enough for frequent visits to Battersea Park.

With the weather as great as it has been this week, I made some time to spend at Battersea Park. Many London locations tend to be swamped on sunny afternoons, but understated and overlooked Battersea park was perfect for finding solitude amongst others.

 

 

Brown Dog

Anti-vivisectionists commissioned a bronze statue of this dog as a memorial to a University College London controversy . A brown terrier was illegal dissected with questionable levels of anaesthetia in front of an audience of 60 medical students. The statue was taken down in 1910 due to political pressure. A replacement memorial was placed behind the Pump House in1985 only to be taken down in 1992. The replacement statue was put back up in 1994, but this time it was hidden away in the Woodland Walk near the Olde English Garden.  I guess it gets less notice and therefore less controversy there.

View across the Thames from Battersea Park

Peace Pagoda

I took some time to meditate near the Peace Pagoda before leaving. Cliche, but I couldn’t resist.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, Battersea Park hosts the Affordable Art Fair March 10-13th. Tickets run from £8 – £15. 120 galleries will be exhibiting art all under £4,000.

Read Full Post »

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I’ve been wanting to see Shoes since my first Sadler’s Wells experience, the Electric Hotel.

Judging from the reviews out there, people really hate this show. I hoped that Shoes might be more than a nod to Sex and the City, but I was well prepared for a fun mindless girly few hours if it was not.

The show was made of different sketches. Some were funny, some weren’t meant to be. Some promoted consumerism, but not all were label and shopping focused. The impracticality of high end blister inducing shoes and enormous wads of cash spent chasing them was given more than a fair nod. A great scene focusing on trainers highlighted the sporty practical side of shoes. Jesus, Imelda Marcos and your mother all make an appearance in the show, as does Kate Miller Heidke and her operatic voice. The choreography was mostly fantastic with a few skits that I wasn’t into.

Did I enjoy this performance as much as I enjoyed Electric Hotel? Maybe not. Electric Hotel was more intellectual. Did I have any regrets? Yes, sitting too close to the stage. I had to sit up extra tall to see the stars of the show – the shoes. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it and left with a very large grin on my face.

A little bit too close to the stage.

As they say in the opening number ‘If you don’t like shoes, it’s going to be a very long evening.” Heed that advice or enjoy.

Shoes runs until April 3rd and plays at the Peacock Theatre in London.

Read Full Post »

Boyfriend’s company was taking part in a huge industry event and loads of employees were coming to London to participate. Many people were bringing their wives and the CEO’s wife was hosting a special spouse event that included a trip to the V&A Museum to see the Grace Kelly exhibit and lunch at the Ritz.

You could spend days in the  Victoria and Albert Museum and not feel like you’ve seen everything. The place is huge and there is such a wide variety of exhibits that even the most museum adverse can find something of interest.

Grace Kelly :  Style Icon highlighted the life and wardrobe of the Princess of Monaco from her early modeling days on through to her days in the palace. There are several famous dresses, shoes, hats, glasses and other pieces she wore throughout her life. She tended to wear things more than once, unlike many Hollywood personalities today. She described it as being faithful to her clothes like she would be faithful to her friends.

Although her clothes evolved with the times, she sustained a femininity valued strongly in her era. This ideal fulfillment is what I think made her so popular, but what made her endearing are the small glimpses that portray a person behind the image. For example, photos depict her wearing her glasses on the tip of her nose because she was shortsighted. These images take her out of the realm of object and remind you she’s human.

After viewing the Grace Kelly exhibit we were free to have a look around the museum on our own for an hour or so. I decided to tackle the 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces Exhibit and have a stroll through the garden.

I highly recommend the Architects Build Small Spaces Exhibit. V&A invited nineteen architects to submit proposals for structures examining notions of refuge and retreat. Seven were selected and constructed and are dotted throughout the museum. You grab a map and one by one hunt them down. This is great not only for architecture enthusiasts, but also for getting to know your way around the massive museum.

One of my two favorite structures was a reproduction of an unauthorized structure  in Mumbai. This small but well used space was home to a family of eight. Not a bit of space was wasted. There were even areas reserved within the structure for contemplation and worship. The Studio Mumbai achieves their goal of communicating the poetry of such small and disregarded habitats. I felt humbled while exploring this space and contemplating my own relative palatial home.

Replication of tree growing through unauthorized Mumbai structure.

My other favorite structure was a free standing wooden tower of books. The wood structure was unfinished and had not only a natural feel and look, it also had a wonderful smell. Books were aligned within the wooden structure to achieve entire walls consisting only of used books. This formed a wonderful collage, each book full of ideas and concepts yet to be learned and experienced. Within the tower were small reading chambers where the viewer was invited to browse the books, sit and meditate or just rest. I can honestly say this is one of the most peaceful, calming and meditative spaces I have ever been in. I could have curled up in the meditation couch for the rest of the day and been at one with the universe.

Be still my heart! An entire structure made of books!

While I wanted to stay in the book structure forever, I also wanted to check out the garden. It was a well manicured garden with a terrific water feature and cafe. It’s a nice place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or contemplate the works of art you have just viewed.

Victoria and Albert Garden

At this point, it was time to meet up with the group and head towards the Ritz for lunch. Upon arrival, we were greeted with an exceptional level of service by the staff and sat in the extensively adorned Music Room.

Chandelier in the Music Room

I have always wanted to go to the Ritz for afternoon tea, but considering the touristy nature and high price, I had put it off for a special occasion or when I had visitors who also wanted to go.

The first course for our lunch was a crown of asparagus served with walnut salad and lemon creme fraiche. The presentation was beautiful. Please forgive the quality of these photos. They were taken with an old iPhone.

Crown of Asparagus

For my main course I had chosen Spring Vegetable Risotto. Some of the ladies at the table looked at my meal with envy. “Back off, it’s mine!” I told them.

Spring Vegetable Risotto

While the Risotto was delicious and the asparagus was decent, the dessert was amazing. We were served strawberry terrine with buttermilk sorbet. The doughnut on the end completed the dish for me.

Strawberry Terrine with Buttermilk Sorbet

Our meal was followed by coffee, teas and frivolities. We passed the frivolities around and around again. The other ladies groaned about their waistlines, but I dug in each time. I’m definitely not one of those girls who doesn’t eat carbohydrates.

Frivolities

The meal was really a treat. You can have a more affordable but just as good meal elsewhere (although I didn’t pay, the company did) and you don’t always want to be around such pomp and circumstance. Considering that, the Ritz London is one of those things you need to do once. I enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

Bottom Line:

Victoria and Albert Museum – Go see the 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces exhibit. It’s free and on through the end of the August.

The Ritz London – Go once for a treat, preferably when someone else is paying. It’s touristy and expensive, but the food is delicious, the experience unique.

Ritz on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

I know this is a little late as Sadler’s Wells performance of Electric Hotel ended June 26th, but I thought better late than never.

The Electric Hotel was highly recommended on TimeOut and other forums and located in my friend Flora’s neighborhood. I asked Flora if she was interested in going. How lucky for me! She had already made plans to go, was getting discount tickets because she had a large enough group and did I want to join? Of course I did.

As we walked up to the stage, I became tingly with excitement. I have an affinity for the industrial among the natural. I’m not kidding here. A few years ago I impulsively took up welding after seeing the discoloured iron sculptures in the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens.

The Electric Hotel was a temporary structure consisting of shipping cargo crates and set among the beautiful monstrosity of Gas Holder 8, a bit of green space and St. Pancras station in the far far distance.

The Electric Hotel

We were given a set of binaural headphones as we entered that proved to be a major highlight. One actually felt like the splish splash of the rooftop pool was going on behind them. Several times during the evening I looked to my left and right to see where the voices were coming from, thinking “that’s so rude of the audience” only to discover that the noise I was experience was an intentional part of the show.

The audience was given a voyeuristic treat: a look into the private moments of the people staying at the Electric Hotel. This causes the viewer to consider the multitude of events going on simultaneously at any given moment and our limited capacity for absorbing and witnessing them.

The actual performance

The show was put together as a looping plot. Each loop allowed the viewer to grasp another relationship, situation or idea. The loops built upon one another as the characters danced, fought, loved, cried, plotted and eerily established their subconscious psyches. Just as one began to understand the storyline concept, the situation would become a bit more absurd.

At the end, our group left the theatre trying to grasp exactly what had happened. The experience felt poignant, although none of us could entirely agree why.

I look forward to other Sadler’s Wells shows. September 3-11 there is a show just about shoes. With a concept like that, it either has to be awful or genius. Considering my Electric Hotel experience, I’m leaning towards genius.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts