Archive | August, 2012

Impressionism at its best at the Royal Academy

18 Aug

I’m a sucker for  impressionist art. Monet, Manet, Renoir – I could sit and stare at them all day. So I was in my element when I went to the latest offering at the Royal Academy. From Paris: A Taste for Impressionism is a mind-blowingly beautiful array of work collected over four decades by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. The first room was devoted to still-life, which Renoir referred to as ‘rest for his brain’ because these were artworks he could experiment with, without worrying about spoiling the canvas. I loved Peonies (one of my favourite flowers anyway), Apples in a Dish and Onions. The exhibition continued with landscape paintings: Farm in the Landes by Rousseau (a piece he worked on for 25 years!), Monet’s Geese in the Brook then portraits and people studies by Degas and Bouguereau; artwork inspired by trips to the Orient; and a fantastic finale with the artists’ numerous self-portraits. It was a pleasure from start to finish and, for fans of the movement, I can’t recommend it enough. I came out feeling relaxed and calm, and with a wonderful inner glow. Runs to 23 September 2012,

From Paris, Royal Academy


Edvard Munch at the Tate Modern

12 Aug

It may be the last day of The Olympics (and what a fortnight of entertainment they’ve been) but fear not – London has plenty more on offer. Last week I went to the Edvard Munch exhibition at the Tate Modern – passing the fantastic floating Olympic rings on the way! It was out of this world. Showcasing the artist’s work as both a painter, photographer and maker of short films, it was a fascinating insight into what was a truly inspired and ahead-of-his-time man.

The exhibition was divided into 12 rooms, the highlight for me being ‘Reworkings’, which displayed 10 or so of his paintings (The Sick Child, The Kiss, The Lonely Ones and The Girls on the Bridge were my favourites) that he’d painted but then revisited later on in his life. It was so interesting to be able to see the two installments alongside each other and to contrast and compare. Much of Munch’s work I find terrifying either because the people portrayed have eerily haunting expressions (Workers on their Way Home), are staring unflinchingly directly at the viewer (Street in Asgardstrand), or have been painted with such simplicity that they are like ghostly scarecrows or Halloween-mask monsters (Execution). But, at the same time, that’s what I love about Munch’s art too – you can’t fail to look at it and not be moved in some way. This exhibition might not have his famous The Scream on show but don’t miss it – Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye is proof that there was so much more to the artist than that one painting alone. Runs to 14 October 2012,

A house mate’s birthday to remember

11 Aug

It’s one of my house mate’s birthdays today (happy birthday) and to mark the occasion a group of us recently went out for a Chinese dinner. We travelled north of the river to the canal near Regent’s Park where, securely moored and accessed by a fairy-lit walkway, is the Feng Shang Princess. It was quiet when we got there but that didn’t matter. The atmosphere on board is lovely – attentive staff, but not so much that they’re totally in your face; beautiful views across the water, which get even better when you go downstairs to the bathroom and you’re at water level, and an extensive, and reasonably priced menu. I went for well-stuffed spring rolls to start and a tender and tasty roasted duck and ginger main course. I didn’t want it to end. Everyone else in the group in was equally pleased – Chinese restaurants in London can be so hit and miss, it’s a treat when you find one that ticks all the boxes. The Feng Shang definitely does that. And, with the ceilidh I went to for my birthday just around the corner, I’ll definitely be coming back!

Feng Shang

The view from the Feng Shang

Feng Shang

The Feng Shang at night


M’s coming home!

9 Aug

Yay! After four months and a one-week delay because his ship broke down, M is finally on his way home! He’ll be flying back from Rio tomorrow and is due back in the UK on Saturday. Can’t wait! Am heading up to Edinburgh tomorrow to meet him and, of course, will be using it as an excuse to partake in some of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at the same time. Watch this space!

Go Team GB!

7 Aug

After a long wait I made it! Today was my day at The Olympics and what a day it’s been. I’d been lucky enough to get a ticket for the men’s 3m springboard semi-final and was there rooting for Chris Mears. It was a tense time as he battled against the other 17 contenders but, from a slow start, he won it back and made it through to the next stages (although sadly he didn’t get medal placement in this evening’s final). The atmosphere in the Aquatics Centre was incredible – I felt quite emotional and screamed myself silly every time Chris came up to dive. Afterwards I had a chance to wander round the park and I couldn’t get enough of all the wild flower gardens that have been planted everywhere – truly stunning. The whole experience made me feel really proud to be British: go Team GB, go!

The Velodrome

The Aquatics Centre

It’s Chris!

Antiques and street markets by Edgware Road

5 Aug

Yesterday I stumbled across a lovely little street not far from Edgware Road. Church Street is a lane full of antiques shops and a wonder emporium called Alfie’s. It’s floor upon floor of retro furniture, vintage fashion, kitsch glassware and leather-bound books. I had to fight my way through the bustling Saturday street market to get there but it was worth it – and the street market was pretty fun too with baklava stalls filling the air with a sugary perfume and, amongst the usual bargainware, there were some quite nice fabric stands too.

But to Alfie’s – on arrival I immediately succumbed to the allure of the clothing – beautiful sequined flapper dresses, silk and lace gowns, and sunshine-bright patterned dresses. On the next floor, it was old-fashioned posters and adverts, beautiful pencil drawings and chinaware that caught my eye, while up one more level and I must have spent almost an hour browsing books and postcards – and their wonderful inscriptions – some of which dated back to the 19th century.

Unfortunately, I was just window-shopping – Alfie’s is pretty pricey, go to Northcote Road for antiques at more reasonable prices – so I was pleased to discover that, in contrast, the in-house cafe provided quite a bargain. Situated on the top floor, with a sunny outdoor terrace and views over the rooftops, I enjoyed a generous slab of banana and pecan cake for just a couple of pounds. The best bit was, whereas most London rooftop terraces are heaving with people, this one was near-enough deserted – a hidden gem in the heart of the city.

Ballgowns and buildings at the V&A

4 Aug

I love the V&A – it’s one place you know you can go and you’re guaranteed a good time. There are also always a whole host of fascinating exhibitions on to get lost in. I recently headed to their latest offerings – Ballgowns and The Heatherwick Studios – and neither disappointed. The first, Ballgowns, is a look at the role the dress has played in society over the past 60 years, and how it’s adapted. There are dresses by McQueen and Westwood and those worn by Elizabeth Hurley and Princess Diana, all showcased in their glittering and glamorous glory. My favourite? It was a tough call but I love the sense of movement and poise in the 70s dress below – can’t you just imagine yourself cutting through the crowds of a dinner party – walking arms outstretched an obvious must! (The joint winner was the low-cut grey and yellow number to the left of the cabinet on the right).

V&A, London

Next up, the Heatherwick Studios – a display I was particularly excited about having spotted the newly designed Routemaster buses on the streets of London (the Heatherwick design is the number 38 route for anyone interested in riding on one!). The new buses look great with the old-school open back and gold trimmed steps and streamlined curves. Thomas Heatherwick founded his studio after graduating in 1994 and burst into the limelight with his inventive and eye-catching design for the Harvey Nichols windows – a huge polystyrene snake that wound in and out of the glass along Knightsbridge. Since then his architectural designs, which seem to know no boundaries, have been causing a stir around the world. From see-through power cables to A Thousand Trees (a large-scale residential complex with a tree on every rooftop in Shanghai), and of course his petal design for the 2012 Olympic torch, his work is cutting edge and beautiful.

The BBC Proms

1 Aug

Royal Albert Hall

So, for any of you who have been thinking I’ve been a little quiet of late, apologies! It’s not that I’ve not been up to much, it’s that I’ve not had the time to write! First up, the BBC Proms! Last week my mum came up for an evening of musical entertainment with JP and I. The three of us had been to the Proms many years ago – I was so small (or diva-ish) that we didn’t Prom proper style but this time there was none of that and we stood the whole way through. Mum and JP stood in the queue to sort out tickets while I was at work then we headed in to enjoy what a truly fantastic performance of Beethoven’s Symphonies 5 and 6, and two works by Pierre Boulez. The Royal Albert Hall was packed and seeing so many people all crowded together for a united cause – to appreciate amazing music – was incredibly special. To prom only cost £5 and it’s well worth it – I can’t believe I haven’t done it before now!