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Cecil Beaton at the Imperial War Museum

2 Dec

Cecil Beaton's photograph of Eileen Dunne, aged three

The Theatre of War exhibition has been on my list of things to do since it opened in September so I can’t believe I only just got there today – as it enters its last weeks! But, as I knew it would be, it was worth the wait. Not only am I a massive fan of photography exhibitions, I love Cecil Beaton. The exhibition follows Beaton’s time working for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War, taking images that would create sympathy for the British side such as the famous picture of three-year-old Eileen Dunne in hospital at Great Ormond Street that appeared on the cover of Life magazine. It’s an eye-opening and thought-provoking collection and one that truly demonstrates Beaton’s skill.

The excursion was made better still when I stumbled across the Morley College Christmas Fair en route and picked up a stunning set of antique soup spoons and dessert forks, which I’ve been hunting for, for a while. Now all I need is for M and I to move back into our own place so I have a space to invite friends over to use them!

Theatre of War runs to 1 January 2013;


Hollywood Costume at the V&A

17 Nov

Hollywood Costume

I met up with the wonderful M, a friend of mine from Chelmsford and owner of Wicked Waxing, last night for a spot of dinner and a look around the V&A’s current Hollywood Costume exhibition. As with all V&A exhibitions, it was so well done. It brought together over 100 of the most iconic movie costumes from the past 100 years – think the likes of Indiana Jones, Jack Sparrow, Holly Golightly, Batman and Harry Potter. But, not only did it have the costumes on display, it also gave you an insight into how each outfit had been designed – for example, Indiana’s hat has a shallower brow to allow camera lighting to reach Harrison Ford’s face – so you came away feeling you’d really learnt something about the film-making process. It also looked at fashion as a costume and how what we wear is a direct portrayal of our emotions or an image we want to portray. M and I then grabbed a quick burger before she dashed back to Essex. It was so lovely to see her – I miss Chemsford!

Runs to 27 January 2013;

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,

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.

One of my Plan Bs!

31 May

A very special friend celebrated a significant birthday at the weekend and, to mark the occasion, I wanted to give her a suitably memorable present. Instead of heading the high street, I decided to make her a pair of earrings out of metal clay. Following the success of the set I gave my mum for her 60th, I figured why not give it another try. But this time I was doing it unsupervised and on my own. Eek!

The first earring went really well but, obviously it couldn’t all be plain sailing! Fortunately though, after the second one over heated and melted – pretty cool effect btw, I was left with my finished pair. What do you think? Could this be a possible Plan B in the future?

If you go down to the woods today… make sure it’s to Jupiter Artland!

20 May

What a weekend of discovery I’ve had! I was up in Edinburgh visiting friends and M’s family, and have had such an exciting time.

I travelled up on Friday and happened across an article in The Guardian about a new art installation at Jupiter Artland, a ‘gallery’ situated a few miles outside of Edinburgh. The display was by Turner Prize nominee Anya Gallaccio and featured 10,000 fresh roses, which over the next four months, will slowly age and decompose.

Now, I’ve been on a bit of an art trail of late (Tate Modern last month, V&A and National Gallery this month) so I was eager to check it out. I headed there yesterday, with M’s parents, and what a find. I can’t believe I’d never been there before! For not only was Anya’s exhibit thought-provoking and strangely mesmerising, but Jupiter Artland is like another world – not a gallery in the usual sense of the word but a living and breathing exhibition, situated outside, in the midst of a stunning bluebell wood with views across to the Firth of Forth. Pieces ranged from an intricate web of coloured fishing line (see pic below) to a series of ghostly wax works of weeping girls, made even more sinister by the drizzle of the day. It was refreshing to be outdoors with the space and quietude to stand back and appreciate the art on show, without the jostle of city crowds.

We ended up, as is custom, in the on-site cafe – in this case an American aluminium Airstream – where I enjoyed a wedge of ‘Barry’s Favourite Coffee & Walnut cake’, served by none other than the man himself! Now I’ve found this place, I’ll definitely be coming back. The whole Artland boasts sustainable credentials (which I love) and Anya’s got a new installation opening later on this year – an underground chamber of amethyst protected by gold barbed wire. But, even without that, the changing seasons alone would make each permanent artwork, look like new.

10,000 roses form Anya Gallaccio’s latest art installation

Art interspersed with nature – can you spot the weeping girl wax work?

The 400cm web was knitted from multi-coloured fishing line, using a technique inspired by Shetland lace

The cafe!

It’s Barry’s favourite – I can see why!

Dinner at Emile’s with my lovely brother

20 Apr

Just back from a long overdue catch up with my brother JP. It’s been a good month since I last saw my brother properly and it was so lovely to have the chance for a proper chat – alongside a glass of vino and some yummy food! We headed to Emile’s in Putney (, a French restaurant we’ve both been wanting to trial since we moved in – and it was worth the wait. Perfectly cooked asparagus with parmesan shavings and pea and mint vinaigrette followed by succulent beef wellington with a madeira sauce, all in a cosy setting with excellent service and a good value £25 fixed price menu. Heaven.

We also had some great chat – my brother’s a cosmologist and in the process of applying for some key funding for his research into the formation of galaxies (all very exciting but technical stuff!), and we also discussed the latest exhibitions at the Tate Modern ( I recently popped in to see the new Damien Hirst and Kusama exhibitions. I’m not a huge fan of modern art and the Damien Hirst wasn’t really my cup of tea – animals sliced in half and canvases covered with dead butterflies – but it definitely provoked an emotional response. Fortunately the Yayoi Kusama was far more uplifting with her eccentric displays of fluorescent polker dots and multi-coloured light installations. Her display runs until 5 June and it’s well worth a look, if you’re in the area.

The Putney WI’s second meeting – success!

16 Apr

Hooray! Tonight marked the second installment of the Putney WI and I’m overjoyed to say our numbers have not just grown, they’ve practically tripled! I was so pleased to see many familiar faces from the first meeting as well as lots of new ones. I have a feeling this group is going to be a success.

I’d called in a favour from a friend of mine to give our first demonstration. Gift-wrapping guru – and the loveliest lady! – Jane Means came along and wowed us with her beautiful creations, showing us how to wrap everything from boxes to tins to wine bottles. She also showed us how to create a ribbon rose, tie the perfect bow, and make our own beautiful gift bags.

Jane runs classes around the UK so you can pick up tips too, and she also sells an amazing range of her own designs of ribbon. Just check out her website – Not in the UK? Don’t worry! She has a DVD – again, see the website for details.

Lucian Freud Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

19 Feb

National Portrait Gallery

I really did have a day of art work yesterday for, after enjoying the morning at the V&A, I headed next to the National Portrait Gallery to catch up with B and take in the newly-opened Lucian Freud exhibition of his portraits. It had only just opened so was very busy – booking ahead is an essential. Despite the crowds though, it was a fantastic collection of Freud’s work spanning from pieces such as Man with a Feather, painted when he was 21, to Portrait of the Hound, the last, and unfinished piece he was working on at the time of his death last year.

Runs to 27 May,

I rounded off the day with a light bite to eat at the nearby Mishkin’s, self-described as a ‘kind of Jewish deli with cocktails’. Delicious meatballs (lamb and pistachio, and chickpea, spinach and ricotta) with chips and slaw, and the tastiest gin cocktail I’ve ever had (the London Cup, a refreshing blend of gin, lime, campari, and grapefruit juice), served in old jam jars no less; LOVE IT!