Category Archives: Art

Explore the light, reflections and space of Frida Escobedo’s Serpentine Pavilion

Sculpture In The City 2018/2019: Contemporary art lights up the Square Mile

A wall of colour amongst the green: The London Mastaba on the Serpentine

Discover the man behind the maps at James Cook: The Voyages at the British Library

© Sam Lane Photography © British Library

James Cook’s account of his first landing in Australia is on display at the British Library exhibition
© Sam Lane Photography © British Library

This August will mark 250 years since Captain James Cook’s ship Endeavour set sail from Plymouth. It was the first of three important voyages that changed the world. Although the figure of Cook can be somewhat controversial at times, there’s no arguing that he and his crew were responsible for some amazing exploration of the planet in challenging conditions.

To mark the anniversary, the British Library have curated a special exhibition following the story of Cook’s three voyages from 1768 to his death in Hawaii in 1779. This fascinating collection features many of the original maps, logbooks, sketches, and artefacts collected during the three expeditions. While many of Cook’s predecessors sought solely to claim new lands for their empires, his voyages were more intellectually minded as well with a goal to study the life and culture of the lands they visited. Joining him on the various vessels used over the decade were artists, botanists and astronomers.

The exhibition is split into sections covering how the world was before Cook and how he changed the world’s map. It was amazing to see a copy of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman’s journal of his discovery of Tasmania and New Zealand. Following a brief introduction to world maps at that time, the exhibition begins chronically with Cook’s first voyage (1768-1771), taking in Tahiti, several Pacific islands, New Zealand and Australia’s east coast. During this trip, the botanist Joseph Banks (1743-1820) and his team collected thousands of animal and plant specimens. The exhibition features a sea urchin and squid captured and preserved by Banks from the Pacific Ocean. There are also drawings of the various native people they came into contact with upon arrival in each country or island, such as the Tahitians and Maoris, and their culture. What is particularly amazing about this collection were the various maps of New Zealand drawn by Cook himself. Tasman before him only saw a small section of NZ, whereas Cook’s voyage managed to circumnavigate both the north and south island. If you consider he didn’t have satellite or drones like we would have today, to map an entire country’s coastline as near-accurate as he is did in the 18th century is pretty impressive. It was also on this voyage, Cook’s men caught their first sight of the Kangaroo, which is featured in a sketch by Sydney Parkinson, the first European drawing of the marsupial.

© Sam Lane Photography © British Library

William Hodges’ sketch of War Canoes in Tahiti (1774-75)
© Sam Lane Photography © British Library

The remainder of the exhibition continues in the same vein, with areas dedicated to the second voyage (1772-1775), which he crossed the Antarctic Circle and proved the so-called huge land mass named ‘Terra Australia’ was actually a myth. The third and Cook’s final voyage (1776-1779) resulted in the Captain’s death in Hawaii after clashing with the Hawaiians. Admittedly, Cook and his men made some mistakes along the way, although some of those you could blame the European colonialist attitude of the time. The pros and cons of Cook’s voyages, in terms of colonization and mapping is addressed by experts from both sides in a series of videos. In our world right now, we are so used to globalisation, it’s hard to imagine when the other side of the world was completely unknown and so dramatically different to our own way of life. Looking through Cook and his colleagues’ logbooks and diaries and seeing the images of the ships, you really get a sense of how treacherous and challenging these voyages were. It’s no wonder so many men never returned, dying from diseases or following violent clashes with the people they met along the way. Seeing these historic men’s handwriting was amazing and, admittedly, difficult to read at time with their small Georgian scrawls. It was particularly poignant to see Cook’s last ever logbook entry on 6 January 1779 – a week before he was killed in a skirmish over a stolen smaller boat.

Before this exhibition, I didn’t know much of Cook, a man I’d seen in various statues in New Zealand and Australia and had never really thought of him as a three-dimensional character. This fascinating exhibition has really provided a vivid and human picture of this famous figure together with the men who sailed with him and how they changed the world with these epic voyages.

  • James Cook: The Voyages is on from now until 28 August 2018. At the PACCAR Gallery, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras or Euston. Opening hours vary. Tickets: Adults £14, Senior £11, Students: £7 (free for members). For more information and tickets, visit the British Library website.

Metro Girl likes: While you’re in the British Library, head to the free exhibition Treasures of the British Library. You can look at genuine manuscripts, books and letters from some of Britain’s most iconic figures. Among the collection on display includes the original 1215 Magna Carta; Jane Austen’s writing desk and a 1809 letter to her brother Frank; Beatles’ handwritten lyrics; a 1603 letter from Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Christopher Wren’s designs for The Monument. Currently, the Treasures room also features a small exhibition (until 5 August 2018) on Karl Marx and his daughter Eleanor. It includes a first edition of the Communist Manifesto, letters from Eleanor after her father’s death, and a chair from the original British Library Reading Room which Marx is likely to have sat in. After you’ve had a good read, head to the nearby Gilbert Scott bar in the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel for a cocktail.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Delve into the history of the arts and crafts movement at the William Morris Society

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Kelmscott House is the former London home of William Morris and the current base for the William Morris Society

The name William Morris is often associated with home interiors, with some of his iconic patterns still available to buy today. However, the man himself was so much more, with poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist among the many hats he wore. Born to a middle-class family in Walthamstow in 1834, William Morris became influenced by the Medieval world while studying the Classics at Oxford University. The Medieval period appealed to Morris because of its chivalric values and a more organic manufacturing process. He disliked what the Industrial Revolution had done to British people and their homes. He saw people were moving away from nature into the cities and were doing repetitive tasks, while their houses were full of identical, lower quality factory-made products. Morris grew to dislike capitalism and became enamoured with socialism. When he was at Oxford, Morris found a kindred spirit in artist and designer Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), who went on to become a lifelong friend and collaborator. Following graduation, Morris became an apprentice to Neo-Gothic architect George Edmund Street (1824-1881), where he met fellow apprentice Philip Webb (1831-1915). However, Morris soon tired of architecture and wanted to focus on art. Around this period, he was spending a lot of time with Burne-Jones, who had become an apprentice to Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). Morris and Burne-Jones ended up living together in a flat at 17 Red Lion Square in Bloomsbury.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Original William Morris strawberry thief textiles

By the mid 1850s, Morris was writing poetry and designing furniture, manuscripts and hangings in a medieval style. While he hadn’t established a successful career at this point, his personal life appeared to be going well as he married Jane Burden (1839-1914) in 1859. Following his marriage, Morris teamed up with architect Webb to design a family home, The Red House, in Bexleyheath, south-east London. The house was very different from the Victorian and Georgian designs and exists today as a unique example of arts and crafts architecture. After furnishing The Red House in a Medieval style, Morris founded a decorative arts company, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co in 1861. They aimed to bring the craftmanship and beauty of the Middle Ages back to British homes. It sold furniture, murals, architectural carvings, metalwork and stained glass windows. With Victorians going nuts for Neo-Gothic architecture, the company’s stained glass in particular was a big hit. It didn’t take long before the wealthy became fans of MMF&Co’s aesthetic. Despite Morris’s socialist values, his products did have higher labour costs, so weren’t as accessible to the lower classes. A year after establishing the company, Morris abandoned painting and started designing wallpaper. Read the rest of this entry

Photo Friday: Tracey Emin’s ‘I Want My Time With You’ at St Pancras

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Tracey Emin’s ‘I Want My Time With You’ at St Pancras International

It’s been a while since my last ‘Photo Friday’ post… admittedly the least time-consuming and the easier posts to write. This isn’t the first time St Pancras has been the focus of a such a post either. This week, I finally got to have a closer look at Tracey Emin’s new-ish art at St Pancras International station, which was unveiled in April 2018. Suspended from the famous Barlow trainshed roof, are the words ‘I Want My Time With You’ in pink lights (LED, not neon due to health and safety). Emin said the message is a love letter to Europe ahead of impending Brexit, which has divided the UK. While art critics have been non-plussed, I like the message and am a fan of neon-esque writing in general so it’s a hit with me. I also didn’t realise until I saw my photos on my laptop that you can see the iconic clocktower of St Pancras peeking through the glass roof.

  • ‘I Want My Time With You’ by Tracey Emin is on the upper concourse of St Pancras International, Euston Road, Kings Cross, N1C 4QP. Nearest station: Kings Cross St Pancras.

To find out about the nearby Sir John Betjeman sculpture, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Emery Walker House: A stunning time capsule of the arts and crafts movement

Step back in time at the unique Emery Walker House in Hammersmith.

Emery Walker house © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The Emery Walker House stands on a Georgian terrace in Hammersmith

I must admit not knowing too much about the arts and crafts movement until recently. I had known of William Morris for some years, but had never heard the name Emery Walker until this year. Recently, I was invited along to the Emery Walker House with a group of fellow bloggers to join one of their guided tours.

The Arts and Crafts movement was a response to the Industrial Revolution, which saw objects being mass-produced in factories, losing their originality and connection with the natural world. Figures of the A&C movement wanted to make products with more integrity and higher quality, with the crafter actually enjoying the process of making it. Textile designer, novelist and poet William Morris (1834–1896) was one of the leaders of the movement and believed in creating beautiful objects and interiors, influenced by the past. Morris established his own company Morris & Co, and store on Oxford Street selling his furniture, wallpaper and other interiors.

The Emery Walker House stands on Hammersmith Terrace, a neat row of narrow Georgian terraces with gardens overlooking the Thames. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, this small neighbourhood in west London became the hub of the arts and crafts movement. Sir Emery Walker (1851-1933) was a London-born engraver, photographer and printer. He was a self-made man, having left school at 13 and establishing his own business by 30. In the late 1870s, he befriended Morris when he moved to Hammersmith Terrace as they bonded over socialism. The pair became firm friends and saw each other nearly every day. Walker initially lived at No.3 Hammersmith Terrace, before moving to No.7 – the house you can visit today – in 1903 and remained there for the rest of his life. Morris lived a short walk away at Kelmscott House and sowed the seed for the growing arts and crafts community of the area. Artist, bookbinder and sometime business partner of Walker (more on that later!), T.J. Cobden-Sanderson (1840-1922) lived at No.7 before Walker did, while Morris’ daughter May (1862-1938) ended up living next door at No.8 with her husband Henry Halliday Sparling. The playwright George Bernard Shaw lodged with the couple for a time and ended up having an affair with May, causing her divorce. Walker and Morris were firm friends with architect Philip Webb, who made Walker a beneficiary of his will, with some of his furniture now in No.7.

© Anna Kunst for The Emery Walker Trust

A Morris & Co Sussex chair
© Anna Kunst for The Emery Walker Trust

Emery Walker house © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The view of the Thames from the Emery Walker House

One of the most interesting stories about Walker is his business partnership and eventual feud with Cobden-Sanderson. The latter established the Doves Bindery in 1893, eventually becoming the Doves Press in 1900 when he partnered with Walker following the closure of Kelmscott Press in 1898. Cobden-Sanderson’s wife Annie provided funding after Walker admitted he didn’t have enough money to contribute. Their publications, featuring the Doves typeface which was inspired by Italian Renaissance, were a huge success. However, by 1902, their working relationship began to sour with Cobden-Sanderson complaining Walker wasn’t devoting enough time to the business. In 1906, they agreed things weren’t working, but disagreed over the splitting of the assets. Walker was entitled to have the metal letters and castings, but Cobden-Sanderson didn’t want him to have them. Between 1913-1917, the elderly Cobden-Sanderson made around 170 trips from Hammersmith Terrace to Hammersmith Bridge in the middle of the night, lobbing the heavy type, punches and matrices and hurling them into the Thames. Following Cobden-Sanderson’s death in 1922, his widow Annie paid Walker a large sum towards compensating the loss of type. Nearly a century later, designer Robert Green and the Port Authority of London searched the Thames below Hammersmith Bridge and managed to recover 150 types of the Doves Press.  Read the rest of this entry

Turner’s House: Follow in artist JMW Turner’s footsteps at his Twickenham retreat

A look at the newly-restored, only piece of Turner architecture.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Turner’s House, aka Sandycombe Lodge, was built to the artist’s designs in 1813

Twickenham is home to some famous former stately homes, such as Marble Hill House and Strawberry Hill. However, there’s a rather less grand, but equally important building that recently been restored to its original Georgian splendour – Turner’s House.

Otherwise known as Sandycombe Lodge, Turner’s House is the Grade II-listed former home of one of Britain’s greatest artists, J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). In his teens/early adult life, he briefly considered becoming an architect with his Twickenham home the only one of his building designs realised in bricks and mortar. Having opened last year following an extensive renovation and restoration project, what’s left of Turner’s garden has now been completed for the spring, full of green grass and flowers to complement the stunning architecture. I went along last week with some fellow Londoner bloggers for a special tour of Turner’s country retreat.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The stunning staircase is one of the house’s most striking features

In the early 19th century, Twickenham wasn’t a part of London but the open countryside. It had become a popular spot for the wealthy to build riverside abodes as a retreat from the bustling city. While born and bred Londoner Turner had a home and studio in the capital, he desperately sought an escape from the pressure of city life. In 1807, he purchased two plots of land in between Twickenham and Richmond and started designing his dream home in a cottage style. Finally, his plans were realised in 1813 and Turner moved in his beloved father, ‘Old William’ Turner (1745–1829), who had retired as a barber and wigmaker. Old William acted as housekeeper and tended what was then 3 acres of garden. The house was relatively modest, just two bedrooms upstairs – a large main overlooking the garden and the River Thames in the distance, and a smaller bedroom in the front. Downstairs, the ground floor featured a main living room, a dining room and small parlour, with a kitchen and further smaller rooms in the lower ground. Although Turner didn’t paint at the house, he did sketch and spent time fishing and strolling along the Thames and occasionally entertaining friends. One famous pal to visit was the Regency architect Sir John Soane (1753-1837), with his influence in the design of Sandycombe Lodge clearly visible in the hallway and staircase.

Turner sold the house in 1826 to a neighbour Joseph Todd, who extended it and rented it out. Turner’s garden was dramatically shrunk in the 1880s after the nearby opening of St Margaret’s railway station saw the area transforming into a more built-up commuter suburb of London. The house remained a residential home until World War II, when it was converted into a ‘shadow factory’ to make goggles. It was during this period, the house really began to deteriorate. However, a saviour came in Professor Harold Livermore (1914-2010), who bought the house in 1947. He was particularly proud of its history and campaigned for its Grade II listed status in the 1950s. Following Prof Livermore’s death in 2010, he gifted the house to the Turner’s House Trust with the provision it should be enjoyed by the nation.  Read the rest of this entry

Street art meets conservation in Louis Masai’s new exhibition Missing

© Louis Masai

Louis Masai painting his yellow legged frog in downtown Los Angeles
© Louis Masai

A new exhibition is coming to London which blends art and awareness. British artist Louis Masai is showcasing his latest collection which depicts endangered animals. Each piece will focus on a specific continent by depicting an animal from the region whose future is in doubt amidst fears they could vanish from our planet.

Masai is known for his patchwork animals, which are created for both canvases and exterior walls. The artist uses paint, sculpting and murals to express himself and highlight the 6th mass extinction and climate change. The choice of patchwork is significant as it implores humans to pay more attention and take action to fix the planet instead of tearing it apart.

The new exhibition, ‘Missing’ follows on from Masai’s 2016 tour of the USA, ‘The Art of Beeing’, which consisted of 20 murals of threatened species in 12 cities across nine states. Each piece from this latest exhibition features paintings created from Masai’s large murals around the world.

© Louis Masai

The endangered White Rhino from Sub Sahara Africa
© Louis Masai

‘Missing’ will be an immersive exhibition, with sounds and scents of the endangered animals’ environments replicated. An animatronic penguin on a leaking oil drum has been created specially for the show, while a painted elephant will lie surrounded by an AK47 and empty shells to remind us of the price of the Ivory trade. There will also be three different sculptures of Masai’s signature bee, which has been under threat in recent years.

Describing his new collection, Masai said: ‘Climate change is in full effect, with one of the major factors being the ‘6th Mass Extinction’. Species are becoming extinct or missing in our biodiverse world. This is a real issue that we face as humans, and as an artist, I feel it’s my duty to draw attention to this issue. Through my work I hope to remind people of the urgency we face, highlighting our place amongst creatures who are a critical part of our delicate ecosystem.’

  • Louis Masai: Missing will run from 25 – 27 May 2018 at The Crypt Gallery, Euston Road, NW1 2BA. Nearest stations: Euston or Euston Square. Open 12pm-6pm. Free entry. For more information, visit Louis Masai’s website or the Crypt Gallery website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in May, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist’ comes to the Fourth Plinth

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The latest commission for the Fourth Plinth is The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

This is the 12th work to appear on the Fourth Plinth since 1998

Trafalgar Square has been given a new piece of art amongst its fountains, lions and statues following the unveiling of the latest Fourth Plinth commission. Succeeding David Shrigley’s divisive Really Good, the latest piece is a recreation of a lost ancient artefact.

Michael Rakowitz’s artwork The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist is a piece from his long-term project to recreate 7,000 objects that have been lost forever. This particular sculpture is a recreation of the Lamassu, which had guarded the Nergal Gate of Nineveh (near Mosul, Iraq). Created around 700BC, it was destroyed by ISIS in 2015, along with many other ancient artefacts and historical sites. The Lamassu is a deity featuring a human head with the body of a winged bull. Rakowitz has chosen to make his sculpture from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans, a once thriving industry which was ravaged by the conflicts of the region. On the fountain facing side of the piece, an inscription in Cuneiform reads: ‘Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, had the inner and outer wall of Ninevah built anew and raised as high as mountains.’

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The piece is made from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans

This is the 12th work to appear on the Fourth Plinth since the programme started in 1998. The plinth was designed as one of four by architect Sir Charles Barry when he laid out Trafalgar Square in the 1840s. It was originally scheduled to showcase an equestrian statue of King William IV, but the plan was never realised due to austerity cuts. After 150 years of remaining empty, the Fourth Plinth programme was finally conceived in the 1990s as a platform for temporary artworks.

  • The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist will remain in situ until March 2020. At the Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square, Westminster, WC2. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus, Embankment or Leicester Square.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

One side of the sculpture features an inscription in Cuneiform

For the latest guide to what’s on in London, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin