Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Dreamy pink interiors, velvet seats and walls decked with 239 new works by artist David Shirley. We ate two Michelin star sandwiches and cakes while drinking tea out of exclusively designed ceramics. Located in Mayfair, Sketch combines art and food in a incredibly innovative manner. The Gallery is part of a long term programme of artist-conceived restaurants and looks to change every few years.

Completely in love with the concept I have been swooning over it's interiors since 2014 and enviously spotting its guests all over social media. Naturally, I was ecstatic to be able to experience it. Because truly, it was an experience. From the moment we walked in the door our senses were held hostage. Treated by Leanne, not only did she make the trip to London for my birthday, she gave me the most incredible gift.  

As we entered The Gallery I was breathless. Photographs simply don't do it justice. 

While you would be justified in making the trip for the interiors alone, it was enhanced by the incredible food and service. As Afternoon Tea is often seen as a treat, a small nibble if you will. I was concerned we would still be hungry afterwards, but I wish I could have fit more in! The meal ranged from luxurious with caviar and gold leaf, to the normal shrouded in delight such as a hot ham and cheese panini carefully wrapped in parchment paper and tied with a pink bow. 

We were sat by the bar area and it was clear to see that regardless whether you were a table of two or table of ten, there were no 'bad' tables hidden in the corner or in the way of the staff that you could possibly be seated at to ruin your meal. Everything had been considered and executed to utter perfect and while it is definitely more expensive than your average country house afternoon tea but it is absolutely worth it and you get so much more than you pay for.

Throughout our individual tea pots were constantly refilled without needing to request it, our napkins folded when we left our seats and our chairs tucked in upon return. The staff engaging and happy to be there, their uniform was beautiful with the waitresses in chic dresses and converse. The manager looked like something off a catwalk with platform shoes and an extravagant dress. 

Half way through our meal we were served hot scones wrapped in a cloth napkin like a blanket with fig jam, strawberry jam and clotted cream. Throughout you were able to request free extras of any food served and the tea itself is certainly something to shout about. As a non tea drinker I opted for the herbal Blackcurrant and Hibiscus, from previous experiences I have found herbal tea to be little more than fragrant water. In contrast I couldn't believe the depth and delicious flavour of their tea and it will further tarnish my experience with regular herbal tea forever more. 

Pouring our tea was likened to releasing ghosts and as we sipped we were reminded simply to 'Forget about it' by David Shrigley. His ceramics completely added to the joy and delight of eating. Available to purchase you can view the whole collection showcased just outside The Gallery entrance.  

Upon designing Sketch it seems no stone was left unturned. The toilets, usually a drab place were other worldly. Open a door to blinding light and disco floor ceiling, you're greeted with a tucked away bar area and a minimalistic grand staircase leading to disco floor ceilings and alien space pods. Instead of regular cubicles, you enter a space egg of your choice and listen to curated sounds. I was greeted with sounds of Wimbledon tennis and after enquiring with our waiter learned the bathroom had been covered in tennis balls just a week before.

Sadly our time at Sketch was limited to two hours due to booking policy and understandably high demand, however we were pleasantly surprised that time seemed no issue. I settled into a state of complete awe and utter relaxation. There was so much to soak in and enjoy but the experience had been crafted to perfection.   

My expectations seemed feeble compared to what we had encountered. I can only hope that I visit again before The Gallery changes.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Souls of Stardust with Amy Friend

By recreating light Amy Friend has created a unique insight into vintage photography. Her series Dare all Luce or ‘To Bring to Light’ explores the uncovering of both the visible and invisible. Emphasising the fragility of memories and the physical photographic object itself. Each piece is handled individually, sourced and interpreted by the artist. Depending on the image it is worked on gently or severely by a multiple piercing of tiny holes that allow new light to shine through. Returning the photograph's subjects back to the light. Not only does the series capture an ethereal energy and spirituality but she has essentially reformed the lifecycle of light, focusing specifically on it’s role within photography. Starting at the capture where light needs to be present, the development of the physical object in a traditional dark room and finally to the piercing and re-capturing of the piece years later. Each image is made anew through being re-photographed with the light streaming through, hinting at a celestial nature of it’s occupants. It is finally titled after the handwritten captions found on the back when possible, bringing the process back to those who first starred in the scene. 

Find more of her work on her website  

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Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Yayoi Kusama Exhibition

I was first introduced to the works of Kusama through her Obliteration Room via TateShots and felt so excited to see that she was once again exhibiting in London and made sure I was able to attend. Reminded by friend's instagram shots and a segment in Time Out magazine we scheduled it into my birthday celebrations, initially planning to arrive at 10am we didn't make it until 2pm and ended up queuing for two hours! At least it was a beautifully sunny day and there were a few places nearby to buy drinks. 

Surprisingly one man left the exhibition intentionally shouting about pumpkins and how unimpressed he was. Clearly a disgruntled friend or partner taken along with no idea what the show was. I expected pumpkins and I loved it!!  

Pumpkin, 2016 
Mirror polished bronze

Hosted by the Victoria Micro Galleries it was spilt across two venues, one in Mayfair and one at Old Street. Only able to visit one we chose Old Street as it showcased the infinity rooms. From the images I had seen I expected huge rooms filled with glowing pumpkins and millions of people, however it was such an intimate experience. The rooms were much smaller than anticipated but completely mesmerising. Once inside the gallery we queued for each room as monitored by staff with stopwatches allowing two people in at a time and around two minutes inside. I just wish we had longer! It was incredible. Even my husband who didn't know much of her work loved the experience. It's hard to convey in images how it felt.   

All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016 
Wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED

Each room used mirrors to create a sense of openness and eternity. It felt like a much larger almost spiritual space to be in. I am completely drawn to work that evokes this hold on people's emotions. So many of us lack the attention span and take in information so quickly and passively due to technology that art has evolved to grab us by the shoulders. We need these immersive experiences that take over all our senses and hold us still if only for two minutes. I truly believe that work like this is the future of contemporary art. 

Chandelier of Grief, 2016
Steel, aluminium, one-way mirror, acrylic, chandelier motor, plastic, LED

I didn't feel that this room was quite as engaging as All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins. The room was larger, less full of art and four people viewed the space at a time. It simply did not captivate me in the same way and I found the mirrors less effective (too much of me instead of the artwork). My husband however got an incredible shot of the piece taken by looking directly down into the mirror below the chandelier. I probably should have tried that! 

When we first entered the gallery we were given a guide noting each piece and it's location however the image for Where the Lights in My Heart Go was unclear. As we stepped out into the garden we saw people queueing for a mirrored box, assuming this was it we joined and waited to see. Pretty hot and tired by this point many people had taken to sitting down as they queued. Our turn came and the door for this room was tiny and added to the joy of the experience. We stepped inside with two other viewers and saw loads of tiny holes in the walls. Confused we looked through them to the outside, then as the door shut we understood. We had entered space. 

Where the Lights in My Heart Go, 2016
Stainless steel, aluminium 

The holes transformed into hundreds of tiny stars reflected for an eternity in the mirrored walls. It was breathtaking. It was instantly my favourite part of the exhibit. Kusama captured heaven and put it in a box. All these rooms evoked such intricate and emotive experiences, the whole thing was utterly ethereal.  

Narcissus Garden, 1966
873 stainless steel spheres

The exhibition ended with Narcissus Garden steeped in sunshine. A relaxing pieces featuring Kusama's iconic spots. The piece was first created in 1966 for the 33rd Venice Biennale, captivating our vanity and egotistical nature. If you look into one of the steel balls you will find only yourself reflected back and not much of the world around you. With each ball a similar size to a fortune tellers crystal ball she originally produced 1,500 and sold them to viewers for two dollars. Literally selling vanity back to the eye of the beholder.  

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