Archive for the London Category

Choupatte, Claude Lalanne

Posted in Art, Design, London with tags , , , , , , , on August 6, 2013 by mysearchformagic

I wandered into Ben Brown Fine Art in Mayfair this week, and discovered an exhibition of the work of art/design duo Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne.

I was already aware of their fun animal sculptures, such as their woolly sheep, which also double up as furniture. Works like these are highly collectable, and have sold for huge amounts at auction, also gracing the homes of collectors including Yves Saint-Laurent and Tom Ford.

But on this occasion I was particularly enchanted by Claude Lalanne’s Choupatte sculptures. Made from bronze, the Choupattes come in two sizes – a cute little life size version to sit on a table top, or a huge rather scary version which stands on the floor.

Choupatte (très grand) 2008-2012, Claude Lalanne (Image courtest Ben Brown Fine Art)

Choupatte (très grand) 2008-2012, Claude Lalanne
(Image courtest Ben Brown Fine Art)

The Choupatte sculptures encapsulate Claude Lalanne’s love of the surreal, tinged with a subtle dose of humour. They made me smile. And they are definitely rather magical, don’t you think?

Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne at Ben Brown Fine Art until 21st September
http://www.benbrownfinearts.com

Curious, West Norwood Cemetery

Posted in Art, Cemetery, Crypt, Landscape, London, Photography with tags , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2013 by mysearchformagic

With its meandering paths, overgrown graves and delapidated but still imposing mausoleums, West Norwood Cemetery definitely has an air of magic about it. But in recent weeks the historic graveyard has been even more magical than usual, thanks to a large scale art exhibition/installation appropriately named Curious. Featuring a long list of contemporary artists, the works of art on display are site specific, interacting with the cemetery and often taking their inspiration from their unusual location.

A details from A Question of Archival Authority, Jane Wildgoose

A detail from A Question of Archival Authority, Jane Wildgoose

Jane Wildgoose’s installation A Question of Archival Authority was the first piece that I discovered on my visit last weekend. Situated inside the grand Maddick Mausoleum, Wildgoose’s use of antique mourning jewellery and flickering candles created a wonderfully gothic atmoshere, effectively evoking many questions about the practise and process of mourning and remembrance.

Jane Ward's contribution to Curious at West Norwood Cemetery

Jane Ward’s contribution to Curious at West Norwood Cemetery

Many of the works which appeared as part of Curious were paintings or collages placed within the doorwarys of the Victorian sepulchres. Some were bold and bright, others more calm and mysterious.

A work by Ian McCaughrean in the Greek Section of West Norwood Cemetery

A work by Ian McCaughrean in the Greek Section of West Norwood Cemetery

Despite my best efforts, and the help of a specially commissioned map created for the exhibition, I didn’t manage to locate all of the works on show. However, the thrill of trudging through the undergrowth, discovering incredible monuments and gravestones along the way, was all part of this unique experience.

Andrea Thoma's installation Steps/washed over in West Norwood Cemetery

Andrea Thoma’s installation Steps/washed over in West Norwood Cemetery

I fell in love with West Norwood Cemetery. Apparently a set of huge catacombs can still be found beneath the hill at the top of the graveyard, but these are rarely open to the public. I was also impressed with the range of artworks included in Curious, many of which encouraged new ways of looking at the cemetery, its monuments and its ‘residents’.

I Miss U by Lucy Spanyol

I Miss U by Lucy Spanyol

Some of the most effective artworks were those which dealt directly with concepts of death and bereavement. Lucy Spanyol’s I Miss U, which placed an eye-catching banner of artificial flowers in front of a coppice filled with ruinous grave monuments, was definitely a favourite of mine. Its use of informal ‘text speak’ and colourful floral garlands to relay a message filled with the despair of loss was moving and quite beautiful.

Unfortunately I discovered Curious on its final day, so the works of art are now long gone, existing just as photographs or in the memories of the visitors who managed to catch this wonderful, magical event.

http://www.westnorwoodcemetery.com/curious_trail

The Tea Maze, Crystal Palace Park

Posted in Landscape, London on July 2, 2013 by mysearchformagic

I am becoming a bit of a fan of Crystal Palace Park. It is a place with a fascinating history, and is still dotted with many evocative remains of this history, not least the ruins of the original Crystal Palace and the amazing dinosaurs. I’ve visited it many times, but only recently became aware that it is also home to a maze. Visiting the maze has been on my list of magical things to do ever since. This weekend I finally made it, and it was well worth the wait.

The entrance to the Tea  Maze, Crystal Palace Park

The entrance to the Tea Maze, Crystal Palace Park

There is definitely something magical about mazes. Whether they feature in ancient myths such as the Greek tale of the Minotaur and its underground lair, decorate the floor of medieval cathedrals like Chartres, or even appear in modern movies such as Labyrinth or The Shining, these elaborate puzzles have fascinated us for millennia. Nowadays full size mazes are rare, so finding one almost on my doorstep was a real thrill. The maze in Crystal Palace Park is apparently the largest in London, and although originally created in 1870, its current incarnation is thanks to extensive replanting in 1987 and more recent restoration in 2008. It is now known as the ‘Tea Maze’ thanks to the genteel Victorian fashion for visiting the labyrinth after taking tea in the park.

Entering the labyrinth, Crystal Palace Park

Entering the labyrinth, Crystal Palace Park

The maze in Crystal Palace Park is not that easy to find, so it is perhaps not surprising that it has evaded my notice for so long. It is nestled in a circle of tall trees, largely hidden from view. The hedges of the maze itself are low, meaning that the centre is always just visible in the distance – so temptingly close and yet so annoyingly far away.

The view towards the centre of the Tea Maze, Crystal Palace Park

The view towards the centre of the Tea Maze, Crystal Palace Park

Small carved ‘monoliths’ are placed at points around the route, perhaps to help confused visitors remember where they have or have not been. It certainly didn’t help me much, and I will admit to being slightly frustrated and more than a little bit dizzy by the time I stumbled upon the heart of the circular maze. There I found a pretty, peaceful space lined with stone benches, the floor decorated with a motto in carved stone;

pause here for a while

listen for the echoes

past, present, future

follow in their footsteps

The poem at the centre of the Tea Maze, Crystal  Palace Park

The poem at the centre of the Tea Maze, Crystal Palace Park

 

Bee Urban, Kennington Park

Posted in Bees, London with tags , , , , , , , on June 3, 2013 by mysearchformagic

I love Kennington Park. With is large tree-bordered fields, children’s play park, exercise equipment and cute cafe, it is everything a small urban park should be. But part of it has always remained slightly mysterious, to me at least.

The park-keeper's lodge, Kennington Park

Keeper’s lodge, Kennington Park

In one quiet corner sits the old park-keeper’s lodge. For many years it lay sad, derelict and empty, but then about six years ago Bee Urban took up residency, and things started to change. The broken windows were replaced. Pretty flowers began to emerge around the house, then a large wooden hut appeared next door. Most importantly a cluster of bee hives popped up in the back garden. As regular readers will know, I have long been intrigued by the magical qualities of bees. I live just round the corner from the park, and so I regularly pass the lodge, and have often stared longingly through the fence at this haven of peacefulness.

The entrance to Bee Urban, Kennington Park

The entrance to Bee Urban, Kennington Park

This past weekend, however, the gates were flung open for one of Bee Urban’s regular open days. At last I had the chance to step inside and find out what was going on.

Checking the hives at Bee Urban, Kennington Park

Checking the hives at Bee Urban, Kennington Park

I received a warm welcome from one of the Bee Urban folk, who gave me a talk about what they were up to both here and in other parts of South London. I looked at an amazing little display hive with glass sides which revealed the frantic goings-on inside. Unsurprisingly, the fragrant floral air was filled with buzzing bees, who seemed pretty indifferent to the influx of nosy visitors.

The wood-burning stove, Bee Urban

The wood-burning stove, Bee Urban

On one side a huge wood-burning stove smouldered, its smoky scent drifting over the sun-drenched garden. A small hive smoker sat next to it on top of one of the hives, a thin trail of white fumes curling out of its spout. It turns out that Bee Urban is open to the public every Thursday, and has weekend openings every so often too. There’s an exhibition inside the wooden hut, and even honey from the hives on sale.

A hive smoker, Bee Urban

A hive smoker, Bee Urban

But there is trouble looming for Bee Urban’s apian paradise. The new Northern Line extension will be laid right underneath this part of Kennington, and the plan is to build a huge, ugly ventilation shaft right on this site. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen. With its welcoming atmosphere, colourful wilderness garden and busy, buzzy bee community, Bee Urban is a magical little piece of rural calm in a distinctly urban setting.

Modern Witchcraft, ASC Gallery

Posted in Art, London, Superstition, Witches with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2013 by mysearchformagic

This week I discovered a fabulously strange exhibition at the ASC Gallery near London’s Elephant and Castle. Entitled Modern Witchcraft, the show combines historic artefacts and contemporary art in an intriguing, magical way.

Modern Witchcraft, an installation view

Modern Witchcraft, an installation view

Many of the ancient objects are on loan from the nearby Cuming Museum, which was sadly damaged in a recent fire. Items from the Edward Lovett collection of superstition in particular, such as an early 20th Century Witch Ball used for crystal gazing, as well as a 16th Century German Black Mirror perfect for calling up the spirits of the deceased, set the decidedly supernatural tone.

A German 16th Century Magician's Mirror, from the collection of the Cuming Museum

A German 16th Century Magician’s Mirror, from the collection of the Cuming Museum

The contemporary works are just as bizarre and unsettling. Most striking are Riccardo Andujar’s Heads I-IV, these tiny eyeless craniums apparently in the process of shedding their multicoloured rubbery skins. John Stark’s paintings combine Poussin-like classicism with creepy sci-fi surrealism, his world inhabited by faceless hooded figures.

Heads I-IV, RIccardo Andujar

Heads I-IV, RIccardo Andujar

My absolute favourite exhibit was located in a quiet corner of the gallery. At first glance, James Hopkins’ Ghost Bottle appears to be just an oddly shaped white mass sitting on a pedestal next to a bottle of red wine. But stare more closely into the dark depths of the bottle and you will see something amazing – the reflection of the white mass forms the shape of a perfect human skull.

Ghost Bottle, James Hopkins; Conditions, Nick Dawes

Ghost Bottle, James Hopkins; Conditions, Nick Dawes

Modern Magic runs until 18 May 2013 at ASC Gallery

The Dinosaurs, Crystal Palace Park

Posted in London with tags , , , on April 7, 2013 by mysearchformagic

Wandering around Crystal Palace Park, it’s hard to believe that it was once home to one of the wonders of the Victorian age. The world-famous glass and metal construction which gave the area its name is just a memory, destroyed in a huge inferno in 1936, with only some overgrown stone terraces remaining at the top of Sydenham Hill to show where it once stood. The pleasure gardens which surrounded it have now disappeared too, their elaborate fountains and grand canals replaced by a brutalist concrete sports centre. The maze survives, but the exotic trees and fully-working replica of a Derbyshire lead mine are all long gone, leaving a pretty, well-used and much-loved suburban London park.

The Lower Lake, Crystal Palace Park

The Lower Lake, Crystal Palace Park

But in the south east corner of Crystal Palace Park lurk some strange remnants of those heady days. Around the edges of the Lower Lake stand the Crystal Palace dinosaurs, huge concrete and metal recreations of prehistoric beasts seen as one of the highlights of the Pleasure Gardens when they opened in 1854. Described as ‘antidiluvian wonders’ in the press, to the Victorians these dinosaurs represented the cutting edge of palaeontological science.

A dinosaur emerges from the trees,  Crystal Palace Park

A dinosaur emerges from the trees, Crystal Palace Park

The Dicynodons loiter by the water’s edge, with their chubby feet and goggle eyes. The Plesiosauri have long, elegantly curved necks, but rather fearsome looking teeth. Most striking are the Megalosaurus, the Hylaeosaurus and Iguanadons, which bestride the top of the small island. In the distance, two pterodactyls perch precariously at the top of a craggy cliff.

The Iguanadons,  Crystal Palace Park

The Iguanadons, Crystal Palace Park

Despite restoration work a few years back, the dinosaurs now look rather weather-worn. Palaeontology has moved on of course, and our understanding of what these animals looked like has proved these recreations to be largely inaccurate. Some are cracked, some are broken, most of them are covered in moss and lichen. For me, their rather sad state only adds to their aura of magic. On a quiet, overcast morning when there is nobody else around, their presence is strange and unsettling, as they sit by the still water, silently watching, and waiting.

A mighty Megaloceros, Crystal Palace Park

A mighty Megaloceros, Crystal Palace Park

The Uncanny, Ronchini Gallery

Posted in Art, London on February 2, 2013 by mysearchformagic
Something strange is happening at Mayfair’s Ronchini Gallery right now. Their exhibition The Uncanny features the work or young emerging artists Adeline de Monseignat and Berndnaut Smilde, both of whom produce art which play around with concepts of reality, presenting images and objects which are both unnatural and strange, yet strikingly familiar.
Installation image, The Uncanny: Adeline de Monseignat and Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery London, photo Susanne Hakuba

Installation image, The Uncanny: Adeline de Monseignat and Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery London, photo Susanne Hakuba

The show’s title is inspired by an essay written by Sigmund Freud in 1919, in which he explored the idea that the strange cannot exist without the normal, the unfamiliar wouldn’t exist without the familiar. It was his view that the Uncanny was not simply something weird or unknown, but rather something strangely familiar.
Installation image, The Uncanny: Adeline de Monseignat and Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery London, photo Susanne Hakuba

Installation image, The Uncanny: Adeline de Monseignat and Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery London, photo Susanne Hakuba

Despite initial appearances, the photographs of Berndnaut Smilde don’t rely on photoshopping or digital technology for their bizarre content. His clouds, which hang mysteriously in empty interiors, are created using a smoke machine combined with moisture. They float like ghosts, unexpected, surprising and rather lonely.
Adeline de Monseignat, Hairy Eye Ball, 2011, Vintage Fur, pillow filler and glass, 30 x 30 x 26 cm, courtesy the artist and Ronchini Galley

Adeline de Monseignat, Hairy Eye Ball, 2011, Vintage Fur, pillow filler and glass, 30 x 30 x 26 cm, courtesy the artist and Ronchini Galley

Adline de Monseignat’s sculptures combine vintage animal fur and glass globes. The end results are intriguingly tactile, and also decidedly unsettling. They sit on the floor, or rest in piles of sand. In one example here, in which the globe sits on a tiny metal frame bed, the fur inside pulses slowly, falling and rising in drowsy breaths. The Uncanny also features de Monseignat’s mirrored ‘babies’, each modelled on a real person, perfectly matching their birth weight and size. They sit swaddled on chairs, silently reflecting back the face of the viewer.
Adeline de Monseignat, Loleta, 2012, Vintage Fur, pillow filler, glass, motor, wood on 2 tonnes of sand, Variable installation, Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery

Adeline de Monseignat, Loleta, 2012, Vintage Fur, pillow filler, glass, motor, wood on 2 tonnes of sand, Variable installation, Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery

The exhibits in The Uncanny perfectly demonstrate Freud’s theory. There’s nothing inherently strange in glass or fur, clouds or empty rooms, but place them together in unexpected combinations and suddenly you find yourself encountering moments of pure magic.
<i>The Uncanny</i>, curated by James Putnam, will be at Ronchini Gallery London until 16 February