Emmanuelle Moureaux’s ‘Slices of Time’ exhibition at Now Gallery

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

I have been a fan of Tokyo-based French architect Emmanuelle Moureaux and her colour-driven architecture for some time. Since 1996, she has been living in Tokyo where she established Emmanuelle Moureaux architecture + design in 2003. I have never actually seen Moureaux‘s architecture and installations in real life, so I was really looking forward to seeing her first art/design exhibition “Slices of time” in London.

Moureaux invented the concept of shikiri, which literally means ‘dividing (creating) space with colours’. She uses colours as three-dimensional elements, like layers, in order to create spaces, and her work ranges from art, design to architecture.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

Inspired by the location of the gallery, near the Greenwich Meridian, “Slices of Time expresses the past, the now and the future through 168,000 numbers cut out from paper. The cut-outs are hung in the gallery space, as a representation of the round earth floating. 100 layers of numbers in 100 shades of colours visualise the next 100 years to come (2020 to 2119), while 20 layers of numbers in white represent the past 20 years (2000 to 2019).

On the preview night, I headed to NOW Gallery on the Greenwich Peninsula, and a long queue had already formed outside of the gallery. At the door, we were assigned a timeslot and when it was our turn, we had to queue (again) outside of the exhibition area. We were allowed to walk around the installations for a short period before being hurried out to let the next group in.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

It was wonderful to see the striking installations from above and up close. I am also glad that the architect has chosen paper as her medium – the installation truly reveals the beauty and power of paper. I only wish that I was given more time to linger, but since I was going to be away for several months, this was the only opportunity for me to see the exhibition before leaving. And for those who don’t live in London, there are currently two other exhibitions being held in Taipei (“Forest of Numbers” ) and New York (“100 colors”) where visitors can be stimulated by vast array of colours.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux  Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

 

A visionary’s mind: Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum

stanley kubrick exhibition

 

Although I haven’t seen all the art and design exhibitions in London this year, but out of all the ones that I have seen, I would say the Stanley Kubrick exhibition is the cream of the crop (alongside with Christian Dior at the V & A); it is certainly the best exhibition that I have seen at the Design Museum.

The exhibition is dedicated to the fans of Kubrick, so if you have not seen his films, then you are unlikely to appreciate this exhibition. But as one of most iconic and revered directors of the last century, it would be odd to not have seen any of his films, unless you were born after 2000.

 

design museum

 

Initially, I was quite apprehensive about this exhibition, and I didn’t quite see the link between Stanley Kubrick and the Design Museum (I guess I saw him more as an artist). Yet the vast exhibition really blew me away since it enabled visitors to catch a glimpse of Kubrick‘s creative mind. As we all know, he was a perfectionist or so-called ‘obsessive’. Life is never easy being a perfectionist, because you would want to control everything; nothing is adequate enough, and you believe that there is always room for improvement. However, it was Kubrick‘s drive for perfectionism that provided his audiences some of the most mesmorising cinematic experiences of their lives.

I still remember the shock of watching the rape scene in ‘A clockwork orange’, and the anxiety felt when Danny was running away from Jack in the haunted hotel in ‘The shining’ (while feeling irritated by Wendy‘s screams). I didn’t quite understand ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ the first time round because I was too young, but I was awed by his visions of the future when I watched it again (the restored version) a few years ago at the cinema.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

 

I had no idea that this exhibition had been touring around the world since 2004. It first started at Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, and has taken over 14 years to come to the country where Kubrick lived and worked for 38 years until his sudden death from a heart attack in 1999. It has been a long wait, but it was well worth it.

Curated by the museum’s curators with help from Pentagram’s designers, the huge archive was transported from Kubrick’s Hertfordshire home, where his wife still resides. With over 700 exhibits on display, including photographs, slides, cameras, lens, film posters, props, costumes, illustrations, sketches, personal letters, models, and storyboards etc; you could easily spend hours here and be astonished by the meticulous work that went on behind the scenes of all his films.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

 

This comprehensive exhibition is almost overwhelming (in a good way) because there is a lot to take in… and when you see the attention to detail Kubrick applied to all his work, you would understand why he is considered as one of the greatest directors of all times. Unfortunately, we are now living in a fast-paced world where speed has become the priority, and this attitude has lowered the standards of everything around us. Perhaps Kubrick‘s work ethic can be seen as the antidote to our speed-driven society today.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

Sketches of A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) were sent to Stanley Kubrick, the original director and producer, but he later handed it to Steven Spielberg, and the film was made after his death

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition 

Spartacus (1960)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon (1975)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

A Clockwork orange (1972)

 

Extensive research was crucial in all Kubrick‘s productions, and one of the most fascinating exhibits is the set of panorama photos of Commercial Road in East London (see below), which was originally considered as the location to recreate Greenwich Village in Manhattan for the set of ‘Eyes wide shut’. Although the majority of film ended up being shot in a studio, it was still amazing to see the scrupulous research done in preparation for the film.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

Eyes wide shut (1999)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

The Shining (1980)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

Sketches for ‘Dr Strangelove’ (1964)

 

After seeing this exhibition, it made me want to watch his earlier and less well-known films, as well as rewatch his famous ones. I think that at different stages of our lives, we would interpret his films differently; but one thing for sure is that I am most likely to appreciate his work even more from now on.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

 

 

LCW 19: Creative Inspiration Walk – Text in the City

black friar pub

 

How many of us pay attention to the text and typography around us in the city? When we are rushing around the city, we tend to miss what is right under our noses. During the London Craft week, I joined the “Creative Inspiration Walk: Text in the City” organised by The Goldsmiths’ Centre and City of London. The two-hour walk explored the city’s lettering heritage and craftsmanship focusing on engraving and carving of text.

Our meeting point was Blackfriars station, and right opposite the station is the Grade II listed Art Nouveau The Black Friar pub built in 1875, and remodelled in about 1905 by the architect Herbert Fuller-Clark. Much of the internal decoration was done by the sculptors Frederick T. Callcott and Henry Poole. I have always been fascinated by the facade of this pub, especially by the mosiac y the mosaic type and wonderful metal signage outside. Although this stop was not part of the walk, I thought it is apt to include it here.

 

The Blackfriar pub

The Blackfriar pub

The Blackfriar pub

The Blackfriar pub

The Black Friar Pub

 

The first stop of the walk was located in the new concourse of the station. Fifty four stones from the original Victorian station, each engraved with destinations served by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR), have been preserved and relocated. The stones list destinations as diverse as Bickley, Marseille, Gravesend and Venice, as the LCDR advertised Blackfriars’ links to towns and cities of the south east, and the business capitals of Europe via cross-channel steamers. These blocks were removed from top to bottom, one-by-one, by chiselling the mortar joints between each stone. The lightest stone weighs 54 kg and the heaviest stone about 120 kg. The lettering on the sandstone was gilded with 24 carat gold leaf before it was rebuilt in the new location.

 

The 54 inscribed stones inside Blackfriars stationThe 54 inscribed stones inside Blackfriars station

The 54 inscribed stones inside Blackfriars station

 

From one of the station’s platform exits, we were led to a rather grey and gloomy concrete square outside of the brutalist British Telecom owned office building called the Baynard House. Surprisingly, in the middle of the empty square stands The Seven Ages of Man, a 22-foot cast aluminium sculpture by British typeface designer, stone letter carver and sculptor, Richard Kindersley. The sculpture was commissioned by Post Office Telecommunications and unveiled in April 1980.

Inspired by William Shakespeare‘s pastoral comedy As You Like It, in which a monologue is spoken in Act II Scene VII Line 139. The speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play and catalogues the seven stages of a man’s life, sometimes referred to as the seven ages of man.

The high column features seven sculpted heads, stacked in totem pole fashion, on top of each other. The youngest is at the bottoms and it gets older as you progress up the column; on the pedestal, Shakespeare’s verses are inscribed around it.

This is a fantastic piece of sculpture, but its odd and hidden location is unlikely to draw passerby’s attention (unless they look up from the street level). It is certainly a hidden gem in the City of London.

 

The Seven Ages of ManThe Seven Ages of Man

The Seven Ages of ManThe Seven Ages of Man

The Seven Ages of Man

 

We then walked towards the river bank, and under the Millennium bridge stands The Millennium Measure designed by British sundial maker, hand-engraver & sculptor, Joanna Migdal in 2002. The Millennium Measure measures is the gift of the court & livery of the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers to the City of London in commemoration of the millennium. It comprises a 3 sided, 2 metre (2M = 2000MM) rule depicting two thousand years of history of the City, the Church and the craft of scientific instrument making. The initials ‘MM’ stand for ‘Millennium Measure’, ‘millimetre’ and ‘two thousand’ in Roman numerals.

 

london river

sundials

Millennium Measure Millennium Measure

Millennium Measure Millennium Measure

Millennium Measure

The Millennium Measure

 

Although I have walked past St Paul’s Cathedral many times before, I have never paid much attention to the public art outside of it. To my surprise, on the pavement at the western end of the churchyard is a floor-plan of the pre-Fire Cathedral with an outline of the present one superimposed on it. Designed by Richard Kindersley (see above), the 7m long installation is made of various Purbeck marbles and Welsh Slate. The outlines were created through the use of waterjet technology, which enabled the stone to be inset in a manner which would either be impossible or prohibitively expensive if done by hand. The inscription around the border was hand carved into the stone, noting the Great fire of London in 1666 that destroyed much of the medieval City of London.

On the other side of the Cathdral at the west end of the Festival Gardens, there is a bust of the English Poet and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, John Donne by the sculptor Nigel Boonham. Underneath the bust feature lettering by one of UK’s foremost letter carvers, Andrew Whittle.

 

st paul's cathedral

Richard Kindersleyst Pauls cathedral Richard Kindersley andrew whittle

andrew whittle

st paul's cathedral  st paul's cathedral

 

On the northside of the Cathedral, there is another installation by Richard Kindersley called People of London. It is a memorial to the people of London who died in the blitz 1939 — 1945. Carved from a three ton block of Irish limestone, the memorial has large carved letters and gilded around the edge reading: “REMEMBER BEFORE GOD THE PEOPLE OF LONDON 1939 — 1945”. On top is a spiral inscription written by Sir Edward Marsh and used by Churchill as a front piece to his history ‘The Second World War’.

 

People of London

People of London

People of London memorial 

 

Not far from St Paul’s, we visited the enchanting Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden, which is situated on the site of the Franciscan Church of Greyfriars, established in 1225. Destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 it was rebuilt by Christopher Wren, but later destroyed all but the west tower in WWII. It was decided not to rebuild the church and some land was lost to road widening in the 1960s. The present rose garden was laid out on the site in 1989 with rose beds and box hedges outlining the nave of Wren’s church, with wooden towers representing the pillars that held up the roof.

At the garden, a new public art installation (2017) was created to commemorate Christ’s Hospital School’s 350 years presence in the City of London, 1552-1902. The installation is a 2.4m long bronze sculpture by renowned sculptor, Andrew Brown, casted at The Bronze Age Foundry in London. It was selected following an open competition organised by the City of London Corporation, and it is positioned close to where Christ’s Hospital was originally founded in Newgate Street.

 

img_4388-min

img_4393-min

img_4394-min  img_4391-min

 

Nearby, there is another well-hidden small garden called The Goldsmiths Garden. It is located on the site of the churchyard and medieval church of St John Zachary, which was damaged in the Great Fire. The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths (also known as the Goldsmiths’ company) had acquired land here in 1339, and built the earliest recorded Livery Hall. After part of the Company’s property was demolished in WWII, the site was first laid out as a garden in 1941, redesigned in later years. A central fountain was installed in 1995 and the ‘Three Printers’ sculpture (1957) by Wilfred Dudeney was relocated from New Street Square in 2009 in the sunken garden.

Commissioned for New Street Square by the Westminster Press Group, the sculpture represents the newspaper process, with a newsboy, a printer and an editor. The printer (the figure on the left) is holding a “stick” which contains the metal type spelling out of the sculptor’s surname. This piece is Britain’s only public monument to newspapers. However, when the area was redeveloped, the sculpture was removed and ended up in a scrapyard in Watford. Luckily, It was rescued by the writer Christopher Wilson, who persuaded the Goldsmiths’ Company to reinstall the sculpture.

Another interesting feature at this garden is that several golden leopards heads can be seen at the entrance. The leopard’s head is actually the company’s symbol. There is also an arch presented to the Goldsmiths by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths. Designed by Paul Allen, the arch incorporates the London Assay mark for gold in the shape of individually made leopards heads.

 

The Goldsmiths Garden

The Goldsmiths GardenThe Goldsmiths Garden

The Goldsmiths Garden

The Goldsmiths Garden

'Three Printers' sculpture formerly in New Street Square, installed in St John Zachary Garden, May 2010.

The Goldsmiths Garden

 

A large (but easily-missed) metal memorial ‘Aldersgate Flame’ stands outside of the Museum of London was erected in 1981. On the face of the memorial are enlarged facsimile extracts in cast bronze of Anglican clergyman, evangelist, and co-founder of the Methodist movement in the Church of England. John Wesley’s account of the events of Wednesday May 24th 1738, as described in his original printed text of the first edition of John Wesley’s Journal. On the back of the Memorial are the names of the three local tradesmen concerned with Wesley in the production and marketing of the Journal.

 

Aldersgate FlameAldersgate Flame

Aldersgate Flame

 

I am not sure how many Londoners are aware of the competition-winning sculptured stone bench (erected in 2006) at the circular Smithfield Rotunda Garden. Designed by Sam Dawkins and Donna Walker from Edinburgh University, the bench is inscribed with text and quotes relating to the history of the area, and the carving process was managed by apprentice stone masons from Cathedral Works Organisation in Chichester.

However, it is hard to read the inscribed text, and the bench looks out of place here. Most passerby would ignore it and choose to sit on the wooden benches instead, which is a shame.

 

img_4427-min  img_4428-min

 

Finally, before finishing at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, we stopped at Turnmill Street in  Farringdon, outside of a building to look at the inscribed letters above. Built in 1874, the building was formerly the premises of Ludwig Oertling, whose firm ‘manufacturers of bullion chemical and assay balances and hydrometer makers’ remained there until the 1920s. Although the premise is now occupied by Spanish restaurant, the inscribed lettering remains above it.

 

long lane

farringdon

farringdon station

Farringdon

 

As always, I learned a lot about London’s history during the two-hour walk, which is why I love joining guided walks in different parts of the city. It also encourages us to observe more as we wander around the city. There is so much to explore in London, and all you need is curiosity and awareness.

 

 

LCW 19: ‘Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters’

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

 

In my opinion, typography is the most underappreciated design field often neglected by the public. The term typography can be defined as the style, arrangement, and appearance of letters, numbers, and symbols; it is a means of visual communication. We are surrounded by all kinds of fonts in our daily lives, yet few people (aside from designers) take much notice of them. Before computers were imvented, engraving was one of the most important techniques used in printmaking, mapmaking, and book illustrations.

Besides printing, the craft of engraving and carving letters on metal, stone or glass also has a long and rich heritage. Hand engravings and cravings can often be seen on functional, decorative and commemorative objects – from signage, clocks and jewellery to trophies and coins.

 

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters  Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

 

The exhibition at The Goldsmiths’ Centre “Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letterspresents an interesting selection of artists’ work, alongside loans from the Goldsmiths’ Company and other collections, to provide a unique insight into the processes used by contemporary craftspeople to design, craft and carve text. The display reveals the precision needed for this craftsmanship – not only do you need patience, the right pressure but also good eye sight.

During the Lonodn Craft week, workshops, demonstrations and walk were organised to accompany the exhibition. I attended the ‘Text in the City’ walk which focused on urban typography that we often miss while rushing around the city (see my next entry).

 

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters  Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters  Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters  Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

Inscribed: The Craft of Cutting Letters

 

 

 

 

LCW 19: Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making at G.F.Smith

G.F.Smith

 

I have been wanting to visit paper specialist G . F Smith‘s showroom since it opened in 2016, but somehow never got round to it. The London craft week provided me the opportunity to visit the showroom as well as the new exhibition ‘Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making’ co-organised by MaterialDriven, a design agency and Material Library. The exhibition presented a collection of new, experimental materials that are at the forefront of design and sustainability.

 

GF SMITH

GF SMITH  GF SMITH

GF SMITH

 

G . F Smith & Son was founded by paper merchant George Frederick Smith in 1885. And for nearly 140 years, the company has been providing the finest speciality papers to the creative and fashion industries. Their Soho 4,000 sq ft showroom features a 14m-long collection wall displaying their paper in 50 Colorplan shades, accompanied by paper installations that change regularly.

The company’s long-time collaborator Made Thought not only designed the colour wall but also the corporate identity that was awarded D&AD “BLACK” Pencil for Brand Expression in 2015 (see below).

For those who think paper is ‘dead’, they probably have yet to visit this stunning and inspiring showroom.

 

GF SMITH

GF SMITH

GF SMITH

GF SMITH

GF SMITH  GF SMITH

GF SMITH

 

At the exhibition space downstairs, the display included a wide range of sustainable and experimental materials that reflect the current landscape of making across fashion, interiors, architecture, and graphics.

 

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making   Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making   Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

 

Some of the innovative materials at the show are as follows: ‘That’s Caffeine’ tiles made from used coffee grounds and biodegradable resin by industrial designer Atticus Durnell; recycled polystyrene by designer Sam Lander; Papertile made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper by design duo Jasna Sokolovic and Noel O’Connell; textiles made from upcycled seashore plastic by De Ploeg; and Ecopet, a recycled polyester fibre made from plastic bottles etc.

It is always encouraging to see designers and makers using waste materials to produce new and biodegradable materials are not harmful to the planet. We certainly need more innovations and collaborations in this sector as a way of conserving our raw materials and preventing further damage to our highly polluted planet.

 

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making   Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making   Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

  Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making   Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making   Beyond Paper – The Craft of Material Making

 

To be continued…

 

“HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards” Exhibition at PMQ

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

 

It would be fair to say Hong Kong’s design industry has come a long way in the last two decades. Once upon a time, Hong Kong design was regarded as ‘copycat’ with little originality and creativity. Before the handover, Hong Kong design was highly influenced by Japanese design; lacking its own identity, it was either too Japanese or too kitsch. Yet things started to change after the handover. Perhaps the struggle to find its own identity has made the designers in Hong Kong reflect and explore deeper – instead of looking outwards, they began to look inwards, and the results are revealed in their design works.

 

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

 

Established in 1972, the Hong Kong Designers Association (HKDA) is the first of its kind in Hong Kong for practising designers and design administrators, HKDA Global Design Awards (GDA) is a biennial design competition organised by HKDA since 1975. The competition included 4 main design categories including Digital, Graphics, Product and Spatial.

The exhibition at PMQ’s Qube showcased the high quality competition entries across the four categories. By embracing its unqiue ‘East meets West’ heritage, Hong Kong design has found a new and confident voice – one that is different from other East Asian countries. Yet this voice is also a global one, which transcends language and culture. The designs no longer scream out ‘Made or designed in Hong Kong’, because we live in a globalised world today, and good designs should be global, not local.

I look forward to seeing more interesting work in the future.

 

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

Product design

 

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

img_4126-min

Packaging

 

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

Typography

 

img_4122-min

img_4124-min

img_4123-min

Exhibition

 

 

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

img_4121-min  HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

img_4119-min  img_4120-min

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition  HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition  HKDA Global Design Awards 2018 Awards Exhibition

Posters

HK heritage: “Once lost but now found” exhibition at Oi!

oi!

oi!

 

In the middle of a busy commercial and residential district in North Point, a Grade II historic colonial-style building surrounded by highrise looks rather out of place here. Built in 1908, this heritage building was the clubhouse of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club located on Victoria Harbour’s foreshore. But the reclamation project in 2009 changed the area’s landscape and now the coastline has since moved northwards.

Located at Oil Street, the building was converted into Oil Street Artist Village from 1990 to 2000, and in 2013, the Government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department developed it into Oi! art space aiming at promoting arts and providing venue for exhibitions.

It was my first visit to the art venue; from afar the green lawn and outdoor seating area looks like an oasis in the busy district. It also appears to be a popular lunch spots for white-collar workers in the area.

 

oi!

oi!

oi!

 

The exhibition “Once lost but now found” explores the geographical history of Oi! and its relationship to the sea. As a witness to the course of time and the evolution of cities, the sea evokes emotions and memories, responds to the development of natural ecology and, at the same time, shapes the cultural ambiance of the city and tells the story of the island.

Four artists Zheng Bo, Leung Chi-Wo and MAP Office (Laurent Gutierrez and Valérie Portefaix) were invited to explore the relationship between nature, culture and society, examining the history, present and its possible future.

Chinese artist Zheng Bo‘s text installation “You are the 0.01%” was inscribed boldly on the lawn. The project is based on two publications: In 2011, economist Joseph Stiglitz’s published article titled “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%.” He writes, “The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year.” Then in 2018, three scientists published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled “The Biomass Distribution on Earth.” They estimated that humans account for only 0.01% of Earth’s biomass, but consume 30% of the biosphere’s total primary production.

Zheng Bo‘s project aims to address the issues of inequality and biosphere inequality. The grass on the lawn reminds us that we are only 0.01%, and we must protect the rest of the ecosystem.

 

Zheng Bo, YOU ARE THE 0.01%

Zheng Bo, YOU ARE THE 0.01%

Zheng Bo: You are the 0.01%

 

In the main gallery, a conspicuous bamboo installation entitled “Ghost Island“, two videos and documentations are installed by MAP Office (Laurent Gutierrez and Valérie Portefaix). Created for the 1st Thailand Biennale 2018, “Ghost Island” is a 9-metre high bamboo construction covered with piles of ghost fishing nets collected in the sea around Krabi. The installation recalls the particular geology of the surrounding islands formed by the accumulation and stratification of numerous distinct layers. It also addresses waste at sea, and the difficult but necessary labour needed to protect our environment. Reconstructed in Oi! is a smaller version, partially built by Cheung Chau Island fisherman and Hong Kong beach-cleaning volunteers.

One of the video shown at the exhibition records the construction of three artificial islands designed by the artists on a tidal beach near Krabi on Thailand’s Andaman Sea. The other records a fictional day for a fisherman living on the Andaman Sea’s Ghost Island. Both videos are fascinating, and they address environmental issues facing these fishermen, including rising seawater levels due to global warming.

 

MAP Office (Laurent Gutierrez and Valérie Portefaix), Ghost Island

MAP Office (Laurent Gutierrez and Valérie Portefaix), Ghost Island

MAP Office (Laurent Gutierrez and Valérie Portefaix), Ghost Island

MAP Office (Laurent Gutierrez and Valérie Portefaix), Ghost Island

MAP Office (Laurent Gutierrez and Valérie Portefaix), Ghost Island

MAP Office (Laurent Gutierrez and Valérie Portefaix), Ghost Island

 

In another room, Leung Chi Wo’s “Scratching on the surface” installation is presented in a dark room with a two-channel video projected on a long wall behind a pool of actual seawater installed in the gallery. The videos are reflected on the pool’s mirror water surface.

The installation is based on the notion of memory—our own memory and water memory—a controversial theory devised by French scientist Jacques Benveniste. Using words and imagery of nature and water, the poetic installation was shot in various locations in Hong Kong and Thailand, all connected ultimately by water, which echoes the fluidity of memory.

 

Leung Chi Wo, Scratching On The Surface

Leung Chi Wo: Scratching on the surface

 

In a separate building, architect team Streetsignhk was commissioned to create the ‘Sign City’ immersive installations, featuring Hong’s Kong’s famous neon signage. Various traditional signage and signboards are installed in s small room covered with mirrored walls and floor. Outside of the room, visitors are invited to create their own signboards and get to know the different aspects of this dynamic building component. The craft of neon signage is dying in Hong Kong, and hopefully this exhibition would bring awareness to this unique heritage that makes Hong Kong’s streetscape so special. You can read more about this topic via my previous post here.

 

  sign city

  sign city

 

 

 

Eat, drink & shop in Kala Ghoda, Mumbai

Kala Ghoda

Kala Ghoda

 

Since I stayed not for from the Kala Ghoda district in Fort, I spent much of my time exploring this area, where many cool shops and interesting eateries are located.

One of the coolest shops in the area is Kultre Shop with a focus on contemporary Indian graphic design. The shop serves as a platform for leading and upcoming artists, graphic designers and illustrators from India and around the world; enabling their work to be more accessible through the sales of affordable prints, stationery, homeware, t-shirts and books. When you walk into the shop, you are likely to be attracted by the colourful, modern and graphical prints on the walls and items on the shelves. The shop has two branches in Mumbai, and also sells online via their website (they ship worldwide).

Address: 9 Examiner Press, 115 Nagindas Master Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort.

 

kulture shop mumbai  kulture shop mumbai

kulture shop mumbai

kulture shop mumbai  kulture shop mumbai

kulture shop mumbai

kulture shop mumbai  kulture shop mumbai

Kulture Shop in Kala Ghoda

 

Not far from Kulture Shop is Filter, another curated design shop that sells a range of products from stationery to prints, t-shirts, books and homeware etc.

Address: 43, VB Gandhi Marg, behind Rhythm House, Kala Ghoda, Fort.

 

filter mumbai

filter mumbai

Filter

 

For more traditional and handcrafted items, the Artisans’ Art Gallery and Shop is the best place to go to. The shop and gallery was founded in 2011 by Radhi Parekh, a designer and art promoter who comes from a family that has a long-standing association with local textiles.

The shop sells a range of high-quality handmade textile items and jewellery. Although the prices are not cheap, the quality is much better than what you would find at the markets.

At the time of my visit, there was an Urushi Japanese lacquerware exhibition by Japanese artist Yukiko Yagi and Meguri Ichida showing at the gallery, which was a pleasant surprise.

Address: 52-56 V B Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort.

 

Kala Ghoda

artisans gallery mumbai

artisans gallery, mumbai

artisans gallery mumbai  artisans gallery, mumbai

artisans gallery, mumbai

artisans gallery mumbai

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artisans gallery mumbai

Urushi Japanese lacquerware exhibition and Indian textiles at the Artisans’ art galley and shop

 

Nicobar is the younger and more affordable sub-brand of the city’s iconic sustainable apparel and homeware brand Good Earth (see below). Their minimal and organic clothing is comfortable, versatile, contemporary, and particularly suitable for travelling.

The shop is divided into the cloithing section and home section. The home section sells a range of home furnishings, homeware and ceramics that would not look out of place in most modern homes.

Address: #IO Ropewalk Lane, above Kala Ghoda Cafe

 

Nicobar

Nicobar

Nicobar

Nicobar

Nicobar

 

Obataimu is a cool conceptual clothing and design shop that is inspired by Japan and India. Influenced by both cultures, the founder Noorie Sadarangani likes to experiment and treats her retail business like an art project. When you step into the shop, you would notice that wood is the predominate material here, and at the back, there is a glass partition that enable visitors to see the workshop where the tailors/ artisans work (all dressed in white). All the clothing on display is not for sale, instead every piece is made to order to reduce wastage. The clothes here focus on innovative materials, traditional craftsmanship and sustainability, so what more can you ask for?

Address: B. Bharucha Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort.

 

Obataimu

The shop front of Obataimu

 

Before my trip to India, I was unaware of the contemporary apparel scene in India, therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to see some wonderful shops in Mumbai that sell handmade, sustainable, classic and affordable clothing and accessories. One of them is Cord Studio. The focus here is craftsmanship and nostalgia; you can find well-made leather bags and accessories, and clothing that is practical and contemporary.

Address: 21 Ropewalk street, Kala Ghoda, Fort. (Opp. Nicobar and Kala Ghoda cafe)

 

Cord studio

Cord studio

Cord studio

 

Even though I am not a tea person, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to lovely San-cha tea boutique. The two girls/staff were very friendly and knowledgable and made me two different cups of tea to try. The brand was founded by tea master, Sanjay Kapur in 1981, and they sell over 75 varieties of tea from green to white, black, oolong, and blended ones like masala chai. I bought some masala chai for myself and several friends, and I like it very much. Although I have not been converted to a regular tea drinker, it is nice to enjoy something different occasionally .

 

San-cha Tea Boutique

San-cha Tea Boutique

San-cha Tea Boutique

San-cha Tea Boutique

San-cha Tea Boutique

 

Kala Ghoda art Rampart Gallery

Kala Ghoda art Rampart Gallery

Art on the street: Rampart Gallery

 

Yazdani bakery and cafe

Yazdani bakery and cafe is well-known for its brun maska

 

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Ice cream at Bombay Street Treat

 

I don’t usually visit a cafe/restaurant twice on a single trip, but I did return to Kala Ghoda Cafe a few days after my first visit. This relaxing venue is a cafe, bakery, wine bar and gallery. The cosy cafe part is housed inside an early 20th century barn with plenty of skylight coming through from the roof. I had a simple lunch here one afternoon, and I really liked the laidback vibe and atmosphere.

I came back to try the wine bar at the back one night because I didn’t want proper dinner. I ordered a fish tikka and a green salad (although I was told not to eat anything raw in India, I took the risk here, and I was totally fine afterwards), and I reckon the fish tikka here was the best I have EVER tasted! I even tried the local Indian rose, which was surprisingly refreshing and very drinkable. I really recommend a visit to this cafe and wine bar if you are in the neighbourhood.

Address: Bharthania Building, A Block, 10, Ropewalk Lane, Kala Ghoda, Fort.

 

Kala Ghoda Cafe  Kala Ghoda Cafe

Kala Ghoda Cafe

Kala Ghoda Cafe

Kala Ghoda Cafe

 

I decided to try the popular vegetarian Burmese restaurant Burma Burma after reading many positive reviews online. I visited Burma two years ago, but I have not had the cuisine since.

The interior of the restaurant is sleek and modern, with a bar that serves very interesting mocktails. I had a set menu that included several classic dishes which were all very tasty, and together with the mocktail, the bill came to less than £10 – I (as a Londoner) would consider that a bargain.

Address: Kothari House, Allana Centre Lane Opposite Mumbai University Fort, Kala Ghoda

 

burma burma

burma burma

Burma Burma

 

Arguably Mumbai’s most famous seafood restaurant, Trishna’s restaurant front looks quite intimidating with a seated guard by the door. I decided to brave it and walk in with one aim: to eat their famous crabs!

To my surprise, the decor inside is simple and unassuming. The waiter was eager to get me to try their famous butter garlic crab and so I did. It did not disappoint – the crab was rich and delicious (and I probably gained 2 lbs after eating it). The meal was the most expensive one I had in Mumbai, but it was worth it as that was the only Indian crab I got to try throughout my month-long trip!

Address: 7, Sai Baba Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort.

 

Trishna mumbai

Butter garlic crab at Trishna

 

Not far from Kala Ghoda, there is a charming and nostalgic restaurant that stands out for its ambience and history, and it is a MUST if you want to experience ‘old Bombay’.

Britannia & Co. is a third generation Irani restaurant and one of the last remaining Parsi cafes in south Mumbai. The popular Dishoom chain in London was modelled after these once magnificent cafes.

Opened in 1923, Britannia’s Zoroastrian/Iranian proprietor, Boman Kohinoor, is now 96 years old, and yet he still visits the cafe regularly. It was lovely to see him greeting his regular customers and being photographed by them. The cafe was originally set up by his father, and he has been working here since he was 16. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the painting of Queen Elizabeth II next to a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, both hanging beneath a gilt-framed picture of Zarathustra, the Zoroastrian prophet worshipped by the Parsis.

 

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The most iconic dish is the Berry Pulav, a recipe that the owner’s late wife brought back with her from Iran. The barberries used in the pulav that give it its distinct flavour are imported from Iran. I ordered a paneer berry pulav, and when the plate arrived, the paneer was nowhere to be seen. Then as I started to mix the rice, I realised that the paneer and sauce was at the bottom of the plate – it would have been embarassing if I had called the waiter over to ask him about the paneer! I have never tried this dish before, and I found it very tasty and comforting; I guess it is probably regarded as a Parsi comfort food.

It is sad to see that only a few of these Parsi cafes are left in the city, and I sincerely hope that this cafe will still be around when I visit Mumbai again. There may be numerous modern and fancy restaurants in the city, but none can match the personal, historic and nostalgic cafe like this.

Address: Britannia and Co., Wakefield House, 11, Sprott Rd, Ballard Estate, Fort. (this restaurant only opens for lunch except Sats and closes on Suns)

 

BRITANNIA AND CO.

BRITANNIA AND CO.

Britannia and Co.

 

Elsewhere in Cobala, I visited Good Earth, a luxurious apparel and home furnishing shop founded by Anita Lal 24 years ago. The brand bridged the gap between craft and luxury, emphasising on craftsmanship and sustainability. The apparel and craft items here are more old school, traditional and pricey, which differs considerably from its sub-brand Nicobar.

Address: 2 Reay House, Apollo Bandar, Colaba

 

good earth

Good Earth

 

Not far from Good Earth, I stumbled upon Clove The Store, which is a new luxury fashion and homeware brand. Its founder is Samyukta Nair, who resides in both Mumbai and London, also runs a sleepwear brand called Dandelion, and the Jamavar Women’s Club in London. The clothing and home furnishings on sale here are unique, well-made, and contemporary. The female staff was also very friendly and helpful, which made me feel very welcoming.

Address: 2, Churchill Chambers, Allana Road, Colaba.

 

Clove The Store

Clove The Store

 

I returned to Mumbai for one night before leaving India, and I chose to stay in Khar West, which was closer to the airport. It is a relaxing residential neighbourhood, and apparently home to many Bollywood celebrities and business industrialists. Tucked away in the Chuim Village is a small DIY paper craft shop called Sky Goodies. I had to ring the door bell to be let in, but once inside, you would be surrounded by many colourful and delightful paper objects. Founded by two designers Misha and Amit Gudibanda, they drew inspiration from paper and hand-painted art, and started to create DIY paper kits. There are various themes to choose from, and you can make stationery, home decorations, calendars and paper animals etc. I think their designs are unique, fun, and affordable, so I bought a few as souvenir to give to friends, and they were all very impressed (and surprised) when they received the kits. You can also order online via their website or from their shop on Etsy.

Address: Ground Floor, Bungalow no 29, Chuim Village Rd, Khar West

 

sky goodies  sky goodies

sky goodies

sky goodies

Sky goodies shop

 

After visiting Sky goodies, I came across KCRoasters (Koinonia Coffee Roasters), which specialises in artisanal Indian coffee. The cafe is compact but stylish, with a laidback vibe, which kinda makes you forget that you are in Mumbai. I had a cold brew (as it was a very hot day), which was balanced and strong as I like it.

Address: 6, Chuim Village Rd, Khar, Chuim Village

 

KC Roasters

KC Roasters

KC Roasters

 

On the last day of my trip, I got to catch with my busy local actress friend (who never seems to get a day off work). She asked me what I wanted to have for lunch, and I told her that I was craving for salads (after having Indian food daily for 3 weeks)! She suggested the Bombay Salad Co. in Bandra, and it was exactly what my body needed. I broke the raw food rule again, but luckily, I was perfectly fine afterwards. There are many salads, juices and sandwiches to choose from, and everything we had was fresh and tasty. Looking around, I noticed that the cafe was full of health-conscious looking ladies, so I guess this is a popular spot for ladies who lunch.

Address: Shop No, 1, 16th Rd, near Mini Punjab Hotel, Bandra West.

 

Bombay Salad Co.

Bombay Salad Co.

Bombay Salad Co.

 

 

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Manhole cover designs in Japan

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Sakura motifs are often featured in Japanese manhole cover designs

 

If you have visited Japan before, you have probably seen the wonderul manhole covers on the pavements all over Japan – it would be hard to miss them! The popularity of these manhole covers has been growing rapidly both locally and overseas, and often the ‘manholers’ would seek, photograph these covers and share them online to websites like Japanese Society of Manhole Covers (日本マンホール蓋学会), and the Manhole lid museum. Meanwhile, Osaka-based photographer S. Morita has been photographing manhole covers around Japan for several years, and there are close to 2000 designs on the site. However, if seeing the photos doesn’t satisfy you, then you could attend the Japanese Manhole Cover Festival or summit in Tokyo where a variety of manhole cover designs are exhibited, along side with souvenir to bring home.

 

Only in Japan: A factory tour of the Nagashima Imono Casting Factory

 

The history of the manhole covers in Japan is mentioned in the book, Drainspotting: Japanese manhole covers by Remo Camerota. In the 1980s, the modernisation of the sewer system in rural Japan was unwelcomed by the local residents, but a civil servant Yasutake Kameda solved that problem by introducing customised manhole covers in every municipality. By enabling each city/town/village to design their own unqiue covers to showcase their specialities or identites turned out to be a huge success, hence it has become a cultural phenomenon over time. Although each cover is designed specifically for the location, it would generally feature elements such as the town emblem, famous landmark, special event, war battle, official bird, local flowers or local mascots etc. The ones with firefighters indicate that there is fire hydrant underneath it.

Although I am not a manhole cover otaku, I have been photographing these manhole covers whenever I came across them over the years during my trips to Japan, and will continue to do so in the future.

 

Floral theme

manhole cover  manhole cover

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manhole cover  manhole cover tokyo

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Local symbols/ specialties

manhole cover nara  manhole cover nara

Deer and nature in Nara

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Nagoya’s Amenbo (or water strider) is the symbol for Nagoya City Waterworks and Sewerage Office as this insect only lives in clean water

manhole cover

Grapes in Furano, Hokkaido

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Washi paper making in Fukui

 

Local lanndmarks

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Osaka castle

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Shiragawa-go

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Nature

manhole cover

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Firefighters

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Toko firefighters

 

 

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Save

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London’s winter art & design exhibitions (17/18)

Alan Kane for tate

The most playful Christmas lights decorations by Alan Kane for Tate Britain

 

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Anya Hindmarch’s love letter to London around Valentine’s day: chubby hearts over different parts of the city

 

During the winter period, the best places to hang out in London are probably inside art museums and galleries. Although it is usually a busy period for me, I would still try to squeeze in some ‘art afternoons’ during the week as a way to escape from the stress.

This winter, there were/are numerous inspirational and exceptional exhibitions being shown in the city, and here are some of the ones I particularly enjoyed:

 

Art

I loved the ‘Other Rooms’ exhibition by Milan-based French artist Nathalie Du Pasquier at the Camden Arts centre. It was bold, playful, enticing, and traversed the boundaries between art, graphic design, and architecture. As the founding member of the Memphis group, her works certainly reminds me of the designs by the group’s founder, Ettore Sottsass.

 

img_6646-min  Nathalie Du Pasquier

Nathalie Du Pasquier

Nathalie Du Pasquier

Nathalie Du Pasquier

 

As you walk through the rooms, you might ponder if this is art or design, but then you would realise that her alluring works are beyond these terms… through her works, I saw humour, curiosity, beauty, and hope for the future.

 

The One Two Three Swing! installation by superflex

The One Two Three Swing! installation by superflex

Danish design collective Superflex‘s The One Two Three Swing! installation at Tate Modern

 

Admittedly, I am not always a big fan of Tate‘s mega exhibitions; however, I thoroughly enjoyed the two Russian exhibitions at Tate Modern this winter. Russian avant-garde artists, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov‘s ‘Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future’ was delightful and imaginative, and the maze-like installation ‘Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album) 1990’ was the highlight for me.

 

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov   Ilya and Emilia Kabakov

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s ‘Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future’ at Tate Modern

 

To mark the centenary of the October Revolution in 1917, almost every major museums/ institutions in London has had a Russian-related exhibition during the last year. After seeing three different exhibitions at the British Library, the Design Museum, and the Royal Academy of arts, I think that the ‘Red Star Over Russia A revolution in visual culture 1905–55′ at Tate Modern actually surpassing them all.

Perhaps the reason was that the exhibition showcased an extraordinary collection of 250,000 items from the turbulent period collected by one single person – the photographer and graphic designer David King (1943–2016) while he working for The Sunday Times Magazine in the 1970s. Behind all the items on display, there are fascinating or tragic stories which provided contexts and backgrounds for the viewers. Through the rare propaganda posters, prints, posters, letters, photographs and everyday objects, we could see David King’s passion and humanity that the other exhibitions failed to convey.

 

Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905–55

Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905–55  Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905–55

red star over russia

Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905–55  Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905–55

Red Star Over Russia A revolution in visual culture 1905–55′ at Tate Modern

 

From Russia to China: I often feel quite mixed about contemporary Chinese art, and I think that the hyperbolic auction prices are mostly inflated and artificial. But I was curious about ‘Zhongguo 2185 (China 2185)‘, an exhibition curated by by Victor Wang featuring ten young artists from China at Sadie Cole. The exhibition title was inspired by Liu Cixin’s 1989 ‘critical utopian’ Science Fiction novel, ‘Zhongguo 2185’, which was written during the rapid socio-political reforms of the 1980s, and remains unpublished to this day – circulating only on the internet.

 

Lu Yang, Power of Will – final shooting

Lu Yang, Power of Will – final shooting

Zhongguo 2185   Zhongguo 2185

 

I found the exhibition quite intriguing and thought-provoking. The most discernible was Xu Zhen‘s satirical ‘Supermarket’ installation located next to the gallery, which was filled with emptied grocery items that can be seen in most Chinese supermarkets. All the items (or packaging) were available for purchase, and I decided to buy an emptied water bottle just for fun. Then the cashier told me that I made a good choice, and said that their drinks were selling exceptionally well at this ‘fake’ shop!

 

Xu Zhen, XUZHEN Supermarket

Xu Zhen, XUZHEN Supermarket

‘Zhongguo 2185’ at Sadie Cole

 

The first time I saw American artist Mark Dion‘s work was at Frieze art fair, and I was immediately captivated by his nature-inspired art work. His new retrospective, ‘Theatre of the Natural World’ at the Whitechapel Gallery (until 13th May) provides a fascinating introduction to those who are not familiar with the artist’s work.

 

mark dion

mark dion

mark dion  mark dion

mark dion

mark dion

 

Mark Dion is an explorer, environmentalist, collector and activist, and his love for nature is palpable in his works. The playful exhibition is designed to be like the cabinets of curiosities, where visitors would wander and discover the wonders and oddities of the natural world.

There is an aviary containing 11 pairs of finches and an apple tree in room one, and a recreation of a museum’s backroom on another room upstairs. There is also a big cabinet that contains a vast array of bric-à-brac like bottle caps, fragmented ceramic pieces and shells etc that were excavated from the the river banks lead by Dion and local volunteers for the The Tate Thames Dig project in 1999.

The exhibition is fun and appealing, but not exactly provocative. While some activists/artists like to make strong statements or be persuasive, Mark Dion acts more like an observer and educator, and the exhibition is his invitation for visitors to explore and observe our relationships with nature.

 

mark dion

mark dion

mark dion

mark dion  mark dion

mark dion

Mark Dion’s ‘Theatre of the Natural World’ at Whitechapel gallery (until 13th May)

 

Leonor Antunes: the frisson of the togetherness

Leonor Antunes: the frisson of the togetherness at Whitechapel gallery (until 8th April)

 

The exhibition that I consider a must-see of the season is ‘Ocean Liners: Speed and Style‘ (until 10th June) at the V & A museum. This is a dazzling, comprehensive, and nostalgic exhibition that would transport you to a different era – an era when ocean travel was associated with glamour and luxury.

Honestly, my perception of mega cruise ship holiday was quite negative before seeing the exhibition; perhaps it was more to do with the clientele and how cruise ship holidays are being marketed these days. Although I won’t be rushing to book a cruise ship holiday soon, the exhibition has evoked some kind of curiosity and interest that I have never experienced before.

 

ocean liner  ocean liner

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ocean liner  ocean liner

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I think this is one of the best V & A exhibition i have seen in the recent years, and I was quite blown away by the scale and contents. There are rare posters, ship models, wall panels, furniture, dinnerware, fashion etc… and it even features a deck chair and a wooden panel fragment from a door in the first-class lounge on the Titanic – the most famous and tragic cruise ship of all time.

 

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ocean liner  ocean liner

‘Ocean Liners: Speed and Style’ (until 10th June) at the V & A museum

 

Big names dominated the art scene in London this winter – including three excellent ones that at the Royal Academy of Arts: Jasper Johns: ‘Something resembling truth’ (a pleasant surprise), Dali/Duchamp (never knew they were friends!), and Matisse in the studio (who never disappoints).

I also enjoyed the small but lovely ‘Rodin and Dance: The essence of movement’ at the Courtauld Gallery, and the more conventional but still brilliant Cezanne Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery. Perhaps it is only in London and Paris where you see solo exhibitions of all these masters within the same period.

 

Illustrations

However, the two exhibitions that I was most eager to see this winter were ‘Winnie-the-Pooh: exploring a classic‘ at the V & A (until 8th April) and ‘Tove Jansson (1914-2001)’ at Dulwich Picture Gallery. It is great to see that illustrations are being treated more seriously, at last.

I just can’t imagine anyone not being moved by Winnie-the-pooh and its adventures. I have always loved this bear (along with other bears like Rupert and Paddington) since i was young. This exhibition proves that its charisma has not diminished after all these years. V & A has done a remarkable job in creating a fun setting that resembles Ashford Forest for children and adults. Yet it was the original sketches by EH Shepard that I was most interested in – they are wonderful and spellbinding. I can’t wait to read the books again.

 

winnie the pooh  winnie the pooh

winnie the pooh

winnie the pooh

winnie the pooh  winnie the pooh

winnie the pooh

‘Winnie-the-Pooh: exploring a classic’ at the V & A museum (until 8th April)

 

Tove Jansson (1914-2001)‘s retrospective at Dulwich Picture Gallery was another pleasant surprise for me. The exhibition was not just about the Moomin characters, it also showed many Tove Jansson’s earlier works as a painter. The 150 works included a selection of self-portraits, paintings and graphic illustrations, which revealed Jansson‘s talents, determination and dark sense of humour. Like Winnie-the-pooh and friends, the Moomin characters are still loved by children (and adults) of this generation. How amazing.

 

tove jansson  tove jansson

‘Tove Jansson (1914-2001)’ at Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Calligraphy

After spending three years learning Arabic calligraphy, I would not miss the opportunity to see an exhibition of a contemporary master of this craft. Like my teacher, Hassan Massoudy is also Iraqi, and has been described by French writer Michel Tournier as the “greatest living calligrapher”. Massoudy studied figurative paintings at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in France, which I believe has had an influence on his calligraphy style.

 

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His solo exhibition ‘Breath, gesture and light‘ at the October art gallery showcased a selection of beautiful and sublime calligraphy works that looked almost like abstract paintings. Yet as I have learnt, it takes years/decades to perfect those strokes, and unlike painting, you cannot rework a stroke (it would simply ruin it), so every stroke has to be precise. It is a very meditative activity that requires concentration, control, patience and skills. Arabic calligraphy is both an art and a craft, and Massoudy is a master of both.

 

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Design

I tried to visit the Jewish Museum in Camden twice before, but failed to get in because of wrong timing (tip: avoid visiting on a Friday afternoon). Finally, I arranged a visit with a friend to see the ‘Designs on Britain’ exhibition (until 15th April), and we were both impressed by the size of the museum and the curation of the exhibition.

It is a shame that we are living in a day and age when anti-immigrant sentiments seem to be spreading in the Western world. Yet when we look back on the history of the Western world, many developed countries not only relied vastly on immigrants, even their citizens’ ancestors themselves were also immigrants (e.g. the US). This design exhibition reveals how 20th century design in the UK was profoundly shaped by the arrival of pioneering Jewish émigré designers from continental Europe. There are many iconic designs that can be found here, but I think the graphic design part that stood out for me. The vintage posters and logo designs are fantastic – and it made me wonder what would U.K. be like today without the contributions of these and other immigrants? I simply cannot even imagine it.

 

'Designs on Britain'

'Designs on Britain'  'Designs on Britain'

'Designs on Britain'

‘Designs on Britain’ exhibition (until 15th April) at the Jewish musuem

 

It is quite rare to see a major graphic design exhibition in London, so ‘Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?‘ exhibition at the Wellcome collection was overdue and imperative. Curated by graphic designer Lucienne Roberts and design educator Rebecca Wright, founders of publishing house GraphicDesign&, with Shamita Sharmacharja, the exhibition explored the relationship between graphic design and health. There were over 200 objects including posters, signage, packaging, advertisements and printed matters etc.

There were several free workshops that accompanied the exhibition, and I attended two of them: one was on the functions of fonts and another was about creating awareness on dementia. I had great fun at both workshops, and I think the institute is a real gem in this city.

 

wellcome collection

wellcome collection  wellcome collection

wellcome collection  wellcome collection

Graphic design workshops that accompanied ‘Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?’ exhibition at the Wellcome collection

 

Photography & film

I have always been a fan of Wim Wenders’ films, especially his earlier works. His photography exhibition ‘Instand Stories. Wim Wender’s polaroids‘ at the Photographer’s gallery revealed his natural gift as a storyteller. The exhibition showcased a selection of his enormous Polaroid collection taken between the early 1970s and mid 80s. Some of Wender‘s photographs are stunning, and it is hard to imagine that they are taken from a Polaroid camera. And even if some of them are out of focus, they are able to convey certain emotions/moods. I found the exhibition very inspiring, and it made me want to use my mother’s recently repaired SX-70 immediately!

 

wim wender's polaroid

wim wender's polaroid  wim wender's polaroid

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‘Instand Stories. Wim Wender’s polaroids’ at the Photographer’s gallery

 

‘Hiroshi Sugimoto: Snow White’ at Marian Goodman featured a collection of photographic works from Japanese artist Sugimoto’s Theatres series since 1978. The series began as an experiment in which Sugimoto used a long exposure to capture the thousands of moving images on a single frame of film. The aftermath of this process is one of a gleaming, pure white screen.

The haunting images of abandoned theatres and grand music halls around the globe suggest impermanence – one of the core principles of Buddhism. In recent years, there has been a growing cultural fascination with abandoned buildings, perhaps the decay, ephemerality, nostalgia, and faded beauty remind us that like these buildings, our time is also limited, and the only thing that we can do is to live fully in the present.

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Hiroshi Sugimoto: Snow White at Marian Goodman

 

John Akomfrah: Purple at The curve, Barbican addressed some crucial issues of our times: climate change, human communities and the wilderness. Akomfrah chose to show this through hundreds of hours of archival footage, and newly shot film via six-channel video installation. The videos reveal how human’s relationships with nature have changed over the decades, and the damage caused in a short time period. Nonetheless, no matter how much we want to ‘save’ our planet, the most powerful people in the world don’t seems to care, which is quite disheartening.

 

John Akomfrah: Purple

John Akomfrah: Purple

John Akomfrah: Purple at The curve, Barbican

 

Two German photographers turned out to be the talk of town in 2017. One was Wolfgang Tillmans, whose first exhibition at Tate Modern divided many ( which I wasn’t particularly interested in); and the second was Andreas Gursky, whose retrospective was the first show at the Hayward Gallery after it reopened following a 2-year renovation.

This exhibition (until 22nd April) is about scale… almost all of his prints are mammoth in size, and yet the contents are detailed, beguiling, humourous and insightful. Capturing different corners of the world, his photos show us the beautiful, the ugly, the absurd, the hidden and the unwanted. Gursky is not only a brilliant story teller, he also manipulates, distorts and challenges the viewers. What is reality and what is fake? We live in a day and age where the boundary between the two is blurry and we no longer can trust what we see, hear and read anymore. We can’t even trust our own judgements… so what remains is our intuition.

 

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hayward gallery

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Beyond the exhibition, I was surprised to see how little the gallery has changed after the 2-year renovation. I asked one of the gallery’s staff about this, and she struggled to give me a definite answer at first. Later, she said that a new ceiling and skylights have been installed. Two years to change the ceiling and rooftop sounds a bit ridiculous, but there you go. At least, the new exhibition is better than all the ones I have seen before the closure – surely, that’s a good sign.

 

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The most disappointing exhibitions:

 

Rachel Whiteread‘s retrospective at Tate Britain could have been excellent, and yet it was let down by the curation and lack of contexts. Apart from the area outside of the main exhibition room where her sketches, texts and photos were showcased, there was almost no information on the actual pieces inside. How were visitors supposed to relate to the few concrete boxes piled up on top of each other? Apparently, they were removal boxes from her mother’s house – I only learnt about this in the ‘Imagine’ programme before seeing the exhibition. Unlike ordinary sculptures, her conceptual concrete or glass pieces convey little emotion; they may appeal aesthetically, but without context, they seem cold and empty.

Like many other British artists of her times (think Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin), Rachel Whiteread has always been controversial. People seem to either love her or loathe her. I, on the other hand, feel quite neutral towards her, and I do find some of her concepts and works to be quite bold and thought-provoking. However, this exhibition has not done her much favour, and you can’t even blame her for it. Like the Barbara Hepworth exhibition, I feel that Tate Britain’s curators have missed the mark here.

 

rachel whiteread  rachel whiteread

rachel whiteread

rachel whiteread  rachel whiteread

Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain

 

My friend and I saw  Basquiat: Boom for Real at the Barbican, and we both felt that Jean Michel-Basquiat’s works and talent have been overrated. Could it due to the fact that he died young? It was a popular show, and there were some interesting concepts and works, but that was about it.

 

gilbert & george

 

I am aware that Gilbert and George were relevant decades ago, but in recent years, their work seem repetitive, tired and dare I say – boring. How many times have we seen their trademark multi-panelled ‘photopieces’ featuring the two of them in different outfits or without any?

At theirTHE BEARD PICTURES AND THEIR FUCKOSOPHY exhibition, they added their Fuckosophy – using the ‘f’ word repeatedly… Is this meant to provoke or make us smile? I don’t get it. To me, they are like a once prestigious brand that made its name decades ago, but has failed to innovate or excite people as time passes. They may still be highly respectable in the art world, but honestly, I think it’s about time that they consider their retirement.

 

gilbert & george

gilbert & george

Gilbert & George’s ‘THE BEARD PICTURES AND THEIR FUCKOSOPHY‘ at the White Cube gallery

 

I felt quite disappointed after seeing ‘Beazley Design of the Year 2017′ exhibition at the Design museum. I was surprised by the shortlists and they made me wonder if the design industry has regressed rather than progressed. Yes, there were some interesting designs, but few were ground-breaking or truly innovative. I have visited the exhibitions over the past few years, and I have never felt as disappointed as this year.

The museum’s new home is also a let down. It feels cold, austere, and it doesn’t make me want to linger. I do miss the former smaller but more inviting museum spot by the Thames.

 

designs of the year 2017

Beazley Design of the Year 2017 at the Design Museum

 

I am sure that I visited Agadir in my early 20s during my first trip to Morocco, yet it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I remember Marrakesh, Tangiers, Essaouira and Ouarzazate well – and even the disappointing Casablanca – but I cannot recall much about Agadir. Could it be due to the fact that the city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1960 and what we saw was a soulless city with little imprint?

The exhibition ‘Yto Barrada: Agadir ‘at The curve, Barbican (until 20th May) shows a complex portrait of a city in transition – how it dealt with the challenges after a seismic disaster. The modernist/Brutalist architecture drawn on the black curved walls looks interesting, but I am not sure if these buildings do look as appealing in reality. There are sketches, photographs, texts, crafts, as well as videos; but I felt that the exhibition is slightly incoherent and lacked cogency. Evidently, a lot of research had been conducted for this exhibition, so it is regrettable that it didn’t leave a strong impact on me… just like the city itself.

 

Yto Barrada: Agadir

Yto Barrada: Agadir

Yto Barrada: Agadir  Yto Barrada: Agadir

Yto Barrada: Agadir at The curve, Barbican (until 20th May)